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We help choose the ideal car for your needs and your budget…
Budget: maximum of R100 000
Status: urban adventurer
Vehicle type: station wagon
Our cyclist prefers a station wagon to an SUV, as his father used to own a number of them in the wagon’s halcyon days of the ’60s and ’70s. Nothing too fancy, but it must have enough room for his treasured racing bike.
It has to be some years old to stay within our budget. The top Germans would be most purchasers’ choice, although some less mainstream choices such as the V50 come into play.
Our choice: Mercedes-Benz C200K Estate
0 to 100 km/h: 9,60 seconds
Top speed: 230 km/h
Power: 120 kW
Torque: 240 N.m
CO2: 231 g/km
CAR fuel index: 10,3 L/100 km
The Merc is a classy looker with a high status ranking, but the supercharged engine can sound a touch gruff. In order to slip in under our budget, we’ve settled for a W203 shape; the W204 was introduced in 2007 and all used examples are well above R100 000. There’s a decent selection among the W203s, though.
In the new millennium, manufacturers went into overdrive, producing more and more model ranges and filling every conceivable gap. So much that it was not possible to publish enough road tests to cover every model variation and we don’t have a test of an Estate, only a C180 Kompressor sedan. The “K” means supercharging is used to increase the power instead of turbocharging and, although a variety of engines in petrol or diesel are available.
We like the C200K. The engine size is still 1,8 litres, but it has 120 kW in place of the C180K’s 105 kW. Our fuel consumption index is not too bad at 10,3 L/100 km. Like the BMW, the Benz is rear-wheel driven, providing better traction when loaded. Mercedes-Benz gearboxes have improved in leaps and bounds, but at the turn of the century, you would have been stuck with a five-speed ‘box that is not user-friendly, producing a small but noticeable hesitation, especially when accelerating. Perhaps a manual example would be worth a look.
Space: 5 seats, 288-1 056 dm3
Safety and aids: 4 airbags, ABS with EBD and BAS
Cost of tyres: R3 920
Road test: no (C180K sedan in December 2002)
Option 2: Volvo V50 2,4 Geartronic
0 to 100 km/h: 9,78 seconds
Top speed: 215 km/h
Power: 125 kW
Torque: 230 N.m
CO2: 217 g/km
CAR fuel index: 10,0 L/100 km
Volvo has a proud history of making sturdy and safe station-wagons, but the V50 adds a dash of style to the mix. These models were based on the Ford platform that also underpinned that generation’s Focus and Mazda3. The interior departs from the norm and has a quality and style to it that is typically Swedish. The left-hand side-sited ignition switch is not very user-friendly, but most other features are.
The V50 has a transverse inline five-cylinder engine with a capacity of 2,4 litres that drives the front wheels. This means towing uphill may not be as easy as it would be with the rear-wheel-drive Benz and, thanks to some spin on acceleration, front-tyre wear tends to be higher than the rears on a rear-wheel-drive car. This becomes more evident on powerful FWD vehicles.
The fuel consumption is almost identical to that of the Mercedes-Benz. Comfortable seating is a Volvo trait and the slick changing, five-speed automatic gearbox adds to the driving pleasure. Utility space is what wagons are about and this one matches the Mercedes, though falls shy of the Audi A4 Avant’s 1 104 dm3. A fully flat load area makes shifting goods in and out easy. Although prices seem to vary considerably, you can pick up a decent Volvo for very reasonable cash. Watch out for service and maintenance costs as these can be high. Most owners’ complaints involved diesel engine models.
Space: 5 seats, 256-1 056 dm3
Safety and aids: 6 airbags, ABS with EBD
Cost of tyres: R4 032
Road test: September 2004
Option 3: Audi A4 Avant 2,0T FSI
0 to 100 km/h: 8,00 seconds
Top speed: 240 km/h
Power: 147 kW
Torque: 280 N.m
CO2: 216 g/km
CAR fuel index: 9,6 L/100 km
Another good-looker, these cars combine load-carrying versatility with Audi’s ergonomically superior interior controls and trim; seat comfort is nearly as good as the Volvo’s. Check the spec level, as many cars have a large choice of options. Owners have complained that the steering is over-assisted. From classified adverts it appears that you could find younger models than is the case with the Mercedes-Benz or Volvo, and we found some 2008 models within our budget of R100 000.
Remember that there will be no more warranty or service plan on these cars and we would recommend having an extended warranty in place in case you get caught out with mechanical issues. Some of these include ignition-coil failures and cam-follower wear. Mileages for some of these problems to bite can be startlingly low, too. Another potential issue is the high-pressure fuel pump, which is a mechanical unit driven by a lobe on the camshaft. This can suffer from abrasion wear leading to damage.
If your “check engine” light comes on, don’t ignore it and get the codes read to discover the problem. Low power is another indication of something that’s not right. It’s best to use quality synthetic oil and, like the Volvo, being FWD, watch out for increased front tyre wear if you regularly carry goods. Loading the back of the car causes a mass transfer to the rear that lightens the front end grip.
Space: 5 seats, 304-1 104 dm3
Safety and aids: 4 airbags, ABS/EBD
Cost of tyres: R4 270
Road test: no (A4 sedan in May 2005)