The best executive car? SUV on gas? 149,000km Focus - what do I do next?
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 want to buy a strong executive car. I have just returned from America and will be working on a consultancy basis but I want a nice saloon for my wife (she hopes to buy a MINI for herself) and two children (12, 14) for two reasons.First, I want a good-sized saloon because it can be my work car as well and needs to look the part. Second, so we can visit family and friends around the country at weekends. I don't want a people carrier or one of those SUVs. Can you advise? My budget is around €50,000.
Aidan: Don't write-off an SUV. They hold their values excellently and still look premium. Audi's Q5, BMW's X3 and Land Rover's Discovery Sport are fine choices.
In the premium saloon market you should look at Audi's A6. It underwent some small aesthetic changes late in 2014 but there were lots of tweaks in specification and "under the hood". For a start, there is a new, more efficient Ultra engine. It comes with 150 or 190bhp. The automatic transmission for non-quattro models changed from M'Tronic to S'Tronic. For me, this was the biggest difference. The S'Tronic gearbox is excellent. And finally, Audi introduced a new SE Business specification that mirrors many of the luxuries of the range-topping S Line trim, but with a more reserved appearance. Your budget will go close to buying you an A6 2.0 TDi 190 Ultra SE Business S'Tronic. Bit of a mouthful but a splendid car. You will save €1,500 if you don't mind dropping back to the 150bhp version.
Second on the list is the BMW 520 diesel. List price for a 520D M Sport Auto is circa €53,500. Again, if you want to drop back from 190bhp to 150, you can opt for the 518D and save yourself a little over €2,000. Defining characteristics of the 5-series are, for me, the transmission. The ZF gearbox is a treat. The M Sport package is the way to go and the car looks great in any colour, too.
Next is Mercedes, and the E-Class. Great interior quality and a much improved design over previous iterations are the standout features. An E200 diesel Avantgarde Auto sneaks over the €51,000 mark. As with any premium car, you might want to add a few bits to get it to the specification you want.
There will be a few demos of each model I have mentioned hovering around and they will be great value for money at this stage. Eddie, is there anything to be said for the Jaguar XF?
Eddie: There is a brand new one on the way - I'm hoping to drive it abroad next week, please God. Love the existing one. This is said to be much more like its smaller brother XE so it can't be too bad. Seeing as our reader is back from America, could I also suggest an oft-overlooked car, the Lexus GS? Wonderful piece of work, lots of room and, depending on model purchased, can deliver not just decent fuel consumption but lashings of power and performance. Well worth a try.
I've lived in Australia since 2008 but it's likely I will return (to Ireland) in the next 24 months. I currently drive a Toyota Kluger (Highlander in the US) 7-seater SUV, which also has an LPG conversion kit. I have found the LPG much cheaper to use; it gives better torque too. I know there are LPG options available in Ireland and I was wondering do you think LPG is an option that should be actively utilised with a view to reducing travel costs for 15,000km/year of driving? Does adding an LPG system to your vehicle have much of an effect on insurance premiums or increase/decrease the resale value? I know that one issue with the systems is the space the extra tank takes up. An option used here is to place that tank in the spare wheel well in the floor of the boot space but obviously means risking leaving the spare at home or consuming some boot space.
Aidan: In theory LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas) is a viable option for reducing fuel costs in Ireland. My brother-in-law in Poland uses it to great effect but we have such little activity in this market that it represents a miniscule portion of the overall car park and therefore, rightly or wrongly, does not appear on my radar. There are plenty of places that add LPG and once they are registered and offer warranty on the LPG system and the updated ECU, you should be okay. Just be certain that the car is out of manufacturer warranty as I would imagine such invasive car surgery would render existing warranty null and void.
Where I can help is with values and insurance. Firstly, values. You almost certainly narrow your audience if you convert your car to LPG. Will prospective buyers pay any more for it? I am not so certain. You probably preclude yourself from trading the car into a main dealership but I won't prejudice a future deal by declaring that as fact. Impeding on boot space is another issue that you have raised and that has obvious effects on the value of any car. From an insurance perspective, you are making a serious modification to the manufacturer's original specification and this needs to be stated by you at the outset when looking for a policy. Each insurer is different. Some might load your premium, others won't. But you can be almost certain that they will want to see a certificate from a registered installer and confirmation that they are authorised to use recognised LPG brands and that everything fitted conforms to EU standards. Personally, I'd sooner buy a diesel and not have the headache.
Eddie: I've driven cars on LPG. It's no big deal. The problem is, like electric cars or any other variant on the mainstream, knowing where you can get fuel across the country can be problematic sometimes. I'm not sure the undertaking overall is worth it for you, considering the size of the vehicle you propose to drive. Sorry to shatter your illusion, but Aidan is absolutely sport-on with his advice. What you might save in MPG you could lose many times over in reduced trade-in values. We're here to help; sometimes that means shattering illusions. Hope you have a successful return home.
I have an 11-D Focus 1.6 diesel with 149,000km on the clock. I'm thinking of changing. I have €10,000 to spend along with the Focus. Any suggestions?
Aidan: First off, your 2011 registered Focus could be the last of the old model or the first of the new shape so it will be difficult to determine your likely trade-in cost and therefore the age of the car you can get into. Also, your mileage is a little saucy for a 2011 so if you are combing through the classifieds, please manage your expectations that your trade-in allowance will be at the lower end of the scale. Sorry but I want to be as realistic as possible.
Would you consider going for another Focus? You could find yourself shopping for 2013 plate. If you have had a good experience with your existing Focus, is there any reason to change? The Kia cee'd is a good choice. You might be able to get into either a 1.4 or 1.6 CRDi in a 2013. Most people who have already had a 1.6 diesel prefer not to drop back to the smaller engine as it has less power.
I am a huge fan of the SEAT Leon as it represents excellent value for money, has a good 1.6 diesel engine and nice specification in SE trim. You should be able to pick up a 2013 plate (again, trade in allowance depending) and might even have some change left over, too.
Eddie: You must be on the road a lot with that sort of mileage. I'm not going to downgrade your car but the price you're going to get isn't going to be great. It is difficult for a dealer to shift it on and that means not as much added to your €10,000 as you might expect.
Considering your mileage, maybe you should look at trading in against a new car (nearly every manufacturer has a model and lease/PCP deal in the Focus class). I'm concerned you'll end up buying a 2013 model with 45,000+ kms and be above 100,000km again in no time. Some PCP deals include 30,000km mileage. The main thing is you get a new-car warranty because I'd be afraid a second-hand purchase might start needing costly repair with your level of mileage.