The Purchase

Background

There wasn't a long period of research before deciding what car I'd buy. I just started looking for a quality, medium-sized hatchback with a powerful yet efficient turbo diesel engine and which would make me feel like the spending of approximately £15,000 had been worth while.

The first car which came to mind was the recently launched new model Golf. I did research the Ford Focus and new model Vauxhall Astra. I have never been a big fan of the Focus's interior and I wasn't willing to wait around for the new model Focus to appear later in the year. The new model Astra was starting to be mentioned in car magazines but its reviews weren't as good as for the new Golf.

I did go to look at a new Seat Leon since apparently it is based on the Mk 4 Golf. I've always liked the look of the Leon from the outside but looking inside it really looked dated and lacked lots of the new "bells and whistles" which the new models featured. Finally, I test drove a new Peugeot 307 and was pleasantly surprised. It was a much more modern looking car both inside and out. My test drive of the New Golf would have to be good to beat this.... but it was.

The Test Drive

As soon as I got inside the new Golf you could just see the quality. The interior is clear and functional - some might say boring but not me. Everything is to hand and you just know how to use to radio, adjust the seat, etc. There's no need to look at the manual.

One thing which immediately struck me was that the indicator dash lights were amber and not the more usual green. Always stuck me as odd that they were green on the dash but amber outside. It seemed like a sensible deviation from the norm. The indicator repeaters on the rear of the door mirrors look very flashy and it seems a sensible place to put them. Its also nice that you can see the indicator repeaters flash from the drivers seat which reminds you they are there. I liked that. The New Golf brochure hadn't mentioned that the New Golf allows you the nudge the indicator stalk to initiate 3 flashes automatically. Intended I imagine for changing lanes on motorways, it could be useful I guess but as an advanced driver I'm not sure how much I'll use that facility. I like to be in control of when I indicate and when I do not.

Visibility all around the vehicle was fine from the driver's seat. You also couldn't help but see all the airbag emblems plastered around the interior. Gave you a reassuring feeling.

One thing which I wasn't expecting was the level of road noise. It wasn't enough to put me off the car and it could have been due to the lack of wind and engine noise but it was noticeable.

I wasn't able to fully explore the handling of the new golf on the test drive but at all times it felt confident, composed and there was no excessive leaning when going around corners. No complaints there.

Finally, there looks to be loads of space for passengers in the back even with the front seats pushed right back. Slightly disappointing that the rear seat backs don't do anything more than just fold forward leaving the uneven loading floor. Not sure how much that will limit what you could fit in the back. We'll see.

And that was it. The test drive was over and I still had a big smile on my face. The New Golf had definitely lived up to my expectations. If the VW dealer would have offered me a good deal there and then I would have signed on the dotted line. Unfortunately, they didn't and so someone else got my order.

The Purchase

Looking through car magazines like What Car? you see loads of adverts from internet car brokers. Some names you may already have heard of like jamjar.com and Virgin Cars but there are many more you may not have heard of. They all pretty much offered the same deal; full UK spec cars, no imports, from UK VW dealers with huge discounts. Nearly all allowed you to specify precisely which model of car you want and which optional extras and provide the price there and then. After a few hours of comparing the different brokers, I found that www.drivethedeal.com provided me with the best price - an all inclusive price (including delivery) at a 9% discount from list price. Pretty good considering the Mk 5 had not even been launched 3 months ago!

I placed my order online on Monday 19th April 2004. I gave my credit card details to pay the £500 deposit. This would go direct to the VW dealer which would be supplying my car and not to DriveTheDeal. Two days later on the Wednesday I had a telephone call from the VW dealer who DriveTheDeal had allocated my order to. I was told that because of the model, colour and options I had requested that my car would have to be made to order and so they estimated a 8 to 10 week wait. I said this was ok and so they faxed the order for the purchase to me so I could check, sign and fax back. Then I waited.

Six weeks of waiting quickly passed and at the beginning of June I began chasing up the progress of my new car. First week in June the car had been made and was going through a series of production checks in Germany. Second week in June and car left the factory and was UK bound. Third week in June the car arrived at the dealer's and it was just a matter of sorting out registration, road tax, insurance, delivery to me, oh - and payment. Payment was made over the telephone using my debit card in much the same way as you would purchase cinema tickets! Saturday 26th June, nine and a half weeks after placing the order, at 2.30pm my car arrived outside my house on the back of a truck. Job done!

The Verdict

I have to say the whole process went very smoothly. The car was delivered within the estimated timescale and was in perfect condition when it arrived. The total price I ended up paying was exactly the same as that quoted online right back in April when I placed the order (minus my deposit). All the paperwork (registration documents, VW Assistance card, etc) arrived the week following delivery.

My only criticism of the VW dealer, and it's a relatively minor criticism, is that sometimes the information given about the progress of the order was sometimes misleading. For example, you might be told that the car would be clearing customs on Monday and that they would contact you then to arrange insurance. Monday would come and go and you'd hear nothing and so on the Tuesday you'd ring them and be a little surprised to hear that the car would clear customs on Thursday! From memory I can recall nearly 3 little examples of this sort of thing happening. It would be better customer relations if they at least telephoned you when they said they would just to keep you informed. That is my only criticism mind and I have to praise them for managing to arrange delivery of my car on a weekend which I preferred.

I would have no hesitation buying another car via an internet broker.

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