The dilemma: It's time to update and get into the mainstream for Claire - what is the best replacement for her ageing BMW?
Claire from Orewa is a self-confessed car snob who loves her high-mileage used-import 1998 BMW 318i. General repair bills are starting to mount, however, and hubby wants to move it on, reduce risk, and go for something more mainstream. He knows little about cars, has always driven Nissans and likes the practicality of the Wingroad.
Claire is far from convinced. "The Wingroad may be reliable but after a stressful day's work I get a real sense of relaxation and excitement every time I get back in the Beemer. Sorry, reliable it may be, but the Wingroad just doesn't do it for me.
"There must be a compromise we can strike. I want a car that portrays my personality; fun with a little bit of risk and at times, a little expensive to run," says Claire.
I think hubby is pushing it uphill asking you to change into a somewhat bland and uninspiring vehicle after owning a BMW, regardless of reliability issues. But let's forget the European v Japanese debate for a moment. The reality is your current vehicle is 15 years old and overall running costs are only going to get more expensive the longer you retain ownership. The same could be said about any high-mileage vehicle of the same age. Loving your set of wheels is one thing but when it starts to bite into hard-earned funds on a regular basis then maybe it's time to look at the alternatives.
The budget: $18,000
BMW 330i (2003)
If you choose carefully then the E46 6-cylinder powered BMW has a very good reputation within the industry. It won't be the most economical around town but it will definitely give you a feeling of comfort and enjoyment. The key is to bypass those offering pre-purchase checks on everything that has four wheels and go to the experts such as the specialists at the BM Workshop in Grey Lynn before committing to purchase. They know the product inside out and will quickly identify any potential expensive issues.
Mazda SP23 (2005)
A different type of vehicle in comparison with the BMW, however it has the sporty looks, comes with leather trim, is well appointed and would be a lot cheaper to run in more ways than one. The SP23 badging lets people know you are not just driving an "ordinary" Mazda3.
VW Golf TSI (2008)
The TSI has a nice ring to it if discussing cars at dinner parties and you don't have to say it's only fitted with a 1.4-litre engine. Comes highly spec'd from a safety and comfort perspective and is by far the most economical (claimed fuel consumption 5.9l/100km). A lot of car for the money but a good test drive is recommended to ensure performance meets with expectations.
Driven recommends: Our pick is probably not your pick so if you go for the BMW get it checked out thoroughly and stick to either NZ new or a used import out of Japan only.
Are you looking for a new car, or struggling to make sense of what's good and what's not? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and our man Jack will give you the right information to get you in the right car.