Car Choice: Don't let a rubbish local dealer narrow your options

Shirley Moffat has a three-year-old diesel Fiat Multipla and wonders whether to replace it, but the family still needs enormous amounts of space. Shirley and her husband have daily 50-mile commutes on rural roads. Another Multipla is a possibility, but she does not like the local Fiat dealer. Her budget is £14,000.

A car for the head

Firstly, there is an argument for saving £14,000 by sticking with what they know and, as the manufacturer's warranty is almost up, purchasing another independent one. It's a shame that Shirley does not like the garage, but that always is a crucial relationship. Surely there must be a small independent dealer who can provide an efficient and cheaper service option? Just because you have a Fiat it doesn't mean that you must use them. Fiat now has a new compact MPV called the Qubo which starts at £9,750 and it has rear sliding doors and a huge boot. Not sure that three large offspring would be comfy in the back. I have a lot of time for the adapted vans such as the Peugeot Partner, which can be ordered with three individual rear seats. It has sliding rear doors and a massive boot. The driving position is comfy and the all-round visibility is excellent. Economy from the diesel engines returns just under 50mpg. Prices start at £12,000 for a new model.

A car for the heart

Maybe Shirley should consider a slightly used car and get a bit more for her money. The Ford S-Max is worth considering even though they may not make any use of the extra seats in the boot. At least that means more room for luggage. The S-Max is a good car to drive and feels like a small hatch rather than an MPV. Even better, it provides a very comfortable ride and there is ample room for five adults. There are three diesel options which deliver about 45mpg overall. One drawback could be a slightly lower driving position than is usual in an MPV. The larger Ford Galaxy may not be the answer, but it is just as good to drive as the S-Max. For £14,000 Shirley can get a 2006 1.8 TDCi Zetec S-Max with 56,000 miles or a 2007 Galaxy to the same spec and 12,000 miles from a Ford garage.


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.