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Paying more for a car with character Paying more for a car with character.

Byline: By Mike Torpey

SOME smart motorists actually plan their next purchase to coincide with a new model launch - then they buy the outgoing version. Nothing like being behind the times.

But there's method in this apparent madness, as the plan is to pay less. And it usually works as long as the timing is right.

Up until the 1980s, car companies used to introduce new ranges every three years. That's when development costs became such that the manufacturers were forced to keep specific models going for considerably longer, often with a revamp at the mid-life stage.

By showing some patience and planning, the bargains are there to be claimed, as people who bought cars like the Escort when the Ford Focus hit the scene and Mercedes C-Class when it's new generation replacement arrived discovered.

So let's take a look at a couple of other bargain possibilities now that new kids have arrived on the block.

Take the Vauxhall Corsa for instance. The latest versions were launched last autumn and to be honest they are far better cars than the originals in terms of layout, quality and dynamics.

But ever since its launch in 1993, when it set the standard for a new breed of supermini, the Corsa has been a runaway success - second only to the Ford Fiesta in the sales chart.

Attractive looks plus a cracking range of engines and safety features rarely found in the size of car made it an immediate hit.

Okay, the chassis, with suspension inherited from the long deceased Nova, was pretty wretched. Ride was on the stodgy side of average and handling mediocre. As a cheap, fun runabout though it makes a lot of sense.

Decent engines range from 1.0 to a 1.7 litre diesel and even the automatics are useful.

A Corsa strongpoint has always been safety and most of the range has driver's airbag with passenger side option. And with automatic body lock front seatbelt tensioners as standard, side impact protection beams on all doors, deadlocks, and a stiff body, the security package is also sound.

The little Vauxhall has always been a roomy car for its size, and since 1995 it has offered improved passenger space.

Of the engines, the 1.4i hi torque produces good mid-range flexibility with sufficient power for easy motorway cruising.

Round the city you're in the ideal type of motor - nippy, economical and a piece of cake to park.

Finding bargains among the Mini population is a little harder, seeing as the cars that first hit the scene in 1959 are becoming collector's items. What its BMW-made successor, which starts at pounds 10,300, can't do is provide cheap motoring, which is what's so appealing about the original.

Minis from the 80s and earlier tend to be on their last legs and the later versions are better refined and far more comfortable anyway. Watch out for corrosion if you are buying anything more than a few years old.

There are plenty of cars around that make far more common sense than a Mini - but then do they possess that character? The answer's a definite no.

SPEC CHECK ROVER MINI.

Driving: Great fun, terrific handling and, from Cooper, some decent kick as well.

Economy: Really cheap with low service costs and insurance plus 40mpg in general use.

Safety: Side impact bars and airbag on models from 1996.

Recommended buy: Mini Cooper.

Performance: Sounds sporty and feels quicker than it really is. Top speed from 850cc models is 84mph.

VAUXHALL CORSA.

Driving: Lively enough and comfortable, but handling is stodgy.

Performance: Sufficiently nippy all round - 1.4 will do 0-60 mph in 14 seconds and hit 96 mph.

Economy: Low service and insurance costs, 1.4 and diesels top 40mpg.

Safety: Driver's airbag standard, side impact protection beams on all doors, deadlocks.

Recommended buy: Corsa 1.4 LS.

CAPTION(S):

RUNAWAY SUCCESS The Vauxhall Corsa. SUCH CHARACTER The Mini.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Motoring
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 2, 2001
Words:655
Previous Article:Hyundai's latest launch.
Next Article:Finding a people carrier at a price.


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