Car Choice: Forget the price: 'You only live once, Trevor'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Trevor Kipling has a Seat Toledo V5 which he bought as a demonstrator in August 2003. He likes the car because of its handling, build quality, satellite navigation and climate control, but principally because of the engine, which allows him to have effortless driving in high gears because of the high torque at low revs, and good acceleration. He is now considering replacing it. The Civic Type S has a variable valve engine, which requires lots of gear changes to get a response. He likes the idea of a diesel BMW, but won't pay extra for the badge. The Alfa Romeo 159 intrigues him, but he questions its reliability.

Trevor has correctly identified a radical change in engine technology over the last few years, and variable valves (VVT) systems have been the answer to delivering maximum power when required, although it does require more effort by the driver. Simply pushing the accelerator pedal is no longer enough.

The Common-rail Direct Injection engines would seem to be the answer for Trevor, as they combine economy with lots of torque, and that means he can accelerate without changing gear too often. These units have a pipe along the top of the engine which contains fuel under extremely high pressure. Computer controlled injectors act as taps which open and close in microseconds. This provides the ability to control the amount, timing and pressure of the fuel injection to a degree of accuracy that was never previously possible. This accurate control optimises the combustion process, generates maximum efficiency and significantly reduces noise. It also enables particulate emissions to be minimised, to the extent that exhaust smoke is virtually unheard of. The result is increased performance, better fuel efficiency and reduced emissions.

A CAR FOR THE HEAD

I think that Trevor should stick with Volkswagen Group products, especially as they make some of the most impressive diesel engines around. It is just a question of what body style he wants wrapped around that unit. The 2.0Tdi engine can be found in Audi A3s, Skoda Octavias and Seat Leons to name just a few. I think it is a toss up between a Passat 2.0 Tdi S, or a Volkswagen Golf GT Tdi, depending on how much space Trevor needs. Certainly an ex-demonstrator Passat should be marginally cheaper than a brand-mew Golf GT. The Passat is a larger car than before but it's not that much heavier. It is fabulously refined and Trevor won't hear much from the diesel engine even when pushed.

The facts are that the 2.0 TDI engine will get to 60mph in under ten seconds and go on to a maximum of 130mph, and that's only marginally slower than a 2.0 petrol, but it is the manner in which it drives which Trevor should find so rewarding. Oh yes, and there is also the small matter of 47mpg, which is much better than a Toledo V5 manages, at 32mpg.

A CAR FOR THE HEART

If Trevor wants a bit more style and a big engine there are very few realistic purchases this side of a six-figure supercar - although quite a few Lamborginis and Ferraris now have the dreaded variable-valve technology. No, what Trevor really needs is a Vauxhall.

Not just any old Vauxhall but an Australian-built Monaro. Based on the old Vauxhall Omega, the similarities end there, because under the bonnet is a 5.7 litre engine from a Chevrolet Corvette. The bodywork is equally brash - it's a large coupe that looks as though it means business. Certainly Trevor could not complain about the top speed, so when he goes to Germany he can hit 178mph and blast past all those speed-restricted BMW and Mercedes. It is also great when you go around corners.

And it turns from an aggressive sports car into a commuting pussycat. It is possible to seat four and there is a reasonably comprehensive specification list.

The cost new is £35,000 - wait a year though, and the prices plummet. A quick check of the nation's forecourts turned up a 2004 example at just £18,995. You only live once, Trevor.

CAR CHOICE: Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail James Ruppert at carchoice@independent.co.uk, giving your age, address and contact number, and details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested.

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