Ok, so I'm in a position to be thinking about buying my first car. My first proper car. A horribly underpowered Ford Focus (that's otherwise pretty nice) doesn't really count, and a Vauxhall Nova certainly doesn't count, so I'm going to forget I drove them for the purposes of this post.
The main thing to bear in mind here is that I don't know much about cars. I'm somewhat ashamed to say that I have, to put it mildly, a very poor understanding of torque, and all I know about Brake Horsepower is that it has a silly name, and somehow describes the power of an engine. As such, I know my Focus has about -2365bhp.
However, having been given Clarkson's latest book, Don't Stop Me Now, for Christmas, it's safe to say I'm quite excited by the prospect of driving a proper car. One that does 0-60 in less than a day. One that is a driver's car, because I'm the sort of person that likes driving to be fun. I'd like to feel the G-forces when I accelerate; you get more G-force from licking a spoon than you do from accelerating in my Focus. One thing I do love about my Focus, though (and there are more than just this), is the boot. It's huge for a car that size.So I'm interested in a number of models, and intend to undergo a long try-before-you-buy process of test-driving everything with four wheels that comes within a sensible budget. What is deemed sensible is still up for grabs, as is the insurance premium.
My Holy Grail, perhaps, is the Golf R32. Less chavvy than the Focus ST, but obviously still a solid driver's car and well-spec'd. Conversely, a new Mondeo or a Citroën C4 or a less souped-up Golf would do nicely. The reputed reliability of Citroën is putting me off the C4, though, and I'm not 100% sure I necessarily want a family car just yet, however much fun the new Mondeo looks. There's also the option of getting my Dad's Mercedes C220 diesel second hand in October. Not that I'd be able to drive it until I'm 25 in March 2009 for obvious insurance-related reasons.
I don't know whether I should be looking for petrol or diesel engines: I gather that diesel is more economical over large distances, but petrol is greener and cheaper and gives better performance. Apparently. Somehow. A lot of diesel engines seem to be turbo-charged, too; does this bring their performance up to the level of an "equivalent" petrol engine (if that even means anything)?
So, in essence, I'm opening this up for debate. What sort of thing do you think I should I be looking for? What can you recommend as being a reliable car that's fun to drive and sensibly-sized and -priced? What should I test drive first?