Andrew Elphick on the dearth of Dad’s cars on today’s new car market…
When I was young my Dad drove the kind of car money just cannot buy any more – the large, ordinary family saloon. It’s what Dads did back then – bought a big car cheaply, whether a Renault 20, an SD1, a Fiat Argenta or any number of mainstream, but not ‘quite’ luxury models. I remember quite clearly my Dad trading his Granada GL for a three-year-old Carlton CD.
Now, wearing my Dad’s shoes, I’m in the same boat – except that boat isn’t for sale anymore.
Family saloons have graduated into family executives; if I want a large car for a lot less cash I still just about have a (ever-depleting) choice. Ford’s Mondeo, Vauxhall’s Insgnia, Peugeot’s 508 are all still available in reasonable numbers. The once ubiquitous Laguna is now only spotted by detective agencies, Nissan’s Primera morphed into the capable Qashqai and a used Accord or Avensis costs as much as a used Lexus now. The Passat went all posh, though VW Group’s Skoda still serves up a choice of Octavia or Superb. Sadly, Rover’s long gone.
Even by adding all the above up, you will likely find they are outsold by the BMW 3 Series. Desirable new and used, they make far more sense to the Financial Director than the cliff-face residuals of some of the above marques.
Of course, the family hatchback is plentiful – you can chose a Focus or, maybe, a Leon, but there never seems to be quite enough room for three abreast in the back or two weeks of holiday belongings.
What alternatives remain, then? History often reminds us of the alternatives. Cheap cars have always been available but, let’s face it a ‘brand new’ FSO, Riva, or the Estelle couldn’t hold a candle to their contemporary used peers. Octav Botnar’s Oriental invasion through the ’70s into the ’80s (Datsun) made headway, until Datsuns and Nissans cost as much as a regular car. Luckily, those crafty Koreans spotted the gap in the market and filled it (the ghost of George Turnbull in action) until the point where a Hyundai-Kia now costs the same as a regular car… déjà vu?
Okay, so who is 2017’s (or, more accurately, 2018’s) new challenger in the ‘new car for used car money’ stakes. Well, I’m sure you know – even if you didn’t, the current viral tide of this bargain basement brand is flooding the web.
Dacia. Yup, we know it’s Renault/Nissan leftovers in a frumpy smock, bare metal aplenty (and not in a Fiat Coupe way either) and hard touch plastics. However, £8999 for a new family car is headline news. We know only a dozen people will buy the £8999 model a year (in domestic white finish only) but you could, should you want to do so.
Will it kill the four-year-old, fresh off lease executive market? Of course not, curtains will always need to be twitched. But it might fill the ‘dad’ market until you can buy ‘dad’ cars again. Ultimately, it seems the modern motorist is stuck with pound shop VFM on one side, executive costs on the other. Nothing in the middle.
Anyway, have a peek at the Dacias in your local Renault franchise and report back – I would be intrigued to know whether you’d sign on the dotted line or the German flip key is where your heart lies.