My first ever brand new car!

IMG_5244_49db8b48862e8-lightboxWhen the arrival of our daughter forced the sale of my beloved Subaru Impreza Prodrive four years ago, I was handed the keys to our “new” family car, the Audi Allroad, without ever having driven one.

It was the opposite to the Impreza in so many ways. Huge, lumbering and automatic; it was certainly spacious enough to accommodate our growing family (we have two fairly large and boisterous dogs too), but it lacked the Impreza’s oomph and agility.

More significantly, in girly parlance, it didn’t “talk” to me the way my Scooby did. (And still hasn’t to this date, to be honest.)

As the Allroad got steadily older, we discussed what could replace it and nothing really seemed more suitable than the newer version, although the lack of a decent petrol engine made us hold off.

Then one fateful day last summer, we were invited to meet up with some friends at the Taste of London event at Regents Park. After grazing our fill at the various stalls laying out the offerings of some of London’s finest chefs, we were strolling towards the exit when I spied a small Fiat stand showing the new 500.

David reluctantly came over too and we both looked the car over and the interior, in particular, surprised and delighted us. It was sooo much more stylish, cheeky and, well, Italian than that other retro small car, the MINI. Being half-Italian myself, I was smitten.

David was astonished he could fit in the rear seats, even when the front one was set to his driving position and the boot didn’t look pitifully small like the MINI’s either.

We then arranged a test drive at our nearest Fiat dealer in Guildford. However the standard 500, even the 1.4 Sport we drove, was just mindnumbingly slow. David managed to make it go by revving it to within an inch of its life (as is his driving style), but I don’t drive like that and it was just too gutless.

But by then, news of the forthcoming hot Abarth version was out and we tracked down via the internet, the only confirmed dealer at the time which was Vospers in Plymouth.

After contacting the Abarth salesman, Jon Clapp, I put a deposit down. He then took it in turns with his Sales Manager, John Hutchinson to put up with our perpetual enquiries about a projected delivery date (I think David was almost as excited as me about it!).

At one point, I almost caved in and ordered a Launch Edition that had the horribly fussy 10 spoke wheels and was in flat white rather than the much nicer pearlescent white which is what I really wanted. But David reined in my impatience and made me wait for my “bespoke” order which was:

– Funk White pearlescent paint

– Red leather front seats (the rears are still leather, but black)

– SkyDome electric tilt and slide glass sunroof

– Red Abarth side stripes and mirrors (I was talked out of adding the Italian tricolour stripes too!)

– 5 “petal” design 17 inch alloy wheels

That lot raised the price from £13,500 to £15,950! Quite a lot for a small car…

Thankfully, the wait for my bespoke version was only a few weeks longer than it would have been for one of the Launch Editions and finally the Saturday arrived when we could drive down and pick it up.

David drove us down to Plymouth in the Allroad, breaking several speed records on the way. And there it was, sitting under its cheeky Abarth car cover (which apparently depicts the original shape Abarth 595, or so I was told).

After going through the paperwork with both Jo(h)ns, who were both very patient and thorough, and paying the single biggest amount I have ever swiped on my debit card, it was time to go outside for the “unveiling”.

As John ceremonially pulled the cover off, I couldn’t resist helping him to speed it up and there it was, gleaming in the sun: my first brand new car!

I must admit, it looked stunning and I was overjoyed. John then sat me down in the driver’s seat and spent a good few minutes going over the various features of the car. Everything seemed ok, apart from the car’s Bluetooth thingy failing to connect to my Blackberry, but I’m sure David can sort that out later.

After thanking John for his time and patience (he already had his next happy Abarth 500 customer waiting for him), it was time to convoy back to Lightwater. Of course it then decided to chuck it down with rain, but nothing could dampen my spirits as I followed David in the Allroad back to the A303.

Any fears that the Abarth would be as weedy and slow as the Fiat 500 were dispelled within the first mile as I easily kept up and in fact overtook David at one point! [I let her past so I could get a good view of the car -ed]

So how does it drive and will the tiny new arrival fit in with our hectic lifestyle? (we are now expecting our second child in July!)

You’ll have to read the next entry to find out!

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Jarmila Halovsky-Yu