Essays: Top 10 Bangernomics cars for family guys

We love Bangernomics at AROnline and in these hard times, we can’t think of a more cost effective way of keeping on the road than by buying a perfectly useable larger family car for between 500-1000.

With this being AROnline, we’ll limit our choices to British-built or badged cars but, even limiting our geographical options leaves us with plenty of choice, some of which are very interesting indeed.

Keeping the show on the road

For anyone who needs reminding, Bangernomics motoring involves buying cheap, spending the minimum amount possible, not growing too attached, and realising that a good time to sell is just before big expenditure is needed. In an era of disposable motoring (when will it end?) it’s perfectly possible to buy something that older readers might consider a ‘new’ car (i.e., anything with a post-2001-style registration number) because the seller has been scared off by the prospect of a low trade value, and future potential running costs.

So there’s a glut of great cars to buy, and all for less than two or three months’ lease on the equivalent new car. Our selection possibly won’t be the exciting grouping of cars you can buy, but you’ll still be able to enjoy comfort and space and, in some cases, equipment levels to keep new cars on their toes.

Of course, you won’t get the last word in fuel consumption, but we reckon the cost of running a 35mpg car with no monthly payments against a 50mpg one that does is still going to be considerably lower. The old diesel vs petrol argument also comes into play at this level: do you go for the seduction of a longer range that the better fuel consumption of a turbodiesel brings you, and hope it counteracts the more expensive servicing and maintenance? Or do you stick with petrol, enjoying the UK’s lower pump prices? Tough call. At this level, we reckon petrol might just ace it.

Here are ten cars that won’t shy away from keeping your family mobile, won’t scare your insurance broker off the map and shouldn’t cause your local motor factor (you’re DIYing, surely!) too many headaches.

You can get your interest from the classic you also have in your garage!

Rover 75 1.8 1999-2005
400+ // For:
Characterful, still has class Against: Fragile if abused, some failures are showstoppers

You probably like the Rover 75. That’s why you’re here. But we’re being unbiased when we say that the 75 1.8 makes for a surprisingly good Bangernomics motor. Yes, the diesel’s a better all-rounder, but you’ll pay more to buy one, and certainly more to fix it. Unlike some options at this price, you really need to take care when buying one. That’s because a weak clutch will be a killer to sort on cost grounds alone (around 1000 to do all three parts), and the headgasket issue is so misunderstood in the trade, that so many garages have screwed up perfectly good cars, by not repairing them properly the first time around. So much is now understood about the K-Series, that making one run reliably is simple enough – but you need to go in with your eyes open.

Buy a 75, and enjoy the fine ride, cossetting interior and relatively good fuel economy (40mpg is easy with a gentle right foot), and accept the gasket will go pop if it’s not been done properly. If you find one that has, then rejoice! And look after the brake lines! Upsides are that parts are cheap, and the scrapyards are currently overflowing with them. Downsides? Well, you either love or hate the carriage clock styling; it’s monumentally slow, if you drive in a relaxed manner; and there isn’t quite the quality in-depth that you might think, when admiring those soft-feel interior materials. Probably an enthusiast, rather than rational, choice – and, truth be told, if you really want a 75, you’d be best best served buying a cherished one, and paying a premium.

Honda Accord 1998-2003
400+ // For:
Reliable, well engineered Against: Dull to drive, expensive parts, it’s no Rover 75!

The sixth-generation Accord was a product of when Honda considered that its EU, Japanese and US models should be tailored for their individual territories. So for the Swindon-built UK models, they came up with a very effective rebody of the previous car (which shared its underpinnings and most of its exterior panels with the Rover 600), which means those used to ‘Rondas’ should feel quite at home in an Accord.

Improvements in build quality, and the option of a hatchback, make these Accords a very trusty and useful option at this price level. For those who don’t closely follow market trends, there might be some surprise at the bottom end prices of these cars – but, for your 400-500, you’ll get a S or ES with a 1.8-litre petrol under the bonnet, and working aircon inside. It won’t excite you, nor will you feel special when you drive it, but short of an expensive consumable or two needing replacing, you’ll enjoy reasonably trouble-free running.

Rover 400/45 2.0TD 1995-2005
450+ // For:
Grunty and economical Against: Pensionable dashboard and imagine, unrefined

If you must have a diesel Rover, and intend to run it on a shoestring (as Bangernomics dictates), we’d go with the L-Series powered 400/45, or 600 if you can find one that hasn’t been to the moon and back. And with that in mind, the 45 makes the more realistic option by dint of simply being newer. But don’t just think that we’re recommending one of these on a youth-for-your-buck basis. Oh no… The 45, especially, stands on its own two feet thanks to its comfortable ride and 75-spec front seats – in short, it’s a capable and effortless long-distance runner.

And thanks to its engine being from the pre-commonrail generation and its transmission having been conceived before dual-mass flywheels had even been thought of, keeping one sweet is relatively simple and inexpensive. Whereas the diesel 75 comes with caveats about its transmission and fuel pumps, all you really need to worry about on a 45 is keeping it rust-free, and changing the oil regularly. Just don’t think you’re going to impress your neighbours with it, and remember it’s effectively a two-seater thanks to those over-stuffed chairs up-front.

Land Rover Discovery 300Tdi 1994-1999
750+ // For:
Huge, great visibility, unstoppable off-road Against: Rot, shonky electrics, unrefined

We love the Land Rover Discovery. It was a stroke of genius by its maker. When launched in 1989, it immediately became a class-leader in the UK, taking the mantle away from the Mitsubishi Shogun. But underneath that Alpine-roofed industrially-styled new-gen off-roader, beat the heart of a Range Rover. With Marina doorhandles. The new 2.5-litre 200Tdi was the star of the range, though, as appealing as the carburettored 3.5-litre V8 was.

Today, the Disco of choice for the Bangernomics buyer has to be the post-facelift 300Tdi. Clearly, we all know that it’s not the most reliable or well-built car, and that any example at this price is going to be scabby. Look out for collapsed seats, non-functioning electrics, and extensive chassis rot. Get one with some ticket, and enjoy it while you can, make friends with a welder – and praise it to high heavens if it gets you through each subsequent MoT for under 500.

Vauxhall Omega MV6/Elite 1998-2001
500+ // For:
Fast, understated, great dynamics Against: Dear to fix, ‘that’ badge, fuel consumption

It might be as British as saurkraut und currywurst, but the Omega wears its griffin with pride, thanks to years of faithful service pounding the UK’s motorways, and herding up its criminal classes. And as we all know, the police didn’t buy their cars just on price, but also for fitness of purpose. And covering big distances very quickly is what that bigger V6 Omegas were very good at doing. Today, the Omega is typical banger-fodder: it’s perceived as a low-prestige fuel guzzler, and that means prices are incredibly low right now. For ‘cooking’ six-cylinder Omegas, prices start at iPad money, but even the more desirable higher-powered Elite and MV6s can be picked up for an easy 500.

Admittedly, you don’t get the world’s most reliable large car, but then at this price level, the odd electrical gremlin can be forgiven as long as it doesn’t leave you stranded. Why did we pick the 200bhp-plus 150mph Elite and MV6? Simple: they’re fast, fun, and incredibly understated. And rear-wheel drive. If you can afford to fuel and insure it, forget your prejudices, and have some fun before the oil runs out…

Jaguar S-Type 3.0 V6 1999-2003
750+ // For:
It’s a Jaguar! Against: Contrived styling, flaky electrics, engine problems, soggy handling

When it was launched at the British Motor Show in 1998, the Jaguar S-Type went head-to-head with the Rover 75 – and, visually, it lost. However, whereas its rival’s maker went to the wall just over six years later, Jaguar has gone from strength to strength. And looking at the relative merits of the two cars back then, it’s unlikely anyone would have predicted such an outcome. When it went on sale the following year, it soon became apparent that the S-Type was a little under-done, with a floppy chassis, and interior that lacked the charm and style of its larger brother, the XJ. But Jaguar soldiered on, turning it in to a great car in 2003, with its ‘aficionado’ facelift.

You won’t be getting one of these for 750, though Oh no… You’ll be looking at a 3.0-litre V6 in 240bhp form, and with lots of miles on the clock. And probably quite a few niggles to keep you busy at the weekend. Some parts prices are horrible, too, but as they have dropped out of the dealer network now, there are plenty of independents who don’t charge the earth. We’ve already said it’s not exactly sporting, but the 3.0-litre S-Type is quick, and still has plenty of road presence. Tight rear headroom and a lack of boot space are issues – and, when it came to that big repair which writes off the car, could you be the one that takes an S-Type to the scrapyard? We’re not sure we could!

Ford Mondeo 1.8LX 2000-2007
500+ // For:
Great to drive, cheap parts, practical Against: Engines smoke with age, suspension problems

More than any other car, it’s the Ford Mondeo Mk3’s availability from under 500 that really gives the Bangernomics argument credibility in today’s climate. Because for the price of a week’s holiday in Scotland, you can buy a large, capable and well-made saloon, estate or hatchback that is pretty much as capable all-rounder as a new car. The Mondeo didn’t win so many plaudits when it was new for its value for money, though – like the 1998 Focus that came before, its excellent dynamics were the headline-grabbing story. But delve deeper than the pin-sharp steering, and you’re looking at a car with a tough interior, and in 1.8LX form, an excellent compromise of performance and economy.

They’re tough, too. And although Mondeos have a reputation for chewing through tyres and suspension bushes, they’re cheap as chips to sort on a regular basis. And there’s so much expertise out there, you’ll struggle to find a problem that can’t be sorted. The Duratorq engines aren’t the last word in refinement, though, and are really intolerant of stretch oil changes. So, if you’re buying a car that doesn’t smoke, make sure it stays that way. Out of all our selection, the Mondeo is probably the most sensible all-rounder.

Nissan Primera P11/P11F 2.0 16V 1995-2002
350+ // For:
Reliable, great build quality, not as dull as it looks Against: Firm ride, expensive parts

Generally regarded as being the minicabber’s favourite, the poor old Nissan Primera gets a bit of a rough ride in enthusiast circles. But that’s slightly unjustified. When the first Primera, the P10, was launched in 1989, it was a landmark car – it matched Europe’s best on the road, but combined its dynamic excellence with great build quality. Without doubt, the Primera was the best British repmobile of its day. The P11 was no step-forward, though, losing its predecessor’s independent rear suspension, while introducing a bit of cost cutting to the mix. However, it was still a great all-round, albeit slightly sportingly set-up saloon/hatch wrapped in a rather dull set of clothes. The same could be said for the 1999 facelift, which looked even more outdated compared with its contemporaries.

Buy one now that’s in good order, and do your bit to keep it that way, and there’s no reason why a 1999-2002 car won’t go on for years to come. Problems that do occur are almost exclusively limited to electrical gremlins, suspension wear and axle faults – bravo Washington! Although not as well-engineered as the P10, the P11 was still some way ahead of rivals such as the Mondeo Mk2, and that still shows through today. Shame the boring styling limits wider appeal – but then it means great prices for discerning buyers.

Rover 620 1993-1999
300+ // For:
Reliable, dependable Against: …and dull; known issues with the rear brakes and rust.

In many ways, the 600 is a much better Bangernomics choice than the ticking time-bomb 75. Fans of the car will tell you it’s a more stylish option and, of all the ‘Ronda’ collaborative cars, it’s the one that most successfully made the transition from Japanese to ‘British’. There’s no denying that the 600 remains a great looking, understated, saloon, which in the right colour can still turn heads. We’ll pass on cheap turbos now, unless they’re being passed from friend to friend, leaving us the staple 2.0-litre Honda-powered cars, which were offered in 113 and 129bhp form. Of the Hondas, there was also the 623 (which bizarrely gained a reputation for engine failure) and the later 618.

Things that go wrong are few and far between, and everyone knows about them. And they are – failing front window regulators; sticky rear calipers; body corrosion; rusty brake pipes. Get a nicely cherished 620 (and there’s still plenty around) without these issues – keep on top of it, learn to live with its thirst and uninspiring handling, and you’ll have a long and quite unmemorable relationship. And isn’t that what Bangernomics is all about?

Toyota Avensis 1.8 1997-2003
300+ // For:
See Nissan Primera Against: See Nissan Primera

See Nissan Primera, but substitute Derby for Washington! Zzzzz

Keith Adams
Latest posts by Keith Adams (see all)


  1. Have got to make up to people about me downer on Vauxhalls, and thankfully this post gives me the chance: I love Omegas, and anything old and rear wheel drive. Comfy seats, bombproof engines (actually those early ecotecs were crap) and superb dynamics. Would love a Senator…..or Carlton GSI…..hmmm time for an autotrader sesh!

  2. Early Skoda Octavias are getting towards banger status. Huge boots, reliable & fairly rust free, just those VAG bits are a tad pricey. The SDi version is painfully slow, but unbreakable, and many have done half a million miles!

  3. The Omega’s V6 was made at Ellesmere Port, so there’s a bit of Britishness in it!

    One other option is you want something large and ugly is the Ford Scorpio…

  4. I think you missed one off, the Rover 200/400 R8

    The best even now some 21 years after launch still an impressive car in any of its different versions. Cheap to buy (if you can find a good one) and run and a real classic in waiting.

  5. I know I am biased but the Nissan Primeval gets in, and the Peugeot 406 and nowt from Renault? What about the Laguna 1, same size as the Peugeot and even available with a 3 litre V6.
    How about the Megane Scenic, or the earlier 1990s Espaces (the ones that dont look like a small shed).
    Second worst car I ever drove was a 400 – I dont know what they made the rear suspension out of but it was terrifying at anything over 45mph. Front end plastered to the road – back end swaying around like an elephants buttocks.

  6. I had a H-reg 416 GTi and to this day was the best car i ever had,absolutely loved it,ok it was strictly speaking a Roverised Honda but it was a cracking well screwed together car and it caused me to start loving Rovers again.Utterly and completely reliable always and not a vestige of trouble over 130k miles and like a fool traded it in against a V reg brand new 406 HDi-a good car in itself only i never got the driving position right made worse when i jumped into a 205 XE which was like slumbering into the settee only dreams are made of!

  7. Good point i guess – interesting fact – one of my cousins (i am not sure of the familial relationship) used to be a Sales Director for Peugeot, I think out in Singapore – He’s now retired to France and from what I understand isnt keen on the rolling disaster areas coming out of the company.
    I saw a 508 recently – pretty car, but it looked smaller than my dads old A-Reg Cavalier SRi. You didnt mention the 608 either although thats rarer than hens teeth.
    What about the Calibra (although I dont know where that was built). They’re a nice looking car and you can get a 4×4 too. Just dont mention the Frontera

  8. I bought an 04 plate Mondeo estate as a nearly new Ford Direct car in 2004 and put 30000 miles on it in a year. It was virtually a brush and shovel job at the end, Injectors and Fuel pump had failed, the brakes where grinding, wheel alignment was way out and could not be sorted, it leaked water – which the Ford warranty didnt cover. The most unreliable car I have ever had. Hard to imagine one of these making a decent banger. Fords are designed to last about as long as the average fleet lease deal.

  9. What a superb article. One sometimes needs a banger and as such should preclude the characterful and prioritise criteria such as reliability. For me the f+cking K-series is out, as well as any modernish diesel. The Mondeo does it for me (no I must have the lovely Omega!) as the petrols are basically Mazda engines (apart from the surprisingly torque-free 6-pots) and that it out Passats a Passat in being Germanic and reliable. Was the 406 built in blighty though Keith?

  10. Sorry to be a pain…..
    ..The 406 should not be listed here as it was never built in the UK.
    As an ex-PSA employee, I can confirm all right hand drive 406 models were built in France. Its predecessor, the 405 was a Ryton model, and then when that went out of production, capacity was switched tomthe 306, and then prior to closure, the 206. Will Keith allow us to submit suggestions for a car to replace this in his excellent British built or badged family bangernomics top ten article?
    My vote would be for a 24v Scorpio.

  11. Dull as dishwater, but the Vauxhall Vectra fits the bill, if the Avensis, Primera and Mondeo are included. Made in Luton as well.

    I was going to suggest the Vauxhall Signum (also very dull) but they’re still over £1000…

  12. P38 Range Rover,not a particularly corroded vehicle and scary electrics,but a bit of fun for a bag of sand for a early Mregor a squirrel and two dolphins for a really shagged one?

  13. Just had a thought, the old shape Transit Tourneo. If you take out the 3rd row of seaths, you have an absolutely massive boot, plus the seats are nice and comfy, the GLX versions have the toys, and Transits are always cheap to mend

  14. A rough, but nevertheless serviceable and MOT’d Disco can be had for under a grand, and a 200/300tdi one as well!

  15. I agree with Jemma about the Laguna Mk1- not the most impressive car of its generation (I used to deliver hire cars not long after the time of launch and drove these and its competition), but a worthy banger nonetheless. Unlike subsequent Lagunas it didn’t tend to suffer engine failure within weeks of first delivery, and was not too difficult to fix.

    I had one for a year, and although it cost me to get it through the MOT the only problem I had during that year was a broken front spring (a common problem). However, it failed the following MOT so I scrapped it, but that is the thing about Bangernomics- it didn’t owe me, so it was a painless farewell.

    Not the most exiting cars to drive, but workmanlike nonetheless. Not too thirsty (mine was the 1.8 petrol), but comfortable and spacious, and everything worked (not bad for a 13 year old French car). And despite not seeming to have an impressive built and materials quality when new, the interior held up very well- indeed, I was going to trade it in for a BMW Tourer with about 5000 miles more on the clock than the Laguna, but the BMW interior was completely shagged by comparison.

    Watch out for the fan belts on diesels though- on these engines a broken fan belt can throw the cam belt off- destroying the engine (this happened to a work colleague with a Megane diesel).

  16. Had a 406 HDi, had enough commonrail diesel headaches to put me back onto Petrols (a Honda no less).

    If 406s weren’t built at Ryton – were 306s? The rare (but cheap) 306 saloon is almost 406 sized.

    Laguna diesels with the old school engines were workhorses, though steering could fail, and they weren’t built in the UK.

  17. Nissan Primera’s do have this very dull image don’t they? I took the plunge and bought a 2001 1.8 4 years ago (it wasn’t in the bangernomics price zone at the time but prices were dropping like a stone). I wasn’t expecting much from it and just needed a decent family sized load lugger.

    It’s proved to be totally reliable and apart from the usual servicing costs has not given any problems in nearly 70,000 miles. The only money spent was on a new exhaust system last week (at £320 not cheap but shouldn’t need replacing for years), I was amazed to find the exahust that failed was the original, which is pretty good for a 10 year old car.

    A 1.8 Primera is never going to set the pulse racing in speed terms but its got enough power when needed for safe overtaking and the suspension set up is great for twisty roads.

    I’ve also owned a 98 Rover 400 1.4 S (cost £1700 7 years ago)and can honestly say that it is still the most comfortable car I’ve ever owned, with the best suspension set up ever and a lot quicker than you’d think with a 1.4 engine. However, I had regular problems with the power steering and after 3 expensive repair bills it still gave me problems so had to go.

    From recent experience of two work colleagues who both have Lagunas in the bangernomics price range, simply avoid them. Both have cars that have annoying electrical gremlins that have proved random and costly to fix and in one case recently left them unable to get in their car due to an engine management failure left them locked out in the middle of nowhere in Wales.

  18. Perhaps someone can explain why Ford counts as a British badge in this article but Peugeot doesn’t. The Mondeo wasn’t built in Britain and neither was the 406. Both marques are foreign owned. Both built cars in other countries years before assembling them in the UK. And at the time these bangers were built (early 2000s) both had factories building cars and parts in the UK. So if the Mondeo is allowed in this article then the 406 should be too.

  19. @26 Yes the 306 was built at Ryton. The one to have is the original thinking mans GTi – the 306 D -Turbo. The XUDT 1.9 was unburstable, gave 45 to the gallon, and you got a great kick in the back when the turbo kicked in at 1800 rpm.
    This particular 306 looked like the XSI yet only had group 5 insurance – bargain. This was Peugeot at its pinnacle for real world motoring, and the advent of the HDi common rail in 1999 was in many peoples eyes within Peugeot the start of the decline of their diesel supremacy that they had enjoyed since the 80s.

  20. Having just sold my 45 TD and bought an Omega 2.2 CD I am looking forward very much to enjoying 7p a litre savings at the pump as well as driving a car with a decent rev range, as good as a diesel 45 is, it never liked the country roads around here.

    The Omega is my first ever non MGR car, and as such it has a very hard act to follow!

    Keith-a blog will be written soon!

  21. A rover 400/45 petrol shouldn’t be dismissed if it’s had a new head gasket (or is a 2.0 T-series) as once that’s sorted the rest of the running gear is simple and easy to fix. I’ve just got an ’04 50k 1.4 for less than a thousand pounds and it’s as tight as a drum.

  22. Service Parts for them are becoming increasingly NLA. If only there was a forum to support owners in keeping their HH-Rs running.

  23. Update, its 9p a litre savings, thats almost 45p a gallon in ‘old money’.

    Renault Laguna, I believe one of the few cars that got worse each time it was replaced? I know of an N reg 2.2 that has over 150k miles on the clock can’t see it being replaced anytime soon.

  24. There’s plenty choice, and it’s amazing that so many different cars end up in the sub 1K price range.

  25. I think it would be interesting to redo this list again in 18 and 36 months time to see what else gets promoted to the ‘Bangernomic Premiership’ after all its a fluid situation, we don’t hold on to these cars forever (8 months is about my limit!)

    Anyone want to predict what we’ll be seeing appear in the sub £500 list in Spring 2014?

  26. Regards the Nissan Primera’s. I’m sure the P10 original Primera was launched in Oct 1990 (not 89). Yes the P11 version was a 1995 launch and facelifted in 99.

    I know someone who has bought a cheap 2003 Mondeo LX on an 03 plate which is quite a lot of car for the money he paid and it seems to run okay.

  27. @34 apart from smoking from gummed up ringed due to poor servicing the petrol mondeos are a good chap car.

  28. Discos are rarely falling to around the grand mark, and the ones that are, put it this way, its out with the mig welder and multimeter time, also odds on the 2nd gear synchro will have gone bye byes, and the only time you have to worry about oil leaks on them is when they stop leaking, it means there is no oil left in them. Cheap ones usually get snapped up very quickly by the ‘mudrunner’ types, to be butchered into off road toys.

  29. @33 In 18 months time, I the X-Type Jag will drop down into bangernomics territory. If you are after a family car for a grand, these will be unbeatable – Mondeo mechanics economy and reliability, Jag image wood and leather – in my opinion this will knock the 75 off the pedastal for bargain british luxury at a grand.

  30. @30

    I’ve not had any issues getting hold of service bits. Considering the engines are shared with everything from the 25 to the Lotus Elise and MK1 Freelander and the running gear is available from Honda dealers I can’t see how it can be much of an issue getting service bits.

  31. I drove a few early Primeras, generally 1.6i models – the company I worked for ran 3 on the fleet. They weren’t much to look at, and were a bit basic, but I really enjoyed driving them – the engines were lively, and it was an entertaining steer. I used to regularly drive from Telford to London and back – very capable on the motorway. Felt well built too. I looked around for one when I needed a banger a couple of years ago, but they were like gold dust (as is the K11 version of the Micra – also a superbly engineered, British-built Nissan – and surely the best banger money can buy).

  32. Volvo 850/S70/V70 is a great car missing from this list. Nice five cylinder engines, excellent comfort and lots of space. The common things to look out for are dodgy heater matrixes, ‘clonking’ door hinges and jammed glovebox doors on the 850.

    If you stay away from post 1999 cars that featured electronic throttles and coil packs in place of distributors then there are really not that many horror stories to be concerned about.

  33. Hi Jeff,

    I refer the honorable gentleman to the second paragraph of this piece:

    ‘With this being AROnline, we’ll limit our choices to British-built or badged cars – but even limiting our geographical options leaves us with plenty of choice, some of which are very interesting indeed.’

    Given the amount of interesting alternatives, I’ll do a counterpoint piece for ‘foreign’ motors in the coming days 🙂


  34. Was surprised (or maybe I shouldn’t be) that X types, even early petrols, are still holding their value.

    Mk2 Avensises and 7th gen Accords will probably start coming in under a grand, especially petrols, within the next couple of years. Great cars for the money!

    Quickly browsing the local gumtree ads, I can see a couple of last gen Primera (the pointy Laguna based one) petrols that if you walked up with a grand cash, you could drive away.

  35. Omega, Mondeo (though hows a Mondeo British when its built in Genk)or Primera from this list are my choice. Cheap reliable and pretty much easy to repair as parts are so easily available, and all three are a hoot to drive.

    As Keith said the Foreign motors part means the Focus has been missed off, which you can get cheap and are reliable as hell. Grandfather has a W reg TDDi which is still brilliant, while my friend has a 51 plate which other than the scratched paintwork is perfect.

  36. I suppose I just made this a little bit more open to interpretation, and in doing so, encouraged debate.

    It added Vauxhall and Ford as both a perceived by most buyers as being ‘British’ or at least ‘domestic’. Hence the British-badged, and British-built comment at the start.

    I’ll do a Bangernomics Pt 2 later.

  37. Bangernomics coupes?

    R8 Tomcat, 800, last of the XJS spring to mind. The Capri, if you can find a good example for under a grand. Same with the MGB-GT. You might get a Scimitar for a grand that would keep the DIYer busy.

    Accord, 406, Cavalier (Calibra), Mondeo (Cougar) have coupe versions though foreign built. Going foreign also gives us the timeless 916-type GTV for under a grand (and fun for the DIYer).

  38. Got to say the Mondeo stands head and shoulders over anything on that list. I had a 55 plate Ghia x , best car I ever owned. Comfy, well built, good engines. Super car

  39. @ Will M – A decent Capri for under a £1000 – no chance. You need at least £4000 to get a decent one while a mint 280 Brooklands will set you around the £10k mark.

    Actually a Ford Probe can be picked up dirt cheap and they are pretty good to drive (if not to actually look at).

  40. If Ford Coupes are what people are interested in for bangeromics money, howabout the Cougar? Still a smart looking car even now.

  41. I looked forward to buying an Omega for years, then found it awful to drive due to dreadful steering.

  42. I looked at an Omega once, mid 90s with the 2.5TD.
    Terrible rust, more like a 70s barge than a 90s saloon. I think they did solve the rust proofing on later models.
    Have driven a 2.0 petrol model, lovely cruiser though it was too easy on the motorway to sit at illegal speeds!
    The turning circle (due to it being RWD?) make it surprisingly easy to park.

  43. I had a Range Rover classic soft dash (one of the M reg ones that were never supposed to be built). £1000 cash, LPG conversion by RPI Engineering and full stage 3 tune up. Spares service items were interesting, some RRC, some P38 and some Disco/Rover 600. MOT ran out ofter 6 months, body was dissolving, transmission on last legs, suspension goosed, brakes shot to pieces, so sold it to a member of local off-road club as an engine donor for one of his toys.

  44. Vectra’s on the list as long as its not an estate, a Signum or an Automatique – because they are all German!

  45. Omega is a excellent family car very underated in it’s time. Cheap as chips now.
    10+ Year old petrol Mondeo’s with some history make good buys.
    My favorite would be the Primera excellent drivers car. Although the 1999 1.6 ex demo I had for 5 years whilst utterly faultless, was not that good on petrol.
    Discoverys especially the TDI’s if bought carefully can make good buys.

  46. @56 The good thing about the 300TDi is if it costs you a grand and fails the follwing year due to rot you can still command upto a grand for the engine all day long.

  47. Keith

    When you do your continental list, don’t forget the Alfa’s. I’m on my third (a GTV Twin Spark, a highly chipped 156 Sportwagon and my present V6 Spyder) – absolutley fabulous and all available now as cheap as chips. Admitedly the 156 cost me 8 grand to buy and 8 grand to keep on the road for 18 months – but hey, it was capable of keeping up with a Boxter and giving me 45 to the gallon! Unchipped and sensible, the Alfa JTD is well known for utterly reliable service for a quarter of a million miles. Do the cam belt on time, replace the suspension bushes every 15 thousand miles and enjoy. Also enjoy one of the most stylish and comfortable interiors of any car – streets ahead of even today’s low rent BMW plastics and rock hard seats. And before any Alfa myths start flying – no, I have never had an electrical/electronic failure – ever. In any case, there is nothing quite like driving a proper Italian V6 sports car from Alfa. The problem is a lot of people don’t understand that Alfas are not mere machines……..!

  48. My Dad wasn’t impressed by the first (1996) Omega he owned, but the face-lifted (2000) one after was much better.

    He recently sold his 2002 Mondeo after 9 1/2 years of near trouble free running.

  49. Comments on the S Type Jag. I was talking a old boy who lives round the corner, he bought a low mileage v6 for less than 2K. with a known fault of, discharging it’s battery after standing for more than 24 Hrs. He took it to a local Jag specialist. They went for a central locking solinoid right away. Sure enough that was at fault, a common fault appaerntly. Im not a fan of the looks, however Its is a lot of car for the money.

  50. @58 – I wholeheartedly agree – I’ve had 2 Alfas – one until 120k, the other up to 60k. Both were utterly reliable, with only minor problems. Fabulous to drive, with bags of go, and loads of character. No electrical faults, no trim falling off. My 156 was more stylish than any BMW or Audi, and as well built, with superior leather trim, and a much better designed and made dashboard than the decidedly low-rent ’61 plate A4 I borrowed today. The only downsides were the poor turning circle, and constant jibes from non-believers………A 2.4 JTD 156, with highish miles, but a full service history, and enthusiastic previous owners can be had for pin money – buy from an Alfa specialist and you won’t go far wrong…….

  51. @53 Stewart

    I think originally the 800 was omitted because Keith was aiming for post 2001 plated cars, obviously the inclusion of the 600 muddies the waters a little but the vast majority of 800s on sale now are 825s and who could advise buying of those over a sorted 75?

  52. Nice to see the Discovery getting a mention, I rate my ’93 200tdi as the best ‘trailer towing work-car’ that I’ve ever had, it was a bit of a search to find a good’un 2 years ago & plenty of jobs to do to make it ‘perfect’ but 50,000 miles later it’s never broken down. These are my reasons for choosing it in favour of a 300tdi, less complex electrics, better cooling system. Later 200’s have anti roll bars which make a big differance, ALL owners of any coil sprung Landy should replace the rear tie bars with stronger after market ones; The O/E tie bars have a ‘friction welded’ joint that can break without warning. Body rot can be horrific & they hide their sins so a good look underneath is essential. Rust problems aside its like a big Morris Minor; Really easy to maintane & parts are cheap. I’ve been so pleased with mine I’ve bought another, the elusive low mileage one owner ‘minter’ which is stashed away in my garage; All my motoring needs are sorted for the next 20-30 years!

  53. I have run several Rover 600s and two in a particular, a 94 620SLI and a 95 620SDi. Both gave trouble free service and cost pennies to buy and run. Covered 60,000 miles between them for about the same as two payments on a new 06 Focus a friend of mine was buying at the time!

    I ran a 98 1.6 Primera from new to 70000 miles and it did over 230,000 miles before expiring including 70,000 miles as a pool car after I left the company I worked for when it was ‘my’ car, which is tough on any car

    VW Passat is a possible good option too

  54. @66

    Other than the UK built slant to the article, cheap Passats that aren’t ropey are hard to come by, especially the diesels (VW Borings too) which seem to be picked up by boy racers who increase the amount of diesel burnt, putting out huge clouds of black smoke every time they as much as breathe on the accelerator.

    In terms of foreign bangernomics, Octavias – the diesels get snapped up by taxi drivers, but the petrols can be had for under a grand.

  55. Good selection, but the thing that would tempt me the most at this level emerged on Pistonheads a couple of weeks ago in the shape of a tidy MG ZS180 for 750 quid. Worth it for the noise alone and you get great chassis dynamics thrown into the deal.

  56. The best British Banger for easy of maintainence and joy of driving has to be the Rover 25. I’ve got one for sale if anyone is interested in proving my theory.

  57. @62 Simon_hodgetts
    Id go along with Alfa’s too. We bought a low mileage base model 2004 1.6TS 147 nearly 2 years ago at a bargain price its been a joy……. so far! It replaced an truely awful Polo 6N2.
    The Alfa interior fit and finnish is good. You have to look hard to see quality short falls. For example poor quality and poorly fitted sound proofing, Lots of un clipped cables under rear seats, Poorly fitting instrument surrounds, Paint finnish is quite good, but seems to chip very easy. Far more so than our Shogun
    Our so called pertol head friends sniggerd from the word go that we actually bough ta an Alfa! One said “Whats that fizzing noise? It must be your Alfa rusting away on your drive”…. How we laughed!
    We’ve just completed a very comfortable 2000mile round trip to visit some friends in France without a problem. We averaged 42MPG

  58. I’ve said it before – the 45 has aged so well. The car above makes the point!

    The greater simplicity of the L-Series is a big plus point as a used buy.

  59. A great shame that the wonderful 75 is a risky bet because of often bodged head gasket replacement. Oh, have I been there!!

  60. I’ve spent my entire life living in Bangeromics territory. The best two cars I’ve had have been my previous ’94 BMW 525TDS Tourer (after being re-mapped)and my present Rover 75. Mine has been reliable (and it’s got a turbo-K series!) and is by far the most comfortable and smartest looking. I have to like a car or it gets abused to kill it off. Out of the above list, the Rover 75 stands most chance of survival.

  61. I have yet to see a rotten 75,already i am seeing MOT fail ’54 plate focus and ’01/02/03 plate mondeos (surprisingly).

  62. Fords of the late 90s seemed to rot very easily. As did similar aged Mercs.

    I see a heck of a lot of rusty bmw E46s. Thats the fabled german build quality that motoring publications keep ramming down our throats no doubt.

    In fairness my 2002 D9 406 had terminal rust on the bottom of the nearside doors.

  63. My normal mechanic mentioned that Mk3 Fiestas either rusted quickly, or stood stayed solid, with hardly anything in between.

    My Mum’s one only rusted where it had been involved in a couple of knocks.

  64. I bought an Omega V6 CDX a year ago and absolutely love it. Payed £625 for a fully loaded, fast barge. I do service work on cars myself. Had the usual rocker gasket change, converted oil filter to spin on type and that’s it. A good valet and it’s showroom condition. Only drive it when we go out as a family as can’t afford 28mpg otherwise.

  65. I’ve seen an alarming number of Carina ‘E’s lately around here, including estates! Cockroach cars it seems in Suffolk

  66. @80, Yorkiebusdriver,

    When I worked for a hire car company doing deliveries, easily the worst ‘drivers cars’ on the fleet were Carina E’s.

    I swear the tyres were made of wood, as the car had zero traction in almost any gear- it was ridiculously easy to spin the front wheels unintentionally in the first three gears! The low grip made cornering on our Cotswold roads quite ‘interesting’. Another issue was that the view out of the back window was very limited- a bit like peering through a letterbox.

    They were supposed to be designed specifically for the European market- but the styling was typically Japanese (and bland Japanese at that), and it seemed the only real consession that Toyota made to European tastes was to have the indicator stalk on the left rather than the right- although logically, a RHD car should have the stalk on the right, so the driver can flick it for overtaking when using the left hand for changing gear.

  67. The first Avensis seems to be indestructible, there are loads of them running around here as taxis; I do wonder how roadworthy some of these old cars used as taxis are.

  68. @82 – Yep and they are pretty bomb proof even if they are awful to drive. My Uncle used one for his last taxi before he retired – he sold it to the bloke who bought his plate and its still going strong with a few 100K on the clock.

  69. If you’re putting British built family cars on this list. I’m surprised the Vauxhall Vectra hasn’t been put on the list. They were built in Luton or Ellesmere Port.

  70. Peugeot 607’s – strange styling – are mostly near Coventry, as they were almost exclusively Peugeot management cars.

    Early X-types are now less than a grand, even at dealers. I am currently driving a 2.5 petrol 4×4. Traffic was slow on the M1 this morning – a steady 60-65 gave me 42mpg over 30 miles!

    Jemma, I’m no expert on elephant’s backsides, but has it occurred to you that your wobbly 400 might have been faulty? Cream crackered back shocks, perhaps?

  71. I struggle to find an X type for less than £2.5k.

    Petrol Lexus ISs are starting to come down to near the £1k mark. Yes they aren’t UK built, and have an Alan Partridge image (after his Rover 800 and 200) but try not to get an abused wannabe gangster one (for once, Lexus lights are not a cue to walk away… 😉 ) and they’ll be reliable.

  72. Almost tempting, though my head says that an X type for under a grand would bring nothing but heartache…

  73. Oooohooohooohooooooo eughhhhh X-Type at £1k = early 4wd example = thirsty and awful when new = shagged and unloved now.

    S-Type maybe better bet?

    Tempted by a 75 Diesel though with a bit of cash spare for the usual injector bills.

  74. I vote for the Rover 620 SLDI never had any problems and still see Rover 600 diesels used as taxi’s in Cardiff with (probably) huge mileage. Most seem to have the same rust spot above the rear bumper near the wheel arch. Only issue (big consideration for a family car) is the rather shocking NCAP rating (probably good in its day!!! ) It would be interesting to know of the above which holds the best NCAP ratings, given the vast age range of the designs I think we would have quite a gap between best and worst!

  75. My vote would be Rover 600 (620 SLDI) diesel 600’s are still used as taxis In Cardiff (prob huge mileages) all rusting in the same place though (just behind rear wheel arch). Only issue for family car is shocking NCAP score (probably OK at the time but very poor today)- given wide range of vintage on offer above I wonder what car is safest?

  76. I’m currently running a 1998 Nissan Primera 1.6 Si. Frankly it is the best all round car I have owned in a list of 15+ banger- nomics mobiles over ten years.
    It was given, yes -gratis,.. given to me by the original owner, an old chap and friend of a friend who had decided to give up driving. When he discovered the almost ‘scrap’ value of his cherished mobile, he decided to just hand it over to anyone who could find use for it. My name was brought up and I was contacted.
    It had just over 48k on the clock when I collected it last October. Its got a meticulous service history too, every wiper blade recorded by the old chap!
    I’ve put 3k on the car so far and it has not missed a beat, Its taken us on a holiday to the south of France and on two trips to Cornwall, 400+ miles away from Up here in Yorkshire,
    It just does its job! ..Yes its a little road noisy compared to its contemporaries, perhaps the ride is a little firm and the turning circle isn’t great. But I would recommend one to anybody! Wonderful, reliable family transport with a big boot, a sporty feel and cheap! Have a look on the -‘Bay and the ads, low miler P11’s can be picked up for beer money and if mine is anything to go by, they would not disappoint those looking for value motoring!

  77. How about a Mazda 6, a Japanese take on the Mondeo that can do 200,000 miles if serviced early year? My mate has an 02 plate 1.8 model that still goes well, has had no problems and can return 40 mpg on a long journey. I daresay some of these will be available for under a grand now.

  78. I’ve been running a Primera 1.8 Sport for seven years after buying for very low money as a short-term runaround when I desperately needed wheels. This followed an accident when an HGV ‘didn’t see me’ and wrote off my much-loved ’93 Mondeo.

    I wasn’t expecting much and intended to take out a loan for a decent car but boy have I been taught a lesson. Despite the low price it’s exceeded expectations and been the best car I’ve owned.

    I like the fact the few faults it does have are easily DIY jobs. Great owners club at NPOC by the way – they show the way to run an older car. The primera has never let me down and everything still works despite a hard former life-I am the fifth owner.

    No real negatives, it does everything and more. I actually like the way it looks. Sport trim in silver helps.

  79. Surprised no one mentioned the XJ6 X300 from 94 to 98, these are cheap, plentiful and thanks to Ford, reliability was close to best in class. Car still looks rakish and classy. Ran one a few years back, lived like a king for cheap.

  80. Can’t recommend the avensis enought. Cheap to buy, cheap to run, cheap to fix. Only grumble us the price of road tax at £123 per 6 months (who taxes a banger for a year) but I suppose that’s a relatively small price to pay.

  81. I have been told that the very last model of Ford Escort is a good banger buy, if you can find one (they seem to be getting quite rare now). Come to think of it, isn’t the Mk1 Focus getting into that price bracket now?

  82. The pre-facelift 45 dashes are pensionable but get one with a post-facelift dash & it looks as contemporary as an post 2001 bangernomics car.

  83. Rover 25 definitely belongs on the list. I’ve had mine for a year and 12000 miles. Gone all over Europe with it and other than regular maintenance and new discs it’s been flawless. What’s best all this for a mere £650 including a working aircon ( ideal this summer).

  84. Omega was built in Russelheim, Germany
    Mondeo was built in Genk, Belguim

    I thought this was a list of British built bangers?

  85. You can avoid the £1000 clutch fix on the 75 by going for the Auto! It doesnt matter what engine choice you choose though theres a big bill hiding for the unwary!

  86. A big problem with too many of these cars is size plus engine size. If I tried to insure a V6 Jag, a siren would go off at any insurance company I called, I would end up paying more for insurance than the car is worth.

    Until ripoff insurance is dealt with and British insurance is a ripoff, it is far cheaper in other countries. Only those with 20 years no claims could afford to run many of these cars.

  87. “Rover 25 definitely belongs on the list. I’ve had mine for a year and 12000 miles. Gone all over Europe with it and other than regular maintenance and new discs it’s been flawless. What’s best all this for a mere £650 including a working aircon ( ideal this summer).”

    There was a rust survey done on various models and the 45/25 did not do well. Too prone to rot, the Jag X-typw was even worse.

  88. The Rover 45 in that picture is just beautiful! And they are fine handling cars – I really want a 45 saloon…

    The Mondy 3 is a dependable motor, mine isn’t the finest example but she’s done 155k now and I’ve
    put nearly 35k in just over a year with no problems other than the secondary fuel pump…

  89. I owned a 600 for a number of years ant I could not fault it, i gave it away to a friend of my brothers as it had 160K on the clock and I assumed the engine was in its twilight years and well into borrowed time (I always owned fords prior to this and 160K was impossible on one engine), the last time I saw it it had 230K on the clock but was not looking so pretty as it had been used to demolish a few walls!

    No ford cars have been made in the UK since about 1998 and they seem to have become experts in designing cars that last 10 years/140K and no more (except the peugeot diesels), even the Bosch diesel pumps seem to die around this time! a 2001 Mondeo with tin worm isn’t bad going in my view!

  90. A less well known but cheap and reliable choice could be the Hyundai Sonata from the early noughties, a big, comfortable saloon with plenty of kit and a decent turn of speed in V6 form.

  91. We have had numerous 75’s, ZT’s and X types and an S type.

    I love them all.

    Our 2001 S type sport is fab and we have a 75 diesel which is great too.

  92. An interesting choice could be a Seat Toledo( pre hatchback model). A tough, reliable saloon that had a following as a taxi and diesel versions are capable of 55 mpg and 200,000 miles if serviced correctly. It’s a lot cheaper than a Passat due to badge snobbery, but is a better car due to cheaper servicing and lower used prices. Also like all SEATs, driving is quite good fun and it goes well.

  93. No E36 316i or 318i? A great banger, Cheap as chips, still loads about and quite easy to fix. A decent one drives well and the parts are almost giveaway cheap.

      • BMW are the bad guys on this website. They killed Rover, don’t you know!

        Agree an E36 3-series is a good choice for those who enjoy driving. There are still a few nice well maintained pensioner-owned E36s out there.

        • E36s seem to succumb to rust, as do early E46s.

          Merc C classes are even worse for rust.

          Stepping down to sub-Premium, from Sweden the evergreen 9-3 and the mk1 Volvo S/V40 can be had for buttons, both have mostly escaped the attentions of chavvy max power mods.

Add to the debate: leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.