Derek Wagoner has a Fiat Panda 1.3 sporting diesel which he reckons is a great car because it is very cheap to own and run, plus, he adds, "It has white stripes!" However, as it is now three years old Derek wants a change, but what he most wants is the lowest £35 tax band, which returns 55mpg and yet is still sporty.

A car for the head

Derek should perhaps consider a Mini diesel, but he has already tipped me off that the Mini is not the car for him. There are plenty of small cars that are very economical and presumably he wants nothing bigger than a Fiat Panda. With that in mind then I reckon that Derek should take a much closer look at the Toyota Aygo. Last year it finished top of the JD Power customer satisfaction survey. Interestingly for a Toyota, it has not been the most reliable small car, with some problems relating to the heating and ventilation system. The good news is that the servicing experience is an excellent one. All the owners agreed that running an Aygo could not be cheaper. Overall the fuel consumption is 61.4mpg, which is very good. Not only that, the insurance group is group one. The trouble is that the Aygo could not really be described as being very sporty, even if Derek did stick a stripe on it. Otherwise it does cost less than £7,000. So let's try again.

A car for the heart

If small and sporty does not mean Mini for Derek, for me the Suzuki Swift is even better as a small but eager hatch. Trouble is, the 1.5 petrol model, which gets to 60mph in just over 10 seconds, won't fit into the lower tax bracket or return more than 43mpg. You can order stripes, though, which do look fetching. So although the Swift driving experience is a sporty one with lots of grip and the handling is very tidy on fast corners, it has the wrong engine for Derek. Instead he should go for the 1.3DDis diesel, which will return a creditable 61.4mpg. The Swift is at least as practical as the Panda, possibly more so. Inside there is plenty of room for four adults and the rear seats split and fold. There is power steering, remote locking and electric front windows. The diesel costs £9,999 and the stripes about £77.

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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