About this time last week I was browsing the classifieds for interesting estate cars. I’d been hankering after a Subaru Legacy, which is why one not-so-coincidentally ended up as the subject of last Saturday’s used car spotlight.
But the prospect of 25mpg put me off. It’s not that 25mpg costs that much more than the 30mpg minimum I’d set myself, but I just couldn’t bear the thought of fuel economy beginning with a two. So I kept looking, and this happened.
A friend pointed me to a classified ad on eBay UK. I’d been looking at Octavia vRS Estates anyway, but they were out of my budget for the sort of low mileage I wanted. Essentially I’d discounted the model… but I immediately saw this one was different.
This 12-year-old 2006 car, a prettier pre-facelift model, has the 2.0 TFSI engine from the MkV VW Golf GTI (just like I wanted), a boot even bigger than my old car (just like I needed) and will average a reliable 32mpg, or so all the forum-based owners told me. The car-buying portion of my brain quietly slipped to DEFCON 4.
It had just 50,000 miles on the clock, had been serviced every 4000-5000 miles of its life, had no obvious knocks or dents, had immaculate wheels with grippy Falken tyres, came up clean on a car history check, had never failed an MOT and was priced about £2500 less than it realistically should have been. That quickly bumped me through DEFCON 3 and 2. It was time to go and have a look.
It was in the care of a small-time trader in Southampton. I took a spanner-handy friend who had more experience with the EA113 2.0 TFSI engine than me, and we both took a turn in the impressively tidy driver’s seat. We agreed: it was a peach. So, bearing in mind the price, what was the catch? For one thing, the Black Magic paintwork – not my first, second or even third colour choice – hasn’t been looked after. The hazing, swirl marks and general surface nastiness looked a real mess under the south coast sun.
It’s overdue a service – in terms of time, anyway. It has only done 4000 miles since last seeing oil and a filter, but that was 13 months ago. An engine thermostat is duff, causing it to run 20 degrees cooler than it should, and it also badly needs a cambelt and water pump; Skoda’s guidelines suggest changes at 40,000 miles or four years but this one has done 30,000 miles and eight years since being changed. Ah.
With the knowledge that the belt genuinely might not be in good health, I haggled the £4500 asking price down to £4150. That’s a massive £3300 cheaper than the nearest equivalent I could find; an identical Black Magic petrol vRS estate with an even lower 39,000 miles. Needless to say, I reached DEFCON 1 and bought it.
My budget for the bits that need doing takes me up to a nice round £5000 total, half of which will be paid for with the sale of my old car. The vRS, which I’ve named Dave, is already booked in with a VAG specialist for the service, cambelt/water pump and thermostat work, and there are a couple more less urgent bits that I’ll sort out myself where I have the right tools. Those wonky number plates need changing, for starters.
Then it’ll be time to sort out the paintwork, give the interior a thorough clean and set up my smartphone as a nav device, using a cunningly-routed magnetic charging lead and one of the magnetic phone mounts you can buy in the CT shop. I’ll bring you updates in a couple of months!