Our senior writer is no doctor, but he felt like one after being consulted by “patients” who were in need of a new car.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Our senior writer is no doctor, but he felt like one after being consulted by “patients” who were in need of a new car.


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Torque has a panel of specialists to help their readers pick the best rides.

THESE days, the most common question I get asked is, “What’s the coolest car you’ve driven?”

It used to be, “What’s the best car to buy?” But I may have lectured everyone who’s ever asked me that (because it’s as sensible as asking me who they should marry), so even casual acquaintances avoid asking me anything car-related. Or they avoid me altogether.

That’s why I was surprised when two months ago, the husband of one of my wife’s colleagues consulted me about buying a new car.

I thought the discussion would be one of those 10-minute chats that ends with me making a few suggestions – none of which he would actually consider.

But I was pleasantly surprised to find that prior to calling me, my “patient” had already done his sums, test-driven a few cars and said he was keen on the Mazda CX-5.

Whenever anyone consults me about buying a car, I tell them that my main priority is helping them get the right car for their needs.

I asked him why he needed an SUV, and not an MPV or station wagon. He said that he and his wife liked the easier ingress/egress because they are both relatively tall (he’s over 1.8m, while she is 1.75m).

So, they both appreciate the higher hip point, which also makes it easier to secure their four-year-old daughter in the child seat. Plus, the hatchback bodystyle is more versatile, and provides easier access to the boot compared to a saloon.

Reasonable answers, but I asked him again if he had considered a five-seater MPV. “I guess we’re both used to driving an SUV, since our current car is a Honda Vezel.”

Being a good “doctor”, I probed further. “If you want boot space, why not a station wagon?” He replied that he was considering the Mazda 6 Wagon, but that it was out of stock.

I lauded him for his practicality. An estate isn’t much bigger than a sedan, but it’s easily twice as useful. Secretly, however, I had expected to hear that familiar, nonsensical refrain about how estates resemble hearses…

“Well, tell me why you like the CX-5 then,” I replied.

What I heard next would have probably left any Mazda salesperson in a tizzy. Among other things, my “patient” said he liked the interior and enjoyed his test-drive, even if it was a short one. Shockingly, he even praised the safety features in the Premium variant.

I say “shockingly” because till today, most new car buyers do not pay attention to a car’s safety features. For most consumers, the vehicle’s price is the ultimate deciding factor.

The only thing my “patient” wasn’t too impressed with was the model’s lack of punchiness. Since he was eyeing the 2-litre variant, I recommended the 2.5-litre model instead.

He thought for a moment. “Power really isn’t the top priority. Actually, my wife is a bit wary of the jump from a 1.5-litre to a 2-litre car, so a 2.5-litre might be too much.”

At this point, it was me who was smiling. I’m always happy to talk to a sensible motorist. As for the lack of oomph, I told him that he’ll need to rev the nuts off the CX-5 after it’s been run-in. Naturally aspirated engines thrive on revs, and Mazdas lend themselves well to enthusiastic driving.

To ensure that I gave him the most professional “treatment”, I suggested he get a second opinion by trying other similar models. If he wanted something effortless, perhaps the more powerful Toyota Harrier Turbo would be more to his liking, I opined.

An hour later, he thanked me for the consultation. He said that it was refreshing because my opinions didn’t include any sales pitches.

Two days later, my wife’s colleague informed her that they had test-driven several more cars, but ultimately chose the Mazda CX-5. I hope it makes them happy.