Graham Hyde is looking for a used car for about £12,000. Graham says that he is not a boy racer but is looking to have some fun – without going too wild. He has been considering such cars as the Subaru Impreza Turbo, Volkswagen Golf GTI, and Honda Civic Type R. He says he has also considered something "more left field", such as the Alfa Romeo GT, so he is open to suggestions.

A car for the head

Actually, I would suggest that Graham is being just a bit boy racerish in some of his selections. The Impreza and Honda are a teeny bit youthful, but perhaps the Alfa points a way forward. Some of the more grown up models from German manufacturers are worth considering. Audi has always specialised in understated cars, and has an excellent line of quite subtle high-performance vehicles. The RS4 is an estate car with a difference. The difference being that it delivers supercar levels of performance – 60mph in less than five seconds. To the indifferent eye, there isn't much to tell an RS model apart from a high specification Quattro diesel, or even a much warmer S-line model. However, there are some telling differences. Apart from the badge work front and rear, the wheel arches have a more rakish flair, containing the unique 18 inch, nine-spoke alloys, and the ride height is 20mm lower than standard. For £12,000, Graham should get a decent 2001 example with about 90,000 miles on the clock.

A car for the heart

The antithesis of a boy racer's hot hatchback has to be the BMW M3. The early 2000 examples are some of the very best versions ever built. Indeed, the M3 coupé was actually great value new and is now even better value used. It's a supercar for fairly ordinary car money, and its six-cylinder engine was just perfect – 343bhp was plenty of power, and delivering all that at 7,900rpm remains an astounding sensory treat. However clumsy you are, it won't try to hurt you because there are big brakes, accurate steering, and electronic gadgets (stability and traction control) to help. Being based on the standard coupé means that it is practical, but, as ever, that little chromed badge lets everyone know it means business. Oh yes, and the convertible is brilliant – not least because it is torsionally more rigid than the previous generation coupé. So, what a way for Graham to ruffle his hair. I will stick with the practical hard top as Graham did not ask for the open-air option. Within his budget he can buy himself a 2002 to 2003 example with 50,000 miles on the clock, in immaculate condition with a full history. I think that this is a car that he could really fall in love with.

James Ruppert's Bangernomics Bible: How To Buy And Run A Car For Less, is published by Foresight Publications (01760 441423) at £8.99

Looking to buy

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF 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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