The Straits Times
My Lifestyle My Drive #2
14 November 2010
Cheryl Tay finds out what attracts people to buy the mini-wheels HIS “precious” may not be flashy, powerful and roomy, but it is cool enough for Mr Kelvin Ng (above, left), who zips around town in his 1.3-litre Suzuki Swift. He says: “Driving small cars like my Swift makes for a fun drive as it is zippy and easy to manoeuvre in traffic jams,” says Mr Ng, who bought his car two years ago.
“I’m not a fan of fast cars with big engine capacities. To me, the purpose of getting a car is purely functional – getting from point A to point B,” he adds.
Another car owner, Ms Angela Kwek (above, right), used to drive a big continental luxury sedan but switched to her 660cc Mitsubishi i in November 2006. She says: “It may be a small car, but I don’t feel the lack of power. Also, it is lighter and easier to go up slopes, which is important to me because I have a fear of rolling backwards. U-turns and threepoint turns are also less of a hassle to execute. I spend about $200 a month on petrol for my Mitsubishi i. Small cars are good because parallel parking is easier and car washing is less tiring!”
At present, the small models in Singapore include Mitsubishi i, Subaru R1 and R2, Daihatsu Copen, Perodua Kenari, Honda Jazz, Chery QQ, Kia Picanto, Chevrolet Spark, Volkswagen Polo Sport, Fiat 500 and Peugeot 107. They have an engine capacity of 1.3 litres or less and are popular because they are compact and easy to manoeuvre. But being small has its disadvantages too.
Mr Mark Wong (above, middle), a full-time national serviceman who shares a Kia Picanto with his mother after he obtained his driving licence, says: “If you get into accidents, smaller cars tend to provide less protection than the bigger and heavier cars due to their lightweight construction. Also, there are some drivers who “bully” small cars by refusing to give way to them.”
He adds: “Both cabin and storage space is limited in smaller cars and can cause discomfort to passengers on long distance drives.”
Mr Ng says: “Most small cars are usually made as affordable as possible and so things like safety features may not be as advanced.”
However, there is a difference in driving small cars of Asian and European or American makes.
Mr Freddie Liew, who drives a 1.2-litre turbocharged Volkswagen Polo Sport, says: “I’ve always liked driving small cars, but previously I couldn’t afford a continental car so I was driving a Japanese economy car. I feel that the premium paid for a continental car over an Asian car of similar size and engine capacity is fully justified. The technology is more advanced and build quality of the car is stronger, hence being safer and not as susceptible to damage in times of accidents.”
Mr Liew paid about $83,800 for his Polo Sport. While the high certificate of entitlement (COE) prices may have minimal effect on the sales of the Mitsubishi i, other small cars like the Kia Picanto tend to sell better when COE prices are lower. The Picanto is the entry level for the Korean manufacturer’s models.
“We got the Picanto some time early last year as a second car for the family. At that time, we paid about $33,000 for it. The COE prices are too high now though. I’d rather take public transport than buy a car,” says Mr Wong. The Picanto is selling for about $49,999 with COE now.
Ms Kwek bought her car for $45,000 when there were no COE restrictions. At present, the car costs about $79,888.
Owning a car in Singapore is expensive, regardless of the COE prices. Ultimately, it boils down to how much one is willing to spend on his ride. Some may argue that buying a car with a bigger engine makes more sense when COE prices are high, as the COE and depreciation costs make up a larger percentage in a small car purchase. But a small car costs less and the loan amount may be smaller than for a bigger car. Also, the maintenance costs of a small car are lower.