Yvonne Kiamtia is struggling to decide which roadster to buy. This will be her only car so it needs to be practical to get shopping and her spaniel on board. Her teenagers do not expect to be ferried around any more and Yvonne has access to larger cars when major items need to be shifted. She has just turned 40 and wants to treat herself and her spaniel, who loves the feeling of the wind flapping her ears. Yvonne, whose ears don't flap, has £13,500 to spend.

Yvonne sent me a wonderfully detailed question with all sorts of insights into what she wanted and even her shortlist, so here we go. The Chrysler Crossfire she has found nice to drive and great to look at, but there was hardly any boot. The Nissan 350Z she also thought was good to drive, with more boot space and a fairly rare sight on the roads. She has not driven a Honda S2000 but previously enjoyed owning a Honda CRX. Then there is the Mazda MX5 that Yvonne knows is probably the most sensible option of all, except that everyone seems to have one, including her dad. I'm glad that Yvonne has taken the time to try these cars out, however, buying a convertible is primarily an emotional decision. There is nothing very rational about buying a car with the roof missing. So looks and how the car drives are crucial, as well as how it makes us feel. This is going to be Yvonne's only car, so an element of practicality would be good. I find myself automatically writing that the MX5 does everything a sports convertible should. But Yvonne knows that.

A car for the head

I don't know what Yvonne will make of this first proposal, but I think she might like to take a look at the Ford Focus CC. It actually looks really nice and is as good to drive as the hatchback. There's a large boot, which was one of Yvonne's issues, although I do think that despite the good value package which will have to be bought slightly used, it may be the Ford badge and image that put Yvonne off. Even so, for £12,995 it is possible to find a 2,000-mile 2007 example at a main dealer.

Then again, there is the Mini. Everyone seems to have one, but not so many with the roof missing, and it is just lovable and great to drive. The Cooper version will have an extra bit of power that Yvonne should certainly appreciate. It may have a small boot and tiny rear seats but it will have a tad more practicality than a Mazda MX5 while still looking the sporty part. Prices are now comfortably below £10,000 for a basic Mini One, but Yvonne could afford a Cooper or even a Cooper S as £13,000 will get her a 2004 S with just 20,000 miles on the clock.

A car for the heart

I think that Yvonne could fall in love with the Mini very easily indeed. Maybe, though, she would like something slightly more hardcore because sports enthusiasts would probably rather go for a vehicle that's fast and uncompromising. Then there's the Honda S2000 that Yvonne has been considering; she would be able to buy a 2003 model within her budget. It is a comfortable car with an amazing engine and, best of all, you do not see very many about.

That's not the case with a BMW 3 series convertible or a BMW Z4, which is well built and has powerful six cylinder engines. A 2004 example would certainly be affordable. There are some more German options in the shape of the Audi TT roadster and the Mercedes SLK. The Mercedes has a clever roof that converts from open to hardtop and offers the best of both worlds, especially as the weather can be so unpredictable in the UK. The TT, on the other hand, is a fantastic shape, but not as sporty to drive as some of the others. The TT is a design classic and Yvonne can get herself a really nice 2003/04 example which I think will make her feel and look special.

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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