Car Choice: A family on the road – but not on the people-carrier route

Helen Bartleman and her husband want to change cars. They are looking for a used car, two or three years old, which has room for three child seats in a row – but it should, ideally, not be a people carrier. From their previous experience they would prefer to run a diesel. Most important of all, their budget is £11,000-£13,000.

A car for the head

Not everyone wants a people carrier to cart their family around. Indeed, back in the old days, a hatchback or an estate would more than suffice. These days, though, there are some absolutely huge family cars that have plenty of room for three child seats. One of the biggest is the Ford Mondeo, in either estate or hatchback form. Certainly the Mondeo is great value, as just about everything – air conditioning, cruise control, electric front windows, heated windscreen and a CD player – is standard. There are several diesel options, but the 2.0TD is probably the best powerplant – it's fairly perky and will deliver a useful 47mpg. Overall this is a very comfortable car which is refined and quiet. The wide-opening doors and acres of space mean that getting the children in and out could not be easier. Within Helen's budget, £12,000 will buy a 2009 2.0TDCi hatchback from a main dealer, with around 33,000 miles on the clock and with a full service history.

A car for the heart

The Skoda Superb is a large and very impressive vehicle. Here is a limousine which will cost far less than Helen would think. There are plenty of engine options, but it is a big car and the 1.9TD diesel would be the best. The 115bhp version will return 47.9 mpg while the 140bhp would give 44.1mpg with a huge degree of responsiveness when accelerating. It is, though, a great big car, which feels very soft and smooth, and has been designed to be comfortable rather than a sharp driving machine. Anyone lucky enough to be sitting in the back will have immense amounts of room. The boot, which incorporates a hatchback, can easily swallow up all the baggage that comes with youngsters. Specifications are good, and it all comes with four electric windows, CD player and air conditioning. These Skodas are great value new, and as a used prospect they hold their value quite strongly. So, a 2008 model in SE trim, with 20,000 miles on the clock, can be bought from a Skoda main dealer, with complete confidence, for £12,995.

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF, or email James Ruppert at, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested, and your budget.

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