Car Choice: An Xsara could be just the tonic for kayak-crazy David

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Indy Lifestyle Online

David Perry is 21-year-old in the third year of a degree in medicine and is about to start regular hospital and GP placements all over Manchester and the surrounding area. He would like a car that's cheap to run and insure, yet large enough for his regular kayaking trips. He wants to get at least 50mpg out of it and his budget is from £1,200 to £1,600, possibly a little more if that would guarantee that it is reliable.

A car for the head

David knows that the insurance implications for someone his age are fairly dire, so last year he enrolled on the Pass+ scheme which will enable him to get more affordable cover. For those that don't know, the scheme involves a series of modules designed to improve the skills of young drivers so that they can cope better on motorways, in towns, on dual carriageways and in all weathers. Passing these modules should ensure cheaper insurance premiums. As with every quote, much depends on David's circumstances, where the car will be parked and the type of model it is. I know he needs a small estate, all the better to get a kayak on the roof, and all the kayak paraphernalia inside. Getting 50mpg, though, is going to be a challenge. I think the obvious choice is the Vauxhall Astra Estate 1.7 TD. This will return 57.6mpg overall, although weight of kayak and kit will make a difference. Prices for decent early examples from the late 1990s are below £1,000, but a 2002 basic specification Envoy (lower insurance) is around £1,200 and that should have a reasonable 100,000 specification, but they can easily top 200,000 miles.

A car for the heart

I do think that the Astra is the perfect compromise and should be the cheapest small estate to buy and run. However, the Citroë*Xsara Estate (inset) is worth a closer look, not least because it will return in 2.0TD form up to 53.3mpg, provided it is the 110bhp model rather than the 90bhp one. It is also a very comfortable car and more stylish than the staid but dependable Astra. Like the Astra, the Xsara has experienced few operating problems and there are many in circulation with very high six-figure mileages. It just feels a bit fragile, the trim is not that durable, and there can be minor electrical issues, but nothing too serious. It is certainly nice to drive with fairly sporty handling, but with excellent overall refinement. What is important to David is the load area and the boot is wide and flat and, with the seats folded forward, there is plenty of room for kayak equipment. The petrol 1.6 model would be even cheaper to insure and it returns a creditable 42mpg so it may be worth considering. A Xsara is a very affordable buy and prices start at £600, but we would recommend spending around £1,200 on a 2000 example that has covered just under 100,000 miles.

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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