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Value for money

If money is a universal act of faith — working when we believe in it, collapsing when we don’t — what about value for money? Is that just part of the beneficial illusion or is it something more tangible?

11 September 2010

12:00 AM

11 September 2010

12:00 AM

If money is a universal act of faith — working when we believe in it, collapsing when we don’t — what about value for money? Is that just part of the beneficial illusion or is it something more tangible?

If money is a universal act of faith — working when we believe in it, collapsing when we don’t — what about value for money? Is that just part of the beneficial illusion or is it something more tangible?

I was pondering this recently in relation to Hyundai and Aston Martin. One range starts at £7,725 (the excellent and frugal Hyundai i10, champion beneficiary of the scrappage scheme) and the other at £88,995 with the scorching V8 Vantage. Yet the Hyundai does almost everything the Aston does, starting with that most important of tasks, getting you there. So in terms of value for money there’s no contest, surely.


Indeed, there’s precious little contest between Hyundai and its Kia sibling and the rest of the industry. With their competitive pricing, unobjectionable styling and demonstrable reliability — five-year unlimited mileage or seven-year 100,000- mile warranties — some are now calling these upstart Koreans the new Honda and Toyota because they’re better value than either. Buffeted by Korean success, Toyota, Daihatsu and Chevrolet are now going for five years, while Rolls-Royce, Maybach and even Ferrari (that’s brave) are going for four. Last month Vauxhall announced a ‘lifetime warranty’ — albeit that ‘lifetime’ means 100,000 miles and the warranty isn’t transferable beyond the first registered owner. But only with Hyundai could you do 100,000 miles a year (offered since 2002) and still be under warranty, so it’s no surprise that police forces are snapping them up, particularly the £14,900 i30 hatchback.

I recently borrowed the Hyundai ix35 crossover SUV (from £16,495) and its big brother, the seven-seat Santa Fe (from £21,620). The former is an effortless, nimble drive that has already sold 54,000 in Europe, but it was the new version of the latter with its uprated 2.2 diesel that best suited my requirements. This is a delightfully responsive and well-mannered engine, with enough torque (311lb/ft) to take off effortlessly in the second of six gears while achieving around 42mpg on a 200-mile run. The gearbox is beautifully precise, demanding only 2,000 revs at 70mph, controls are easy, the cabin spacious and uncluttered, seats six and seven fold neatly into the boot floor, the ride is both firm and forgiving and the finish gives an impression of quality and thoughtfulness.

I’d stick with the 17-inch tyres rather than the 18-inch and was pleased to find the indicator stalk on the right, as it always used to be in British cars so that your left hand was free for gear-changing. What Car? voted it best 4×4 under £30k, though I wonder about it as an off-road tug. There’s no reason to doubt that it would handle the 2.5-tonne caravan/horsebox/boat it’s rated for but I do question whether any 4×4 can happily manage heavy towing off-road in bad conditions without a low-range gearbox. Hyundai builds ships and earth-movers, so low-range gearboxes shouldn’t be too much of a problem. They should consider offering one.

That apart, and remembering that warranty, it’s hard to name a better-value car in this class. It does all that most owners will ever want, with style and in comfort.

But maybe there’s a sense in which Aston Martin rivals it. Preposterous, of course, until you ask yourself what it is that value consists of. To start with, if you’re paying nearly (or well into) six figures for a car, you’re not too fussed about cost. Nor are you buying it only to get about. You’re buying because you value other things about it — aesthetics, performance, status, image, history — all of which become factors in the value-for-money equation. But elaboration of this conceit will have to await next month’s confession of a delirious fling with a V12 Vantage around the Millbrook proving ground.


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