Window Shopping

The other evening, I spent a good 2 hours web browsing looking for a new car. Note that I am not changing my current 54 plate Honda Accord diesel, but like women go window shopping for bags, boots, and bracelets, I am window shopping for a new car.

It was probably prompted by the disappointingly early demise of the clutch on my current motor. 65k is not an acceptable distance for a modern clutch to last, but there we go. There is a glimmer at the end of the £500+ tunnel though – there’s lots of reports on the web of there being a manufacturing fault with clutches on Honda diesels and this causes premature failure, so there’s hope that Honda will replace it at a reduced cost.

The seed of doubt had been sown, however, and I went off to look around the internet for a virtual replacement. The basic premise of my next car would be that it would be:

  • relatively new (< 12 months) – this would take the major pain of depreciation off the car
  • low mileage – anything that’s done 25k in under a year is likely to have been lived in and hammered quite hard
  • diesel – for the fuel costs
  • estate – for the extra room we need

So let’s start looking round at what’s out there and why not start with another Accord? Well the latest Accord Tourer I just don’t like. I really do want to like it, but it just doesn’t look right, it tries to hard to be a 3-series / C-class / A4 rival and falls short by being too fussy and generally too Japanese. It’s also too expensive for what you get. That had been dismissed pretty much before I started clicking, so that was a no-brainer.

Alternatives then? I’ve really fancied a Volvo V70 for a while now and you can get a good one with a decent diesel engine for under £15k (their first-year depreciation is horrendous). But then I started reading around and considering some alternatives.

What about the BMW 3-series, Merc C-class, or Audi A4 offerings? Nah – their expensive initial purchase price combined with strong residuals means on my budget I would end up with an asthmatic poverty-spec wardrobe on wheels.

OK – so what else? The Renault Laguna, Citroen C5, and Peugeot 407 are all French. That instantly rules them out because I’m not trusting anything built by the French. That’s not a xenophobic statement, because it’s been proven time and time again. Most car review websites politely put it as “questionable reliability”, but we all know that French cars aren’t great.

Next on the list? Ford Mondeo. A very big estate, with lots of them out there (hence it’s a buyer’s market) and known reliability. Also offered with lots of toys on most models (including the infinitely desirable quick-clear windscreen for those icy mornings). It is a dull choice, but there again, it’s a diesel estate; I’m not likely to be the envy of the McDonalds car-park crowd anyway.

At this point I digressed a bit and dreamed of winning the lottery and ordering a brand-new BMW M5 Touring. In this colour:

BMW M5 Touring in lovely blue

Apparently that’s “Interlagos Blue”. Add some nice black perforated leather and a couple of “go-on-why-not” options and you’re handing over a cheque for 80 grand. Eventually I came to my senses and went back to the task in hand.

So from that I wandered over to Vauxhall and their latest repmobile offering in the Insignia. It’s actually a nice car – I’ve been in one and looks half decent. Unfortunately Vauxhall’s diesel range lets them down and there’s also complaints that the estate version isn’t as practical or roomy as one would like.

So what’s left in the real world then? The VW Passat is like most of their range – quite expensive for what you get. I never really considered Mazda or Nissan. There’s the Toyota Avensis but I really don’t fancy one at all (for no real reason). Skoda Octavia? Nah.

But then I suddenly had a thought. Do I really need a diesel? And secondly, do I really need an estate? The first question would involve some long sums considering fuel economy, price, car tax and estimated mileage (I only now do around 12k a year, rather than the 20k I used to do 4 years ago). That’s something for another day.

So it really boils down to “what extra I do I get with an estate?”. That’s actually a hard question to answer, because most reviews of estate cars quote “standard boot volume” (measured in litres). That is how much space you have up to the window line. The other figure they quote is usually maximum boot volume (including with the rear seats folded down). Now that’s useless for me, because I want lots of room with people in the back, not just for a day trip to B&Q.

I’ve given up window shopping – it’s too hard.