We selected it from a shortlist of:
- Ford C-Max – car was adequate. Service at Gates was bad. Unenthusiastic despite giving the sales person every opportunity. Was the only place we’d booked a test drive days in advance, and the only place that didn’t have a car waiting on the forecourt for us (“We didn’t know which one you’d want so we didn’t get one out.” “I’d like one of the diesels as I said when booked the test drive.” “The 1.6, 1.8, or 2.0?” “Um, lets try the 1.6 and see how we do with that.” “Um, we haven’t got any.” “OK, we’ll try the 2.0.” “Um. we haven’t got one of them either.” <deep breath /> “OK. Have you, by any chance, got a 1.8 diesel then?” “Oh yes sir. Would you like to try that?” Give me strength. We were there for 2 1/2 hrs for a 20 minute test drive. To top it, when I went to put the baby seat in, there was no ISOFIX. I’d specifically requested ISOFIX. So went to use the seatbelt to strap the seat in, and the seat belt was buggered. To be honest, an awful lot of the decision for me was based on how undelighted I was with the care and attention we received. Jo was pretty adamant we weren’t having it anyway.
- Mazda 5 – recommended by a friend who nearly bought one. An excellent piece of kit. Top notch service from Stuart and Richard at Norton Way Mazda. The car oozes quality, handles well, and has an inspired interior. The back doors slide. The middle row middle seat becomes various useful things when not in use. Legroom is good enough for six adults to travel in comfort in the three rows of seats…. After a lot of rejigging of budgets, we reluctantly decided we couldn’t afford one 😦
- Renault Grand Scenic – good reports from friends who have owned one. Dealer was reluctant to talk on the phone, and even less enthusiastic over email. We looked at the reliability index and decided to leave it.
- Citroen Xsara Picasso – lots of room. Five adults fit fine. Does exactly what it says on the tin. “Tin” was a word that was used to describe the one we tested. We did not like it at all. I think Citroen may be a marque I just don’t get on with. Unfortunate because it there are loads of Xsaras around going at keen prices. Ah well.
- Kia Carens III – very surprising. Only looked because Honest John kept suggesting it as an alternative to the others we were looking at and Jo caught me ignoring it. Colin the salesman at Mantles in Royston was businesslike and knowledgable. He didn’t have a diesel demo to hand, so lent us his ’08 2.0 CRDI LS, top spec. Good engine. Slightly thirstier than most of the others (46mpg combined). Excellent noise control. Not as quiet as the Mazda at 70mph, but quieter than the C-Max. Solid interior. Room for six adults, with loads of legroom, and a child in the middle of the 2nd row. 2nd and 3rd row of seats easily flat floor, creating wads of space (van with windows size space). Even with just the 3rd row down, there’s significantly more space in the boot than the Forester. ISOFIX as standard, oodles of cubbyholes and cup holders, air vents to the 2nd row, roof bars come standard. Drives well. I really wanted to find something wrong with it, so was I completely unfair to it and took it down tight country roads I used to drive in my feckless youth. It dealt with them without complaint, and with much less body roll than the Forester. You can feel there’s a big lump up front, but it looks after it fine while slinging it around at relatively sane speeds. We went back on Tuesday to check the actual car on offer: spring green (?) Oct ’06 2.0 CRDI GS (middle spec). Lost the sunroof and the trip computer (big deal), lost climate control but still have air con, so nay bothered. Drove identically to the LS, and was run-in nicely. Funny colour, funny name, but ticks all the boxes and the price is right.
Deal was done Tuesday afternoon. It’s having a 20,000 mile service and new front tyres (they’re about 80 quid a pair fitted… the Foresters were 250 a pair, plus fitting). In all we’ve spent about 8 hours driving to and from and testing/sitting around at various garages, more than 25% of that at the Ford garage waiting for nothing much (still hasn’t phoned me back either). We probably spent about 6 hours online reading all the blurb we could get our hands on and another hour or so talking to friends and family.
Cost of change was £6,500 from 60,000 miles 5.5 year old Forester XT (26mph combined) with no tax to 20,000 miles 19 month old 56 plate Carens CRDI GS (46mpg combined) and 10 months tax. Would have been at least a year older for comparable Ford at that price (late 54, early 05 maybe). Couldn’t have got a Mazda. Probably could have got a Xsara on a 55 plate.
Assuming we carry on doing an astoundingly average 12,000 miles a year and petrol/diesel stay where they are (ha!) we’ll spend about £311 less a year than a petrol that averages 34mpg combined. VED is £145 versus £210. The Kia also has a bumper-to-bumper 5 year warranty which we’ll have 3 years left on. So that’s another £600 or so saved not having to buy a Warranty Direct for two years.
It’s a bit difficult to remember what it looks like… it’s a vaguely car shaped hole in my memory about two seconds after I stop looking at it. I will lose it in a car park.
All in all, I’m pleased. I think we’ve done reasonably well and been way more careful and considered in our choice than any previous car buying we’ve done. The image of the Carens isn’t great, but hell, I gave up worrying about my image years ago when Farahs were in fashion the first time (I got mine just as they went out of fashion) and a mini-mpv is hardly the epitome of style. It’s a solid workhorse that will give us a good few years service (I hope). I’ve always got the Bandit for fun and japes (and getting to work).