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I need a car that can take three child seats; I need a big-mileage car; what about estates?

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When the school run starts you might need the extra room

When the school run starts you might need the extra room

When the school run starts you might need the extra room

I put up a big number of miles every month. I currently drive an 2008 1.8-litre diesel Mondeo 210,000km. It's a good car but we have had some issues with it lately and seem to have to spend more money on it.

I am thinking of changing to one that can do high mileage, is solid on the road and is fuel efficient. What would you recommend? I see the new Mondeo is coming out and Passat and also the Mazda6 but are they fuel efficient? Would I be better going for a smaller car?

Aidan: Great strides have been made with engine technology because the chief requirement for most prospective buyers is to extract the best economy figure from their engine without having to compromise their driving styles too much.

As a result, there really isn't a hugely discernible difference in the fuel efficiency between different manufacturers' family saloons.

However, if your car will be expected to cover great distances on motorways, there is a convincing argument to be made for opting for a larger engine capacity as it works less to achieve and maintain motorway speeds.

The new Mondeo has a 1.5-litre and 1.6-litre diesel option but in my opinion the 2.0 TDCi is the pick of the bunch. The same goes for the new Passat.

The Mazda6 only comes as a 2.2 diesel and is further evidence that a big engine can still return appropriate efficiency figures. It's important to have something substantial around you when covering vast distances; both from a comfort and safety perspective. You're on the right track with your choices; it's now about finding the one that's right for you. But that is a personal choice.

Eddie: If you are thinking of going smaller then I'd look at the Skoda Octavia, Ford Focus saloon or Toyota Corolla.

They all have excellent engines - from 1.4-litre, 1.6-litre to 2-litre diesels - and they are frugal as well as being peppy (less weight to move around).

I like all three for the following reasons: they have a mix of space, drive and flexibility. And they have good track records.

 

We have an 04 Astra; we have two children and might be having a third. With this in mind we are thinking of changing this car for more seats. Can you recommend a car that would carry three baby seats and have decent boot space. The two we have looked at so far are the Ford S-Max and the Seat Alhambra.

Aidan: Both the S-Max and SEAT Alhambra are fine choices with three ISOFIX points. They are predominantly seven seaters but you don't necessarily need seven seats.

That said, it's always sensible to future proof your needs and when the school run starts you might need the extra room for friends. The S-Max is a firm favourite for its styling and functionality. Engines are strong too.

The SEAT Alhambra has a sliding rear door that makes entering and alighting from the rear seats trouble free.

It also safeguards against accidentally opening the car door against another car in tight parking spaces.

Just like the S-Max the two rearmost seats can be folded to create a larger luggage area.

The Mazda5 also benefits from a rear sliding door, a frugal 1.6 TDi engine and lots of boot space.

However, if the car covers short distances then a petrol MPV could be useful. The Mazda5 comes with a 1.8-litre petrol unit that is surprisingly capable.

Here's a rare one from left field; the Skoda Roomster. Stylistically it isn't everybody's cup of tea but it has three ISOFIX seats.

Boot space won't be as ample as the 7-seat options listed but if you can make it work, you can buy a much fresher registration plate than the other models listed.

Eddie: Would you consider the Citroen C4 Picasso or the seven-seat Grand version?

Families like them because you can get three child seats across the second row.

That would appear to be a big selling point for you. And as Aidan says you may not need the seven seats, so the smaller of the two might suit you and you still get your three ISOFIXs.

 

Can you please recommend cars that would fit the following criteria: five doors, petrol, not automatic, high off ground for ease of access, €20,000 - €25,000, mainly for city driving?

I've looked at the Qashqai though think it is too big. Likewise the Hyundai 135. I have yet to test drive the Hyundai ix 20. I am currently driving a Citreon C4 and would want a car of similar horse power.

Aidan: Brakehorse power is really only one part of the power equation with weight providing another significant part.

The 1.4 petrol engine in the Hyundai ix20 produces 90bhp which is ample in a car of its size.

The Deluxe model includes a good level of equipment and with your budget you have the added luxury of being able to order a new one to your own specification.

However, it's not quite the same height as a Qashqai.

Nissan's Juke is a little closer to the mark. Your budget will see you in a top specification SVE model with a 1.2 petrol engine that produces 115bhp.

If you want to stay with Citroen, the new C4 Cactus has a 1.2-litre 3cyl engine that produces 82bhp.

That sounds like a lot less compared with the Nissan Juke but the C4 Cactus is very light thanks to its new Airbump technology (rubber panels on the front and side).

The Peugeot 2008 is also a sensible choice. It's got a 1.2 petrol engine with 82bhp and its seating position is lovely and tall.

Your budget will buy you a top spec Allure model which is generously garnished with lots of technological goodies; both for entertainment and safety.

All of the suggestions should perform similarly or better than your C4.

 

I own a 08 Passat saloon 2-litre TDI and I may be changing in 2015. I rather like the idea of buying the estate. For the purpose of a discussion can you give me a few good reasons why a person should buy the estate rather than the saloon.

Eddie: First off I happen to think the Passat estate looks better than the saloon - that is a personal opinion.

Of course the inside is the same as the saloon, and I think they have made an excellent job of the cabin.

In the estate, you get more unobstructed space and flexibility to carry stuff because when you drop/fold the rear seats you really do have a flat-bed of a cargo area.

Or you can leave a section of the back seats up, thereby carrying a passenger and still able to take a long awkward piece of luggage on board as well.

So practicality is the big selling point from a user's point of view.

For a family there is a lot of flexibility; if you're going on holidays or have an outdoor lifestyle, an estate of this size can be transformed.

Not everyone wants a people carrier; and not everyone wants a SUV.

An estate is a cross between the two.

We don't buy an awful lot of estates here. In Europe they can make up more than half a model's sales; in some cases more.

There is a downside to this for an Irish estate in that you mightn't get as good a trade-in as you would for the saloon. By the same token, a well-minded one in a relatively scarce market could command a decent, possibly premium, price.

Advice: we're here to help you

We are thrilled so many of you contact us with queries about what cars you should buy. We can't get to them all and some are of such a common theme that we feel we deal with many at one fell swoop.

We try to reply to as many as we can both privately and publicly. And we certainly appreciate your kind words.

We never disclose a name or locality (unless you insist) but we need as much detail as possible.

The better the information you give us the better we can advise you.

Eddie Cunningham and Aidan Timmons

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).

Email: ecunningham@independent.ie

Irish Independent