Fringe Box



XX Notes: To Buy Or Not to Buy, Aye, There’s the Rub

Published on: 4 Jul, 2020
Updated on: 23 Jul, 2020

Maria Rayner

Maria Rayner‘s observational, fortnightly column from a woman’s perspective…

The firm pressure moved down my spine from my shoulders to lower back, pausing briefly before slowly moving back up again.

It was a wonderful massage and came as a complete surprise. Moments before, I had jabbed a button on the console: “What does that do…?”

The lease period is up on our larger family car, the one we use for long trips to Cornwall and shorter ones to the sailing club, loaded up with dogs, watersports kit and children the size of large adults, so we need to make a decision.

Is it worth paying the balance to call it ours and get another few years out of it or trade up for a newer vehicle which better services our present lifestyle? This is where the decision process flounders.

Pre-covid we were considering trading down. Two kids at uni with their own social lives and mobile themselves, youngest just reaching that stage, one old dog happy to snuggle up on the back seat; we had plenty of space for rudders, sails and paddleboards.

Since lockdown the family car is packed again with six-footers, extra sailing kit and a new puppy on the horizon. We won’t fit in a VW Golf, I’ve tried.

Consequently, we found ourselves in the Volvo showroom, looking at the latest SUVs and estate cars. Many of my friends were blessed with four children and needed the generous seven seats the Volvo provided, while we were able to get by with the occasional rear pop-ups in the Scenic, Discovery and now the X5.

Inside a Volvo SUV – plush, but has it got a cold box?

No disrespect, but I’ve always viewed the Volvo as a bit of a cliché of the Surrey Mummy set (not that Landrovers and BMWs don’t have their own stereotypes: have you heard the one about the difference between a holly bush and a BMW…?*).

But Volvo’s safety record and the eco-credentials of the hybrid version, added to the practicality of the V60, meant it deserved a look.

Any thoughts of a coronavirus discount were quickly shot down by the saleswoman. Demand is high, she told us, customers had been flocking in since the re-opening (although it is the same rule as the supermarkets, one member per household and a quick rub-down with the alcohol-gel, for the car and you).

New cars (well, we can dream) were sold pretty much as they rolled off the production line.

A BMW SUV – best not look inside

A quick glance at the figures helps to explain why. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT): UK car manufacturing output fell -95.4 per cent in May with just 5,314 vehicles rolling off production lines. This is only slightly better than April when only 197 units were built and is the worst May since 1946.

Supply has adjusted to demand and the mini-blip that showrooms and garages are experiencing is the pent-up result of three months of lockdown from people like us and my friend, whose car has broken down the week before a much-anticipated trip to the Lake District on what the press is calling Super Saturday.

Serendipity strikes. I caught a repeat of Radio 4’s Women Talking About Cars, hosted by the brilliantly funny Victoria Coren Mitchell, a series in which the BBC pun that cars are “… a vehicle to share memories and take a comic look at life, love, sex, work, childhood, adulthood and adventure”.

Her first guest was Dawn French who waxed lyrical about the torque stats on the BMW Luxus 850 but also about the deep cool-box on her luxury Range Rover.

Which is so true. While most men drool over stats like the time it takes to reach 60mph and the external styling, women are more likely to think how the car will fit their lifestyle.

I loved the Renault Scenic as I could fit a rear-facing baby chair in the middle with the three-point seat belt and keep the baby milk cool in the cool box – way ahead of its time in the 90s. My friend brings crab back from Cornwall in hers (no, she’s not called Dawn).

If you spend the whole of a January Sunday on a touchline then a heated steering wheel is not so much a luxury as a necessity, and a rear 12v plug has become the must-have accessory for new paddleboard owners turning electric after hours of pumping.  In my opinion. But try telling my husband.

I’m definitely fighting a losing battle over the Volvo massage seat though, but with spas and beauty salons shut for the foreseeable, you can’t blame a girl for trying.

*The prxxks are on the inside.

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