Monday 24 October 2016

A 'quirky' family motor? Second family car? Prius or diesel for my commute?

Published 05/10/2016 | 02:30

There is great value in moving up a few registration plates in the market at present
There is great value in moving up a few registration plates in the market at present

Aidan Timmons and Motoring Editor Eddie Cunningham team up to help readers make the right choice with their next car. Aidan visits dealers all over the country to produce a monthly guidebook on the values of used cars. He is co-editor of Motor Trade Publishers, who supply a car-valuing service to the motor trade, insurance companies and finance houses. Eddie is author of former best-seller 'Clever Car Buying'.

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You gave me some great advice on changing the family 'bus' last year. We went with the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso which was one of your recommendations. I am now looking to replace my car, currently driving an 06 RX-8, bought it nearly new and reluctantly it's time to move on. I do love this car.

Only 110,000km on the clock but 10 years old now and probably going to hit trouble soon. I have three children (3, 5, 7yrs) and most days I bring all of them to and from school/creche. So I need three car seats in the rear preferably. I now only do short distances, two drop offs and into work only adds up to 6km a day. We usually use our Citroen Picasso at weekends.

Probably only 7,000km-8,000km annually for me. I have a total budget of €13k-€15k not including much for mine and may need to auction or sell privately. I'm considering the Mondeo, an i40, Insignia, Mazda6; Audi A4 and BMW 3/5series are going to be a bit old at that budget. With my low mileage am I going to hit trouble with a diesel (filters clogging etc)? Anything outside the norm/or even a little quirky that would fit the bill.

Aidan: You have shrewdly observed there is a potential shortfall in the supply of mid-size petrol cars at your budget. Increasingly, we are fielding queries where such cars are ideal for readers.

Over the last seven years, more than 70pc of new car buyers opted for diesel but now it appears petrol is back in fashion.

I'm impressed with your lateral thinking to buy something fresh but with high mileage so that your limited usage will average things out over the next few years. This is good advice for anyone reading this in a similar situation.

With that in mind, you could find an Auris or Golf at this budget and either car would suit your circumstances but you explicitly requested something a bit quirkier.

Try the Lexus CT200h. In all probability, you could commute on battery power alone. Even if you don't, the cost of fuel will be heavily subsidised by the hybrid powertrain.

S-Design models are little basic but if a good one comes along then it is worth considering. Dynamic models are better equipped and generally more abundant.

You should get into a 2012 model with the upper limit of your budget. That is a fair jump from a 2006 and represents a cost-to-change of €2,500 a year, excluding whatever you get for your own car. In the trade we call that "cheap driving".

A Golf GTi would be great too because you are probably used to a bit of power at your disposal with the Wankel Rotary powered RX-8 but finding a good one at this budget will require patience.

If you decide to go more mainstream then look at the SEAT Leon 1.2 TSi. Your budget will buy a 2013/2014 plate depending on mileage and specification. Aim for a 2014 plate though as you are guaranteed this is the new model. The Leon is a practical, frugal, nippy, good-looking family hatch.

Eddie: Let me address the other side of your requirements. You are looking for something quirky? And roomy? Why not try a KIA Soul? There are not that many of them out there but if you can get your hands on one you'll get quirkiness and decent room and a car that's well up the years on your budget (at least 2012). Only thing is it will be diesel. But two out of three ain't bad.

I'd really like some help with picking a car. I drive a 2005 1.6-litre petrol Golf with 205,000km on the clock. It's becoming expensive to run so I'd like a change. The main use is school runs and errands so mileage is low. I have two small children and so need more space than I have. I plan on €10k to €15k for the change.

This will be a second family car. We have a Land Rover Discovery Sport new this year so my car does not require a huge amount of luxury.

Aidan: As much as you want something bigger than your old Golf, I do not think you need an MPV. A small MPV, maybe, but a Nissan Qashqai would be ideal for you. It is the second family car in a lot of households. We have already addressed that most people bought diesel cars in recent years but the 1.6 petrol Qashqai was popular enough in cities, so you should be able to track down a few.

You say you are not worried about equipment levels. In that case, buy one with low mileage, which is in the best condition, and that is sold with the most comprehensive warranty. Your budget is quite broad. The upper end will get you into a 2013.

The lower end will buy a 2010, but a good one at that.

General tip - there is great value in moving up a few registration plates in the market at present. It is cheaper to do now than before so buy as fresh a car as you can afford. It might not be so cheap in future.

Another option is the Toyota Corolla. Great 1.33 petrol engine, cheap to tax, loads of room, safe, decent kit; you can't go wrong. Copy and paste those features for the Skoda Octavia. The model changed in 2013.

Same story with the Qasqhai when it comes to budget. The upper reaches of your budget will squeeze you into a new model with low spec. Don't be surprised if an older model in Elegance trim is priced similarly. Look for a good service history with older ones.

Eddie: You are going to be carrying children. Under those circumstances I think you should buy a small people carrier. And considering your small mileage it should be petrol. So I'd go for a 132-reg 1.2-litre petrol Peugeot 2008. I know people carriers can't compete with the Crossovers and SUVs of this world but they do their job.

I'm an avid reader of your column but not much of a car expert. I'm just interested on your view of the Toyota Prius outside of urban areas? I commute from the midlands to Sandyford, a 160km round trip, and am looking at the Prius with a view to having a fuel efficient and economic car to run. Is the Prius suited to that or is it really just for the city driver? They quote figures of 50mpg for motorway driving. Is this pinch of salt stuff?

Aidan: With your commute, you are better off with diesel.

The Prius is fairly fuel efficient on motorways, however, it would really excel when you end up sitting in tailbacks or once you reach a congested area like Sandyford.

However, the last part of your journey in the Dublin direction represents a small percentage of your overall driving. For that reason, diesel is your best bet.

You might hear people talking about DPF (Diesel Particulate Filters), injectors and other things as a way to scare you off diesel, but the nature of your driving means you can travel for long intervals uninterrupted and keep these parts working for as long as possible.

You could stick with Toyota and buy an Avensis. You did not provide a budget but a crude rule of thumb is that Avensis Strata model prices track behind Prius values by a few hundred euro for the equivalent year.

So if you have been looking at Prius of a certain age then you have a fair idea of what Avensis you can afford.

If equipment is not a concern then go for an Aura model and save even more. Go for a Strata model if you can.

If the automatic transmission was attracting you to the Prius then you might have some joy looking at Passats. A good few autos were sold. Get the 2.0 litre diesel, too.

Just like the Avensis, there is no shortage of Passats and so healthy competition means you might drive a good bargain.

Eddie: It's a tough call. I'd like to think the Prius would do as well as the diesel, but it is at its best on urban-type runs where you get a higher proportion of input from the electric side of the hybrid process.

How well do you know your local dealer? Is there a chance you'd get a couple of days to try the Prius and then a couple more in an Avensis diesel? That way you'd get to see for yourself how the cars fare. I think it should be possible.

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