Doctor Diesel

Ian’s looking for a change

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drIan's looking for a changeMy elderly Rover 400 diesel has been a reliable workhorse, but it might need replacing at the next MOT. I rather like the look of the current Vauxhall Meriva for practicality, but I don’t know which of the diesel engines to go for. Have you any recommendations or what other small MPVs I could also consider? Regards, 


I replied: I’ll put my thinking cap on! But what age of car and possible budget do you have in mind, and what annual mileage and typical passenger and cargo capacity? If you can give me some leads on those, it will enable me to thin down the possibilities. Also, is fuel economy critical to you?

Ian came back suggesting a likely budget of up to around £10K, also mentioning that he tows a small 850kg caravan at times, and asked specifically about the Meriva 1.6 CDTi diesel engine.

That’s helpful, knowing what you have to spend. A sensible sum, if I might say ñ I don’t know where all these people with £20K to spend get their money from! It’s not just finding £20,000 (or more likely the income to pay the monthly payments!) but facing the fact that you’re going to lose £4,000 to £6,000 or more in depreciation in the first year alone.

Anyway, I feel that we’re probably coming down to the Meriva versus the C-MAX, and possibly the Peugeot 3008, if I can throw that one in again. All have suitable 1.6-litre diesel engines to tow your small caravan, and on a power/performance view, the Meriva 1.6 CDTi is possibly the best. This is the only engine that I would advise you buying a Meriva with, and I’ve checked that you can buy 2013/2014 ecoFLEX SE and Tech Line variants with not too many miles on the clock for under £10K; do bear in mind that anything with a £10K sticker on it (I presume you will not be trying to trade in your Rover 400) will become £9,500, with a bit of hard haggling.

The 1.6-litre Meriva engine only arrived in late 2013, by the way, and is vastly superior to the previous 1.7 CDTi, which was a very old design, and not very nice. The 1.6 CDTi has 134bhp and 236lb ft torque ñ as much as many 2.0-litre engines, and they even offer it in the much bigger and heavier Insignia, so it will certainly pull a small ‘van like yours alright. You’ll hopefully know about the rear-hinged back doors, but you need to check out that you can live with them. I reckon you can expect an easy 50mpg plus, not towing. Nobody seems to rave about the Meriva, and they seem to be very cheap second hand for some reason. But if it appeals to you, I would not be afraid to go for a 1.6-litre Diesel, but do take a good long test drive, although anything is going to seem a big change from your present car of course. You should find that it drives quite well and with good response, although ride comfort is not that brilliant, but that’s a very personal thing. Check for any signs of wet carpets ñ Merivas did have some water leak problems. The advantage of buying a 2014 Meriva is that you will still have at least 12 months factory warranty.

Failing the Meriva, if you just don’t warm to it, I suggest you try a Ford C-MAX. Not quite as good value secondhand as the Meriva, but you should find a nice one around two to three years old, with probably under 30k miles for around £8,000 plus ñ go for the Zetec model, as the higher-spec Titanium has bigger alloy wheels that could spoil the excellent ride comfort. They drive very well and the only negatives are the somewhat clumsy seat-folding system, so check that out when looking. They are generally well-rated by owners, although they have had some reliability problems.

Finally, I do suggest that you just go and look at a Peugeot 3008, whose 1.6-litre HDi engine is a real gem, very flexible, and gives around 50mpg. Very practical, particularly its split tailgate and enormous boot with variable shelf height settings. Itís really nice to drive, with a good ride and little road and wind noise. Otherwise, you could look at a Renault Scenic, which have good engines ñ particularly their 129bhp 1.6-litre dCi 130, which would be great for towing. Very good reliability ratings ñ somewhat surprisingly for a Renault ñ and good value, but most of the used cars are the smaller 1.5-litre dCi 110 engine, which is alright, but probably a bit weak for towing your caravan. The 1.6-litre dCi unit is a much more recent engine with greater performance.

Good luck, I hope the above helps, and do keep me posted on how you get on. I would love to know what you end up with. No problem if you have any more questions.

The Doc

One Response

  1. Those Vauxhall 1.6 engines are just coming out of the warranty period now. Let’s hope they are built better than some of vauxhalls previous attempts of a Diesel engine.

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