Guess what? Romeo Tan actually agrees with his mum's "toy car" comment.
8 DAYS: Why did you choose a cutesy model like this Mini Cooper Countryman?
ROMEO TAN: I saw this model on the road many years back and I fell in love with it. It has a boxy shape, it’s cute, and there’s this vintage feel to it. I look for small details when I buy things, and this car stood out. I like the round headlights which are really cute, and I like that I can change and customise the lights inside the car, according to my preference.
How much did you pay for it?
I got it for $169,000 three years ago. At that time, the COE was higher than usual which explains the steep price. I think it’s cheaper now. Many people think that this is my first car but it isn’t. My first ride was an Audi A1 which I got in the same year. I’d already wanted to get a Mini Cooper then, but changed my mind at the last minute because the Audi was going at a special rate and was lower than my budget at that time. However, it was too small and there wasn’t enough space for the clothes and shoes I had to take around with me all the time. So I made the painful decision to sell it after three months and made a loss of $30,000. I felt that if I was going to change my car, I might as well do it sooner rather than later if it was going to cost me anyway. I bought my Mini Cooper right after that.
What did the people around you say when you bought this car?
I paid for the car with my own money and my mum didn’t know how much it cost so she didn’t nag at me. However, the first thing she said was: “Why did you buy a toy car?” (Laughs) She also said it looked very small and asked if there was enough space for the whole family. These days, she doesn’t question me anymore because I’d go grocery shopping with her, and we’d put all the groceries in my car. It’s actually very spacious even though it looks small from the outside. In fact, when I fold down the rear seats, I can stuff three big suitcases at the back!
Were you upset by your mum’s initial remarks?
(Laughs) Not really, ’cos I think there’s some truth to it. In fact, that’s the nickname of my car now. I call it ‘Wan Ju Che’ (Mandarin for toy car) because it’s so cute and reminds me of a toy.
If we recall correctly, your car used to be white, not navy blue.
The first Mini Cooper Countryman I saw on the road and fell in love with was white, which is why I decided to get it in the same colour. Since I’ve had it in white for two years, I wanted to give it a new colour when I sent my car to the workshop for repairs late last year. It can be quite difficult to wash and clean a white car so I opted for a darker colour this time round. I also added stickers of the British flag on the side mirrors to give it more personality. I think my car looks even more like a toy now with the stickers! (Chuckles)
Speaking of cleaning, do you wash your own car?
When I first got my car, I washed and polished it myself quite often as I was very protective of it. However, I got lazy over the years. These days, I send it to the car wash and also ask them to vacuum the interior of the car once a week.
Even though you’ve had your car for three years now, it still looks very new.
I think I’m quite a clean freak and I take really good care of my car. I have a lot of wet wipes in my car and would use them to wipe my steering wheel frequently so that it doesn’t get sticky or oily. I also have a disinfectant spray which I use once in a while to sanitise my car. I keep a fabric spray too and use it on outfits for [whatever drama I’m filming at that time ’cos] I have to wear them on set for a few days in a row sometimes. I like my car to smell fresh so I add lemongrass oil to my aromatherapy diffuser. It makes me feel like I’m in a spa or on holiday, and that makes me feel good (smiles).
We’re guessing that you don’t allow people to eat in your car then.
I’m actually okay with that because I eat in the car too. I have my lunch and dinner in my car very often — I’d sit there, play some music and relax when I have time in between scenes. Eating dry food in the car is okay, so I’d usually have burgers or kaya toast. I’d only disapprove if my friends bring food with gravy or soup into the car because I’m scared they’d spill food everywhere. I’m not worried about cockroaches or ants as I vacuum regularly and I put pandan leaves to keep out the pests.
Do you still remember what your driving test — or tests — was like?
I went for my driving test at 18 and surprisingly, I passed on my first try! I’m not saying I’m a super good driver but I guess luck was on my side. I remember I was parallel parking during the test, and even though I managed to park my car in the lot, it was slanted. The driving test examiner told me to adjust my car and I replied: “But I’m already in the lot.” He told me that I was very confident and I passed! (Laughs)
What kind of a driver are you?
I’m a very calm and patient driver, and I always give way to others. If I have to cut into someone’s lane, I always make sure I gesture to thank the other driver for giving way to me. Sometimes, people recognise me when we stop at the traffic light and they’d roll down their car windows to say hi. It’s a nice feeling, and I’d usually wave back (smiles). However, if someone cut into my lane without signalling and I have to do an emergency brake, I’d curse and swear to myself in the car. It’s very dangerous and I’d tell myself: “It’s okay, they will get their karma!” (Guffaws)
Watch Romeo's car interview with us here.