Car Choice: A vehicle that's fit for teenagers ... and their cellos

Robin Thomas wants to replace a dependable, but rusty, Mercedes E Class estate. The car is used for commuting but goes on holiday – sometimes camping – and transports several teenagers with cellos. Ideally he wants another Mercedes but has not been very impressed with the quality of the build – or indeed the reproduction from the music system, which is very important to Robin. So with a budget of £10,000 he is looking for a vehicle that is capable of shifting the Thomas clan in style.

A car for the head

Big estate cars? There is really only one Daddy, and that's the Volvo V70. It's a huge estate that has a wide and flat load bay which can take absolutely everything that you can throw in it, including a couple of cellos. Its rear seats split and fold so you can get all sorts of odd things in. These are tough load-luggers, which routinely rack up high mileages without any drama. The seats are superbly comfortable, so after a long journey there will be no complaints. Indeed, the driving environment is excellent and the level of standard equipment is also very high, with a decent CD. I would say that the quality of materials used is on a par with the Mercedes, but it is so much better when it comes to driving and reliability. Obviously being a Volvo it has a well-deserved reputation for safety with plenty of airbags and other features so you need never be concerned about your family's well-being. Volvos traditionally depreciate heavily, which means they become bargains much sooner than, say, a Mercedes. So, £10,000 puts the 2005 and 2007 models in range – a petrol 2.5 with 30,000 miles on the clock or a 50,000-mile diesel D5, for example.

A car for the heart

Assuming Robin doesn't want to take the obvious route with the Volvo, the second most obvious replacement for a big Mercedes estate is a big Audi one. The Audi A6 Avant, below, is proof that traditional German over-engineering and interior quality is not a thing of the past. Indeed, Audi have filled the market gap that Mercedes left. Here is a large luxury estate car, which, with the seats folded, can take a massive 1,660 litres. Certainly tall teenagers will have plenty of legroom in the rear. Every buyer seems to favour the excellent diesel engines over petrol and the 3.2 V6 and smaller 2.7 both deliver a huge amount of power, but in a suitably smooth manner. The 2.7 TDI will also deliver a very useful 40mpg overall. There is no shortage of equipment as the lowest SE trim has climate control with automatic headlights and wipers. It does not depreciate as fast as a Volvo, which means Robin's £10,000 will only stretch to an older, higher mileage model. Typical of what's on offer is a 2005 2.7 TDI SE with 72,000 miles from a dealer.

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF or email James Ruppert at carchoice@independent.co.uk, 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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