Car Choice: A decade of driving


Benjamin Hopkinson is 68, has a Peugeot 405 estate which has covered more than 150,000 miles and is still running faultlessly. He believes it is probably coming to the end of its useful life. He has a budget of £5,000 to £9,000 and in his words needs "to bear in mind that this may well be my last car". The car needs to be able to cope with muddy fields, beehives, dog and grandchildren, although not at the same time, and also to pull the odd trailer. Benjamin likes the idea of a Subaru, hates the thought of a flashy 4x4 and wonders whether an LPG (liquid petroleum gas) conversion is worth it and if diesel is all it is cracked up to be.

First of all, let's congratulate Benjamin on running his Peugeot up to such a respectable mileage. Using a car is the best way to keep it in shape and there is an argument that if it isn't broken, why change. If the 405 still does a job, why should Benjamin put money into what is another wasting asset. The cost-effective option would be to simply freshen the 405 up with minor engine rebuild, new brakes, shock absorbers. For just over £1,000 Benjamin could find he has a car that can manage another six-figure mileage. I also understand why he may not want to do that. A more modern car should be safer, more comfortable and in better overall condition. Benjamin seems to have managed without four-wheel drive so far.

And I agree that a heavy, flashy, school-run 4x4 would be wrong. Certainly four-wheel drive would help with towing and when in the middle of muddy fields. I would recommend a modern turbo diesel engine rather than a LPG conversion.

A car for the head

Benjamin is right to have a soft spot for Subaru. At Car Choice we have recommended the Legacy estate many times, so certainly he should look at one. They are great value, very tough, but not that economical. If he likes the 405, Benjamin should also have a soft spot for its even better successor, the 406. Soon to be replaced, it has been one of the best estate cars on the market, especially good when fitted with the excellent 2.0 Hdi turbo diesel engine.

I think Benjamin might be surprised at how muscular a modern diesel engine is, providing the power where it is really needed in the mid-range for overtaking. Also the refinement at speed is quite surprising. Better built than the old 405, it does show wear and tear easily but is now very cost-effective to buy. A quick scan through the classified ads turned up year 2000 models for between £5,000 and £6,000, whereas £9,000 buys a two-to-three-year-old example from a Peugeot dealer.

A car for the heart

It is possible to distil Benjamin's requirements down to the following four elements: understatement, class, quality and economy. In that case, he will be wanting an Audi. More particularly the Avant estate, powered by a diesel engine and with the four-wheel drive Quattro system. First he will have to make a choice between the A4 and A6 estate. The A4 may be on the small side; by contrast, the A6 has a substantial load bay. The interior is spacious and comfortable and after a Peugeot Benjamin should find the fit, finish and overall build quality quite remarkable.

The feeling of solidity continues on the road with the Quattro system. The diesel engines available are very strong and economical. To top it all, the A6 is a handsomely styled vehicle and although I'm sure it won't be Benjamin's last, if he wanted a car to last for another decade then the A6 will easily manage that within his £9,000 budget.

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