Jane Keller, 64, is returning to the UK to live in the Peak District. She wants an utterly reliable and compact five-door. The engine must be small, economical, and ecological. The car also needs plenty of head and leg room, front and back. Her budget is between £9,000 and £12,000 – cash, no part exchange. Jane is prepared to buy new, and is considering a Hyundai i20.

A car for the head

Jane's relocation to the Peak District may suggest a 4x4. But a small, relatively light, front-wheel drive car will be more than able to deal with any adverse conditions. Jane says that motorway journeys will be minimal, so the demands on the car will be light and the specification can be fairly minimal. A Kia Picanto would be interesting. It is a small but surprisingly spacious car, and a brand new model is £6,670. It has a tall body with four doors and you can get six-footers in the back. The 1.0litre engine returns a claimed 57mpg. With cheap insurance and low maintenance costs, Jane will find this an easy car to own. The standard specification includes power steering, central locking and electric windows, and Jane would be best off buying new to get the full seven-year warranty cover.

A car for the heart

I know that Jane is looking at the Hyundai i20, which is a very impressive small, family hatchback. Certainly the specification is impressive and it includes air conditioning, remote locking, and electric front windows on the lowest Classic model. There is plenty of room for four adults and the 1.2 model starts at £10,195 for the five-door. I think that a Suzuki Splash would be worth considering as an alternative. The Splash is well equipped and solidly built with a high cabin design, which means plenty of room inside. Jane won't want for too much, as electric windows, remote central locking, air conditioning and a CD player are all part of the standard package. There is a choice of either a 1.0 or 1.2 litre engine. A 1.0 GLS is £9,495 and will be insurance group 7E. That leaps to 11E for the £9,995 1.2 GLS. The difference in mpg is substantial – 56.5 versus 51.4 for the larger engine. For Jane, the Splash has to be worth considering.

Looking to buy?

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