We are all having to tighten our belts as falling profits and increasing costs hit hard. But there is one important area where GPs can save significant amounts without having to suffer too much - car buying.
Most GPs will be looking for a medium-sized five-door hatchback to serve as family and practice transport. Our preferred option in this class is the VW Golf, which combines high quality build with excellent road manners, particularly in its latest Mark 7 guise.
|Fast Facts: Kia cee'd|
|1.6 petrol GDi3 Eco
Body: Five-door hatchback
Engine: 1.6 litre four cylinder petrol
Claimed economy: (urban/extra urban/combined) 41.5/62.8/52.3mpg
On the road price: £18,995
However, the Golf is not cheap and several contenders claim to offer similar virtues for less outlay.
Challenging class leaders
A recent arrival that looks good on paper is the new Series 2 Kia cee'd. This South Korean manufacturer has come on in leaps and bounds over the past decade, from budget products to a range that it boasts can challenge the class leaders.
To see if this is true, I have been testing the 1.6 petrol GDi 3 Eco model, which costs about £1,500 less than the equivalent Golf and claims to be able to give 52.3mpg on the combined cycle.
There is a smaller, 1.4 litre petrol model available and a 1.6 litre diesel model for those who clock up bigger annual mileages.
The cee'd is available in four main levels of equipment and trim, logically and helpfully called 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Even level 1 has decent standard kit and my level 3 test car had lots of nice quality extras that would send any rivals' total costs soaring. You can even have Park Assist as an option, and this has only just got to the latest Golf Mark 7. Technologically, Kia has caught up big time.
This is a good-looking car and can easily match its European competitors for style. Interestingly, it was designed and built in Europe.
It shares its chassis with the other competitive South Korean car, the Hyundai i30, but in my view, the body shape of the cee'd is better.
Step inside and the positive experience continues. It has a European air and you won't feel short-changed by the quality of materials used.
Room for rear passengers and luggage is excellent and the spacious boot even has a false floor to keep precious items safely out of sight.
Performance is sprightly from the 133bhp direct injection petrol engine, but it does lack the low-speed oomph you get from rival, albeit lower-capacity, engines, such as VW's 1.4 litre turbo and Ford's 1.0 litre turbo petrol models.
Having said that, it is refreshing to drive a family car without the usual diesel clatter that accompanies most people's choice of engine.
The cee'd is a great long-distance tourer and pretty good around town, but the Stop/Start feature caught me out a few times and didn't restart as quickly as it should; a bit disconcerting and not as smooth and polished as the Golf.
The Kia's ride is smooth and comfortable, but if you like your car to handle well on the twisty bits, you might want to look elsewhere. The steering is a bit sloppy and body control is average, so overall, it is not as satisfying to drive as the VW Golf or the Ford Focus.
But the cee'd is a real alternative to the usual medium hatchback contenders. Style, build and equipment levels are not a problem and if you rise above the badge snobbery, you can make an intelligent purchase without sacrificing anything of great significance. You might not be saving as much as you used to compared with European rivals, but the product is much closer in overall quality.
Finally, there is Kia's trump card: every one of its cars comes with a standard seven-year warranty.
- Dr Rimmer is a GP in Guildford, Surrey