Car for our tight parking space? MAX-ing out? A sports car for €60k?
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 have a 2007 Ford Focus Zetec 5dr and park in a really tight underground parking space. I would like to upgrade to an SUV type vehicle but it would need to be of similar dimensions to the Focus. Have you any suggestions for SUVs that would meet those criteria? I don't use my car very much (I bought it new and there is a total of just under 29,000km on the clock). My budget could be around €25,000 along with the trade-in of the Focus.
Aidan: A 2007 Focus Zetec with 29,000 kilometres? Before we go anywhere, hold out for a good price on that. If it has been properly looked after (and I presume it has), and the bodywork is in good condition, then you should expect prospective buyers trying to take your hand along with it. That's astonishingly low mileage and would suit lots of our readers who ask about quality used cars on a limited budget.
Now, back to your question. You might find B segment SUVs will best suit your spatial constraints. So, start with the Renault Captur. It's a nice machine that can be bought with a little petrol engine and a broad range of specification options; too many to go into right now. However, look at the Intense model as a starting point. There is a good mix of colour combinations with the Captur so you won't fail in finding something to suit your palette. I happen to really like the Honda HR-V. It's a very stylish car with all the attributes you need from it. It's not too big, but still very spacious; and it has a great 1.5 litre petrol engine. Go for the ES model. While not as tall or SUV-like as the others, the Peugeot 2008 is an accomplished little package and might suit you. The 1.2 petrol engine is frugal and cheap to tax, and the seating position is still upright enough to provide you with a clear field of view in traffic. Active models are most popular and come with an excellent level of standard equipment. Even if you go for the highest grade Allure model, you should still have enough change to cover your insurance and fuel costs for a couple of years.
Eddie: This is a little bit like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole on two fronts. If it is tight with your Focus for parking now, no SUV is going to make it easier (and Aidan has given a great selection there). I happen to think you are throwing away money by going SUV. You've got a 'new' Focus with hardly any mileage and, as Aidan correctly points out, it's a dream buy for someone. I don't think you need an SUV. My advice would be to buy a new Focus. You'll get a great trade-in price and your parking constrictions won't get any worse. Sorry for being so blunt but I think you are making more problems for yourself.
We are thinking of updating our Ford Focus C-MAX 1.6 (05, 105,000kms). We recently test drove a C-MAX 1.6 diesel Titanium 2012 with about 40,000kms; nice car, €17,500 with €2,000 trade-in for ours. I said we were paying cash but we could not get more discount.
B-MAX seems to be cheaper than C-MAX. Apart from the sliding doors/height of cabin on the B-MAX is there any other difference? We are thinking of trading up and not spending more than €15,000. What is the best option realistically for us in your opinion? Should we consider a different vehicle altogether? We like the higher ride in these cars as it's easier for both adult and child to get in.
Aidan: This is an excellent case of assessing value for money. You are being asked to pay €15,500 to come up seven years and into a top specification model with below average mileage. That works out at just over €2,000 a year to change. Sounds reasonable enough to me. I wouldn't question it much more but if you can wrestle a few more quid out of the deal then it's always worth a shot. Be careful, though. Low mileage, well kept, dealer retailed cars don't hang about long in this price bracket.
The B-MAX is built on the Fiesta chassis, the C-MAX on the Focus. So, there is an inherent size difference. However, there are three of you and the B-MAX is probably all the car you need at the moment. By the time any more little ones come along (if at all, of course), then you can reassess the situation at that stage. I like people to future-proof their car needs but I can't see you outgrowing a B-MAX anytime soon. As for the best option? Well, you've just chosen two strong candidates for a reliable family car. You should also consider the Opel Meriva. It doesn't have rear sliding doors like the B-MAX but they open outwards from the B-pillar (middle of the car), which makes getting in and out a lot easier and especially with children's seats, etc.
However, I think you will expand your options exponentially if you look to the likes of crossovers, such as the Nissan Qashqai, Hyundai ix35 and KIA Sportage. You seem to want another MPV but there are other segments that offer you the ride height and accessibility you desire. Your budget will probably rule out the ix35 and Sportage but there are loads of Qashqais around. In case you're not au fait with the engines and specifications to look out for, opt for a 1.5 diesel in XE trim. You should find 2012 models are on budget. Expect to pay a little premium for an SVE model.
Eddie: The B-MAX hasn't fared well on the sales front but I reckon it is an ideal buy for you - with one caveat. You may not get as good a trade-in price for it in three or four years time, simply because it hasn't sold that well and there won't be such demand for them. You may not be in as strong a bargaining position as you are with your current car. On that basis, buy the C-MAX; you know the car and you are trading like-for-like.
Could you give me a choice of three sports cars for €60,000 please? Should I go petrol or diesel? No trade-in; 12,000kms a year. Mostly for weekends and outings.
Aidan: While there is always a degree of subjectivity when it comes to choosing the right mass market car, sports cars are even more niche and tastes can differ wildly.
Also, choice is pretty limited and so I sometimes tend to group sports cars with other 'performance cars' that might not necessarily strictly adhere to the 'sports car' definition; which is flawed in its own right anyway. But as a bit of a box ticking exercise, let's consider some new models and a few used ones, because your mileage won't cripple you with running a car with a big engine. Start with the Audi TT because it's recently been revised and has a range of great engines. I'm a bit of a puritan when it comes to these things so I would opt for petrol. The TT's interior is stunning and if you go this route then you must have Audi's virtual cockpit. It's a large LCD screen in place of a conventional clock cluster.
The Mercedes SLC comes in on budget, too. Like the Audi, it is a quality built machine but regular models might not give you the performance you are looking for. What about an older Porsche 911? Something from the 1990s era would fit your budget. Look for a 911 (993) Turbo.
Even a naturally aspirated Porsche produces great thrills. They require a little looking after but buy the right one and you will have made a motoring investment.
A brand new latest model RS3 exceeds your budget but hold off for another bit and buy it as a one-year-old. It has a stunning five cylinder 2.5 petrol engine and I reckon it is about the best value performance car on the market.
And while this might seem an odd choice for someone with €60,000, a brand new MX-5 is probably perfect for you. You will have loads of change and still get to drive one of the best engine/chassis set-ups in the market. Honestly, give the MX-5 some serious consideration.
Eddie: I agree with Aidan on the MX-5 but have an instinct you won't go that route. You could make a real statement and go full-on with a Honda Civic TYPE-R, a wonderfully accomplished petrol powerhouse, or you could look at the Volkswagen Golf R (totally understated).
You will get noticed with the former; not so much with the latter. I also really like the BMW 4-series Coupe. And yes, go petrol.
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).