Buyer's Guide: Cost the European downside
The Badge is a big influence for some car buyers, says Jack Biddle
Leo and Ann make no apologies for being brand-conscious when it comes to vehicle ownership. Mercedes-Benz has been their favoured choice of used vehicle in the past and, although running costs have been fairly high at times, they still prefer to drive European brands.
They are looking for a mid-sized vehicle with practicality but again, want to step outside the square a little and avoid an SUV if possible. “It seems everybody is driving an SUV these days but we are looking for similar benefits from another body style,” says Leo.
To help reduce those potentially high ownership costs, they are looking to buy something new or still under manufacturer’s warranty. The arrival of used imports over the years has certainly seen an increase in ownership of European brands. For many, they are an aspirational choice and have become a lot more affordable as used vehicles.
But they are not without risks. Those who can afford them new can also afford to move them on before potential high costs kick in.
From my past experience, mechanical warranty insurance policies on European vehicles were always more expensive due to the higher risk factor for underwriters. Regardless, many buyers simply don’t want to purchase anything else because of other perceived benefits such as enhanced safety and better road-handling.
Mercedes-Benz B 200 ($63,500)
Mercedes-Benz has been the one major European manufacturer that has been caught out by the huge swing to SUV ownership and, by their own admission, are now in catch-up mode. Maybe it won’t be a bad thing long-term, however. They are due to launch an all-new GLC midsized SUV in the very near future, which will no doubt bring a host of innovations and style, plus offer a vehicle with a real difference, much like their award-winning all-new C Class model has done.
In the meantime, look at the B 200. It’s a remarkably down-to-earth motor vehicle and offers simplicity and practicality for users while retaining that Mercedes-Benz point of difference.
On the practicality side, rear seats fold beautifully to provide a flat floor area, the rear hatch load height is very low and therefore user-friendly, and rear passengers have tray tables mounted into the rear of the front seats, which is a nice touch. Dashboard navigation for driver and front-seat passengers is a breeze; the only out-of-the-ordinary training required is to master the electronic gear selector switch, which is mounted on the steering column about where the indicator switch is on many mainstream makes/models. The 1.6-litre direct-injection and turbocharged engine (115kW) won’t disappoint either.
Neither will the low claimed combined fuel consumption of just 5.5l/100km. Increased safety features fitted as standard include Blind Spot Assist and Collision Prevention Assist with semi-autonomous braking function.
Audi A3 1.8T FSI Sport ($56,900)
The A3 (132kW & 5.6l/100km) is another non-SUV with impressive features and looks. In basic form it appears cheaper than the Mercedes but you need to sit down and work out the extra costs to equal the B 200’s specification level.
BMW 125I ($59,990)
The 125I is one player of three in the current 1 series 5-door model line-up. Plenty of power from the turbocharged 2-litre engine (160kW) combined with impressive claimed combined fuel consumption figures (6.3L/100km).
Don’t rely on looking at the various websites for easy information. Like their cars, the Europeans seem to like making website navigation a little more complicated than it needs to be.