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My First Car: The Vauxhall Astra SXi

The Vauxhall Astra SXi.
The Vauxhall Astra SXi.

Buying your very first car is a tricky business. Like most, my choices were limited to a) what I could afford to buy, and b) what I could afford to insure.

This, quite frankly, didn’t add up to much, so you can imagine my joy when I found a motor that fitted my meagre budget, but also boasted shiny alloys, a sleek silver paintjob and, most importantly of all, wasn’t my mum’s clapped out Fiesta.

I had now proudly joined the ranks of car-owning Aberdonians with my Vauxhall Astra SXi. I didn’t have a clue what the SXi stood for, and still don’t, but it sounded quite cool.

Just like a Porsche (almost)

Yes, its mileage would make a taxi driver blush. Yes, it was about as exotic as deep-fried pizza. But it had sports seats (like a Porsche). It had racy white dials (like a Porsche). It had, what I’m fairly sure, was a leather steering wheel (like a Porsche). It had a 99bhp engine (very much not like a Porsche). But it was all mine, and I drove it as often as I could.

The Astra SXi met the affordability and insurance cost test.

Like all new car owners, I was keen to add my own subtle modifications. By which I mean I went to Halfords.

I was quite restrained, though, limiting myself to a CD player (the car’s standard cassette player had a rather bad habit of ravenously devouring anything you inserted into it), and one of those classy velcro-on CD storage sleeves that fit over the sun visor.

The mileage was as high as the novelty.

After that, all I needed was a tank of petrol and the open road.

Whether it was driving back and forth to gigs in Glasgow, or just tootling around Aberdeen and the shire, the novelty of owning my own set of wheels never seemed to get old.

Alarming moments

Over the years I owned the Astra, as the mileometer did it’s best to go right round the clock and back to zero, certain niggles did arise.

The car alarm, which I honestly didn’t know it even had, began to go off at random intervals. Living in a city flat as I did at the time, I was only alerted to this by a knock on the door one morning at 3am by a couple of cops, after someone living on the street I was parked had complained about it’s infernal beeping.

The 3am alarm presented some issues with the neighbours and local police.

Mortified, I legged it round the corner to turn it off. “About flipping time mate”, shouted a very tired looking man hanging out of a nearby bedroom window.

He didn’t actually use the word “flipping”, but you get the idea. I made a mental note never to park within earshot of that house again.

My First Car: The Vauxhall Nova Merit

On wet days, it started to develop an alarming habit of cutting out, usually when overtaking an HGV on the dual carriageway.

Also, having both headlights working simultaneously was a bit like seeing the northern lights – something that happened very rarely, and inevitably didn’t last long.

The SXi boasted shiny alloys and a sleek silver paint job.

Then there were the inevitable scars of city centre living, such as the noticeable bump in the boot lid caused by trying to reverse park into a space that was about six inches longer than the car.

Not to mention the myriad blemishes caused by Aberdeen’s gull population which, judging by what they regularly left spattered on unwary vehicles, enjoyed a diet that consisted primarily of discarded vindaloos.

Time for an upgrade

The years were beginning to take their toll on the trusty Astra. Maybe, I thought, I should trade it in for something more modern. Something stylish, something that will take my car-owning experience to the next level.

And so after months of humming and hawing, I did trade it in. For another Vauxhall Astra.

Amazing Mazdas in Guinness bid

First Car Facts

Make: Vauxhall

Model: Astra 1.6 SXi

Year: 1998

Price: £10,000 new (approx.)

We want your stories

We’re running a series looking at readers’ first cars and we want your stories: why you bought it, what you loved about it, its quirks, its finest features and your best memories (or worst!).

Whatever you want to share we’ll be happy to see.

Just email yourcar@ajl.co.uk with your name, location, any details you can remember about your car: make, model, year and cost, plus any pics you still have.

We look forward to seeing all your car memories.

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