Three cylinders of raw power


Life is chocked full of tasty experiences and buying a new car ranks up there alongside shaving mainly in that it’s a process you’ll probably have to experience at some point in our modern society unless you manage to live all your life in New York or some other megacity in the world where car ownership is as foolhardy as being racist.

I happily dumped my last set of wheels in 2003. I moved to San Francisco and had no use of this dead albatross hanging round my neck anymore. There is no where to park in Baghdad by the Bay and really, your daily need of a car is all but nonexistent. So happily I lived, sometimes renting a car when going up to Napa for general wine tourism or then taking the slow as frozen honey Amtrak to visit my mom or the equally slow, but shorter trip on Caltrain to visit the family in the South Bay.

Then I moved to Spain. It’s ironic that in this country with the largest high-speed rail network in the world alongside metros and buses galore that would ever have need of a car. But, I often (as in pretty much every week) am in some part of the wine regions and there, a car you must have. As I’ve outlined in my wine guides you can get to these regions without a car, but to visit the cellars, you’re going to be walking pretty damned far to get arrive at them.

But, in living in Barcelona for two years, I managed and by “managed” this meant stealing my father in-law’s Sunday wheels or renting a car. Both of which I wasn’t a big fan of as his car gets the rather squalid (for Europe) consumption of 7.6L/100km or in more sane terms, 30mpg–all wheel drive Subarus are not noteworthy for economic consumption. The rental cars had far better consumption, but would then incur the rental cost. In other words, I wasn’t really winning with either of these options, especially as picking up the father in-law’s ride meant taking the train for an hour and a half to get it or going to a rental office meant the same amount of time to get there and wait behind scads of others waiting to pick up their cars for beach going.

So the decision was made earlier this year with editor in chief and I to actually buy our own car. It got delayed a bit as she was working outside the country for awhile, but in the end, we did it. Both of us went and bought a brand new car although it is in fact her new car as while in Spain as a foreigner, you can buy a car without a problem, you can’t legally drive it without some EU country license–although there are countless grey areas in all of this, so pay little attention. So there you have it, the editor in chief, is now the proud owner of a brand new Nissan Note 2014 as well as an experienced chauffeur to go with it. In theory the consumption is about 4.5L/100km or 52mpg although that will remain to be seen.

It’s quite remarkable, much as it is with the taxation system, that by and large, buying a car in Spain is exactly the same as in the US. Car salesmen are just as slimy, but they have this added “fuck you” aspect that tinges all customer service here (for those who don’t know the UK and US are light years ahead in this department) and they give the general attitude that you’d be lucky to buy the car from them despite the fact you’re plunking down thousands of euros for it. Again customer service leaves much to be desired and despite walking out of one dealership in one region, about the only we found in another was that they were completely worried about their evaluation from Nissan HQ in the UK.

Short of all that and the fact that given the protracted economic conditions in Spain, there is no haggling, no bargaining and no, “I’ll toss in the paint for free!” It’s just, “This is the price, pay it, and give me a good review. You want a 200€ discount off the 400€ paint color that you don’t want to have but have to because it’s all we have in stock? Go fuck yourself and never come back.” You wait about a week and a half for the matriculation to go through and boom, you have a car.

It’s strange owning one again. Yes, it gives a feeling of freedom, with a roaring rush of a mighty three cylinders churning in a 1.2L supercharged engine. A hill machine it’s not, but engines are just smaller in Europe as this same car has a 1.6L engine in the US, but without the idle kill nor the economic mode that allows you to shut off a cylinder when driving in the city. These little items save you oodles of euros on gas.

But of course it also has a feeling of impending doom as cars are black holes for money and each month is the insurance payment and of course, gas (which is Spain is 1.43€ a liter or about $8 a US gallon.) Of course not having to depend on anyone for a ride or carefully planning excursions to return the car before a certain time and bring it back exactly at 9/17ths of a tank full like you picked it up has its pluses as well. I just hope that this little fossil fuel burner will last until the next time I need to buy a car that’s the type you plug in instead of fill up.