A road trip in Britain’s cheapest used car

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And so, one fine Tuesday morning, I set off from home in Bristol and pointed P289 BUX east along the M4, not at all convinced it would even make it to Heathrow. At Reading, it took £42 in unleaded and in a matter of moments the car’s value rocketed by 20%. Somewhere around Slough, I began to relax. I had started the journey nervous and apprehensive, driving the car with the care and patience a mucky old snotter would surely require. Soon enough, though, we were keeping up with the German saloons in the outside lane and I was treating the Micra no more gently than I would a brand-new car.

We joined the M25 and headed clockwise, eventually peeling off onto the M11. We were on our way to Swaffham in Norfolk, where we’d meet Mr Bangernomics himself, James Ruppert. You can read his thoughts below but, suffice to say, I was a little surprised and ever so slightly sore that this magazine’s cheap car champion chose not to make me a happy man with a very generous offer.

With half the journey complete, it was time to turn around and head home, this time hacking cross-country rather than using motorways. From Swaffham, we skipped across to Huntingdon, then past Northampton, down to Bicester and across the Cotswolds to Cheltenham, before picking up the M5 for a short blast back to Bristol. A whisker under 500 miles in total.

The Micra simply didn’t miss a beat. It rode well (at least until I hit anything larger than Petri dish), it was comfortable, visibility was excellent, the unassisted steering and lively handling made it a giggle along B-roads, the 16-valve petrol engine was as sweet as anything and the gearshift was tight and direct. Aside from the clutch bite point being very high, there was no sign whatsoever that P289 BUX might be about to expire. I bet I could run it for 10 months, let the MOT lapse, sell it for parts and make back a good chunk of my £200.

But we have bigger plans for it. To find out exactly how tough a 22-year- old Nissan Micra is, we’re taking it grass-track racing. Stay tuned…

Bangernomics in action: 

I’m often asked whether it is still possible to practise hardcore Bangernomics. You know, buy a car for a couple of hundred quid and actually use it. Well, right now I am looking at exhibit A and that’s Dan’s magnificent Micra.

This everyday hero has just been driven halfway across the country so that I can kick the tyres and it is hard not to be very impressed. It is, of course, cosmetically compromised on the outside with fading red paint, some rust on the arches and cracked front bumpers, but none of that stops it working. There is some underseal slapped on the sills, which suggests that structural rot will get it eventually, but not just yet. What keeps the Micra moving is the powerhouse 16-valve engine under the crumbly bonnet. No leaks, no drama, no issues – just an utterly reliable buzzbox.

The interior is a testament to the power of seat covers. It is comfortably hard-plastic 1990s in there and proof that a six-figure mileage does not necessarily mean trashed surroundings.

Dan’s followed all the fairly fluid, golden rules of Bangernomics and got it right. If you are careful, you can buy a cheap, characterful banger.

Read more

Nissan Micra review

James Ruppert: the best used car alternatives to buying on finance

James Ruppert: the best budget mile-eaters

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