Car for three kids? Taller car? €60,000 sports car? Smart car?
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'.
We have three children (ages 1, 5, 7). My wife needs a new car. I drive a Ford Mondeo. We can just about squeeze the three children into the back seats. My wife drives a VW Golf and all five of us cannot fit into her car at the same time. We think a 7-seater would be handy for play dates with the children, etc, but are conscious they are expensive.
Her VW Golf is from 2000 (120,000 miles). She drives approx 12,000km-14,000km a year, mostly short school runs. We have a budget of €20,000-€22,000 for a 7-seater and would like something reliable and not too much like a Transit van.
Aidan: MPVs have come a long way since their boxy predecessors so you should have no fears about driving something resembling a van. Unfortunately, most MPVs at this budget have diesel engines whereas you could easily make a petrol work, especially as your wife's journeys are short.
Start with the Kia Carens for size. It's not quite as large as some MPVs such as the Ford Galaxy or VW Sharan, but if it satisfies your demands, your budget will go a lot further. A 2014 EX model is certainly within budget but I think you can hold out for a 2015 model if you shop around. Considering your wife's mileage, I can't see her driving beyond the 150,000km warranty barrier, so she will enjoy the remaining period of Kia's seven-year warranty.
The Ford C-Max and S-Max are worth considering, too. The C-Max is smaller so let's focus on the S-Max. Get the 2.0 litre diesel in Zetec trim and you won't be wanting for space or equipment levels. Titanium models are popular but you are better to pay the same money for a low mileage Zetec than a run-of-the-mill Titanium. Lastly, I like the SEAT Alhambra. It has sliding rear doors, which have obvious benefits. It's a classy machine with a slightly boxy-style but uses space efficiently and so it is slightly bigger.
Worth considering the next time around when your children are bigger is a used 2013 model - but it is certainly worth a look now, too.
Eddie: I'll go the Crossover/SUV route and pick two 7-seaters that have good track records: the Hyundai Santa Fé and the KIA Sorento. Both have diesel engines, I'm afraid, but that is the case no matter where you look.
You may dip back a few years to get one at your budget, but so long as the mileage isn't too high and the car has been well-minded, that shouldn't be a concern. Your wife is not going to clock up big distances.
I drive a 1998 Mazda 323F 1.5l petrol special edition which I love and have owned since 2007. I cover 15,000km-20,000km a year on hard country roads in the west. I've a budget of €10,000-€15,000 but it must be a car I love the look of, and reliable, like the 323F, as I intend keeping it for a while.
I am picky but have considered a Mazda3, Mazda6 estate, a Volvo V40, V60, a BMW 3-series Touring and MINI Cooper. I don't mind it being a bit older and would be happy with an 08 or newer-reg car. I won't drive a saloon as I don't like the look of them so am most likely considering a hatchback, estate, lift-back or possibly an SUV with a bit of style about it.
I use the car for commuting and the odd bit of lugging stuff about. I would prefer a petrol engine but am open to a diesel option. Would you have any other suggestions?
Aidan: The Honda Civic isn't on your list but it should be. Your budget will easily buy you a fresh 1.4 i-VTEC 2014 petrol model with low mileage and plenty of modern equipment. The rear seats fold upwards in a 'cinema seat' fashion, which is perfect for carrying awkwardly shaped objects. And it's as reliable as they come.
I would dearly love if the motor tax system didn't forcibly resign the 1.8 and 2.0 litre petrol Mazda6 because I would have one of those in a heartbeat. However, the diesel is a fine choice. Forget the estate version. I don't think you need it and you will pay a little premium for having the extra room, which I doubt you will get any benefit from seeing as the Mazda6 is already a big car. Go for one of the last of the old models in Premium or Sport guise and as a 5dr liftback if possible. They look the business.
Another one not on your list is the Lexus CT200h. You don't seem to need a hybrid but so what? You still get the benefit of it when in town, it looks the part, has an automatic gearbox (okay, it's a CVT but it's still nice), and it should be reliable. It will have a bit more oomph than the Civic, too. I would throw the Seat Leon into the mix as well. It's got an edgy design, loads of space, and a great chassis so you can chuck it into bends. Good value, too. Go for a 2013 model and if you don't mind owning an older shape, the Copa model has a lot of nice equipment. Otherwise, a 132-plate is almost certainly the newer shape.
Eddie: What about a Volkswagen Golf 1.6-litre diesel if Aidan's excellent suggestions don't ring a bell? The Golf is often overlooked because it is a bit of a standard. It is always an excellent drive. Me? I'd buy a 1.5-litre early 141-reg Mazda3.
I want to buy a sports car. I'm driving a BMW 520d and love it. I'm in my late 50s, have no family and am easing off on the workload. I want something with a bit of excitement but not too flashy. I have, all told, €60,000 at my disposal.
Aidan: I won't get into the car-nerd definition of a sports car. I think I know what you mean, so how about a BMW 4-Series coupe? The Gran Coupe is more desirable on the used market, but why not throw caution to the wind and get something that is a bit different? Does easing your workload mean lower mileage? Would a 420i petrol suit? If not, go for the 420d M Sport.
Audi has also just unveiled its new A5. It's subtle but attractive and the interior is lovely.
If you don't mind a used car, a 2015 6-Series Gran Coupe comes into the mix. So too does an Audi A7 which, in my opinion, is one of Audi's finest machines. It's got bags of torque but goes about its business in unassuming fashion.
Eddie: Before you buy anything else try the new Mercedes C-Class Coupé. You will love it (as I do) or be put off by the rear.
You'll get one stunning car for your budget. I know, strictly speaking, it is not a 'sports car' but after discussing your requirements I sense this is what you are really looking for.
I need your help urgently on the purchase of a new vehicle. I have an Audi A4 2-litre diesel. I find it awkward for parking and too low. I would like a smallish, comfortable petrol SUV. I have looked at some but it is extremely difficult to get independent advice.
I noted with interest you said downgrading is a shock to the system. I did look at the Audi Q3 diesel, but wasn't overly impressed. A petrol model would never be available to test drive as there was no demand for it. How do you rate it?
I know the new A4 has parking sensors but it is too low for me as I am in my sixties. The pressure is on as my current car is due a service plus a timing belt soon. Also, the motor tax is due. I believe the new petrol vehicles take three months to get. My mileage is approximately 15,000km/year. Budget is not an issue as my priority is comfort. What SUVs would you recommend?
Aidan: Check if your local Audi dealer has a new petrol Q2 for demonstration. It is a little smaller than the Q3 but it won't be a massive climb down either. There is a lengthy enough lead-time for a new build, but there might be some due for the July-plate so start registering your interest now. It is tall and spacious but with a small physical footprint so you should have no trouble parking it. Also, look at the Honda HR-V 1.5 i-VTEC in ES trim. It is probably all the car you need. Lastly, look at the Mercedes GLA 180 Urban automatic. There are still good discounts on Mercs at present, and the GLA is neither too big nor too tall.
Eddie: There is a 1.4-litre petrol version of the Audi Q3. I've driven it here so I suggest you tell that to your dealer. It is an excellent crossover and I'd see it as a fine fit for you. See if your dealer has a demo model you could buy. Stick with Audi if you can; you'll probably get a better deal on your A4 at one of their outlets.