Buying for the family on a budget can be a daunting task but Suzanne Keane has some tips up her sleeve.
Buying a used car can be a daunting experience but when faced with the choice of family cars it can be simply bewildering. From soft-roaders, Tourers, Avants, Estates, MPVS to Shooting Brakes choosing the right one for your family with a budget of €20,000 is fraught with difficulties and that’s even before you consider the children, parents and pets. So here are some of the best recommendations – from a Nissan Qashqai to a Land Rover Sport
Nissan may not have reinvented the wheel with the arrival of the Qashqai but they certainly created something quite unique. The real strength of the car lies in its practicality and versatility; it blends an all wheel-drive-orientated family hatchback and a compact 4×4 with all the flexibility and adaptability of an MPV
A new model has just arrived in showrooms so €20,000 should get you a 131 registration with low mileage. The most common engine is the 1.5L diesel that has 109bhp and does 0-100kmph in 12.4 seconds (motor tax is €270/year) but if you can find a 1.6L diesel they come with stop/start technology to keep running costs down. Inside it’s not the most exciting car but is very practical, easy to keep clean, has 6 airbags and comes with a multi-function steering wheel as standard.
On the road it drives just like a car and is easy to park although it is a little top heavy on windy roads. The Qashqai was available in 4 wheel drive but these models are rare. You can also get a Qashqai +2 if you need a 7 seater. The Qashqai is the one to choose for 4×4 looks with hatchback running costs in a very appealing package.
Another 7 seater in this price range is a 2011 Ford S-Max. Designed to be sportier than the Galaxy on the road it is car like and despite its high centre of gravity it feels stable and visibility is great. It is also rated one of the best in its class for NCAP safety. Motor Tax for the 2L diesel comes in at €390/year.
Inside the S-Max there’s plenty of room for front and middle row passengers. The middle row of seats also slide and recline but the 2 seats in the back row are very tight on space, very close to the floor and aren’t suitable for adult occupants. In common with a lot of 7 seaters luggage space isn’t great either with only 285 litres available so a roof rack and luggage box may be an essential extra
Volvo’s V60 sportswagen
Volvo’s V60 sportswagen (2011) is ideal if you’re looking for a curvy and stylish estate. The coupe-like design will comfortably sit 5 adults although the sloping roof line is quite low at the back so taller passengers will have to sit in front.
On the road it feels much smaller than it is and sits very low so body-roll isn’t an issue. The steering can be a bit light but the V60 comes into its own on long motorway journeys where the armchairs in the front are extremely comfortable.
The interior of the V60 is finished to a very high standard. It comes with 430 litres of space in the boot which stretches to almost 1,300 litres with the seats folded down. Unusually the passenger seat folds down flat as well as the rear seats. The D2 engine is a 1.6L diesel (only €200/year motor tax) with 115bhp while the D3 (136bhp) and D4 (163bhp) diesel engines are 2.0L. All these engines should average more than 60mpg. If you want an even sportier look keep an eye out for an R-Design model.
BMW 3 series
The BMW 3 series (2010) is rear wheel drive and its firm suspension makes it more of a driver’s car. The steering can feel a bit heavy but it certainly goes where you point it. A 320D Efficient Dynamics model has 177bhp and will do 0-100kmph in 7.6 seconds while averaging more than 60mpg. The suspension has been specifically designed to work with the harder sidewalls of the run-flat tyres which will allow you drive more than 200km at 80kmph without having to stop with a puncture.
Slip into the driver’s seat and the high quality finish is obvious throughout. Leather steering wheel, 6 airbags and air conditioning come as standard. The boot has 450 litres of space however folding rear seats are optional so you could be restricted on space if you need to carry larger items. Motor Tax comes in at a very affordable €270/year.
Toyota Avensis Tourer
A more practical option would be a Toyota Avensis Tourer (2011). The Avensis may have conservative styling but under the bonnet are some very quiet and refined diesel engines. The 2.0L D4D has 124bhp and does 0-100kmph in 10 seconds. Road tax will set you back €280/year. If you would like more performance look out for the 178bhp 2.2L. On the road the Toyota isn’t exactly Spacious and comfortable it accommodates 5 adults and with the seats folded down has over 1,600 litres of luggage space. There are 7 airbags and air conditioning as standard. However, it’s not the most manoeuvrable car in small spaces and therefore parking can be difficult.
Range Rover Sport
If you need a family car that’s just as comfortable off-road as on the motorway the Land Rover Range Rover Sport (2007) deserves a look. The Range Rover Sport is a smaller and more agile version of the Range Rover but is still great off-road and has a luxury interior. Unfortunately the engines tend to be thirsty, motor tax will be high and overall running costs aren’t cheap.
The 2.7 V6 diesel engine (road tax is €1,391) will do 28mpg and 0-100kmph in 12 seconds but if you can afford the extra motor tax the 3.6L V8 diesel is almost as economical but has 268bhp and will do 0-100kmph in less than 9 seconds – only slightly slower than the petrol V8 engine.
As you’d expect the interior is finished to a high quality with leather, air conditioning, cruise control, xenon headlamps and electric seats as standard on SE models. The boot has 958 litres of luggage space but this extends to a huge 2,000 litres with the seats folded down. The suspension is extremely comfortable but also capable with the “Terrain Response” option which adjusts to suit 9 different driving conditions such as grass, gravel and snow and the Range Rover Sport is also able to tow up to 3,500kg.
Most family cars that you will buy for around the €20,000 mark will come with some sort of warranty but it’s also important to ensure that they have a full service history and always do an online check before handing over any money. Remember you are in charge! You can always walk away if you don’t find the right deal for you. The car you drive off the forecourt must be what’s best for your lifestyle and budget.
3rd March, 2014