Car Choice: 'We love our Landie but it's costly to run'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

It is great to hear that the principle of Bangernomics is alive and kicking. The first thing I would say to the family is, why not hold on to the characterful old bus? It is heavy and slow and will have a diesel engine, but it is hard to beat as a tough and practical vehicle.

As it has already been built, a lot of the environmental damage has already been done and chucking it away is even more wasteful. Admittedly, the fuel consumption is never going to be brilliant, but diesel engine technology has moved on a bit. The wonderful thing about Land Rovers is that they can be completely refurbished. Never mind about fitting more comfy seats from a Range Rover - it is also possible to install a more powerful and less polluting diesel. Motor and Diesel Engineering (01526 830185) can supply a 2.5-litre diesel engine that complies with the latest emissions requirements, although it costs more than £4,000 without VAT or fitting.

Realistically, there are not a lot of options: it's a big MPV, a big 4x4 or a minibus. I guess that after the Land Rover any other 4x4 might not be as appealing and certainly won't have as many seats. Getting eight on board is tricky, but you can find Toyota Landcruisers that will just about take that many with big 4.0-litre turbo engines.

CAR FOR THE HEAD

People-carriers are most obvious way to seat eight. The Toyota Previa does, as do the related Citroën C8, Fiat Ulysse and Peugeot 807. Slightly more affordable will be the import version of the Toyota Previa badged as the Lucida, which has a 2.2 Turbodiesel engine and costs about £6,500 for an eight-year-old model. These are usually fitted with rear swivelling seats so that the members of the family who are not driving can have a proper conference meeting, or at the very least a picnic. Examples from the early 1990s are usually no more than £2,999 so they can be great value.

There are also weird Far Eastern models like the Nissan Homy GT Cruise, which is a van with windows but very reliable. To seat more than eight we are into minibus territory, and that involves looking through the commercial vehicle classified adverts.

Finding a Ford Transit that was previously used for the school, works or private hire run is not too difficult. I found a 2.4 Diesel 2001, 15-seat Transit with full service history and three point seatbelts quite quickly. It cost just £6,250, but being a commercial vehicle there is also VAT to pay. I would avoid early-to mid-1990s Transits, which don't have as many safety features and have massive mileages and are sold at the end of their useful lives for £1,500 or less.

CAR FOR THE HEART

At the quality end of the minibus market is the Volkswagen Caravelle, which has lots of room. It seats eight and, unlike most people-carriers, also takes their luggage. Despite looking like a van it does not drive like one. The steering is very direct and it corners safely. Drivers have an excellent position and benefit from well laid out controls and good visibility. Passengers will appreciate the high quality finish and comprehensive standard specification. With all that room they won't feel cramped, but they will feel safe thanks to the numerous airbags. The latest post-2003 models are expensive, costing £17,995 from a dealer, but a 1999 2.5 TD will cost less than £9,000.

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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