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Who has What Car? helped this month – September 2017

Readers contact our Helpdesk every day with questions and appeals for help with car-related problems. Here are their stories

Words ByClaire Evans

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Alex Porter and his Kia Rio

Kia tries to 'gag' complainant

Owner rejects goodwill offer that comes with conditions

I bought a second-hand 2012 Kia Rio 3 in March 2017. The car has a full service history with seven stamps from Kia Milton Keynes and is still under warranty.

Unfortunately, the vehicle developed two faults: it became difficult to get into gear and went into limp-home mode. My local dealer, Kia Colchester, couldn’t look at the car for a month. I tried Kia Braintree and was advised to call Kia Milton Keynes to find out if additional work had been carried out.

That was where I encountered the rudest person I have ever spoken to. He refused to tell me any information about the car for data protection reasons. He shouted at me down the phone before hanging up. When I called back, he started shouting again, then hung up for a second time.

I complained and received an apology on behalf of the Kia Milton Keynes service manager and the offer for Kia to cover the Β£82 cost of the diagnostics work that would be needed to ascertain what was wrong with my car. However, the offer was made on the condition that I stick to the following terms:

β€œ1. [The matter] is private and confidential, so all details must be kept private and confidential between you, Kia Motors UK and the Kia dealer involved.

  1. If you’ve placed a complaint or adverse comment in the public domain (eg on an internet site or forum), these complaints or adverse comments must be removed, and no further complaint or adverse comment about the subject matter of the goodwill payment or gesture should be published.”

I refused the offer, because it amounts to a β€˜gagging order’ that means people won’t be able to find out what owners really think of Kia’s cars.

I eventually got the car looked at by Kia Braintree. They advised me that the clutch needed to be replaced to solve the problem of it being difficult to get into gear. They wanted Β£650 for the replacement. I questioned the diagnosis but was met with a brick wall. I had the clutch replaced elsewhere at a cost of Β£350. However, when I went to collect the car, I was told the clutch wasn’t worn out and that the most likely cause of the problem was air in the hydraulic system.

So I complained to Kia again. They responded by offering me Β£75 worth of goods or services, provided I agree to the same gagging order.

I refused the offer again. I am disgusted by the policy, which is paying me to remove – and not leave any further – negative comments publicly. I think it is totally wrong.

Alex Porter

What Car? says...

We contacted Kia UK to find out if the conditions Alex was asked to agree to were its standard goodwill payment policy and received the following statement: β€œFollowing the experience the customer has had, we did indeed offer a goodwill payment of Β£75 towards any Kia goods or services. We also offered to cover the first inspection charge as a gesture of goodwill (Β£82).

β€œCompensation or goodwill is within our UK company policy. However, there is no standard procedure for this; we treat each case on its individual merits. Our goodwill/compensation payments policy has been in place for five years and is approved by our legal team.”

While it may be legally acceptable to attach conditions to the offer of goodwill payments, it risks skewing social media comments. We also question the need for these conditions, because if customers are given goodwill payments, they’re likely to post positive comments. So Kia is potentially doing itself out of good publicity by making customers feel uncomfortable about accepting the payment.

We also contacted a number of other UK car brands to see if they operate a similar policy and were told by seven – CitroΓ«n, Fiat, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, Toyota and Hyundai, Kia’s sister brand – that they do not attach any terms or conditions to goodwill payments.

Kia’s policy of insisting that matters relating to goodwill payments should remain private, and that in order to receive a goodwill payment the owner must remove negative comments from social media and not post any future ones, is morally questionable – especially when Kia places such value on owner reviews.

Best replacement for a Galaxy for Β£8000?

One reader needs to find a small, economical replacement for their Ford Galaxy

My daughter and son-in-law’s Motability contract for their Ford Galaxy ends in October and they cannot afford to buy it when the term ends. Their daughter was being treated for leukaemia. They need a similar-sized car to the Galaxy, because they have three adult-sized sons and Sophia, who is eight. They have around Β£8000 to spend. Could you suggest a suitable vehicle, or should they try to find a Galaxy for that price?

Brian Lofts

What Car? says...

There are quite a few good seven-seat cars for your daughter’s family to choose from; among those we recommend are the CitroΓ«n Grand C4 Picasso, Ford Galaxy, Volkswagen Sharan and Touran and Volvo XC90.

CitroΓ«n has put a great deal of thought into making the Grand C4 Picasso’s interior as practical and versatile as possible, so the seats are easy to move around and it has plenty of storage. It doesn’t hold its value as well as German brands, but that’s good news for your daughter, because it means Β£8000 should get her a 2014 model with less than 50,000 miles and full service history.

There’s little to choose between the Galaxy and Sharan. They are both great for accommodating a family of up to seven. Expect to get a 2011 model with around 60,000 miles for an Β£8000 budget.

The Touran is smaller than the Sharan but is still spacious enough to transport seven adults. It costs less new than the Sharan, so there are more Tourans around within that budget; we found a few 2013 cars with full service history and less than 70,000 miles.

An SUV is a good alternative if you’re after a seven-seater, and the original Volvo XC90 is roomy, practical and around in large numbers second-hand, because it was on sale for a decade. The newest cars we found with reasonably low mileage (below 65,000 miles) were first registered in 2010. It’s worth checking that the rearmost two seats will be comfortable enough for the children. The XC90 is a popular family choice, although it isn’t the most affordable option.

Narrow automatic city car needed

Reader wants to buy a new car that will fit on her drive

I’m looking for a city car to fit in my narrow driveway. I used to have a 2011 Hyundai i10, which was just compact enough. The replacement must be automatic with a small petrol engine; a three-door model is acceptable. Which car would you recommend?

Betty Day

What Car? says...

The latest Hyundai i10 is our favourite city car; in fact, it’s the only one that manages to score a full five-star What Car? rating, thanks to its combination of quiet cruising manners, efficient engines and a tall, airy interior.

This version can be had with an automatic gearbox but it is marginally wider than the original model at 1660mm, compared with 1595mm.

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