Pauline Graham has an old Rover 400 which needs to be scrapped and a Ford Ka which is getting too small for ferrying her children – ideally, she would like something that can sit four children. Pauline also needs a commuting car for a 50-mile daily journey with good fuel economy. Her budget is £5,000 for each car.

Cars for the head

So two sensible cars for Pauline? Well, why not use the Ka as the commuter? It is reasonably economical and should manage over 40 mpg. I would say that Pauline should save herself £5,000 and stick with a vehicle she knows. So let's concentrate on the multi-purpose kiddie wagon. For me the obvious choice would be the Vauxhall Zafira. Here is a vehicle based on the economical Vauxhall Astra, which has two seats in the boot which fold flat and in one swift movement become upright. So even with six on board there is still enough room for bags and toys. Overall, the 1.6 petrol manages 34 mpg whereas a 2.0 diesel manages 42mpg. However, if Pauline does not cover a huge mileage then she should not be too bothered about getting a diesel. So what could she get for £5,000? Well, I found a 2005 model at a Vauxhall dealer who would provide a comprehensive warranty. It had covered almost 34,000 miles and came in the comprehensive Design specification.

Cars for the heart

I still believe that the Ford Ka is the best solution for the commuter car, although upgrading to a Ford Focus may make some sense, as it has character and is good to drive. A budget of £5,000 buys a 2005 Zetec model, which has covered just 24,000 miles. That seems like great value to me, so let's move on to the people carrier. Now I know that Pauline has considered a Fiat Multipla, which is reasonably compact – £5,000 will buy a 2004 diesel that will return 44 mpg. There is also an even uglier Fiat people carrier, the Doblo. This is an adapted van, but that is a good thing because the seven-seat version has lots of luggage space. Not huge fun to drive, but this is a practical vehicle and you can buy a 2004 example with the diesel engine. That should deliver around 50mpg and be fairly cheap to run.

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, 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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