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In search of my first car at the Auto Show

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A spokesperson talks about the bran new Fiat at the 54th Annual San Francisco International Auto Show at the Moscone Center. (Ali Thanawalla/SFBay)

The San Francisco Auto Show has been a holiday-season pastime for years. I always go with a number of friends.

I don’t consider myself a “car person,” but I still like checking out cars at the Auto Show.

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Some people come to see new tech and radical designs. But some, like me, are actually in the market for a car in the near future. The Auto Show is a chance to actually sit in all the cars I am considering.

In the interest of full disclosure, I got my driver’s license seven years ago, but have never owned a car. I’ve decided it’s time to end this nonsense and get a car, so I’m basically learning to drive again. A friend is graciously allowing to practice using his SUV.

I entered the Moscone Center with a number of cars on my mental checklist. My test involved sitting in the car and seeing how comfortable I felt. I’m a short guy, so I need to feel comfortable looking over the dashboard. Bucket seats are not my friend.

I started with the Fords. I wanted to check out the mid-size SUVs like the Escape and the Edge. I loved everything about the Edge except the price: $38,000. I hated everything about the Escape. I felt like the interior was 10 years old. Everything about it seemed dull.

Next, I made my way over to the sporty Scions. I’ve had a crush on the Scion tc for a couple of years, but a friend who owns a tc told me that it’s a heavy car, which has worried me. The seats border on bucket. The crush will have to remain just that, a crush.

For the last few months, the car on the top of my list has been a Mini Cooper. It has always seemed like a cool car. During a road trip over the summer, my cousin rented a Mini. While I didn’t drive it, it felt like a good car. At the Mini Exhibit, I sat in three different models, the S, the Clubman and the Countryman. If I based my choice on physical appearance, I’d choose the Mini Cooper S in a heartbeat. But based on the test I set when I entered the building, the Mini Clubman was the winner. It just felt perfect. I could totally picture myself driving that car comfortably.

Other cars at the bottom of my list included:

  1. Honda CR-Z (seats were too low – although it felt like they had improved the seats over last year)
  2. Subaru WRX STi (this was the car I wanted when I was getting my license, but I never liked the seats – I think they’ve improved them as well)
  3. The newly introduced Fiat 500. I wanted to try the Fiat because it’s such a common car whenever I visit Bombay. But it’s just too small. It might be perfect for India, but it wasn’t a fit for me.
At the end of the day, when it comes time to test drive cars, I will definitely take the Mini Clubman and Mini S for out for a spin, but I think I may revisit the Subaru WRX.
And when I strike it rich doing this journalism thing, I’m going to splurge on the Infinite FX35 Limited Edition SUV, which was by far my favorite vehicle at the Auto Show.

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