Jane Foote wonders whether she is asking too much now that her Peugeot 307 can no longer cope with an alsatian, one baby and another on the way, and all the pushchair nonsense that comes with that. So, is there a car out there which is not just spacious but is economical too? Jane has £5,000 to spend and is thinking along the lines of an estate car. However, she is completely open to all ideas and suggestions – which is just how we like it.

A car for the head

Jane seems to have outgrown the small family car, as represented by the average hatchback in general and her Peugeot 307 in particular. That leaves her several options, including an estate or a compact people carrier. The advantage of the people carrier is that although it may not be that much bigger than the 307, it will have more storage options. The priority though has to be a bigger boot for those pushchairs and those all-important child seats. A Renault Scenic would be a good option as a decently sized five-seat small people carrier. It is a refined vehicle, which is comfortable for all the family and, most significantly of all, has a very large boot. There is no point going for the Grand Scenic, which is longer and has, for the moment anyway, two superfluous seats. The advantage of having three individual seats in the rear is that the two child seats will fit in the rear leaving one free for an adult or a larger child. Because economy is a priority the 1.9dCi diesel will return 48.7mpg overall. Within Jane's budget it is possible to get a 2004 or 2005 example in Expression trim, which means that CD player, air conditioning and electric windows are all part of the standard package.

A car for the heart

Although I am tempted to point Jane in the direction of the small van-like Citroë*Berlingo, which I like a lot because it has a huge boot and a feeling of lots of space. I do think that Jane may want a slightly more comfortable and less utilitarian choice for her family, although I think it is perfect for the dog. A diesel Berlingo Multispace with a 2.0HDi engine will return 49.6mpg. For £5,000 you could go to a dealer and get a 2004 example with around 50,000 miles, which has air conditioning. Alternatively, there is the Citroë*Xsara Picasso, which has always been good value as a new or used buy. This is a five-seat compact people carrier, which could not be easier to live with, and is supremely comfortable on the road. A 2.0HDi diesel will manage to get around 51mpg because of its slippery egg shape. The boot is very big and the rear seats are three individual ones, which can be folded, tipped and removed if required. Its specification is pretty good too and, ideally, Jane should at least go for the Desire models, which also have air conditioning. In the used marketplace £5,000 will buy you a very recent example, say a 2005 with 50,000 miles on the clock. Naturally, a buy from a car dealer will come with a warranty.

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.

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