A great prospect for buyers
Jonathan Crouch looks at affordable used mid-range estates...
BY THE late Nineties and early Noughties, the gap in terms of style and quality between mainstream medium-sized family estates and lifestyle-oriented models based on compact executive saloons was closing.
For used buyers, that's important, as there's a huge gap in price between these two very different areas of this sector. If a plush Ford Mondeo Estate could boast quality, looks and driving characteristics similar to, say, a BMW 3 Series Touring, it would present a very different buying prospect.
We're not at that point yet but we're certainly a lot closer to it than the average buyer would ever have dreamed ten years ago. Thanks for this needs to go to VW, whose MK5 Passat moved the quality bar up several notches overnight when it was launched in 1997. Peugeot's 406 (also launched in '97) wasn't far behind, and was even better in facelifted form (from '99). Against standards like these, it was difficult for the opposition to compete. In the late Nineties, these included the facelifted MK1 Ford Mondeo ('96-'00), Citroen's Xantia Estate (facelifted in '97), Renault's Laguna Estate (facelifted in '98) and cars like the Vauxhall Vectra Estate, Mazda 626 Estate, Nissan Primera Estate and Fiat Marea Weekend (all facelifted in '99).
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If you're after something even newer, Toyota's Avensis Estate and Skoda's Octavia Estate were facelifted in 2000, but better from that era to select one of the all-new models that really took this sector forward. Chief amongst these was Ford's MK2 Mondeo Estate, launched in '01, just after Renault's more stylish but less practical Laguna II Sport Tourer. A heavily revised VW Passat Estate also hit the roads in '01, just before Citroen's innovative C5 Estate was launched to replace the aging Xantia. The Rover 75 Tourer/MG ZT-T models are also well worth investigation if funds permit.
All these are worth checking out before you go the less practical badge-orientated 'lifestyle' route. In the late Nineties, cars in this category included Audi's MK1 A4 Avant (facelifted in '99), BMW's MK2 3 Series Touring (replaced by a superior MK3 version in '00) and Mercedes MK1 C-class Estate (replaced by a MK2 version in '01).