Car Choice: In search of the perfect vehicle to restore marital harmony

Gerry Batty is 54 and will soon lose the use of his Volvo C70 company car.

He now needs a vehicle that will be used mainly by his wife. She works part-time and will do less than 10,000 miles a year. There is some marital friction over this decision, though, as Gerry wants something exciting – like a sports car – but his wife would be happy with a modest hatchback. They have £10,000 to spend.

A car for the head

The car for the head has to be the sensible hatchback that will be perfect for day-to-day chores – but that doesn't mean it has to be boring. The Mazda 3 is related to the Ford Focus, which means that for practicality and driving enjoyment it would be the perfect compromise choice for the Battys. This is a lively little car with some decent engines, and the smaller petrols will be economical enough, returning around 40mpg with either the 1.4 or 1.6-litre engine. As a driving experience, the Mazda 3 is sharp. However, this is a family hatchback so there is plenty of room inside and a decent boot. Great then for shopping and commuting. For £10,000 there are plenty of options and Gerry and his wife should be able to find a 2008 or 2009 Sport model, which has lots of standard equipment, with under 20,000 miles on the clock. It should also have a year to run on the warranty.

A car for the heart

Gerry enjoyed his time with the Volvo C70, so why not downsize to a Volvo C30 (pictured)? Here is a very stylish, small, sporting hatchback. Admittedly it won't have the practicality of the Mazda 3, with a smallish boot and just two doors, but that's the trade off. Certainly up front there is plenty of room for Gerry and his wife, but in the back it is tight, with just two seats rather than a bench for three. It is well equipped with climate control air conditioning, electric windows and alloy wheels. An SE or SE Lux brings many more toys. The smallest 1.6 petrol will be more than adequate, returning a decent 40mpg. It won't be that quick, but that should not be an issue for what is basically a commuter car. Gerry's £10,000 will buy a 2008 1.6 SE with just over 13,000 miles on the clock, which is excellent value.

James Ruppert's new book The German Car Industry: My Part in Its Victory is out now (Foresight Publications) and is also available via at £12.99 including p&p.

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.