Boot for golf bags? Seats for children? Buy petrol?
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 currently have an 07 Mazda6 1.8 petrol with 106k on the clock. Most of my driving is the urban commute to work with longer distances being mainly weekend trips during the summer months. Under these conditions I had read that a petrol car was preferable to diesel as diesel cars needed mileage to justify the extra cost and to ensure filters don't get blocked.
I've been thinking of trading up but there seems to be dearth of petrol cars available. While I really like the new Mazda6, it would be my third Mazda6 in a row and I think I'd like a change.
Recently I have looked at the Volvo S60 and Hyundai i40 but they too all seem to be diesels only. An Audi A4 is probably out of my price range.
Is there something I am missing or is the petrol dead in the size of car I'm looking for?
Aidan: As petrol advocates, myself and Eddie's job is getting tougher as it has been seven years since petrol cars ruled the roost. Now, they represent around 25pc of the new car market and when superminis are extracted from total petrol vehicle sales, it leaves very little for other segments.
Have you thought about the Toyota Prius? It would consume very little for your urban commute and still remain fuel efficient on motorway cruises.
Admittedly you will lose some space compared to the Mazda6 but on a cost and suitability basis it ticks the right boxes.
Or perhaps try the Lexus CT200h. It's an acquired taste but certainly up to the task. Or maybe shop in the used market.
There were some Audi A5 and A5 Sportbacks sold with 1.8 and 2.0 litre petrol engines. They will be rare but potentially keenly priced and could have very low mileage.
Pity the Mercedes CLA has not been out for longer. It would be ideal for you. With all of that said, if you can guarantee that the car will get regular blasts for prolonged periods on motorways, then I think a diesel car could be fine. Besides, as DPFs become the mainstay, their replacement will become cheaper. What do you think, Eddie?
Eddie: Volkswagen have decided to sell the 1.4-litre TSI petrol (125bhp, €270 road tax) here in their new Passat - it has been a while since the car had one as you point out elsewhere, Aidan. It will suit this reader I think.
Prices start at €27,295 for the saloon. There is also a 150bhp version (with Active Cylinder Technology, which shuts off two of the engine's four-cylinders when not required) and it starts at €35,145 in Highline trim.
I am looking to upgrade my car and my budget is €10k-€12k. I currently drive a petrol 02 Opel Astra. My annual mileage is 10k-12k. I am looking for a 5dr with five seats. My only real need is a decent boot size for golf clubs and gear.
My preference would be for a petrol car but the older petrol models are higher tax compared to diesel cars. I have been looking at Opel Insignia and Ford Mondeo and Ford Focus. Considering my annual mileage, would you advise a diesel or petrol car and any advice on what to go for?
Aidan: I usually like to give a few options but I will stick with just one in this instance; the Honda Civic. I am an avid golfer and empathise with your concerns over boot space.
The Civic has a brilliant trick in the form of 'cinema style' rear seats. The whole rear bench folds upwards to accommodate bulky objects. It would be ideal for a golf bag and would ensure grass and muck is kept at floor level.
That leaves the boot totally free to swallow an electric golf cart and a gear bag.
The Civic comes with a 1.4 petrol engine which I find ever-so slightly gutless but you might think it is fine.
If you do not mind paying a bit more in motor tax, I recommend the 1.8 petrol version instead. It will not be under as much strain if you decide to carry playing partners and their golf gear too. You can carry them to the course so they can carry you on the course.
Eddie: Why not think about a smart-looking estate? You'll never be short of room because you can drop the rear seats too.
I'd look at the following: Kia cee'd SW, Ford Focus, Peugeot 308SW, Skoda Octavia Combi. . . I've a feeling that's the way to go.
My husband and I are senior citizens. We are driving a VW Jetta (09) 1.6 petrol. We would like to change to something, maybe a similar higher spec Jetta or Passat 132 or 141. What price should we expect to pay? We have a budget of about €18,000. We do about 5,000 miles per year.
We want comfortable seats. We find seats in our car too low and difficult to get out of. Any suggestions?
Aidan: First, Volkswagen stopped offering petrol variants of the Passat in 2012 so, save for the odd straggler that snuck into 2013, you might find it a tall order to get your hands on a very fresh Passat.
The Jetta was and still is available with 1.2 and 1.4 TSi petrol engines but if you find the seats in your Jetta slightly too low, then a newer model will not be any improvement.
Perhaps a Skoda Roomster would be suitable. New 1.2 petrol models in the highest grade 'Elegance' trim level cost less than €19,000.
The Roomster has a peculiar shape that some find takes adjusting to but it has a tall seating position, high spec, solid engine and you can afford to buy new which gives you full manufacturer's warranty for three years.
Peugeot's 2008 is a lovely motor. It too has a 1.2 petrol engine and Active models comes generously kitted. The newest shape Nissan Note is worth considering as your budget will buy a brand new high-grade version.
The three cars I have mentioned are known as 'Mini MPVs', I think this is an area of the market that could provide most options for you.
Eddie: Would you consider an Opel Meriva? It's a grand little people carrier with hip-height seats and several people have praised it to me on that front. Okay it is a lot smaller than your Jetta or Passat but how much room do you need?
We have a budget of around €15,000 and cover 20,000km a year. We require a car/SUV that can take three child car seats; 4WD would be a bonus as we live in a hilly area prone to snow.
Aidan: Typically, seven seat four wheel drives at the €15,000 budget means that you might need to compromise on the age, mileage and motor tax charge of the vehicle.
Although it depends on whether you need three ISOFIX points or not.
It might be worth testing vehicles such as the Ford Kuga, Honda CRV and Hyundai Santa Fe.
The latter was offered with seven seats and your budget could stretch to a 2009 four-wheel drive model. If you can sacrifice four wheel drive, you will have more options with MPVs.
The Peugeot 5008 comes into play here. It's got a frugal 1.6 diesel engine, low tax, three ISOFIX points and seven seats. You should find 2010 models are available at this price.
The Citroen C4 Grand Picasso is just as capable as the 5008 but your budget goes a little further and you might find cars as young as 2011 models are attainable.
There are lots of them too, so you can afford to shop around.
Eddie: Great choices Aidan. If the core requirement is the three child seats, the Picasso springs to mind immediately. The older Qashqai+2 would also fit the bill.
Aidan often uses the phrase 'future proofing' - giving yourself room to manoeuvre in the years ahead so if you have to spend a bit more on something a little larger/roomier now is the time to do it.