Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 21 August

Given the choice, many buyers of executive cars would find it hard to resist a fully fledged luxury car for similar money. So here’s one such quandary: buy a new Audi A6 – you can get the entry-level 40 TDI Sport for £36k with a discount – or an Audi A8 that’s barely two years old for less?

You’d be forgiven for thinking that I’m talking about the old model, but I’m not. You really can buy the latest A8 for less than half the price it was new. It has the up-to-the-minute twin-touchscreen technology that’s being stuffed into all the refreshed Audis, plus it comes with a smooth 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine rather than a mundane 2.0-litre four. And the A8 will have an interior that’s a notch higher in quality than an A6’s since it’s the flagship of the line-up.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the two aren’t so far apart in terms of running costs. Sure, the A6 will cost less in fuel, but both have mild-hybrid technology, so 40mpg should be achievable, particularly if you spend much of your time on the motorway. Each attracts the highest rate of VED.

There have been a few recalls for the latest A8, including issues with rear shock absorber forks, missing retaining clips in active head restraints, problems with the passenger front seat rails and a gearbox oil leak. Most used examples will have been sorted out by now, especially if you’re buying one from a franchised dealer.

The cheapest one we found at a main dealer was on a 67-plate with 23,799 miles for £29,750. Not bad when it was knocking on the door of £70k a few years ago, and it’s noticeably cheaper than a brand-new A6. I know which one I’d rather have…

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Fiat Multipla, £1500

Mark Pearson: It makes perfect sense to want an Italian car, especially at the cheaper end of the market, and of course there are times in your life when only a load-lugger will do. So may I present one of the best-looking cars of all time, the 159 Sportwagon, which matched its drop-dead gorgeous looks with quick steering and dynamic abilities good enough to make a keen driver weep. What’s that you’ve got, Max? Has it been in an accident?

Max Adams: You won’t be looking quite so good standing next to half the items you thought you could fit into that poky Sportwagon. No, if you want maximum cargo-carrying capacity, you must go for the criminally underrated Fiat Multipla: a car that carries both people and luggage thanks to an ingenious six-seat layout and a big boot.

MP: But even a relatively clever MPV is still an MPV, Max, whereas my 2008 Alfa is a sports car, good and proper, with an estate rear end. It’s practically an FF…

MA: Rubbish. The only thing ‘sport’ about it was the name. That 1.9-litre diesel also powered the Vauxhall Vectra for a time and the 159 was far too heavy and cumbersome to hold a candle to the lithe Italian cars of yesteryear.

MP: But I can drive my car in daylight, whereas you will have to wait until it’s dark…

MA: As Carly Simon once sang, you’re so vain.

Verdict: I’ll compromise with a 159, thanks.