Everybody loves an underdog, yet when it comes to cars there are still certain models that are all too easy to overlook. Below we’ve picked out five such examples, and explained why they might just deserve to make the shortlist when it comes to searching for your next car.
THE 4X4: SUBARU XV
Price from: £7,000
Although Subaru might be best known by some for producing high performance rally cars for the road, these days it is actually more of an SUV specialist. The XV is its smallest offering, and was launched in 2012 to give the Japanese brand a rival for the Nissan Qashqai.
As is Subaru’s way, however, it ignored the trend for front-wheel-drive crossovers in favour of a car that uses a permanent all-wheel-drive system and flat-four ‘boxer’ engine configuration, which combined with a decent ride height and relatively modest overhangs makes the XV very capable off road.
The drawback of such a setup is that fuel economy and CO2 emissions are both worse than you’ll find in rivals, which pushes running costs up, plus the XV is not as refined to drive on the road as something like the aforementioned Qashqai. However, for a go-anywhere vehicle that still feels modern, is reasonably priced and won’t let you down, the XV is a solid choice.
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THE PEOPLE CARRIER: KIA CARENS
Price from: £6,000
Let’s be clear here, the Kia Carens is not going to set your pants on fire with excitement. It’s not particularly fast for a start, plus the handling is inert and the styling bland. What it does offer, however, is a useful amount of practicality, very affordable prices and a strong reliability record, all of which should grab the attention of those in the market for a no-nonsense family car.
Core to the appeal of the Carens is not only that it has seven seats, but that all slide and/or fold individually, thus allowing you to make best use every available inch of the space on offer. So you can, for example, fit two reasonably tall adults in the third row, which is far from a given with seven-seat cars. Fold those third row seats away meanwhile and you’re left with an enormous boot.
The interior design is rather plain compared with something like a Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, but it’s all perfectly functional and the touchscreen on higher trim levels works extremely well. Plus, being a Kia there’s a good chance that any car you look at might still fall under the company’s seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty, providing it has been maintained according to the company’s terms and conditions.
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THE MOTORWAY CAR: VAUXHALL INSIGNIA GRAND SPORT
Price from: £12,500
There was a time not so long ago that cars like the Vauxhall Insignia ruled Britain’s motorways. A combination of finance deals making premium brand cars from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz more affordable, plus the rise of the SUV, have put an end to that dominance, but Vauxhall has hung in there with the determination of a Gladiator. Its latest effort is known as the Insignia Grand Sport, and was launched in 2017 to some acclaim.
Quite right too, for this is a distinctive – you could even say handsome – car, not to mention one that offers significantly more space than a BMW 3 Series or Audi A4, and is decent to drive. Yet still it is fairly rare to see one on the road, suggesting that the enthusiasm of the motoring press is not necessarily shared with the buying public.
What makes that even stranger is that even as a new purchase the Insignia Grand Sport is aggressively priced, while as a used buy it can be an absolute bargain.
Search for a used Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport on CarGurus
THE ESTATE: PEUGEOT 308 SW
Price from: £5,200
The hatchback version of the Peugeot 308 is a generally solid performer in the family car class, save for one glaring error: a lack of space in the rear seats. This was something the French company addressed when it developed the estate version of said car, known as the SW, for which it not only added an even bigger boot, but also increased the car’s wheelbase to provide more space for passengers.
So it is that four adults can indeed travel in comfort in a 308 SW – and they’ll be able to take most of their worldly possessions with them too, for the boot is simply huge. In fact, at 660 litres it has more room even than a Skoda Octavia Estate, which is generally regarded as the benchmark in this class.
Admittedly the 308 SW is not a particularly sporting drive, and the small steering wheel won’t be to all tastes, but it’s generally comfortable, it looks a bit different and the engines are economical. The result is a much better family car than you might expect.
Search for a used Peugeot 308 SW on CarGurus
THE EXECUTIVE HATCH: INFINITI Q30
Price from: £11,500
If you’re in the market for a premium hatchback, you’re most likely to end up with either a BMW 1 Series, an Audi A3 or a Mercedes-Benz A-Class. But what if there was a car that could claim to offer similar levels of specification, quality and performance, but then mix in exclusivity too? Well, that car might just exist in the form of the Infiniti Q30.
To recap, Infiniti is Nissan’s luxury brand, which has been struggling to gain a foothold in the UK since it was launched here in 2009. The Q30 was supposed to be the car to change all that, and in a bid to convince buyers of its premium credentials even has a chassis borrowed from the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.
As it transpires, sales have still been slow, but that doesn’t mean the Q30 is necessarily a bad car. Indeed, with much of the development carried out in the UK (where it is also built), the Q30 is actually pretty good to drive, with a pleasing balance between ride and handling. It’s still no match for the German trio, but for those who fancy something a little bit different it’s worth considering.
Search for a used Infiniti Q30 on CarGurus
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