Best car colour? Grants for hybrids? Water damage? Why no estates?
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'.
I have a silver Volkswagen Passat. I am thinking of buying a smaller car next year because I don't need as big a vehicle any more. I am thinking of a Ford Focus or a Honda Civic but I don't want a silver one. I wonder what you gentlemen think would be the best colour for me. Or what is the best colour for a car to keep looking clean? I found silver easy to maintain but there are an awful lot of them out there.
Aidan: After black, silver is the most widely chosen colour on the market. And I happen to know that when it comes to hatchbacks, it is the colour that outsells everything else. Considering you are departing from the family/fleet saloon market (a wise choice, considering you say you don't require the space), a change of colour will accentuate the fresh start. I like your two choices, too.
The Focus is consistently a firm favourite because it is so well rounded and satisfies different needs. You might not necessarily notice it at a conscious level, but the chassis (skeleton) of the Focus is a class above many others.
People usually refer to the Focus's chassis characteristics as feeling "solid on the road". You must have been used to that in your Passat. Treat yourself and go for the Titanium model with all the goodies. The Honda Civic is a smashing hatchback and is often overlooked. It's a little pricier but the base level of equipment is generous and Civics hold their value quite well.
For many people, once you buy one Honda, you end up buying a whole lot more. Don't rule out the VW Golf, though. It's such a well engineered machine. Check out the new "Lounge" specification. You get a lot of lovely goodies for a fraction of their individual cost.
Now to colour. Forget black. It's very difficult to keep clean. In general, dark colours and deep hues are trickier to keep clean so opt for softer shades instead.
It takes quite a lot of dust and grime before white starts to look grubby. The Civic looks great in a colour called "Silver Sporty Blue Metallic" but I love "Milano Red". It's just the right shade of red before it starts to look ostentatious. There are similar colours in the Ford and VW range.
Be sure to give all three cars, and maybe a couple more options a drive first before you start worrying about colour. You need to be happy with the car first.
Eddie: Simply red as far as I'm concerned. There are myriad hues and variations but no colour looks better on a car or brings up its little design lines like a good splash of the red.
There used to be a superstition about buying a green-coloured car. I had two in my time; one a disaster, the other grand. I mention that because I notice green starting to make a bit of an impact at international launches, which means we'll be seeing more of that hue fairly shortly. But it's still red for me ok? I agree with Aidan's car choices but would add the KIA cee'd.
I am thinking of buying a hybrid, a Prius. I see the prices are around €30,000 but there is also a grant. Could you advise on how that works and how I get it? I work in Dublin but commute from Kildare and think I might save on fuel. I have a diesel Golf but I intend changing from diesel to hybrid.
Aidan: You don't need to do anything to avail of the hybrid electric vehicle grant. It's all taken care of before you sign on the dotted line. In most cases, although perhaps there are exceptions for which I am unaware, the price quoted will include all available rebates.
However, a hybrid might not necessarily be the best option for you. It depends on the length of your commute.
Where in Kildare are you in relation to Dublin; Naas, Kildare village, Athy? And where in Dublin are you travelling to? Are you mainly sitting at motorway cruising speeds or do you spend a lot of the journey trundling at pedestrian speeds?
Hybrids are excellent and I have a soft spot for them but they really come into their own at speeds under 50kmh and in heavy traffic. That's not to say that they are not fuel efficient on motorways but a diesel is a better tool for the job of covering long stretches.
If you decide to stick with diesel, then have a look at the Corolla diesel or the new-shape Avensis. If you think hybrid is still the better alternative then take a look at the Auris Hybrid, too. The newer model has a better boot than the old shape and if you don't need the space of the Prius, you can save a few quid but still stay in a hybrid. The Prius itself is a good choice regardless. There is a new one coming early next year. It's a massive leap forward in its design, both inside and out. It promises to be a very interesting machine.
Eddie: The price is, as Aidan says, the price. All the grants are technically deducted so what you are getting is what it is still going to cost you.
If you have your heart set on a hybrid then you should wait until early spring when the new Toyota Prius is due. Haven't driven it yet but I'm told the fuel efficiency is way up. However, as Aidan also mentioned, hybrids are best in lower-speed traffic because they use their electric/battery power more in those circumstances.
My experience of them is that the petrol engine works a lot more on longer, higher-speed runs. Just so you know.
Eddie had a good piece two weeks ago on how to drive safer in the rain. I live in an area that has some bad flooding over the past two weeks. I am worried that all the water being splashed about under my car will do damage or cause things to wear or interfere with the electrical bits. Have you any advice?
Aidan: Unless you are taking risks and driving in conditions that could potentially suffocate your engine (by driving in water much higher than the exhaust or at a level high enough to get sucked into the air box) then there isn't anything to be too worried about from a mechanical perspective.
Cars are tested to great extents and in all conditions (snow, extreme heat, Irish rain) before they go on general sale. Water sloshing about underneath shouldn't impact on all the electrical components either.
If it does, then it's probably more because the water level dictated that you shouldn't have driven through it. Follow Eddie's advice and be sure that you don't drive quickly through areas with standing water. That way you protect against water splashing higher up the engine bay.
Eddie: The only area I'd ever be concerned about is the brakes. After driving through high water, always press them a couple of times after exiting.
Other than that your dealer should carry out a yearly check on the underside when servicing your car.
You never mention estates. Ye are always on about SUVs and these so-called crossovers. I have had an estate (Volkswagen Passat) for years and think it is by far a better car for me than your fancy SUVs. I am thinking of changing it and am tempted by the new Skoda Superb estate. What would ye advise?
Aidan: Considering you've gone on a mini-offensive, let me remind you, for no other reason other than you happen to be wrong. We do mention estates. We mention them a lot. I mentioned one last week; the Peugeot 508SW. In fact, I recommended it as an alternative to crossovers.
And I always jabber on about how the SEAT Leon ST is great value. But some people explicitly ask for advice on crossovers and we are duty bound to help them.
So, that's that bit dispatched with. Now, you want to know about the Superb. The simple answer is that it's a great choice. You won't regret it. It's got enough room to host a banquet dinner inside. The new model looks smart and drives well. Go for the two litre engine and enjoy a bit of zip to match the luxury.
Or, if your prefer, opt for the 1.6 TDi with the brilliant DSG gearbox. It costs the same as a manual 2.0 TDi 150bhp version.
Eddie: We don't buy many estates here whereas across many European countries they outnumber saloons and hatchbacks. It is just a traditional thing, I think, and I know car distributors here are scratching their heads wondering what they can do about it.
So maybe you are blaming us because there isn't that big a choice or trend out there. That's ok.
I'd buy the Superb estate in the morning. Best value all round I think.