Car Choice: Give me a car with lots of toys

The search for a luxury cruiser with plenty of useful knobs to play with takes James Ruppert to Korea and Japan...
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Indy Lifestyle Online

James Sykes is about to retire his Ford Mondeo Ghia X Automatic after a decade of loyal service. He wants his next car to have automatic transmission and leather seats, ideally with an electrically adjustable driver's seat with at least two memory positions, since James and his wife are different sizes.

The Mondeo has air conditioning, but James would like climate control and different ventilation options. He reckons cruise control would stop him exceeding the speed limit. He has now retired, but he still wants room for passengers to be carried in comfort and to bring wine back from France.

Cars with toys: that's what James wants, and most models have never had better specs. Standard fittings to luxury cars 15 years ago, such as ABS brakes, are now taken for granted on hatchbacks.

James didn't buy the Mondeo new - it was a well-used car that cost £11,000 from a car supermarket. James can spend less than that and get a better-equipped car that is in better condition. If James considers a luxury car with a large engine, he could be spoilt for choice.

His Mondeo was probably a hatchback, but a large boot will do. You can't compromise on space by going for a coupé if you want to take passengers and wine, so it is a minimum of four doors. James has had things break on the Mondeo and that is one of the drawbacks of an electronically loaded vehicle. But it is possible to pick a more reliable luxury car.

A CAR FOR THE HEAD

I've been looking at the specs of unfashionable Japanese saloons when I should have been looking at Korea.

The Hyundai XG is probably the oddest car I have ever recommended. Here was a vehicle with a reassuringly long list of extras. It included climate control, driver's-seat memory and cruise control, which should please James.

New, it cost just a tad more than a top-of-the-line Mondeo, but they depreciated within seconds of leaving the showroom because they didn't have the right badge or image. The dull Hyundai blends into the background like an old Mondeo, but it has plenty of room inside and a big boot. Inside, it is laid out well, but some might think the plastic cheap. The bottom line is the marginal cost of buying an XG, which has a powerful enough 3.0 V6 engine, which isn't the most economical. Prices start at £2,995, but £5,000 will buy a 50,000-mile example with a warranty at a dealer with an X-registration plate. Hyundais shouldn't break down: they have a good reputation for being tough and reliable. Cheap and well equipped, the XG is the perfect combination.

A CAR FOR THE HEART

The upmarket version of the Hyundai XG has to be the Honda Legend. It's a more affordable version of the Lexus. Like the Hyundai, it hasn't sold in huge numbers and is blandly designed, but it suffers from massive depreciation.

I don't think the Legend is far off a Lexus in terms of comfort. It lacks charisma, but that can't matter when it is possible to buy a 1997 example that cost around £30,000 for just £5,000. I found one for this price with full history and a reasonable 40,000 mileage. The leather seats were heated and programmable and there was dual-zone climate control (both driver and passenger could precisely control their own environments). There was a powerful V6 engine, and a huge boot for the wine. Rear-seat passengers would have loads of space, and I reckon running costs, apart from petrol, would be containable.

Insurance for the recently retired should be low, and an annual visit to a good garage should keep these brilliantly built and finely engineered cars in good fettle. To sum up, the Legend is a Hyundai XG with class.

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 telephone number, as well as details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested as well as your budget.

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