Currently reading: Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 8 May
The Renault Espace is safe, spacious and sound - and you can pick up a V6 version for under three grand

Although we’d naturally rather not dwell on the consequences of what might be, safety is an important factor when picking a car.

These days, a new car not getting the full five stars from Euro NCAP is headline-worthy news. Back in the early 2000s, such a rating was the exception. Renault made full use of this and the safety sells mantra by quickly building itself a reputation for making safe cars after the arrival of the Laguna in 2001, and the 2002 Espace was something of a flagship.

The fourth iteration of the MPV was an in-house design, following 22 years with Matra. It featured all sorts of cutting-edge passive safety tech to earn it one of the best scores awarded.

Every second- and third-row seat had an integrated seatbelt with Isofix mounts, plus there were dual-stage driver and passenger airbags that inflated at varying pressures depending on the size of the person, anti-whiplash headrests for all seats and a curtain airbag that covered all three rows – this no doubt being the major reason why the Espace didn’t lose any points in the side impact test.

9 Renault espace static front

So far so good, if not particularly exciting. Interest is found under the stubby bonnet, because you can find a Nissan-derived 3.5-litre V6 making 245bhp. No, it doesn’t give Nissan 350Z-like performance, given the Espace’s bulk and dozy auto ’box, but it sounds good on kickdown and won’t suffer all the EGR issues of the diesels or blow a turbo like the 2.0 petrol.

Our 2003 V6 Initiale car is up for £2999. That’s strong for an Espace, but it has done only 73,000 miles and doesn’t appear to have been trashed like most. It even still has the remote controller for the sat-nav.

8 Volvo xc90 static front

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Volvo XC90 4.4. V8 Geartronic, £9990: Volvo really went to town on its first SUV, with three-row curtain airbags, a fast-acting ESP, a reinforced roof and a special lower crash structure to prevent it overriding lower cars. This ultra-rare Yamaha V8-powered version should appeal to petrolheads.

7 Saab 9 3 static front

Saab 9-3 Convertible Aero, £3995: The final 9-3 was one of the few convertibles that managed to achieve a five-star NCAP score – remarkable, considering it was missing a metal roof. We’ve gone for an Aero version, since it has a 207bhp 2.0-litre turbo engine so can crack 62mph in 7.7sec.

6 Renault laguna static front

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Renault Laguna 1.6 16v, £999: You might think you have to spend a lot to drive a safe car, but all you need is a £1000 Laguna for five-star protection. This early example has done only 40,000 miles so should give reasonable service until, well, its flaky electrics get the better of it.

5 Volvo v40 static front

Volvo V40 2.0 D3 R-Design, £6499: If you want something more modern with active safety tech, try the V40. With the Driver Support Pack and an auto gearbox (like ours here), you get adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, blindspot monitoring and automatic emergency braking.

Auction watch

4 Mercedes benz cl500 static front

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Mercedes-Benz CL500: A well-kept CL is a lovely, wafty barge on long trips. It also handles pretty well, considering its size, because it has a very sophisticated interlinked damper system that limits body roll. This can be costly to put right, but then the values of CLs today are often a tenth of what they were new, and the rest of the car will be pretty solid, provided regular maintenance is carried out. This particular example could be classed as being pampered, because it had just one owner, a full service history and matching Yokohama tyres all round. That’s perhaps why it sold for above-market value, at £6105.

Future classic

3 Land rover freelander static front

Land Rover Freelander, £1580: Hear us out: the first-generation Land Rover Freelander could legitimately become a classic, because it played a significant role in popularising small SUVs. What’s more, it was genuinely quite handy off road and even had hill descent control, just like the larger Discovery. Of the pre-facelift Freelanders available, go for one built this side of the millennium, because those had a raft of improvements made over the notoriously problem-riddled early cars.

Clash of the Classifieds

Brief: Find me a vehicle that can be used by an electrician but also buffs up well for the weekend? £10,000 to spend.

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2 Volkswagen amarok static side

Volkswagen Amarok 2.0 TDI, £9350

1 Skoda superb estate static front

Skoda Superb Estate 2.0 TDI, £10,000

Max Adams: The brightest of sparks will be well catered for with my Amarok. Not only does it have a better image than the Ford Ranger or Toyota Hilux, but also this 2013 example has a full leather interior, climate control, parking sensors and a full service history. Plus, this Volkswagen will shine up nicely should you want to go somewhere fancy in your down time.

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Mark Pearson: Look, an Amarok is all very well, but this chap is a little upmarket, isn’t he, so will be using his vehicle in his spare time to create a more, ahem, cultivated impression. What he really needs is this sharp-suited Skoda Superb Estate, the car we know to be without equal in the used car game when it comes to space, price and all-round wonderfulness. Mine is a 2016 car with a low mileage and full history. I love it already.

MA: Yours has done as many miles in four years as mine has done in seven, so you can’t play the ‘low-mileage’ card. What’s more, a pick-up truck is perfect, because those flat sides are ideal for a bit of self-advertisement.

MP: Is a pick-up right? Won’t vital equipment get wet or stolen? Look at my massive boot: one could live in it. And think of the superior driving manners of my low-slung motor car.

MA: I think he or she could quite easily get themselves a waterproof cover for it with the extra £650 that they would save by plumping for my ’Rok over your Skoda.

MP: Hmm. Plug over. Socket to us, James.

Verdict: Superb by name and by nature. A classy bit of kit that’s huge and reliable.


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JH307 8 May 2020


The V40 featured isn't an auto at all, complete with illuminated 6 speed manual gearknob!

russ13b 8 May 2020


there was a time when taking cars of different values and bashing them into each other gave visually different results, i think 5th gear did it with two Espaces offset head-on. I'm fairly convinced that now it doesn't really matter which car you pick the body shell with be plenty strong, and the difference are how many airbags it has etc. When i say plenty strong what i mean is remember how the head on offset crash always used to make them kink between the top of the windscreen and the B-pillar, the door sill sometimes looked to bend a bit as well, when ncap first came out everything folded up like that, and how that hasn't happened for years now? That. Hyundai i10, pre-2009, looks fine; the windscreen area is still the correct sort of shape, all that jazz, and that's not really a car you think of as being built like a tank.

si73 8 May 2020

Re Laguna's, I like the

Re Laguna's, I like the originals that raced in the btcc, a great looking car and freelancers, I'd love an early 3 door, I think they look great.