Which of these used cars would you buy for £2.5k? | Top Gear
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Sunday 2nd April
Top Gear Advice

Which of these used cars would you buy for £2.5k?

Three options for £2,500 that approach fun from different angles – and achieve it at different angles

Three used cars for £2.5k
  • Three used cars for £2.5k

    Freedom of choice. 

    It’s an album by Devo, a quagmire in the USA that we’re absolutely going to breeze past, and the topic of today’s article. We’ve brought three decidedly cheap, surprisingly decent and definitely disparate cars together; now you have the freedom to choose which car you’d spend £2,500 on.

    And, in strange serendipity, two of the cars we found for £2.5k had 2.5-litre engines. And all three had engines, so we could call that 2.5 out of three. If we were really trying. Or we could just move on to the cars and stop trying to see patterns where they clearly don’t exist. Onwards!

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  • Jeep Cherokee 2.5

    Jeep Cherokee 2.5

    A manual Jeep Cherokee, from when they were actually a) small enough to work in Britain, b) kind of nice to gaze upon, and c) something you could rely on to work on days that end in ‘y’. And then it goes and spoils it all by doing something stupid like having a diesel engine. 

    The diesel Jeep Cherokee is slow in ways that are difficult to fathom. German opera. Continental drift. The time it takes a Top Gear writer to get to the point. These are all faster than a diesel Cherokee on the open road. 

    But then it’s not about being on the road, is it? After you plod like a Santorini donkey over terrain that’d stump any number of ‘thoroughbred’ off-roaders, you’ll know where to find fun in an old diesel Cherokee: wherever you want.

  • Mazda MX-5

    Mazda MX-5

    Well, it is always the answer, after all. 

    So we wouldn’t blame you for immediately diving after the reliability of something Japanese first, and then remembering the MX-5 is actually one of life’s little treats. Lightweight roadster stuff, handling, twin-cam engines. All that good stuff. 

    But reliability is one thing; longevity is something else entirely. The world, and the universe it twirls through, are rather unsympathetic. And as a result, however particles, elements and atoms are arranged today is not how they’ll stay forever. Or, to put something of a point on it, all cars break eventually. 

    Just how cars break is rather case-dependent, as you might expect. But even reliable cars, owned by reliable people, eventually succumb to some kind of science: oxidation, abrasion, decomposition. In the case of an MX-5, that’ll be oxidation, generally around the wheel arches. 

    But as biology and physics have proved, life is short, and all things fall apart eventually. So maybe don’t sweat a few rust bubbles too much. After all, salt water’s pretty corrosive.

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  • Alfa 156

    Alfa 156

    Finally, we have the 156: a car that Alfa really did its best with. Considering it started with a front-drive Fiat platform and about €300, for the 156 to look and drive as well as it does is a minor miracle. And then there’s the sound. The twin-cam, Twin Spark fours are actually pretty decent-sounding things, but we’re not here for that; this is about the Busso V6. 

    And this clean, low-mileage and roadworthy 156 2.5-litre, for sale in a place called Dorking (which we will never not find funny), is a gateway into the world of Giuseppe Busso’s famed V6 engine. And by gateway, we mean ‘gateway drug’ – owning an Alfa made under the... well, let’s say ‘stewardship’ of Fiat, is every bit as emotionally and financially ruinous, and the Busso V6 as easy to give up. Even now, seven years clean, we still think about buying another Busso-powered Alfa.

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