Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Fiona's eventual replacement?

A week ago I was loaned a late-2017/early-2018 version of Fiona, my cherished Volvo XC60. The loan car still smelled new, so I'm going to call it a 2018 car, eight years younger than Fiona.

Here are shots of the car that the Volvo dealer let me play with for two days, while my own car was having her annual service and MOT - which included new rear springs and front brake pads that couldn't all be fitted in one day.

This new-model XC60 went launched in the UK only a few months ago, replacing the original XC60 that had been boosting Volvo's popularity and sales since 2008. An impressive-looking car inside and out. The body shape contains fewer curves, and more straight lines, than the old model. The back end is not much altered, but the front end has become a thought more assertive. One could almost say aggressive. All done to emphasise more strongly that this is a worthy alternative to the offerings of BMW and Audi. 

Here are a few shots of Fiona, to show how the old model looked (at Breamore, Banff, Newport, somewhere deep in the Aberdeenshire countryside, and in the Black Mountains of South Wales). 

I like both versions. 

Inside, the 2018 car is a complete redesign, with more flat surfaces (Fiona's curvier interior lacks these) and entirely digital instrumentation, with a huge screen on the centre console. 

Fiona's interior is decidedly Old School, with unfashionable pale-cream leather seats, and pine wood in her own centre console:

That said, Fiona's interior is, to my own mind, psychologically lighter and airier, and much less intimidating. But her 2010 letterbox-shaped SatNav screen doesn't compare, even if it still does the job:

The 2018 car had done 4,000-odd miles and was available for cash purchase. The asking price was £35,000. Fiona had cost me almost exactly £40,000 in May 2010, less £1,000 from the government's scrappage scheme, and £5,000 from Volvo in part-exchange for my previous car - a net £34,000. Clearly Fiona was, and still is, the higher-specification car. And indeed a glance at the summary purchase details in the 2018 car's rear footwell confirms that it had only the entry-level specification. Many would however still consider this more than adequate:

My Fiona was ordered from the factory with the best specification available in early 2010, plus most of the options. For instance, all of the then-current electronic safety features (along with the sensors and software to go with them). She also had a rear-view camera, so handy for caravanning. The 2018 loan car didn't have a camera. Fiona also had various extras built into her interior, for more driver (and passenger) comfort and convenience. As for power, the 2018 car had only a four-cylinder diesel engine (albeit willing and mostly quiet), whereas Fiona's is a five-cylinder affair with more grunt (but more noise). 

I went onto the Volvo website and from all the options put together a 2018 car that was as close as possible to Fiona's particular specification. The price became £46,625. That's what I'd really have to pay, to get a new XC60 that was as well-equipped and capable as Fiona.  

That's an awful lot of money! It makes me inclined to hang onto Fiona for as long as possible, spending money on her year by year to keep her in fine fettle for my everyday and holiday requirements. 

Clearly, if I want a direct replacement, meaning another XC60 with the same capability and features, I will never now be able to afford a new car. It will have to be used, perhaps an ex-PCP model that somebody handed back after three years. (One good thing about PCP schemes: their draconian rules encourage you to drive and maintain the car with obsessive care, so that it stays unblemished and within its strict mileage limit)

Actually. my game plan with personal transport is to wait for the next-generation of hybrids, or (preferably) the next-generation of all-electric cars. So, willy-nilly, Fiona will be my car for some years yet. That will allow time to save up for a very fat deposit on a new or nearly-new car. The problems will be two: keeping my nerve if another big bill crops up on Fiona; and resisting the allure of glitzy new cars like the one loaned to me. 

The PCP way of having a new car is horrendously costly. Look at that purchase summary again. You'd have to put down a deposit of £7,000. Then pay £521.43 for thirty-six months (that's £18,771.48). And finally, if you wanted to buy the car outright, there would be another £15, 675 to pay. (You'd need to save that up - a big extra expense). Making £41,446 altogether - as opposed to a cash price of £35,000. Running costs - fuel, insurance - would mostly be extra. (Tax and servicing are generally part of the PCP deal, and effectively free, but represent only a small part of the outlay) 

So that's £41,446 (with running costs on top) to pay in the space of three years. And by the way, that's with an annual mileage limit of 10,000 and not a mile more. I do 15,000 miles a year, and to add those extra 5,000 miles would mean paying even more in a PCP deal.

In contrast, my all-in cash expenditure on Fiona, including running costs and the present bank loan repayments, will work out at no more than £8,250 in 2018. That's the equivalent of £25,000 or so over three years. (It will actually be only about £18,000 for three years, once the loan repayments end in 2019). 

Thus hanging onto Fiona is a far more sensible proposition than having a swish new motor!

Still, it looks as if Fiona will remain the only car I will ever have owned from new. The only one never in someone else's uncaring hands before mine. That makes her very special to me, of course.


  1. It is priceless to have known how a car has been treated, Fiona could and should be a classic which can run and run. Not uncommon for Volvos to do two and three or more hundred thousand miles. Her interior is vastly superior to that new one with the widescreen TV!

    I was sent to check out new models of ours 18 months ago since we lack air conditioning and my passenger is very susceptible to overheating. I hated everything about the new models then there is our stupid governments incompetence about legislation and taxation on certain engines in the near and distant future. I stepped into my ride of the same age as Fiona and felt happier than if I had been given a new one!

  2. Absolutely. A car with several years under its belt can still hack it better than the glamorous models now on sale at eye-watering prices.

    A diesel engine isn't evil, just potentially dirty; but that can be dealt with. For caravanning, and heavy haulage generally, it's a much better choice than than a petrol engine. The government should explain the difference, and each engine's pros and cons.



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