Bashir Siraj needs a good estate car, maybe a used one, for long-distance journeys for touring across continents with his three children; a car which is comfortable to drive, with the least amount of noise, a 3-litre petrol or diesel engine for smoothness, and incorporating gadgets such as a satellite navigation system if possible. He had set his mind on a Mercedes 3-litre estate. How can he obtain a car of his choice at the most competitive price, and are there any alternatives he could consider?

There are a lot of family car options. Never mind an estate car, there are now off-road vehicles and people carriers that can carry all sorts of loads in great comfort over long distances.

However, Mr Siraj wants to do more than just transport his family, he wants to do it in style - and silence - hence the preference for a Mercedes. In my experience three children can make a hell of a racket, but I understand that he wants a refined driving experience. That means a 4x4 is out of the question as most are noisy at motorway speed and rarely deliver anything near a magic-carpet ride.

People carriers can be discounted because the majority don't have the style or prestige that Mr Siraj wants. Their size means wind noise is a problem at speed and their sheer bulk also compromises economy. A big petrol engine is a nice idea, but I'm sure Mr Siraj would want fewer fuel stops. So it has to be sophisticated diesel power and it has to be wrapped in a prestige estate car body.

A car for the head

Honda. A manufacturer widely regarded as the Far Eastern equivalent of Mercedes produces high quality, brilliantly engineered cars that may, however, lack real prestige. Still, Mr Siraj would be wise to consider their Accord 2.2 I-CTDi Sport Tourer.

That's a long name for a vehicle big on space and practical features. There is a powered tailgate operated electrically from the key or boot button inside. The load space can be increased from 518 litres to 1707 with the rear seats folded. They split 60/40 and the seat back folds forward, the headrest down and the base flips against the front seats - very clever. This model handles very smoothly and there is a 2.2 diesel which is equally smooth.

Honda's reputation for building superb engines continues with this unit. However, the specification sheets show that only the 2.4 VTEC Executive model has satellite navigation as standard. That model returns 28mpg overall whereas the diesel does 48mpg.

Mr Siraj should consider using brokers who source the car from the UK Honda network. For instance are able to save about £1,500 on the £19,700 list price of the 2.2 diesel model.

A car for the heart

A Mercedes estate has always been a guarantee of quality, practicality and rock-hard resale values. The latest E-Class is an impressive return to form.

Mr Siraj should go for an E270Cdi Classic with a five-speed automatic gearbox which costs an extra £1,450, while satellite navigation is another £1,160.

The Mercedes is not going to be cheap, but it will be the best estate that a lot of money can buy. That diesel engine is very refined and will manage 38mpg. It also has the pulling power to overtake articulated lorries without fuss.

The load space is large, at 650 litres, and that can be boosted to over 1,900 litres by folding the rear seats flat.

On the question of money, Mercedes dealers are always reluctant to discount, but again Mr Siraj should consider a UK-based broker. Savings are fairly modest, but he could get up to £1,500 off. Carfile 01335 360763 is a consistently competitive supplier of Mercedes.

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