Motormouth: My first hatchback was black because it was basic

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Plain black was simply the best body colour for my simple Suzuki Wagon R.

This was my earnest opinion as a cash-strapped car buyer whose desire to hit the road in a personal vehicle was greater than my ability to put said vehicle on the road.  

But I somehow managed to do so with the Wagon R, which I bought new in 1996 with financial help from my elder sister, who kindly stretched my rookie-writer salary’s shoestring until it cleared the downpayment and could service the monthly repayments without me having to skip meals. 

Because my first car was meant to be a basic runabout for an equally basic driver, I didn’t want to choose a colour which might suggest that the humble hatchback was less than humble. 

It was my lucky private ticket out of public transport and I didn’t want to jinx it by being flashy in my shiny new kei-car, albeit in a literally small way. 

Keeping it shiny was hard with black paintwork, but making my choice of paint job easier was how the other Suzuki colours for the Wagon R were clearly less attractive. 

Dark Classic Jade Pearl was too close to Crystal Jade for comfort. Radiant Red Mica was too Lunar New Year, every single day of the year. Scuba Blue Metallic was too nautical for this non-swimmer. Superior White was a British colonial hangover in Japanese disguise that made this Chinese guy feel Inferior Yellow.

Black reflected my car’s character, which was similarly unadorned and unpretentious. It was virtually a non-colour and therefore a non-event in traffic, which was exactly how I liked my first ride to be.

Unfortunately, my five-speed 55PS Suzuki Wagon R was no black rocket, because it only had a three-hamster engine and a two-bit driver. 

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