Car Choice: You can get an awful lot of banger for your buck

Mark Harwood has a 2006 Mazda 6 MPS, which has even had its power boosted, but now he wants a change. Mark realises that depreciation and market conditions mean that it is not worth much more than £6,000. In total, he has £14,000 for a car which must be practical and, possibly, a prestige German model.

A car for the head

If ever there was a candidate for a Bangernomics wake-up call it is Mark, as losing at least half of what he paid for the Mazda over such a short period should make him think twice about what he buys next. Surely holding on to a car for a bit longer is the only way to get better value for money. Vehicles are all much cheaper now and at least Mark will get more for his money. There is no shortage of fast saloons and even compact estate cars to choose from. A high-performance hatch would be the answer, such as a Volkswagen Golf R32. This is a Golf GTI with a bit more performance and designed to be a sporty car first and foremost. However, it is also spacious, fun, safe and well equipped. Mark can buy a 2003 example which has 39,000 miles, heated seats and all the extras for £10,950 from a dealer. There are also diesel models with R32 bodykits that look fast, but are economical.

A car for the heart

Probably the best combination of sportiness, performance and practicality is the BMW M3. However, within Mark's budget the only models are likely to be the older coupés, whereas the latest four-door saloons are about £40,000. Audi offers the S4 and the estate version badged as the RS4. Under the bonnet is a large V8 engine which leaves you in no doubt that this is an immensely powerful car. According to the road testers it is slightly slower and less involving than BMW's M3, but otherwise it is a fast car that is easier and probably safer to drive. The S4's Quattro four-wheel-drive system gives the car a huge amount of grip. That level of performance (it gets to 60mph in 5.5 seconds) and handling should please Mark while the build quality is a revelation. The interior is a very solid and comfortable place to be. Spending £14,000 buys a 2004 30,000-mile S4 saloon.

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, 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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