Anne Dow's husband has just retired. They have relied on a company car with a MINI One as a back up, though this is often borrowed by their daughter. Now they need a second-hand car, with a budget of £9,000 to £15,000. Their new house in Devon has a tiny driveway, so something easy to manoeuvre is a must. They want something sporty but capable of a comfy journey to, say, Edinburgh.

A car for the head

The obvious answer is an upgrade to the Cooper S. It was never a cheap car, but at least with a used version Anne will get a far better equipped and certainly more responsive MINI. There is a John Cooper Works version, which has a huge 208bhp engine, but I think the standard turbocharged model will be fine. Anne will revel in the responsive handling and the way it feels on the road, assured, confident and never uncomfortable. The seats are good, though Anne needs to find a model with air conditioning. Alloy wheels and a CD player are part of the package. Running costs are reasonable and just a tad more than the ONE, while the depreciation is slower than just about any other small hatchback.

A car for the heart

In 20 years I have never known a disappointed Mazda MX-5 buyer, indeed, every new model seems to get better. Any convertible with the roof down will be easier to reverse out of a confined drive. There is a choice of MX-5 engines; either a 1.8 or 2.0 litre. If Anne enjoyed the sweet handling of the MINI, the MX5 is better. It is also cost-effective, with decent fuel consumption and reasonable insurance premiums. With up to £15,000 you can get a 2008/9 1.8 SE model with warranty and low mileages.

Looking to buy?

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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