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A reliable car for €14,000? Me v wife - SUV v MPV? Why so much about 4x4?


Couple with car salesman outside showroom

Couple with car salesman outside showroom

Couple with car salesman outside showroom

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 need a reliable and spacious car for around €14,000 that I can keep for the next 10 years. I'm retired and cover around 11,000 kilometres each year. I do the odd long journey too. I was thinking of buying a Toyota Auris. Are they reliable? What others do you recommend?

Aidan: The Auris is a fine choice and with your budget you can afford one of the last of the old model 2012 registration 1.33 petrol versions and perhaps even sneak into a keenly kitted out Luna or Sport model to boot. Tax is just €280 too.

It's prudent to purchase any car, new or used, based on the nature of its most regular usage. The odd trip down the country should be considered an exceptional circumstance and should not dictate that you buy a diesel car.

Also, anyone who purchased a petrol car in the last few years probably did so because their annual mileage was similarly low and so you might find that there is a better quality of stock available for a petrol Auris.

If you're adamant that you want a diesel car, then the 1.4 D4D Auris is a good choice too. Expect to pay a premium of around €1,500 for one.

As for lasting 10 years, well that depends on how well it is treated. Toyota has recalled some models over the last 24 months so if you don't purchase the car from a Toyota dealership, be sure to check that it has undergone the proper remedial works if any were so required. Don't let this put you off, though. Manufacturer recalls are standard practice in the motor trade.

You might experience some difficulties finding many other petrol medium family hatchbacks as most were sold almost exclusively in diesel guise over the last few years. However, keep your eyes peeled for a 1.4 litre Hyundai i30. It's stylish, mechanically robust, spacious, comfortable and comes with Hyundai's extended warranty.

Honda's Civic shouldn't be overlooked either. Some find the 1.4 engine is somewhat lacklustre but the Civic is refined and spacious. The rear seats fold upwards in a 'cinema' style fashion so bulky objects are easily accommodated without impeding on boot space.

What about leveraging your budget to buy a new car? What do you think about that route, Eddie?

Eddie: Here's a thought. The new Hyundai i20 hatch has nearly as much useable cabin room as a car of Toyota Auris size. You'll have to go €2,000 more than your budget but it's brand new and you get a 5-year warranty.

It's small enough for everyday and plenty big for your excursions. And you mightn't have to dig for the full €2,000. I'm also thinking new Fabia Combi (estate). Lots of useable space and €1,500 on top of your budget gets you one. Again, it's suitable for the long and short journeys.

Should I buy a small people carrier like the Toyota Verso or a Crossover like the RAV4? I like the idea of the SUV but my wife wants something less macho?

Aidan: The emergence of the crossover segment has caused a stir in the market. Most crossovers are enjoying a honeymoon period with residual values and market indications point to a continuation of this, particularly off the back of some tough years for new car sales and a subsequent scarcity of stock.

If you don't need seven seats, then there are a number of compelling arguments to be made in the crossover's favour.

Also, if you buy an MPV as a five-seater when it is sold more typically with seven seats, you risk alienating a portion of the buying audience further down the road. I'm playing the long game here but there's no harm future proofing your purchase.

As for the RAV4, I wouldn't exactly consider it 'macho' but I accept the sentiment. It is a well crafted vehicle, though. It's got the full package; looks great, drives well and will closely guard its position up near the top of its segment.

For what it's worth, I rate the Kia Sportage very highly. And that seven-year warranty is attractive too. The Qashqai is great but you'll find more room and more subtle styling in Honda's CR-V. It's a tad more expensive than the others but it's hugely economical with its 1.6-litre diesel and practical.

Eddie: Listen, you know there is only going to be one winner here. So go looking for a people carrier today, okay? I mean do you think you can survive the hints and complaints over the next few years if you buy an SUV? The statistics are against you, my friend. They show that while most men buy the car, the decisions about what is bought are made by women.

The Verso is a nice people carrier; I like it. There are others, bigger and smaller: The Citroen Picasso, Ford S-MAX, Mazda 5, Opel Zafira, Renault Scenic, Volkswagen Touran and so on. Check them out. Here's to years of happy driving.

Why is 4x4 and all-wheel-drive becoming so popular? What's wrong with front-wheel drive? Isn't it a lot less expensive?

Aidan: There is nothing wrong with a conventional front-wheel drive car. In most instances, at least in Ireland anyway, the necessity for driving all four wheels isn't as pressing a requirement as it is in, say, the Scandinavian countries or Eastern Europe. However, there are very obvious safety benefits of a car which is capable of distributing its power around all four corners of the car and not solely in the front half. Audi has championed the quattro system since the 1980s and continues to demonstrate the increased stopping power of such a set up.

At an Audi quattro event in Germany last year, I experienced first-hand the eye-opening difference between a two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive car in slippery conditions. The difference is astonishing and hard to fathom until you've experienced it for yourself.

Four-wheel drive is like driving with stabilisers on. And now the benefits of this composure doesn't quite cost as much as before. The Haldex clutch system used predominantly by the VW Group means that in most instances the 4x4 model behaves like a regular two wheel drive. Only when the electrical brain of the car detects a loss of traction to any of the wheels does it correct it by redistributing the power to the wheel or wheels with most grip.

Essentially, this means that each wheel can be driven independently.

In a Skoda Octavia Combi, the price for this reassurance is around €3,200. Even if after three years this premium only retains half of that amount it means that for around €1,500 someone can benefit from an inconspicuous but verifiably beneficial safety feature.

Eddie: Like Aidan says, it isn't until you see the difference it makes that you realise the benefit. I notice it proliferating on posh saloons and estates now as well and I think that's because people are slowly coming to realise that it is more than a twice-a-winter thing. They understand that you get everyday traction and grip on surfaces that may be a bit slippery.

I suppose it is just the reassurance of knowing you are getting the best contact possible with the road that makes it attractive.

Overall the proportion here remains low and will do for the foreseeable future because most of the cars we buy are quite small - superminis and family hatchbacks.

However, a couple of clever adaptations by the likes of Peugeot and Suzuki, to name two, have elaborated on traction control systems to give wonderful grip on and off the road. I've driven into a total mud bath in a Peugeot and wheedled through no bother. It's a great system.

I'm surprised this isn't more widespread because it only costs a few hundred euro extra.


Just to say

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