Should you buy a brand-new Ford or a secondhand BMW?
Which new car to buy is already a tough decision, so the thought of throwing used cars into the mix for the same money is enough to overwhelm the average car buyer. But the fact remains: for the price, after haggling, of a mid-range Ford Mondeo executive car, you could be in a two-year-old BMW 3 Series.
They both fundamentally do the same job, making light work of motorways and adding a bit of spice to twisting roads. But while the Ford has a clear advantage in terms of space and practicality, the BMW has the classiest and most enviable image. Here, then, we look at the facts and decide upon which is best.
Ford Mondeo 1.5 TDCi 120 ZetecÂ
Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
CO2 emissions:Â 94g/km
The BMW is clearly the sportier-looking of the two. Its low, wide grille and well-proportioned stance gives it an aggressive appearance, rounded off nicely by a sleek tail. Itâ€™s bigger than previous generations of this long-running model line, but still looks lean and clean. The Mondeo, in contrast, is much larger, but it too manages to pull off a sleek appearance.
The Fordâ€™s long wheelbase is balanced by a relatively low roofline, and detailing such as the sharp grille and high-tech rear lights are upmarket. Compared to older models, itâ€™s perhaps lost a bit of the character that used to define Fordâ€™s big family car, but itâ€™s still able to sit alongside the BMW without feeling misplaced.
Itâ€™s as good to drive as itâ€™s always been, too. The Mondeo has long been a benchmark for handling in the mainstream family car class and this one lives up to that reputation. Its sophisticated underpinnings ensure itâ€™s eager through the corners, while also delivering a more comfortable ride than some older Mondeos. Even the 1.5-litre diesel engine performs better than its rather diminutive size suggests.
But the BMW is better still. Its rear-wheel drive chassis is near-exemplary through the bends, with balanced handling and terrific driver engagement. The ride does suffer a little as a result, although generally itâ€™s settled and assured. The 2.0-litre turbodiesel has a significant step up in performance over the Mondeo as well: 0-60mph in 7.3 seconds isnâ€™t far shy of hot hatches, furthering its fun-to-drive appeal.
BMW 320d SE
Price new:Â Â£31,720
Price today:Â Â£19,995
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
Top speed:Â 146mph
Emissions:Â 111g/km CO2
Price today is based on a 2016 model with average mileage and a full service history
Move inside, and the Fordâ€™s mainstream roots show through in a few cheap plastics and downmarket details. Nevertheless, itâ€™s well built and solid, and the Zetec model weâ€™ve picked here is well-equipped with a large touchscreen and clever heated windscreen.
Mind you, the BMW isnâ€™t exactly mean with standard equipment. The SE weâ€™ve chosen here includes sat nav, climate control and a DAB radio, all presented within an appreciably more upmarket cabin thatâ€™s well-built and oozes quality. BMWâ€™s market-leading iDrive infotainment system adds further appeal.
If itâ€™s space youâ€™re after, though, youâ€™ll only have eyes for the Mondeo. The driving position is impeccable and, in the rear, it feels like thereâ€™s acres more room than in the BMW. The boot is vast as well, with a practical hatchback opening thatâ€™s simply enormous. The 3 Series has a decent boot for its sector, but itâ€™s not a patch on the Mondeo â€“ and rear seat space will seem cramped for those sitting behind someone tall.
As mentioned, you can haggle a Ford Mondeo 1.5 TDCi Zetec down to around Â£20,000, which will buy you a 2016 BMW 320d SE. Just remember that youâ€™ll lose more in depreciation with the Mondeo in the first couple of years, although you will have the benefit of a full three-year warranty.
At first glance, the Mondeoâ€™s 78.5mpg and resultant 94g/km CO2 figure seems promising, compared to the BMWâ€™s higher 111g/km figure. But the actual amount of road tax you pay is higher for the newer car â€“ the tax laws changed in April 2017, so it costs Â£140 a year, instead of the BMWâ€™s bargain Â£30. It should still deliver slightly more miles to the gallon to offset this, though.
The choice, then, is down to you â€“ the new car allure of the roomy, practical Ford or the driving verve and money-saving appeal of the BMW. And if you donâ€™t fancy either of them, a brand-new Skoda Superb or Volkswagen Passat might also be worth a look, while a used Audi A4 offers even more of an upmarket feel than the BMW.