What will they cost?
You can find a decent example of all of these cars for well below £10,000 nowadays, but it’s the BMW 3 Series that looks like the best value of all. Given its considerable talents, it’s remarkable that you can pick one up for so much less than you’ll pay for the equivalent Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
In fact, the C-Class is the most expensive car here; it’ll cost you more to get hold of one with similar mileage – or, if you have a budget in mind, you’ll have to settle for a less desirable example. The flipside, of course, is that you’ll get more back when the time comes to sell.
But the Audi A5 Sportback isn’t far behind. In fact, some traders are selling Sportbacks for even more than the equivalent C-Class, making it look like the poorest value of the lot.
That leaves the Volkswagen Passat CC as the cheapest used car here though, realistically, the difference between this and the 3 Series in prices is little more than the price of a dinner out for two. And while the Passat’s comparative rarity might be enough to ensure that prices bottom out earlier than they will for the 3 Series, its badge doesn't have the same cachet.
It's also worth bearing in mind that the Passat will cost you more to run. It drinks more fuel and emits more carbon dioxide, which means it’s in a higher tax bracket than any other car here. At least it’s the cheapest to service.
It’s a similar story with the A5; it costs the same to service as the Passat, or as near as makes no difference, plus it’s comparatively thirsty and emits more carbon dioxide than the 3 Series or C-Class. On both counts, though, it fares better than the Passat, which is enough to drop it into a lower tax bracket.
Both the 3 Series and the C-Class are similarly efficient, but it’s the former that’s the cheapest of the lot, with the best fuel eeconomy and the lowest tax costs. That said, both cars will cost quite a bit more than the other two here to service.
Reliability-wise, none of these manufacturers has performed particularly well in recent dependability studies. The C-Class, however, has the best score in the What Car? Reliability Index, followed by the Passat, then the A5 Sportback, with the 3 Series performing worst.
With both the Volkswagen and the Audi, keep in mind the looming spectre of a diesel emissions fix, and make sure you’re satisfied with the situation as its stands before taking the plunge.
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