James Ruppert: Estates are still king for dog-walking and load-lugging

You might think that a BMW M4 and a Fiat 500 on the driveway would cover most of a family’s motoring requirements. However, reader Andy believes that for the majority of his journeys, both are impractical. What he really needs is a proper old-fashioned workhorse for dogs and heavily laden journeys around Britain and abroad. He has £10,000 to spare and wants to go down the estate or SUV route. Horses that work, though, need to be reliable and not too complicated. They also don’t need thoroughbred names.

With that in mind, Skoda Superbs can amass colossal mileages and are perfectly suited to those increasingly unfashionable diesel engines. Andy could spend just £7500 of his budget for a 2014 2.0 TDI CR Elegance Estate. It’s a big five-seater and has more than enough room for dogs.

Elegance trim goes beyond the usual specification boxes, so there’s climate control, electric leather seats with a memory function, powered wing mirrors and Bluetooth.

A look at this Superb’s official efficiency statistics tells us that its engine scores 60mpg overall, but if you’re getting 50mpg fully laden with dogs and gear, that’s great going. This one had done 61,000 miles, and I would say game over at that price.

I haven’t even mentioned the Volkswagen Passat Estate, which does the same job for slightly more.

Still in the estate area, I keep going on about Ford Mondeos, but we will miss them when they’re gone. These are huge old things and just popping along to a car supermarket will unearth a rather marvellous 2017 TDCI 2.0 Econetic Style Estate. You can bag that for just under £9000.

This one had covered a strong 71,000 miles, was ULEZ-compliant and officially topped 67mpg. It may not have been a Titanium, but it still had climate control, cruise control and adjustable lumbar support for its driver. Plus the dogs would love it. Nothing flashy, just purposeful.

When it comes to SUV shapes, there’s a strong market for very specific dog-walking 4x4s that can be bought for buttons. We can shell out a bit more in this case, and I would go for a reliable Kia Sorento. There are seven seats if you need them and a high driving position.

Being a 4×4, it will cost a bit more than an estate. A privately advertised 2011 2.2 CRDi KX-3 at £7500 with 75,000 miles seemed like a solid buy, even though it had four previous owners and cream leather. The reality is that these will struggle to reach 40mpg overall, but that’s a price worth paying for some users.

I will continue to promote the cause of the estate over any SUV, and I think that applies here. The choice, though, is always yours.

Tales from Ruppert’s garage

Volkswagen Golf, mileage – 73,218: The Ruppert family vehicle that racks up the most miles and the fewest problems continues on its merry way with just a brief pit stop. It had been communicating for some time that it wanted an oil change, so it was booked in. That meant my daughter needed another car for work, and she turned down the opportunity of using my classics in favour of her mother’s 4.5-litre V8 Porsche. Anyway, two days of cover for a 23-year-old worked out at just £25. Meanwhile, the oil and filter change for the Golf came in at £90. That will see it through to its next MOT test in early 2021. If only everything in life were so simple…



Question: I’m a taller driver who would like a two-seat coupé that’s affordable to run and easy to adjust and tune, on a budget of £3000. What are my options? Ben Wye, Nottingham

Answer: There’s plenty of scope for variety and fun here. We really like the look of a clean 2008 Hyundai Coupé for £2200, which leaves you with £800 for some well-considered modifications. You mentioned the Nissan 100NX, which is cheap and could be a laugh, but check that you fit comfortably before buying. Or you could go rotary with a 2006 Mazda RX-8 for an extra £500 (it has rear doors, but they’re tiny). Just make sure to get a professional compression test and always keep an eye on the oil level. FP