Nigel Boreham, 60, has a 2004 Skoda Fabia. He is wondering whether to update to the new Fabia series three, but wants to know whether any rival models are worth considering. He is single, so does not need lots of space, and is only interested in reliability and resale value. Nigel is concerned that the Fabia seems to depreciate in value quite quickly.
Nigel wants to know about alternative superminis, but this is also a question about ownership and depreciation. There has been a very sound argument in the past that drivers should always get a new car, then sell after three years. During that time they would have a reliable shiny new vehicle that, if it should break down, would be covered by the manufacturer's warranty. The truth is, though, that cars have never been more reliable, and after three years it is possible to buy a warranty that would cover major breakdowns anyway. The few pounds spent each month would be nothing compared to the amount of depreciation that a car could suffer during that time. If Nigel only wants to keep a car for two or three years, then ideally he should buy when a car is nearly new. So if it is just a few months old, or has been registered by a dealer to get a bonus payment, Nigel could immediately save several thousand pounds. It is also true that in order to buy a car that holds its value you will need to pay more for the "badge". So a Skoda Fabia and Volkswagen Polo, which are virtually the same vehicle, have a difference in retail price and resale value that is a direct result of the prestige of their badges. Weird isn't it?
A car for the head
I would suggest that Nigel look a little more closely at the Vauxhall Corsa. Here is a car that has been universally praised by car magazines; What Car? made it car of the year for 2007. For pottering around, the small petrol engines will be fine as Nigel doesn't cover many long motorway journeys. It is quite refined, even with the 1.0 and 1.2 petrol engines, but Nigel could choose the marginally noisier but more practical five-door version rather than the three-door. There is no three-door option on the Fabia. Inside, Nigel should like the clear instrumentation and easily adjustable driving position. The standard equipment list is very good; every model has twin airbags, CD player, central locking and electric door mirrors. Probably the best reason for buying a Corsa is that there are plenty around at dealers at competitive and discounted prices. At one dealer we found a 2007 car with the smallest 1.0 engine that had clocked up 6,800 miles for £6,500 with Life specification. At another Vauxhall dealer, a 1.2 engined version with an Easytronic automatic gearbox was just £6,500, making it even easier for Nigel to buy and drive.
A car for the heart
When it comes to assessing the new Skoda Fabia, I will leave that to my better informed road test colleagues. To summarise though, the Fabia is refined and smooth with loads of room, a quality product that some can find just a bit pricey. It is no longer a budget small hatch, so should be compared with the best on offer. Having said that, the unashamedly basic Toyota Aygo may well fit the bill. Here Nigel will have a prestige badge, but in a small package that is ultra cheap to run. This is a car that excels in urban environments, being easy to drive, lively and practical. If Nigel wants to get three other adults inside that won't be a problem. The basic specification is just that, although every model will have a CD player. Inside, the raised driving position is comfortable and appropriate for a city car. Group 1 insurance, 61.4 mpg for the 1.0, petrol and easy servicing plus strong residual value should all please Nigel. We found a 2007 example that had travelled 17,000 miles being sold privately for £5,900, which was one of many on sale below £6,000.
Looking to buy
Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or email James Ruppert at firstname.lastname@example.org, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested and your budget.