Friday 23 February 2018

What sports car? Baby on way: What people carrier? What shortage?

Woman in convertable
Woman in convertable

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 am in my early thirties, single and have just been promoted. I have always wanted a small sports car and now seems like a good time to buy one and trade in my faithful old Volkswagen Golf (2006, 140,000km). I have €20,000 to spend but I don't want to buy new. Something a year or two old would be fine. I do not have a company car but my boyfriend does so I just want a car to enjoy for myself.

Aidan: There are three cars that immediately spring to my mind; each worthy of serious consideration. They are the Audi TT, MINI Cooper S, and the Volkswagen Scirocco.

Let's start with the Vorsprung Durch Technik Audi. The TT underwent a revision last year and so some of the older models should be returning to dealerships around this time. The TT should slot quite comfortably into your life. It doesn't require much conscious effort to drive or to maintain, which is precisely the type of winning formula you want from a sports car. Get in, drive, smile. That should be a sports car's modus operandi and the TT delivers on that front. There are a good few diesels but I think you should go for the petrol version instead. It's quieter and very responsive. Audi's interior craftsmanship and switch gear is rarely surpassed.

The MINI Cooper S is a hoot. Despite its frantic little turbo engine, when driven sensibly a Cooper S will still return good fuel efficiency. It's also got rear seats so you can take a couple of friends for a spin. The quirky interior has been diluted in the latest version so embrace the last of the slightly 'out there' MINI interior styling. Look for models in MINI dealerships and pay a premium for the effort they go to in detailing and servicing the car. If you're lively with the accelerator, the MINI will dutifully oblige you. I used to own one and still reckon that nothing handles quite like a properly sorted MINI. In fact, a standard Cooper is ideal if you aren't the type to take the long route home in order to have fun around twisty bends.

Lastly, take a look at the VW Scirocco. They are sold in very small numbers, but that's a good thing if you want something a little more exclusive. They look great in some wacky colours (lime green) and your money will go a little further because it's not quite and out-and-out sports car. Still, it will deliver on the performance, style, and practicality fronts.

Expect to get a lovely, low mileage 2012 model with a 1.4 TSi engine and enough spare change to insure and tax it for the first year at least.

Eddie: They are great choices. Let me sling a couple of out-field suggestions. How about a BMW Z4 coupe or cabriolet? You might have to go back a bit further than you say you'd like to but it's a lovely car. The 2.5-litre and 3-litre petrols are thirsty though. But there is a great sporty feel to it. The only thing against it, apart from engine size, is a drab cabin.

Nothing wrong with it being a roadster but some people prefer their cars with a solid roof and there aren't too many of them around.

And it would be remiss of me not to mention the Mazda MX-5, easily the best little roadster of its size and power on the road. With the new one on sale here now, and getting rave reviews, you could drive yourself a decent bargain on an older one.

I intended buying a small crossover in the next month or so but I have been put off a bit by people telling me there are waiting lists for some models. I'm not too bothered which one I get but I am not going to wait any more than a month. What should I do? I have the cash. Are we back to the mad days of the boom?

Aidan: Sounds like you've got some money burning a hole in your pocket. Don't rush anything. If you are planning on keeping the car for two or three years then what's an extra few weeks waiting for the right car?

Also, who are these people telling you that there are waiting lists? Are they car dealers or friends? If a dealer is telling you then that is fair enough. Supply could be lower than preferred for some models or for particular trim levels.

It is just the reality of how the car market has evolved and the strong global demand for crossovers. Our distributors fight tooth and nail to get a full range of cars here but there is a lot of politicking that goes on behind the scenes with factories.

Our new car market is already up over 30pc on last year's performance, so that also has an effect. Are you configuring a specific model to your own individual specifications? If so, then it is likely that the car needs to be ordered from the factory.

That takes time. It's hard to say how long so it is best to check with your dealer. If you are looking at a regular "off the shelf" model then supply in most cases should not be a major worry.

I take it by small crossover you mean cars such as the Renault Captur, Nissan Juke, Mazda CX-3, Honda HRV et al. These models are in high demand but they are out there. I see them every week when I visit dealers.

Visit a few showrooms and see what's on offer. I particularly like the Honda HRV and the Mazda CX-3. I think they look incredibly sharp. Renault's Captur is a hot favourite in this category and it is a lovely machine.

The Juke has been around a while now but there's nothing wrong with it. It's not everyone's cup of tea but taste is subjective. Don't buy whatever is available just for the heck of it. Make sure you drive them all.

This should be an enjoyable experience. Spend a day or two pulling them all apart and see what deal you can get with your cash.

Eddie: One thing about colleagues is that a little knowledge goes a long way and can unwittingly mislead you. Aidan is correct; don't be panicked into buying something because there is a so-called scarcity.

Yes, some models are in short supply but it is up to you to decide what you want in the first place, then let the natural progression of things take over.

If your dealer can't get you what you want within a couple of months my advice is to order exactly what you want for July registration. It's mid-February now. Not a lot of people want to buy in May when there's a new reg (162) around the corner. Tell that to your dealer. Be patient, please.

I have another baby on the way (my third) soon and I want to buy a people carrier. But I don't want a big one because I live in an estate where parking is scarce and our gateway is narrow. As well as that I feel more comfortable with a smaller one. Could you recommend one or two. I'd be trading in a 2009 Avensis?

Aidan: Take a look at Opel's Meriva. It is quite cleverly laid out inside with various flexible seating arrangements.

Depending on your budget, you can get either a used 1.3 diesel or a brand new 1.6 diesel. There is a 1.7 diesel version, too but there fewer of them. Look for models in SC trim. They come with a great level of equipment. Ford's B-Max is also worth considering. The B-MAX has no B pillars (the bit of metal separating the front and rear doors) so the opening aperture is huge.

This is great for accessibility to little ones strapped into their car seats. The B-MAX comes with a 1.5 diesel engine so it is frugal and cheap to run. It sold in small numbers so you need to keep your eyes peeled for them.

The Peugeot 2008 is another sensible choice. The seating position is great and space is probably good enough. There is a choice of petrol and diesel engines and the build quality is very high.

A VW Touran will be bigger than all of the others that I have mentioned but still not quite as big as something like a Ford Galaxy or other larger MPVs. If the reality of your position is that you need a seven seater then I am afraid you might have to find a way to make it work for you.

Eddie: Have a look at the Citroen C4 Picasso too. You will get three child seats across the back of it and it's not too large. I sympathise with your lack of manoeuvrability but you can always widen the gateway, can't you? Far more important to have your little children safe and comfortable.


We love getting your enquiries but can't reply to all of them in as full a manner as we'd like 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:

* Total budget.

* Annual mileage.

* Size of car required (number of seats).

* Present car (make, model, year and mileage).

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