Car Choice: There’s more than one means to Howard’s end

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Howard Goodman lives in south-west France and admits he's "getting on" and his bones are a bit stiff. His current Mercedes C-class, CDI 220 automatic, is a Sport model with a harsh ride. He would like to replace it with something that must be left-hand drive, automatic and diesel. It should be comfortable on long journeys and be easier to get in and out of than the Mercedes. Depending on what he gets for the Mercedes, Howard and his wife have a budget of €15,000 to €25,000.

A car for the head

Howard says that he is flexible about whether to buy in France or the UK. Well, his choice of left-hand drive cars is greater in France, obviously, but there is the added complication of specifications as certain models and combinations of engines and gearboxes may not be available Europe wide. The tax situation is also worth thinking about because buying a car in Britain and bringing it to France may attract certain duties which mean it may be cheaper simply to buy over there. What Howard needs is a compact MPV type that he and Mrs Goodman can step into. One of the most obvious and affordable suggestions would be the locally built Renault Mégane Scénic. An automatic Dci 150 Dynamic is £22,495, but in the UK it is usually possible to reduce the price to £20,000. It is a point worth making that in the UK it is much easier to get discounts through brokers and at dealerships, so Howard will have to look at the financial implications. A year-old example may well be within his budget direct from a dealer. Again, warranties are different in Europe and may not be as comprehensive – something else that Howard needs to check.

A car for the heart

Although the Mégane is comfy and economical, the Citroën C4 Picasso may just edge it for overall refinement. Although the very stylish C3 Picasso is probably large enough, it does not have the automatic gearbox/diesel engine option. The C4 does. Also, being a bigger vehicle it rides much more comfortably than smaller, more nervous and slightly twitchy cars. So, although there are seven seats on offer, it will be used as a spacious five-seater. The driving position is very comfy and there are masses of glass and fairly thin pillars for a modern car so it is easy to see out. Citroëns always had a reputation for cars that rode very softly, although in recent years they had gone down the sporty route with more firmly sprung cars.

The C4 is well designed and looks more interesting than the Mégane but is similarly priced. The 1.6 Hdi Exclusive EGS is £22,195, but would be £1,500 cheaper in the UK. Again, Howard would be looking at a car that's more than a year old and may have been used by a dealer as a demonstrator vehicle. My advice remains that he should search locally first and establish what deals can be done.

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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