BE­HIND THE WHEEL

Our se­nior writer is no doc­tor, but he felt like one af­ter be­ing con­sulted by “pa­tients” who were in need of a new car.

Torque (Singapore) - - CONTENTS - JEREMY CHUA

THESE days, the most com­mon ques­tion I get asked is, “What’s the coolest car you’ve driven?”

It used to be, “What’s the best car to buy?” But I may have lec­tured ev­ery­one who’s ever asked me that (be­cause it’s as sen­si­ble as ask­ing me who they should marry), so even ca­sual ac­quain­tances avoid ask­ing me any­thing car-re­lated. Or they avoid me al­to­gether.

That’s why I was sur­prised when two months ago, the hus­band of one of my wife’s col­leagues con­sulted me about buy­ing a new car.

I thought the dis­cus­sion would be one of those 10-minute chats that ends with me making a few sug­ges­tions – none of which he would ac­tu­ally con­sider.

But I was pleas­antly sur­prised to find that prior to call­ing me, my “pa­tient” had al­ready done his sums, test-driven

MY MAIN PRI­OR­ITY IS HELP­ING “PA­TIENTS” GET THE RIGHT CAR FOR THEIR NEEDS.

a few cars and said he was keen on the Mazda CX-5. When­ever any­one con­sults me about buy­ing a car, I tell them that my main pri­or­ity is help­ing them get the right car for their needs. I asked him why he needed an SUV, and not an MPV or sta­tion wagon. He said that he and his wife liked the eas­ier ingress/egress be­cause they are both rel­a­tively tall (he’s over 1.8m, while she is 1.75m).

So, they both ap­pre­ci­ate the higher hip point, which also makes it eas­ier to se­cure their four-year-old daugh­ter in the child seat. Plus, the hatch­back bodystyle is more ver­sa­tile, and pro­vides eas­ier ac­cess to the boot com­pared to a sa­loon.

Rea­son­able an­swers, but I asked him again if he had con­sid­ered a five-seater MPV. “I guess we’re both used to driv­ing an SUV, since our cur­rent car is a Honda Vezel.”

Be­ing a good “doc­tor”, I probed fur­ther. “If you want boot space, why not a sta­tion wagon?” He replied that he was con­sid­er­ing the Mazda 6 Wagon, but that it was out of stock.

I lauded him for his prac­ti­cal­ity. An es­tate isn’t much big­ger than a sedan, but it’s eas­ily twice as use­ful. Se­cretly, how­ever, I had ex­pected to hear that fa­mil­iar, non­sen­si­cal re­frain about how es­tates re­sem­ble hearses…

“Well, tell me why you like the CX-5 then,” I replied. What I heard next would have prob­a­bly left any Mazda sales­per­son in a tizzy. Among other things, my “pa­tient” said he liked the in­te­rior and enjoyed his test-drive, even if it was a short one. Shock­ingly, he even praised the safety fea­tures in the Pre­mium vari­ant.

I say “shock­ingly” be­cause till to­day, most new car buy­ers do not pay at­ten­tion to a car’s safety fea­tures. For most con­sumers, the ve­hi­cle’s price is the ul­ti­mate de­cid­ing fac­tor.

The only thing my “pa­tient” wasn’t too im­pressed with was the model’s lack of punch­i­ness. Since he was eye­ing the 2-litre vari­ant, I rec­om­mended the 2.5-litre model in­stead. He thought for a moment. “Power re­ally isn’t the top pri­or­ity. Ac­tu­ally, my wife is a bit wary of the jump from a 1.5-litre to a 2-litre car, so a 2.5-litre might be too much.”

At this point, it was me who was smil­ing. I’m al­ways happy to talk to a sen­si­ble mo­torist. As for the lack of oomph, I told him that he’ll need to rev the nuts off the CX-5 af­ter it’s been run-in. Nat­u­rally as­pi­rated en­gines thrive on revs, and Maz­das lend them­selves well to en­thu­si­as­tic driv­ing.

To en­sure that I gave him the most pro­fes­sional “treat­ment”, I sug­gested he get a sec­ond opin­ion by trying other sim­i­lar mod­els. If he wanted some­thing ef­fort­less, per­haps the more pow­er­ful Toy­ota Har­rier Turbo would be more to his lik­ing, I opined.

An hour later, he thanked me for the con­sul­ta­tion. He said that it was re­fresh­ing be­cause my opin­ions didn’t in­clude any sales pitches.

Two days later, my wife’s col­league in­formed her that they had test-driven sev­eral more cars, but ul­ti­mately chose the Mazda CX-5. I hope it makes them happy.

Torque has a panel of spe­cial­ists to help their read­ers pick the best rides.

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