If you watched Top Gear on Sunday (and as one of the world’s most popular TV shows, there’s a high likelihood you did), you’ll have seen Clarkson and Hammond’s teeth unveil the shows’s new Reasonably-Priced Car (RPC).
It’s a Vauxhall Astra 1.6 Tech Line which, on the face of it, isn’t such a bad choice.
The current Astra is fairly easy on the eye, handles neatly and it’s well-built. The 1.6 engine is good for 60 mph in 10.9 seconds, which is undoubtedly faster than some previous RPCs, returns 44.8 mpg combined (if not on the track), and costs 140 a year to tax. Most reasonable.
However, general consensus seems to be that 17,345 for a 1.6-litre Astra isn’t quite as reasonable as many were expecting. Seventeen grand seems… a bit expensive, actually.
So, Top Gear. To steal a tradition from another popular TV series, albeit one from a different era: Here’s what you could have chosen…
Huge trick missed here by Top Gear. The subject of James May’s weekly Good news!, Sanderos are about as Reasonably Priced as it’s possible to get. You get one of the largest superminis on the market for the price of the smallest city cars.
Top Gear could be as choosy as it wants with the specification, since they’re so cheap to start with. No need to stick with the base 1.2 engine – the turbocharged 0.9 TCe is barely slower than the Astra but you can pick one up for 7,595 (almost ten grand cheaper than the Vauxhall) and tax it for 30 a year.
We don’t have to plump for purely budget brands here – Fiat’s Puntois Reasonably Priced and often praised for its value for money. You’d get an Abarth for less than Top Gear’s Astra, but a 1.4 MultiAir Easy seems Reasonably Priced at 12,355.
It narrowly undercuts the Astra on price and performance, but it has one ace card up its sleeve: It’s Italian. The guys at TG love a good Italian car and we reckon the Punto would fit right in.
Kia already has precedence on Top Gear, the show’s new Astra replacing the much-loved Cee-apostrophe-D. Trouble is, while the new Cee’d is still cheaper than an Astra like-for-like, it’s also gone a bit more upmarket and a little more expensive. So perhaps the slightly smaller Rio would be a better choice?
It’s certainly Reasonably Priced, with base models starting at just under ten grand. We’d be tempted to upgrade to the sprightly 1.4 with its glorious 107 ponies and automatic stop-start system to save fuel when the less talented celebrities crash. It starts at just 12,695, and don’t forget that seven-year warranty.
It’s so easy to spend barmy sums of money on a MINI these days that people forget the basic ones are actually quite Reasonably Priced. Even a Cooper is over two grand less than the Astra and a lot more fun, but a basic 1.6 One is only 13,460.
For that you knock four tenths off the Astra’s 0-60 time and 35 a year from its tax. It’s also much more funky, and the TG boys could play up its Made in Britain tag – MINIs are still built in Oxford. And who doesn’t love seeing a MINI tearing around a circuit?
The new SEAT Toledo seems to have all the perfect Reasonably Priced Car ingredients. Its price, obviously – 12,500 for the basic 1.2, though to give TG’s Stars some Astra-beating performance we’d choose the 105 PS 1.2 TSI for 15,150.
It’s also incredibly spacious and practical, with one of the largest interiors in its class. It’ll cost them only 30 a year in tax and return 56.5 mpg if it’s ever used for road-going errands. It’s also available as a Skoda, in the shape of the Rapid. But perhaps best of all, it’s suitably gawky and dull – can’t have those celebs enjoying it too much…