By on September 15, 2014

Spain. Shutterstock user Loveshop

Phil writes:

I am going to Spain for 2-3 years for work but I have decided to sell my truck and only ship my motorcycle. Once I am there I will be looking to buy a cheap used small car, preferably a hatchback with a manual transmission. I am aware of some European brands like Seat, Alfa, Peugeot, Renault, etc. but do not know much about their modern line up. Gas or diesel is fine, can you help me with some recommendations?

Sajeev answers:

Since I don’t live in Europe and don’t know your budget–what’s up with you people not telling EVERYONE ON THE INTERNET how much money you have to spend on a car?–I say what I usually say: test drive a lot of cars in your price range.

And do a lot of virtual touring via Google Image search to see if you like a particular design.

Me? After seeing the SEAT Ibizia in person, I’d kinda go for that.  Or a Rio Brown MKI Ford Sierra Ghia…no wait, that’s already been done. Plus, SEAT is the Spanish offshoot of VW, with nice regional flare inside and out.  Lastly, depending on your budget, repairing a warranty-less VAG product in Europe is far easier/cheaper than in the Toyota-centric U.S. of A.

Luckily you have a motorcycle, there’s no reason to rush into anything.  Enjoy the buying process, and enjoy the local flavor by brand. Me thinks you’ll have a preferred brand in no time. Of course you can’t go wrong with a MKI Ford Sierra Ghia…even when you do.

Off to you, Best and Brightest!

[Image: Shutterstock user Loveshop]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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37 Comments on “Piston Slap: Have a SEAT in Spain?...”

  • avatar

    The world wide web is your oyster. Find a Spanish website where used cars are sold and start shopping. As for any specific brands, I would stick to Japanese and Korean if reliability is first priority. If some excitement is required, look at the German brands such as VW, Opel and …uhm… Ford. For something completely different, Skoda is said to be a new VW at the price of a used one. I would steer clear of any French cars but that is just me.

  • avatar

    You have a motorcycle already and you are only going to be there for 2 or 3 yrs. I would find something completely cool and unobtainable here in the US, the legendary 205GTi comes to mind but I don’t know, you can probably go crazy with choices. Why be practical? Get something 20-22 yrs old then by the time you are ready to leave Spain you can legally bring it back with you too.

    • 0 avatar

      I like the way this guy thinks!

    • 0 avatar

      I’m with mnm4ever. You’re only there 2-3 years…buy something you can’t get here, and since you have a bike, too, throw reliability concerns out the window. Seats and Skodas are nice cars (I’ve driven vehicles from both on trips to Europe) but are still derivative VW products, so in many cases aren’t all that unique, save for maybe a Skoda Roomster. I’d buy something more unique–a Citroen (they’re popular in Spain) or a used Alfa 159 which IMO is the most beautiful sedan ever.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. Why buy a typical car that’s the equivalent to a Ford Taurus? Go crazy- and bring something back here that’ll make your heart beat.

      This is your chance to do what we’d all dream of doing- importing something that nobody else has.

      Imagine driving to the grocery store in one of these when you get back:

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    I’d work on riding her SEAT.

  • avatar

    You’re taking your motorcycle with you. Depending on what part of Spain you will be living you can use it all year as your transport so you might not even need a car.
    If you do need a car for some reason get a Seat or anything made in Europe. Forget Japanese because you’re not in the states and japan doesn’t rule the market. French cars are fine. They make great diesel engines.
    Remember fuel is more expensive on this side of the atlantic so choose the car also depending on how many km you intend to drive per year.

  • avatar

    BMW 128 5-door HB, stick shift, inline six NA engine.

    If you can figure out how to bring it back and sell it to me, let’s talk!

  • avatar

    For French cars, the Renault Clio from the 2nd (Clio II) onwards is a solid choice. For Italian I would go with the Punto or Panda. VW has the Polo or it’s Seat alternative, and that is a good choice to.
    Being in a foreign country or even in a new city can be very tough. I would recommend a conservative choice of car. Get the most popular version of what ever brand / model you choose and find out where to take it if stuff breaks.

  • avatar

    Stay away from an 87 SEAT Malaga…Ask the man who owned one!

  • avatar

    Ship the truck to Spain and the bike rides for FREE! US pickups are somewhat exotic there. Sell it there and get something ’93 or older that’ll be exotic here when you ship it back. Remember the “25 year” rule. Alfa GTV6? RHD 911?

  • avatar

    If I were in this situation, I feel I’d have to go with something

    1) Euro
    2) Stylish
    3) Never available in the US

    Citroen or Peugeot, or a Renault something. Are you allowed to say why you go to there for so long?

    • 0 avatar

      I probably will be looking for something with the three points you suggested. My work contract is for that amount of time, I may be there longer if things go a certain way. As far as what I do, I would prefer not to share on an public website.

  • avatar

    I think you’re in for a treat. Should you decide to go the Seat route, you’ll find that the prices are among the lowest in the VAG used car range. Personally, I’m partial to the diesel fr and cupra versions, the Ibiza with a chipped engine is an astonishingly fun car to drive, and an inexpensive one to maintain. I would go afer third generation Ibiza or the first generation Leon.

    I actually went with the second option, since i found the interior better [shares parts with the audi A3] and needed a larger car for a daily driver. I really havent found any major drawbacks besides it being a bit of a handfull in the corners (260hp+).

    Here’s a clean example of a clean first gen Leon ( this one’s in brittain, but the photos do the car justice) a similar LHD one wouldn’t go for more than 7.000 €, and there are a lot of quality aftermarket parts available.

    Examples of the Ibiza from the same site–200-bhp–seat-ibiza-cupra-tdi-pd160/2392111–219bhp-big-spec–4495-ono/2754207

    If you’re after unicorns, you may be able to track down a Leon VR6 – a verson of the cupra 4. I have no idea If it would be as much fun as the original R32, but it is nonetheless a tempting proposition (I believe there was even a force-fed variant by ABT, pushing 280 form the get go).

    Lastly, check out VWVortex – i found the forum quite useful

  • avatar

    P.S, the RenaultSport route is a fun one, but you’ll have a lot more potential at your disposal in the VW parts bin. Alfas are a bit overhyped as far as actual realworld performance and driver satisfaction goes (notable exception GTA models – 147, 156 !!!), however the v6 159 Sportwagon can be had for peanuts and is quite stunning in person – her’s what I’ve been lusting after:

  • avatar

    The aforementioned unicorn:
    40 made for the swiss market – 286hp, 2,8L vr6, supercharged. I also apologise for the ungainly links, however that is the only trustworthy site I knew – ads are verified.

  • avatar
    Vojta Dobeš

    As European and a guy who does equivalent of Sajeev articles here in Czech Republic, I’m presented with this question a lot. So, here are a few thoughts:

    1) As Sa(n)jeev already mentioned, it’s really hard to provide advice without a budget.
    2) If you want a great riding and driving car that’s fairly cheap to run and reliable, go for a Ford. No, really. Especially if you’re thinking about used cars, then the previous gen Fiesta (2001-2009) or first generation Focus are marvellous cars, offering lots of practicality in a fun-to-drive package. But they may be a bit bland, especially for someone who wants European flair.
    3) Older VWs are usually not the best handling/riding cars, although on smooth Spanish roads, that may not be that much of a problem. What’s worse, until the advent of TSI engines, their gasoline plants were lousy. You don’t want that.
    4) You don’t want a diesel in a small car. Either it will be old and rattly (like, before 2000), or it will have Common-Rail diesel. In that case, repairs of few critical things can be terribly costly. You don’t want a diesel unless you want to drive a LOT. Like, 30k miles/year or more. In that case, you don’t want a small car. Which basically means you don’t want a small diesel car, ever.
    5) In small cars, French and Italians are not necessarilly bad choice in terms of reliability.
    6) Good Peugeots ended with 106/306/406. Then they became good again with 208,308,508. Everything in between sucks.
    7) Same with Citroëns. But some of them are at least cool, so you can tolerate their shittiness. Saxo and Xsara are good. C-anything mostly sucks. First C4 looks like a spaceship and has fixed-center steering wheel, which makes it bearable. Current C4 sucks. Current C3 may be bearable, but you don’t want to drive one as a man.
    8) Fiat Puntos are surprisingly durable, and the late ones (2005+) are said to drive just fine.
    9) Fiat Panda of any vintage is just a great car.
    10) Lancia Ypsilon of the last generation is based on the Panda platform, but sucks royally.
    11) Opels are still GM. They usually do not suck, but they’re boring. It’s like buying a Buick with a different badge.
    12) First generation Twingo is cool and quite good.
    13) Only Renaults worth owning are RS versions. Especially Clio. The RenaultSport is wonderful, the basic one is crap.
    14) Minis are just as great here as stateside. And make much more sense.
    15) Smarts are as shitty here as stateside. They make a bit of sense in large cities, everywhere else, they’re useless.
    16) Seats use VW mechanicals. You don’t want diesels later than 1.9 TDI/66kW, you don’t want N/A gasoline ones, and TSIs tend not to be very reliably. If you’re adventurous, try a 1.2 TSI. But get a Skoda Fabia Sportline, it drives significantly better than Ibiza. On the other hand, it’s ugly as hell.

    If you want to have loads of fun, buy a RenaultSport Clio. Or, if you have less money, try a Saxo VTS or a Peugeot 106 Sport. Also, fast Peugeots 306 are great. Not sure about Spanish taxes on fast cars, though.

    • 0 avatar

      Hi, the question was from me. Thank you for the detailed answer. I think 5-7K Euro is probably my budget for something like this though I might spend a little more for something I fall in love with.

  • avatar

    Boom. Discussion over.|sr,as

  • avatar

    As a Spaniard, I’d say if you want to have fun, go for something fun.

    Depending on your budget that could take you to different places but I’d say Alfas can be fun (specially the older ones: 156, 147 and maybe some of the fastest newest MiTo’s), the older compacts Peugeots and Citroens can be fun (306, Xsara) and you could go for something kinkier and buy a Peugeot 406 like the one in Luc Besson’s saga “Taxi” (a bunch of crazy French films where people drive like maniacs for 90 minutes non stop). If I recall it correctly, it even did have a 3.0 V6 version with 200Hp even though it was a really bad engine from the 80’s.

    I’d stay away from Seat. They are dull and kind of boring unless you go for the Cupra versions of the Ibiza and the Leon. Those are hot hatches that deliver around 180-230 Hp and are good enough for our roads and traffic cops.

    But my general advice would be:
    – Don’t go diesel unless you plan to drive over 35.000 Km/year. Second hand diesels are highly overrated and gasoline versions can be found really cheaper. They also tend to have fewer miles on their bodies.
    – Stay away from second hand lots. There are a lot around here and they are known to fiddle with the cars’ odometer to a point where it becomes so obvious it’s almost a joke. (You can find cars that are 17 years old with “guaranteed” 17.000 km – Those are 10.000 miles in 17 years). Use , and (this last one is our craiglist so be extremely careful)
    – Forget about the Horsepower frenzy you Americans suffer overseas. Around here, 90 HP are good to cruise around 80 mph. Anything above 120 HP can easily be seen hitting 100 Mph in our freeways. People buy cars over 150 Hp only when planning on loosing their license points pretty quickly (or when abduced by our common SUV/CUV obsession)
    – If you live near the sea or in the Pyrinees, look for rust. Otherwise, don’t worry too much unless you go for really old cars.
    – Don’t buy anything without A/C unless you plan to live really up north. (And even so… ) Our summers tend to be Arizona hot and tourists suffer everything from heat strokes to sunburn.

    Good luck and I hope you enjoy our weird, hot and lazy country.


    • 0 avatar

      Thank you for the websites, that will be very helpful in my search. I may also look to add another motorcycle, do you recommend those websites for that as well? I’m glad I asked about diesel ahead of time so I know to avoid it now.

  • avatar

    Barkas B1000. You already have a motorcycle and it hauls more than a hatchback. You can customize it to taste and if you ship it back to the US, it’ll be the only one in town.

  • avatar

    The question was mine, great replies from everyone so far. I think I will have place fun and availability compared to the states above reliability in my shopping criteria. I’ll be sure to email Sajeev again next year once I make my selection.

    • 0 avatar

      Do you know your housing situation?

      I would presume that parking and break-ins are more likely to be an issue there, which may influence your choice of car. If I lived in an urban area without my own parking, then I’d be inclined to buy a non-descript SEAT or similar, and accept the possibility that it may get damaged.

      And never leave anything in the car that you would miss if it was stolen.

      • 0 avatar

        I do not yet other than I’ll be renting, I should know more in the coming months. I’m actually more concerned with finding some kind of enclosed or “back yard” parking for my motorcycle. I guess I can always roll it through the front door of wherever I am staying and park it in the entry way. Ill be looking at cities west of Jerez like Sanlucar or Chipiona.

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