Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 7 November
Chrysler’s 300C SRT-8 is paunchy, but, at £6000, this surprisingly smooth rider is a cool buy
Here’s a rare 300C: the SRT, powered by a 6.1-litre V8 producing 425bhp and 420lb ft for 0-62mph in 5.0sec on its way to 168mph.
We know what you’re thinking: fine in a straight line but show it some curves… In fact, the portly 1965kg SRT sits 13mm lower than standard 300Cs and is kept in check by special Bilstein dampers and uprated antiroll bars. The wheels are 20in forged aluminium. And the handling is pleasingly tidy. If it gets out of shape, Brembo brakes are standing by to bail you out. Then there’s the exhaust note, which invites you to turn around and do the whole thing again.
Inside are comfortable sports seats and a premium sound system. Don’t expect the premium ambience of a BMW M5 (the gearshifter looks straight out of a Daewoo Nexia) but it’s all fairly robust and well anchored. We found a 2007/56-reg with 142,000 miles. Don’t wince. Where 300Cs come from, 142,000 miles is average. In any case, under the SRT’s Hulk-like steel body (surprisingly, rust is not yet an issue) are quality Mercedes mechanicals.
On the test drive, we’d have our ears cocked for low-speed rumbles from the torque converter and for rear diff noises. Over speed bumps, we’d listen out for moans and groans from the front suspension. (The lower front arm bushes are good for only 40,000 miles.)
The wiring system can give trouble. Under the bonnet, we’d check the harness hasn’t been burned by the air-con pipes. We’d also eyeball the two fuse boxes, one in the engine bay and the other the dash. And because it’s an MOT fail, we’d check the tyrepressure monitoring system works.
BMW 535d Auto, £10,950
Some cars, like this 535d, are just begging to be bought. The 2012 model has done 84,000 miles and has one owner and full BMW service history. It’s finished in gold, which is a shame, but it also has upgraded comfort seats and M Sport alloys.
Infiniti G 3.7 S Auto Coupe, £8990
Here’s an interesting – and rare – coupé. Its V6 makes 315bhp for 0-62mph in 5.9sec. Being the S, it has stiffened suspension, larger brakes and a viscous limited-slip diff. It has active real-wheel steer, too. This 2010 car has done 78,000 miles.
Never a legend in the new car market, the big Honda is a legend in the used one for being such great value. This 2008-reg example has done 108,000 miles but has full Honda history. The interior is classy and restrained and looks to be in perfect order.
The Passat 2.0 TDI is the more sensible buy, but the 158bhp 1.8 TSI is a good substitute. This one’s a 2009-reg with 90,000 miles, one owner and full Volkswagen service history. Highline has heated leather seats and climate control.
Volvo 343 DL: Those with long enough memories will recall placing Volvo’s 300-series of hatchbacks and saloons in the ‘dull but worthy’ box. However, those who drove the cars will also recall their lively but balanced driving manners thanks to a rear-drive set-up with transaxle. The cable linkage for the four-speed gearchange was a bit stretchy but otherwise there was little to criticise, the model being extremely tough and well built.
And here’s proof in the shape of a 1981-reg one that went under the hammer for £3024. Fresh from its one lady owner and with just 19,000 miles, it looks like new.
Citroën C4 Cactus, £5500: Citroën fans had had little to get excited about, but that all changed when the C4 Cactus came out in 2014. Novel Airbump protectors, sporty crossover looks, door straps… They were the sort of touches the market had been hoping for from Citroën, but it took the quirky Cactus to deliver them. Today, it’s a fairly disposable thing, with prices for tired ones on the floor, but find a decent example like our featured 2015/65-reg 1.2 PureTech Feel with 44,000 miles for £5500 and it could be sought after once the survivors have thinned out.
Clash of the classifieds
Brief: Find me an interesting first car, please.
MG Midget 1500, £3995
Toyota MR2, £1995
Mark Pearson: A first car needs to be something delicate and well balanced, so that the enthusiastic driver can pick up some useful driving skills. This agile-handling MR2 is a delight, zesty in engine and stiff in structure and, above all, tremendous fun. My 2006 car’s in great condition, too, with a year’s MOT. And it’s under £2k – half the price of your dodgy old MG.
Max Adams: I’ll have you know that my 1978 MG Midget is the recherché choice for the first-time driver. For a start, classic car insurance will make it affordable to run. It’s also lightweight and won’t sup much petrol, and those rubber bumpers are perfect for touch-parking.
MP: But I don’t think your MG will teach the new driver anything, other than how to wait at the side of the road for a breakdown truck, or how to recover your car from a ditch after it has slid off the road.
MA: You’d have to be a monumental clot to crash a car with only 65bhp. No, with a decent set of modern tyres, the predictable handling of a front-engined MG Midget will be better than your spikier mid-engined MR2.
MP: I think those hideous bumpers alone will put a new driver off for life.
MA: Rubbish. It’ll be a wonderful, hands-on learning experience.
Verdict: The MR2 it is. Now to find someone to insure it…