Sunday, 4 April 2010

Used Cars

Bargain cars for £2,000

Having £2,000 burning a hole in your pocket opens up a huge number of options for the used car buyer. Do you play it safe or opt for something ostentatious? What about fuel economy and running costs; and will it break down? There's a lot to consider, so here are our top five picks of used car peaches that deliver low-cost motoring, reliability and satisfaction. All the cars listed are widely available from used car dealers and private sellers with mileages of around 60,000.

Ford Ka
Search for Ford Kas on Yahoo! Cars

The Ford Ka is possibly the ultimate best used car buy around. There are thousands to choose from and most are in good condition. Those that are rusty and ropey are easy to spot - look for rot along the bottoms of the doors and around the door openings. Otherwise, the Ka is just about unbreakable thanks to a simple 1.3-litre engine that jumped from 59- to 69bhp in 2002.

We reckon £2,000 should bag you a very tidy 2005 Ka, which will have electric windows. Keep an eye out for cars with air conditioning and a CD player, though these will either cost more money or be snapped up quickly. When you grab a Ka bargain, you'll find it great to drive, though not as quiet as some more modern rivals. However, it's a cinch to park, frugal and will hold its value when you come to sell up.

Vauxhall Astra
Search for Vauxhall Astras on Yahoo! Cars

Vauxhall's Astra has always lived in the shadows of the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. For this very reason it makes a brilliant used buy for those on a tight budget, as prices are lower than for its more obvious rivals of the same age and mileage. The fact that the Astra is also good to drive is a welcome bonus.

The five-door hatchback is the most common model, though the three-door looks sportier and the estate is more practical. Our vote goes to a 2002 1.6 LS model fitted with air conditioning. Reliable, rugged and with only around 60,000 miles on the clock, this Astra has years of sterling service left in it. The engine is keen; servicing is penny-chew cheap at any independent garage and the Astra is insurance friendly. You can also expect 40mpg economy, fine comfort and decent refinement.

Mazda MX-5
Search for Mazda MX-5s on Yahoo! Cars

You're not going to get a sporty roadster for £2,000, are you? Wrong. The Mazda MX-5 in its original shape may be getting on a bit, with the youngest at least 12 years old now, but this is one tough little sports car. Mazda's reliability and build quality are legendary and it shows in the MX-5. Buy according to condition rather than age or mileage. Only things to look for are rust on the wheelarches and boot lid. Cars at this price should have a fully-stamped service history, though the engine has near-bombproof ruggedness.

Make sure the soft-top is in good condition as replacing it is pricey, and check the carpets are bone dry to prove the hood is leak-free. Otherwise, just enjoy the zingy engine and performance, short, sweet gear change and precise handling - and all with the added pleasure of fresh-air fun. Running costs are manageable and any good garage can keep an MX-5 in tip-top nick. And the best thing? Prices are going up for well cared-for, early MX-5s with the pop-up headlights, so you could be bagging a future classic car.

Rover 75
Search for Rover 75s on Yahoo! Cars

Rover may now be a footnote in British car history, but the 75 is still very much a part of the modern world. Easily the best car - and best built - Rover ever made, the 75 is superb value for money compared to its German executive rivals. Okay, so the 75 isn't as sharp to drive as a BMW 3 Series, but it's wonderfully comfortable, quiet and has a relaxed nature none of the Germans come close to.

The brilliant 2.0-litre turbodiesel is beyond our £2,000 budget unless you're prepared to buy a car with high mileage. The turbocharged 1.8-litre petrol model certainly isn't outside the budget and it comes with 150bhp for 0-62mph in 9.1 seconds, yet still averages 35.3mpg. The saloon is more common, but you will also find the spacious Tourer estate for similar money. Look for a 2003 car in Club SE or Connoisseur trim for the best mix of equipment and value.

SEAT Alhambra
Search for SEAT Alhambras on Yahoo! Cars

Taking the whole family out without busting the bank can be tricky, but SEAT's Alhambra MPV sorts this. It has seven seats inside its spacious cabin and all five of the individual rear chairs can be folded or removed altogether to vary load and passenger space to fit your needs. Build quality is good, but look for signs of hard use, such as scuffed plastics around the interior. Avoid any car that has been used as a mini-cab as it will have had a tough life.

A couple of thousand pounds will bag a 2001 Alhambra with the punchy 1.8-litre turbo engine, but diesel Alhambras with reasonable miles cost more. No matter, as the petrol engine is refined and cruises happily on the motorway. Fuel, service and insurance costs are all easy on the wallet, while re-sale values should bear up well as demand for well looked-after MPVs is always strong. All this and the SEAT drives more like a good estate car than an MPV to be a top used buy.

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