Currently reading: James Ruppert: Practical diesel cars that won't fall foul of the ULEZ
Vauxhall Astras, Insignias and - if you're hankering for a bit more style - the Mazda 6 all fit the brief
4 mins read
7 April 2020

Well, this is going to become a regular feature, isn’t it? I need a practical, Ultra Low Emission Zone-compliant car in which I can carry all of my work gear. So it was good to hear from Ian, who specifically wants a diesel estate to get into London from time to time. He lives nowhere near the capital, which means a frugal modern diesel is the best way of going about his business.

First off, there are some colossal-mileage estates around for a few thousand pounds, and it just depends on whether you want something that has been properly maintained or with low mileage. Otherwise it could be poised to deliver an awful lot of diesel particulate filter and simple old-age issues. I think Ian needs an estate with a bit of life left in it, so I’ll stick with motors below 70,000 miles.

Tell you what, in the handy-sized estate class, there’s a whole boatload of Vauxhall Astras around at the moment. I mean, a one-owner, full-service-history 2014 1.6 Design CDTi Ecoflex at £5450 seems like a complete and utter bargain to me. This is a dealer car that includes a year’s worth of MOT. Brilliant.

Moving up a size bracket to the magnificent Vauxhall Insignia, £6300 will get you a 2015 2.0 CDTi Ecoflex, again with a full MOT and service history. The equally brilliant Ford Mondeo is another huge slice of big-booted goodness. A 2.0 TDCi Zetec with the ‘Aston grille’ is £7995.

Elsewhere, there’s the Mazda 6. This is a wonderful car, and a 2014 2.2d SE-L Nav with 68,000 miles is a reasonable £7500. I saw one example with 62,000 miles and a recent service listed for £7900, so there are a good few to choose from.

With Mazda we’re climbing a little upmarket, so what else should we consider that wears a posh badge?

I like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but the C-Class is pretty useful, too. A 2015 C200d SE can be yours for £11,000. It comes with all the gear, including a rear-view camera and multifunction everything.

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If you’re more of a BMW person, a 2013 518d Touring M Sport costs £11,499 and comes with a full service history. That’s a main dealer car all ready to roll into central London and lots of other major metropolises.

This proves that there are an awful lot of very decent estates about, and any buyers who write off diesel as being not the correct engine type to run need to look again. The answer to your automotive conundrum may well burn oil. If so, buy one.

What we almost bought this week

Citroën AX 1.0 RE 3dr: Despite weighing no more than a box of tissues and feeling like one, the AX of 1986-98 was a tough little thing, as this bright red 1989 1.0 RE proves. Owned by the same person since 1994 and with just 53,000 miles on the clock, it will make a tempting route into classic car ownership for someone. Not us, though; we’re holding out for an AX GT.

Tales from Ruppert's garage

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Porsche Cayenne, mileage - 107,112: Something else has gone awry with the rear parking sensors on the Flying Pig. I don’t use them myself, but the regular pilot says that there’s a long buzz and red lights, accompanied by a warning light. So when the car went in for surgery at Porsche, I asked “please can you plug it in to check?” and then forgot all about it. It was only when the Flying Pig’s pilot went through the colossal invoice that she reported a £25 charge for plugging it in. It needs a new sensor, apparently, though that’s the least of my automotive worries.

A-to-Z Bangerpedia

E is for E-Class: Safe, solid and spacious, the W211 oozes quality and is way better than the W210. Indeed, this Mercedes-Benz E-Class can almost match its S-Class contemporary for gadgetry and equipment. Much of the technology is focused on making the handling sportier, but it mainly ensures a very smooth ride; most bumps in the road hardly upset progress. There’s lots of room inside (although taller rear passengers might find their heads too close to the roof) and the boot is massive. The driver gets a clear dashboard and the quality of the materials is first class. A diesel engine is the sensible option; a 2004 E220 CDI Avantgarde will cost £2795.

Readers' questions

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Question: I drive a Mondeo ST220 Estate, on which I’ve spent £5k. I’m considering changing to an Octavia vRS or Golf GTD and can afford £12k. My Ford garage values the Mondeo at £700, but online they go for £2.5k. What should I do? James Marson, Manchester

Answer: You’ll get a 2015-reg Volkswagen Golf GTD Estate with 70,000 miles or a same-age Skoda Octavia vRS TDI Estate with 60,000 miles with your budget. Both cars are good, but the Skoda is more practical. Regarding your Mondeo, given what you’ve invested in it, why not keep it and enjoy its performance, its rarity and the admiring glances of fellow enthusiasts? JE

Question: My current car is a 2013 Vauxhall Astra, but its steering is too light and lacks feel. Previously I enjoyed Mk2 Ford Focuses. Could you suggest newer cars with good steering feel? Daniel Vernon, via email

Answer: The Mk2 Focus you mention did indeed have feelsome steering, which the Mk3 Focus lacked to some extent. That’s why we’d instead point you in the direction of the previous-generation Mazda 3, which has it in abundance. You’ll be able to get a 2016-reg 2.0 Sport Nav with 38,000 miles for £9900. JE


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