By : ANINDA SARDAR
Can you imagine Mr. Bean in a Hummer? Or Arnie jumping off a bridge in The Terminator astride a…wait for it…Vespa? In either case, the ludicrousness of the picture the mind is painting for you at my words is probably making you smile, if not laugh. Now just stop for a second and ask yourself, why. It is just not them, is it? And that pretty much sums up one of the most obvious, yet frequently ignored aspect, of the vehicle purchasing process. The question of lifestyle, and how it impacts purchase decisions.
A couple of decades ago, as a student in Pune I was quick to realize the need for personal transportation. So, when dad came visiting, I impressed upon him, using some fairly dubious means, that I needed a motorcycle. Imagine my dismay when the old man gave me the exact Pune on-road price of a TVS Scooty! I simply couldn’t imagine it as something I’d want to own. Cut a long story short, I ended up buying a used 1983, Enfield Bullet. Yet, I had no problems imagining it as a part of my life. My flat mate, on the other hand, spent a similar amount of money and ended up with a racier Yamaha RX100 from the late 80s. We were both friends, from the same city before arriving in Pune, yet our choice of motorcycles couldn’t have been more different.
Later, as a resident in the Gulf, when I bought my first car, a Renault Clio, (hatch), it was the same. The famed Jeremy Clarkson had in fact described the car as fun before dismissing it as a “surrender monkey.” Flashy friends couldn’t understand why I chose a hatch when everyone aspired for something big and blingy, while sensible members of the family tried to nudge me towards a more pragmatic Hyundai or a Toyota. The thing is, I love a sprightly hatchback and the Clio with its 98bhp 1.4-litre DOHC petrol engine was the closest my journalist’s salary could get to the kind of car I wanted. The four-door Clio bridged the gap between what I wanted and what my family of three, including my infant daughter, needed quite nicely. The other thing that was a pure lifestyle choice was the transmission. In a market that favoured automatics to manuals 75 times of 100, I bought a manual. I loved the feel of going through the ‘box,’ I loved the compact size, and how it impacted the car’s handling. I also loved that little edginess to it when you pushed it a little too hard. In a sea of huge SUVs and stately saloons or powerful pick-up trucks, I was perfectly happy in my hatch because it fitted in with my lifestyle.
The point I’m trying to make is that whether you buy a motorcycle or a scooter or a car, what you buy is as much a result of your lifestyle as it is of other aspects like affordability, practicality, the salesman’s efficacy and so on. As of today, the choices available to the Indian consumer are more varied than ever. There is a plethora of two- and four-wheelers to choose from, each with sub-variations of their own. Cutting through the clutter and shortlisting has never been more difficult. Between the old petrol vs diesel and hatch vs sedan vs SUV debates, there are now manual vs AMT debates, CVT vs DCT debates and CarPlay vs Android Auto debates to name a few. A similar range exist in the two-wheeler market as well.
Faced with such an onslaught of options, there is only one thing to do. Take a break from the hunt, step back and imagine. Imagine which of these options would best complement the life that you want to lead. Just because your friend and his wife with their two kids and the dog are recommending the SUV they have, doesn’t mean it’s the best one for you. Perhaps you like something racier, something closer to the ground. Maybe you like the rev happy nature of a petrol engine and don’t care much for the torque-laden diesel under the bonnet of your friends’ SUV. If you’re a tech geek who likes a whole load of infotainment options, you already know which cars and bikes you don’t see in your garage. Similarly, if you’re the staid sort of bloke whose sole goal in life is stability however unexciting that may be (and that’s not a bad thing at all) you will probably not be able to picture yourself driving around in a mudslinging 4x4 with a soft top.
So, the next time you head to the car (or bike) showroom, evaluate your choices through the lens of your own lifestyle as well. Ask yourself if you’d like to be seen in or on the vehicle you’re looking at, and if it in some way reflects who you are as a person. Look beyond the features and the technical specifications, at aspects that matter to you. Perhaps, if you like the finer things in life, you might want to consider the craftsmanship on the dashboard and the consistency in the stitching of the seat. If you appreciate aesthetics, don’t strike a bargain in your own head by opting for something that doesn’t look great but has all the bells and whistles. Trust me, you’re not going to use all the gizmos everyday, but you will certainly look at your car or bike everyday. For riders, if you’re the sort that likes comfortable touring over long distances give that sports tourer a pass and opt for the adventurer tourer instead. But if you like riding in a pack, then I’ll wager a pint that you’re eyeing neither of these because it’s that fat cruiser that’s in your crosshair. Even when you’re taking that all important test drive (or ride), pay attention to things that matter to you and will complement your lifestyle. Focus on the ride quality. Is it too soft or too stiff? Do you like to hear the sound of the engine when you drive or do you prefer sophistication? If it’s the latter pay close attention to how much noise filters into the cabin. How big is your family? Do you have old people who need to be ferried around? Do you have children? Do you have a dog? Every answer will add up and point you to a vehicle that will have no problems fitting into your garage, effortlessly.
Aninda Sardar is former editor of Just Urbane, a national men’s lifestyle magazine.