Straight choice; should I keep our Tiida? How long should I warm up?
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'.
Straight question. Which would you choose: a 7-seater Opel Zafira Tourer 2-litre or a 7-seater Peugeot 5008 1.6-litre. Both vehicles are diesel and new.
Aidan: Not much separates the two MPVs. The Opel used to cost more but now that the 1.6 CDTi engine has arrived it reduces CO2, VRT and motor tax. It's a lovely engine and is even more powerful than the older 2.0 CDTi.
Opel call the smaller capacity engine their 'whisper' diesel. It is quieter than both the 2-litre and 1.7-litre of old. The Zafira Tourer champions Opel's 'Flex' seating design. All seats, except the driver's of course, can be folded flat to accommodate awkward and bulky objects.
Head room is excellent throughout the cabin. Opel has won awards from the German chiropractic profession for their seat design and I can attest to their comfort.
The Peugeot 5008 has a wonderful seating position too. The gear lever is nestled close to the driver and high on the dash, which makes for a stress-free drive.
The 1.6 HDi engine in the 5008 is a little down on power against the Zafira Tourer (115bhp vs 136bhp) but it develops its power progressively and it feels like less of a gap than it looks on paper. Most opt for the Active spec but for an additional €1,500 the Family Style version adds a head-up display, panoramic glass roof, privacy glass and Peugeot Connect video pack, which houses screens in the driver and front-passenger head rests for use with external DVD players. Both are excellent and you won't go wrong with either.
Eddie: I like the Zafira Tourer but I think I'd opt for the Peugeot. I find it that bit more comfortable and I prefer the driving position. I think the Zafira's dash and driving position feels too far back in the car. Small margins of preference. Just giving you a straight answer. Close call.
I was asked if I start my diesel car and allow the engine warm up for about five minutes before I start a journey. I'm curious if there is any benefit to this and if it would have any impact on the catalytic convertor. Your views?
Aidan: Manufacturers are constantly evolving engines and so the time it takes for warm-up is reducing with each step. Engines are more fuel efficient when warm; so the quicker they get to operating temperature the better - not just for the environment but for your wallet too.
Direct fuel injection is helpful in speeding the process as well. Engines need warm oil to lubricate their parts. When a car has been stationary for a long time, it needs to get the oil from the bottom of the sump up and around the engine. I cringe when I hear a car being revved immediately after start-up. Athletes don't start a training session by sprinting. They warm up first. A car is no different. But letting a car run for five minutes seems excessive.
There is no major issue with starting and driving away after a couple of minutes, so long as you don't rev the car hard until it reaches optimum temperature. Every car comes with an oil temperature gauge that usually reaches and maintains a healthy position somewhere around the mid-point on the scale.
The exhaust also needs to heat up. Many diesel drivers who only cover short distances sometimes struggle to heat the exhaust fully and blockages in the DPF (diesel particulate filter) can occur. And they are expensive blockages at that. So, turn the key, find a radio station playing a catchy tune, sing a few bars and set off at a steady pace for a few kilometres.
Eddie: The advice is to drive away as soon as you start. That's because an engine uses more fuel at that stage, before it is fully warmed, so you might as well be travelling while doing so. Any idling costs you money which is why so many cars now have Stop/Start systems that cut out when you stop and kick in when you press the accelerator. They reckon you could save up to 4pc on your fuel bill this way. Aidan's point is spot-on, though: do not rev your car hard after start-up. Ease it into the day.
I have a Ford Focus petrol with 120,000 miles. I'm told it is nearly worthless because of the mileage and the body isn't in great shape. I have a small salary as I'm just starting out but need a car to get to work - 25kms each way. I don't want to borrow but can come up with around €8,000. What would you recommend?
Aidan: I'm a fan of the Honda Civic 1.4 petrol hatch; 2008-registered models come in on budget. The Civic has a great interior, loads of rear passenger/boot space and reliable engine. The rear seats fold upright in a 'cinema seat' fashion. I think it is one of the cleverest seating arrangements out there. I find the engine a bit gutless.
They are rare but the 1.4 petrol Hyundai i30 is a super car. As is the Kia cee'd. Take a close look at the Toyota Auris and Corolla, too. Both have the same 1.4 petrol engine.
The newer 1.33 version wasn't available until late 2010 so it is out of budget. It has lower tax but you will pay thousands more to save a few hundred euro. If you had €9,500 or €10,000 then it would be a different story.
The SEAT Leon is a great choice. I always preferred the 1.6 litre petrol engine to the 1.4 but you won't go wrong with the latter. Look out for 2008 or even 2009 registered Style or Sport models. They came with alloys and a multifunctional steering wheel. Entry-level Reference models were somewhat austere by comparison.
Eddie: Why don't you see how you'd do with a newer Focus? Ask your dealer what they have under €10,000 and see what they come up with. Also, do you need as big a car as a Focus for work? If not, I suggest you take a look at the underrated, conservative but evergreen SEAT Ibiza. Or a Skoda Fabia that has been well minded - it is a lot roomier than most. Or a Suzuki Swift (great car). You may have to sell your car separately but with a newer Focus you stand a good chance of the dealer taking for the trade.
Would you please tell me if I should hang on to my Nissan Tiida or change to something newer? People say it is boring but my wife and I can't say a word against it. Like us, it is ageing and we're wondering what to do. We have about €15,000 to spend but don't really want to. I'm just afraid of it starting to give trouble. Please advise.
Aidan: What on earth is wrong with some people? If someone wants you to drive something else then let them buy it for you.
Anyway . . . The Tiida is not hugely fashionable but it is virtually trouble free. So long as you regularly maintain it, then I am not too sure you should be overly concerned about it developing serious issues. That said, it is advisable to upgrade somewhat regularly even if only to mitigate problems and avail of newer technologies; both from practical and safety perspectives.
Maybe spend less than €15,000 and go for a 2010 Toyota Corolla. It has loads of room and the 1.33 petrol engine is frugal, cheap to tax and runs like a dream. Other than that I wouldn't bother changing if you think you can spend the money better elsewhere.
If your Tiida begins showing signs of age-related wear and becomes uneconomical to repair, then make the decision to change. But if the only problem is other people thinking it is boring, then that is their problem, not yours.
When it comes to used car ownership, boring generally equates to affordable and reliable. What more can you ask for with a used car?
Eddie: It is a bit of an old goat alright but what have you to lose? It is probably worth as little as it is ever going to be, if you follow, so unless you're concerned about its safety or reliability give it a good servicing and drive it for another couple of years. You'll save a lot of money and will be able to buy something much nicer when you top up your €15,000. You'll probably find it will still be going strong and you'll be coming back to us asking what to do. We should have something worked out by then, don't you think Aidan?
Aidan: I think so Eddie.
Your questions: how you can help us to help you
WE get dozens of emails asking for guidance on what car to buy each week. Unfortunately some do not have basic details such as budget, current vehicle, annual mileage and what size of car is needed.
It would be a great help if as many details as possible were included. At the same time do keep the questions as brief as you can please. Thank you for your kind words and keep those questions coming.