Coby wants to buy a new car, specifically a practical coupé. He has a budget of £15,000. The car needs to be big enough to accommodate his six foot five inch frame, and his skis and the like. He keeps coming back to the BMW 3 series coupe, but Coby reckons it is devoid of any personality. So do we have any better ideas?

Well, one reason why Coby keeps coming back to BMW is that they are just so good, although £15,000 won't buy a brand new one. For all-round ability, driving pleasure and the whole ownership experience it is hard to go wrong with a 3 series coupé in particular. But, since he knows everything about the BMW, I won't bore him with information about just how practical, entertaining and well screwed together it all is. It's our duty to find him something interestingly different. Coby also muses on the contradiction of wanting a coupé that is also practical, because coupés are so often based on more sensible saloons that have extra doors and more rear headroom. Recently though, there has been a very distinct trend for coupé models that are indeed practical and both the Mercedes CLS and Volkswagen Passat Coupé spring to mind. Buyers want practicality, but they also want style and a coupé can provide that in spades even if a roof rack is required for the skis. As there is no mention of a family or any need to cart around anything more than Coby's long body and possibly a friend, then a coupé would be perfect.

A car for the head

Logically I'd like to respectfully suggest that Coby buys a BMW, but he may not like that answer. Second choice should be the Mercedes CLK which isn't as good to drive but has a wide choice of engines, is refined, and later models are well put together. Oh yes, and there's a big boot. I fear though that Coby may also consider it lacking in personality. That's why I'll put a vote in for the Mazda RX7. As quirky coupés go, Coby can't buy better, because it has four doors, well sort of anyway. The rear doors are small and reverse hinged so open against the front doors. That means there is easy access to the seats and for that reason alone it has loads of personality. Under the bonnet though is the quirkiest item of all, a rotary engine, which means there are rotors where usually there are pistons. It may not be very fuel-efficient but it is responsive and makes a truly wonderful noise. It looks good too, and is far less common than a Mercedes or BMW. £14,000 would buy a 2005 or 2006 example from a dealer with mileage of less than 20,000. Being a Mazda it will also be incredibly reliable. Getting the skis in could be a problem though.

A car for the heart

There really is only one marque of affordable sports car that tugs at the heartstrings and that's an Alfa Romeo. The GT is very pretty, and drives in a suitably sporty manner. It isn't a BMW of course, but that is precisely why you would want to buy one. There are several characterful engines on offer from a petrol V6 to a 1.9 diesel. A 2.0 petrol which was available had an automatic gearbox operated by paddles under the steering wheel. The rear seats can be folded down, but I don't know if a set of skis would fit inside. You could certainly get four adults in, although Coby would not be that comfortable sitting in the back. There is just one specification level, which includes climate control air conditioning, alloy wheels and CD. There are also some option packs that offer satnav and xenon headlamps. Depreciation has been quite severe, which has resulted in some very low prices. So £14,000 buys a 2007 1.9 JTD diesel with just under 5,000 miles from a dealer, which is great value.

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or email James Ruppert at carchoice@independent., 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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