‘Cars on Campus’ Column: My very own Jetta

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Philip Baus/B&W Staff

“So you need a car soon, Philip,” my dad said. “You should start thinking of what you would want to buy.”

The words any 18-year-old loves to hear. I instantly start looking at the cars in the price range that my parents gave me: $20,000 or less. Cars.com, Craigslist, Honda.com, Toyota.com, Mazda.com, Volvo.com, Volkswagen.com, Audi.com…I checked out each and every website that I could in order to find the best car. Being a car enthusiast, I wanted it to be perfect.

My options at first glance were the flashy BMW’s and Audis of yesteryear. I thought long and hard before going to my parents, and I came to the conclusion that although my parents were willing to pay for the car, they would not pay for any future damages I may incur. So being a future college student, I decided against getting a nicer used car and moved on to my next target car segment: the new car segment. My options were much more limited at this point because although there are a fair amount of new cars for under $20,000, there aren’t any that I would actually want to own. I was looking for a car with some class, power and reliability.

My next destination was Honda, in order to drive the brand new Civic that had recently been released. My only requirement was that the car MUST be a manual. If the car isn’t going to be fast, it’s going to have to be fun.

I test drove a Honda Civic at my local Honda dealership near Westport, Connecticut. When I drove the car for the first time I was less than impressed. All of the materials inside seemed dull, hard and plastic-like. The power of the four cylinder hamster wheel of an engine could barely get me from point A to point B in a timely fashion, and to top it all off, the only part that I thought would make the driving experience fun was not so fun: It shifted like a Mack truck and the clutch pedal felt like a wet noodle.

My dad and I went around to various dealers looking at cars like the Honda Fit, Toyota Camry and others that I was less than enthusiastic about. It wasn’t until I came across the Mazda 3 that I had a genuine interest in buying. It was a modest car with some interesting design ques in the interior, and the exterior was sporty enough to catch my eye. I took the car out for a test drive as soon as I could, and though on that drive two cars and a biker almost hit me – much to my sales person’s dismay –, the car performed to its capacity and I was happy with it.

I was also well aware of my bias towards Mazdas because my father owns one of the most beautiful cars, a ’94 Mazda RX-7. It wasn’t until I saw the MazdaSpeed 3, the upgraded version of the Mazda 3, when I started to become unhappy with the idea of owning a basic Mazda 3.

Next stop: Volkswagen. I had wrestled with the idea of getting a Volkswagen because I had known so much about the infamous Volkswagen Golf GTI. I specifically asked to test drive a manual Golf, but on the day of our test drive they did not have any manual Golfs in stock, so they let me drive a manual Jetta instead. My dad and I got in the car, and we were instantly impressed with the level of quality, simplicity and overall professional fit and finish of the car. We then set off on our test drive route with promise that this could be the car for me.

“There’s no way you’re getting this car, Philip,” my dad said to me during the test drive. I almost believed him. This car seemed a little too posh. When we got back to the VW dealership I asked, “So how much is that Jetta?” The woman replied, “This particular Jetta is $18,595.” My dad and I looked at each other and a smile instantly grew on my face. I wanted this car, and I wanted it now. That day we ordered the Jetta in white with black interior and a manual gearbox. It came a month later, and the first time I drove the car all I was saying to myself was, “Wow, this is my very own car. I can go anywhere, and do anything.” I finally felt liberated.

I have owned my Jetta for close to four years and it has become more than just a car to me. When I have a bad day, I just take a ride in my Jetta, and all seems right in the world again. In an effort to upgrade my car I got Eibach racing springs, which lowered it about an inch or two; a Takeda air intake, which increased the horsepower slightly; and tinted the windows. I made it my car.

It’s not the fastest car, it’s not the best at handling, but it’s mine and I absolutely love it. I do not plan on keeping my Jetta forever, but it will always be my first, favorite and most loyal car…friend.

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