Stick with diesel? Pulling power? Cheap car for daughter?
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 don't know if I should go with my instinct or change. I am planning on trading up from my Toyota Auris 1.4 diesel and am sorely tempted to get another one as I do a lot of driving. It has about 150,000km on the clock now. I bought it from new.
But I have been reading a lot, and Eddie was raving about, the new 1.2-litre petrol that Toyota has recently brought on to the market and I was wondering should I switch. I usually am on my own in the car but occasionally I have a passenger.
Aidan: You didn't include the age of your vehicle but I don't think it matters. Stick with diesel. Want to know why? Because of my mam. No really, hear me out. My mother is a typical petrol hatchback driver. She owns a 152-plate Toyota Auris 1.2 (Eddie is right, it's a great car) and she will barely cover 8,000 kilometres for every year that she keeps it.
But my mam is not alone. Lots of buyers of this engine will cover similarly short distances.
Now, imagine both you and my mam trade your cars back into the market at the same time. Yours has 150,000kms (presuming your annual mileage remains unchanged) and my mam's car, along with many other petrol Auris', has less than half that.
You are putting yourself at an unnecessary disadvantage in terms of residual values. Like it or not, but in order for a 150,000 kilometre petrol Auris to be attractive, it will have to be really cheap.
Furthermore, diesel costs less at the pumps, and on long motorway spins, which I presume you are predisposed to considering your present odometer reading; you will reap more benefits.
The new-shape Auris is a nice car. The interior has been substantially upgraded and the complete package is an attractive proposition in terms of value for money.
The Auris is a strong performer on the used-car market and many buyers are undeterred by diesel Toyotas with big odometers, as yours will have. There is always a market for a well-kept Toyota.
In the interest of keeping your options open, give the new Kia cee'd a moment of your time. It looks great and has been revamped. You get a lengthy seven-year warranty, which buys you a lot of peace of mind. The same goes for Hyundai's i30 - five years in its case.
The usual big players deserve a mention, too. Ford Focus, VW Golf, Opel's excellent new Astra, Peugeot 308 and so on. You will probably end up in a diesel Auris and quite frankly, it's probably the right car for you.
Eddie: No doubt on this one; it's a diesel for you. Even allowing for the excellence of the Auris petrol, the one area where diesels continue to outscore is the level of engine revolutions at higher/motorway speed. And as Aidan has correctly, I think deduced, your commute comprises its fair share of such driving.
I have not doubt that in a few years petrols will catch up in this area too. And then we'll have a real dilemma in deciding which to advice. But for now, it's diesel for you.
Give the ones he mentioned a good test but the chances are you will get a better trade-in deal with a Toyota dealer. But still worthy trying the others.
I am a mechanic in a small garage in the west of the country and I read your column every week. I don't always agree with your choices or advice but mostly you make a fair bit of sense.
One area I think you are falling down on badly is the pulling power or torque of an engine. Ye seem to be hooked on BHP- power. The other is a far more important part of an engine's ability and means the driver gets more pull in higher gears. You might think about that.
Aidan: Thanks for the honesty. I agree that torque is an altogether more realistic marker of a vehicle's true power but I don't agree that we fixate unnecessarily on break horse power (bhp) or indeed, conflate the two.
For anyone who is interested, bhp is a largely fictional number. This is because it is only achieved in certain conditions, at specific revs in a particular gear. In other words; we rarely get our cars to achieve their full bhp figures.
Torque, on the other hand, can be felt as a 'pull' from the engine, as the reader suggests. It can be felt throughout the rev range and even in high gears, and is usually referred to as "real-world power".
The problem with advising people solely on torque is that very few, except for professionals like you (I won't include me in this part), understand the term 'torque'. And in any case, bhp and torque sort of go hand in hand. Typically the more bhp a car has, the more torque it has, too.
When I advise someone looking for a motorway cruiser to opt for a 2.0 diesel over a 1.6, I am basically telling them that they will benefit from a car with more torque. When I say "opt for the 190bhp instead of the 150bhp" I am doing so because it is language that is far more accessible.
I'm not so sure my advice would be as well understood if I spoke in terms of Newton metres or pound/feet of torque.
But you raise a good point that I hope sticks with many readers; don't chase the bhp figure; checking the torque or the 'pull' of an engine is far more important. However, just to scratch my usual curmudgeon itch, for many people, neither torque nor bhp are relevant. The perception of power is totally subjective. Someone's fast could be my version of slow and vice versa.
Eddie: Point taken, dear reader. I'm a bit of a BHP addict in that I am drawn to the sheer propulsive power of a car, especially those with 400bhp, 500bhp and 600bhp.
However, I hardly ever write a review without alluding in some form or other to how well a car pulled through the gears because, typically, it is in the middle gears where it shines if you don't find yourself moving to second and third to maintain momentum and equilibrium. Thanks again for a subtle rap on the knuckles.
I am thinking of buying a small, city car for my daughter. I don't have much money and neither does she but she will need to be able to get around the Greater Dublin area from Easter when she takes on a new role. Between is we can scrape up €7,500 - that is the absolute limit because we have to have a few euro for insurance, tax and fuel as well as repairs. What would you advise?
Aidan: This is a healthy budget for a small car. You mention that you want a city car so let's start with some of those. Look for 2012 registration plate models such as the Volkswagen up!, Skoda Citigo, SEAT Mii, Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 107, and Hyundai i10.
They all have frugal, cheap-to-tax, and uncomplicated three cylinder 1.0 litre petrol engines. They are also surprisingly functional despite their diminutive stature.
Perhaps I am being too investigative here but you say that your daughter needs to "get around the greater Dublin area", which implies that she needs something for longer spins than a regular commute through the city. If that is the case, then she might prefer something more substantial around her. And so, superminis enter the equation.
Look at the Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, Opel Corsa, Renault Clio and Volkswagen Polo. I happen to quite like the SEAT Ibiza because it represents excellent value for money.
Expect for your budget to be stretched by a 2010 model but 2009s are eminently affordable. In any case, when you buy a small used car, its best to look for something with a full-service record and low mileage. The plate should hold less significance in the purchasing decision. Still, take one of the city cars I have mentioned for a spin first and see how you get on. If the shoe fits and all that.
Eddie: I would be fairly blunt about this. Buy the larger car. It's maybe the paternal instinct in me but if your daughter is going to be driving relatively long distances under lots of different road and traffic conditions, get her into something with a bit of bulk.
This is absolutely no reflection on the smaller cars but she will need the bit of room and the added bit of mass around her on longer journeys. Aidan's suggestion on what models to look at are excellent. I would add the Skoda Fabia - great little car.