Wednesday 21 February 2018

Ask Eddie... Advice for buyers

For empty nesters: The Audi A3 Saloon.
For empty nesters: The Audi A3 Saloon.
For first-time buyers: The Dacia Sandero.
For families: The Ford S-Max.
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

We get a lot of enquiries of a general nature to our Advice Desk in the Wednesday Motoring supplement.

Generally speaking, they break down into four major categories/queries: What are the best cars to buy for students/first-time buyers, 'empty nesters', families? That's a broad canvas, but here we go...

Wanted: Student's car

Not wanted: Trouble

Budget: €5,000

Let's start with students, most of whom are first-time buyers obviously. But not all first-time buyers are students (I'll take them separately because they tend to have a higher budget).

A lot of students complain about the cost of, and time consumed by, public transport especially if they have to get two buses to and from college.

They want something small, cheap-to-run and tax so they are independent of rosters and can, maybe, have pals chip in the petrol money to reduce overall outlay. The problem is they are almost universally restricted by budget. So let's assume they can scrape €5,000 together.

I'm going to be conservative and stick with cars for reliability and proven records rather than age. You are better off going that route even though there will be high mileage involved. Do not buy or even look at a car without a comprehensive service history. Would you expect to get a job with no CV?

In no particular order I'd suggest the main menu comprises well-minded petrol versions of superminis such as a Toyota Yaris, Nissan Micra, Peugeot 206, Hyundai i20, Honda Jazz, Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio, Mazda2, Opel Corsa, Renault Clio, Skoda Fabia, SEAT Ibiza, Suzuki Swift, Volkswagen Polo.

The Yaris, Jazz, 206, Fabia, Fiesta, i20 and Polo would be high on my list. The Micra is eternally popular and I think the Swift could do a job for you too. And watch out for a fresh Mitsubishi Colt - great little car but not madly popular on the used circuit. Could be a bargain.

Remember: Have the car thoroughly checked out by a technician/engineer. Get a six-month warranty.

Wanted: First-time buyer's car

Not wanted: Trouble

Budget: €12,000

I'd be trawling much the same pool of superminis as for students - but obviously the models would be of a much more recent vintage as the price threshold rises to €12,000. That's on the presumption you have a job, full- or part-time, and can afford a newer motor.

For female buyers especially I have to add the option of a good used MINI (expensive but rock-solid re-sale values) while the likes of a new Dacia Sandero can also be considered for that sort of money.

You won't get an awful lot new for €12,000 but you will get some excellent newer secondhand smaller city cars. Some might be touch-and-go on our budget but look for Hyundai's i10, the Volkswagen up!, Toyota Aygo, Kia Picanto, Peugeot 108, Citroen C1, SEAT Mii and Skoda Citygo.

Remember: Don't be swayed by talk of diesel. Stick with petrols in all these cars. And get them thoroughly checked over.

Wanted: New car for 'empty nesters'

Not really wanted: Big Saloons

Budget: €25,000-€35,000

Many people trading down these days are looking for smaller cars, certainly, but they want something with a bit of style/class as well. They are easing up a little but wish to enjoy their driving.

Towards the upper end of the scale I've recommended the Audi A3 saloon to a good few people - good room for humans and golf bags - and they are quite happy with their purchase. I also have to include the Mercedes CLA 4dr coupe - great in red by the way. Smart car. The BMW 2-series coupe is classy as well. And I like the Lexus CT200h hybrid. The Toyota Auris hybrid is another that surprises people.

Back down the money scale a little and you'd have to consider a well-specced Volkswagen Golf or a Volvo V40 while the likes of the Honda Civic, Ford Focus, the new Hyundai i30 and Skoda Octavia are really decent motors when you get into the upper trim-level versions.

And then you have the mid-size/large-ish crossovers to think about. Hard to pass the Nissan Qashqai, though the Skoda Yeti has to be on your list. Ford's Kuga, the Honda CR-V, Toyota Rav4, Hyundai ix35, Mazda CX-5 are among others well worthy of note. They tend to mostly have diesel engines but some have decent petrols.

Remember: Boot space - for the golf clubs - is an important element for people. Check.

Wanted: New car for families

Not wanted: lack of space

Budget: €30,000-€40,000

The old reliable saloons all leap to mind at the same time here from the Ford Mondeo to the Volkswagen Passat to the new Avensis from Toyota and revised i40 from Hyundai. They're the four big sellers followed by the Opel Insignia, the huge Skoda Superb and classy, if slightly expensive, Mazda6.

Sales of these cars fell for a while but have swung back dramatically. Still, families looking for more room/versatility can also look elsewhere. The Ford S-Max, for example, is a car I rate and though it doesn't hint at a lot of room, it's there.

The Citroen C4 Picasso (7-seater Grand) is in demand because it has three child-seat slots on the back/middle row. These are the sort of cars people need on a practical basis. The Mazda5 is an option because it has sliding rear doors and the Opel Zafira, Peugeot 3008/5008, Renault Scenic and Toyota Verso all tick the practicality and versatility boxes. The Volkswagen Touran (there's a new one on the way) is one of the best examples of practicality lasting the years.

There is life in the old MPV yet.

Remember: The big test is ease of access, especially if there are three rows (7-seaters). Check and check again.

Irish Independent

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