Ask the Expert: Which car can replace both my 1980s Volvo estate and Fiat Punto runabout?

Kia Ceed
Kia Ceed: a comfortable and undemanding option, writes Robbins

Dear Alex,

What is a good car that’s somewhere between the extremes of a 2011 Fiat Punto and a 1988 Volvo 740 GL, for about £10,000? The former is a good runabout but uncomfortable and the latter costly to tax. Both have attributes that I’m keen to keep: manual handbrake, with locks and ignition requiring a key to operate. I want a car that’s comfortable for long motorway journeys yet agile enough for short trips. I am in my mid-70s and rarely carry passengers. What would you suggest?


Dear CP,

I can source cars with a manual handbrake and requiring an ignition key – but almost every modern car has remote central locking, whereby the locks are operated by a button on a fob (though the vast majority also include the option of a separate blade key, allowing you to gain access even if the battery is flat).

Remote locking differs from keyless entry, which enables the car to unlock when it detects a key fob close to it but has proved to be somewhat more theft-prone. I’m therefore going to proceed on the assumption that you’d accept remote central locking.

My first thought was to go for the most literal interpretation of your conundrum, which would be to choose a Volvo that’s about the size you require – that being the V40 hatchback.

The V40 was something of an also-ran when it was new, largely because of its high price and cramped rear seats. It’s in pole position here since you don’t often carry passengers and used values are much more reasonable.

I found a 2017 V40 Momentum – the mid-range version, which has the specification you seek – with the frugal 2.0-litre T2 engine, only 45,000 miles and a full service history at £9,500. The V40 is quiet and comfortable on a long run, yet should also be compact enough during urban use.

But given that you love your 740’s load capacity, I’d suggest a Skoda Octavia. It is well known for being one of the most comfortable cars in its class and there’s plenty of interior space whether you opt for the hatchback or the capacious estate version.

I found a 2019 SE Drive hatchback, with the punchy 1.0-litre turbocharged engine, a manual gearbox and 52,000 miles, for £9,990 with a full service history. If you’d prefer an estate, a 2015 1.4 TSI Elegance with 60,000 miles and a recent timing belt change might hit the spot at £9,290.

Also worth a look is the latest Kia Ceed, the earliest versions of which just nudge into your budget. The Ceed isn’t quite as roomy as the Skoda nor as smartly finished as the Volvo, but it’s still a comfortable and undemanding option – and it offers the benefit of however much may remain of the seven-year manufacturer’s warranty.

Something like the estate version I found would do nicely – the middling 2 specification, which avoids the fripperies you don’t want, with the excellent 1.0-litre turbo engine, 56,000 miles and registered in 2019, meaning two years’ warranty remaining – giving you extra peace of mind over and above the other two options.