For the last six years my wife has been the proud owner of a Ford Ka. Not the same one I might add, but two fairly similar versions of the basic model, both in red.
This small but reliable and economical vehicle has served her well and only with the recent model has she actually exceeded 12,000 miles in any 3 year period. Yes, this car, now coming up to three years old, has just over 14,000 miles on the clock.
This car was purchased under the Ford Options scheme which means that we now have to decide what to do next. We can either buy the vehicle, hand it back, or trade it in against a brand new model. Naturally our first point of call was our local Ford dealer.
A new options scheme would mean handing our old car back, booking a new vehicle in exchange and handing over a £1000 or so to our Ford Dealer for the pleasure and continuity of driving a new car.
We nearly did just that. However, we were slightly put off by the suggestion that we should upgrade from the very basic and bog standard vehicle to one which would sport shiny metallic paint at only £300 extra and for just £800 additional spending we could have central locking, electric windows and even a CD player.
It might have ended there but for one thing. I was suspicious of the price. The final value of the new vehicle after 3 years would be considerably less than what Ford were asking me for on our old one. Just how could this be? Why was it always so attractive to hand in the old car and drive out with the new?
I decided to investigate this further.We drove around looking at a range of new cars. The Fiat Panda, much improved from the old bean can that it used to be but still lacking in build quality and any substance. We did not ask for a price and had already decided that the Fiat Panda was not to be.
Our next stop was the Nissan Micra. The new innovative shape and design looked good. A smart, compact and yet elegant car which seemed reasonable on price considering the extras were comparable with the Ford Ka. However, whilst Ford were offering 5.5% APR against their options scheme, the best the Nissan garage could offer was a staggering 10.7%. This clearly put the Micra out of the running.
When you look for a new vehicle you can find two cars at identical prices but by the time the dealers have worked in the finance you will find staggering price differences between them. Always watch out for the finance costs, i.e. the term of the finance, the amount of the deposit against the value of the car and the initial cost.
So many dealers will manipulate the figures to their advantage. Always check the fine print. Our next stop was Daihatsu. We didn't stop long. The Citroen C1 was high on the agenda but again let down by price, extras and available finance options.
On the way home we noticed a Suzuki dealership. Remembering that Suzuki also did 'small cars', we pulled into the car park and promptly ended up viewing the Suzuki Alto. With a price tag of just £5000 this small car packs a good deal although it now seems outdated and more than a tad boring. No, we thought, we will just return to our Ford Dealer and sign up for a new Ford Ka.
As we left the the Suzuki showroom we walked through the Kia cars section and suddenly, staring us in the face, there it was - The Kia Picanto - The thinking person's small car. Coming in at £6000, less than the Ford Ka with extras, this economical little number packs an impressive list of goodies.
The Picanto is a five door hatchback. The build quality is better than all the other small cars we looked at. When you shut the doors it has that big car feel rather than metallic clanging. The car is roomy. This car is definately big on space. A CD player with MP3 is included, along with front electric windows and power steering.
This car has metallic paint thrown in, leather steering wheel and gear knob, alloy wheels, central locking and air conditioning. Air conditioning godammit on a small car like this? Air bags are fitted as standard. This car is more economical than any of the others we looked at. The Picanto has side impact protection bars and ABS braking.
This car has one of the lowest small car co2 emissions. This car comes with a 3 year unlimited mileage warranty and a 3 year roadside assistance package. Reeling from the list of extras and the price I found myself wandering around the showroom in a daze.
The Sedona, a 7 seater MPV with bundles of on board kit and a quality build was retailing at £14,000. A saloon car, the Magentis, was an impressive £8000. The same car packed with these extras and looks would have cost twice as much elsewhere.
Finally it dawned on me. No wonder Rover went down. Even some of the well known and established European brands had better be on the lookout for this one. How can a car company half way around the world in South Korea, send cars like this over to the UK at prices like this? I paid my deposit and ordered my wifes new car.
I also got a quote for trading my own car against the Magentis or the Sedona. I think its time to change my thoughts on the way I have always bought cars.