Friday, December 16, 2011

Renault Redux

Di groaned at my idea to do a car blog this week.  As long as I make it more about Italy than about the car I'll be OK says my editor. As you may know, you cannot buy a car in Italy if you are not a resident. We bought the Alfa Romeo before moving here from English friends knowing it would take 6-8 months to gain resident status. If not for that deal, we might have spent €7,000 for hired cars. The Alfa was very handy and served us well. It was, however, built for “handling” and not comfort and we and our kidneys wanted something else. There are about 8 used car dealers in Scalea and one actual car dealer. We went to 3 places before finding the dealership Mondoauto that sells Renault, Nissan and Dacia cars. Small, compared to an American car dealer, there is the owner Franco, a secretary, 2 mechanics and a cleanup person.

We found what vehicle specialists tell you to buy – a slightly used car with low use on the odometer after the depreciation is done. We found a Renault Scenic with only 25,000 km and one year remaining on the guaranty. Yes, the French make nice cars too and probably 1/3 of the vehicle population here is French. 
Similar in outer dimensions to our Subaru Outback in the US, this car is taller and much more roomy.  The rear compartment actually has a couple pop-up seats so you can carry 7 people. Amazing leg-room in the rear seat. My old friend Dave Peterson is 6 ft. 4 in, 114 kg and he would fit inside this car with his big cowboy hat!

This car has good windows and visibility, ride, comfort, etc. Some things like Blue Tooth for phones and cruise control will never or seldom be used.  Maybe in Puglia we could find a calm enough highway to use cruise control. The auto parking brake is weird, but works OK. The auto wipers are doing well in the rain that has arrived.
xSpecs: 1.5 liter diesel engine; 81 kilowatt engine; 110 cavalli (horses) engine; 6 speed transmission. It officially is rated to get 55 – 63 miles per gallon efficiency. Since Italy increased fuel prices by 13 cents last week to raise more tax money, diesel in the village is up to €1.75/litre = $8.94/gallon, so this efficient car will be welcome. The Alfa was getting about 40 mpg.  In comparison, Scenic is a more spacious car than the Toyota Prius -- cheaper and without the need to replace a hybrid battery. Europe builds incredible little diesel engines. Maybe with FIAT running Dodge, the US will get some efficient engines/vehicles there even for pickup trucks.

So what’s the downside? That would be Italian auto insurance.  The 10-year old Alfa cost €800/$1200 per year. This nearly new car is €1500/$2505 per year.  Imagine insuring a brand new Audi, Alfa, Mercedes, etc.  A Ferrari??  Better be friends with Berlusconi.
We shipped the money for this purchase when the euro was selling for $1.35.  Of course today it is $1.29, the lowest we have seen since 2005. But at least it was all done in euro and not lira – which still could happen in this EU crisis.

Oh, the Scenic is 10cm closer to the ground at the rear hatch, so Vince will have an easier time jumping in and his space behind the rear seats is larger also.

What did we NOT get with this car?  this sexy Peugeot logo. Maybe I can get one from a junkyard and wire it on.



  1. Good cars too bad they are no longer available in the USA. Years ago all of the small towns here in the USA had car dealerships similar to the one you described. There were at least four Chevrolet dealers within ten miles of my house. Funny thing they all made a decent living.

  2. Gil,
    Yeah and those little grocery stores with wooden floors...are we showing some age here?

  3. Definitely showing my age! Speaking of those little grocery stores, my grandfather had one on Astoria Blvd in Queens near LaGuardia airport.

  4. Really? No relatives of mine were storekeepers that I recall, but our next door neighbor bought one out on our street and lost his shirt---his partner (the butcher) ran off with all the cash and left all the debts. It was quite a scandal at the time. That store was soon razed and replaced with a gas station.



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