Buying a new house can be one of the most exciting things you can do in life – or the most stressful, frustrating, annoying and downright distressing. As you can probably read between the lines, I have mixed feelings about the whole caper. And don’t even get me started about agents and how they’re largely responsible for Australia’s absurd affordability crisis.
Despite all that, I actually quite like the searching process. I love trawling the web, finding likely properties, drawing up a schedule of inspections and dragging the family around from one to the next with military precision. It’s quite exhausting, yet also thrilling and nerve-wracking all at once.
It’s also a good test of a car. There’s lots of stop-starting, piling in and out, parking in tricky places, negotiating unfamiliar territory, eating on the run, working the satellite navigation overtime and rushing to make up lost time because some people simply can’t assess a million-dollar purchase in the allotted 10 minutes. Anyone would think it’s potentially life-changing! Come on, people, we should be two suburbs away.
I thought the Renault Captur would be the perfect vehicle for such duties, being a commodious ‘SUV’ yet compact enough to be nippy. I was being optimistic.
The ‘kids’ lumped into the back seat are 20-somethings who know nothing of imperial measures yet are keenly aware of their “six foot-plus” stature, which challenges the Captur’s metric capacity. They’re too polite to complain, but when asked are happy to proffer that being wedged into the back doesn’t combine well with a jiggly ride and winding roads. Mum didn’t feel too settled in the front, either.
As it happens, we’re looking in The Dandenongs, the hills on the outskirts of Melbourne’s east, and there are plenty of twists and turns, dips and rises, sharp hairpins, bumpy dirt roads and sometimes daunting driveways. The traction control occasionally worked overtime as the tyres scrabbled for traction, yet somehow the blue Renault always made it back to the blacktop without anyone having to get out and push. But the poor little three-pot turbo did struggle with such a fullload and some fierce climbs.
Most annoying was the reversing camera. It’s not a sparkling display, so it wasn’t always easy to make out what was on the screen when presented with unmade roads, dirt verges, ditches, and sometimes even scary steep drops. Worse still, though, the damn screen takes about 12 seconds to come on after you’ve started the car and selected reverse. Why? I’ve no idea. But it’s a long time to sit in gear waiting for a screen to come on before you can start reversing.
At least the sat-nav worked a treat and could be programmed on the run. It certainly made communicating with the car easier than with the agents.
This article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Wheels magazine.