Looking for a small car in 2017 – a review by Gary Fixter

Gary Fixter

The small car market is one of the most fiercely contested – which means not only that there are stacks of models to choose from, but also that standards are incredibly high – great for us as consumers!

To have a chance of attracting us picky folk as buyers, a small car must be truly multi-purpose: as comfortable on the motorway as it is in the city. It must offer a decent amount of equipment, enough boot space for weekly shopping trips and an interior that’s practical enough to cope with the demands of families. And it must, of course, be competitively priced.

It’s the small car market that still makes up the majority of new car sales. The monthly figures reveal how British buyers love their downsized models, but buying one isn’t actually a step down – these cars do everything their big brothers do, and more besides. Think small car, and a supermini will spring to mind, but there’s far more on offer to the buyer who knows what to look for.

Cars like the Ford FiestaVW Polo and Vauxhall Corsa are always going to be top for someone looking for practicality in a small package, but there are plenty of alternative choices out there. The small crossover is on the rise fist with the Nissan Juke, but there are many more models that compete with it now, including the Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008 and new models like the Suzuki Ignis. If you want an off-roader, then the Fiat Panda 4×4 is worth a look.

Cars like the Ford B-MAX and Hyundai ix20 offer versatility and lots of space, but they’re not a popular as they once were; and if you want as much space in a small package in the future, then you would have to consider a van-based MPV, like the Fiat Qubo.

The one class that really set the template for personalisation was the premium supermini sector. Cars like the MINI, DS 3 and Audi A1 let you tailor your car the way you want it, and whereas the MINI is one sporty supermini, and so is the Ford Fiesta ST – and with the Ford Fiesta still being the most popular UK small car, it’s hard to beat it.

Of course, if you’re downsizing to a small car, you may be doing it for financial reasons. Cars like the Peugeot 208 and Skoda Fabia can be had in frugal guises to save fuel and reduce running costs, while plumping for an electric Renault ZOE or VW e-up! means you can forget about road tax completely (see one of my previous blog posts for more information on electric cars).

Cheapest small cars on the market at the moment include:-

  • Dacia Sandero (from just £5,995 new this car offers astonishing value for money)
  • Suzuki Celerio from £6,995
  • Skoda Citigo from £8,635

Obviously the list could go on (and on!) however frankly you’re going to find the Dacia or Suzuki hard to beat for the money.

Small cars – a lot of cars for a little money, what’s not to like!

Top 10 Best Cars For Dogs – And Their Owners!

Gary Fixter

Dogs bring us all kinds of joy but not all cars are designed with our four-legged friends’ interests in mind. Some cars, however, have handy features to keep our pooches happy on the road – ranging from reversible boot floors to wide-opening bootlids.

My Dad and his Dogs are searching for a new vehicle, so I thought I’d bring my research skills to bear and compile a Top 10 list of potential purchases for him to narrow down. This list is compiled from manufacturers specs, car magazines and of course a few personal recommendations!

1. Skoda Superb Estate

The name says it all – the Superb!! It’s one of the best all-round cars ever sold. It’s composed, comfortable and easy to drive, while the boot is big enough for a whole pack of Great Danes. Adding to its dog-friendly image is the range of accessories Skoda offers including a Dog Safety Belt that clips into the regular seat belt mounts, a dog ‘hammock’ for the back seats along with a range of dividers and rubberised floors for the boot. Starting at £21,370 it’s a mid-price option for a top of the range vehicle.

2. VW Tiguan

If you need transport for your dog but want a premium badge on the bonnet, this car might just fit the bill. This family SUV has a confidence-inspiring lofty driving position, great VW build quality and chunky off-road styling. If you don’t fancy your mucky mutt getting its grubby paws on the leather, you can fit VW’s optional divider guard separating the mess in the boot from the serene driving experience up front. RRP from £23,250.

3. Skoda Fabia Estate

You don’t need to spend lots of money to get a great dog-friendly car, as shown here. This compact estate might be based on the Fabia supermini, but its 530-litre boot is larger than many executive saloons and the low, wide opening makes it easy for dogs to hop in. You can also get a dividing guard for the Fabia Estate to make sure your four-legged friend doesn’t jump into the front on the move. RRP from just £13,195 – that’s a serious amount of car for that sort of money.

4. Land Rover Discovery

If your ideal dog walk is halfway up a mountain, this one of the few 4x4s you can trust to get you there. Its enormous boot is large enough to recreate scenes from 101 Dalmatians and there are seven decent-sized seats for when you’re not forming your own doggie army. To protect your not-inconsiderable investment, you can buy rubber floor mats to protect the plush cabin from dirty paws. Of course, it doesn’t come cheap – RRP from an eye watering £43,995 – but let’s be honest, if we win the lottery tomorrow we’re all off out to buy ourselves one of these beauties!

5. Mercedes E-Class Estate

Your dog deserves the best so, if you’re after something with a little more kudos than the norm, the luxurious E-Class Merc is worth a look. The gorgeous cabin is complemented by a boot so large it can actually fit a standard Euro-size pallet, so it should have no problem fitting even the largest dogs. Optional rubber floor mats are a must-have to protect the cabin from whatever your hound’s rolled in this time. RRP from £37,205.

6. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

If you’ve reconnected with nature on your dog walks then you might want to buy a car with one eye on its environmental impact – a car such this. This plug-in hybrid can cover most short city journeys on electric power alone and, if you can charge it at your destination, you need almost never visit a petrol station. A big boot complete with optional rubber boot floor and dog guard complete its handy features. RRP from £34,305 for the only Hybrid to make my list.

7. Dacia Logan MCV

If you need space for you and your pooch but don’t want a big hit in the wallet, the reasonably priced Dacia Logan MCV may be the car for you. For an unbelievable price, you get enough space for five and a 573-litre boot – large enough for two medium-sized dogs. The £225 Protection Pack includes interior mats, rear parking sensors and a rubber boot liner to keep the worst of the mess contained. RRP from just £7,295.00 – making this the best value car not just on this list but probably on the market.

8. Peugeot 308 SW

This great car has a sizeable 660-litre boot space makes it a great option for dog owners. Inside, you’re treated to great build quality and a minimalist design that makes it feel unique – especially the odd small steering wheel that, Peugeot says, makes the car feel more agile. We’d suggest picking the optional rubber boot floor to make sure there are no nasty surprises when you return from your walks! RRP from £19,520 – a great price for a truly great car.

9. Citroen C4 Picasso

This car pairs spaceship-like looks with a comfortable, cosseting driving experience. You’re treated to a spacious driving space up front with a windscreen that extends behind your head and large front-quarter windows. Your pooch won’t miss out, however, because you can select an optional rubber floor mat or, if they prefer to ride in the back, an optional protective cover that stretches over the rear seats and backs of the front seats. RRP from £20,855.

10. Ford Tourneo Connect

If you want the most space for your money, the van-based Ford (and the only Van on my list) offers just that. Its modest £17,005 entry-level price buys you a vast 1,000-litre boot with an equally massive boot opening, making it really easy for even short dogs to jump into the back without a leg up. As ever, a rubber floor mat from Ford’s accessories catalogue means you won’t have to worry about bringing the park back home with you. RRP from £18,455 – a good price for a lot of vehicle space.

If it were just down to me, I’d be going for the Dacia: what Dad and his dogs decide though, is another matter entirely!

  • Written by Gary Fixter

Hyundai I30 vs Ford Focus Zetec Edition : where should you spend your money?

Gary Fixter Reviews

I recently had the opportunity to drive both of these cars, for a week each, as a short-term rental agreement from that well known UK car hire company with US values…..

That got me thinking. If I was in the market to buy a brand new model of either of these, which one would I choose, and why?

First up was the Ford Focus Zetec, retailing from an eye-watering £19,635.00 at a Ford dealer near you. My initial impressions were very favourable – lovely looking car, great drive, and a very comfortable ride. And to be completely fair, those impressions lasted the entire week I drove it. This is a really nice, really comfortable car that’s a great drive – with the added bonus that it is genuinely really, really good on fuel economy.

Moving round the country I swapped to the significantly less pricey Hyundai I30 (starting from a mere £16,995 – nearly £3k less than the Focus) for the second week of my travels – a little regretfully actually, as I’d enjoyed the Ford Focus Zetec very much.

The regret was short lived. The Hyundai I30 is a significantly better driving experience than the Zetec, and I genuinely did not expect to be saying that after a very enjoyable week in the Focus. Where the I30 outstrips its rival is in the cornering – it’s smoother, faster, better – and in fact overall it does handle and drive better in all conditions. (My elderly father would like me to point out here that the I30’s seats are significantly more comfortable too – I can’t say I really noticed too much difference, but he was adamant that whole second week that the passenger seat experience was a considerable improvement!).

When you run through the manufacturer’s specs for both cars, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of difference between the two models. So I’d say the real differences are the ride, drive and price: and the Hyundai I30 is the clear winner in all of those categories, making this a very one-sided competition in the end.

So for what it’s worth, my very humble opinion is that the Hyundai I30 is one of the better ways to spend the best part of £17k out there. Of course I, like so many of us, now have to wonder where I’m going to raise that initial seventeen thousand from to be able to afford this great little car….best go and buy myself a lottery ticket I guess!

~ The cars mentioned in this article were Driven by and Written about by Gary Fixter ~

Top 5 Summer Car Leases of 2017

With the terrible weather hopefully behind us, we can look forward to what the leasing world has to offer when it comes to cars that are not only affordable but also have that summer sunroof aka convertibles! This isn’t a definitive list of all the convertibles available to lease on the market but it is my personal list of best convertibles to get this summer 2017.

Here my list of five of the best affordable convertibles that’ll help you soak up those 2 weeks of summer rays in the UK…

Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet

mercedescclasscab

Mercedes-Benz C Class

C250d AMG Line Premium Plus 2dr Auto

  • Profile:
  • 9+23
  • Mileage:
  • 10k

£359.99

Per Month, INC VAT

£3,599.91 initial payment

Personal Leasing Deal by: Carleasing-Online

The Mercedes C-Class is one of the most popular cars on any leasing website and there is no shortage of reasons why this is the case. It has the classy looks, a luxurious interior/exterior and plethora of class-leading engines put it ahead of its  closest cost competitors. This doesn’t even include the fact that there is even a convertible option for those sun lovers.

The wide range of engines to choose from include the punchy and refined diesels being the go-to choice for many offering all the power of the petrol variants, all while keep those pesky running costs in check too. Unlike most of convertibles on the market, this is one that’s a true four-seater, so it should be a hit with every family of 4.

Alfa Romeo 4C Spider

4c

Alfa Romeo 4C

1.75 TBi 2dr TCT

  • Profile:
  • 9+23
  • Mileage:
  • 8k

£382.12

Per Month, INC VAT

£3,799.08 initial payment

Personal Leasing Deal by: Blue Chilli Car Contracts Ltd

Many praised the German-troling Giulia as a fresh start for the  Italian brand, but short memories comes to mind. Honestly, it was the 4C sports car that really put Alfa back on track when it arrived on the scene a few years ago.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the 4C Spider is probably one of the best-looking drop-tops that can be had at this price, but thanks to a clever carbon-fibre body and its centre-mounted engine, it is the most fun to drive too. If you’ve got a taste for Ferrari but haven’t the budget to match said taste, then this Alfa is going to be your new best friend.

Mazda MX-5 RF

mx5rffront

Mazda MX-5

1.5 SE-L Nav 2dr

  • Profile:
  • 6+47
  • Mileage:
  • 10k

£288.00

Per Month, INC VAT

£1,908.00 initial payment

Personal Leasing Deal by: CarLease UK

The latest addition to the MX-5 range has been designed to look more of a coupe than a roofless roadster. The sleek metalwork has replaced the ragtop, but you can still fold it away nicely should you want to or feel the need for a Sunday drive in the sun.

I think it takes the form of a fastback rather than an all-out convertible but, with our amazingly unpredictable weather here in the UK, we’d actually argue you’ll be glad of that extra protection from the elements 52 weeks of the year.

Audi A5 Cabriolet

_AMP5602

Audi A5

2.0 TDI 150 S Line 2dr [Nav]

  • Profile:
  • 9+47
  • Mileage:
  • 8k

£397.69

Per Month, INC VAT

£3,759.21 initial payment

Personal Leasing Deal by: CarLease UK

The Audi A5 Cabriolet has been a bit of a hit in the UK for years, and the recently updated version now sits on the company’s newest MLB platform. This means it actually gets exactly the same sharp handling and an identical set of engines as the highly praised Coupe verions.

Wearing the most desirable badge in motoring industry is one thing, but it’s the interior that really impresses me. Put the roof in position and you will be hard-pressed to tell you’re even in a soft-top, but put it down (in under 20 seconds), and it makes the A5 that extra bit special.

Smart ForTwo Cabriolet

smart cabrio

Smart Fortwo Cabrio

1.0 Prime Premium 2dr

  • Profile:
  • 9+35
  • Mileage:
  • 8k

£149.84

Per Month, INC VAT

£1,708.56 initial payment

Personal Leasing Deal by: V4B Ltd

If your monthly budget can’t quite stretch to the monster cars above, then have no fear, I have your back. The answer could come in the form of the miniature Smart ForTwo! Yup, the iconic city car is actually available without a roof, and is the least costly convertible online to lease.

While it’s a little less lavish than an S-Class inside, Smarts are actually built by Mercedes believe it or not, a company well known thanks to their top notch materials and very solid build quality. Not only is it cheap to lease, but very cheap to run too – with its 69bhp variant is capable of up to 60mpg which means a full tank will net you around 450 miles.

Written by Gary Fixter

How to make sure you get the best deal when you buy a car

gary fixter

Gary Fixter

Buying a car can be scary. Most of us have to think about it at some point and, if not tackled in the right way, it isn’t hard to wind up having a bad experience. How do we know that we’re getting the best deal on it that we possibly could? I’ve decided to try and tackle this most essential of questions; so I’m here to give you my top tips on getting the best deal when you decide to buy a car, new or used.

Research
Easily the most important thing that any hopeful car buyer must do is research. Do you want to buy new or used? Do you buy from a dealership or privately? How much do you know about the car you’re planning on getting? All of these questions need answering BEFORE you commit to anything.
New cars obviously have their benefits. Namely its newness, you needn’t worry about unknown history. You get the full warranty package and any and all sweeteners the car comes with and you can choose the exact specification. In the end though, I’d usually recommend buying a used car. Not only do you get an enormous breadth of choice, but you also have the obvious benefit of price reduction. About 20% of a cars original value is wiped out as it leaves the showroom. Used cars are also (arguably) better for research, as the model has a history that you can look into and understand how reliable and efficient it is, aside from company jargon.
Buying from a dealership however is probably a better idea. Though it may cost more than buying privately, they offer far more protection. This makes dealerships the obvious safer bet, though again it may cost a tad more.
Before you get around to deciding your car, you should also ensure you’ve thoroughly figured out how much it’ll cost to run. Even at the point of physically seeing the car you want, don’t forget to test drive it. (If necessary) you could even think about renting a car of the same model before you commit to buying it; this lets you not only work out the running costs, but also be sure you actually like driving it.

Buying for the right price
Now that we have all that out of the way we can finally get onto what you came here for. The main event, actually negotiating your price. It’s important that you remember to haggle, bargain hard or you won’t get the price you want. Remember these dealers are paid to negotiate like this, and it’s expected of you too. The first rule is to never pay the list price, that’s a fool move. As I said they do this all the time, so you’ll need to switch things up, a good way is to not threaten to walk out. Do it. People threaten to walk away all the time, but very few do, so by leaving the dealer will realise you’re serious and almost certainly lower the price.
Don’t pay full price for extra options you don’t want, and maybe think about asking for little extras to be thrown in. If necessary, pit the dealerships against each other to get the best price, and try and by during sale periods, this will definitely help you get the most for your money.

By following all these tips you should easily be able to get the best price you can for your car. Good luck finding the car of your dreams, and remember to read what you’re signing before signing it. Happy hunting!

Best Hot Hatch Lease under £200 per month

Gary Fixter Leasing

Gary Fixter

Here are the best hot hatches for £200 per month

Petrol heads have been fond of small, sporty hatchbacks ever since they hit the market in the eighties. The appeal is obvious; they’re fast, practical, stylish, and perhaps most importantly, affordable too. So if you’re looking for something equally at home on a country road and in the city, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Here are some of the best options, each for only £200 per month or less:

VW Polo GTI

The Polo GTI, baby brother of the legendary Golf GTI, may look like an everyday Polo at first glance. But don’t be fooled – this is a small car packing a serious punch. Its twin-turbocharged 1.8L engine delivers an impressive 189bhp, which is enough to take it from 0-60 in 6.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 146mph. The 2017 model has been given a facelift too, with more aggressive styling and larger alloys as standard.

It’s yours for a sliver over £200 per month.

Abarth 595

Abarth is Fiat’s in-house tuning division, and is well known for taking small Italian cars and making them much, much quicker. The 595, one of Abarth’s most recent creations, is no exception. Based on the Fiat 500, but with a turbocharged 1.4L engine, Brembo brakes and uprated shocks, it’s going down a storm among the UK’s trendy young motoring enthusiasts. It looks the part too; a wider body kit and twin tailpipes give the Abarth a meaner, more track-focussed appearance.

According to WhatCar, you could bag yourself an Abarth for as little as £154 per month before VAT.

Ford Fiesta ST-1

Fast Fords have always been the go-to favourite for boy racers looking for a cheap thrill, and the ST-1 doesn’t disappoint. It’s a lot of car in an affordable package; the 1.6L turbocharged engine pumps out 180bhp, which increases to 197bhp upon activation of the intriguingly named “overboost” feature. It’s well equipped inside too, with a 4.2 inch touch screen and heated seats, while the ample interior space means you can fit the whole family inside with ease.

The ST-1 is available directly from Ford for a very reasonable £195 per month.