Mike Stone road tests 150 cars a year, and is adept at assessing a model's strengths and weaknesses, quickly. Here's how he does it - and how you can too.

“The first questions I ask myself are, does this car achieve what it sets out to do and how does it compare with the competition?” says Stone.

“This week I have been driving Jaguar's new XF Sportbrake estate, so the questions are: do you like the styling? Yup.

“It was designed by the legendary Ian Callum, one of the best in the business.

“Is it sporty? Definitely. How about luxurious? Without a doubt. Fun to drive? A hoot.

“Will it be expensive to run?”

“Manufacturers offer a choice of engines for a reason, so consider them carefully. Jaguar, for instance, claims its 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel will do 5.1 litres per 100km. What if I want something more powerful? Pick the three-litre V6 diesel, which will accelerate to 100km/h in 6.6 seconds,” he adds.

“Can it carry my family and all our junk?” asks Stone. “The boot of the Jaguar holds 1675 litres of cargo with the rear seats down. How does that compare with the competition? It's about the same as an Audi A6 and a BMW 5 Series, but smaller than a Mercedes E-class. You can use manufacturers' websites to compare vehicle specifications.

“Does the price make sense?”

“The Jaguar XF Sportbrake 3.0 V6D S Luxury costs £44 355 (R615 000) in the UK, compared to £48 360 (R670 000) for an Audi A6 Avant BiTDi Quattro S-line or £49 905 (R692 000) for a BMW 535 Touring M Sport,” says Stone.

So much for the Jaguar, but asking the right questions applies whatever car you consider.

“Can you get in and out comfortably, is it the right size, can you see out clearly, do you like the steering and handling characteristics, will it fit your drive, is it sufficiently sound-proofed and suitable for day-to-day as well as holiday needs etc?

Tick all those boxes and you've found your car.” - The Independent