Is there sense in buying ‘orphan motors’, cars that were generally unloved when new and on which the market has since turned its back?
We’ve combed the classifieds and found five of them, starting with this, the Ford Ecosport of 2014-18. It’s a compact SUV with, bizarrely, a spare wheel attached to the tailgate that makes it look like it’s about to flip backwards. At its launch, reviewers were largely united in condemning the Ecosport’s sluggish performance, poor handling, fidgety, unsettled ride, weak brakes and small boot, accessed via that unnecessarily heavy door, which incidentally opens the wrong way for right-hand-drive roads.
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So far, so bad, except the Ecosport does have some saving graces. Its high driving position provides a good view out, the controls are well placed and most trim levels are well equipped. There’s lots of stowage, the rear cabin is roomy and the rear seats fold and flip up. Spare wheel aside, it’s not bad looking, either. In any case, from 2015 Ford made it optional. It also uprated the rear suspension, increased low-down torque and improved drivability and refinement levels. Clearly, then, a post-2015 car is the way to go, so our find is a 2016-reg that has done 67,000 miles, although the price reflects that. It’s in Titanium trim so has part-leather seats, smart alloy wheels, privacy glass, climate control and power windows all-round.
It’s an improvement on earlier models, but if you can only stretch to an original and with rear-mounted spare, we’ve just the thing: a 1.5 TDCi Titanium X with 101,000 miles for £4995, described by the dealer as a “credit to its previous owner”.
Fiat 500L 1.4 Pop Star, £2995: This characterless Punto-based mini-MPV had a hard time at launch, but it’s practical and flexible, with rear seats that slide and a front passenger perch that can be folded away. This 2014-reg example with 40,000 miles looks like good value.
Kia Optima 1.7 CRDi, £4999: We praised this generation of Optima for its price, performance and equipment while slamming it for poor refinement, a downmarket interior and a bad ride. But at £4999 for a 2012-reg with 73,000 miles, it should delight a private buyer.
Felix Page: James specifically asked for an absence of nonsense, and you’re talking a load of it. If my 1987 G-Wagen was deemed fit for everyday use by the military, I think it would cope with the average Home Counties commute. It even has sockets for phone chargers and two – count ’em – seatbelts.
MA: Yes, but the army is used to rolling around in the mud and being rained on, so while the lack of protection from the elements in yours is fitting, I don’t think it’s suitable for James. Besides, how hard is it to stick a USB charger in a 12V cigarette lighter outlet, anyway?
FP: I wouldn’t know: it’s smoke grenades and walkie-talkies for me and my G. But let’s be realistic for a second: my Mercedes is priced thus because of its bona fide classic status, unparalleled durability and ultra-low mileage. Tell me why your 24-year-old van deserves new Ford Fiesta money?
MA: Because it’s depreciation-proof motoring and, on balance, much less draughty than yours.
FP: James, you seem the outdoorsy type: surely a bit of wind or drizzle wouldn’t put you off?
Verdict: It won’t pamper and I’ll be damper, but the G is the 4×4 for me.