There are a ton of used car awards, but they only matter if real buyers are involved. So here’s your chance to be part of the 2020 Autocar Awards, which arrive in May. Here is my top 10 shortlist for Used Car Hero, with on-sale examples that you can pick apart. Your input is vital.
The Ford Fiesta is no ordinary small hatchback – it is a best-seller, both new and used. Fiestas are great to drive, easy to own and fantastic value for money. Here’s a one-owner 1.0 Titanium from 2014 with a full Ford history, new cambelt and 160,000 miles on the clock. Proof if you need it that they go the distance, and all for just over £3000.
Now, the stylish yin to the Fiesta’s workaday yang is the Fiat 500. We must enjoy small Fiats while they last and these have proved to be such sound little buys. I rather like this 2014 Cult special edition with a panoramic roof. It has a 1.2-litre engine, 80,000 miles showing and is in tidy condition for £3500.
Then there is the Nissan Qashqai. Don’t groan, because it is the two-wheel-drive SUV that everyone buys. They can be very tough, as a 2014 1.5 dCi Acenta with 175,000 miles shows. It has a full service history, a year’s MOT and is £5400 from a dealer.
If you’re an executive, you’ll be wanting one of those BMW 5 Series. It remains the peerless way to travel. A 2014 520d SE is a Euro 6, so is ULEZ friendly and a 141k-mile example sold by a trader costs £6995. The Mercedes A-Class is popular on the PCP front, and a 2014 A180 CDI ECO SE with 110k miles is just £6795.
Next up, Mini. In their second decade, Minis came into their own with an explosion of models and options. They are everywhere, and not always that mini. I’d go for the oddity that is a Paceman Cooper. A 2014 1.6D with 60k miles with loads of extras is £6300. That would be fun.
On the face of it less fun, a Toyota Prius is still worthy of consideration if you are a private-hire wage slave. If your priorities are spending less money on fuel and not breaking down, then here is possibly the perfect family hatch. Goodness me, there are a lot of old grey imports to dodge around. A 2014 T3 with 47k miles from a dealer at £9250 is better than the ex-hire ones.
For the family in need of space, a Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer is perfect. A 2015 2.0 CDTi ecoFLEX Design with 171k miles is just £3500.
You can’t go wrong buying a used Volkswagen Golf, or even a Mazda MX-5. Icon is an overused term, but not here. A basic three-door 1.2 TSI Blue Tec Golf with 122k miles is £3995 with a full service history, and a 2014 MX-5 1.8 SE just below £8000.
Which ones do you reckon are worthy of the used car award? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What we almost bought this week
Volvo S80 2.0T SE Auto: Before Volvos added ‘attractive’ to their list of attributes, they were simply solid, dependable and, of course, safe. The big ones make great used buys. We found a 2003-reg S80 2.0T SE auto with 88,000 miles and all the toys. Nothing about service history but the private seller claims it’s been well maintained and wants just £1000 for it.
Tales from Ruppert's garage
Land Rover Series 3: Well, it had been a bit chilly. I turned the key, but I know it well enough to realise the engine would never actually fire. Luckily, there are other vehicles available and I wasn’t planning to shift much stuff. I did hoof out the battery, though, as it was such a long way from a three-pin plug. If I was a proper fleet car owner, I would have detailed records of when I bought the last battery. I certainly remember getting one during the 2009 cold snap but, whatever, this one is probably on its way out.
Innocenti Mini: Owning an Innocenti is wonderful. You end up having great conversations with people and you also get offered bundles of joy like this. I was tempted. Imported and converted to right-hand drive, it is a 1978 example and has the 1275cc engine. There are loads of spares (and probably spiders). If I want to stay married and sane, best not take it on, but I can put you in touch if you fancy it. Once revived, it will be worth it.
Question: I’m a 74-year-old in need of a 2.0-litre car with a bit of grunt and a smooth ride. It must have a key to get in, a spare wheel, a handbrake, a radio, space for the wheelchair and ideally a long warranty. What do you recommend? GD Firth, via email
Answer: If you can stretch to £11,000, an approved used 2017/17-reg Skoda Octavia 1.4 TSI (150PS) SE DSG fits the bill. The turbo engine is better than a juicy 2.0-litre. Throw in a comfy ride, a huge boot and a traditional handbrake, and what’s not to like? It comes with a two-year warranty but the model ranks fifth in the family car category in What Car?’s Reliability Survey so is unlikely to let you down. JE
Question: I cracked my car’s front nearside alloy wheel driving through a pothole I didn’t see because it was filled with rain water. Is it still possible to claim for pothole damage? Sean Collins, Colchester
Answer: Yes. The RAC has launched a guide to helping motorists make a claim and has even compiled a pothole index of members’ breakdowns caused by the cursed craters. It advises motorists to contact the authority responsible for the road and send them lots of evidence. But prepare for rejection: an authority is not liable if it is unaware of the pothole or has a regular inspection system in place. JE