Lesley Jacques is a young-at-heart grandmother with three grandchildren aged three months, six months and four years, and she has developed rheumatoid arthritis in her knees. She wants to swap her two-year-old Vauxhall Corsa Breeze for something larger. Lesley can add an extra £2,000 to the budget. She wants an automatic gearbox, three rear seats – suitable for two baby seats and an adult – plus lots of boot space.

A car for the head

I think that Lesley will have around £8,000 to play with, although it depends on how much she gets for her old Vauxhall. I would like to say that she should resist any temptation to sell it to any company that advertises nationally to buy used cars. She will get far more selling privately, or a better deal by part exchanging. Certainly Lesley is going to need a vehicle which is not too large, as it is the one she uses to commute to work, plus she says it must be as economical as possible. This means that a compact people carrier with a diesel engine is the answer. But which one? Seven seats are not a major requirement and if they are there, should fold flat into the floor. I think Lesley should look at the Volkswagen Touran, which is practical, well built and good to drive. Ideally a five-seat model would free up even more space and the boot is very large. The 1.9 TDi delivers 40mpg, and the SE specification provides all the most essential extras, including air conditioning, rear electric windows, and cruise control. Lesley's £8,000 buys a 2005 model with 63,000 miles on the clock. Not cheap, but this is a sought-after car.

A car for heart

Although a compact people carrier may well be the obvious answer to Lesley's requirements, it may not actually be the very best bet. With three children who can only get bigger, the boot really does need to be massive and the requirement for a pram or a wheelchair also puts space at a premium. So, yet again, I find myself looking towards "civilianised" vans (MPVs) as the answer. These are far better to live with and drive than most imagine, with all the usual mod cons – but automatics are a rarity. So, for everyone but Lesley, they are perfect. Which brings me back to a best value compact people carrier. The Volkswagen is pricey, so perhaps a Renault Grand Scenic (left) would be the answer. It can be bought with an automatic gearbox and a diesel engine. As the name implies the Grand Scenic is larger than the standard Scenic so it does seat seven if required, but most importantly for Lesley it has a very large boot. It is very comfortable and refined, which will please all passengers, young and old. With the 1.9 dCi 130 engine it will return 47mpg. In the classified ads it is possible to buy a 2007 model with between 20,000 and 30,000 miles on the clock for around the £8,000 budget.

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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