10 of the best used cars for under £10k we’ve found this week
A whistle-stop tour of the excellent world of estates – or the wonderful world of wagons, for everyone else in the world
We’re firm believers in the whole ‘begin as you mean to go on’ idea around here. So if we’re going to feature 10 estates (wagons, for the citizens of... oh, just about every other country but this one) for 10 grand or less, you’d better believe we’re going to start with something special.
While choosing practicality over passion can often feel like it punishes you for the decision, the old S6 is absolutely the opposite. Yes, you can get the Audi / Lamborghini 5.2-litre V10 in quite a few wonderful cars, but isn’t it somehow better when it’s quietly tucked away in a big, practical family wagon?Advertisement - Page continues below
Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG
While the V10-powered Audi S6 does such a good job of hiding its light under a bushel that you could reasonably expect it to keep a bushfire under wraps, the E55 AMG lets one or two hints out about its vicious streak.
Nothing too serious on the visual front, of course, aside from gaudy exhaust tips. But it’s what comes out of them that gives the game away: a supercharged bellow that’s part Messerschmitt, part Megadeth. We love it, of course, but then we would. If you leave for the office at 6am every morning, your neighbours might not...
And you thought we were just going to run through everything overt and over-powered.
The Honda Accord is a hidden diamond in the rough. And it’s well-hidden, too – the Accord estate might be the perfect bank job car, because you’d be hard-pressed to remember it was even there.
Under the bonnet, however, is Honda’s legendarily reliable and free-revving 2.4-litre K24 engine, with bountiful opportunities for tuning, should you see fit. And when it’s connected to Honda’s sublime six-speed manual? You can run to the redline in the least plod-attracting car of all time. Definitely don’t break the law, of course.Advertisement - Page continues below
Audi S4 (Take your pick of two!)
Let’s say you’re sold on the idea of a fast Audi estate, but the S6 – or the running costs of a gigantic Euro V10 – is a bit on the big side.
Helpfully enough, there’s a fairly simple solution waiting in the wings. Or two, in fact.
Yes, it’s the S4 Avant, Audi’s smaller fast estate, which we’ve found in its still fairly large 2011 guise – with a 3.0-litre turbo V6 – and the one we’re in no way calling better, apart from the fact that it absolutely is.
OK, the old 2.7-litre is absolutely going to be more nose-heavy than the newer one (bolting the engine ahead of the front axle will have that effect), but getting access to the biturbo V6 – with six-speed manual – is too tempting to pass up. After all, it’s not like stiffer rear sway bars are exactly difficult to get...
Yes, it’s the E61 generation of 5 Series Touring, also known as the automotive sword of Damocles. It will go wrong; if you’re lucky, only one or two things will go wrong at once. And neither will be a fire. TG’s own Mark Riccioni did not have luck quite that good; his E61 M5 broke in pretty much every way a car can break (and sometimes in ways we rather didn’t think it could), before capping off the performance with a spot of self-immolation.
And we have to be honest here – while the 4.8-litre V8 in the 550i is a much less histrionic machine than the V10 in the M5, it’s still never going to be compared to a hammer in terms of simplicity or reliability. But the problems it does face are generally pretty simple things. Not ‘fix with a hammer’ simple, but more of the ‘how simple would it have been to use better gaskets, valve stem seals and coolant pipes?’ kind of thing.
Get it all humming, however, and there’s a hearty 360bhp on offer – and the same in torque – delivered in the proper, petrolhead-approved manner: from a naturally aspirated V8.
Yes, there’s the R badge – shorthand for ‘this is the quick one’ pretty much everywhere – but this is the old V70, before Polestar’s outsize involvement with otherwise sedate estates.
It will go pretty quickly, if you really ask it – the surge only really comes on after 3,000rpm, but you’ll get 295bhp and the same in torque when you get there. But the V70R, for us at least, is more about the lavish comfort, deep comfy seats and that broadly inexplicable feeling of wellbeing you get from sitting in a Volvo. Just us?
Of course, if you were so inclined, the five-cylinder Volvo engine block can take some serious amounts of punishment. So while it does take throwing a whole heap of parts at it – and possibly an entire toolbox – you can make more than 550bhp, and crack 180mph. Just the thing for getting that IKEA wardrobe home quick smart.
Vauxhall Insignia VXR
The Insignia VXR is in a bit of a tough spot.
It was the first VXR to be used with words like ‘sophisticated’, ‘subtle’ and ‘steering that isn’t a direct result of acceleration’, which meant it was the kind of car to take seriously.
But being a car that we’re supposed to take seriously means that the Insignia VXR put itself up against certain other serious performance-oriented family cars from other decidedly serious companies.
As we’ve demonstrated, you can go and get just that – the S4, probably – but a 10-grand Insignia feels like a perfect place to start building on that stout GM ‘High Feature’ turbo V6. It comes with a forged crank and conrods from the factory, after all, and the same basic engine is doing 470bhp and 440bhp in the CT4-V Blackwing. Just a suggestion...Advertisement - Page continues below
If you’ve not seen it, go and watch Top Gear TV’s Africa Special. If you come away from it without wanting an Impreza WRX with a tailgate, you’re doing better than we ever did.
OK, fine – you’re unlikely to have to traverse muddy Rwandan roads and get the full benefits of the full-time all-wheel-drive system, but then any number of people buy SUVs and never venture off-road. At least your folly still results in in an entertaining car.
Renault Megane GT 220
That the old Renault Megane RS was a brilliant hot hatch is hardly a revelation. But what happens when you need space for smaller humans?
Well, first of all, you can now admire your motorcycle as an immovable sculpture in your garage, so make sure it’s a pretty one. And yes, feel free to ask us how we know.
And secondly, you’ll be wanting something that gets you as close to the simple joys of one of life’s superlative pleasures: a good French hot hatchback. The GT220 (or whatever it’s called in your neck of the woods) doesn’t have a few of the RS’s finer points, but it does have two extra doors and the ability to be mentioned in the same sentence as practical. And when you’re a parent, a loss that small starts to feel like a win...Advertisement - Page continues below
Audi A4 Allroad
Of course, you could just give up on the pretence of performance altogether and buy what must be the Goldilocks of family charabancs: the Audi A4 Allroad.
Yes, we’ve featured enough Audis in this list to elicit serious suspicions of a jump into the world of PR, but the Allroad really does deserve special mention here. If SUVs never existed, you could consider it something of an oddball, and pretty much overkill for everyone except for those with country estates and undermaintained driveways. But because SUVs are such a blight... er, common choice for family wheels, the Allroad starts to look like the happiest of happy mediums.
You get the stress-free ride height and soft suspension of an SUV, but the driving experience of a real car. You get actual all-wheel drive, which isn’t guaranteed on the serried ranks of stupidly named and supremely ugly SUVs. And you get those plastic protectors that give off outdoorsy vibes strong enough to come with a pair of Hunter wellingtons on spec, but you don’t earn the derision of anyone with an ounce of automotive passion in their veins. Like... oh, no one we can think of off the top of our heads, anyway...