If your car has developed a fault, turn to Honest John by emailing email@example.com
We ordered a new BMW X3 2.0 M-Sport and were assured of delivery wthin three months. We have now been told that delivery will be delayed because BMW has to fit a particulate filter, but ours is a petrol model. What is going on? SL
More and more cars are being fitted with petrol particulate filters to comply with the new WLTP emissions and fuel economy test that came into effect on September 1, 2018. This is actually quite a good thing. When you finally get your car, it will be up to date in advance of new emissions regulations coming into force.
My son lives in Canada and tells me that the majority of cars that skid off the road there are 4x4s. Overconfidence? NS
As always, it depends on the tyres. A 4x4 won't save you. A set of proper cold-weather tyres might, because the siping picks up snow and creates grip between the snow stuck to the tyre and the snow on the ground. As a bald statistic, there are probably more 4x4s in Canada so there is bound to be a higher proportion of accidents involving them.
Skyactiv’s the limit
I’m looking for a reliable, small to medium automatic SUV. Any suggestions? LS
The best small automatic SUV is the Mazda CX-3 2.0i Skyactiv six-speed torque converter auto. Another possibility is a Honda HR-V 1.5i VTEC CVT-7 but, though it's more versatile and more practical, it isn't as good to drive as a CX-3.
I drive a BMW 435i but have decided that it is time to look at something more practical. I live in an area that gets more snow and ice than most, and I also need a modicum of off-road capability for fishing trips to the Scottish Highlands. My annual mileage is quite low, so a petrol vehicle would be best. I am looking at the BMW X3 (maybe a little too big), Audi Q5, A4 Allroad or Range Rover Evoque, either new or used. Which would you recommend? JK
You can get petrol engines in the current X3, but maybe you would prefer an X1 or X2. An Evoque with the Ingenium SI4 engine is a far better prospect than one with the Ingenium diesel. There are plenty of VW Group 2.0 petrol SUVs. The cheap (but good) option is a Dacia Duster 1.2 TCe Laureate 4x4, which is about to get a new body.
Out of Africa
Two friends are returning to the UK permanently after 25 years in South Sudan. Clearly they have no insurance track record here. I seem to recall some months ago you published the name of an insurance company/broker that is sympathetic to people with this dilemma. TC
It was www.aplan.co.uk/personal/motor. Not cheap, but they did cover a Thai monk visiting the Wat Buddhapadipa temple in Wimbledon.
Between 2000 and 2016 I owned four Mazda MX-5s. I then reluctantly changed to a Mazda2 as my husband was finding it difficult to get in and out of a two-seater. Sadly he has now passed away and my thoughts are turning once again to an MX-5. Am I too old, at 80? DC
Access will become increasingly difficult and there's not a lot of space, but only you can decide whether that’s an obstacle. A possible compromise (without the fresh air) is the Mazda CX-3 2.0 Skyactiv G 150 4WD - a sporty SUV.
Reviews of the latest Honda Civic are divided as to whether the 1.0- or 1.5-litre petrol engine is best. Any thoughts? TD
It depends on your usage. For short, local journeys the 1.0 is perfectly adequate. If you will mainly be driving distances, go for the 1.5. And if you will be accumulating more than 20,000 miles a year, look at the new EU6D-compliant 1.6i DTEC diesel.
I’m looking to buy a Skoda Kodiaq automatic and can’t decide if I should buy petrol or diesel (I do 17,000 miles per year). What’s the best engine/gearbox combination? PW
Below 2.0 litres, as far as I know, the Kodiaq still gets the problematic DQ200 7-speed dry clutch DSG transmission. If you choose a 2.0-litre model or above, you’ll get the superior DQ381. You'll lose about 10mpg going for the 2.0 TSI rather than the 2.0 TDI, but the car will be nicer to drive. The diesel is EU6, of course, and needs AdBlue, the cost of which seems to have shot up from £15 to £25 (for 10 litres).
My wife isn’t comfortable driving my 14-year-old Audi A4 petrol auto because of its size. Are there any four-door petrol cars (smaller than the A4) with good visibility that permit one to see easily around corners? MC
You get the best forward visibility in a Hyundai ix20, Kia Venga or Citroën C4 Picasso. A Honda Jazz isn't bad, either.
Is there any Japanese vehicle that compares well with the BMW 225XE Active Tourer? Our family experience is that, long-term, BMWs become expensive to maintain. MK
You might be able to import a right-hand-drive (Japanese/Thai market) Toyota Alphard hybrid. This is a big, soft-riding small van, often fitted with two luxurious, multi-adjustable armchairs in the back. A different take on an opulent car.
Panda to her whims
I’m looking for a new petrol-engined car for my wife. She likes the seating position of the Suzuki Jimny, but we’re not getting one due to its poor economy– and there’s a new one coming out soon. Are there any similar cars you would recommend? RB
There may be a few old Jimnys left but they’re very unrefined – the new one will be much better. Another contender is the Fiat Panda Cross TwinAir. It has a six-speed gearbox with a low first ratio, which makes it better off-road than the five-speed diesel. If all-wheel drive appeals, look at the Panda 4x4.
For the last 10 years my wife has used basic supermarket petrol in her 2006 1.2 VW Polo. I have started refuelling it with a major name brand. The car has done 84,000 miles and she wants to keep it for as long as possible. Is it worth paying the extra 10p per litre for super grade fuel? DP
Definitely - not just for the octane but also for the engine cleaning additives.
Disc on so late
My granddaughter has a problem with her 2005 Mini One, which shudders under braking. The discs have been changed, but the service team cannot find the problem. Any ideas? NF
The front suspension and reaction arm bushes could be severely worn.
Bang for your Buxton
I’ve driven Land Rover Freelanders for the past eight years and have been very satisfied with them for comfort, reliability and load space. The time has come to look at a replacement. The obvious successor is the Discovery Sport, but I've heard bad reports. Although I cover about 15,000 miles a year, a petrol engine is preferable because of the current diesel controversy and I need four-wheel drive to cope with rough farm tracks and often inclement winter weather in the Peak District. JM
There’s a limited choice. You can get a Mazda CX-3 2.0 Skyactiv G 150 4x4 or a petrol 4x4 CX-5. Consider a Suzuki Vitara S 1.4T Boosterjet 4x4, Toyota RAV4 2.5 hybrid or various VW Group 4x4s with the 2.0 TSI engine and 4WD. The Kia Sportage 1.6T GDI 4x4 also works very well.
Extras, read all about it
I am buying a car listed at well below £40,000, but with extras it costs £41,000. I am paying £35,000, so will I still be affected by the extra annual tax? If so, would I be allowed to pay for the car separately from the extras? NL
No. The car is taxed from years two to five on its list price including all factory-fitted extras, plus delivery charges to the dealer, and any preparation costs such as number plates. It does not include the £50 first registration fee and the first year's showroom tax, which can now be as much as £2,070 if CO2 emissions are above 255g/km.
Cold comfort firm
I have been looking at two cars with Grip Control - the Peugeot 2008 and Citroën C3 Aircross. How good are they in relation to a 4x4? FT
In winter road conditions they are actually far better than most four-wheel-drive vehicles running on summer tyres. I’ve driven a 2008 with Grip Control electronics up the one-in-three ski slope at Tamworth Snowdome. Couldn’t believe it. The 2008 and Aircross also benefit from Peugeot's excellent 1.2-litre Puretech 110 and 130 petrol engines.
Halt, who goes there?
Which small family cars are fitted with automatic emergency braking as standard? WC
It's not necessarily a standard feature but usually has to be specified as an option. The Ford Focus has had it as an option since 2011, the VW Golf since 2013. That said, it is becoming more commonly fitted as standard to smaller cars, including the 2017 Kia Rio.
Ceed of doubt
I plan to replace my 2013 VW Golf 1.6 TDI Estate, which has served me well for 10,000 miles a year. My shortlist is: same again, a Kia Ceed SW, Hyundai i30 tourer or Vauxhall Astra estate. I'm also uncertain whether to stay with diesel or petrol. What do you suggest? CK
If you do only 10,000 miles a year, you should not buy another diesel. If you choose a Golf, try the 1.5 TSI Evo 150. The new Kia Ceed SW will be available with 1.0T GDI and 1.4T GDI petrol engines. Vauxhall also offers a very good 1.4T engine in the Astra. The new 200bhp three-cylinder chain-cam 1.5 petrol engine in the Fiesta ST will filter down in lower powered versions to the Focus.
We are looking at the possibility of purchasing a new car and wondered if you thought a PCP (personal contract plan) was better than a PCH (personal contract hire) in principle. MW
It depends on the total actual money you will pay. And the level of commitment. With either, there can be huge penalties for early termination. You will also need gap insurance to cover any shortfall between an insurance payout in the event of a write-off and the amount still owed, but that is relatively inexpensive via independents.
Making itself heard
We have an early Range Rover Evoque SD4 on Michelin Latitude Sport 245/45 R20 tyres. The road noise is terrible, particularly on large aggregate tarmac. Are later models quieter, or are there quieter tyres? NW
Your problem is the bling 20-inch wheels and 45-profile tyres. Switch to 18-inch rims and you can get 235/60 R18 Michelin Cross Climates.
Stars and sipes
What are the best siped-tread all-weather tyres to give maximum grip on snow and ice? I have a 2015 Volvo S80. BS
As mentioned many times, I like Michelin Cross Climates. (Sipes are fine cuts in the tread of cold-weather and all-weather tyres - they pick up snow and allow snow-on snow traction.)
Bling and buy
If the problem of large wheels and low-profile tyres is well known, why do manufacturers offer them? GT
Because it's a money maker. Tyre manufacturers discount the large tyres to manufacturers, because they know they will make back many times that on replacement costs due to a low-profile tyre's increased wear and vulnerability to damage caused by speed humps and potholes. And most people think they look better than the more comfortable option of smaller diameter wheels shod with tyres that have a much deeper sidewall.
Do you have any evidence that speed humps cause structural damage? My house is crumbling. NM
You would have to commission a seismic study to measure the tremors transmitted through the ground to your house. See: www.captiondata.com/can-traffic-induced-vibration-damage-buildings.
A year ago my daughter bought a 2013 Ford Kuga. She has two young children and is expecting twins, so the Kuga is not going to be big enough and she needs to get a seven-seater, preferably as a straight swap for the Kuga. Do you have any recommendations? WH
The most straightforward swap, at a Ford dealer, would be an S-Max or a Galaxy. The S-Max is better to drive, the Galaxy more spacious.
We’re buying a second-hand motorhome from a large, well-respected dealer for the advertised price of £39,000. It comes with a one-year warranty and a new MoT. The test has just taken place resulting in four advisories: all the tyres are “cracking”. Should I be worried? The vehicle has been little used during the last year: merely 250 miles. Is it unreasonable to expect the dealer to replace all four (at their cost) before delivery? PB
It’s not at all unreasonable to require all tyres to be replaced with new, branded, high quality tyres (not cheap rubbish). Coachbuilt motorhomes are not very stable, so a blowout could have serious consequences. If the dealer won't do this, walk away.
Rhapsody in pink
I would welcome your advice regarding my 2005 Mercedes C180K Classic SE, which has been regularly serviced and has just clocked up 90,000 trouble-free miles. It also runs on premium-grade petrol. The next service and MoT are due soon. Is there any work I should consider? WF
It’s probably a good idea to change the automatic transmission fluid (now 12-13 years old). If it has a dipstick, you can check the colour. Translucent pink is perfect. Red not so perfect. Black urgently needs changing. This has to be done by a dialysis process at precisely the right temperature and pressure, best by a member of www.fedauto.co.uk.
Having binned thoughts of buying a used Audi A3, I am very interested in a new Kia Rio 1.4 five-door auto. Are there any issues with this car? MR
Kia is now making cars that delight drivers with their handling and steering, but the new Rio isn't one of them. The best are the new 1.0 three-cylinder turbo models. The 1.4 petrol and diesel are dull, but Kia’s cars are extremely well equipped and the four-speed torque converter auto is reliable.
I have been considering a new VW T-Roc. During discussions the dealer suggested I purchased GardX paint and interior protection at a cost of £625. Is it worth having and is this a reasonable price? JB
The GardX treatment will probably cost the dealer £100-£150, so the rest of that £625 will be commission. A tub of Autoglym High Def Wax is about £50.
Been here before…
There are now many small SUVs with three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbo engines. How should one look after the turbo? Run for a while after each journey or just journeys using acceleration? Is it wise to use premium petrol? JY
There are no problems with everyday motoring. Because the turbos are watercooled, the heat from the turbo warms the engine (and the car interior) more quickly in winter. But it’s best to idle the engine for a minute or two after a long run on the motorway, after a long ascent or after towing, to keep oil and coolant flowing through the turbo while it is still red hot.
In cold weather, is it good practice to let the engine idle for half a minute or so before pulling away? Should you limit the speed for the first couple of minutes? And is there a difference between petrol and diesel in the respect? RM
No. As soon as your windows are clear, drive straight off. If it's petrol, try to keep the revs down to about 2,000 for the first five miles. If it's diesel, try to keep the revs up to about 2,000 to help with the particulate filter regeneration.
Fair part convention
I would like your advice on extended warranties. I have been quoted £175 for one year for my Skoda Yeti, which seems reasonable. Do you agree? GS
Yes. That’s cheap for cover that comes from a dealer who will attend to any warranty work. As long as it isn't riddled with exclusions it makes sense to me.
Shudder to think
I have owned my 2004 Honda CR-V from new and it has done 93,000 miles. Recently, it has developed a steering-wheel shudder when I accelerate to 60mph on entering the motorway. I have had the wheels checked for balance and they are OK. Before I take it into my garage, and realising that I could be told about many costly possibilities, I wondered if you have heard about a similar problem and the cause? ID
It could be a driveshaft CV. But the first check (to make sure it isn't a tyre) is to swap the fronts with the backs on the same sides. It might also be caused by water ingress to the rear diff that causes a problem with the 4WD system.
Much ado about nothing
I recently purchased a four-year-old Nissan Juke automatic. No problems, but when driving through traffic lights there is occasionally a bleep. I took it back to the garage, but they were baffled. Any suggestions? AM
It may have a safety camera warning system built into the satnav. This will warn of traffic light cameras as well as speed cameras. It possibly works as a speed warning if you are over the limit when close to a camera.
I have suffered diesel particulate filter (DPF) problems on my Jaguar XF for eight years and now want to change my car. I am considering a Jaguar F-Pace. Am I likely to have the some problem if I buy a diesel version? MW
If you have had DPF problems with a 2010 Jaguar XF, this suggests that your pattern of use created them. Go for petrol.
Hart of the matter
My Triumph Stag was registered in July 1977. When does it become eligible for historic vehicle tax exemption? SS
It became exempt at the start of April 2018.
I was forced to accelerate hard recently and my car belched a big plume of smoke. It is a 2007 Mercedes E320 CDI with 85,000 miles, but is running well and is regularly maintained. I don't think any smoke can be a good sign, but should I be concerned? IL
Not surprising. It might simply have been blowing off soot collected in the rear silencer. On the flipside, it might be due to worn injectors, failing valve stem oil seals or, more likely, failing turbo bearing oil seals.
My BMW 3-series Touring is three years old with 44,000 miles. It is automatic, diesel and xDrive with main dealer service history. As I intend to keep the car, should I be aware of any potential problems? DB
Pay attention to your xDrive. The Haldex-type clutch will need fresh fluid and filter at the end of year four. And a disparity of more than 3mm in tread depth between the tyres will lead to damage. Also, if it has a B47 3.0-litre diesel engine there has just been an exhaust gas recirculation valve service action.
My wonderful 2006 Jaguar XJ6 is becoming increasingly expensive to keep. I am looking to trade it in for something with a bit of character, comfort and flair and am extremely tempted by a late-model Saab 9-3 Convertible with low mileage. Is this a sensible option? JR
They felt fine at launch, but haven’t necessarily aged well. If you buy one, make sure you get the Saab chain-cam engine, not a belt-cam Vauxhall unit - and definitely not the 1.9 diesel.
DSG query shock…
I run a 2013 VW Tiguan 2.0 diesel with a DSG auto seven-speed gearbox. I have never had any problems with it, other than the controller being a bit vicious sometimes. JC
You have the DQ381 or DQ500 DSG, which do not suffer the problems that afflicted the earlier DQ200. They do, however, need fresh fluid and filter every four years.
A life less ordinary
My wife has bought a new Ford Fiesta Sport and believes supermarket petrol is best for it. What should she use? GP
She's wrong. It needs superunleaded 97-99 RON – and it's advisable to stick to the same brand to get a consistent package of additives. If she runs it on ordinary petrol she's far more likely to have problems.
My wife and I both drive my Mazda6 diesel Tourer and her MX-5 and have maximum no-claims discount. Now partially retired, I have additionally bought a small petrol car (Skoda Citigo - a super buy) for short local runs that aren’t ideal for the diesel, and was astonished that my NCD can’t be taken into account for its insurance. My modest achievements in life don’t include driving two cars at once. Is this unfair, or am I missing something? IB
You need to switch to a multi-car policy that consolidates the NCD for all cars. Admiral does one.
What are your thoughts/experiences of a 2017 Audi A4 Avant TFSI S-line 190bhp automatic? I am thinking of buying one for £26,000, with just under 11,000 miles on the clock. It has 19-inch wheels. Am I right in thinking you’ve had reservations in the past about the DSG gearbox? TB
This will have the DL382 longitudinal seven-speed wet clutch S-tronic transmission. There has been a bit of trouble with it in the past in the Q5, but nothing like that on the transverse DQ200. Those 19-inch wheels aren’t a great idea - low-profile tyres suffer on badly potholed UK roads.
Is The Highway Code regularly updated to recognise technical improvements to vehicles that shorten stopping distances? I am off to a course to educate me about driving in a 20mph zone and I'd be grateful for advice. IB
The old Highway Code gave a stopping distance from 20mph of 12 metres, which is six metres "thinking distance" and six with the brakes applied. Of course modern braking systems should be more efficient - but these days there is also a risk of increased stopping distances due to drivers being distracted. If you're attending a speed awareness course, don't argue. Just sit there and listen.
I understand electric cars and their limitations, but thought a hybrid car ran on electricity provided by battery and, when necessary, its petrol engine kicked in to assist. I was of the opinion that, when running in petrol mode, the charge in the battery was maintained. If that is so, could you please explain the point of a plug-in hybrid? JW
EV capability, basically. A fully charged plug-in hybrid gives you an electric range of 20-30 miles. After starting a plain hybrid, you get very little immediate electric range. Once into the journey, as you say, both of them regenerate, running sometimes on the petrol engine, sometimes on the electric motor, sometimes on both.
I’m delighted to read positive comments about the Vauxhall Astra. Mine was a distress purchase after the bitter disappointment of a Toyota Auris Hybrid. I could not live with the CVT racket and general noise. My Astra SRI 1.4 turbo automatic cost £13,000 at eight months old with 8,000 miles. More to the point, after a year of ownership it’s probably the best car I’ve owned – perhaps even better than my old BMW 3-series. AK
That's very good news, especially for the workers in Ellesmere Port.
Variable VED timing
It is possible, with careful timing, to transfer ownership without a tax rip-off. When it became necessary to transfer my VW Passat to my son, we waited a few days until the new tax year was due on April 1 and took action as follows. My son purchased insurance to commence at midnight on March 31. Earlier in the day I informed the DVLA via the internet that ownership had been transferred. On April 1 my son, using the internet, taxed the car in his name. GB
Well done. You managed it by using the electronic system to beat the system. This doesn't usually work, so top marks for succeeding.