Citroen Xsara Picasso 2.0 HDi SX ’02/51, 32k, £6900 If you want a value-for-money MPV, look no further." />
Up to £12,000 BMW 523i SE auto ’00/W, 49k, £12,150 The new 5-series is a superb car, but it’s clear that the real value lies in these old-shape models. Indeed, just as last year, the real discussion in this class was what the runner-up would be.
As a new car, it won its class in the What Car? Car of the Year Awards on seven occasions and all the qualities that impressed us then still hold true.
Above all, it’s a superb drive. With a blend of ride and handling that can still humble more modern rivals, it’s equally at home cruising along the motorway or blasting down your favourite back road. Refinement is up with the best, too, and you’ll have to go some to tax this Five’s generous accommodation.
Buyers will also be delighted to know that our panel described the car as ‘virtually unbreakable’.
As with any Five, it’s worth shopping around. Try to find an SE-trimmed car. The cost will be higher but, as well as getting more kit to enjoy while you own it, it’s a guarantee of getting more back when you sell it on, too. For the same reason, if you can find a car with some choice options fitted, so much the better. You can be safe in the knowledge that any future drops in value will be modest.
The best cars, and the best choice, still remain with BMW dealers, but as more time goes by, increasing numbers of cars are hitting supersites and independents.
Wherever you buy your Five, though, you are getting one of the UK’s biggest motoring bargains.
£12,000 to £18,000 Jaguar XJ8 3.2 Executive auto ’00/X, 45k, £15,205 For many people, this is the Jaguar. Best of all, by waiting until its fourth birthday, it costs only the same as a new Ford Mondeo. For that, you get a beautiful transmission whose smoothness is rivalled only by that of the ride. The XJ8 may not be the most practical car – rear space is tight – and you should only buy a car with full Jaguar history, but it’s a bargain however you look at it.
Also consider BMW 728i SE ’01/51, 36k, £17,155
Over £18,000 Mercedes-Benz S320 ’01/51, 36k, £28,660 Although the consensus was that the S320 CDi diesel was the better car, there was no doubt that the petrol S320 is the better buy as a used car. The diesel is both too expensive and less easy to find. The cheapest S-class of all is the S280, but the larger-engined S320 is worth the extra and, like all S-classes, it gives you excellent space, high kit levels (but look for models with options such as sat-nav fitted for better resale values) and a superb price.