Tuesday 20 March 2018

Company car? Move on up? Know what I want? Quit 3-series? Comfort comes first?

The new Volvo XC60 would be a great option for a company car
The new Volvo XC60 would be a great option for a company car

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 may soon be able to avail of a company car. I am currently driving a 06 Passat (260k on the clock); well minded. We will probably pass it on to family. My wife drives a VW Touran 152: perfect for our three children (6, 4 and 8 months). I commute 15km/day, with longer drives occasionally. I am looking for a nice professional car: Audi A6, BMW 3 or 5 series. Would also be open to a SUV but prefer a saloon. Have to get at least one set of golf clubs in the boot, as well as occasional transport of children. I'm unsure of budget for company car: generous but probably not excessive. Might be interested in a hybrid. We are open to getting a meter at home. There is an ESB charging station near work. Would be interested in going hybrid too for the cost benefit and feel is the way forward.

Aidan: Don't forget your company car will be liable for Benefit in Kind (BIK). You might not be able, or want to go too wild with your purchase. The business might also use a fleet operator for company cars so instead of providing you with limitless scope, you might be given a menu from which to choose. If there is a car allowance so you can shop the market, all the better. In theory, an electric car suits you but in the absence of a selection of premium all-electric vehicles, you might be better off with a hybrid or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV). Even then, you have scant choice at the luxury end of the market. Look at the Mercedes C350 E. It is a PHEV and theoretically what you are after. Speak with your local Mercedes dealer about one as it is probably a special-order vehicle.

However, if your company insists on sharpening the pencil, then consider bargaining yourself into a fully loaded, premium specification Lexus IS300h. A petrol 5-Series or A6, while right for you, might be jumping the gun on the petrol car resurgence. Go for the Lexus IS300h, NX300h, or a nicely kitted Audi A4 with the 2.0 litre petrol engine.

Eddie: As Aidan wisely points out you are in the dark on what you can get. At my most optimistic I'd say go for the best car I've driven for a long time, the Mercedes E-Class (E220d). I'm not as enamoured of the new BMW 5-series - good but not great - yet a real option; or the Jaguar XF which is vastly underrated. But my instinct is for you to lower your sights to more realistic company outlay. How about a sweet 2-litre petrol BMW 3-series? Lovely drive. Or, if you'd like an SUV, the new Volvo XC60 (here for 172-reg) would be an excellent choice. I'd forget about electrics for now.

Present car: Ford Focus 2007, 160k miles. We do 15k/20k miles a year. Would like to move to a 2014. Total budget €10k/€12k after trade-in. We live in the country, are in our mid-70s and would like to change to a 3-back-seater small to medium sized car. Good boot size is important. Higher front seats would be a plus. We want low road tax and good MPG.

Aidan: You mention your annual mileage as 'miles' but your 2007 Focus should read-out in kilometres (if it's Irish), so I wonder if you mean kilometres instead. The reason I draw the distinction is you don't really need a diesel if you cover that amount in km. To be safe, let's consider both. I think the Hyundai ix20 is worth considering. There is a 1.4 petrol and 1.4 diesel. You will need the upper reaches of your budget to buy a 2014 plate diesel model, though. The ix20 has a tall seating position and good interior space but it is tidy for around town or in tight car parks. Look at an Opel Meriva, too. Perhaps the pick of the bunch for you will be the Honda Jazz. Petrol is your only option here but it ticks all the boxes; good seat height, decent boot, and just about on budget.

Eddie: The Jazz is my choice too but I think you'll do better if you traded your Ford against another. That raises the prospect of a B-MAX. This is a small people carrier without a middle pillar - great for getting into and out of the back. Lovely driving position. It has been a near-total flop on the new and used market so you should get one at a good price.

I'm thinking of buying but I want you to know what I don't want. I don't want manual transmission or diesel engine, a car that's too low or too high because I drive my mum. My car is a 1-litre 2011 Yaris Sport petrol (97,000km). I want to buy electric, hybrid or crossover 5dr free from all noise, comfortable seats that fold flat easily, wide opening doors, good boot with spare wheel, safest with highest EuroNcap ratings, value for money and good residual value. I hope I haven't left anything out. Eddie, how will you and Aidan sort this one out?

Aidan: You left out your budget.

Anyway, buy the Toyota C-HR 1.8 hybrid in Luna Sport trim. Being a hybrid, it is an automatic. As a compact SUV it is neither too tall nor small. It is a well-insulated, comfortable car with a good boot. It comes with a tyre repair kit and I am unsure if you can add a spare as an optional extra. Ask your dealer. Check the EuroNCap website to confirm it but my research showed that the C-HR got a 5-Star safety rating for adult occupants. If you can forego the hybrid, then buy a Peugeot 2008 1.2 petrol Active model with the Ecomatique gearbox.

Eddie: Look at the new KIA Niro hybrid crossover. It is less curvy than the Toyota C-HR but it ticks a lot of your boxes - Want and Don't Want - including being an 'automatic'. There are many options out there and they all do a good job. But I think you'd like Niro. You'll pay around €30,000 but it is really well specced.

I drive about 80 miles a day; a mix of cross country and city traffic, with regular crawling along the M50 at 5mph. I have a 2006 BMW E90 petrol 1.6 averaging about 45mpg. I own my car and will probably use it as a trade-in.

I am hoping to upgrade a few years with a budget of about €7,500 and am trying to decide on diesel, hybrid or even electric. The alternative is I keep my current car for a few more years.

Aidan: Impressive mpg from the old E90. Not sure about using the car as a trade-in. Might be better to sell it privately and shop as a cash customer.

It is a tough call to determine a suitable replacement at this budget. You might be better off with the devil you know than the one you don't. Maybe consider saving a few more euro and really making the move worthwhile. But if you have an itch to jump then my go-to model for reliability at this price is the Mazda6. Find a nice 2010 1.8 litre, 5dr in Executive SE or Sport trim and you will do well. Same goes for a 1.8 litre petrol Honda Civic. If they are too thirsty sounding, look at a petrol 1 Series BMW or even a Mini Cooper.

Eddie: You sound like an owner who minds his car and hasn't had much trouble. But, an 11-year-old it isn't going to command much money as a trade-in. Hold onto it for another year. Used-car prices are falling. You'll hopefully save a few more euro. Your Beemer can't lose much more value so waiting a year it is win-win.

With a budget of €30,000 and annual mileage of 20,000km what vehicle would you recommend if my priorities were comfort, quiet cabin, good suspension on poor road surfaces. I'm not fussy about make or type or spending less. I'm single, in my fifties and won't have a trade-in.

Aidan: Here are a few options across a broad spectrum of new and used. Spend a bit less and buy a new or ex-demo Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDi in something like a Style model. Get one with the automatic DSG gearbox, too. Or, venture into premium and buy an Audi A3 saloon 1.6 TDi S'Tronic in SE trim. S-Line models might be a bit firm on pimply road surfaces.

The A3 saloon is a gem; as is the 1 Series. A 116 diesel with the auto box would be ideal for you. You won't go wrong in a Mazda3 saloon either. The 1.5 diesel in Platinum is the way to go. Or, blow the budget, go a bit mad; and treat yourself to the 2.2 diesel engine with 150bhp.

Eddie: Without hesitation I'd buy a new-ish Mazda6 for around the €28,000/€30,000 mark. You are doing decent mileage so the 2.2-litre diesel is spot on. It's an expensive car to buy new but you'll do well on a fresh used one.


We love getting your enquiries but can't reply to all queries in as full a manner as we do here.

We try to deal with as many as possible via email. But you can help us help you if you make sure you 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).


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