If your car has developed a fault, or for consumer advice, turn to Honest John by emailing [email protected]
Some don’t like it hot
After my car developed an unpleasant odour a bit like mould or mildew, which seemed to be emitted from the heating and ventilation ducts, I did some research and discovered that it is good practice to switch the air-conditioning on to a hot setting in order to kill any bacteria that might be present. But can you suggest how often should this be done? And for how long should the air-conditioning be left on its hottest setting? AB
If there’s a bad smell caused by bacteria, I suggest running the air-conditioning for 15 minutes to fully evaporate any lingering condensation in the trunking and kill any bacteria therein (you’ll have to stand beside the car rather than sit inside it). Once you have done that, it should only be necessary to switch the system to hot for only a minute or two at the end of an air-conditioned journey, again to evaporate the condensation.
We are thinking of purchasing a Kia Niro but should we get the Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) or the Plug-in HEV. We will do about 10,000 miles a year, so which would suit us best? MT
If a lot of your journeys will be short (under 10 miles) and you can have the appropriate charging equipment installed at your house, then the PHEV makes sense. If most of your journeys will be 20 miles or more then the self-charging hybrid makes more sense.
What are the pros and cons of buying a Renault Zoë with and without the battery? JC
You either buy one outright with a battery and face the capacity – and hence the range of the car – declining over the years. Or you buy one with a leased battery, at about £50 a month, with a commitment by the lessor to replace the battery when it drops below a certain capacity and range.
I want to buy a second-hand, small, automatic SUV. l have a budget of £17,000. The diverse array of automatic gearboxes is bewildering. What should I avoid and what would you recommend? JW
Seriously consider either a Peugeot 2008 1.2 Puretech 110 EAT6 or a Suzuki Vitara S 1.4T Boosterjet six-speed auto. Both of these have torque converter transmissions and that is the best option if you want to avoid trouble with clutch packs, actuators and mechatronics.
Be wary of run-flat tyres. Last summer in the south of France we drove about 80 miles in a BMW X1 and, on turning for home, the red puncture warning light came on. With no obvious sign of a flat tyre we limped along very slowly and carefully. It turned out that the light was a warning of a very hot road surface. There was no mention of this in the manual. DN
It will have been a TPMS (tyre pressure monitoring system) warning that the pressures had increased by more than 4psi from the “learned” pressures on which disparities are gauged. Normally, running a tyre heats the air inside sufficiently to increase the pressure by 2-3psi, but a long run on a very hot day can increase them by more. Once the warning is made the system has to be reset to remove it.
I want to buy a petrol automatic Peugeot 3008 but am unsure which engine size would be best. I travel about 10,000 miles a year, half on motorways. What should I consider? MS
Look at either the 1.2 Puretech 130 EAT8 torque converter auto or the 1.6 THP EAT8. So far, there has been outstanding reliability from the 1.2 Puretech and the EAT6. The EAT8 is new and even smoother.
I have a 2007 Vauxhall Vectra estate with 270,000 miles and wish to replace it. I think it has the largest boot apart from a Mercedes or an older Volvo estate. Do you have any suggestions? JC
The last Vectra estates were indeed big. Current alternatives include a Ford Mondeo or Škoda Superb estate.
I have owned a January 2012 Nissan Qashqai 2.0 4WD Tekna CVT from new and it has done 26,500 miles without problems. Do I continue to run this car, anticipated annual mileage 5,000, or do I replace it? If I change I need a 2.0-litre non-turbo 4WD SUV, with a glass roof, for no more than £30,000. Any suggestions? DW
I have received a lot of complaints about failures of CVT transmissions in Qashqais, but the numbers have to be set against the huge number of sales and the faulty transmissions seem to be confined to smaller engines. There are no two-litre non-turbo 4WD SUVs apart from the Mazda CX-3 2.0 Skyactiv G 150 Sport, which has just been refreshed.
I am a business user and drive 30,000-plus miles per year. I bought a new Alfa Romeo Giulia diesel three months ago. I can honestly say it is the best car I have ever driven. I have yet to find a single fault, but I have never seen another on the roads. Why? What’s the catch? JA
I'm seeing plenty, but I have a spotter's eye. They look lovely. When the Italians get it right, they're still better than anyone else.
Decades ago, truck engines stuck out at the front but now most UK and European cabs have the driver on top of the engine. But the US generally sticks with the "old" shape, as does Australia. I'm curious to know why these differences exist. TW
There’s a greater chance of survival when hitting a large animal in Australia. It is also easier to maintain and repair if you don’t have to tilt the entire cab to get at the engine.
Not all that new...
What are the new road tax rates that were introduced in April 2018? AR
The new flat rate of £140 for most cars was for those first registered from April 1 2017. For older cars the annually rising CO2 rates still apply.
The Frozen North?
I have a VW Up, but have moved to the Scottish Highlands to look after my mother. I need something reliable and economical, with easy access for an elderly passenger. It must be sufficiently robust to cope with the A9 in winter. What would you recommend? SC
It's a matter of how much you can spend. A 4x4 is not necessarily the best solution because winter tyres or even all-weather tyres on a front-wheel drive car can get you through snow better. Maybe a Dacia Sandero Stepway will do the job without costing a fortune.
A wish called Honda
We are looking to buy a Honda Jazz with an automatic gearbox for up to £12,000. Which models should we consider and perhaps avoid? We would rather avoid Honda dealers, so where is best to buy? MG
For £12,000 you’ll get a 2012 or later Jazz 1.4i VTEC CVT-7 or a Jazz hybrid. The one to avoid is the 2008-2011 Jazz i-shift, which is an unsatisfactory automated manual. You could probably even get the latest shape Jazz 1.3i VTEC CVT-7, which is very economical but a bit slow. Try drivethedeal and carwow.
The contract hire agreement on our Škoda Yeti 1.2 petrol automatic expires in March 2019. As this model is no longer made, what’s the best car of a similar size? JE
The direct replacement is the Škoda Karoq, the same as the Seat Ateca but with sliding and removable rear seats. It has the same DQ200 seven-speed dry clutch DSG, but no need to worry about that on a three-year contract hire. Or look at the much cheaper Dacia Duster 1.6 SCe Ambience, which even comes with sat-nav for £13,195.