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USEDCARBUYER November 2004 £3.50


Quentin Willson EVERY MONTH

20 CATEGORIES • 51 CARS • ONLY ONE WINNER We reveal the truth other car magazines can never afford to tell you!



Every 911 from the last 40 years. We find four turbo rally legends But which is the greatest? that cost less than £10,000

DESIGNS FOR LIFE SMART choice for city slickers takes on Matiz, Ka and Arosa

“The luxury car is now officially dead. Long live the 4x4!”






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ONLY £2.95




MAY 2004





BEAT THE DEALER We reveal all the trade’s secrets...

Read Quentin Willson inside




“No Mr Bond, I expect you to buy”

Coupés, pick-ups, estates and lifestyle 4x4s

The best cars you can buy today

CROSS-COUNTRY RUNNING Can Porsche’s 911 Carrera 4 beat the Japanese rally reps?




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“Cash strapped punters are bailing out of posh motors.” See page 38

October 2004 £3.50



HOT & SPICY Ford Focus RS Renault Clio V6 VW Golf R32 Alfa 147 GTA FAST & FRUGAL Renault Clio SEAT Ibiza Fiat Punto Sporting MINI Cooper


Jaguar XJS Bentley Turbo R Mitsubishi 3000 GT Range Rover Mercedes 500SL Toyota Supra Porsche 911 and more...

DRIVEN This month’s drives...


BMW 730D SE Munich’s technical supremo doesn’t compute. Shahzad Sheikh switches off


t's common knowledge now that BMW miscalculated with the 2002 7 Series. Maybe its arrival was intended to coincide with the coming-of-age of all those 1980's computer whiz kids that were going to make their mega-millions out of that new-fangled interweb thing. They'd love its complexity and gadgetry, from its self-thinking engine and

gearbox to its patented (but uncopied) iDrive system. And perhaps BMW thought that all this would give those old-age-nerds such a rush, that all aesthetic sense would be lost and they wouldn't even notice that it was in fact, plain hideous. But the web-rich never appeared, and the boardroom big shots weren't impressed. The result? Values are dive-bombing. Pick up early 2002 735i versions for little over £30,000. And even the car we tested, a £47,000 730d SE introduced in March last year, can now be found for around £38k at BMW dealers. So now it's a great used buy? No. Not even if you crave gizmo heaven and love its jerky uncohesive styling and the 1970s music centre dash. Prices will plunge further yet, and there really is too much to go expensively wrong on this big lumbering beast. The 'Soft Close' feature on one of the doors stopped

working for a few days while we had it, the driver's seat has so many adjustments that it took three days to attain comfort, and the distance-sensing automatic cruise control gave me the fright of my life. The previous Seven is a better drive, looks smooth enough for Bond, is just as luxurious and much better value. How about a 2000 Vreg 740i sport for just £15,500 from a private seller? They're out there.

At a glance ‘SE’ standard equipment includes: sequential auto only, front and rear airbags, 18 inch alloys, satellite navigation, traction control, auto wipers and lights, parking sensors, climate control, CD player, leather upholstery, soft-closing doors. Spec: 3.0-litre, 6 cylinder, 218 bhp, 146 mph, 0-62 mph 8 seconds, 33.2 mpg, Ins Grp 17 Depreciation: Retains 35 per cent at three years. Final word: Previous 7 Series is cheaper and a much better buy.

FIAT STILO 1.9 JTD Does half price make Stilo twice the value? Shahzad Sheikh equals the odds

A At a glance ‘Dynamic’ standard equipment includes: ABS, traction control; dual-mode power steering, heated/refrigerated glovebox; CD player; alloys; climate control; trip computer; front, side and roof airbags. Spec: 1.9-litre, 4 cylinder, 115 bhp, 119 mph, 0-62 mph 10.3 seconds, 53.5 mpg, Ins Grp 5 Depreciation: Retains 45 per cent at three years. Final word: Low prices and running costs make this a much better used purchase.

t its launch in early 2001, the Fiat Stilo was originally hailed as the beleaguered Italian manufacturer's make-or-break saviour. Three years on, with Fiat still looking for that elusive big seller, the Stilo no longer has such grand ambitions. Stripped of its hype, we can now see it for what it really is, a largely-ignored, cut-price, used bargain. The design brief for this family hatch must have been to emulate the German build and reliability ethos, while infusing the whole thing with the kind of chic sexiness that only the design houses of Milan can offer. Somebody clearly misread the brief and inserted 'versa' instead of 'vice' and the end result appears more the opposite. Be that as it may, the reality is this. A 1.9 JTD was around £13,000 new, but we found a used approved 2001 51-reg 1.9 JTD Active, five-door, in silver with under 5000 miles on it, at a Fiat dealer in Surrey for just £6999. That's

for a Vauxhall Astra rival that does around 50 mpg and offers cheap Group Five insurance. It's certainly not as granite-like as a Golf, as fun as a Focus or as capacious as a Civic, but the Stilo does have a contemporary, if sadly uninspiring, feel to it. The three-door looks better, but the five door is more practical. To slow the inevitable depreciation go for the best specced car you can find in silver or a dark metallic colour.


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Curvy posterior aside the Renault Megane has huge appeal

While rivals scrimp for extra millimetres of interior space the Megane simply wants you to shake your thang


ack in October 2002 when Renault first revealed that all driving sensation was focussed on le derriere, and invited us all to shake our ass, it was easy to dismiss Megane II. Its bizarre scaled-down Avantime styling justifiably begged the question, “does my bum look big in this” and the resounding response was – altogether now – “yes!”. In fact it was clear that the styling theme had not only overruled practicality, but had absolutely run riot with interior packaging, the barest of nods being given to the necessity of carrying rear passengers or luggage. And this in a small family car up against class-leaders like the exemplary Ford Focus. What were Renault playing at? It gets even more puzzling when you realise that the five-door version tested here is only five centimetres shorter than the vastly more capacious and family-friendly new Scenic, which will only cost around a grand more. Perhaps it will be a revelation from the driver’s seat? Megane II is a good, rather than great, car to drive and proves to be mildly enjoyable as a daily steer, if a touch too eager to breach its limits of adhesion. It is certainly kind to posteriors, deliver34 USED CAR BUYER

ing a cosseting ride, and the 80 bhp 1.5 dCi we tried served up fine performance, even pushing the typical diesel envelope from 4000 to 5000 rpm. But rear passengers get a bum deal (sorry), with limited knee and shoulder room and to add to their misery, rear headrests that dig into the neck unless adjusted to the correct height. Though if you do that they obstruct the driver’s rear view. Not that looking out through the back helps much in judging where the Beyonce-a-like bottom actually ends. If ever a car needed reversing sensors... Plus some owners report tales of torment regarding dodgy electrics and build quality problems, though our 4000 mile press car felt as tight as a pair of clenched buttocks. So now you’re expecting me to denounce Megane II as rather pointless. Well actually it grew on me. It’s far less common than its obvious rivals with crisp futuristic lines that keep it looking sharp and fresh. And 25 per cent first year depreciation saves you over £3000. Used prices start at just £7000 but we’d look to spend around £8500 on a 2002 1.5 dCi Expression five-door – lesser trim levels don’t have aircon. Great mpg, cheap insurance and a five-star crash rating are all bonuses.

Try to find one with the astonishingly good hands-free key card system which ensures you never have to take any form of key out of your pocket to enter, drive or lock the car ever again. Absolutely brilliant. In reality the Megane is fine as long as your family only consists of kids that are past the pram, buggies and bulky childseat stage, but not yet big enough to complain about legroom. It’s a thoroughly modern, slightly off-the-wall car that has huge appeal as well as a huge arse. Shake it on down! Shahzad Sheikh

At a glance

Expression standard equipment includes: electric windows, six-speaker CD, underflo o r storage, auto lights and wipers, self-dimming mirror, aircon Spec: 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel, 80 bhp, 136 lbs ft torque @ 2000 rpm, 106 mph, 0-62 mph 14.3 seconds, 62.8 mpg, Ins grp 3 Depreciation: Retains 36 per cent of its value at three years Final Word: Lacks practicality but cheap and funky

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FORECOURT Used Car Buyer news, comment and gossip. Edited by Shahzad Sheikh



Nothing is certain but the unforeseen, a Greek scribe once said. But at least you can arm yourself against the factors that could kill your car. Ian Cushway names and shames the hidden assassins USED CAR BUYER 15

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w’ your ‘ne Don’t let up d n e y jo d pride an p a e h d a dumpe


ABS: faulty wheel sensors cause the most problems (£100 each), but the real biggy is when the modulator itself goes which will be £1000-plus. Protect yourself by checking the ABS light comes on and goes off as it should.

Over £800 pounds for a faulty airbag

Airbags: nine times out of ten an airbag warning light staying on will be down to a loose connection somewhere (usually under the seat squab). You'll need a professional to reset the system, but it won't cost much. However, if you notice the bag's been interfered with in any way, hit the panic button. Chances are your car's been in a smash, and someone's cut 16 USED CAR BUYER

Is now the time to buy a used Jaguar?


Save money as a club member


corners and fitted a secondhand bag. You'll need to pay £800 or so for a new bag, plus a couple of hundred more for an activation ECU.

Crystal ball gazers aside, none of us can truly see into the future. So where buying a used car is concerned, we have to rely on the tales of others – good and bad – and interpolate that back to the vehicle we are about to lavish our hard-earned cash on. In terms of mechanical breakdowns, there's always going to be the one-offs, but more often that not the same maladies will plague a particular model time and time again – and when this happens buyers need to prick up their ears and take heed in order to avoid disaster. Of course, even the most unexpected mechanical mishaps can usually be ameliorated by writing a cheque for a couple of hundred pounds. But when this runs into thousands, and when the car you've just bought is only worth a little more, then financial meltdown is the result. And that's where our A-Z of potential Car Killers will help.



Air conditioning: exchange compressors cost up to £700, and you'll need to pay extra for the receiver/drier. If there's a leak from the evaporator, expect financial crucifixion – on the Audi A4 and Volvo 850/V70 it's a ten-hour fourfigure procedure.


ECUs: if your car runs rough or fails to start at all, then it could be the ECU. Some are well over a grand new, thus relegating many budget cars to the scrapheap. Alternatively, buy one second hand for a ton and get it reprogrammed if necessary.

Mercedes C43 AMG, pay £1000 for brake discs


Brake discs: mostly cheaper these days, but on the C43 AMG they're £1000. Check first.

Cambelts: when they snap they can cause mechanical mayhem, dead engines and instant bankruptcy. Worryingly, on some cars like the Vauxhall Astra/Nova and Alfa 156 they need changing way before the recommended interval, so check with a specialist. Worst still, on the Fiat Coupé 20v Turbo it's a 15-hour engine-out job costing over £1500. The price of individuality could put residuals eight-foot under


Finance of the outstanding variety could mean you are not actually the owner of your car after all, and the finance house wants it back. Get a credit check done before parting with any cash.


Glassfibre cars: should be treated with caution if the Gel Coat has been damaged as the result of a knock or severe weathering. Osmosis (small bubbles under the surface) will occur – even with the smallest breach – requiring the whole lot to be stripped and professionally repaired.

Colours: fashion's a funny thing, but exercising your individualism by splashing out on a car in a 'oddball' colour will soon wipe the smile from your face come resale. Even some of the traditional favourites like BMW Oxford Green are becoming unsaleable. Safe bets are silver, light metallics and – yes, black. Clocking: discovering the 'low mileage' car you've just bought had actually been driven to the moon and back on its regular jaunt to work will slash its worth in an instant. On a newish prestige car with 50k shaved off, you could easily lose yourself £3000-£4000. Do an Hpi check, contact previous owners, and use service books/receipts to confirm the mileage.


Diesel injector pumps: bad news if they start to rattle because the very cheapest ones will be £450 exchange.

Depreciation: the bigger they come, the harder they fall. Do your sums first before spending big money on a costly leviathan.

Beware of Natural Born Car Killers

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We track down this month’s best buys



The place for performance Minis

Motoring journalist of the year




Judder through the steering when braking hard could spell all sorts of problems, notably warped discs, wear in the universal joint or the steering box itself. Get it checked out before buying. Jump starts: if your battery begins to give up the ghost, resist the urge to give it a jump start as any voltage fluctuations can be terminal to the unit. Partially seized swivel joints will cost handsomely to put right


Height sensors on Range Rovers can be a nightmare and common faults include broken rods and partially seized swivel joints costing big money to sort.


K-Series engines: the head gaskets go on these with regularity so that bargain Rover 600 might not be such a steal after all. Secondhand engines are £500 plus fitting.

Steer clear of loan-sharks wanting their money back


Loans: sign up for a deal with a loan-shark charging ludicrous rates of interest then you and your prized wagon might have to part company sooner than you thought. Always check the APR and make sure you can afford the monthly repayments.


Mazda clutches: ragged MX-5s can get through a clutch in no time, but it takes four hours to replace and you can expect a bill for over £500 at a main dealer. With early cars now sub£2000, this could be a real killer.


Inspections: getting a proper professional to look at your prospective purchase could save you heartache and possible divorce later on. Prices start at around £100.


Naff modifications: genuine accessories, or ones that you can take off are fine, but tacky add-ons, naff body-kits and mucked up interiors will shatter the value of your car in a thrice.

Great value classic hot hatch, but a water pump change costs £500


Peugeot 205 1.9 GTi: this sporty Nineties icon is buttons to buy, but if you need to replace the water pump it's an engine out job costing the best part of £500. Beware.

Q Not using the right kind of oil could lead to an early end


Quote: get one for insurance before you buy anything exotic – however cheap it is, otherwise you might end up having to sell your car before you've even driven it. However, cars over ten years old may qualify for cheaper classic car policies.


Restoration jobs: however tempting it might be, stay well clear of rusty projects – unless you've got the technical expertise to do the work yourself. The cost of such restorations will quickly spiral out

Oil: a necessary prerequisite for any healthy engine, oil needs checking and replacing according to the recommended intervals. The Alfa 156 consumes oil at the same rate as a small African nation (Alfa says one litre per 600 miles) so it needs checking every weekend to You could soon fall out of avoid possible melt-down. love with the desirable MX-5. If the clutch goes, You need the right oil, too. that’ll be £500 please! Ford's Zetec engines need 5W30, and anything else will lead to an early end.

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What is Kenya’s favourite used car?


F1 pundit, rally driver and ex-teacher



Veteran Mondeos: clutch problems on a pre-'96 Ford Mondeo is likely to mean an early demise for Dagenham's, ahem, finest. The engine has to come out and you need to drop the front subframe, which will cost more than the car's actually worth.


Warning lights tell you about a car's state of health, and it's not unknown for unscrupulous traders to remove bulbs in order to disguise low oil pressure, and other potentially crippling problems. Check all the lights come on with the ignition then go out immediately afterwards.

£2000 – that’s how much a replacement exhaust on a BMW 8 Series will cost

of control and you'll lose money every time. Worse still, some cars – like the old Mini Cooper and BMW 6 Series – can appear uncannily good superficially, but are rot boxes underneath. Always buy the best you can afford, and seek the advice of a specialist in the know first. Red key: Fiats and Alfa Romeos made between 1994-99 were supplied with a 'red' coding key from which subsequent duplicates could be made. Lose it and you might as well scrap your Punto, GTV or early Spider immediately as you will need to buy a key code ECU, an engine ECU and get all the barrels changed, costing upwards of £600.


Undone is what you'll be, mentally, when you check out the price of an exhaust system for that seemingly cheap BMW 8 Series that you've just spent your last sixpence on. It costs £2000 from BMW – the cats alone are £1010 a pair.


Servicing: a FSH is crucial with any purchase, but also look at what service is about to come up and it's associated cost. A cheapie Subaru Impreza Turbo with big miles might sound attractive, but its 90,000 mile service (where the cambelt's changed for the second time) is a bank-busting £658.


Turbos are becoming more common than ever, but when they go wrong, you can expect your bank balance to take a drubbing. A turbo unit for the Maserati Bi-turbo, for instance, will be £3000. For turbo info, ring experts Turbo Technics Ltd (01604 705050).


£2500 for a new engine, if the big ends go

WRX: the big ends go on Impreza turbos, and grey import WRXs and STis are particularly prone. You can hear them knock. The only solution is a new engine costing upwards of £2500.


Expletives will abound if you are lured into buying a 1997-on E36 M3 Evo with double Vanos problems – you'll notice a buzz from the timing chain when you blip the throttle at idle. A new Vanos system is £1800 and it's a four-hour job to do.


Yelp like a scalded poodle: that's precisely what you'll find yourself doing when you realise that you've bought a car that's been written off previously. Dodgy paint and irregular panel gaps are a clue, but get a history check done to make sure it's not on the write-off register.

Z Were the war hiding a de ning lights ath wish?

Zafiras that have been used as taxi cabs in a previous life will be a timebomb waiting to go off for an unsuspecting private owner. Increasingly, clunky gearchanges, engine management problems and worn suspension problems will blight ownership and soon make it financially unviable, so look for tell-tale signs like holes in the dashboard or stuffed-up aerial sockets.

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GOSSIP Talk to the right people, twist a few arms and it's amazing what you learn * Jaguar dealers may be

forgiven for being concerned following the announcement that production is to cease at the historic Browns Lane, Concerns over quality? Coventry plant. One fleet manager voiced concern over quality in the run-down period, when understandably unenthusiastic factory staff might be tempted to take shoddy shortcuts. A dealer also revealed that new and used sales are suffering. So if you fancy a used Jag, now's the time to seek one out.

* Chrysler

Crossfires (see review page 32 and Our Cars page 99) are bogging down on forecourts and dealers are Buyers waiting for convertible having trouble shifting them. Punters are waiting for the convertible. Cars under a year old with less than 5000 miles on the clock are sitting at dealers awaiting your custom right now for as little as £20,000.

MPVs clocked Used people carriers are increasingly likely to be clocked by iniquitous car dealers intent on maximising profit margins on these in-demand vehicles, according to vehicle history check specialists HPI. Prime targets include cars like the Ford Galaxy, Renault Espace and Citroën Synergie revealed Martin Brassell of HPI, as it was easier to wind back the mileage on their digital odometers.


IN THE CLUB Darin Frow Mitsubishi Lancer Register

The Mitsubishi Lancer Evo has conquered the World Rally Championship several times over and earned itself cult classic status with a huge and enthusiastic following. The Lancer register only serves to feed the frenzy that is Evo worship. Why are you in the club? I'm the guy who started it in 1997 and I'm still the Chairman! Why so passionate about the marque? I started the club for the original 80's rally-bred road car; the Lancer 2000 Turbo, and the Evos were simply a natural 'evolution' of that car. I believe Mitsubishi have built the impossible – a car which is good at everything and is affordable at the same time. Monday to Friday it can be a motorway commuter, and at weekends be

taken to the trackday or sprint of your choice. And after having won the event, you can put the CD and aircon back on and drive home. How far does your obsession go? There was a time when I owned five Lancers at once, and I still own one of only two original exGroup B Lancer Turbo WRC cars. Why should people join the club? To meet lots of other people who share an interest in the same car. But they will also get a lot more out of ownership by attending some of the many events we now organise. You can also save a huge amount of money thanks to all the great advice and club discounts. What's the worst thing about owners clubs? Not seeing all the members who have joined, and also the lack of people wanting to help contribute.

Mitsubishi Lancer Register PO Box 2740, Radstock, Bath, BA3 2XZ Tel: 0845 1252 6237 Annual subscription: £35

BACK TO RIO The Rio, one of Kia’s biggest selling cars thanks to the ‘drive away for a pound’ scheme, is undergoing a recall of 20,000 UK cars produced between May 2000 and March 2004. A fault has been discovered in the fuel distribution rail.

Supermarket specials Used car supermarket Motorpoint says its customers have been switching to used cars in big numbers. The ratio between new and used car deals has decreased from 80:20 in 2003 to 50:50 this year. "Nowadays people are more interested in the level of car they are buying than whether it is brand new," reveals Gary Warren of Motorpoint. "People are taking advantage of the lower prices in the used market to purchase higher end makes and specs."

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AA ceases car inspections

We bring you the biggest bargains

Used car buyers are reeling from the shock announcement that the AA has ceased its highly regarded independent vehicle inspections service. The inspections, usually costing around £150-200, involved an AA engineer being sent out to thoroughly examine a car for sale. Such inspections are usually a strong safeguard against the hidden dangers of buying a second hand car that could be riddled with faults, may have been crash damaged, or has a faked mileage or documentation. The AA says that it was operating the service at a loss, and shutting down this and other businesses will enable it to increase rescue patrols. "We regret the impact that these intended closures will have," said chief executive, Tim Parker. "The AA is number one in the market for roadside assistance, and our rapid growth in membership confirms this. The AA's commitment to its 15 million members remains unchanged." But arch-rivals the RAC, have been left a little bemused. "We are very surprised at the AA's decision," said Deborah Lenton of the RAC. "As far as we are concerned car inspections are a very important part of the service we provide. It gives members security and reassurance when buying their next car," she explained. "We do 350,000 inspections every year and I can confirm that we will not be stopping inspections." The AA is also closing its 122 Service Centres, 50 of which are being absorbed by Nationwide Autocentres, and AA Tyre Fit service operated by 130 mobile units. The closures will affect 1300 staff.

£2000 Small Five-door hatchback Daihatsu Sirion with somewhat endearing looks and good kit. Four year old cars are now available from as little as £2000.

£14,850 4x4

Privately advertised at £14,850, less than half its new price, this three year old Jeep Grand Cherokee was fully loaded, had average miles and service history.

£7995 Executives

We can’t get enough of the BMW 5 Series, especially now that older versions are better value than ever. This one-owner, main dealer-serviced 540i with 93k miles advertised privately was very tempting at just £7995 – that includes a 4.4-litre V8 with over 280 bhp!

£3000 Classic

Britain’s own wannabe Mustang, the Ford Capri is cool again. Get into a mint mid-80’s 2.8 for around £3000.

£9995 £6500 Convertibles


Old-shape Merc SL is ultra desirable now, especially when it’s as cheap as a MINI. This 1990 500SL wore its 137k miles well thanks to full history. Trader wanted £9995.

Previous shape Honda Accords are looking excellent purchases now. Childer Thornton Car Sales in Merseyside (0151 3398642), had a 47k mile 2002 1.8 VTEC in black, with all the kit and history for just £6500.


Avoid The new shape VW Beetle may be looking tempting with prices as low as £5000 considering they started at £12k in 2001, but these are all left hand drive. Pay at least another £1500 for right hand drive cars.


Every driver in the UK is paying an average of £120 too much for their annual motor insurance cover according to online bank Egg, working out to a total of £3.6 billion a year. A fifth of motorists simply accept their renewal quotes without shopping around, according to Andy Deller of Egg. "Some insurers prey upon this apathy by hiking their premiums in the knowledge that many drivers will not switch to another provider," he warned.


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Specialist Review


John Cooper Garages John Cooper are rightly proud of their long and illustrious history, from humble beginnings in the 1940s building world-beating race cars at their garages in Surbiton, through to the present day much-in-demand 200 bhp MINI Cooper S Works. In 1964 John Cooper began working on the original Mini with Cooper modified Minis winning the Monte Carlo rally in consecutive years from 1964 to1967. There followed a succession of Cooper-tuned Minis for domestic consumption, ending with the Cooper S in 1970. The name was revived in the 1990s for the Rover produced Mini and lasted until 2001 when production ceased. The new BMW MINI was launched late in 2001 and Cooper turned its attention to tuning this model too. The firm launched Cooper Works kits in April 2003 and a year later had converted 5000 new MINIs. That's not to say that the classic model has been ignored, a 90 bhp tuning kit is still avail-

COOL BRAND Audi is the coolest car brand according to Superbrands Cool Brand Leaders survey in which 3000 urbanites rated their coolest companies. Out of 1300 brands only three other automotive brands made it onto the list. Scooter manufacturer Vespa was second, followed by Saab and Land Rover... What, no BMW or MINI?

BODY PARTS If you need complete bodyshells for an old-shaped Mini, MGB, Sprite, Midget, TR6, or panels for TR7, TR8, Spitfire, Triumph Stag and Morris Minor, check out British Motor Heritage Limited have just updated its website which includes detailed diagrams and parts prices.

able along with a whole range of accessories. Cooper will work on either model on their premises, old and current, new or used. In 2002 John’s son, Mike Cooper launched the John Cooper Challenge, a single make race series to celebrate the memory of his father and take the legendary Cooper name back into the motorsport limelight as well as providing an affordable starter package for budding race drivers. Cooper Garages is on a roll. John Cooper Works North Lane, East Preston, Jeff Bailey West Sussex, BN16 1BN Tel. 01903 784784

Lotus insurance Adrian Flux Insurance has launched a new scheme for Lotus owners that could save 15-20 per cent on their premiums. Lotus Plus is even cheaper for members of the owners club and limited mileage policies. See

Diesel Deals

Fuel economy can be a significant deciding factor for as much as 90 per cent of used car buyers, according to market analysts CAP, who surveyed dealers across the UK. Good mpg was ‘vital’ to 41 per cent of buyers, 50 per cent said it was desirable, while nine per cent weren’t bothered. The findings are also reflected in poor residuals for thirstier cars.


A nation of Scrooges

With the new Ford Focus about to hit the streets the time is right for bargain-hunting used 1.8 TDCis. The TDCi 100 lacks a little top-end urge against the 115 bhp model, but mid-range punch is plentiful and there's a fuel economy bonus. We found two TDCi 100s – a 2003/03 LX five-door and a Zetec five-door, both with 13/14k miles, at CD Bramall for a keen £9495. You'd probably buy either for £9k, saving £5k on list price. If you're looking at MPVs you really need to watch prices on early used Focus C-Max diesels. The 1.6 TDCi doesn't seem to have captured buyers' hearts and with new cars on offer at huge discounts (Perrys are

offering new 1.6 TDCis at £11,960 – a £3500 saving) it's too early to buy used. Skoda's Fabia rates highly, but the lively, very economical, 75 bhp 1.4 TDIs seem to linger on the forecourts – maybe it's prejudice against that rather individual threecylinder engine? We found a great buy in a 2003/53 1.4 TDI Comfort with just 4000 miles at a Skoda dealer for a very keen £6499 against a list price of over £10,000. At least take it for a test drive! Victor Harman

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WILD CLAIMS If the worst happens and you have to pick up the phone to your insurance company to make a claim, think about what you're going to say first. These were genuine responses given to to the question "how did the accident happen?": "The accident occurred because I was looking at the road through the hole in the passenger side floor." "The spray from the lorry's wheels was so thick that I had no option than to drive into it." "I couldn't see through the dog, which is a big hairy Dulux thing, so couldn't have been expected to know he was there." "I was just admiring how big and strong the steel gates were when they swung out quickly and stove in the front of my car." "The policeman couldn't seem to understand that the radiator was on the roof because that was the best way to keep the engine cool."

Be Smart Win a free book! We've got a copy of Smart Thinking, to give away. Tracing the history of the fledgling Mercedes-owned brand from original concept, conceived by Swatch founder Nicolas Hayek, through to the current range of models and even its future rivals. It contains everything you ever wanted to know about Smart cars, and plenty more you didn’t. Published by Motorbooks International, it's just gone on sale priced £16.99 but to win yourself a free copy, just answer this: Which famous person bought the first Smart Crossblade ever made? Send your answer to "UCB Smart book" on a post card including your name and address to TRMG Magazines, Winchester Court, 1 Forum Place, Hatfield AL10 0RN.

LPG doomed? Slow sales indicate little demand for LPG-powered cars despite government subsidies, and residual values remain weak, according to trade publishers Glass's. Just over 100,000 LPG cars have been registered in the UK with only 1400 refuelling sites. Better, safer and faster diesel cars have also kept buyers away, as has poor practicality (LPG usually needs an additional separate tank). Even if LPG did take off, most pundits expect the government to start taxing it.

Dress for the Aston

"He stopped. I didn't. It was obviously his fault for stopping without telling me."

Quentin Willson tempts us with a £20k DB7 on page 38. But if that’s too rich how about something from the new Aston Martin collection? There’s a range of items from luxury clothing to children’s toys and leather luggage by Aston’s interior designer, Sarah Maynard (she did the DB9’s cabin). See, and don’t forget to check out more great products on page 110.

"The car went into the ditch because the engine, which was sitting beside me in the passenger side, was too heavy and pulled it off the road going round a corner."

Robbie Williams bought the first Smart Crossblade (chassis 0001) off the production line and later sold it for charity on eBay for £33,300. Watch out for chassis number 0008, he kept that one for himself, and it will be a shrewd investment when it comes up for sale.

Bid4it A new service by allows buyers to propose a price for an advertised car, sight unseen. The service cashes in on the growing popularity of auction sites like eBay, by letting purchasers put in an offer, removing the need to haggle.


“It’s a win-win situation” says Andrew Sobell of ”People buy on price. So the opportunity to talk money before you’ve actually seen the car in the metal helps reduce the time spent traipsing around,” he explained. “The service appeals to the shy and retiring buyer who would rather haggle and agree a price online from the comfort of their living room, and the seller who is fed up of time wasters.”

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Select a Nissan Find yourself a highly specced, nearly new Nissan with less than 10,000 miles with the new 'SELECT' search system now live at The new service enables buyers to tap directly into Nissan's own fleet of ex-management cars like the Primera 1.8 SVE with under 6000 miles on the clock advertised for £12,495. Or how about a 350Z with the GT pack in blue with 7k miles for £24,995? Once you're ready to purchase the car, Nissan will arrange for it to be delivered to your nearest dealer. You still get all the usual benefits of the approved scheme including a warranty, history check, RAC cover, and MoT insurance. For more on used approved schemes see page 166.


DAEWOO REBRANDING TO HURT RESIDUALS The budget brand from Korea is to get its second name change in as many years. From Daewoo to GM Daewoo, and now Chevrolet. The name change, which takes place from January 2005, is likely to put further pressure on the Daewoo residuals which have barely recovered from GM’s takeover and the parts scare that accompanied it. Apparently it’s all part of GM’s strategy of repositioning Chevy as its affordable entry brand for developed markets and a volume mainstream brand for emerging markets. The cars will continued to be built in South Korea and sold through the existing network. “Chevrolet is a familiar marque to many, with the heritage Daewoo never had the time to develop,” said Alan Cole

Club E-Type Jaguar E-Type owners around the world are to get their own club thanks to Philip Porter who also founded the XK Club, and owns one of the very first E-Types. He also owns a roadster that appeared in the original cult classic film The Italian Job. See or call 01584 781588 for further info.

from Glass’s Guide who insisted that residuals would not suffer adversely. Nic Barfield of Wisebuyers Price Guide disagreed: “It will take a massive amount of work to convince the buying public that Chevy is a budget entry-level brand, when British motorists associate it with big thirsty V8s.”He added that short term residuals would continue to suffer severely as GM would find it hard to shift leftover stock from a dead brand.

Who are the best drivers? Europeans are better drivers say nearly half of British motorists according to a survey by Virgin Cars. "We're surprised by the findings, mainly because motorists in countries such as Italy, France and Greece have something of a reputation," said David Cook of Virgin, adding that it might be due to our perception of people from Germany and Scandinavian countries being skilled drivers.

The first thing you notice looking through a Nairobi newspaper is the sheer volume of obituaries. More worrying is that a large proportion of these deaths are caused by road traffic accidents. This year in February to June alone 6701 people were killed or injured, many due to defective vehicles. Most used vehicles are imported directly from Japan and the Middle East, with Kenya a fertile market for three to five year old cars. Dealers are few and far between and vehicles lead a tough life between services with Out here you don’t scant attention paid to want to break down maintenance. So there’s been a crackdown in the last year, with severe penalties imposed on dangerous cars. Unlike neighbouring South Africa, there are very few upmarket dealerships in Kenya and European prestige cars are rare. The average car is eight years old and most commonly Japanese, led by Nissan, Toyota, Isuzu and Mitsubishi. Getting stuck in the bush in an unreliable car can cost you your life. That’s why a 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser with 155,000 km will still set you back £12k, the same as a 1998 Mercedes C200 with only 32,000 km. At the other end of the scale, a Peugeot 505, 1995 model would cost £3400, the same year 405, £3000 and a 1994 Starlet, £1400. But the really big growth area is in light utility vehicles with vans and pick ups such as the Toyota Hi Ace, Toyota Shark and Nissan Hi Rider. We found that 1997 models of these are all around £4500. Dealerships are few In amongst the Jap stuff, and far between we saw a solitary 1996 Alfa Romeo 155 for sale at a stiff £3200. It would take a brave Kenyan to put his money here; or at least one that doesn’t stray into the bush too regularly... Jeff Bailey


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Unscratched, the car is worth £4500£5000. Leave the scratch and it becomes a bargaining point. You know what your bottom line is, so advertise for £5k, let the buyer beat you down to £4500, then sell him the car and you both come out of it happy.


Victor: one A friend of mine owns a 1963 Vauxhall Victor Deluxe which someone is interested in buying and I wondered what would be a fair price. The man brought a mechanic who said it needed about £500 spending, including welding, and the chrome needs replacing. Otherwise the car is a runner and in good condition with just 78,000 miles since new. Mrs B Dougal, Wells, Somerset



Off the top of my head I'd say between £250 and £750. Though there cannot be more than a handful of these cars left.

Needs interrogation


I have run a Passat TDI 130 since new in 2002 for 50,000 miles and have followed recommended service schedules. The car stutters or hesitates momentarily when accelerating through 2000 rpm and feels like a petrol car when cold. It makes no difference to the stutter whether cold or warm and when it clears, we get a belch of smoke. The problem seems to be getting gradually worse. Most of our journeys are short, in and around town. I thought a swift trip to Scotland would blow out the cobwebs, but to no avail. I also believe fuel consumption has suffered a little. Andrew Tunnard, via e-mail

Don't kid yourself



I've got a 1999 Toyota Picnic with 55,000 miles on the clock and a key scratch down the side. I was thinking of trading the car in at some point in the future and wonder if I should get it sorted, costing roughly £350, or just leave it. John Usher, via e-mail

I have £3000 to spend on my next used car. My last car, an Omega, was a disaster and I'm anxious to avoid another one. A local dealer has a Volvo S40 T4 CD on a 98R plate. It's fully loaded but has 93,000 miles on the clock and is priced at exactly £3000. To my mind it drives really well but I do drive a London Taxi all day so that may well be why I like it! What do you think? Dave Moppett, New Malden


The S40 T4 is cheap. But come on, you know it's going to be another disaster. Stop trying to find a high performance 'bargain' for no money and you'll get yourself a reliable car. A 2.0 Mondeo on a T or a V would be a good place to start. Just avoid old shape Mondeos from 2000 as they had problems with road springs and water leaks.

«Stop trying

to find a high performance bargain for no money» 26 USED CAR BUYER



Reads like a problem with one of the Pumpe Duse injectors. Anyone with a VAG 1551 or 1552 electronic interrogator should be able to pinpoint what is wrong. Or it might simply be the diesel you are using. Reports from other readers suggest that this engine runs best on low sulphur diesel.

Car Finder: Budget £800 New driver Martin Huddlestone needs to find a car that’s preferably Japanese, cheap to insure and on a budget of only £600-£800. We suggest:

Mitsubishi Colt At the top end of the budget, but group eight insurance may still be too costly. The money buys one of the very few on the market with a high mileage, but we found a 1993 1600 GLXi within the budget.

Suzuki Swift 1.0-litre GL three-door slots into insurance group four, but it won’t get you high on the status list. However it is a reasonable runner and there are plenty to choose from on this sort of budget.

Nissan Micra The Micra is well know for its low running costs. The market is awash with them and there are plenty within the budget. £700 would net a tidy one owner, 70k mile, 1.0 16V with low group three insurance.

To contact Car Finder... Write to Car Finder, Used Car Buyer Ltd, Winchester Court, 1 Forum Place, Hatfield, AL10 0RN. Or email Include your name, address, telephone number and email. If you need help choosing a car, tell us your buying budget and a little about your motoring needs.

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keep the Ibiza, or sell it and spend £4000-£4500 on an Audi A4 or BMW? My worry is that at 70 mph the engine is doing 3700 rpm, which is bound to be detrimental to fuel economy and longevity. Ian Smiles, Dalry, Ayrshire

Multiple prices


I've seen a tidy 2002 02-plate Fiat Multipla JTD 110 ELX, with 45k miles. It was advertised on the Autotrader site and on the dealer's own website for £8999. When I got to the dealership the sticker price was £9999. The lower value seems to fit with price guides and I'd happily pay it. Do I have any grounds (legal or otherwise) to argue convincingly for the lower figure? Andrew Edwards, via e-mail £9999 is too much for an 02 with 45k miles. I would expect an 03 with 20k miles for that, or at least a 52. If you get into a fight with the dealer he will merely plead a mistake (which it probably was) and get away with it. If he needs your money he'll let you have it for £8999.


No history Fiesta


I am in the process of purchasing a 2001 Y-reg Ford Fiesta Flight 1.3 with a mileage of 24,000 miles from a Ford dealer for £4000. However, the car doesn't have a full service history, but it has had just one owner. Do you think this will be a problem when I try to sell it, and is £4000 a reasonable price? Alma Erenstein, via e-mail

£4000 is far too much money for an old shape Y-reg Fiesta Flight which is now more than three years old and especially with the disadvantage of an incomplete service history. Forget this car. have newshape Fiesta 1.25s for not much more money.


Stay seated


I have a 22k mile 52-Reg SEAT Ibiza 1.2 which I bought preregistered, saving myself £1000 on list. Now I am about to change jobs, which will include a roundtrip of 1000 miles every fortnight. Should I

Keep the Ibiza. Any Audi or BMW you buy for £4000-£4,500 will either be old or mega-lumpy, or both, and is likely to start costing money the way an old £20,000 car costs money. Whereas the Ibiza should still give you 40 mpg and take another 25,000 miles in its stride over the next year.


Pensioning off


We are pensioners and run a 1981 Ford Fiesta 1.3 GL with 83,000 miles on the clock. However, parts are now difficult to get. We only do 5000 miles a year so what’s a good replacement costing £6000 at most? A C Barker, Coventry

«Any BMW or audi for £4000£4,500 will be mega-lumpy»


Q&A Motoring’s top Agony Uncle, Honest John, has responded to 50,000 questions to date. If you’ve a query either write to Honest John at the usual address or send him an email at the following address:

You will find that £6000 buys a lot of new cars at discounts, including a Hyundai Getz with a five year warranty and three years servicing included. But second hand, your best bet is a Toyota Yaris 1.0-litre at just under a year old. They come with standard power steering, an excellent and economical little 1.0-litre 16v chain cam engine and are very easy to get in and out of.


Useless inspections


I recently bought a 1998 Honda Civic from a dealer only to later find that, despite a sticker saying it had an approved inspection in association with a well-known national rescue outfit, there is a significant gap around the windscreen. That company now refuses to discuss the matter stating that I did not pay for the inspection. Thong Lam, Newcastle-upon-Tyne


This effectively means that a dealer-funded used car inspection is of no value whatsoever. The rescue organisation cannot just lend its good name to something then deny any responsibility. An ‘approved inspection’ is not necessarily the same as an inspection by a representative of that organisation. Always ask to see the actual inspection report or better still, pay for your own independent inspection.

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You can't con a con-artist, but there are ways to know when you're being suckered. It's all to do with body language reveals Ian Wearing


ow would you feel if you found out that the "FSH 20,000 mile" motor you've just bought has actually travelled the equivalent to twice round the world? Probably a bit like the chairman of Barings Bank felt when he heard infamous rogue trader Nick Leeson had blown £500 million of the bank's money. But the guy was so plausible, how could he have lied through his teeth? We can all be hoodwinked by a 'nice bloke' and there are plenty of accomplished con-artists who sell cars to the unwary. These practised liars are tricky to spot but most private sellers are far easier to rumble. Body language is the key. If you observe them carefully and ask the right questions you may be able to recognise when they are being economical with the truth. Start by watching their normal body language, their mannerisms, their voice intonation and whether they look you in the eye. Then, after a few innocent queries and pleasantries, ask the seller a very direct question and watch carefully. Does he hesitate slightly before answering? Is his breathing uneven? Maybe he coughs or clears his throat and perhaps he trips over his words. Watch for a twitch or quick eye movement – does he still look you in the eye? He may wring his hands, blush or fiddle with something, like a pen or

part of his clothing. Another sign is talking excessively when just a simple yes or no would suffice. And then the real give-away, his hand goes up to his mouth or another part of his face after he has spoken. This action goes back to childhood lies and is a subconscious attempt to "stuff the lie back into the offending orifice" according to psychologist Martin Lloyd-Elliott in his book Secrets of Sexual Body Language. Now, you can't call the guy a liar based on a single twitch but, if you suspect something is wrong, investigate further. Modern technology can help here. According to a study of students by Jeff Hancock, assistant professor of communication at Cornell University, people are less likely to lie in an email or other written medium. Somehow the lie seems more serious if it is committed to print. Get the seller to put everything in an email, at the least you'll have something to fall back on if things do go wrong.


«Accomplished cheats are out there selling used cars to the unwary and the uninformed»

Catch-out questions: Has the car ever been in a smash? Is the paintwork all original? Can you verify the mileage? Does it have a genuine full service history? Is there any finance owing? Is it your car to sell?

When to keep quiet...

Come on girls, maybe he won’t notice the mods 28 USED CAR BUYER

When you come to advertise your car for sale you have to make a quick impact, play on the strengths and minimise weaknesses. Obvious things like full service history and alloy wheels are good. But, if you have non-standard performance items on the car like an upgraded chip on the CPU or an altered exhaust, tread carefully. Usually these will not fetch any more money and many buyers are put off by a 'modified' motor. The most important thing is to get a potential buyer to come and see the car. Try to steer discussion away from any 'enhancements' until you're sure they're genuinely interested and wouldn't mind them. Alternatively, if the mods are unobtrusive, perhaps they need never know...

Does he look you in the eye? If not, why not?


Slipped disc If the car has alloy wheels, it's usually easy to see the condition of the brake discs through them. A deep step round the edge means a service is due and replacement is needed.

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Pride of Porsche Just a quick note to say how pleased I was with the whole look of the 'Ultimate Guide to the Porsche 911' in the November issue. Especially since my car (the 1966 911S) is not only the first one (given it's the oldest) but also how beautifully it's photographed. If you ever need an early 911 again, give me a call. Martin Rogers, by email

The war’s over dear I would like to comment on Mark Williams' unoriginal and offensive comments in October's Used Car Buyer. Is it really necessary to use words like 'Panzermobile' and 'Kraut cars'? A lack of originality is shown in the title as well: 'Don't mention the war!'. As for the remainder of the article – frankly he is wrong. Having said that I certainly don't expect to agree with everything I read in a motoring magazine. Generally Used Car Buyer is an informative and entertaining read, but why not purchase three 12 year old cars, perhaps small hatches, German, British and either French or Italian,

run them for a few months as daily drivers and compare costs. Oh and don't forget to sell them on at the end because resale value needs to be taken into account. Finally, if your publisher is in a particularly generous mood, how about a buying and running feature on obscure exotica like the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, Bristol 411 or Maserati Merak – all 25 years old and hence not too expensive to buy. But frightening to run on a daily basis. Or are they? Ed Rehring, by email Editor's reply: It probably isn't necessary to use such language, but then Mark is an iconoclastic chap stuck in the Welsh hills and is yet to be tainted by political correctness. Please forgive him (and me!). 'Jalopy' is an opinion

Next month: F1 or Rally cars? In this issue we tell you how to buy a Formula 1 car (see page 72) and feature the ultimate guide to the rally ace, the Mitsubishi Evo (page 60). We know which race-bred used car we’d buy – what about you?

* Formula 1

* Rally winner

Vote now at 30 USED CAR BUYER

piece and as is the way with such may be at odds with your own entirely valid (and valuable!) opinion. Thanks for your suggestions on the cars

Reader Poll

4WD or 2WD? Last month we tested 4WD performance cars and asked whether two or four driven wheels were best for sporting cars. Over two-thirds of you prefered two wheel drive.

4WD or 2WD?

68% 68% said 2WD

32% 32% said 4WD

Don’t agree? Then say so:

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Future Used Car of the Year? First of all I must congratulate you on a superb issue. The editorial content is excellent and the photography is outstanding. However I think that Mike Rutherford was extremely harsh on the new Ford Focus. What he forgot to mention about the revised model is that it has greater cabin space and a larger boot. According to those who have driven the car it is even better to drive. With low prices to start with I am sure that in a year or two you will be able to buy a decent used new-shape Focus for around £8k or less. Now that will be a great used buy, and I am sure that the new version will also win the prestigious Used Car Buyer award in years to come. Viren Patel, Ilford

Send your rants, raves, boasts, complaints, abuse and praise to UCB Letters, Winchester Court, 1 Forum Place, Hatfield, Herts AL10 0RN or email


Letter of the month

Beating the bidders I am usually the first person to criticise anyone who is contemplating buying things from an internet auction. We all know the myths – you don't know what you are buying, you don't know who you are buying from and once you have bought the car there is no going back. So anyway I managed to find a Honda Civic Coupé on a 95 M-reg. It was advertised on the eBay auction site with no reserve and no picture but there was a contact number. I watched it for a couple of days and nobody had bid on it, so I called the number and arranged to view the car. To my amazement the car was mint. I took along my copy of Used Car Buyer and followed everything on the checklist step by step and everything checked out fine. Finally we came to the crucial negotiations. He wanted £1000 for it but a couple of things had to be sorted. After a lot of haggling we agreed at £500 for the car. Thanks for the advice. Sam Brandist, by email

Car-buying addict The recent changes to Used Car Buyer continue to impress and now I buy and sell cars just to enjoy the thrill of a change. I love the anticipation of a journey in a wellengineered, fun and different car. Preferably one that looks like it costs four times what I paid for it! With that in mind I couldn't help but notice that the road tax in Quentin Willson's Bentley Turbo R in November's edition runs out in Jan 05. Guessing how QW's mind works, and certainly how mine does, I wondered if

Quentin was thinking of selling this automotive legend in the new year. If so, I would love the opportunity of making an offer. I have always wanted a late-Eighties Turbo R, as a keeper. I want to waft around in a gentleman's study for the price of a nearly new Focus... Thanks again for a great read. Martin Dickson, by email Editor's reply: Quentin's always ready to do a deal if the right offer comes along...

Letter of the month wins a terrific Bluetooth DriveBlue Plug-n-Drive Car Kit for handsfree phone calls on the go with voice recognition, normally retailing for £79


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've got it! I know what this MPV reminds me of, and here's a clue: "Espace, the final frontier". Yep, it's a shuttle pod off the USS Enterprise. When you return home in this thing, you don't drive into the garage, you dock with your house. And the interstellar theme continues inside. You need to go through Starfleet Academy to figure out where all the controls are, and how to use them. The owners of other contemporary Renaults will have a head start, but it can be fun figuring it all out. Further amusement will be had seeking out the zillion storage compartments in this car. There are six in the dashboard alone and we never did find which one the CD autochanger was hiding in. Forget 'Big Yellow Storage' just keep all your stuff in here. And your people. With the Grand you can transport seven and a goodly proportion of their luggage in two, three, two formation. Alternatively you can turn the middle row of seats around to create a lounge should the captain want to call a conference. The floor remains quite high in the Espace, which can be an issue for taller people, and the third row will be a tight fit. Alternatively remove all the rear chairs, lie down in the vast


space, and gaze up through the full-length glass roof at the stars reciting the words: "these are the voyages..." It's very therapeutic for Trekkies. Sulu would love the helm response and astonishingly agility from this emperor-sized people carrier, but all is not well down in the engine room where Scotty insists that the 2.2 dCi has no more performance to give. The 2.0 T petrol is better but drains the dilithium crystals at an alarming rate. We didn't try the 3.0 V6 dCi but on paper it would appear the best choice. Expensive though. Cheapest 3.0 dCi we found was an auto Privilege spec with 11,000 miles advertised privately for £21,500 (£30k new). A 2.2 dCi Expression auto with 13,000 miles (£27k new) for £16,775 on the Renault website was more tempting. All in all, a great value, good to drive, and capacious MPV. But a word of caution, when you're out in deep space the last thing you want is to break down, and owners of previous generation Espaces have reported numerous niggling faults and even catastrophic failures. Admittedly there has been no negative feedback on the latest Espace, but it is early days. Live long and prosper. Shahzad Sheikh

BOLDLY GONE Dust off your tricorders and prepare to board the USS Renault Espace

Enviromental controls at your fingertips

More storage compartments than the Olympic locker rooms

At a glance Privilege standard equipment includes: alloys, CD and autochanger, self-dimming mirror, side and rear sunblinds, electric sunroof, parking sensors, auto heatlights and wipers, cruise control. Spec: 2.0-litre Turbo petrol, 4 cylinders, 165 bhp, 127 mph, 0-62 mph 9.9 seconds, 29 mpg, Ins Grp 13; 2.2-litre dCi diesel, 4 cylinders, 150 bhp, 117 mph, 0-62 mph 11.5 seconds, 36 mpg, Ins Grp 11 Depreciation: Retains 40 per cent of its value after three years Final word: Captain Kirk would love this trans-galactic cruiser, but it might keep Scotty busy

Espace – the final frontier





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AMPHICAR You don't have to speak Micra to spot a bargain


he campaign for the new Nissan Micra was based around words pushed together to create a new language: for example space and safety combined was "spafe". So do you speak Micra? No, neither do I. And then there's the amphibian-inspired styling. Nissan would have me believe that it's a car as individual as I am. I'm not sure that I want my individuality based on how this car looks. Picking the right colour can help and our

Never mind the looks, feel the value


More anonymous than an Avensis? That'll be the Daewoo


f you were going to copy another saloon manufacturer's design then whose would you choose? BMW perhaps? Audi? Lexus even. Daewoo chose Toyota. Hmmm. Despite claiming to be penned by Pininfarina, the styling similarities with the Avensis are self-evident – especially from the side and rear. Unfortunately the resemblance extends to the driving experience too. Oh dear. Not that the Avensis is a bad car, just a bland one. And this is too. That said, the Nubira's not lacking in equipment – front and side airbags, aircon, alloys, power everything and even a cooled section in glovebox! The ride is supple, the driving position accomplished and the controls simple to operate. Chuck in ample visibility and heroic rear legroom, not to mention a plethora of cubbyholes, and Derek and Deirdre couldn't fail to be impressed. Needless to say though, as a dynamic (and aesthetic) delight if fails miserably. But most prospective buyers won't give a monkey's. These kind of bargain saloons sell much like fridges – on value and little else. Against the aforementioned Avensis it's a value winner. Add Mitsubishi's Carisma or Hyundai's Elantra to the melting pot however, and the picture is less clear. The manufacturer formally known as Daewoo, then GM Daewoo will imminently be know as Chevrolet, which

isn't going to help used prices one iota, leading us to sniff a bargain. While a new Nubira is £10,995, 10,000-mile examples (with the balance of three years warranty and servicing) are already down to £7595 at main dealers, with 40,000 mile, four year old, previous generation offerings carpeting at a bargain basement £3495. And at these prices, who gives a stuff about style? Guy Baker

About as individual as a bullfrog

Micra with its black pearl paint was at least discreet. But quite apart from the styling you can't ignore, is the price you can't dismiss. A quick search revealed a 52-plate 1.2 S with 5000 miles on the clock advertised at just £5150 privately. And an SVE like the one we tested with all the electrical gismos you'd hope to find on a luxury car never mind a supermini, for £6995 with only 1000 miles on the clock. Not bad for a car costing around £11k new. As an everyday drive around town, for slotting in and out of car parks and the occasional motorway cruise the Micra is a sure-fire winner. Which is why it's so popular with driving schools – just beware you don't end up buying one of these clutch-abused cars. That aside, don't follow my example and disregard the Micra, for the money it's definitely worthy of your attention. Guy Jaques

Simplicity itself

At a glance 1.6 SX standard equipment includes: front and side airbags, aircon, alloys, power windows and mirrors, remote central locking, leather steering wheel and gear knob, cooled section in glove box Tech spec: 1.6-litre 108 bhp, 116 mph, 0-62 mph 10.7 seconds, 39.8 mpg, Ins grp 8 Depreciation: Retains 37 per cent of its value at three years. Final word: Buy as cheap as possible and run it into the ground.

At a glance SVE standard equipment includes: Alloys, CD, electric windows, rear parking sensors, climate control, leather steering wheel, ABS with EBD. Spec: 1.4-litre petrol, 4 cylinder, 88 bhp, 107 mph, 0-62 mph 11.9 seconds, 44.8 mpg, Ins Grp 4 Depreciation: Retains 43 per cent of its value at three years. Final word: Thrifty toad-like car is a top value first car. USED CAR BUYER 37

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Jardine Teacher, rally driver, pit-lane engineer, race co-ordinator, PR/marketing expert and currently partnering Jim Rosenthal on ITV’s F1 coverage, is there no limit to Tony Jardine’s talents?

What was your first car and how did you get it? A Ford Anglia 105E with a 1600 X-Flow engine and 2000E gearbox. Worked my backside off as a bricky's mate in a builders yard for ten weeks after sixth form to pay for it. What used car would you buy for £10k? A Smart, for commuting to and from work. What advice would you give to someone buying used? Check and re-check documents. Make sure there's a service history and invest in a proper inspection. I recently went through the whole scenario searching for a Mini for my son and it paid dividends, we've now got a mint original Mini with a genuine 12,000 miles. Arthur Daley, Swiss Toni and Boycie. Heroes or villains? Heroes, great characters who engage you with vigour and colour. Unlike the characters in F1 who are always trying to flog you crashed cars (or bits of them). Did you haggle for your last car? Did you get a better deal? Haggled on the Mini and saved £1000. Had to forego the guarantee and do some work myself, but I preferred that. Which car has given you the greatest headache, greatest pleasure or both? My 1960 Isetta single cylinder (300cc) BMW Bubble car gave me the most aggro but also the biggest pleasure. With the gear lever on the right, big front door and bench seat, I could drive front on to kerbs and invite two girls out to play! Drove it at 16 years old with a motorcycle side car licence. I could get it on to two wheels at some corners. It kept breaking and I had to buy a whole spare car to cannibalise bits. It burst regularly, once into flames outside the bakers as the seat shorted out the battery, someone ran out with a bucket of water. Mechanic under the arches or main dealer for spares and repairs? Mechanic under the arches. You get proper attention and a good price.


oon things will be deep and crisp and even. That expensive irritation known as Christmas will shoulder its way into the calendar. Barclaycard bills will tumble inexorably onto several million, coconut doormats. There will be tears round the breakfast table, sobbing promises of enforced economy drives and hasty calculations done on the backs of envelopes. Most of us will take a deep breath and realise that, for yet another year, our expenditure has once again exceeded our income. Mr Pickwick's misery will be omnipresent. And every year it's the same story. As long as I've been selling motors the seasonal arrival of reindeer casts a dark shadow over the world of car buying and selling. Nobody's got any spare loot, we're distracted with carols and commercialism and the last thing we want to do is go shopping for a new car. Welcome to the silly season. And the trade's the same. They get their stock levels wrong – too much gear on the forecourt or too little – they stop going to auctions, stop buying tackle in and either hunker down and wait for the thaw, or bugger off to Caribbean climes until the yellow orb rises once again over the Portacabin. All of which means that the Season of Goodwill is stiff with buying opportunities. The trade guides may tell you that there's not much seasonal difference in prices any more, but the truth of the matter is that enthusiasm, tenacity and a willingness to buy are commodities in very short supply come Yuletide. Only the 4x4 market strengthens, while the rest just sort of, well, withers. These things you need to know. But in the unlikely event that your thrift, parsimony and financial acumen has left you with a few bob, there really is no better time to buy. And this year, of all years, we're expecting a glut of metal on the market dispatched by cash-strapped owners who need to clear the decks and pay of the raft of mental loans they've shackled themselves to over the last


12 months. The word is there are thousands of late low mileage cars out there bought on the promise of paper-thin property equity that will soon be sold at a thumping loss. Both house and car repossessions are up, manufacturers have too much old stock and the trade are getting twitchy about a recession that's parked just around the corner with its engine running. Expect all sports cars to be down. Already we're seeing prices of Porsche 911s, Merc SLs, Ferrari 360s and the usual drop-top suspects softening noticeably. Early SLKs are dipping below the £10k benchmark, likewise the first of the previous generation 500SL – ten grand buys a proper car. Luxury iron is in the doldrums too. The 7 Series is having a hard time at all ages and mileages, Jag XJs are faltering, LS Lexi are on the floor and even the current shape Merc S Class isn't the force it was. Icons like the MINI, Beetle Cabriolet, Pug 206CC and Streetka are shedding their value like crumbling masonry. Mainstream stuff is even worse, with Mondeos and Vectras falling alarmingly, hotly pursued by the Focus, Golf and Astra. In fact you can now buy a decent, shiny N plate Vectra for £500 or a T plate Mondeo for a smudge over a grand. Beat that... Performance pieces aren't much better either. M3s are weakening, early Scoobies are slipping past the four grand threshold, M5s aren't selling as strongly and even values of the top-drawer stuff like DB7s and 355s are heading well and truly South. Honestly, there's some serious metal out there that's all but going begging. This is the year of the nine grand Audi TT, the £12k Jag XK8 and the 15 grand Boxster. You can bag one of the first of the Z3s for £8000, a decent UK MX-5 for £3k or an Audi A8 for – and get this – just six big ones. Never has so much metal been available to so many for so little. But even with such market anarchy there are still rules: best buying comes from private men. As long as

I’ve bought cars from desperate sellers in Dece m £10k. Trust me, at this time of year hacking 30 p


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you HPI (outstanding finance is always a big issue at Crimble), and do all the usual ownership checks a private sale will always cost you less. But negotiate with sensitivity. Being forced to surrender your pride and joy for fiscal reasons is a small domestic tragedy, so don't make the seller's pain any worse. Gentle, sympathetic negotiating works much better than confrontational bullying. People sell to people they like and more you bond with the seller the more likely he is to drop his trousers. Mind you, don't get misty-eyed or consider paying the asking price and always, always make an offer. At Christmas nobody, but nobody should pay retail. And always ring up about the cars that haven't sold. Three weeks in the Auto Trader can feel like a life sentence and most sellers, when confronted with a roll of readies that would choke a racehorse, will have come to understand that basic car-selling dictum – the first loss is the least loss. I've bought cars from desperate sellers in December that have been advertised at £15k for £10k. Trust me, at this time of year hacking 30 per cent off an advertised price isn't impossible at all. But what would I buy this Christmas? Well, I'd take a long hard look at the prestige end and try and find a sub 20 grand DB7, £40k Ferrari F355 or a £20k Porker 996. All these fantastic cars are out there – it's just a case of finding them and negotiating carefully and cleverly. Do it right and you can enjoy several months of prestige posing and then when the nation's optimism returns, sell the thing on for close to what you paid. When it comes to used cars, this Christmas will be a buyer's bonanza. Make sure you get your spoon in the gravy.

e mber that have been advertised at £15k for

0 per cent off an advertised price isn’t impossible



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SIMISTER Cars capable of 155 mph or more are but a tiny proportion of the entire road population. Yet new ones keep cropping up to delight us and frustrate us in equal measure. What are we to do with these things? Where can we drive them and stay out of jail? It's especially odd then, that in America, one of the most regulated countries in the world (despite its claim to be the land of the free) they sell in big numbers. Maybe it's to live out the shreds of a dream, to know they have the capability if not the opportunity. How else can you enjoy a BMW M5, just one of this month's five 155 mph wondercars? Week One American brutes, M5 and Focus I got to fulfil a dream and drive a Ford GT40 course car just before the final race at the fabulous Goodwood Revival race meeting. The GT40 is my favourite car of all time in the entire world. But I also had another car with a rumbling American V8 engine, the slightly retroflavoured Chrysler 300C. Its V8 is a reactivated iteration of the Hemi design that used to help old Mopar musclecars light up their tyres, although this one slims down to a V4 under light loads to improve economy. The 300C is a big, brutal-looking beast with deep flanks and shallow side windows, a car proud to be American yet well up to European standards thanks to some underskin engineering borrowed from the Mercedes E-Class. It should cost about £30,000 when it goes on sale here, in RHD, next October. It's not a Merc, BMW or Audi, but I love it to tyresquealing death.

GT40 still a thrill

Prediction: Those for whom a familiarly respectable image is all, will stick to the German marques, but those with an individual streak and a sense of fun might find the 300C very tempting. It could become a bit of a cult car and as such do better in the depreciation stakes than previous yank tanks like the Cadillac STS. 40 USED CAR BUYER

The last four weeks have been a speed-fuelled blur with anything less than 155 mph just not good enough And so to Munich and BMW-land, for a dose of the new M5. This car would crack 200 mph if electronics didn't intervene, thanks to a 507 bhp, 5.0-litre V10 engine and a seven-speed sequential gearbox. Oh, and 60 mph is yours in 4.6 seconds if you can stand the transmission torture inflicted by the launch control system. There's a power button to reduce output to 400 bhp if you feel the need (why?), plus the most fantastic soundtrack. Think Grand Prix incar camera footage and you'll get the idea. The most extreme M5 yet

Even when trickling through a village the growl from an automatic downchange throttle-blip will turn heads. This is the most extreme M5 yet. Prediction: There will always be a market for an M5. It's a kind of ultimate. These will command premium prices for a year or two at least. And back to earth, albeit a fairly heavenly part of it, near Siena, Italy, for the Ford Focus. Yes, the new one looks less daring than the old one but it's better than ever to drive with less noise and a smoother ride to go with that fantastic handling. There's a lot of hard plastic inside the staider cabin, though, which chips away at Ford's claim of a more upmarket ambience. Well it is easier to recycle, and when the end-of-life recycling legislation bites Ford will have to pay for that. Prediction: An instant best seller of course. And the used market will be awash with them in three years' time. The current Focus will be a better bargain than ever. Week Two Wrong SEAT To Barcelona, land of SEAT, for the most confusing car launch so far this year. The new Toledo is being marketed as a saloon,

«M5 is some kind of ultimate and there will always be a market. These will command premium prices for a couple of years at the very least» just as the last one was, because that's what its home market wants. One small snag. To everyone else it's an MPV. In fact it's an Altea with a bustle-back tailgate. Over to you, marketing men. Prediction: It will disappear without trace, because people will buy the prettier, and cheaper, Altea instead, at least that's a car that knows what it is.

Will sink without trace

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MARKET monitor Shahzad

SHEIKH Merc B-Class a winner

Week Three Paris Motor Show The Paris show, and what a fine time we had. But, concept cars apart, there was little that hadn't been previewed already. The forthcoming Mercedes B-Class (a stretched and curvier new-generation A-Class) looked interesting, as did Peugeot's sliding-door supermini, the 1007. Week Four Ferrari F430 and Merc CLS Back in the high-speed club this week, beginning at Maranello, Italy with a car able to bust the 196 mph barrier given the chance. It also

Rapid AMG CLS faces steep losses

hits 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and has more power than a Ferrari F40. Yes, it's another Ferrari and despite the power and pace it's the new entry-level one. The F430 replaces the 360 Modena, looks like a mini-Enzo but neater, shares an engine block with current Maseratis and is total car-shaped heaven. I took it around Ferrari's Fiorano test track as well as out on the road, and I can report that the new electronic differential inspires almost heroic levels of confidence. There's more torque too, and the F1 paddleshift gearbox is finally sorted.

Prediction: Expensive at £117,000, but junior Ferraris are always in demand. The new chain-cam engine and twin-plate clutch should fix two of the previous car's most expensive maintenance issues, but 360s should start to get cheaper with F355s also sliding a little. And straight on to the Paul Ricard circuit and a hotel in France, arriving at midnight, for AMG's two latest offerings. Its supercharged V8 version of the ultra-swoopy CLS, the four-door coupé that seems to have escaped straight from the concept studio, feels much like the EClass it partly is –- taut, tuneful and mighty fast. And the SLK 55 AMG marries a V8, not blown in this case, to Mercedes' excellent compact sports car to make a kind of mini-Corvette with added quality. I can't get on with that sevenspeed auto, though. Too many gears, too much confusion. Prediction: They're expensive, but with the factory's seal of approval their currency is assured. Things may be different once they're a few years old, though, because the running costs aren't going to get any less. And now I have to make sense of the last 12 months' new cars to come up with my shortlist for European Car of the Year. It's going to be hard, but I know which one I want to win. Which is? If I told you, you'd probably have to kill me. Seven speed auto overkill

eathermen are predicting the worst winter on record. Yes I know it’s cold enough to freeze your undercarriage, but dedicated bargain hunters need to dig out their thermal undies and grab their waterproofs because retail demand ices up for the next few weeks and won’t thaw till the new year. Meanwhile dealers are still out there, open for business and eager to make a few extra bob before Christmas. And there’s a lavish selection of cars to choose from. Company fleets are dumping their full-history specced-up specials into the market before January. ‘I know of two major fleet vendors who usually stockpile vehicles in December, but on last year’s experience feel it is not worth it due to associated holding costs,’ says Mike Pilkington of Vehicle Remarketing Solutions. We’re getting pickier and the dealers know it. If it ain’t got electric whotsits, aircon, CD, sexy alloys and shiny paint Now let’s be honest... it’ll never leave the forecourt, so traders are only stocking the tastiest metal. Which means the leftovers are virtual giveaways at auction if all you’re after are four wheels, motive power and steering. Though that’s not always true either. Luxury gas-guzzlers are also sitting on the unwanted heap as buyers queue up for compact execs. Even upper medium Europeans like the Peugeot 406, and Renault Laguna are scraping the residuals barrel. The guys at Citroën must be eating Ginsters for lunch because they’re openly admitting they don’t expect the facelifted C5 to fly out of the showrooms, and are cutting fleet sales by 20 per cent, hoping that will lift residuals by an average of £500 each. Our forecast? Widespread torrential bargains.



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Which nearly news make great value buys second time round?

Just dusting up after itself


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t was like a scene from the movies. I was the Caped Crusader returning to the Bat Cave with Kim Basinger. Trees rushing past, quad projector headlights lighting the way through the country lanes, a red glow and a rush of leaves behind. A glint of moonlight bouncing off the silver dash trim and Seal's Kiss From a Rose playing on the optional Infinity stereo. It felt good, sounded good, looked good. Except of course that instead of Ms Basinger there was only an empty leather seat beside me. Some of you will undoubtedly have been influenced by the poison pen ramblings of certain members of the motoring fraternity who took it upon themselves to criticise this car to the extreme. Comparing the rear styling to a defecating dog meant unsold and unwanted stock staying put at Chrysler dealers. The upside is that just over a year from launch, you can now save yourselves up to £8000 on the list price and pick one up from within the Used Approved scheme or privately, with little more than a few thousand miles on the clock, from just £20,000. And that will buy you a genuine head turner, thanks to that 'American-retro' inspired styling and in part due to the exhaust note from the Mercedes-supplied 3.2-litre V6. The looks may have divided the UCB office but no one complained about the engine. Interior trim generated a few tut tuts though, not being quite to the standard you'd expect from DaimlerChrysler. Having said that it's not much different from the previous Mercedes SLK's interior, which is what the Crossfire is based on after all. Steering and suspension have also been carried over from that car. The steering seems weighty and the suspension firm, but you soon settle in and immediately turn to relinquishing the magnetic appeal the low profile rear tyres have with the tarmac. You won't succeed though, not even with the electronic stability gizmos turned off. This is not an all out sports car, it's a GT. Choose auto or manual and you'll get comparable performance, but it's the torque that carries it along so well. As a new vehicle the Crossfire is comparatively expensive but viewed as a used purchase its value outstrips that of its competitors. The used equivalent 3.2 Audi TT is the same price as a new Crossfire and you're looking at £25,000 for a nearly new Nissan 350Z. If you want to stand out from anything in the hum drum car park most roads have turned into, the Crossfire is the car. The first effects of epic depreciation have taken their toll and prices are almost guaranteed to drop further but not nearly as fast. Most importantly don't dismiss it till you tried it. You might just find you like it! Guy Jaques


Caught up in a battle between style and quality, the head-turning Crossfire fights back on price

HOT DOG Big initial price falls make Crossfire a bargain

At a glance Crossfire standard equipment includes: ABS, traction control, ESP, quad halogen projector headlamps, speed activated rear spoiler, Thatcham Cat. 1 alarm, alloy wheels, twin exhausts, leather seat trim, air con Spec: 3.2-litre V6, 215 bhp, 155 mph, 0-62 mph 6.5 seconds, 27.2 mpg, Ins Grp 18 Depreciation: Retains 38 per cent of its value at three years Final Word: Retro head turner that'll be a comfort to your wallet and your ego. USED CAR BUYER 33

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Jalopy Mark

Williams THE LIKELY LAGS Jags can turn a tidy profit as you’d expect but so can the previouly unloved Citroën XM


his winter I am thinking seriously about buying a jalopy, tarting it up a tad, and then flogging it at a profit. Yes, I know this goes against the noble grain of bargain basement transport, but there has always been a point at which bangers become classics – if they don't succumb to scrap first, that is – and that's when I reckon there are killings to be made. Big enough killings, perhaps, to pay someone else to spend hours freezing under... well under a sturdy hydraulic ramp. OK, so identifying today's bangers that'll be tomorrow's classics is a bit of a hit or miss affair, but I gave you a hint in September's Monkey Business when I mentioned that the Fiat X1/9 under scrutiny had initially been spotted in the classified section of a classic car mag. The £500 price tag was obviously – just – banger money, but good examples of those titchy Italian pop-tops go for three and four times that, so draw your own conclusions. But applying the reverse logic also reaps benefits: check out the 'Bargain Buys' section of your local Trader-type mag or newspaper, and you might be surprised at what you'll find. Mass-produced British cars from the Seventies and early-Eighties are starting to appreciate in value even though until a couple of years ago I wouldn't have given 'em scrapyard room. Thus a 1.8 Morris Marina Coupé I saw advertised in my local Trader for £150 might be worth £600-800 to someone moistyeyed enough to see it as the key to re-living his youth... And that, essentially, is what classic car collectors are basically all about.

Which is cool enough I guess – hey, who wouldn't like to be 18 again? – but buying into that irrational criterion can speed your way towards paying off your Oddbins bill or a new Magnet kitchen in no time at all. Whereas I personally wouldn't credit a beige (beige!) Mk. V Ford Cortina with a classic pedigree, there are entire magazines which wax lyrical about such Dagenham dustbins and their pages are littered with adverts asking upwards of a grand for decent examples. Yet I could show you examples, with tickets and tax, wearing £200 price tags in local newspapers and post office windows. Ditto early-ish Minis with lots of life left in 'em which some poor old sausage, well not poor at all really, would pay five or six times that for – especially if they're in original nick. Lots of little old ladies round my way have 'em, but when arthritis and knackered hips get the best of them they abandon them in favour of sit-up-andbeg orientals like a Suzuki Wagon R. Dealers don't want the trade in, so they go for peanuts. Of course if dear old Auntie Gertie turns up with a Hillman Super Minx to chop in, then a dealer'll know that its classic value is a lot more than the hundred quid he'll knock off the price of a Panda but you, too, could do the math and end up rich. I've already mentioned a few likely old lags that are quietly turning into classics, but to list them all would take a couple of columns and

«Early XJ6s and SD1s, even if they are a bit worn and rusty around the edges, can be worth a lot more than you paid for them if you know where to sell them»

probably bore the pants off you. However rest assured that if a mass-produced anything from the Seventies is still capable of mustering an MoT, then it's likely to interest a classic punter. And if it came off a Jaguar or Rover production line, this is even truer. Early XJ6s and SD1s, even if they're a bit worn and rusty round the edges can be worth a lot more than you paid for them if you know where to sell them, i.e. the classic car media and the websites of clubs that laud their dubious qualities. And some much more modern transports which have almost reached the bottom of their depreciation – such as Citroën's magnificent but sometimes troublesome XM or early BMW 3 and 5 Series and Merc 190s – are now attracting followers who value their engineering and aesthetic virtues. I've seen the big Citroëns sold for £300 at auction and at £1500 in classic mags, and an early Mercedes 190 which wore a £150 price tag in my local Auto Trader could easily have raised five times that sold elsewhere. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that Alfa saloons from the mid- to late-Eighties like the 75 and the 164 (see Monkey Business, page 58) can be picked up for daft money due to their largely unjustified reputation for colanderlike bodywork and spaghetti electrics. They're actually damn fine and perversely sought-after motors, as a trot through the pages of the classic car rags and our sister publication, Auto Italia, will testify. Which brings me, a little reluctantly, to the bottom line with these bangers-cum-classics: even if you can't make a turn on 'em right away, just enjoy driving them for what they are. Rest assured you'll show your appreciation in due course, and so will they. Especially if you can find some misty-eyed middle-aged buyer seeking a teenage kick. USED CAR BUYER 45

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spin kevin


ands up everyone who is as irritated as me by the stomach-churningly winsome ad campaign being waged by Honda to convince us of the virtues of diesel power. “Hate something, change something” runs that soppy chorus. And of course it follows in the footsteps of “What if the most common word in the world was not ‘okay’ but ‘what if’” – an ad that would surely take the "Most bizarre campaign" and "Most Pretentious ad of the Year" in any awards. Having sat through mind-numbing TV ads like these efforts, I do like to mentally rewind and try to picture the scene in the agency presentation suite as the client is wheeled in to be pitched such a creative master-stroke. "Well it's a kinda cartoon where diesel engines with bird's wings on them fly through the sky and a chorus of rabbits sing ‘hate something, change something’. You don't like the rabbits? Okay we'll ditch the rabbits." These ad agency guys must have the hypnotic powers of Paul Mckenna or maybe it's just that old “emperor's new clothes” routine. The client is shelling out so much money to such slick looking, smooth talking people in a flash chrome and glass office that he feels too stupid to shout "Stop; it's crap, you're sacked." Still I do feel a bit sorry for the Honda ad agency. Poor old Honda has had an image problem for years. It pours billions into F1 and MotoGP bike racing, builds great engines and still finds its cars getting driven by old blokes wearing raincoats and hats. Cue outraged phone call yet again from Honda's PR man who has been vainly battling that image ever since I can remember. Honda's ‘old blokes in hats’ market may have been, well, dying off but unfortunately journalists cliches have rather longer lifespans. Hardcore enthusiasts enjoy Honda's bikes and



performance motors but that's not enough for a solid auto empire these days. The family market's what you need and the family market wants diesels. Which is tough for a company that has spent most of its life honing to perfection the high revving purity of multi-valve, variable valve timing petrol power and scorning the diesel donkey. Time, then, for back-pedalling more vigorously than Tony Blair over weapons of mass destruction. I have to confess that the intricacies of Honda's venture into diesel technology rather passed me by so I had to do some quick homework. The 2.2 diesel is, it seems, the product of the same engineering guru who brought us the VTEC – a man who, we're told, hated diesels and only agreed to develop one

«Time, then, for back-pedalling more vigorously than Tony Blair over weapons of mass .destruction» if he was allowed to do it from scratch his way. A fine piece of PR spin if ever there was one! Now the Honda engine is pretty good according to those who have driven it but does it really justify the “hate something, change something” monicker? I don't think so; it's just one of the latest in a fast evolving species. But, boy, did it need to evolve. Until a couple of years ago the diesel had barely reached the neanderthal stage. As someone whose vehicle fleet encompasses two diesels, a Land Rover Defender (good for towing) and a Citroen C3 (great for economy) I'm not going to pretend to

be blindly prejudiced against the modern oil burning engine but I am going to try and make you feel less guilty for not buying one – especially a secondhand one. It's all a question of looking at the whole picture and not just the pretty bit in the middle. Yes, diesels are more economical but they also cost more to buy – new or used – and more to service. They knock out more pollution, too, for that matter. And now the used market is filling up with diesels (often hard-driven ex-company ones) those negative factors are going to start knocking back the better residual values, too. If like Mrs Blick you drive 20,000 miles a year to work and want to waste as little of your wages doing so, then a C3 Citroen makes an awful lot of sense. If you drive half those miles and want to enjoy them you really won't be paying a significant penalty by looking at the horsepower tables instead of the mpg columns. (Incidentally, I could have bought the same age V8 petrol Landie for about £1500 less than my Tdi, used twice as much fuel and still come out on top given the miles I do.) Even so everyone these days wants a diesel and Honda isn't the only company to have to re-write its own history. Jaguar, famed for its legendary XK twin cam engines, now boasts of its twin-turbo diesel and Saab, once all rallying and turbocharging is now trying to tell us that its new diesel is the sporty one on the block. I find it all just a bit depressing. Sure Honda has proved it can build a decent diesel while Jaguar and Saab have got a couple of good 'uns too – albeit courtesy of their corporate parts bins but can't we have a bit more honesty about the reasons why? Let the politicians stick to the spin. Diesels are about economy, first and last. Put that aside and ask yourself if you'd ever buy an engine that was slower, heavier, noisier, more expensive to maintain and more polluting than a petrol one. The answer has to be no.

Used Car Buyer  

Shahzad portfolio from Used Car Buyer

Used Car Buyer  

Shahzad portfolio from Used Car Buyer