You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew” which is sound advice especially when it comes to cars. But that doesn’t mean you have to buy a safe econobox just like everyone else. Just because the grand majority prefer a certain make and model doesn’t mean you should go out and buy it. There are plenty of left field offerings that offer similar qualities but better appeal making you look more like a connoisseur than a poser especially when pulling up on a drive way of a garden party.

Being different, especially when it comes to cars, can say a lot about who you want and don’t want to be perceived as. Here are a couple of vehicles which may not be mainstream but are perfect examples of what we mean.

Volvo V40
Back in the old days, a Volvo used to be the car of choice of doctors as well as chemistry and piano teachers. Recently however, that has all changed and the company has shifted into high gear and since then produced some very good looking cars. The Swedes have a very different take on luxury when compared to the Germans. For example, the floating centre console which has become the mainstay of today’s Volvo cars serves no real purpose but the elegant layout just like the rest of the cabin portrays a sense of style that the Germans can never deliver. And that is why, should you be looking for a hatchback, the baby of the Volvo family – the V40 should be on your shortlist.

Available with either a four cylinder 1.6-litre (180bhp) or five cylinder 2.0-litre (213bhp) turbocharged engine, the V40 is one of the most underrated hot hatches on the market. Most people, when it comes to buying a pocket rocket, make a beeline for the nearest VW dealership hoping to get their hands on the latest Golf GTI as soon as possible. Now, we aren’t going to argue with that, the Golf GTI is one of the best family sized performance cars you can buy right now. The Volvo however is a compelling buy in its own right. It offers relatively similar driving thrills at a slightly cheaper price but bests the German at safety features, ride quality and interior design.

Basically, the Volvo V40 is a luxurious yet safe understated pocket rocket that is difficult to fault. It can and will function as a sensible daily driver on weekdays and on the weekends allow you to hoon about on B-roads without a care in the world.

Mazda3
Over the past several years, our car market has been flooded with the a slew of sensible econoboxes. They look fairly ordinary, come with mediocre drive dynamics and emit the same humdrum drone from their four cylinder engines which is akin to that of turning on a blender filled with nails. Until recently, that was what you had to live with should you want a reliable family runabout to serve as a daily driver. Since the launch of the Mazda3 however, that is no longer the case.

Like its older brother the 6, the new 3 is a very good looking car especially when compared to its rivals. Equipped with the latest SKYACTIV tech and a well thought out cabin, Mazda have given car buyers the choice of buying a vehicle that not only serves its purpose, but does it in style.

Under the hood is a 2.0-litre SKYACTIV-G engine that produces 162bhp and 210Nm of torque, which should be enough to handle your daily activities. It is equipped with the I-Stop system which shuts down the engine during long periods of idling to conserve fuel. I-Eloop on the other hand is a regenerative braking system that produces electricity under braking to power the car’s various electrical systems.

The infotainment system as well as its intuitive controls makes sifting through your music albums an enjoyable experience. This may be a slight exaggeration but the entire car exudes a sense of style that is difficult to match especially in the C-segment.

So, if you are looking to buy your next car, look out for the oddball, because chances are they will fit in better with your lifestyle than most mainstream vehicles. But, remember to do your homework first so that you know what you are getting yourself into to avoid buyer’s remorse.

[Naveen Victor]

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