I mentioned last year I was thinking about upgrading my car, which is frequently unused during the week, but still needed on occasions. Car share hasn’t reached our area yet.
Buying cars is not something I do lightly. In 18 years of driving, I’ve only owned two vehicles: a 1993 Magna (owned 2000-2008), and a 2000 Astra (owned 2008-).
Like any shopping, for something big or small, I agonise over it.
After some thought, for the purposes of shopping, I had narrowed down to a Toyota Corolla or Camry sedan.
Here’s something interesting: the old Mitsubishi Magna I used to drive was considered a midsize car.
The Toyota Corolla is considered a compact car. But the newer Corolla sedans actually have very similar dimensions to the Magna.
|Car||Magna 1993||Corolla sedan 2013-||Camry 2011-17|
The Camry isn’t much longer than the Corolla, only 20cm. And only slightly wider: 5cm. Hmm.
Fuel consumption also not that different, on paper: Corolla 7.4 litres/100 km. Camry 7.8.
More reading on car sizes: How Small Cars Got Big, by John Cadogan
Used car safety
I want something with a five star ANCAP rating.
But given how little I drive, I’m also on a budget. So a 5-8 year old car is probably the target.
Here’s where things get interesting. How Safe Is Your Car provides ANCAP ratings of vehicles going back about 5 years.
Older than that, they give you “Used Car Safety Ratings”, which rather than being based on crash tests, are based on actual crash statistics: “Driver Protection rating based on analysis of real world crashes.”
And these show the Corolla rankings dropping markedly: a 2012 Corolla got five stars for ANCAP, but only rates 2/5 on the crash statistics — no better than my old 2000 Astra, or indeed the old 1993 Magna.
What I’m not clear on is whether there’s a difference between the hatch and the sedan. It doesn’t distinguish. The sedan is a bit bigger, and might perform differently in real world crashes.
In contrast to the Corolla, the 2006-2011 Camry got a four star ANCAP rating, but rates 4/5 on crash statistics. (Camrys from 2012 onwards have five star ANCAP ratings.)
I wonder if driver behaviour is a factor here? Camrys are not a very exciting car…
Finding the dealer
Last Monday afternoon, before I’d twigged on the real world used car safety ratings, I went to test-drive a Corolla I’d found on Carsales. Just getting there was a slightly torturous drive.
The car dealer was on a busy divided arterial road. I was approaching from the wrong direction, so I did a U-turn. It was about 3pm, and the road was very congested, but a kind motorist let me in… into her lane… the right-hand lane.
None of the other drivers were that considerate, and as we all crawled along, none would let me merge left… so I missed the car dealer.
Okay. I’m still in the right hand lane. I found the next U-turn point, so I could try another pass.
Ahead of me at the lights was a red car. When the light changed, we both did U-turns and headed back the way I’d come.
I noticed the red car also did another U-turn. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who’d been unable to merge across.
What fun. We’re all going around in circles.
I didn’t see if they made it a second time; I went a bit further down the road to where there was slightly less congestion, and managed to get into the correct lane this time and hit my target.
Test the right car, dummy
Having eventually made it to the car dealer, I chatted to the bloke and looked at the car.
A splendid beast indeed. I took it for a drive around the (large) block while he checked out my old Astra as a trade-in.
The Corolla was lovely. Good size, drove smoothly, not too many Ks on the clock.
I was even (perhaps overly) enamoured of the indicator lights on the wing mirrors.
Then I noticed it doesn’t come with cruise control. I hadn’t even thought to check. Only some models of they year’s Corollas come with it.
If I was just driving in the city, I wouldn’t need it. But I don’t actually drive much in the city. A few times a year, I drive to the country to visit the in-laws, and it’s incredibly valuable to have it.
Apparently you can get kits to fit cruise control afterwards. They’re not too expensive. But isn’t this just the type of after-market modification that messes with your insurance premiums?
And I’m likely to only get a pittance on the old Astra, at least from that dealer. I wasn’t expecting much, but 4 digits would at least be nice. He actually suggested I simply keep it. Yeah nah. Presumably it’s only value is parts.
Anyway, given what I’ve since discovered about real world crash stats, I’ll keep hunting, and I’m now leaning towards a Camry instead — or one of the others ranked highly in the TAC’s list of used vehicles.
Update 22/5/2018: I had been considering a Mitsubishi Lancer. Recent models are five star safety rated, and according to my cousin who has one, they’re made in Japan and very reliable, while being a bit cheaper than a Corolla.
Mitsubishi are discontinuing the Lancer in the next year or two, so the basic model hasn’t changed in some time — not that it matters. I think I’ll take a look at one.