Sunday 4 December 2016

Expert Advice: Car seats, Five seaters and Baby carriers

Independent advice desk

Published 08/07/2015 | 02:30

Our simple advice could help you make the right choice when buying your next car
Our simple advice could help you make the right choice when buying your next 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'

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If my wee 02 Scenic run-around flies through the NCT on Thursday evening and dies of a snapped timing belt on Friday morning have I any comeback?

This leads to my second question as I now need a new car. Why do car companies insist on making the middle seat in the back of so many cars absolutely tiny? I have spent the whole day traipsing around car dealerships trying to find a car, that won't break the bank or crucify me with road tax, but more importantly will fit three car seats in the back. It is nigh on impossible. I challenge you to try it.

Aidan: There are some components, timing belts and chains included, that can be fully functional one minute and then give up the ghost the next. The very next day after an NCT seems like a terrible stroke of bad fortune, though. I don't think full NCT clearance should be given as much credit as it generally is in this country. It is much better to have a full service record.

Anyway let's find you a new motor. You are right: fitting three child seats across the back of most cars is an exercise in futility, especially in a five-seater. It is a slow burn but manufacturers are beginning to increase internal volume with every new iteration.

I have a feeling it will be a bit small but try the Skoda Roomster. It has three individual seats across the back. The Opel Meriva has the same arrangement and might suit. The five-seat option of the Citroen Grand Picasso (simply called C4 Picasso) should be up to the task. If you find no joy with these options, then you might need to go seven seat hunting.

Eddie: It is pushing the physical limits in most cars to get three child-seat slots across the back. The difficulty is if you make three smaller seats then you have adults complaining about bums being pinched on the outside.

The Citroen Grand Picasso is the one that gets a lot of the plaudits for resolving your predicament. However, with three growing children to accommodate, and I put the emphasis on growing, your best bet is to go for one of the smaller seven-seaters.

I am looking to buy a car for a family of five: two adults, and three children aged 4, 7 and 9. I will be exchanging a 2010 Citroen C4 Grand Picasso and am not looking to spend a fortune.

I have read a lot of articles about the Dacia Duster and it sounds ideal for us. Alternatively, could you recommend any other cars that would suit my situation?

I know very little about cars and any advice you could give me would be gratefully received.

Aidan: These Dusters are causing a bit of a stir, aren't they Eddie? We are getting loads of enquires about them and, for the money, they are hard to beat. You will notice the drop in interior quality from your Citroen but if you can get over that then the Duster should prove to be a competent car for your circumstances.

Do not expect any major discounts on the retail price. Dealers have virtually no wriggle room. Just bear that in mind. Another sensible route is to buy an estate.

The Kia cee'd SW should be high on your list. Kia elbowed their way into the market by offering lots of goodies in their cars as standard kit. Find an EX model and you're laughing. For the price of a new Signature model Duster, you could have yourself a lovely, low mileage, 131 or 132 plate cee'd SW with manufacturer warranty until 2020.

If your budget will allow it, circa €20,000 will buy you a 141 plate SEAT Leon ST. It's got a really clever split floor boot and it is a corker to drive. The chassis is brilliant and the engine and gearbox are top notch.

There is a new Peugeot 308 SW out now so dealers might be trading in some old models. Ask your local dealer to keep his or her ear to the ground for any nice ones being taken in against a 152 plate. The engine in the 308 is the same as the Grand Picasso and it has some lovely interior features.

Eddie: I have advocated the Duster in the past but I am at a loss about why, with three children, you are going away from the Grand Picasso. Is it costing too much to trade-up to a new or newer one? No disrespect to the Duster but your Picasso is much better suited to your specific needs.

My advice is to lay your cards on the table with the Citroen dealer and see what the two of you can come up with. Trust me, in a couple of years you are going to need all the space you can get and the Duster for all its merits is not going to be big enough for you.

I am a mother of a young baby and need advice on what small /medium car to get. I don't have a trade-in. I will be returning to work soon and will need a car to get to/from creche/work, shopping and activities so maximum mileage in a year would be 10,000km.

My husband currently drives a WV Passat. So I am looking for something smaller but with a large and practical boot (for pram and baby equipment etc).

The Golf/Focus seem to be popular choices but is there something else I could consider? Should I go petrol or diesel and what about engine size? Boot space and safety are my biggest must-haves. My total budget is €10,000 but will stretch if the car is right.

Aidan: Stick with petrol. This sort of rules out the Focus as the new model arrived in 2011 briefly as a 1.6 petrol, but is a little out of budget; and the old model 2010s are rare in petrol as lots of people had switched to diesel by then. Still, it's a good choice as even entry level Style models were dressed up like higher grade Zetec models, save for a centre armrest that can be retro fitted for around €40.

The Toyota Auris is hard to beat, especially considering that your budget will go close to buying you a 2011 registered lower tax 1.33 petrol engine model. Some 2010s have the lower tax too but only once they were registered from August onwards and have the 1.33 engine, not the 1.4. The Auris is easy to drive, spacious, fuel efficient, cheap to tax and ticks all of the boxes as a second family car.

The Golf 1.2 TSi would be a good companion to your husband's Passat. If none of those float your boat, then take a look at the Honda Civic. With a quirky interior and solid build quality, it is a nice choice for something a bit different.

Eddie: As I see it the Skoda Fabia Combi (estate) would suit you down to the ground for the following reasons: You are not worried about rear-seat space per se, you need flexible carrying space and as the Fabia's rear seats split/fold you can have baby and pram and groceries all on board. And you'll get a really decent, fairly modern one for the sort of money you have at your disposal.

I'm in the process of looking to buy new through PCP and have trawled all the dealers to narrow it down to Peugeot. I like the look and spec of the 2008 and as a family car it will fit my needs as it's spacious enough.

I don't do a lot of mileage (under 10,000km a year) and there is the option of a 1.2 petrol or 1.4 diesel in my price range. With the petrol engine the worry is fuel consumption and whether the car has enough power.

I intend to trade again in three years so would it be worth paying the extra for the diesel with my mileage? My total budget is €22,000.

Aidan: If you can stick the wait out a few more weeks, there is talk of the 2008 getting the new 1.2 PureTech turbo petrol engine. That would be the route I'd take. It's a smashing engine that recently won the coveted International Engine of the Year award. Power jumps up from the current naturally-aspirated version and the turbo gives you the torque you crave from the diesel.

Your mileage simply does not warrant driving a diesel car. Even the regular 1.2 VTi probably suits your requirements better but if you have driven it and find it underpowered then perhaps shelve the idea and wait for definitive word on the 1.2 turbo.

Eddie: The oracle has spoken. The 1.2 turbo looks to be the one for you. Again, I'm just puzzled over your concern for power. You are not driving far and, I presume, fast so don't get too hung up on power and torque and all that.

For tipping around town or shorter journeys the difference is a matter of nothing.

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