Currently reading: James Ruppert: Budget bangers lead used market resurgence
As second-hand car sales climb following coronavirus, cars like the Ford Focus and cheap-as-chips Audi TTs are selling well

The used car business never really went away: it’s just a question of finding the right cars at the right price. Those who stockpiled cheapies have been rewarded with an awful lot of sales. The simple fact is that, more than ever, people need to remain mobile. Even better, as we consistently prove on these pages, keeping on the move doesn’t need to cost a fortune.

The Ford Focus remains the go-to family hatch, and that’s hard to argue against given their practicality and their perkiness for those in the driving seat. Sift out the scruffy ones and there are some excellent examples around. Go for the 1.6 petrol and you won’t get banned from city centres. There are some cheapies, but I rather liked a five-door 2010 Zetec with just over 60k miles at £2500. Low miles backed up by a history – and it’s with a trader so it’s probably a part-exchange.

You might think that a convertible 4x4 is one of those newfangled model mash-ups, except that if you travel back to the late 1990s, the Suzuki Vitara was still a thing. Not only that, it came in a Targa-style format. I was rather taken by a 1998 1.6 JX on offer from a private seller at £1200. There was not a lot of description, so I would need to have a good look at it, but these look great. Especially when we are in the era of the £50k brand-new Defender.

Those 2006 BMW 3 Series are good looking, aren’t they? Properly proportioned grilles, and in 330d guise they look really pumped, too. A specialist performance dealer has one wearing M3 CSL alloys. It has covered a reasonable 130k, comes with a ton of history and has had just the three previous owners. The specification is epically detailed and includes push-button start and puddle lights, so it’s an aftermarket special, but at £4400 it all seems very reasonable.

9 Audi tt

Which brings me to just how cheap Audi TTS have become. Not the originals, but the revamped ones. So it was extremely exciting to stumble across a 2007 2.0 TFSI with 150k miles at just £2995. Its MOT runs well into next year and it has only some minor cosmetic issues and scuffs on the rear alloys but no dents or scrapes. That’s a winner for me.


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Car review

Focus retains its position as the best-in-class to drive – spec dependent – while adding extra space, functionality and connectivity

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Let’s finish on a low, because Chevrolet Lacetti estates make sense as super-practical hatchbacks and a 2008 1.8 SX with 60k miles and an automatic gearbox at £1200 strikes me as a wagon that will suit most of us for shopping and doing the basic motoring things. I actually passed over another Lacetti to get to this one. Obviously, these little Chevys must be the best under-the-radar everyday purchase. Anyway, that’s what the back-from-the-dead used car market is telling me right now.

What we almost bought this week

8 Audi a3

Audi A3 1.4 TFSI Sport Mk3: For a brilliantly built hatch that ticks all the boxes, the third-generation Audi A3 takes some beating. In fact, even its replacement – released just this year – isn’t as good in some respects. This £6500 one has done 100k miles in six years but looks well looked after and is fresh from an MOT and service.

Tales from Ruppert's garage

7 Land rover series 3 0

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Land Rover Series 3, mileage - 131, 895: This isn’t strictly about the Lorry. A neighbour was having a clear-out and offered me a couple of ramps. I find it hard to refuse free stuff, especially useful stuff. I already have a set, but they are blue and these are rust red. The thing about ramps is that with the fancy overhangs and low suspension of many moderns, they are difficult or impossible to use. Not so with the old stuff. Now I can have two of them in the air at once. No idea why I’d need to, but at least it’s an option. Especially after I filled my garage pit in, because it resembled a tiny swimming pool.

Reader's ride

6 Morris 8

Morris 8: Allan rather enjoyed Roderick’s Morris: “By coincidence, I was also a 19-year-old student in 1959. Damn, just given my age away! And, more to the point, I was driving a Morris 8. Well, sort of. My first car, it cost me £30, and of all the cars I have owned, this was the ugliest. You might, if you were kind, describe it as an early kit car.

“It was not of my making. Some genius had taken an ex-GPO van, hacked off the body and rebuilt it as what? An open-top two-seater? I had some fun in it, until I got pulled over by the police on Gravel Hill, just off the A2, and fined £3 for a defective handbrake. Well, it was a steep hill, and the officers were pushing it backwards, your Honour.”

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Readers' questions

5 Alpine a110

Question: I have a 2009 Porsche 911 Carrera 2. I’m tempted to change for a nearly new Alpine A110 but have never driven one. Would I regret selling my manual Porsche or be won over by the Alpine? I don’t do track days. David Martin, Dunblane

Answer: Why not keep the Porsche? I’ll bet it’s still a delight to drive, and it’s probably the more convenient to live with. If there’s a chink in the A110’s armour, it’s the slightly small (and flimsy) interior. But if you do fancy something new, the A110 will deliver a similar thrill mile after mile. DR

4 Mazda mx 5

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Question: I’m planning to buy a ‘two-car garage’ for £15k. One car must be an automatic – probably the reliable family hatch – but I want the other one to be something fun and manual. Any suggestions? Joe Marlow, Devon

Answer: Let’s split that £15k budget down the middle. The first half will get you an early Mk7 Volkswagen Golf to cover the family duties – a 1.4 TSI DSG that has covered a relatively high 80,000 miles but should be a sound bet. That leaves £7500 to snap up a riotous 14-plate Ford Fiesta ST or (pictured) a Mk3 Mazda MX-5. DR


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Squonk61 28 July 2020

DSG reliability...

...does seem to be a bit of a mixed bag. On the wet clutch boxes, thr 40k oil change  is an absolute must  - the change in smoothness afterwards is so marked, I'd go for 30-35k depending on climate. If there is no eveidenve of those oil changes run, dont walk away.Mechatronics are apprently more reliable now and there are now people able to fix them as opposed to VW replacing them for an arm and a kidney.Then there is the Dual Mass Flywheel - they like to go at 80-100k - only one maufacturer makes the DMF for DSG boxes and it isn't cheap.

xxxx 28 July 2020


DMFs last around 90k, out of interest where did you get this stat from.

si73 28 July 2020

That 2 car garage request was

That 2 car garage request was for the auto hatch to be reliable, surely a dsg golf is anything but? I'd have thought an auris/yaris hybrid, jazz, insight or civic would be the better choice for reliability especially as for fun he/she has a hot hatch or sportscar.