As you are worried about running costs, get the Skoda. An Alfa Romeo is never cheap to run, the Italians made sure of that.
I have had a 1995 SEAT Ibiza GTi 2.0 which was esentially a VW Polo with a VW Golf Font end.
It was way cheaper to run than any Alfa Romeo I have owned in the last 29 years.
and the Skoda is essentially a VW Golf.....
You could consider a Volvo V50....
What most distinguishes this latest Volvo estate, the V50, is how utterly unlike a Volvo estate it is. If you always thought the Volvo estate to be a kind of road-going freighter — large, ugly and capacious — then you will need to prepare yourself for the V50. It’s small, conspicuously attractive and one of the least effective load carriers money can buy.
A BMW 3-series Touring, which I have always considered a fine car but something of a joke when it comes to being an estate, is much more effective in the role. Its boot is better shaped than the Volvo’s, is bigger whether the back seats are up or down, and its rear windscreen opens independently so you can lift bags into it without having to battle with the tailgate. The Volvo’s does not.
Then again, if you have followed Volvo’s 10-year campaign to change its image from tank constructor to hip brand for eco-friendly trendy young liberals, none of this should surprise. Image is everything in this world — compared with which, doing what it says on the tin appears entirely inconsequential, irrelevant even.
In an age that does not require off-roaders to go off-road, sports cars to be sporting or people carriers to carry more than the usual number of people, we should not raise our eyebrows at all that Volvo’s latest load carrier isn’t particularly good at carrying loads.
Besides, in many other ways the V50 is an engagingly executed machine, possessing the full quota of style so critical to making a car succeed in so fashion-conscious a market. The exterior is attractive and sufficiently visually removed from its saloon sister not to be thought of merely as the estate version, which is exactly what it is.
Inside it’s better still thanks to smartly presented information and controls and a design that borrows cues from — among others — an Arne Jacobsen chair, a Dualit toaster and an electric razor. It’s good to see that Volvo has woken up to the fact seemingly lost on the bulk of car manufacturers that many cheap, everyday household goods have more intrinsic design appeal than the cabins of our extremely expensive cars.
Sadly, this promise is not fulfilled beyond the showroom. Two versions were available at the launch, the 2 litre diesel (£20,863 in SE trim) and the top-of-the-range T5, with a five-cylinder 220bhp engine, all-wheel drive and a £25,963 price tag. I felt mildly better disposed towards the diesel. While its 136bhp may seem anaemic compared with the power of the T5, it has the same 258 lb ft of torque and, with a standard six-speed gearbox, a very acceptable turn of speed combined with near-50mpg economy. Volvo identifies the V50’s key opposition as coming from BMW and Audi, and against them it is competitive.
The fact that it’s not much fun to drive also matters less in such cars. The T5, which has ideas of bringing the battle to the BMW 330i, offers similar levels of performance but a decidedly forgettable driving experience, thanks to resolutely dull handling.
Because the diesel has no sporting aspirations — save that foisted on it by Volvo’s tiresome insistence on calling it a Sportswagon — you feel instinctively better disposed towards it and in a better frame of mind to appreciate its generally excellent ride quality and refinement. Only at idle and under full load does the diesel nature of the engine make its presence excessively felt.
Less impressive is the fact that it will not become compliant with Euro 4 emissions legislation until the autumn, which means that anyone choosing one as a company car in the next six months will face a 3% higher benefit-in-kind taxation than an Audi or BMW driver.
I suspect the pick of the bunch lies in one of the models not to make it to the V50’s recent launch in Spain.
The V50 goes on sale in April with the 2 litre diesel, a 170bhp 2.4 litre petrol engine and a front-wheel-drive version of the T5 that is £1,000 cheaper than the 4x4 one. The all-wheel-drive T5 and a 125bhp 1.8 will follow in June. The latter will cost a reasonable £17,363 in S trim, which lacks the SE’s leather, cruise control and trip computer, but includes climate control, alloy wheels and the myriad safety gear synonymous with Volvo.
It works too. In Spain one V50 was written off after an encounter with a lorry and a mountain. But after a multiple airbag deployment both its hapless occupants emerged unscratched. Most impressive of all, the doors on the side that clouted the mountain opened and closed as new.
So forget what I said about how unlike a traditional Volvo the V50 is. In this most critical regard it deserves the reputation entirely: this Volvo estate may not look like a tank but, believe me, it’s still built like one.
Model Volvo V50 2.0D SE
Engine type Four-cylinder, 1998cc, turbo-diesel
Power/ Torque 136bhp @ 5000rpm / 258 lb ft @ 2000rpm
Transmission Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Fuel/CO2 49.6mpg (combined) / 153g/km
Speed 0 to 62mph: 9.6sec / top speed: 131mph
Verdict Strong and safe, but not as fun as it looks, and really not a load carrier
Model Jaguar X-type 2.0d estate (£21,165)
For Best X-type of all, practical, comparatively spacious boot
Against Smart rear now accentuates ugly front
Model BMW 320d SE Touring (£24,220)
For Still the best small estate to drive
Against Very little, save perhaps the image of those that drive them