After 118,000 miles, it's time to replace a much-loved Skoda Octavia. With VW diesels, it pays to stick with what you know, says James Ruppert

Peter Ware owns a T-registration Skoda Octavia 1.9 SLX TDI and is looking for a replacement used car. His family loves the Octavia, especially its massive boot, but he feels it is time to change because they now have two small children and need a little more room. Also he feels that after 118,000 miles the Octavia may be a little tired. Peter's key requirements for a used car is that it is safe, reliable, a diesel and can be purchased for around £7,500.

One thing I feel bound to do is to make Peter think again about changing his car. He feels that it is a good, practical car with a big boot and he doesn't seem to have any complaints about reliability or quality. Certainly, a car of the Octavia's size can cope easily enough with two small children. And 118,000 miles for a VW diesel engine is just about run in. Economy and performance will not be at its optimum level. Skodas are extremely well put together these days, under the guidance of Volkswagen, and it won't be falling apart at all. Peter probably realises that the biggest single expense of motoring is depreciation, and by prolonging the life of this car, he will be cutting his costs. He does not need to run it in to the ground, but he could use it for a few more years. Some might suggest that Peter would get more for his car now, which is true – once cars, even durable diesels, go over 100,000 miles they are always more difficult to sell and you never really get what the vehicle is worth because buyers irrationally think that, at that mileage, cars are going to break down. I will, however, play along with Peter and, hopefully, make some useful suggestions.

A Car for the head

Perhaps Peter should get himself another Skoda, maybe an Octavia estate. Because his experience with Volkswagen diesels has been so good, he should stick with them, so it doesn't matter whether there is a Skoda, Audi, Seat or Volkswagen badge on the grille.

As much as it would be the easy option to go for one of those, however, I think that Peter should consider a mainstream model like a Vauxhall Vectra and go for the estate car version. Estates are incredibly underrated, but offer so much more space than a conventional hatchback. There will be more than enough room for all the nonsense you need to carry around with children.

The Vectra is particularly large at the back, which should please Peter, while the 1.9CDTI 120 engine returns almost 48mpg overall. It is a very comfortable car, made out of quality materials. It's a safe car, too, with front, side and curtain airbags.

A brief look around turned up a lot of very affordable, low-mileage petrols, but the best-value diesels were a couple of 2004 Club models from dealers (with air-conditioning) with 31,000 and 37,000 miles. Both cost just over £7,400 and were certainly worth a second look.

A Car for the heart

Peter just wants a spacious vehicle, so perhaps he should consider a compact people carrier, which can have all sorts of clever storage and accommodation options. The Renault Scenic should fit that bill. The standard model seats five, with three separate rear seats that can all be folded or removed completely. There is decent legroom at the rear and Peter would not need to trade up to the larger Grand Scenic.

Equipment levels have always been good, with the Authentique providing remote locking, card-start system and electric front windows. Better, though, is the Expression, which has a CD player, air-con, electric rear windows, automatic wipers and headlamps. Aside from the clever use of space, it is the very smooth ride that is the winner for many families, but there are other compelling reasons, too. In particular, the 1.5dCi engine will return 54.3mpg overall and the Scenic also has a maximum five-star crash-test rating.

These models have always been good value and that extends to the used-car market. Just £7,000 would buy a 2005, 38,000-mile Expression from a Renault dealer, which would provide a completely safe buying experience for Peter.

Car choice

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 you're interested in, and your budget.

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