THE SCHOOLS go back next week (at least in England; in Scotland they went back two weeks ago) and while the kids will be under orders to tool up with pens, protractors and any number of things essential to their education, parents may feel they, too, need to consider replacing the old school-run car with something fresher.
Now’s a good time to be shopping for a used car. Next month, dealer forecourts should be awash with part-exchanges generated by the new plate change (look out for our 64-plate guide this Sunday for the best new car deals). Early birds may do better still by asking dealers what they have coming in before it’s put on display. In addition, there will be the usual stocks of nearly new cars with less than 10,000 miles that offer vast savings over new.
Where you live, the duration of the school run and the size and ages of your brood will all influence your choice, but don’t forget how much image and looks mean to the kids. Fail to appreciate this, and they could make the school run hell.
Here are 10 school-run haulers to get you thinking…
1 Ford B-Max
Try this: 2014 (63-plate) Ford B-Max 1.5 TDCi Zetec with 7k miles, £11,599
Few cars try as hard to please as the B-Max. Sliding rear doors and the absence of B-pillars (the upright metal post usually found between the front and rear doors) mean your brood can clamber into the back without bashing neighbouring cars.
2 Volkswagen Sharan
Try this: 2013 (13-plate) VW Sharan 2.0 TDI CR BlueMotion Tech 140 S DSG with 26k miles, £16,250
All those VW virtues – bomb-proof build quality, tough mechanicals and a choice of powerful but frugal engines – wrapped in a roomy body that can swallow kids whole.
3 Ford Mondeo estate
Try this: 2014 (14-plate) Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi 163 Zetec estate with 5k miles, £15,999
Self-conscious adolescents will love the common-as-muck Mondeo’s ability to blend into the crowd, while you’ll appreciate its fine driving manners, roomy rear cabin and acres of load space.
4 Volvo V70
Try this: 2011 (61-plate) Volvo V70 D3 (163) R Design with 20k miles, £15,999
Big Volvo estates have ferried little terrors and their paraphernalia to school for eons (well, almost). They’re tough, no-nonsense machines that go the extra mile, as this example testifies.
5 Volvo XC60
Try this: 2013 (13-plate) Volvo XC60 D4 (163) R Design Geartronic with 8k miles, £21,999
The XC90’s smaller sibling is just as good looking, dependable and well-equipped. It’s old now, and the engines trail the class best in refinement and economy, but it still attracts admiring glances.
6 Nissan Qashqai
Try this: 2012 (12-plate) Nissan Qashqai 1.6 (117) Acenta 5dr with 13k miles, £11,499
The car that single-handedly kick-started the current SUV revolution manages to be both good to drive and eminently practical. There are loads to choose from, so be picky.
7 VW Golf
Try this: 2013 (63-plate) VW Golf 1.6 TDI 105 SE 5dr with 10k miles, £15,699
Buy a Golf and chances are it’ll remain in the family for years, being passed down from generation to generation. Our suggested model returns over 70mpg, which will help when diesel is £20 a gallon in 2034.
8 Ford Focus ST-2
Try this: 2012 (62-plate) Ford Focus ST-2 with 10k miles, £16,299
Forget what fun it is to drive and how practical it is, your children will love you for the instant respect that will come their way because you chose a car wearing the magic letters “ST”.
9 Skoda Yeti
Try this: 2013 (13-plate) Skoda Yeto 2.0 TDI CR (140) SE with 8k miles, £13,999
With its endearing name and uncompromising looks, the Yeti was made to be loved. Your kids will embrace it like a new pet. You’ll appreciate its versatile load area floor, good visibility and quality construction.
10 Citroën C4 Grand Picasso
Try this: 2013 (13-plate) Citroën C4 Grand Picasso 1.6 HDi Edition with 8k £11,799
Kids love sitting high up in bright, airy interiors they can easily see out of, and spreading themselves around. They’ll love the Grand Picasso, then.