For car enthusiasts, the traditional car buying arc goes from a fun hot hatch to a carefree coupe or junior sports car before family, job and other commitments mean you need to buy a ‘sensible’ motor. If all goes to plan there may, of course, be the mid-life crisis sports car once the kids have flown the nest but we’ll save that for another time.
In the meantime there are plenty of cake and eat it options that both satisfy the demands of family motoring and also provide a spark of interest to keep the enthusiast flame alive. Here are five you might want to try…
Mazda CX-7 – from £5,000
One of the best-driving crossovers you’ve probably never heard of, the Mazda CX-7 was based on a 2005 concept called the MX-Crossport and went on sale just as family buyers turned from MPVs and people carriers to SUVs and crossovers. The literal interpretation of this trend spawned this odd-looking, jacked-up people carrier but its combination of a 256bhp turbocharged petrol engine and four-wheel drive remains, frankly, outrageous for a vehicle of this type. Mazda being Mazda, it handled way better than it had any right to as well. Today it’s cheap to buy but expensive to tax and fuel. The diesel version, launched in 2009, is slightly better on both fronts, but the hilariously rapid petrol is the one to have.
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Skoda Octavia vRS – from £10,000
Cars like the Octavia helped turn Skoda’s reputation from playground joke into serious contenders, the combination of well-engineered Volkswagen underpinnings, no-nonsense interiors and tons of space for family clobber making them popular for more than just affordability. The vRS range has all that but with a dash of understated style and performance too, this being the estate car of choice for discerning drivers with no hang-ups about badge snobbery. And the police, who also appreciate a tough, comfortable and spacious car with a surprising turn of pace when required. The turbocharged petrol 2.0-litre is fast and easily tuned to be faster still, later diesels combining similar appeal with better mpg if you rack up the miles.
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Audi RS4 Avant – from £20,000
In the years before upwardly-mobile ubiquity Audi was a more eccentric brand. Hence its first performance car was a blocky, four-wheel drive coupe that became a world-beating rally car and its second was a Porsche-engineered super estate based on the same Quattro ideals. That RS2 evolved into the RS4, a wonderfully understated but uncompromisingly hard-hitting family estate car with a Cosworth-engineered motor. That in turn was replaced by the ‘B7’ generation RS4, defined by its high-revving V8 and understated looks. Both are available for less than £20,000, beautifully put together and lauded as modern classics so likely to hold their money. They also have the potential to cost you plenty but, bought with care, you’ve got a family estate car to tick boxes for practicality and enthusiast appeal.
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Volkswagen Transporter Kombi – from £30,000
Families who like to project an image of outdoorsy dynamism but rarely get mud on their wellies buy SUVs. Those who actually do get stuck in and spend weekends mountain biking, hiking, surfing or sailing buy VW Transporters, as anyone who’s seen the hordes of them in countryside car parks will attest. There are plenty of commercial vehicles in the market but only VW managed the crossover from commercial vehicle to mainstream product. If that appeals you’ll find a Transporter is THE perfect tool for active family life. With an on-road footprint comparable to a large SUV they’re perfectly easy to live with, as refined and easy to drive as any VW passenger car and supported by a thriving aftermarket scene to help you personalise to your heart’s content. And while they may not be cheap they hold their value too.
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Porsche Cayenne Diesel S – from £40,000
Can a 4×4 ever be considered an enthusiast’s car? If it’s got a Porsche badge on it just perhaps, the Cayenne meaning you can live your mid-life crisis fantasy while the kids are still at home. There are loads of models to choose from, from workhorse V6 diesels to lunatic V8 petrol Turbos. The discerning choice is, however, the GTS, combining the best of the Cayenne’s attitude with a lavish spec. If the idea of running a petrol V8 scares you there’s also a leftfield alternative in the shape of the outrageously powerful diesel on too, the Diesel S offering incredible performance in luxurious surroundings with the mpg of a regular hatchback. The ultimate guilty pleasure.
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