I’m not exactly sure what possessed me to buy the Magna. It was partly that I needed a tow-bar, and this $400 towbar came with a 1998 Magna attached, and partly because I wanted a hack of a car that I didn’t have to worry too much about taking care of. This model Magna also had a good reputation for its crash safety. It’s now been 3 very happy years.
Being a manual, demand for it was very low, not that there’s great demand for automatic Magna’s either which meant that I got this great car for just $434 including fees. It needed a few things for the roadworthy, coming to a grand total of $1,000, half of which were four new tyres.
Shortly after buying it I had a major service done, including the timing belt and water pump ($1000) as well as having gas fitted ($1500 less the $1000 government rebate at the time). Spending the money did seem like over-capitalising, but it was in such good condition, I knew it was worth it. It came with full service history, with the same owner’s name on the receipts for the first 12 years, then no owners name for the next three years. So the car had one or two owners until I bought it. There was a couple of small dents and minor marks on the bumpers, but sadly it’s gotten worse in my ownership.
I’m also sad to say that with 140kw this Magna is the most powerful car I’ve ever owned. I can’t call the car effortless, it certainly lets you know when it’s putting the effort in, but it’s certainly powerful. The handling is pretty average, but the ride is quite smooth. Both are better than I’d expect on a 15 year old car.
Being the Advance model, it’s one up from the base and came with features such as dual airbags and ABS. Apparently it also came with remote locking, but both the remotes were gone by time I bought it. The stereo has 4 speakers rather than the Executive’s 2, but only has a cassette. I’ve been considering replacing it with a CD player, but I mainly listen to the radio, and a $100 stereo might be over-capitalising on a $400 car.
There’s a couple of things that do stand-out about this car. Its air conditioning is absolutely amazing, the best of any car I’ve ever owned. The headlights are also pretty good, and it’s comfortable on the highway. On the downside it wafts along rather than sticks to the road, and isn’t that much fun on the twisty bits. There’s also a stack of play in the steering.
In just under three years I’ve had this car, I’ve done 26,000km, with my other car getting used about twice as much. Aside from the initial major service, it’s had one minor service done about 12 months ago where the Oxygen sensor was also replaced, and is overdue for another. After a strange sound, I did find out you need to regularly check the oil in these cars. It uses about 1.5-2litres every 10,000km.
Aside from the services, oxygen sensor, wiper blades, and a 5l bottle of oil that lives in the boot, the car hasn’t cost anything more. It’s been remarkably reliable and cheap to run. The CV joints are clicking, but I’m hoping with only travelling 10k a year mainly on the highway, that they will last the life of the car. It uses 11-12l of gas/petrol combined for every 100km. Most of that is highway driving with the cruise on so it’s not a fantastic figure, but not too bad for a full size 15 year old car that probably doesn’t get the love it deserves.
Magna’s, Verada’s and 380’s are very under-rated cars. They’re extremely cheap to buy, and seem to be more reliable than similar aged Commodore’s and Falcon’s. Parts are very easy and cheap to get (if mine ever needed any), any mechanic can work on them and running costs are negligible. But sadly their value is so low, that it’s hard to justify a major repair bill like the CV joints. I’m a car guy so I don’t know if I could have a Magna as my only car, it’s just too dull and appliance like. But it definitely serves its purpose as a cheap car I can tow with and get dirty, but also depend on.
For a cheap, comfortable, reliable car, a Magna is an excellent buy.