Buying a New Car (2014)

It should be a simple process. You look at the models available, compare them to your budget and make a choice. But I’m finding it incredibly difficult to choose my next car for a whole range of reasons:

Photograph of my Renault Laguna 3 car

My present car:
I’m currently driving a Renault Laguna 3 which you can see here. Apart from the ride, which Renault made firmer to be more Germanic and is too hard for me, it’s the best car I’ve ever owned and I’ve enjoyed every mile driven in it. If Renault still produced the Laguna, I’d very likely be buying a new one now.

I did spoil myself back in 2008 when I bought it because I went for the top spec and I added most of the optional extras. Although you don’t get their cost back, I’ve not regretted this because I have actively enjoyed every single one. But it does give me a problem in that I don’t wish to lose any of their functionality.

Looking at new cars I see that sunroofs are rarer than ever, steering headlights have to be hunted out and, in the case of Renault, the driver’s seat memory function is not available across the range. Curiously, that one feature has ruled Renault out of the running. When you share driving, as I do, it’s perhaps the most useful feature of all.

New technologies
There are also new technologies that were not around in 2008 and which sound very desirable. For example:-

Diagram of car with collision mitigation technology assessing the road ahead

Collision mitigation technology, such as adaptive cruise control and city stop seem desirable to the point of being essential. Rear blind spot monitoring and assisted parking are also very desirable extras. All round sensors and a rear camera would extend the front and rear audible sensors that I have now and would not be without.



Monitoring the driver. If you keep an eye on the Internet you’ll find many sites which review and compare cars - many with videos - and these are interesting. In particular, there’s a 45 minute film in which the new 

Screenshot of an article about the Volkswagen Passat 2015 which describes how the car can come to a halt unaidedPassat seems to detect if you inadvertently die, and comes to a safe halt with wea

ving and hazards. Amazing. I haven’t yet discovered if this really is available but it seems genuine and the scr

eenshot above, from Autoexpress, seems to back up the claim. Click here, or on the image, to visit the page (opens in new window).

LED headlights (not daytime running lights) seem to be still coming although the Ford Mondeo and Audi A6 have them. I’m not sure exactly what they offer but it’s certain to be useful, more fun, safer - or all three.

BMW have a film which you can see here. In it, the car's headlights remain on high beam whilst cleverly blanking oncoming and preceding vehicles so the drivers are not dazzled. The film seems to show this with xenon bulbs, but with a hundred LEDs and mirrors you can do even more. These are technologies that I want very much.


Market segmentation
Despite my increasing age (I’m 70 in November) and the wisdom of getting a taller car, I do still prefer a traditional look rather than the popular new cross-over style. The Laguna seems to be a Group D car (read more about that here(opens in new window).

Screenshot of Wikipedia article about European Car Segmentation

I was intending to drop a size and buy a Group C car, perhaps a Renault Megane, Audi A3 or Ford Focus, but it seems impossible to get most of the features I’m looking for in this category, so I think my next car will have to be a Group D - which seems to be called "family saloon/entry-level executive". Sadly, Renault seems to have moved away from this segment completely. Ford is pushing hard with the Mondeo and this has a lot of technology at a good price. The Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes are all contenders in this category. However, Audi are leaunching the new A4 in September 2015 so buying the current model would be unwise except for discount reasons. A new arrival on the scene is the Jaguar XE which looks very good.

There is one snag. I really want a hatchback, which my Laguna is. Apart from Ford, none of the others seem to offer hatchbacks. This may be a compromise I end up forced into?

Electric cars
I very much like electric cars and would buy one at the drop of a hat except for the two great handicaps - price and range. Also, the features I seek tend not to be available in electrics. What I’d like to do is buy an electric car for local driving and a family car for distance work but I’m not convinced of the wisdom or cost effectiveness of this. The BMW 1 Series with range extender seems to solve the second problem but the fact that electric cars cost more than the equivalent petrol car is going to hold them back for the foreseeable future - as it did in the 1970s. I remain, however, a fan. I rode in a Nissan Leaf and also borrowed a Renault Fluence for a hour some while ago. I loved both.

My choice of car
The current winner is the Ford Mondeo except that it’s the size of a bus. However, a complication has now arisen in the fact that my Laguna is due for its service and MOT and is a year past the recommended cambelt change. Paying £600 for a cambelt change on a car about to be traded in would be unwise since I would not recoup that on trade-in. So a decision had to be made and I’ve decided to have the cambelt replaced and keep the car for now. I’m still looking at new cars but the pressure is off. A factory build would be about three months so replacing the cam belt will be cheaper than the depreciation on a new car, and if I don’t choose until the 16 plate arrives it will be financially very sound.

So I continue to look. If I haven’t put you to sleep, I’d welcome any thoughts. I’ll conclude by adding my current specification - the desirable car that I seek. Can you match it?


Car specification - 23th February 2015

As Laguna or smaller

2 ltr turbo or equivalent power

Comfort & convenience:
Keyless entry
Comfortable ride (not sporty)
Sat Nav - one that routes sensibly and also has full postcode entry (TomTom?)
Boot and fuel cap automatically unlocked with the car
No fuel cap to unscrew
Radio tyre pressure monitor valves
Sensors front and rear
New features:-
  -Side sensors and bird’s eye view?
  -Automatic parking (parking assist)?
  -Rear camera with guidance lines?

Higher spec headlights (xenon)
Steering headlights
Fog lamps front & rear
New features:-
  -Automatic high beam?
  -Sensitive to ambient lighting?
  -LED headlights? (what do they offer?)
  -Laser with non-dazzle? (see YouTube)

Climate control (air con + separate control two sides)
Leather upholstery
Heated seats
Electric seats
Memory driver's seat
Electric windows with one touch open/close all round
Automatic rain-sensing wipers
Electric opening sun roof or better
Electric parking brake
  -Heated front windscreen?

Cruise control 
New features:-
  -Adaptive cruise control (maintains distance from vehicle in front)?
  -City stop (stops vehicle in collision situation (urban))?
  -Lane assist (keep in lane (and centre of lane))?
  -Vehicle in blind spot warning?
  -Head-up display?
  -Safe stop if driver incapacitated (see YouTube New Passat)?

Dimming rear view mirror
Folding wing mirrors
Heated wing mirrors
New features:-
  -Dimming wing mirrors?
  -Memory wing mirrors?

Phone connection (Bluetooth)
Upgraded sound/media system


© Brian Smith 2015