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      06-03-2008, 06:15 PM   #1
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Help choosing my car

I currently have an E91 320d that will be 3 years old in December, which I plan to replace in about October. I have a budget of 25k-26k depending on what I can get for my current motor. My mileage varies but tends to be 15-20k per year so fuel economy is a consideration.

I no longer need a family wagon as the wife has bought a Renault Scenic and refuses to drive mine (she likes soft wobbly cars unfortunately). Since she bought the Scenic in January I've had the kids in mine exactly 0 times, so basically so long as my next car can physically fit two adults, two child seats and a double buggy somehow, it will do. The kids/buggy don't need to fit easily - it doesn't matter if it takes half an hour to get it all in/out or needs one of the kiddy seats to go in the front.

In short it'll only have to take the family in an emergency, once or twice a year tops. The rest of the year it will be carrying only me, a laptop and maybe a suit bag.

Having spent a lot of time looking, I've currently got 4 cars in mind:

E92 330d or similar - I could get a 12-18 month old SE auto with leather and a few options. Pros: Enormous grunt, reasonable running costs, great drive, decently practical. Cons: A bit too common these days, the doors are a bit wide so I suspect parking is a pain.

1 Series Convertible - I could get a new or nearly new convertible, either a 118i/120i with options or 125i with not a lot. Pros: Open top motoring (I used to own a Pug 306 Cabrio, which I loved), low running costs (4-pot models), feelgood factor. Cons: Maybe slightly too small, 118i/120i may have engine problems as per 320i's, 125i would be a bit pricey and have a short range with its small fuel tank.

Audi A4 Cabrio - I could get a decent 6-9 month old car for the money, albeit a 1.8T or 2.0TDI. Pros: Classy, timeless looks, great build quality, reasonable room for a cabrio. Cons: Not a great drivers car, probably not far off replacement, petrol might be a little gutless, diesel might be a bit noisy.

Merc C-Class - Seems an odd choice compared to the others I know, but this was the favourite when I was still looking at sensible family cars, and I still rather like it. Pros: Smooth ride, classy looks, drives almost as well as a Beemer, nice toys if I can afford one with COMAND satnav. Cons: Pricey for what it is, agricultural diesels (barring the 320CDI which i can't afford).

I've considered and put on the 'probably not' list a number of other cars, such as:

E93 - I'd have one if I could afford it!
Audi A5 - nice but too expensive
Audi A4 - worthy but looks a bit dull to me
Audi A3 Cabrio - worth a look but I'd prefer a 1 Series
Audi TT - Cool but probably not practical enough
3 Series Saloon/Touring - too similar to my current car and I'm not buying just before a facelift. Might consider facelift model if available in time.
1 Series Coupe/Hatch - not bad but I'd prefer a 'vert
5 Series - worth a look but I dont like the 'double-hump' dash (just like I don't like nav equipped E9X's)
Alfa 159/Brera - gorgeous but dealers & depreciation kill it for me
Lexus IS250 - smooth engine/gearbox, great dealers, nicely specced but slightly dull
Merc CLK - Classy but overpriced
SAAB 9-3 Cabrio - interesting but what a messy dash layout
VW Eos - leaky roof anyone?

So there you go. I'll be batting these cars around for months and your views and personal experiences of these are most welcome, as are ideas for cars I've maybe not considered and should be.
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      06-04-2008, 03:26 AM   #2
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You've pretty much covered most of the cars in your bracket that are worth consideration. Have you set the budget yourself or do finances dictate?

Reading your thougts I think the first thing you need to do is decide if you want a vert or not. Practicality aside this will narrow down your options and help you make the right choice.

One thing I would say is a petrol or diesel will not make much difference to run financially. I think you need to be doing about 18K per annum before the fuel economy of a D breaks even against the higher purcahse price of the D and the fact that D is currently a 10% premium. Tha's based on ownership over a 3 Year period.

E92 330d - A cracking all rounder but be careful as the facelift for the E90 is due October this Year so i imagine the E92 may follow shortly. That said if you ain't bothered about not having the latest facelift you will probably get a cracking deal on a nearly new one.

Audi A4 Vert - New A4 just out so I imagine a new vert will follow - not sure when this is due for release so you need to think about this also. Would look at the 2.0T though - brilliant 2.0 engine - probably best 4 pot on the market.

1 Series Vert - I have driven a 116i a Year ago and to be honest was not that impressed - others love them though. It was only the 116i so a beefier engine may have suited the drive better.

Merc C Class - A good looking motor. Don't get hung up on the diesels though. A riend of mine drove his mums 180C and he was very very impressed with the package (even engine????)- loads of kit thrown in as standard. He has had 4 beemers 320i, 330i Vert, 330d E45 and currently has an X5. He reckons the C Class is worthy contender for his next motor?

I have 2 kids too (5 and 1+) and looking for a nearly new E93 Vert but seem to be meandering towards an E92 with SR instead (practicality) so I know the dilema you're in. Kids only use my car on a Weekend and travel most places in my wifes Seat Altea

One thing I wouldn't rule out is a TT. Despite the "hairdressers" tag they are a cracking motor, hold their value very well and although not the most practical it may be feasible if your kids seldom ride in your car and the child seats ain't too bulky. IMO one of the best looking cars around by far - inside and out.

But at the end of the day you could talk yourself into a E93..........if that's what you really want and if finances permit - Just do it!

You only live once.......why compromise?

Another option is to go for a Z4 3.0Si Roadster - but you kids aren't going anwhere with you!


Last edited by PhilR; 06-04-2008 at 05:33 AM.
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      06-04-2008, 03:50 AM   #3
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I was also going to say that I would have thought the TT would actually be very practical for the purposes you outlined....
Current - M-Benz C250Cdi Sport Plus Auto Est.

Previous - Alpina D3 BiTurbo E90 LCI Manual, 320d M Sport E92 Auto, 330i M Sport E92 courtesy of BMW UK....320i M Sport E92 Auto, 320d SE E90 Manual.
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      06-04-2008, 04:28 PM   #4
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A 1.8T A5 is probably just within reach but the ride is awful especially with the bigger wheels

The E92 is the best all rounder and won't be replaced anytime soon

The E90/91 will be facelifted soon - may allow for some good deals...

The 1 series coupe is excellent. The 123d is slightly faster than the 120d but to many it wont be worth the extra cash. Depends if you like the looks

Ex-Demo C220 CDi sport is also possible but i doubt you'll get one at that price just yet, and its very overpriced

Audi A4 convertible is due for a replacement so don't bother unless you don't mind the hit on your wallet

Standard A4 - boring

Lexus is250 - had one - very very dull

Alfa, VW etc - all one big step down but you will save a lot

If you do 15-20k it should be a diesel and BMW do the best diesels......

Good luck
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      06-04-2008, 04:43 PM   #5
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Thanks chaps - keep the opinions coming! To respond to some of the helpful comments so far:

I'll look at the TT to see if I can get stuff to fit in it. I think the wife secretly rather likes them so I might not get many complaints.

I'd love the 2.0T A4 Cab, but they seem to be that bit pricier (though I might scrape one into my budget). I agree the points on a new version. though it is probably 18 months away and I still feel the old one looks good - hell even the old Audi 80 cabrio still looks pretty decent.

With the E92 facelift I'm hoping that:

a) It is probably a year away
b) The facelift is less noticeable on the Coupe/Vert as per the E46 facelift which if I recall was pretty minor compared to the saloon

A petrol version is worth considering, though I looked at 325i's and they only seemed about a grand less than the equivalent 330d. That would also bring up a manual/auto debate. To me, a petrol BMW ought to have a manual as you need to rev them more than autos tend to, but having a manual means the car would be more similar to my E91 so I'd get bored of it quicker (in my twisted little mind, sorry).

I'm going to check out the 123d, on paper it is brilliant, but I've come to dislike the tractor-like noise of the 320d, and though the 123d has balancer shafts I doubt it is that much smoother, which is putting me off. The looks are okay but not outstanding.

My budget does have flex, but I've already flexed it a lot - I'd be basically paying at least 100 per month more than I do for the E91, with more outgoings now I have an extra kid. Previous experience says I'll manage comfortably as I expect to get a pay rise in August, but I need to be a little careful given the rising cost of motoring.
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      06-04-2008, 05:12 PM   #6
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Audi a3 cab should be on your list:

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