Andrew Thornton is 47 and has owned a 1998 Skoda Octavia TDi for five years, and it now has more than 200,000 miles on the clock. It's been very reliable, economical and comfortable. He wants to replace it with a larger, more stylish estate and has a budget of around £3,500. He is comparing an Audi A6 and Saab 9-5 and wonders which is best. Andrew wants to avoid mainstream models.

A car for the head

OK, Audi or Saab? Well, with the Saab, Andrew should get a better-equipped and lower mileage car for his money. My long experience with Saab is that they are generally extremely reliable. Plus there is a good network of Saab specialist and independent dealers. Saabs are also more exclusive than Audis. In value for more money terms, the Saab wins. Although the next choice should be a BMW or Mercedes, I would tell Andrew to look at Volvos – the quintessential estate cars, which are extremely practical, and not as square as they used to be. A 2002 V70 2.5D is a fine large estate and very reliable. It even has extra child seats in the boot. There is also the smaller V40 1.9D which is more economical and will have a lower mileage.

A car for the heart

A compact and stylish estate is the Jaguar X-Type. It's better looking than the saloon, and the boot is a very decent size, plus the tailgate performs a neat trick where the glass opens separately so you can easily pop something in the back. Although the petrol engines are better value, the 2.0TD engine is far more economical and will return around 48mpg. It is most likely that Andrew's budget will mean the Classic or Sport model. He will be able to enjoy air conditioning, alloy wheels, remote locking and electric windows. The interior has been criticised by very tall drivers, but I find the level of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel more than adequate. In the classifieds, £3,500 will buy a 2004 2.0d example, with around 100,000 miles on the clock and with Sport specification.

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF or email James Ruppert at, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested, and your budget.

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