Monday, March 19, 2007

Who would you want? Flat Chested Plain Jane in a Gucci Dress or Eva Longoria in Jeans and a Cheap T-shirt?

Recently I met two old friends of mine somewhere in Desa Sri Hartamas for a late night mug of teh tarik. One of them was an owner of a Toyota Celica VVTL-i Auto, the other a Proton Satria Neo 1.6. The guy who owned the Satria was a motoring journalist and had only owned the car for about a month. We basically talked about his car quite a bit as it was about to be transformed by Subi of the Promote bodykits fame. The car already had a suede alcantra dashboard as well as a suede alcantra wrapped steering wheel, 17inch rims and BMW-like angel eye projectors. It looked pretty good one might say, but none of the flaws inherited from the basic Satria Neo had been ironed out. Like my previous posting on this car, it had seats perched too high and a rubbish steering wheel and driving position.

Now this friend got some ridicule from me due to the fact that he was an automotive journalist and bought such a flawed car. His argument was that at the price range the Satria Neo was (circa RM55,000.00) nothing could touch its handling. I suppose he is right on that point as journalists don’t actually make much even though they get to try out (or in his case, trash out) new cars but yet would still want to own a reasonable handling car. But the next remark he made was that he is already looking at the latest range of seats OMP have brought into Malaysia to alleviate the seating issue that the Satria Neo has. Could you compromise on such an issue? I compromised when I bought the Proton Wira in 1998. However, even the Wira at the time didn’t have such glaring flaws.

But, the main issue that I shall bring today is on something I noticed just as the two of them were driving off from the parking lot and out to the main street along Desa Sri Hartamas. The all important point that the Toyota Celica, even in its stock 16inch rims and tires looks a whole lot better than the Proton Satria Neo which was complete with the larger 17inch rims and tires; and angel eye projector headlights. It’s not like the Satria is a bad looker, but it was totally outclassed by a car that was rarer in Malaysia and sportier looking. Now it’s not about price difference, as you could put a RM120,000.00 Honda Civic 2.0 beside the Celica and the Celica would still catch my attention over the Civic which costs the same as the Civic here in Malaysia due to most of them being re-conditioned imports. I suppose its all about exclusivity. As no matter what you do, a Satria Neo or a Honda Civic are 2 cars mass market made cars and bought by the thousands every year; whereas the Celica, only a couple of hundred have been imported over the last few years.

I suppose it’s also about design. The Celica is a low slung sports coupe, and that alone helps. The Satria Neo my other friend drives will have the full treatment of big rims and tires, a stonking body kit and lots of upscale trimming. But all in all, spending RM20,000.00 on a Satria Neo still makes it a Satria Neo, which is the actual problem that cannot be addressed. Yes you will be unique, but think of the Satria Neo as your flat chested, plain Jane friend dressed in Gucci and the Celica as Eva Longoria in a pair of Jeans and a cheap t-shirt and you’ll get my point.

Yes, yes those who own Satria Neos or Honda Civics will say I am biased or so forth. But that’s the fact, and that is why when it came to me having a choice to do up my trusty 1.6 Wira when it came to the looks factor I left it totally stock except for the 16inch rims and tires for better handling as no matter what you do to it, it’ll look like a Wira which is a copy of a Mitsubishi Lancer which in turn is modded by the thousands into Mitsubishi EVO look-alikes. Is that a waste of hard earned money? Would it be better for someone to save the money and just buy a more expensive car? Would it be better just to sort out the performance aspect of the car like I did? The answer is subjective. But what does my journalist friend think? He’s the exception to the norm, as being an automotive journalist means that he got friends in the right places to pimp up his ride for a ridiculously small sum of money, unlike other Satria Neo owners that is who would have to spend tons of money just to get where my friend’s Satria Neo would be at.

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