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James Ruppert: Reliable tourers at an affordable price

It’s always nice to be set a challenge, and reader Claude, who is based in New Zealand, is planning an epic trip back to the motherland in 2022 for a family gathering. Essentially, he needs a comfortable car that costs around £1500 that will be used for six weeks travelling around Britain and Ireland before he sells it on or gives it away to a worthy cause.

I’ll concentrate on four- and five-door cars so that there’s a decent amount of room to stretch out, and Claude told me that he rather enjoyed the Jaguar S-Type that he owned a few years back. A comfortable and sophisticated car would be ideal, then, but maybe there are some other alternatives.

The thing about families is that there are quite a lot of people in them who might want to cadge a lift. With that in mind, how about a great big people carrier? I would pick a Toyota Previa, which is one of the best MPVs and can seat up to eight. Best of all, it’s unlikely to break down.

I was rather taken by a 2001 example with a 2.4-litre petrol engine and an automatic gearbox. That should be relaxing to drive and, although it had done 135,000 miles, it came with a dealer warranty and the full eight buckets for family members to sit in. A full and fresh MOT is always a good idea with cheaper cars, and the £1200 asking price seemed reasonable, despite a bit of cosmetic bodywork damage.

A large, anonymous saloon could be the way forward too. Reliability again is at the core here, which led me to a Hyundai Sonata. I found a 2008 example that had 103,000 miles and an auto ’box – better for a relaxing time. Even better, a diesel engine for added economy. It should get an MPG figure in the high-30s and, as a dealer car, it came with a rescue package and an optional extended warranty. The cost for this comprehensively equipped CDX model? Just £1490.

Then again, if Claude wants real economy, I spied a 2004 Volkswagen Passat with 112,000 miles with the 1.9 PD engine, which should deliver around 48mpg, for £1400. Plus it was a top-spec Highline model.

I’m a bit off Jaguars, because they always seem to go wrong (or maybe it’s just the ones I buy?). But just for Claude, I saw a 1996 4.0 XJ6 with 170,000 miles and a full service history. I liked this big, comfy, smooth saloon because it was a part-exchange at a performance car specialist and I believed every line of the ad, plus it came with a 12-month warranty. What a way to roam the land, and all for bang on £1500.

There’s just a bit of leather wear to the driver’s seat, which means I will be fine in the cream rears when Claude swings by in two years’ time to give me a lift.

Tales from Ruppert’s garage

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