Tommy Sass is looking to buy a car for his business. Tommy's work requires him to drive from client to client. As he is a newcomer to the UK his budget is very limited at just £2,000. Tommy is on the tall side at 6ft 4in, so a super-mini would not be the answer.

He thinks, though, that a diesel could fit the bill. So what are his options?

There is no shortage of used cars around, or at least people looking to change their vehicle for something more economical to run.

Yet that is exactly the sort of car that Tommy wants. Increasingly we are in this position where a diesel is perceived as the ideal car, but the buyer does not have much to spend and that means putting up with an above-average mileage and, maybe, a shabby condition. Mileage should not be an issue, provided the car has been looked after properly. As we have said many times here, a higher mileage average is better for a car rather than a minimal mileage.

It helps that Tommy is not after anything particularly stylish, because a mainstream Ford, Vauxhall or Peugeot model will be far cheaper than something wearing a BMW, Audi or Mercedes badge. I would, though, ask Tommy to estimate just what sort of mileage he will be doing. If it is low, then a diesel could be a false economy, if he plans to cover much less than 1,500 miles. Assuming he does need a diesel, let's see what is out there.

A car for the head

There is a massive cross-section of diesel vehicles that Tommy could buy for £2,000, including off-roaders and people-carriers and really rather posh small and large cars. So it seems Tommy won't have to tolerate something scruffy with a million miles on the clock. Ideally what he needs is a tidy rep's car. Something like a Mondeo or Vectra. I think the latest shape Vectra won't be within budget, but the last Mondeo certainly will. I found a 2002 example with 120,000 miles, which should manage just over 40mpg. A Zetec version with a 2.0TDCi engine and air conditioning, electric mirrors and full service history for £2,000 has to be viewed as great value for money. It is also a smart car and clients won't think any less of him when it is parked outside. I also think that Tommy should think about the Peugeot 406 saloon. The diesel model is wonderfully economical, getting around 50mpg overall with the added benefit of being really nice to drive. As a largish car it should also make Tommy feel particularly comfortable. A 2001 example with around 100,000 miles is easily within budget.

A car for the heart

Now, I know that Tommy does not want anything flash but there are some very classy diesels within budget and one would be the Volkswagen Passat. I did come across a 2003 1.9 Sport with just 70,000 miles, which seemed far too good to be true. Usually, these have massive mileages, but maybe I was just lucky. The diesel engine returns an impressive 50mpg and there is bags of room for Tommy's larger-than-average frame. An interesting car would be the Alfa Romeo 156 2.4 JTD, which looks great, but there are reliability issues with all older Alfas and I don't think that the driving position would be very comfortable. An older Audi, though, would be a possibility and it would have an identical engine to the Passat. So actually Tommy would be far better off with a more recent Passat that would be safer and better equipped. Most that I came across were 1997 to 1999 with 100,000 miles, which makes me think that there is something wrong with that 2003 example. In these difficult times Tommy needs to be careful and find an honest seller and an honest Passat.


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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