Car choice: Can a safe car be stylish?

Anna wants a reliable and spacious car that's also interesting. So, can she have it all? James Ruppert weighs the options


Anna Falaschi, 45, is a car nut who has always been a fan of Italian cars and their driving dynamics. However, because she has worked in sales and has obviously done quite well at it, Anna has had to work her way through cheap Euroboxes up to big German diesels made by Mercedes, Audi and BMW – in the interests of reliability, obviously. A new job now means less miles overall, but with some travel to Europe, so she's looking for a car that has the ability to take three kids and a husband away. There is a family MPV in reserve for holidays. Anna has £13,000 to spend and would ideally like something interesting – hence a temptation to buy Italian. But she is wondering about reliability issues.

Anna does have a problem here, and it's her family. She obviously loves them enough to want to fit them into her new car, but should she worry about this? It's going to be Anna's car most of the time, so why shouldn't she have exactly what she wants?

Indeed, has she considered the small and perfectly formed Fiat 500? The 1.4 Sport is more than a match for the Mini One and is likely to undercut it on price too, costing around £11,000. As with the Mini, though, buyers are encouraged to load it with extras.

The drawback is that there are just four seats. Unless Anna is feeling spectacularly selfish, maybe she should think about buying something a bit more family-friendly. Plus, the Fiat has struggled with reliability. The website www.reliabilityindex. co.uk shows that no Italian car is in the top 10, because seven are Japanese, but Anna has told me that she doesn't want a soulless Far Eastern car. I wonder if we can persuade her otherwise?



A car for the head

I don't want Anna to think I've gone mad – but what about the Vauxhall Corsa? The new one is not as small as they used to be and doesn't feel like a supermini. It has plenty of space, has big-car refinement on the road, and is really nicely finished.

Going for the mid-ranking Club specification brings curtain airbags, making it very safe. And there are some great deals around; with a little bit of pushing, buyers have been able to get several thousand pounds off the asking price. That means a 1.4 Club could be bought for around £10,000 brand new.

Another great small car is the Suzuki Swift. It's arguably more funky-looking than a Corsa and can be just as good value.

Going up a size, there's the Volkswagen Golf. If that's a bit boring to look at, maybe the Mazda 3 is the answer. It has distinctive styling and is great to drive, which Anna should appreciate. A 1.4 TS sells for just under £13,000, but she should be able to get £1,000 off that. I've mentioned only new vehicles here because of the guarantees, and Anna will have no worries about reliability on her drives around Europe.



A car for the heart

Ithink that all of the above "head" cases could also qualify as cars for Anna's heart, as they are all great to drive and easy to live with. Still, it is certainly tempting to get Anna into an Alfa Romeo, such as a 147.

One marque that she did not mention is Volvo. The S40 saloon is a very classy package, and it makes such a change from the usual German offerings. Best of all, the S40 is great value. For the distances Anna may be doing, she needs her car to be comfy. The S40 is certainly that, as the suspension has been designed with relaxed journeys in mind, whatever the road surface. The 2.0-litre diesel will manage 50mpg. There are lively petrol engines, such as the 2.4 and 2.5T, but consumption is heavier at just over 30mpg. There's plenty of width in the body, so three children in the back isn't a problem, but if their legs are growing there won't be that much room. Still, it is a full five-seater.

I found a 2004 S40 diesel at a dealer, with 21,000 miles on the clock, for £12,399. At a Volvo dealer, a 2006 1.8S petrol with just 9,000 miles was £12,450, proving what good value these cars are – and this vehicle would still be under warranty.

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or email James Ruppert at carchoice@independent.co.uk, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle you are interested in, and your budget.

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Extras
indybest
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits