Peter Regelous, 41, has a very simple request: a small four-door car for £5,000. That's it. There are no details about lifestyle, other family members or pets. That gives us the freedom to be creative, but not too much. I will assume that a hatchback would be in order and also the most fuel-efficient engine and manageable running costs. Also, £5,000 buys a relatively recent model, so no reason to look at anything too old.
A car for the head
When it comes to small, spacious and efficient hatches, there are several I can recommend without any hesitation. The first is the Toyota Yaris, which is very reliable and practical. Actually, there is much more to the Yaris than that as it has a hugely versatile interior with lots of storage options, plus the economy is great, returning on average 50mpg with the petrol version. Peter needs to decide where he will use his small four-door car when it comes to picking the best Yaris engine. Around town, the 1.0 will be fine, but if there are regular long-distance excursions, then it has to be the 1.3. Alternatively, there is also a 1.4 diesel which returns an impressive 64.2mpg but it may have more miles on the clock within his budget. Inside, there is lots of space thanks to the high-set front seats, while in the rear the whole seat slides, giving Peter the option of room for passengers or a larger boot area. The T2 model has power steering, the T3 a CD, central locking and electric front windows, while the Spirit model has air-conditioning as standard. £5,000 will buy either a 2005 T2 or a 2003 Spirit with a 1.3 engine from a car supermarket.
A car for the heart
A Honda Jazz is an impressively spacious vehicle considering its modest size. It is, though, a distinctive and high-quality package that sets it apart from the majority of small hatches, plus it being a Honda guarantees reliability. There are two engines to choose from: a 1.2 and a 1.4 petrol. Either is fine for a combination of road conditions, though for longer distances the slightly less economical 1.4 would be the pick. The 1.2, however, manages to return 51.4 mpg, which is pretty good. One big difference from the Yaris for Peter could be the levels of refinement at speed, though around town it is just as noisy. Overall, this is an easy car to drive with a high-set driving position that, when combined with big, simple controls, makes it the perfect environment. The great news is that £5,000 buys a 2005 1.2 with just 26,000 miles on the clock from a private seller. If Peter wanted the reassurance of a dealer's warranty, there are more options. I was delighted to find a 1.4 with higher SE specification (air-conditioning, remote central locking and electric windows) and just 20,000 miles registered in 2003 for £5,095 from a car supermarket.
Looking to buy?
Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or email James Ruppert at firstname.lastname@example.org, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested and your budget.