My difficulty loving a BMW

Due to our car troubles recently I’ve taken to hiring a car for any sort of long distance travelling we’ve got planned.

So for our Christmas trip away I booked a Skoda Octavia (or similar car in the same class) with a boot big enough for all our presents.

When I went to collect the car, they gave me a choice of a 15 plate Octavia or a 63 plate Vauxhall Insignia.

I asked which boot was bigger, they said the Insignia, I agreed and took that one. I was a little sad, I like Skodas and have never driven an Octavia. Plus it was basically brand new, but I really needed all the boot space I could get.

As I was getting in the car, I realised the Octavia was actually a Skoda Superb, which is bigger, newer, probably fancier and I’d rather have had it, but it was fine, the paper work was done and I just wanted to get going. Plus the Insignia is a good car – or so I thought.

I loaded up, drove us from Bristol to Reading and all the way there wondered what the “droning” sound was I could here. No vibrations, just a weird drone sound that changed with the speed of the car.

Got to Reading, couldn’t do anything as it was past 6pm, but I did check the boot sizes on Comcar…  turns out the Insignia only has a 530 litre boot compared to the Superb’s huge 625 litres! My frustration increased.

Anyway, I called the car hire place the next day (which was the 24th December), they told me to call the AA.

An AA guy arrived within about 30 minutes, had a look, told me the discs and pads are rubbing, best to take the car in. Car hire place agreed, apologised and managed to find me a BMW 3 series to replace it within the hour.

So off the top of my head, I was aware that this was technically an upgrade as it’s a “Premium” car in there range, but realistically the saloon style boot of the 3 series was not going to be as big as the hatch style boot of the Insignia… and certainly not the Saloon/Hatch hybrid of the Superb!

However, it was Christmas eve, and I’d called them at 8am and it was about 10am by the time they found the replacement, which I could go collect immediately.

So they’d rectified the situation pretty swiftly, and I wasn’t unhappy about being given a BMW for no extra cost. It was Enterprise rentals, I’ve switched to them from Europcar a few years ago and while I didn’t have any problems with Europcar… Enterprise just completely blow them out the water for customer service. In fact I don’t think many companies can rival Enterprise.

I collected the car, drove it back home, and all the way home was surprisingly disappointed with the car. It was a BMW 320d M-Sport, on a 64 plate so late 2014 or early 2015.

The entertainment package, the sat nav, the dashboard, buttons, key fob all that stuff was great, but sitting in the car, being in the car, and driving the car didn’t feel particularly comfortable or relaxing. It wasn’t luxurious.

The Ingisina was big, spacious, easy to drive, plenty of grunt to power along the motorway. The BMW was definitely faster, more powerful, huge amounts of torque, but the gear changes felt awkward, the car felt angry and desperate to lurch forward. The seats were low, I couldn’t get the back right – again the Insignia was easier to use, electric fully adjustable seats compared to BMW’s pull handled, spring loaded seat adjustment system that hasn’t changed much since my K Reg BMW 320i from the 90s!

It wasn’t bad, it was far nicer than my own car, but I’ve had BMWs in the past and loved them, and I just didn’t love this car. I’d rather still be in the Insignia, easier to drive, comfier, more space, more practical.

A couple of days went by, the shiny BMW sat on the drive and every time we went for a walk or just nipped outside, I admired the 3 series’ looks. It’s a very pretty car, and it had some lovely alloys on it.

3series-msport

Something like that… it’s a nice car to look at. Every time I did gaze at it, I started to think “Well yeah I’d have that car, it’d be a nice car for me, just not a great family car I guess”

I took the car on a little road trip on my own, from the in-laws to my parents for the day, and back again. Reading > Gatwick and back, about an hour there via the M25, fairly standard cruise. I started to get used to the car a bit more, I realised you have to sit really low in the car to be comfy. Dropping the seat even further down gave me more head room, got me away from the wind shield, and I just felt more planted in the car, there was better access to the controls. I had the music set up, the iDrive system is really easy to use and I was just enjoying the music from my USB stick.

I was getting used to the gear changes as well – it’s a really short shift, and I find the car would often go into 5th and 6th instead of 3rd and 4th, any pressure to the right on the stick at all and I was going too many gears up. The movements to change gear where much smaller than what I was used to, much more refined, tighter, sharper. I was starting to enjoy it.

I didn’t boot it across the country, it’s a hassle trying to sort out speeding tickets when it’s your own car, the hassle via a rental company is probably even worse… but where I found a slip road or a change in the speed limit, I made the most of the ridiculous amounts of torque the engine had to offer.

It was still a diesel, and you couldn’t stay in a gear for long without having to change gear, but the car certainly felt like it was trying to pretend to be a petrol – letting the revs go a little higher than they normally would in a diesel, a little bit more racy.

The traffic on the way home was awful, apparently. I just asked the sat nav to take me home, it found a route, all back roads, no idea where I went, didn’t touch a motorway. It was dark, I had my music on, the adaptive headlights swept around the corners ahead of me, the car somehow glided comfortably around the corners without rolling, but also without shattering my vertabrae.

It took me almost twice as long to get home as it did to go out that day, but by the time I had got home, I didn’t want to give the car back.

I had remembered what it was like to own a BMW, it’s all about driving it. I wondered, could I get away with an estate version, my old 328i Touring was the best car I ever had… maybe, it would be a viable option instead of an S-MAX… maybe.

Still, despite falling in love with the 3-Series for the week that I had it, there is still a little bit of me that regrets picking the Skoda.

I do like a good Skoda.


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