Room for children and big dog; I need something powerful but not too flashy
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 an 07 Hyundai Accent petrol with 180,000 kms and an 07 Tucson 2-litre diesel with 120,000km; both automatics and well looked after. We are looking to replace the Tucson (road tax €700+ and 25mpg) and get something less costly to run. I like the ease of entry/exit with the higher driving position and want to stay with something similar in automatic. Annual driving around 15,000k -18,000k; budget around €30k + trade in. Have recently retired so will not be putting up big miles and only the two of us to worry about.
Aidan: Needing an automatic limits your options as many brands in this sector only fit such transmissions to high-spec models that exceed your budget and requirements. The used market might not yield much choice either.
The Nissan Qashqai also has a CVT gearbox so take it for a spin and see how it performs. It has just undergone a redesign, so you won't face obsolescence with it for some time. I have not yet tested the Mazda CX3 but it appears to offer something close to what you need.
In hard-and-fast mathematics your mileage does not merit buying a diesel but it might take a while for the petrol bug to bite back, particularly in the compact SUV sector. Therefore it is worth considering opting for Mazda's new 1.5 diesel. Make sure you drive the 2-litre petrol engine too, as petrol Mazdas are renowned for their refinement and frugality. They also have a tradition of being generously proportioned but the CX3 is a closer rival to the Nissan Juke than the Qashqai.
Perhaps the CX5 is a better fit if you need more room. It took a little price reduction last year to get the entry level model under €30,000. An Executive SE starts at €31,995 before you glance at the optional extras. Automatic costs another €2,100.
The Skoda Yeti also merits a closer look. It has a petrol engine and the DSG gearbox will impress you. Your budget will also extend to the highest spec 'Elegance' model and potentially leave you with some change.
If you insist on a diesel Yeti, then to get an automatic you have to go to a 4WD version where 'Ambition' models start at €33,500.
Eddie: Hard to pass the Qashqai really. Like the Yeti too. The new Mazda CX-3 is nice but the CX-5 is larger and would suit you better. Try the Qashqai.
I desperately need your advice. My 2005 Ford Focus 1.6TDCi has 180,000kms on the clock. I have it since 2010. Annual mileage is about 24,000km. I haven't had any major issues. I'm looking for a much bigger car now, preferably a seven-seater. As I have two children and a large dog, I need space for car seats at the back and ample room for a pram and dog. A reliable diesel engine is an absolute must. Our budget is €27k but I'd consider an old model for less money.
Aidan: You have had a positive experience with Ford so why not stay put? The S-Max is widely regarded as one of the best MPVs; 2013 models fall within your budget. Most will have the 1.6 TDCi engine, of which you already have first hand experience. The 2.0 TDCi is arguably sweeter and potentially better suited to the S-Max's size, especially when fully loaded. Expect a premium of around €1,500 over the 1.6.
I think you could chance your arm for a new Toyota Verso but you will need to have your haggling hat firmly affixed. A 141 or 142 model is more comfortably within reach. The Verso has an excellent 1.6 diesel engine but still requires as vigilant a maintenance regime as your Focus. You will most likely end up with an Aura model.
Keep those bargaining skills sharp and hunt for a demonstration model (if available) Citroen C4 Grand Picasso. Being a Citroen, you will get the flashy design and fancy dashboard layout but there is real substance and it would make an excellent family car.
The SEAT Alhambra should not be overlooked either, although a new one is out of the question. It has a sliding rear door, loads of room and drives beautifully thanks to the 2-litre diesel it shares with siblings throughout the VW Group.
Eddie: I would add that a close look at a 7-seater Kia Sorento would be worth your while too. You also get all-wheel-drive. Loads of room. The Alhambra is great value.
I want to buy something sporty and powerful but I don't want to broadcast it. I have €40,000 to spend plus whatever I get for my five-year-old BMW 520d (90,000kms). I would prefer a four-seater but rear seats are not a major consideration. But I do need room for two golf bags in the boot as I'm going to be taking it easier. What would you advise?
Aidan: The value of your car can be tricky and it is usually best to concentrate on the cost to change rather than the amount you are offered for your car, but suppose you end up shopping in the €60,000 price range (give or take a couple of thousand at both ends). That provides you with some interesting choices.
You can get into a new 4-Series Gran Coupe. The 420D xDrive (four wheel drive) Sport Auto starts at €54,300 leaving you some room for personalisation. It has a 4cyl 2-litre diesel (184bhp). Boot space is as generous as a 3-series. Golf clubs should fit without issue. The seats can be folded flat so you can lie the golf bags lengthways, which gives you room for electric golf carts.
Stretch things a little and you can get into a lovely six-cylinder 430d Luxury model without four-wheel-drive. The ZF gearbox in the 4 Series effortlessly transfers the abundant power to the road.
Audi's A5 Sportback is also worth serious consideration. Your budget buys you a 3-litre diesel M'Tronic in S'Line trim with 204bhp and 400Nm of torque. You might just sneak into a 3-litre diesel quattro with the smoother S'Tronic gearbox. You won't know yourself in it.
Eddie: I'd also look at a Mercedes C-Class C250 AMG automatic. You can get the 'livery' toned down but this ticks a lot of your boxes for just north of €51,000 - another €5,000 will deck it out even better for your own taste.
Could you suggest a small people-carrier (MPV) for me? We have a two-year-old girl and need to get something with a little bit of room in the back. Our family car, an Audi A4, takes care of the longer drives but I'd like something a little taller and roomier than my Fiat Punto which has more than 100,000km and is seven years old.
Aidan: I am not certain you need a small MPV. You could find that a family hatchback props you above your Punto's seating position perfectly and has ample room to accommodate your little one. Furthermore, you have a far greater pool of options available.
You say your A4 is used for longer drives, so I think a petrol car should suffice. The Toyota Auris 1.33 petrol is spot on for your requirements. It is frugal, spacious, safe and easy to drive. And it does well on the used market. Pre-August 2010 models came with a 1.4 petrol engine and cost slightly more to tax.
The Honda Civic 1.4 is also hugely practical. It has flexible seating arrangements in the back and a large boot. The older model (from 2006) was mainly sold in SE-S trim and latterly as Si (air con, Bluetooth, multifunctional steering wheel and a seamless 6spd manual transmission).
If you really want a mini-MPV then look at the Opel Meriva, Kia Soul (although older models have a slightly smaller boot than some hatchbacks) or a Skoda Roomster. Don't prejudice the Roomster on its looks; it is functional and practical and comes with a choice of petrol and diesels.
Eddie: I sense your heart is set on something like the Opel Meriva. I like it a lot. Also well worth a look are the Toyota Verso 'S' and Nissan Note.