James Ruppert: Diesel MPVs are top of the stock

Well, this is interesting: the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has told us that used car sales have stalled a bit at the beginning bit of 2021, by -8.9%.

That’s hardly surprising and far from the end of our world, because it should result in slightly lower prices as dealers and traders try to lure us back to their lots and showrooms.

If anything, it’s the new car market that’s taking the biggest hit, and perhaps we should be looking 3000 miles away at the US, where there’s a very real shortage of new cars and used ones are at a premium, due to something about computer chips. That could soon affect us as well, so maybe we should be stocking up now. But with what exactly?

Click here to buy your next used car from Autocar

For a start, you should make a beeline for a diesel. Any diesel, because buyers too silly to avoid them and sellers underpricing what they have is a situation to exploit. I found a 2010 Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 CDTi Elite with 145,000 miles, two previous owners, a service history and a tidy MOT record for just £799. That’s a great family hatchback for not much money at all. It’s with a dealer, too, so it has to be sorted.

If you want the best small family hatch of recent times, the Mk1 Ford Focus is still readily available. You need to find a decent one, of course, but why pay through the nose for a nearly new something or other that won’t be as good to drive nor anywhere near as cheap to run?

This Focus can rust, but I found one that still seemed solid enough, was well looked-after and had just been serviced. For £995, a two-owner 2005 1.6 Zetec 5dr with 66,000 miles was temptingly fresh to look at. Futureproofed with a petrol engine, it should last another decade or two.

Those who need a lot of seats are well catered for as well. What could be more practical than the Renault Espace? Goodness me do these look good, and I found a 2008 2.0 dCi Dynamique automatic with just over 100,000 miles for £2000. What a characterful way to get around.

Fun should never take a back seat in serious times, and a 2005 Mini Cooper S would surely be interesting transport. Especially as the 86,000- mile example that I found meets all your ULEZ needs for just £1990. Again it’s a dealer car, so this isn’t a private buyer trying to reverse out of bother. It’s 15 years old, but it should increase in value whether car sales go up, down or sideways.

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Question: I can’t decide between getting a 2500-mile, 21-plate e-Golf at £24,182 on a PCP or buying a new ID 3 at £32,470. Which would you suggest? Sue Steele, via email

Answer: The e-Golf is less powerful (134bhp versus 143bhp), less advanced and has a shorter range (around 150 miles compared with 200) than the ID 3. As the ID 3 is a genuine EV, not an adapted ICE car, we suspect that you would be glad you chose it over the e-Golf. JE