New car for new job? Audi A3 or VW Golf? Trading down; Cash buy?
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 am 25 and have a clean driving licence. I currently drive a 2010 Renault Clio. It has 107,000km on the clock. I like it but I am after getting promotion and will have to travel further and my parents are worried about me driving a small car. I'll be doing 25,000km a year or so. Between my savings and my parents helping, I could spend €18,000. What should I do?
Aidan: Covering 25,000km a year probably merits looking for a diesel, especially if you drive for long stretches on motorways. You have a healthy budget. Now, here's the rub; the new-car market has been a little lacklustre this year, but a new car is still just about off the agenda. However, the age profile of trade-ins to dealers is a mix of fresh plate, low mileage, well kept, diesels on the one hand and scrap on the other. The reason this is important at this stage of the year is because your timing is fortuitous. Dealers are keen to convert trade-ins into revenue. Not so keen that you will rob the car from them, but keen enough that you can get an excellent deal with your €18,000. It's all about maximising your budget so don't go for something too big; like a mid-size SUV. They mostly start life at around €30,000 so you will have to buy one that's a few years old. Instead, I think you will get the best value for money if you look for something like a Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur, or Nissan Juke. They are big and safe enough to keep your parents satisfied, and they are practical, cheap to run and tax, and come with excellent equipment levels. All three sold best laden with goodies. Look for an Active model Peugeot 2008, an Intense mode Captur, or an SV model Juke. You should be able to get a fresh model, maybe even a 161, with loads of manufacturer warranty remaining.
Eddie: I think I'd go for a hatchback. I'd look for a fresh Ford Focus with plenty of spec and either a 1.5-litre or 1.6-litre diesel; 152-reg is well within your scope. It's a smart car and stylish while the diesels will give you excellent MPG. I just feel it's the one that would suit you best.
I've come into a bit of money after years contributing to a fund. Budget is around €40,000 to €45,000. I want to buy something nice for my wife and myself. We are both in our mid-fifties, the children are gone and we're going to take it easier - it has been mad up to now. I love your Supplement every week. So helpful.
Aidan: You don't say what size of car you want but I will take it you still want something practical. It is just so hard to ignore Mercedes this year. Their 10pc discount offer has now expired but it is replaced by a still-generous 6pc discount. That makes the C-Class a real option for you. Go for an Avantgarde automatic and if you don't need a diesel then treat yourself to the higher power output C200 petrol. Lovely machine with excellent build quality and a understated but classic style. One of those will be money very well spent. If petrol is a runner, then the Lexus IS300h in F Sport trim is on the cards, too. It's a hybrid but it also has a 2.5 litre petrol engine so it will purr around town and cruise effortlessly on long spins. I happen to quite fancy the look the new Volkswagen Arteon. It replaces the CC - you know, the coupe-styled Passat? It will be here for the July 172-plate and it is always nice to have the first of a new thing, in my opinion. You can be assured that it will be a quality machine to drive with a robust and well-finished interior. If it remains similarly priced to the outgoing CC, then your budget should get you an automatic diesel. An uncommon but very attractive choice is a new BMW X1 Sdrive X-Line automatic. It is the top end of your budget but if you want a new SUV without committing to something too ostentatious or expensive, then the X1 strikes a fine balance. The new Volvo XC60 is en route, too so keep your eyes peeled for it.
Eddie: I'd be pointing you towards the Jaguar XF diesel. It's a lovely car; but you'll have to settle for a 152-reg. You're probably hoping to buy new but this will feel brand new if you get a fresh, well-minded one - and they tend to be extremely well looked after. The C-Class is a new option, as Aidan points out, but the Jag is a bigger car. On another level if you want something nice and smart in the C-Class category there is the lovely BMW 4-series Gran Coupe M Sport 152-reg which you will love - and might have a few euro to spare.
We are considering a new (2017) Audi A3 sportback or a VW Golf. Our budget will stretch to a well specified 2-litre diesel in either. We average approximately 23,000km a year and must have four doors and an automatic gearbox. We like both cars but just cannot decide between the two and between a petrol or diesel engine. We would like something with a bit of 'poke' that won't lose power to the automatic gearbox and that will be economical. We have heard that the new 1.4/1.5 litre petrol engines could give the 2.0 diesels a run for their money. Could you give us some advice on which you'd recommend? Or perhaps a different car recommendation entirely?
Aidan: I have a soft spot for petrol cars so I would choose a petrol Highline Golf and while I reckon you could easily make one work for you, I think a diesel is the way to go this time. You cover enough mileage to justify a diesel and you specifically want something with a sense of urgency about it. Despite the new 1.5 TSi EVO engine reading well on paper (I have yet to drive it), the torque from the Golf's 2.0 litre diesel won't be matched. I have driven it and have always been satisfied with its real-world efficiency figures. The linear power delivery and slick automatic gearbox offset whatever losses to mpg you incur from making quick progress from overtaking and cruising on motorways. The chassis is top class, too. People tend to chastise the Golf for one reason or another but when you drive one for long enough, it is difficult to deny its credentials. The interior has just been given a decent refresh so make sure you buy a facelift model. Golfs age well, too. As for the A3; smashing machine and excellent residuals. It is a bit bigger than the Golf and the S-Tronic gearbox is slicker than its cousin's. There is no denying the A3 Sportback is an accomplished machine but the Golf is so much better than the sum of its individual parts. It is the Golf for me but you will be happy in either.
Eddie: Tough call but the smartened-up Golf (here for 172-reg) with the 2-litre diesel DSG (auto) probably just shades it. I like the A3 Sportback a lot. But I'd buy the 2-litre diesel Golf with DSG - nice and lively. Probably the best mix for you.
I have a BMW 520d (2012) with 143,000km on the clock. I like it a lot but it is beginning to cost in repairs. I don't need as big a car any more for family and business reasons. What would you recommend? I'd still like to stay with an executive brand if possible? I have €25,000 to spend.
Aidan: Be careful with downsizing too much. It can be difficult to readjust to less space. If your budget includes your trade-in you will end up moving somewhat laterally in age to stick with something similar to your 5-Series, so drop back to a 3-Series but no further. Okay? And I think you should stick with a BMW dealer because you will probably fare better with your trade-in and used Premium Selection BMWs come with two years unlimited mileage warranty, which puts an end to your costly repairs. A 2014 plate 316 D SE automatic is happily within your reach but bargain hard for a 318D or you are losing out on space and power. Just to play devil's advocate - test drive a Platinum model Mazda6 and see what you think. It's not considered a premium brand and most were sold with manual transmissions but it is a convincing package and you will definitely get a 2015 plate.
Eddie: Aidan is right; downsizing can be a shock to the system. Assuming €25,000 includes your trade-in, you will probably fare best with a BMW dealer. The 3-series is still a great driving car but sneak a peek at what you'd do a deal for if you went for a Mercedes C-Class. There are also plenty of good Audi A4s out there.
JUST TO SAY
WE love getting your enquiries but can't reply to all queries in as full a manner as this due to time and space restraints. We try to deal with as many as possible via email. But you can help us help you if you make sure to include the following critical elements in your query:
* Total budget.
* Annual mileage.
* Size of car required (number of seats).
* Present car (make, model, year and mileage).