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Car Choice: Economical little runner with an eco-friendly vibe wanted

Ann Large is 64 and due to retire early next year. She currently runs a 1996 Fiat Punto diesel, which gives 53mpg and is very reliable. Ann loves it. However, she and her husband want a new small car that will be very cheap to run, with good reliability and low C02 emissions. Ann says that she is prepared to consider a finance scheme, which is the stress-free way to buy and run a new car, although it is always important to read the small print.

A car for the head

If Ann likes her old Punto, then she will love the new one, called the Grande Punto. It is certainly a very handsome hatchback and I reckon that Ann could get away with a three-door version. The clue is in the name. The Grande, pictured, has a lot more space and there is certainly plenty of room for four adults. You could even get three in the rear without too much complaint. For practicality there is a decent amount of boot space, and Ann will be delighted to discover the huge amount of standard equipment. Electric ... well, just about everything really with, significantly, a lot of safety kit, and it is no surprise that this model received a five-star Euro NCAP rating. What Ann will like in particular is that the 1.3TD Multijet can return 61.4mpg, officially. Not only that, but there is a five-year guarantee, which is very reassuring. Now a three-door 1.3TD costs £9,500. However, it would be possible to get a discount of around £1,000 at least, or Ann could take advantage of Fiat's zero per cent finance offers. So, provided Ann can find a 25 per cent deposit, then she will pay back the balance over three years.

A car for the heart

A change is as good as a rest and when it comes to class-leading small cars it is the new Vauxhall Corsa that raises a smile or two. Compared to the old model it is a class apart, being very well made and good to drive, and it also has plenty of space and a frugal diesel engine. Just like the Fiat, the 1.3 engine returns 61.4mpg under official conditions, although the warranty is not quite as good; it lasts three years. There is the same choice of three and five doors, and although this is a question of personal preference for Ann, it is clear that the rear of the three-door has slightly less room even though it's fine for two. Like the Fiat, you get a lot of standard equipment and that means CD player, central locking and electric door mirrors. It is designed to be cheap to run and cost effective to buy. Vauxhall, though, have a bewildering range of offers and deals and Ann will have to go through them carefully. The cheapest 1.3 Life is £9,810, but it may be possible to get £1,000 off from a broker. At Vauxhall there are some zero per cent finance deals, although Ann will have to find a 50 per cent deposit and must pay back over two years.

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or email James Ruppert at carchoice@independent.co.uk, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested and your budget.