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Futuramic's Festive "What Car" - Please Help!

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Greetings all, and merry Christmas.


That's the festive bit out of the way; the rest of this is shite. Not autoshite really.


I have a new job. Hooray for me. It only took about eight months and several hundred applications; but finally someone recognised that my five years' experience in claims administration may make me an ideal, I don't know, claims administrator? Maybe? Others thought not.


This also means a new commute. This means a new car. This is where I need help. The new car shall ideally be a five door hatch or four door saloon and Japanese. I like Japanese cars. They work. My other stipulation is for a manual gearbox. I don't like automatics.


The commute is 200 miles per week. This means that a diesel is not really necessary; the modern ones are too complex for my liking and my natural home is spark ignition thus a two litre petrol is the ideal choice; blending simplicity with economy and power. I wouldn't go for a smaller engine. The budget is £2000 (max though £1500 will be better). I will buy on condition over age and favour a low mileage example. I don't give a flying flip what colour it is or what the seats are made of. I have done some research and purchase of such a car is eminently possible. I have compiled a short list:


Toyota Avensis Mk1 VVTi - Current front runner. I have driven a Carina a couple of times and liked it; the upgraded version has to be better. Tough engine and cam chain.


Nissan Primera 2.0 litre. I have driven one of these and found it agreeable. It was an old one, however, and I'm looking for a newer car. The Mk2 is a possibility but I just don't like the styling of the Mk3 (weird one). I don't think I could live with it. And most are either 1.8 slowcoaches or 2.2 diesel time bombs.


Honda Accord 2.0 Vtec. I have no idea what this is like. Looks nice and plenty for the money.


Lexus IS200. Has the most appeal being both OMG RWD!! and haz straight six. I can't imagine the fuel economy is going to be as good as the others and the brand cachet attracts a price premium.


Mitsubishi Galant. A rare beast. Rare for a reason? Again I know nothing about these cars.


So there's the short list. I am open to other suggestions.


I would ask on Pistonheads but they'd say "Those cars are gay. Buy a man's car like an MX5".


Please help me choose. I just want a reliable car to last a few years.

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Primera out of that lot, though I'd probably try and track down a mint, earlier one. I wouldn't rule out a Honda Civic of the late 1980s/early 1990s era either though. Mine was a superb car - really quick, good on motorways (if a bit fussy) and regularly topped 40mpg. Had a manual choke and twin carbs! I still want another one.

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Had an Avensis 2.0CDX till last year, leather, aircon etc, pulled really well and was a pleasant palce to be, holes started appearing in places holes shouldn't have been and a fucked exhaust (£518 from National) rendered it time to move on. do miss it though, did everything very well if not exceptional in any specific area.

Might be hard to find but what about a Mazda Xedos? always liked the look of them and have only heard good things, a low mileage example with FSH should be pretty bulletproof, if such a vehicle exists.

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Can give advice on the Avensis and Accord, as I've plenty of direct experience - we've had our Avensis about 20 months and my wife's done 35,000 miles in it; I've personally driven the Accord about the same distance in the same period but it's been in the family eight years and has done 150,000-odd miles with a Welfare behind the wheel.


Taking the Avensis first. 1.6 and 1.8 VVT-I's can suffer from piston ring issues that lead to huge oil consumption, so be wary of anything that's got obviously clean oil or not been owned long. I believe Toyota had a 'secret' warranty extending up to 6 years/100k miles for those cars that were exclusively dealer-serviced from new. If the seller has had a new short engine they'll be sure to make a point of it. The fault was not fixed at the manufacuring point until 2005 apparently. Also the 1.6 and 1.8 can suffer from chocolate gearboxes in the bearing department.


So you might think the 2-litre is a better bet as it has a different block and a stronger 'box, which is fine, but they can suffer from stuffed cats. To be precise, the two in the exhaust manifold which isn't a cheap fix, but to be honest it's liveable provided you can keep the EML off long enough for the MOT man - that's what we do.


They are tough and very economical (I can get 43-44mpg on a long run), dull as ditchwater to look at and a bit boat-like to drive but they just work. 2 grand will easily get you a Mk2 (sorta Lexus shape) job, I personally wouldn't pay more than £1500 for a last-of-the-line Mk1. Random fact - most Mk1 VVTI Avensis have satnav, which isn't too bad for a 10-year-old factory dotmatrix system.


The Accord (98-02 model) has fewer obvious faults and is much better to drive (short-travel but less bouncy suspension, proper steering feel), but they are thirsty. I've got a 1.8 now, and previously owned a 2-litre model (both autos) - they struggle to get more than about 35mpg under the same conditions that the Avensis gets 43-44; and apparently the manuals aren't much better. It's also quite tight on rear seat room but if you're not carrying passengers regularly that's no real issue. Yes, they have cambelts, but the change interval is 72,000 miles (and they'll last that long too) so not a regular occurrence if you catch my drift.


£2k is too much (unless you're going for a Type-R or last-of-the-line Type-V), again I'd pay £1,500 to get a decent one or two-owner facelift (Y-plate on) model. The Sport looks quite nice in the right colour.


Don't know much about the others, except that timing chains seem to be an issue on some Primeras (perhaps that haven't had regular oil changes?) and gearbox bearings can go on the Galant. A nice IS200 would be a good buy if you can find one that hasn't been thraped by uncaring owners.

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I've just bought a '96 Corolla for my commute, which is about 46 miles a day (mixed City and Motorway). So far so good, it's the 1.6 CD so has everything I need, and seems to be coping well with the journey so far. Use about a tank a week, which equates roughly to 38mpg. Not bad for a near 20 year old car.


My budget was only £300 for a car, but would highly recommend one to anyone!

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My reaction, based largely on hunches and minimal specific experience, would have been (roughly in order):




Hyundai XG30

Kia Magentis


...But others will be much better-qualified than I am to offer advice. Congratulations, Good Luck and Happy New Year! :D

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Further research has shown that I can add the Mazda 6 to this list. The budget even covers the 2.3 SPORT version. This has added OMG SPORT and is probably the most powerful in the line-up. Unless I can find an Accord Type S or V or something.

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