Car advice: Buy this, not that

  • Sick of choice?
  • We're here to help
  • Variety of cars not to choose

Tis the season to be jolly. Well, it would be normally, know. Nevertheless, if you're looking for a post-Christmas treat, Parkers is here to help. This year, we're giving you the gift of choice. Taking away choice that is.

For decades marketing firms have pitched choice at you like it's something you highly desire. And frankly if you did want it, choosing something to watch on TV wouldn't turn into a military operation with spreadsheets and arguments.

Too much choice is too much work. And with that in mind, we're giving you less choice with your next vehicle. Below you'll find seven cars that are popular in the UK along with seven alternatives that we think are better.

Skoda Octavia > Golf

Buy this not that Skoda Octavia versus Volkswagen Golf

Its ubiquitousness means there are plenty of places to buy, sell, and service your Golf, while its solid and steadfast nature means it's almost classless. Huge variety of bodystyle, trims, and engines too - so there's something for everyone. All in all, a no brainer.

Well, it was, until this latest version hit the UK shores in 2020. Don't get us wrong - it's still a good car. It's just not amazing. It's actually slightly disappointing. In a bid to make Audi feel more premium and Skoda more practical, the Golf now feels like a lacklustre compromise.

We say go for the Skoda Octavia instead. It's larger, more practical, and more pragmatic than a Golf, comes with broadly the same engines, technology and pretty much everything else you can think of, plus, the interior feels like it could sit in an Audi. Oh, and did we mention it's cheaper too?

Mercedes CLA > Hyundai i30 Fastback

Buy this not that Mercedes CLA versus Hyundai i30 Fastback

On paper the Hyundai i30 Fastback reads like a slam dunk for the Korean firm. Wrap the good but slightly dull Hyundai i30 in a less practical and more appealing body, then watch the orders pile up. There's just one problem.

The latest i30 Fastback only comes in N Line trim. This takes the worst part of the i30 N hot-hatch, the suspension made of lead, and combines it with a so-so 1.5-litre engine. The result is a tepidly fast car with a grey interior and a horrible ride. We can't help but feel there are plenty of people who would be fine with a 1.0-litre petrol engine and soft suspension...

Which is where the Mercedes CLA comes in. Pretty body, posh looking interior, and a variety of different engines, most of which are frugal rather than fast.

Hyundai i10 > Mitsubishi Mirage

Buy this not that Hyundai i10 versus Mitsubishi Mirage

City cars are inherently flawed. They manage to be smaller and less practical than superminis, while never being all that much cheaper. This is usually compounded by the fact they're bereft of features and are generally less safe than larger cars.

The Hyundai i10 however, is a breath of fresh air. The i10's infotainment system is crisp, modern, and has the all-important Apple CarPlay/Android Auto technology. Top-spec cars get the latest safety equipment, and there's even room for four burly rugby players (other units of measurements are available) to get comfortable.

Mitsubishi will soon stop importing cars to Europe. We'll let you figure out the connection between that and how rubbish the Mirage is.

Tesla Model 3 > Hyundai Ioniq Electric

Buy this not that Tesla Model 3 versus Hyundai Ioniq

The Tesla Model 3 will cover (at least) 93 more miles on a charge, has loads more tech, a better semi-autonomous system, is nearly twice as quick on the 0-62mph sprint, and most importantly, it won't make you look like an Uber driver. Yet, it's broadly the same price as the Ioniq Electric.

The Ioniq is a solid thing, ergonomically nigh-on-perfect, and doesn't come with a carmaker as, erm, flamboyant, as Elon Musk. But it is just a bit dull.

Of course, we reckon the Hyundai is a better long-term prospect. But considering leasing prices are broadly the same for both cars, who cares about long-term?

Mazda CX-5 > Nissan Qashqai

Buy this not that Mazda CX-5 versus Nissan Qashqai

The Nissan Qashqai is just OK. There, we said it. Despite being the bestselling crossover in the UK, the creator of the segment has fallen behind many of its rivals.

The Mazda CX-5 is so appealing because it's better looking and much sharper to drive. In fact, the CX-5 is a bit of a driver's car wrapped up in an oh-so practical SUV shape. Oh, the CX-5 is also available as a Diesel if that's your bag - unlike the Qashqai.

The saving grace for the Qashqai is that there's a new one out in 2021.

Lexus LC > BMW 8 Series

Buy this not that Lexus LC500 versus BMW 8 Series

"It's like a Japanese Mercedes". If you recognise this quote from Steve Coogan's alter-ego, Alan Partridge, you may have been put off Lexus (or Lexi).

But we say, the Lexus LC (the LC500 in particular) is better than a Japanese Mercedes. And it's much better than a BMW 8 Series too.

The Lexus is available with two engines - but it's the 5.0-litre V8 you want. It's silkier than,erm, silk, but when you want it to it'll tear up the 0-62mph sprint in 4.4 seconds. Sounds other-wordly too, and the 10-speed auto is unflappable.

BMW's 8-Series Coupe has a better infotainment setup than the Lexus - but that's about it. The Lexus is subtle but handsome while the 8-Series is garish and in your face. Oh, and the 8-Series has a crystal gear shifter (which you can see here) that manages to be even more tacky than it sounds.

Fiat 500 electric > Honda e

Buy this not that Fiat 500 versus Honda e

Honda's cute little e has received more press coverage than Meghan Markle (admittedly depending on which website you go on) this year. And yes, the interior is future-tastic and it has a happy little face that screams DRIVE ME. But, it's not that cheap and the range is not good.

How not good? On one trip we had (in cold weather) the car had 98% charge and a range of 95 miles.

Given the Fiat 500 Electric's price of circa £20k (after the government Plug-in Car Grant), it's a bit of a gamechanger. It's just as cute as the Honda (with a retro nod), is perfect for effortlessly making your way through a city, plus, has an official range of 199 miles. Even in cold weather - it should comfortably eke out more than 125 miles.

Further reading

>> The best new leasing, PCP, and PCH deals
>> Best car products 2021
>> The Brexit survival guide