Car Choice: Don't give up your pride and joy – buy a sack of spuds

Lin Evans loves her MX-5 sports cars, and has run them for the last 20 years. But after a move to the Cotswolds, the last two winters have been a problem as the Mazda can't cope with the snow, and she has had several scary experiences. However, Lin does not want a boring car, would love another convertible, but realises that the MX-5 may have to be replaced. Her budget is £20,000.

A car for the head

Lin told me that experts had said that snow tyres would not help, as the MX-5 is so light. Well, perhaps she could try putting a bag of potatoes in the boot. This could actually transform the handling by putting weight over the driving wheels at the rear. I know of several BMW owners who have done this and found that, combined with snow tyres or snow chains, their car behaves itself. I would urge Lin not to give up her pride and joy. Personally, I put my large rear-wheel drive car away during really bad weather and use a Land Rover. Maybe Lin could hire a 4x4 when it snows? I really think that the extra weight in the boot and proper tyres or chains would be the answer and be much cheaper than buying a car that won't make her very happy. I am sure Lin is a good driver, but perhaps she should also modify her driving style and take lessons through the Institute of Advanced Motorists. A registered charity, their Skill for Life package costs £139, and if Lin passes she will become a member of the IAM.

A car for the heart

Lin's MX-5 is rear-wheel drive which can be more of a challenge in wet or wintry conditions, so one answer could be to simply go for a front-wheel drive car. If Lin wants a sports car which is fun to drive, has driven front wheels, and has the roof missing, then she should look no further than a Mini convertible. The Cooper or Cooper S are the ones that Lin should consider but there is a huge list of extras that can increase the price. The basic Cooper convertible starts at £17,235. The Pepper pack, at £925, adds air conditioning, floor mats and fog lights. Then the Convertible pack, at £400, factors in seat heating and a wind deflector. It doesn't end there, as Sport Suspension at £150 could be something she needs. Perhaps Lin should consider a slightly used example. Her £20,000 will buy a top of the range Cooper S, with the best Chili pack extras, registered in 2011, and with just a few thousand miles on the clock.

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF or email James Ruppert at carchoice@inde-, 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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