Motoring: Seized by M-plate mania? Choose your new car here: August is the worst month to buy a car. But since so many people are tempted by the new registration, Gavin Green offers a guide to cars at the top of their class

A quarter of all new cars in Britain are sold in August. This means that sensible people should not buy a car next month. However, rational decisions and motor cars rarely go together, so 500,000 buyers will be clamouring to own a car identical to the same model in July - except for a different letter at the start of the number plate.

August is a bad time to buy because salesmen are least receptive to haggling then; demand for new cars is strong, so why should they do you any favours? Also, come October, your gleaming M- plater may well be obsolete: manufacturers shift to making '95 model cars after the summer vacation. Trim changes are common, and brand-new models often come down the line. The August jamboree is a good way of clearing out old stock.

New models about to be superseded include the Granada (new and uglier one coming in September), the Range Rover (improved and pricier version in October), the Escort (new model on sale next spring) and the Jaguar XJ6/Sovereign/XJ12 (a prettier, more rounded model due in October).

Still, if you're bent on being the first in your neighbourhood with an M-car, here's what is worth buying. You should expect to get an on-road discount of about 10 per cent, although this varies depending on make and model.

Small car: Fiat Cinquecento, from pounds 5,199. Tiny, cute, easy to park, easy to drive, and amazingly space efficient: it can fit four adults. Great city car that should hold its value well. Also worth considering is the Skoda Favorit (from pounds 5,238), which is roomy and, now that Skoda is owned by VW, well made.

Supermini class: Renault Clio, from pounds 6,241. The French build the best small and medium-sized cars in the world, and this is France's best-seller. It is distinctive to look at, roomy, rides well, and makes Britain's top-selling Ford Fiesta seem amazingly crude. Also better than a Metro, because it's much roomier and more refined. Worth considering are: the Fiat Punto (from pounds 6,350), roomiest car in the sector, well made, cheeky looks and great value - let down only by roly-poly ride and rather vague steering.

Small Family Car: Citroen ZX, from pounds 8,965, and Peugeot 306, from pounds 8,850. The two best cars in this sector are essentially the same with different bodies and badges. Both are superb packages: roomy, lively and reliable with almost limo-standard rides. The ZX tends to be better value, though the 306 has more rear legroom and looks sharper.

Big Family Car: Ford Mondeo, from pounds 11,750. Scores on value, comfort and the ubiquity of dealers. Drawbacks are a shortage of rear headroom and a noisy, uncouth engine. Two great French family cars, the new Renault Laguna (from pounds 10,570) and the handsome Citroen Xantia (from pounds 11,150), make it a close contest. I would go for the Xantia, but the Mondeo is probably more sensible if you just want transport.

Executive cars: BMW 3-series, from pounds 14,295. One of the great cars. Fabulously responsible, handsome, fun to drive, and reliable, it keeps warding off newer challengers. It isn't that roomy, though, and the cheaper four-cylinder models (316, 318) aren't nearly as good as the pricier six-cylinder versions (320, 325). If you need more room, try its bigger brother, the BMW 5-series (from pounds 17,530), but only in six-cylinder guise. If you are not fussed about badges, the new Vauxhall Omega (from pounds 15,995) is surprisingly good and very roomy.

Pricey saloons: Jaguar XJ6, from pounds 26,950. Not as well built as its German rivals, but it still beats them for unadulterated luxury and the sense of well-being that only cabins crafted in Britain from walnut and leather seem to generate. But wait until October: the new XJ6 promises to be a big improvement over the current old-timer. If you can't wait, there's the recently facelifted Mercedes S-class (from pounds 38,050), an astonishingly agile behemoth; if you can, even better is the new aluminium- bodied Audi A8 (from pounds 34,499), a bold design that really is a step ahead of the pack and goes on sale here in October.

Four-Wheel Drive: Land Rover Discovery, from pounds 17,295. The Japanese can't seem to beat the Discovery, which offers a good-value 4x4 package that is refined on road and rugged off it. Don't buy the V8 petrol model (unless someone else is paying your fuel bills) or the 2.0 MPI, which is too gutless. The Discovery is one of the few vehicles that works better as a diesel.

Sports Car: Mazda MX-5, from pounds 14,495. Whenever I drive an MX-5, I'm astonished how much fun they are. Cute, in a retro MG sort of way, but reliable, the MX-5 is quick, handles sharply and is great to drive. If you've got more dough, the TVR Griffith ( pounds 32,995) is a handsome brute that makes wild V8 noises and goes very fast.

Estates/people carriers: Renault Espace, from pounds 16,350. The obvious choice if you need to haul seven people, this mould-breaker drives like a good saloon but with the added benefit of a nice high driving position, and all those seats (which can be removed). If you prefer a conventional estate, go for the reasonably priced and handsome Ford Mondeo estate (from pounds 13,245), which is roomy and practical as well as being a good drive - or, if your budget's bigger, a Mercedes-Benz E-class estate (from pounds 23,890), which will last longer than almost any other car.

Diesel cars: Any French diesel (Citroen or Peugeot in particular) is first rate. Any Ford, and some German, diesels are not. Special praise goes to the Peugeot 306 (from pounds 9,100), Citroen ZX (from pounds 8,965), Citroen AX (from pounds 6,700), VW Golf TDi ( pounds 12,699), Vauxhall Corsa TD ( pounds 8,390) and Vauxhall Omega 2.5 TD (from pounds 18,500).

(Photograph omitted)

Sport
Premier League Live
footballLIVE Follow all the Premier League action as it happens
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
News
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
peopleTV star had been reported missing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Clinical Negligence Solicitor

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

    Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

    £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

    Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

    DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

    £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone