I was on a radio station recently, sticking up for people who want to buy anything they pleased as a vehicle to use in a town or city.
Apparently, SUVs are incredibly daft cars on the whole and even worse in urban areas. Whatever happened to freedom of choice? The bottom line surely is ULEZ compliance, and that’s why the UK is experiencing the curious phenomenon of old righthand-drive petrol cars being shipped over from near-diesel-free Japan. For the time being, at least, petrol is back.
You may or may not be interested to know that the import of choice is quite often some old Toyota Picnic for a few grand. Meanwhile, a bigger budget will go in the direction of a colossal, never-officially-imported-here Nissan Elgrand eight-seater.
For instance, I found a 2007 car with a 3.5-litre V6, 60,000 miles and every power extra known to man, including xenon lights and fully reclining seats, for a mere £9995.
Then there are the real weirdos, like a seven-seat Yaris. Yes, really. I found a 2017 Toyota Sienta with a 1.5-litre hybrid powertrain, making it as futureproofed as anything can be. It would be perfect for driving your extended family around town and, even with fewer than 20,000 miles, could be yours for just £16,995.
Just by way of a warning, don’t go by the seller’s description or even an advertising website’s information about ULEZ qualification: make sure by visiting Transport for London’s site and querying its registration there.
This can bring you to appreciate the latent beauty of a 2006 Vauxhall Astra 1.8 SRi that you can buy for less than £800. Granted, it has done 100,000 miles, but it also has a full MOT and is ready to work in the city and be fairly fun on the open road.
The thing is, though, looking too much at Japanese import sites leads you to stumble across some absolute gems. Something that may not be ULEZ-friendly, but who cares? How else are you going to get a pristine 1993 Jaguar XJS 4.0 with 44,000 miles? This one is apparently as good as new, with a solid underbody, and all for £15,950. Imagine trying to sort out a UK-market car with almost 30 years of grime on it. Now this is a proper city car. Buy what you love.
Tales from Ruppert’s garage