“A Saab 9-3 Aero convertible? What the hell possessed you to buy that?” I asked of my mate’s new-to-him purchase, lining up stories of comedy torque steer, torn firewalls, tart references to ‘women of a certain age’ and tales of its legendarily bluebottle-like body rigidity. It’s all just banter right?
He’d just stepped out of an E36 BMW 3 Series and into the Saab and, to me, this was a massive retrograde step. But when he took the time to explain his reasons, they all made perfect sense. He’s no SVG behind the wheel and just wanted something inexpensive with a bit of zip in a straight line, that was a little bit different and which he could trundle around town in with the roof down. I slowly and rather ashamedly realised that I’d had a bit of an empathy fail. The Saab was very right for him and his particular circumstances.
It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially online, where savaging somebody’s car choice without walking as much as an inch in their shoes is depressingly commonplace. Motoring journalists are as guilty of this as anyone and, consequently, they’re often afraid of being on the receiving end. That’s why you could usually throw your hat over most motoring writers’ Teflon car choices. Porsche Boxster/911, Peugeot 205 GTi, VW Up!/Golf GTI, BMW M3, Land Rover Defender, Toyota 86, Suzuki Jimny, Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo, Holden Monaro: rinse and repeat.
It’s also why many motoring journalists are utterly flummoxed when Australians buy Mitsubishi ASXs or Kia Ceratos, unable to process why they’d overlooked a Mazda CX-30 or a Volkswagen Golf. As people who love driving, we narrow that focus even further. Before living with it, I’d have probably lambasted somebody for choosing a Lexus IS350 F Sport over a BMW 330i.
The BMW is manifestly a superior performance car. But for the driving I do, day in day out, the Lexus is simply a more pleasant thing and by some margin. Read the long term review and I’ll explain why, but usually all it takes is to ask rather than rush to criticise.
It’s too late for me to ask my late father why he replaced a beautiful Lancia Fulvia with the Harvest Gold slug of an Austin Maxi when I was a kid, but then his car buying decisions often went no further than taking advantage of a workmate offloading something cheap. That random vehicle generator yielded gems and horrors but he seemed to avoid boring cars. For that I was eternally thankful.
But left-field car choices are, by their nature, a good indicator of an interesting person; somebody who probably doesn’t comply with vanilla norms and whose particular niche probably comes with something that’ll make your world richer for taking the time to understand. So next time one of your mates tells you they’ve bought a car that makes you want to laugh, just ask ’em a few questions to try to get a handle on why. I guarantee the process will take your blinkers off a bit. Do get in touch and show off some of your weirdburger car choices. Promise I won’t point and laugh.
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