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Car Choice: After 10 years of being spoilt, it's back to reality

Fais Ansari has spent a decade living and working in the Middle East, but is now back in England. He admits to having been spoilt, as petrol was so cheap and he could own dream cars such as Porsches and Audi A8s. Back in reality, with a wife and three children – aged five, three, and one – he already has a mini-MPV for family transport and long journeys, but is looking for a used car which is sporty, automatic, fast, can take all the family, and costs between £20,000 and £25,000.

A car for the head

The fundamental problem we have here is that sporty cars don't normally have five seats. Indeed, a nice coupé, such as an Audi A5, only has two rear benches, and that goes for just about every other model that could keep Fais happy. If he wants the family to be safe and sound when they go out together, then he will have to compromise. Also, going for a four-door car means that getting the children in and out is much easier. As convenient and clever as folding front seats may be, a set of rear seats are utterly priceless when children are involved. As he ran an Audi A8, the high performance S6 would be worth a look as an uncompromising sports car wrapped in the more sober shape of a saloon or estate. Not only that, but the engine is a huge V10, famous for powering Lamborghinis – so the sporting pedigree is beyond question. Unlike a Lambo, all the family can come along for the ride. Fais wants a sub-eight-second 0-60mph time, and an S6 will do that in under six seconds. A 2006 to 2007 model, with an automatic gearbox, will be around £25,000, with up to 50,000 miles on the clock.

A car for the heart

The trouble with the sporty Audi is that the suspension is rather firm and may upset the children, especially at low speed around town. Maybe a slightly softer saloon would do? A Jaguar XF is a possibility. It would be fast enough. The handling is sharp, and these new-style Jaguars continue the sporty feel of old, which is combined with some bang-up-to-date styling. A 2007 example, with 20,000 miles on the clock, can be bought in the low £20,000s. If a smaller, more family friendly hatchback would be the answer then the obvious choice would be a Volkswagen Golf GTI, which would qualify on speed and handling terms. Despite being a quick car, it manages to be both refined and very comfortable, which should keep the whole family happy. It is not the cheapest hot hatchback when brand new, but Fais could get himself a nearly new example from 2009, with fewer than 10,000 miles on the clock, for around £22,995. The Automatic DSG gearbox is very effective, the rear is large enough, and there is a decent sized boot too. Fais might tire of a full-on sports car but this could be the perfect compromise.

Looking to buy?

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