The only way you’ll get near Ibiza right now…
Second-hand Style, with Richard Cooke
I WAS presented with an age-old problem the other day by my barber: when to cut your losses and junk your old clunker? More to the point, what do you replace it with? His interest in cars is negligible, his budget only slightly larger. Let’s say £1,500 for something to get from A to B. Size doesn’t matter, in fact smaller might be better (he’s a confident man). This column loves a challenge, so here are my Top 3 picks in reverse order:
3: Peugeot 207 1.4 90hp. 2008 model with 65k miles. How the mighty have fallen. Twenty years ago my top 3 list would all be variations of the ground-breaking Peugeot 205. What a truly superb car. Unfortunately somewhere around the year 2000 Peugeot went off the boil, and the 206 was pretty dire. The 207 is better and at least well priced and fairly strong mechanically. The 1.4 is the most powerful engine here, fuel economy holds up in a way that interior quality certainly doesn’t and there are plenty around to choose from. It is also more roomy than most alternatives at this price point. Not bad.
2: FIAT Panda 1.2 60hp. Again a 2008 model with around 65k miles. The budget doesn’t stretch to a 500, which is shame, because I think they are cute and cool. That said, the Panda is a great little car and uses the same underpinnings as the 500 anyhow. It has the best fuel economy of the three, the road tax is cheap and, although the 1.2 is not powerful by any standards, it is willing. In fact, it loves a good thrashing, which appeals to me but might not to someone who just needs transport. Reliability is about the same as the Peugeot (ie questionable in parts), and the interior looks and feels budget. For practicality though, the Panda is superb, with a high boot and massive hatch for ease of loading.
1: SEAT Ibiza 1.4 Sport 85hp. Within our budget we can manage a 70k mile 2007 model. The Volkswagen Group produces three broadly identical cars (VW Polo, Skoda Fabia and the Ibiza in this month’s picture). And what SEAT offer is, in my opinion, the sweet spot in the range. The Polo gets detuned engines, a more expensive image that you pay for second-hand, as it depreciates slowly, and, to my eyes, dull, worthy styling. The Fabia is brilliant but I don’t like the looks at the front end and the driving experience is bland. SEAT, by contrast, is VW’s sporty brand, and so gets pokier engines and styling that looks like they at least tried. And the best thing is that under the bonnet and in the cabin, it is all trusty and tough VW engineering. The Spanish screw the Ibiza together, but with parts made in Germany and Belgium, just like a Polo. The 1.4 here is economical and quick enough, and the manual gearbox is slightly more engaging than the Polo’s. But best of all, the interior has that superb Germanic feel. Years ago I had a SEAT Toledo V5, and it was great: a cheap Golf with a boot that went beautifully and yet had no image whatsoever. The Ibiza adds a touch of flair but also delivers reliability into the bargain.
What about the Vauxhall Corsa, Ford Fiesta and the multitude of Korean and Japanese offerings, then? Ok, in short: The Fiesta is great, the logical choice to some extent, but so predictable. I learnt to drive in one. The Corsa is simply not good enough, and never has been. It is also poorly designed - you can’t even change the headlight bulbs yourself - you need to take it to a dealer. Far East offerings at this price point are so incredibly dull that I can’t begin to recommend them. Even to someone who doesn’t care about cars. They’ve got vastly better in the last 10 years, but older and cheaper than that and, frankly, you can do better. So, until the borders are open again, get your Spanish (and German) kicks from SEAT’s funky little Ibiza.