Fash­ion plates

We spend weeks com­par­ing new car per­for­mance and prices ... then fall for a shiny one

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Cover Story - CRAIG DUFF FER­RARI 488 GTB

THE road to new car own­er­ship is paved with good in­ten­tions.

We’ve come to a de­ci­sion, or at least a short­list, based on hours of re­search, in-depth dis­cus­sions with col­leagues and a fo­cus on the fun­da­men­tals such as fuel econ­omy and safety rat­ings.

Then we walk into the show­room and see it in the flesh and that shiny, se­duc­tively styled car appeals di­rectly to our ego. Bug­ger the bud­get, prag­ma­tism can take a back seat.

“We’re not ra­tio­nal crea­tures,” says Aus­tralia SCAN so­cial an­a­lyst David Chalke. “If we were, we’d all shop at Aldi.”

And we’re cer­tainly not shop­ping in the bar­gain base­ment bins. Sales of sub$80,000 sports cars — by def­i­ni­tion a dis­cre­tionary pur­chase — are up by 34 per cent this year.

Chalke says a ve­hi­cle’s looks are still the key is­sue in car own­er­ship — we have to live with it on a daily ba­sis, so it needs to ap­peal.

The fact we each have a unique per­cep­tion of what con­sti­tutes beauty ex­plains the va­ri­ety of car styles sold.

“We have an in­her­ent ap­pre­ci­a­tion of aes­thet­ics and the car em­bod­ies that,” he says.

“The car is a state­ment to you about your­self and a state­ment to the world about your­self. It is beau­ti­ful yet a cara­pace (shell) that helps to pro­tect us from the wicked, evil world.”

There’s a caveat to that: some­times the best-look­ing (and it’s al­ways sub­jec­tive) car isn’t the smartest buy. Some are down­right im­prac­ti­cal, some are too pricey and some aren’t that fun to drive.

Here’s our pick of the good look­ers. The Swift is a cult car,car partly due to its smart use of a small space and partly for its clean de­sign. They’re pop­u­lar sim­ply be­cause the sharp, un­clut­tered lines are backed by a sharp, un­clut­tered driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Toss in the premium for re­li­a­bil­ity and this is one lit­tle car with a de­served big rep­u­ta­tion. The retro-styled bub­ble from Fiat is a hit with the fash­ion­istas. It’s a bub­bly car in ev­ery sense and appeals to in­ner-city dwellers who ap­pre­ci­ate its flair and ease of park­ing. The fact it can be colour-co-or­di­nated in­side and out doesn’t hurt ei­ther. The Mazda3 proves that be­ing good look­ing im­proves your pop­u­lar­ity. The 3 com­bines an easy to iden­tify ex­te­rior de­sign with sim­ple, log­i­cal and stylish in­te­ri­ors that feel more up­scale than most com­peti­tors. The over­all im­pres­sion is of a car worth more than the price — and that al­ways mas­sages the ego. The Cap­tur was the con­sen­sus vote in this cat­e­gory. Well­pro­por­tioned and svelte with a con­trast­ing roof that makes it stand out in the traf­fic, it’s

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