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Sunday, January 10, 2010


The STAR: Sunday July 12, 2009

How to buy a car?

THE car industry is an exciting one indeed. With so many models available, and new ones being introduced almost every other month, buying a car can be a delightful process – or a harrowing ordeal.
Before you make a decision, it is important that you are well informed and prepared. After all, a car could be your second biggest investment after your home, so take your time with gathering information and conducting research. Your aim would be to end up as a happy, satisfied owner.

These are some of the areas you should consider before purchasing a car.

Match your lifestyle

First of all, ask yourself what you would need the car for? To conveniently zip around the city? Or do you travel long distances for business often? Maybe you need lots of room for your large family? Or do you have lots of sporting equipment to lug around?
Look for adjustable seats – such as these in the Honda Jazz – so you can configure the car to suit your lifestyle.
Your car should complement your lifestyle – and, luckily, there are so many types to choose from. There’s everything from a family sedan, sports sedan, compact, and hatchback, to an MPV, SUV or even pick-up trucks.

Can I afford it?

Affordability is a key issue among prospective car buyers, especially in the present economic climate. But many people are not aware that affordability encompasses more than just the car’s price.
There is a long-term cost that you should take into consideration such as the monthly repayment, maintenance costs, insurance and tax, fuel consumption, and resale value.

Most Malaysians spend 30% of their salary on their monthly car repayments. Take a reality check. Lay out your budget so that you can determine what sort of price range you are comfortable with. Currently, the cheapest passenger car in the Malaysian market is RM25,000 and the most expensive, RM1.5mil.

What brand?

Once you’ve narrowed the field of cars you are interested in, identify a few brands you are comfortable with.
Independent car reviewer Paul Tan says that a car manufacturer’s branding is usually built up over a long time, a result of a good track record in terms of product quality and service support. You will usually never go wrong with a mainstream brand.

The techy part

Now what about the technology? Although the general life cycle of a car model is five to seven years, most manufacturers will introduce new technology every year or so, be it in design, performance, or safety.
Here are a few technical terms that might be useful to you in considering the technology:

Displacement – Measured in litres and cubic centimetres (cc), displacement is the technical term for the “size” of an engine. The higher the displacement, the more refined and responsive your car will feel.

Torque (Nm) – Torque is basically the force or power from your engine needed to turn your wheels. The higher the torque, the more responsive your car will feel.
Remember, the higher your horsepower, the better your performance. – File photos
Revs (revolutions per minute, or RPM) – RPM refers to the engine speed; basically, how hard the engine has to work to give you the torque quoted. The lower the revs, the sooner you’ll feel the push of the torque. For a nippy, responsive car, look out for a higher torque and lower RPM.
Horse power (hp) – The maximum power produced by an engine. The higher your horsepower, the better your performance.

Be safe

In terms of safety, your car should at least have airbags and an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS). Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA, or traction control) and side and curtain airbags would be a bonus.

Tan explains: “VSA strategically applies brakes on each wheel individually to stabilise the car when it is out of control. This feature can come in very handy, especially road conditions being what they are locally, when you sometimes have oil on them, and when they get really wet during heavy monsoon rains.”

You might also like to consider your chosen model’s crash test results. G-Con technology, an internal passive safety standard, for example, uses collapsible body sections to evenly distribute the force of impact from a collision, hence minimising passenger and pedestrian injuries.

Some sources of credible results are Japan’s National Organisation for Automotive Safety & Victims’ Aid (, Euro NCAP (, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (; these are all independent organisations that evaluate the safety performance of vehicles available in specific markets.

What to look for?

Visit a few showrooms to look at the various models available. It is important that you like and are comfortable with the car. Here are some of the things you should consider when checking out a car:
Ergonomics – Make sure there is enough leg and head room; steering should be adjustable (tilt up and down, and telescopic, front and back); seats must be adjustable, especially the driver’s (up and down, and front and back movements).

Drivability – Check the car’s manoeuvrability and turning radius.

Utility – Are there enough storage compartments, is the trunk size adequate, can seats be reclined or can rear seats be folded to provide more space?

Tan advises: “The features must satisfy your lifestyle’s practical needs. This could mean sufficient seating and storage space.

“Some cars have reclining seats at the rear, even in sedans, which increases passenger’s comfort.”

Fuel efficiency

No matter what the prevailing economic conditions, it is always advisable to choose a car that is fuel-efficient. A combination of gear ratios, engine technology, and aerodynamics determines the car’s fuel-efficiency.
Explains Tan: “Previous general perception was that automatic transmission and high performance equals higher fuel consumption. But this is not necessary the case now, thanks to improving technology.
“Some cars are able to produce lots of power (peak torque at low rpm) without having to rev the engine much.”

Here are two formulas to calculate a car’s fuel efficiency:
Mileage from a full tank (km)/ Size of tank (litre) = km/litre
Size of tank (litre) x price of fuel (RM)/Mileage from a full tank (km) = RM/km

I want to be green

As exhaust emission is one of the greatest contributors towards global warming, it is our responsibility to cut down on emissions; one way of doing that is considering hybrid technology, which is kinder to the environment.

Hybrid technology uses two or more distinct power sources to move a vehicle: a combination of engine (petrol or diesel) and electric. The car uses less fuel to move, which translates into fewer emissions and increased savings.

Tan is of the opinion that, “Your vehicle performs better too as the electric system gives added power to the engine. For example, you can experience the power of a 1.8L car with a 1.3L hybrid engine”.
Honda Malaysia is the only manufacturer currently offering hybrids in this country.

Re-sale value
Most people do not take into consideration the resale value of a car but unless you plan to keep the car for life, a good resale value will prevent you from losing a lot of money. Several factors, such as good branding, after sales support, market popularity, and demand and supply determine resale value.

Test drive

Last but not least, take the car out for a spin before making your final decision.
“Take note of how the car responds, its ease of drive and manoeuvrability, its build quality and ergonomics.
“Different people have different body shapes and sizes. I have long legs that fit well in one car but not another, although they are in the same size and price segment. This is because of how far the front seats are able to slide back,” Tan says.

If you have questions about buying a car, go to for tips and more information; you can also post questions at the site that will be answered by an independent car reviewer. This initiative is brought to you by Honda Malaysia.

That's all folks, thanks for having the time and patience to read this Blog Entry... 

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