James Ruppert: Fill your boots with a low-cost, low-maintenance saloon

Future classics, anyone? The obvious ones are Audi TTs and early Mazda MX-5s, but hold on: how obvious are they? Not only that, but also we might want to consider something cheap, fixable and usable, and with more seats and luggage room. Do you remember saloon cars? They’re becoming rare, courtesy of the manufacturer-backed scrappage part-exchange scheme, but they can still do a good job.

I was moved to take them more seriously when I chanced across a local Toyota Corolla 1.6 GL. This car was owned by the seller’s grandfather, who had bought it new from a Toyota main dealer in 1994. They serviced it until 2014, when the seller took it on at 79,000 miles and then rather impressively ran it up to 121,000. You could tell it had been garaged from the pictures, and it came with a fresh MOT. These cars go on forever, but this example hadn’t been run into the ground, just cherished, and it would set me – well, you – back £995. Bargain.

From there, I went to one of the most charming private adverts that I’ve ever read. It featured a 1995 Volvo 440 1.8 SE. This time, it was a dad who had taken on his son’s old banger, which seemed to have been maintained regardless of expense, with plenty of recent welding to banish all but the most minor cosmetic bubbling. There were issues and these were detailed in the description. The fuel and temperature gauges seemed to be telling fibs or not working, the ignition key was reluctant to turn and the tailgate would stay open only with the help of a stick. That was included in the price. The car was a victim of the imminent inner-London ULEZ. It was a pleasure to read the honest prose, and I reckon the £550 asking price remains negotiable.

If either of those are a bit too anorak, odd and old for you, the late and much-missed Saab made a lovely 9-3 saloon for a while. I found one at a dealer that was a nifty 2.0t Aero registered in 2005 with 135,000 miles on the clock. An automatic, it had all the usual modern traction and climate control kit plus a stamped-up service history. Unlike the Volvo, it is ULEZ-friendly and was £1495.

Then there is the Volkswagen Bora. I will stick my neck out and say that a 2004 Bora 1.6 S won’t ever be a 24-carat classic. But this particular example did have a good service history, according to the seller, just a couple of previous owners and an absolutely huge boot for £890 – and it’s also ULEZ compliant. However, I do rather like the idea of a 2001 Bora with a burbling V5 engine: 85,000 miles and on your drive for £1495.

If you love boots, do let me know. At the moment, you will have to hurry while stocks last.



Question: My local council has quietly banned through traffic on a road I use but has yet to install proper signage warning drivers of the move. Can I appeal the fine I’ve received? Tom Wakeling, Hounslow

Answer: Transport for London’s efforts to promote the use of bicycles and public transport has attracted ire from the thousands of motorists who need to drive their cars around the city. Looking into your specific issue, it seems several of your neighbours have had success appealing their penalty notices on the grounds that the new signage installed is inadequate and the closure wasn’t appropriately publicised. FP

Question: I’ve got my eye on a 1995 Volvo with an aftermarket LPG conversion. All seems to be in order, but are there any specific checks I should do? Nina Kapoor, via email

Answer: Aside from checking that the system functions as intended on your test drive, doesn’t leak and hasn’t been crudely rigged up, ensure it’s on the UKLPG register by entering the numberplate at drivelpg.co.uk. If it isn’t, you’ll need to take the car to an approved installer for verification. This will cost you, though, so factor that in to the cost of the car. FP