Phil should be open-minded, especially when it comes to Citroens and Fords, because to overlook these makes is to ignore the good value and low running costs that they offer. In particular, Citroens are renowned for their great diesel engines. On the subject of diesel, Car Choice is repeatedly asked about smaller automatic models, and the fact is that until recently they have been a rarity on all but the most prestigious models. As Phil is an existing user of diesel technology, he probably appreciates the benefits and characteristics of this frugal and tough unit. For many though, paying the extra for a used diesel may not be that advantageous, especially in the shorter term.
The demand for used diesels is on the increase and this is reflected in much higher prices. For many drivers who only cover modest mileages, they might as well stick to petrol. Prejudice against Ford would, therefore, put the Zetec estate out of contention, when it is one of the best small estates you can buy. A 1.6 petrol version returns a creditable 40mpg and Phil should give it a try, but there are several other diesel options.
A car for the head
A small, automatic, diesel estate is a problem, especially on a T or X plate. It would be great if Phil could put his prejudices aside and consider a Citroen Xsara estate. This model may not have the most character, or the most durable interior, but the excellent 2.0 110 Hdi diesel engine comes with an automatic gearbox. The model also returns an excellent 54mpg and is a very lively engine, with decent overtaking acceleration. As an estate, it is more than competent and, best of all, it is great value for money - you would struggle to pay more than pounds 6,000.
Alternatively, there is the Renault Scenic. Not strictly an estate car, this is a compact people-carrier with lots of storage space, plus removable rear seats - although with five passengers on board, luggage is going to be a squeeze. Most of all though, the Scenic comes with an automatic gearbox and a good diesel engine.
The 1.9 dTi available up until 2001 returns 45mpg. Again, Phil should be paying around pounds 6,000 or so, but I appreciateit may not be exactly what he needs in terms of an estate.
A car for the heart
Skodas are very good indeed, as is Phil's diesel Golf, so obviously he likes the idea of a Volkswagen group diesel, so maybe he should consider an Audi.
The A3 is too small, but the A4 Avant estate model is fairly compact and has a great diesel engine. Go for the pre-2001 model that will be cheaper. The only company to give BMW a run for its money in compact executive terms, Volkswagen's A4 is a superbly engineered car. The 110 diesel engine continues to impress and suits the character of the A4 perfectly, as it returns almost 57mpg. There is also the option of the 115 diesel and also a 2.5 TDI model, which returns 41mpg and is almost hot-hatch quick. The image is certainly strong and the quality of the product is obvious, especially the interior.
A durable and well-finished interior is important in an estate, although the A4 is certainly on the compact side. But the load bay is well thought out and reasonably practical. Being a model which is now two generations old, this A4 is starting to look like very good value. pounds 7,000 buys a late 1990s example in first-class condition.