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'.
We currently have a 2002 Toyota Land Cruiser 3-litre diesel (8-seater). Unfortunately, two of the seatbelts are just across the waist of the passengers. We still need eight seats. Our annual mileage would be approximately 12,000km - 15,000km. We have found the Land Cruiser reliable and trustworthy but we are finding it difficult to find even a three-year-old or a four-year-old Toyota SUV which has eight seats. What would you recommend? We have approximately €40,000 to spend.
Aidan: Your options are very limited. Either hold out for another eight-seater Land Cruiser or eschew the SUV in favour of a large people carrier/minibus.
The Volkswagen Shuttle is a popular choice on the continent and offers a refined drive and enormous flexibility. It is available as an eight-seater and is typically used to transport business people or groups of golfers in comfort.
If you want to retain the four wheel drive attributes of the Land Cruiser, the Shuttle comes with 4Motion but you will have to buy a used model as the prices start beyond your budget.
Ford's Tourneo Custom Kombi is a great choice too. Your budget will get you a lovely 125bhp Trend model which costs just €570 to tax annually.
Vehicles of this nature have come a long way in recent years. They retain the boxy commercial vehicle look upon which their chassis is based but aesthetic creases and lines along with excellent engines and transmissions make for more pleasant ownership.
Eddie: I agree with Aidan, you don't have great choice on large SUVs. I think you may have to go the MPV/minibus route too. I've driven the Ford Tourneo. It's hugely spacious and functional - if you can stand the looks.
However, I may have a 'left-field' solution. Would you consider the Citroen Dispatch Combi SX? It hasn't got eight seats - it has nine. And the outer seats in rows Two and Three have Isofix, child-seat, mountings. It has a fine diesel, a 6spd gearbox and lashings of room. And it costs around the €37,000 mark.
It's not what you were expecting, perhaps, but the SUV alternatives are limited.
I would really appreciate your advice for my next car purchase. I currently have a 2009 Volkswagen Golf 2-litre diesel with 170,000km on the clock.
I do a lot of mileage for work (600km a week) and want to replace my car. It must be a diesel and economical and I have €15,000 to spend but could stretch to €20,000 plus whatever I get as a trade in. I would like something slightly bigger as I have teenagers and do a lot of driving them around at weekends etc. I'm not sure whether to go for the Golf again, or the Audi A3 or A4 or possibly a Volvo. I would appreciate any advice.
Aidan: Considering that you clock around 30,000 kilometres a year, a fresh used car or a new model is preferred. If stretching to €20,000 along with your trade-in puts you under some financial pressure then drop back to €17,000 or so and buy any one of the numerous 141/142 registered models.
I think that a 2.0 litre diesel engine is the way to go. Long motorway cruises are that bit more effortless with a larger capacity engine.
It might not seem appealing considering there is a new model out now but the Mondeo 2.0 TDCi is a super car. It has a torquey and fuel efficient motor and if you find a five-door hatchback version you will have loads of boot space.
A lot of buyers opted for higher specification Titanium models which features enough goodies to keep you occupied and energised after a long spin.
The Skoda Superb is an enormous car. Interior space is very generous and the boot has two opening mechanisms which means it can operate like a saloon or a hatchback.
Opt for the Ambition spec at a minimum but if your budget allows, the Elegance trim level provides additional comforts.
If you do not mind dropping back to a 1.6 TDi engine then this brings lots of ex-demo Skoda Octavias. For me, the pick of the bunch is a 2.0 TDi Elegance DSG but its list price starts at just over €30,000. However, a 1.6 TDi Ambition DSG at circa €28,000 is a fine choice too.
Here's one from slightly out of left field; how about a SEAT Leon ST? It's the estate version of the Leon and is hugely practical. Prices for a 1.6 TDi SE 105bhp version with DSG start at just under €27,000.
Keep your ear to the ground for an ex-demo 2.0 TDi FR version. It has 150bhp and might suit your long journeys better.
Eddie: What about a Toyota Corolla? It's one of the roomiest cars in that segment and will go forever. I'm conscious you'll need decent boot size with the teens and this has it in abundance. And the 1.4-litre diesel engine remains one of the best and most frugal around - ideal for your high mileage.
I'm just a little concerned about you 'stretching' to €20,000. I am asking you to do no such thing. This is how people end up feeling the pinch in other areas. I'm aware of several instances where people thought they'd have no bother but they had because life has a habit of hitting harder when you're stretched.
I'm looking for advice on our next family car. We have a budget of around €8,000 plus trade-in below. Our annual mileage is roughly 11,000km. Something like a Peugeot 3008 or similar (five seats and automatic) would be ideal. We currently drive a 2010 Citroen 5-seat Picasso VTR+ with 59,000kms on the clock. Reading your column I believe a petrol would suit our annual mileage.
Aidan: Strictly speaking, you do not require a diesel car but you will find that your preferences and your budget will only yield diesel models.
The Mazda 5 switched from being a 1.8 petrol to a 1.6 litre diesel in 2010. The Toyota Verso took a similar route. Unfortunately, the Toyota Prius+ is a little too fresh to come in on budget.
Considering you need an automatic transmission you might find that your options are dictated by whatever is available to a much greater extent than usual. Citroen C4 Picassos are generally more common and desirable when they are the seven seat Grand versions but your mileage and specification will stand in your favour.
If you do not fancy a newer registration plate C4 Picasso then the Peugeot 3008 is an excellent choice. Personally, I am not overly enamoured by the Ecomatic transmission but if you like it then that is all that matters.
Expect your budget to land you in a 2012 model. Almost all 3008s sold in Active trim which includes air con, cruise control and a multi functional steering wheel. Its 1.6 HDi engine will perform similarly to your C5 Picasso so expect it to be frugal and refined.
The 3008 is a competent performer on the used car market and it represents a sensible purchase in terms of its residual values. I see no reason in deviating from this choice. Had you not mentioned it, it would have been my first recommendation.
If you can stomach a manual car again, your options broaden exponentially. Toyota's Verso, Volkswagen's Touran and Ford's CMax come in on budget. The DSG gearbox in the Touran is a slick transmission.
Eddie: The 3008 is a good option. It's a car that's underrated, I think.
If you reckon you'd prefer a petrol here's a runner from left field. How about a Skoda Yeti with one of the smaller petrol engines in it? There is an automatic version. You'd have to go back the years a little, maybe, but you'll find more room for your family and not be spending diesel money on a car you're only going to drive 11,000km a year.