Moving up in the world

This isn't actually the car in question, but it's almost identical.

Astute readers will recall that on Saturday I went to see a Zafira, which I had decided was the next type of car we needed.  It’s a logical progression really.  The first car I owned was a Ford Fiesta.  I wanted a Mini, but I was fresh out of uni and couldn’t afford one, so I settled for a Fiesta instead.  Then, when business had picked up, I bought a Mini, and thoroughly enjoyed my little pocket rocket.  Then I got married, and was suddenly doing a lot of miles, and the Mini started seeming smaller and smaller the more we packed into the boot.  And then we decided to have a baby, and a Mini just wasn’t practical any more, so we moved into small family saloon territory with a conservative Ford Escort.  Now, as an established family and all the baggage that brings with it, we are in need of a ‘proper’ family car, a seven-seater.  Hence the Zafira.

After Saturday’s disappointment, we were keen to get out there and see something else.  If nothing else, it would be good to be able to make a direct comparison.  And hope that the car we had dismissed at the weekend didn’t turn out to be a bargain.  So this afternoon I skipped work and we all drove out to Westbury to see another Zafira.  Same listed price as the other one, same 1.6 engine, roughly the same spec, also from a dealership rather than private, but slightly lower mileage.  And, as it happens, we rather liked what we saw.

Structurally, this example was much better than the previous one we had seen, with good solid underpinnings and a healthy engine.  In fact, it was generally in much better condition all round, inside and out.  Of course it wasn’t perfect, it would have been more expensive if it had been, but the sort of things that were wrong with it somehow felt like the ‘right’ things to be wrong with it.  In that sense, it almost felt like being back in the Mini.  Familiar.  Homely.  It had been well used, but not abused or misused.

Outside, the bodywork was in fantastic condition, with no visible dings, dents or serious scratches.  There were no cracks in the windscreen, unlike the other one we’d seen, and the boot scratchplate wasn’t too scratched either.  Inside the condition of the fabric was good; worn, but in places you’d expect and to an acceptable degree.  None of the trim was falling off, and although the ratchet mechanism on the middle row of seats was a little worn in some positions it was safe and secure enough not to be a problem.

There were however a few concerns in the boot area.  The metalwork on the back of the rear seats was horribly rusted, and rust marks were visible on the fabric it had been rubbing against.  That was a bit of a surprise, and wasn’t evidenced anywhere else in the car, and would have developed over a long time rather than a one-off event, so we guess it must have been a dog – get a wet dog in there on a regular basis, with claws scratching the paintwork, and I guess that’s what you end up with.  Still, it all appears to be surface rust, so I should be able to sand that down and repaint it, and wash out the stains on the fabric, so that wasn’t a deal breaker.

The boot was also missing its carpet, which sits on top of the back seats when they’re folded down.  Also absent was the boot cover, which is like a window blind mounted the wrong way, and which hides whatever you have lurking in the boot, whether that be musical instruments, an umbrella, Italian gold bars, a small child, a childish adult, or whatever.

Out on the road, the Zafira felt good.  The engine pulled well and was nice and quiet too, showing that it hadn’t been submitted to regular thrashing, despite it only having a little 1.6 litre engine.  The gears felt nice and smooth (and not at all sticky like the previous one, which the dealer had assured us was normal for Vauxhalls – apparently he was mistaken).  The car drove in a steady straight line, and kept its composure under braking and accelerating too.  And I love the handling.  So much better than the Escort.  It’s slightly firmer, while at the same time being more comfortable, and has the sort of stability that makes it feel like a much lighter car.

The passenger side wing mirror gave me some trouble though.  I couldn’t get it to reposition properly while we were out driving.  When we got back it turned out the mechanism inside was loose and broken, so that would need replacing.

There was one thing that had me concerned though, and that was the brakes.  I tried them hard a couple of times, and had great difficulty bringing the car to a halt.  Even with all my might pushing on the brake pedal, it didn’t feel as brutal as it should have done and didn’t even get close to locking up a wheel.  I reckon there’s something wrong with the servo.  The brakes themselves feel fine, and it brakes evenly across all four wheels and stays in a straight line, so it’s not something to do with the brake discs themselves.  It feels almost like driving a Mini, if I’m honest.  Nowhere near as crisp as the previous Zafira I had driven, and I’m not sure I would feel safe with brakes like that, let alone be happy for my wife to drive it.

So, when we were back at the dealership, we started the deal-making process.  Now, I’ll admit to not being the most experienced negotiator, and undoubtedly not the most forceful person in this situation either.  I’m the sort of person who gives in too soon, having seen the situation from the other person’s perspective far too easily, and not confident enough in my own decisions to be able to stand firm.  Nonetheless, I went in with a pitch I knew was too low and gauged the reaction.  Clearly I had a fight on my hands, and this guy wasn’t going to let us get away with very much at all.  He had his selling price, and wanted every penny of that, which I guess is understandable.  But I pushed some more, and some more, and eventually he took us up to his office so that he could crunch some numbers.  That, I thought, was a good sign.

Unfortunately, all he could offer us was £45 off the listed price, which I thought was a bit pants.  However, he was able to throw in various things that we would otherwise have had to deal with ourselves; he would buy us a boot carpet and a boot cover, he would fix the wing mirror, he would have the car fully MOTed, and he would have his mechanic look at the brakes too.  Given that a new brake servo could potentially be at least a couple of hundred pounds if we’d had it done elsewhere, that was quite an incentive.  And we’d get the usual three month warranty.

I sat there running it through my mind for quite a while, doing some sums (which hurt my brain), and after a big thumbs-up from God (who in all honesty I think may have been a little frustrated at not being given a look in earlier – my bad), we shook hands on a deal.  Yay!  We’ll take delivery of our Zafira in a few days, once all the work has been done and the extra parts sourced (from eBay, most likely, but that’s no biggie).

So, we are now the proud and slightly giddy owners of a people carrier.  This marks a pretty substantial landmark in our family history.  It’s all… like… sensible, and mature, and stuff.

Oh, and I now have a Ford Escort for sale for £850, if anyone’s interested.

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