Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 3 May

A Mini Cooper S of the so-called R56 generation that ran from 2007 to 2013 makes a great hot hatch buy. It’s powered by the BMW/Peugeot-developed Prince engine – a 1.6 turbo with an overboost function. 

The bad news is that cars up to 2010 were powered by a version of the engine codenamed N14, which used BMW’s infinitely variable single Vanos valve timing. It wasn’t the most reliable thing, so in 2010 it was replaced with a better version, the N18, which featured a double Vanos system and produced more power. It also had lots of mechanical upgrades. If you’re unsure which is which, the N18 has a large plastic engine cover. At the same time the clutch was improved, although it’s still fragile. 

And then a few months later the model was facelifted, receiving restyled bumpers, a revised interior, LED tail-lights with pulsating brake lights and additional air intakes. Finally, in 2011 the engine gained the revised timing tensioner it had been crying out for since day one (it had a nasty habit of throwing its chain). 

We found a 2013/63-reg Cooper S Sport Chili with 69,000 miles for £6990. The car has a full BMW service history, it’s had two owners from new and is described as being in excellent condition. 

Oil leaks were a problem with older cars but shouldn’t be an issue at this age. Given the BMW history, neither should the cooling system, which can develop cracks in the plastic coolant thermostat housing. We’d check if the water pump was replaced at 50,000 miles and the condition of the radiator lower support bracket. On the test drive we’d feel for a worn clutch – they can go from as low as 20,000 miles. 

Honda FR-V, £1850: The FR-V (flexible recreational vehicle) of 2004-09 was Honda’s reply to Fiat’s Multipla. It had three front seats and three in the back and petrol or diesel power. This cherished 2005/05-reg 2.0 i-VTEC SE with 100,000 miles is £1850. Tempting.

Audi A6 Avant 3.0 TDI Le Mans, £6990: Little feels as capable and solid as an A6 Avant. We found this 2007/07 3.0 TDI with 85,000 miles in excellent condition and with full history, and it’s the rare Le Mans edition with 19in wheels from the RS4, the Luxury Pack and an exclusive colour. 

Saab 900S Turbo 5dr Auto, £5495: This classic 900 Turbo (the low-pressure LPT, not the much-lusted-after T16 S), has been restored by a specialist. It’s a 91/H-reg model with 100,000 miles but just two owners. “A fantastic example for any classic car lover,” he gushes. 

Volkswagen Eos 3.2 V6 Sport Auto, £4495: The undersung 3.2 V6 Eos cabrio can do 0-62mph in 7.3sec. It was one of the prettier coupé-cabrios of its time (2006-15), benefiting from VW’s attention to detail and classy build. This 2005/56-reg example with 56,000 miles looks a proper eyeful. 

Auction watch 

Rover SD1 3.5 V8: One of our number recalls, back in 1985, watching his boss drive his gleaming beige SD1 into the company car park, locking the car and, as he walked away, glancing back to savour its stylish shape one last time. Our colleague laughed then but he’s not laughing now. What he’d give to have this 1986 SD1 3.5 V8 Vanden Plas, finished in Silver Birth and with a blue velour interior, on his driveway now. It belonged to a fiercely enthusiastic SD1 club member and has an extensive service history file. It made £6600 at auction, a snip for something so charismatic, stylish and opulent. Worth a backward glance any day. 

Get it while you can

BMW M140i 5dr Nav Auto, price new- £34,475, price now – £29,500: Hurry and you may just grab the last unsold BMW M140i, perhaps even a Championship Edition, before stocks run out. BMW has stopped making it ahead of production starting on its replacement, the M135i xDrive, in July. Can’t find an unsold M140i? Then have a go at a pre-reg, such as the one we found. It’s a 2019/68-reg car in tasteful black with a paltry 150 miles on the clock (fingers crossed they’ve been gentle). There was only one available last time we looked, so it really is a case of get it while you can. 

Clash of the classifieds

Brief: Find me a groundbreaking car to delight and amaze my friends for less than £5000.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class LWB, £990: It’s hard to know what would impress your friends because I’m not part of your posse, but I do know that the only truly groundbreaking car of recent times has been the firstgen A-Class. Its unique ‘sandwich’ construction kept the mechanicals separate from the passengers and gave a totally flat floor, while the engine slid beneath the car in a crash, so it wouldn’t intrude into the cabin and cause leg injuries. This LWB version has tons of space for your mates. With prices being so low, you can take them – us? – somewhere nice. Max Adams

Fiat X1/9, £4500: Why is the rip-snorting X1/9 groundbreaking? Because it was the first truly affordable mid-engined car. It had grip and incomparable handling and a Targa-topped body of immense strength. It was great straight out of the box, but the thing to do to it was tune the brilliant Lampredi-designed SOHC engine (which was easily done) and then throw away everything that added weight, starting with those hideous bumpers. Finally, fit some sticky tyres. This fully restored 1988 example is a gem. Wonderfully collectable. Tremendous fun. Truly groundbreaking. Mark Pearson 

Verdict: That Merc was a groundbreaker that anticipated today’s EVs with their underfloor batteries and spacious cabins. Amazed? They will be.