Honest John: my friend bought a diesel Nissan Qashqai, but only drives 6,000 miles a year. Did he make a mistake?

Diesel 
Environmental considerations aside, diesel isn't a good fuel for short distance drivers. If you travel less than around 20,000 miles per year, a diesel car is probably a false economy.  Credit: Jens Meyer /AP

If your car has developed a fault, or for consumer advice, turn to Honest John by emailing [email protected]

What could possibly go wrong?

My daughter has bought a 2014 Fiat 500, and wonders if it would be sensible to take out a 3 year warranty for £300? WB

£300 is very cheap for a three-year warranty, so check the warranty document very carefully for what it covers and, more importantly, what it doesn't cover; any claims limits, any maximum labour charge payments, etc.

Shortage of space

I have an excellent and much loved Jazz Hybrid Auto which is a few inches too long for my garage. I am considering exchanging for a Skoda Citigo 5-door auto or a VW Up 5-door auto. Which is the better buy and are there any specific models to avoid? AW

Avoid both of these because they have cheap and nasty automated manual transmissions. Go for a KIA Picanto 1.2 4-speed auto or a Hyundai i10 1.2 4-speed auto. You can get these to a high spec level with such things as an opening sunroof if you want it. And, of course, a 7-year warranty on the KIA or a 5-year warranty on the Hyundai.

Nots Landing

How can I find out when Land Rover started selling double cab pickups? I have been offered one that is apparently a 1972, and that feels wrong. Did not find anything conclusive online. AG

The tops of the bodies of LandRover 109-inch SIIIs were detachable so it could have been made out of a 109-inch County model with a pick-up bed instead of the rearmost section of cab. There was, of course, a regular SIII 109-inch single cab pick-up. There was also a forward control pick up with a variety of bodies: wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_Rover_series 

Living with failure

I put my car in for an MoT that it has failed. The expiry of the current MoT is 15th of next month. Can I legally use the car until expiry date? SW

No. Because it has failed its MoT it is deemed unroadworthy and that information will be on the central computer accessible by police.

Shrink

In our seventies, we are owners of a Nissan Note Tekna DIG-S Auto, purchased new in 2014. Since moving to retirement apartments on the doorstep of a town, our car usage has become less. With this and your comment regarding the Note Auto in mind, we’ve thought for a little while to exchange our car for a KIA Picanto Auto. Your advice would be appreciated. RM

That makes lots of sense. More compact. More reliable. And the reassurance of a 7 year warranty.

Wrong direction

My friend recently started a PCP on a Nissan Qashqai diesel for four years at approximately £250 per month. He tells me he is limiting himself to 6,000 miles a year, but will probably do less. In truth, he uses his cars very sparingly. Based on what you’ve said about the high initial cost of a diesel and that they need to be doing high mileage, do you think this was a sensible choice? I’m tempted to follow suit, hence my question. RM

No. The wrong choice entirely. But with luck he may get out of it at the end of the PCP just before the real problems start. In your case go for petrol. The new 1,332cc engine shared with Mercedes, Renault and Dacia. Or be really sensible and get a Dacia Duster with that engine instead. New Duster 1.3 Comfort from £14,500, including satnav.

Restaur-rant

I know that in the past you have given advice on parking problems in private car parks, but I haven’t seen anything recently so I am not sure what the latest situation is. We received a parking charge notice following an afternoon visit to a hotel in York where we spent about £250 on food. Is it necessary for us to pay this, or could we simply offer them a sum in reasonable recompense, say £10? Your opinion would be greatly appreciated. AW

The law (Beavis v Parking Eye, Supreme Court, November 2015) says you have to pay. If there were no notices warning that the car park was controlled, even for paying customers, then you could let the case go to Small Claims and you may have a defence, but by then the penalty could have risen to £120. Very stupid of the hotel not to have warned you of this. You might be able to hold the hotel liable.

Credit ire?

I recently received a letter from Hyundai advising me to contact them first if I was involved in an accident. Is this a scam to get business for them as an accident management outfit that will end up costing me more than just involving my insurance company? MS

This kind of thing can force you into the ‘credit hire’ of a courtesy car for the duration of any repair. But if it makes sure your car is repaired reasonably promptly to Hyundai standards without losing balance of 5 year warranty then it is not a scam. Otherwise, your insurer might repair it cheaply whereby it loses all or part of its balance of warranty.

Staying Mobil

Since I bought my Mercedes in 2010 I have been covered by their Mobilo roadside assistance. Luckily, I have only had to call them out once. It seemed a complicated business, though, requiring payment card details before they came out. I have often wondered whether I should switch to a more well-known road assistance provider. What is your view please? AD

I'd keep the Mobilo going, and the extended Mobilo body warranty. No other warranty will cover you against penetrative rust for as long.

Auting disaster?

We have a 7-year old Audi A3 diesel cabriolet manual, which has been regularly serviced and been trouble-free. We wish to buy an automatic and are thinking of a 3-year old Audi A3 cabriolet again but unsure as to which engine type to go for. Are we likely to have more mechanical issues with diesel and is the automatic transmission reliable? Would you recommend a different make? HW

If automatic, only consider an A3 with at least a 2.0 litre engine. Then you get a DQ250 or DQ381 or DQ500 wet clutch s-tronic. The DQ200 dry clutch s-tronic with smaller engines has a high failure rate.

Cracks appearing

My grandson’s 18-month-old Mercedes A200 AMG Line developed a slow puncture on the offside front wheel. A tyre fitter found there’s a hairline crack in the wheel, which is unmarked and tyre undamaged. I am assured the car has not hit a pothole. Have you any history of MB alloy wheels developing structural  cracks, as I’m told they’re not covered by any warranty and I do not wish to pay for a new wheel if it is a known problem? Would you recommend an independent inspection? DR

The bigger the wheel and the lower the profile of the tyre the more likely the wheel is to get damaged. That damage may be obvious or may be a hairline crack. The wheel would need to be examined in a metallurgical lab to determine if it was a manufacturing defect or damage.

Clutch 22

I purchased a new Ford KA+ Active on 1st September 2018.  After less than 500 miles it was returned to the Ford dealer on 1-11-2018. He verified the clutch was faulty and booked it in for a new clutch. After many calls to the garage I was informed they cannot locate a new clutch and cannot give me a date of repair, even though I have spoken to Ford Customer Services and Head Office. Fed up of waiting. Am I entitled to my money back? JF

Yes. Money back or a replacement KA: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/faq/consumer-rights/

Fobbed off

A family member has bought the latest Qashqai with all the gizmos.  The salesman assured her that it cannot be driven without the fob in the car. I seem to remember that this is the case with BMWs but the ungodly have a way round this. Does this apply to the Nissan? Is there a remedy if so? RB

If the scallywag can electronically boost the signal from the keyfob to the car so the car "thinks" the key is present within the car, then the car can be opened, started and driven away. To prevent this, proximity keys need to be kept in sealed metal containers or Faraday cages.

Under-charged

I can’t find your recent piece about stop/start system being hard on battery and it not operating automatically to save the battery. Also something about the alternator requiring a good run to counter the discharging by the stop/start system. Could you be good enough clarify my recollection of the article. AG

Stop/start systems require special batteries. To minimise emissions, many modern cars only charge their alternators on the over-run or while braking. So if you do very few miles you don't put enough into the battery for the stop/start to work and it won’t.

All for One?

I am considering buying a BMW X1 xDrive 1.8 diesel, but is the AWD xDrive value for money ? Should I look to the cheaper sDrive instead? RB

xDrive sharpens up the handling making the car much better to drive. Combined with all-weather or cold-weather tyres it also makes the car much more usable and safer in snow and slush. The penalty is that the AWD clutch needs maintenance every 3 to 4 years.

And the tyres have to be kept within 3mm of each other or the disparity confuses the system. Means swapping front to back same side every 10,000 miles. And, if the tyres are down to 4mm and you get a puncture, you will either need to fit a replacement same tyre with 4mm or replace the whole set.

If your car has developed a fault, or for consumer advice, turn to Honest John by emailing [email protected]

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