Nicholas Tompkins says that he and his wife, Jacqui, are both fit pensioners who enjoy driving – but only as a means of transport. With an old Volvo 850 GLT and a T-reg Corsa to replace, they have £5,000 to spend on a four-door car. Ideally it must have a high driving position and good visibility. However, they don't need the high fuel consumption or the off-road ability of a 4x4.

A car for the head

One of the problems with modern car design has been the thickening of door and window pillars, which restricts the view out. Much of this has to do with regulations and safety, but certainly a higher driver position always helps those of us at the older end of the age spectrum to get in and out more easily. A compromise, and a superbly comfortable smallish four door, would be the Honda Civic. Indeed What Car? consistently voted it one of the most comfortable and ergonomically excellent cars. The driving position is slightly raised, which gives a better view, and the model does not seem to have such thick pillars. Certainly Nicholas and Jacqui, who have experience of a Volvo, will find the amount of interior space more than adequate. So I don't think the Honda can be faulted on practical grounds, and this model also comes with a brilliant reputation for reliability. Also, if they choose the 1.6 petrol engine, the average fuel consumption is a creditable 42mpg. Within the £5,000 budget they can buy from a dealer a well-equipped 2004 1.6 SE with 40,000 miles on the clock.

A car for the heart

Personally I think the Honda Civic is perfect, but in case Nicholas and Jacqui miss the huge amount of space in their old Volvo estate perhaps they should consider a smaller people carrier, which combines a higher than average driving position with useful extra space. Something like the Renault Kangoo pretty much has it all, with a raised seat and plenty of glass all around, so that even reversing is not a chore. The van-based Kangoo is not for everyone, but I think that it would be perfect for them, as the wide opening tailgate and rear sliding doors are very useful. There is also the Ford Focus C-Max which does have good all round visibility and is much more conventional, being a taller Focus. Their £5,000 would buy a 2004 1.6 Zetec model. The choice of Kangoo engine could be crucial. It depends on just what sort of load they plan to lug around, and also if fuel consumption is a priority. The 1.2 petrol version manages 40mpg, but a 1.5 diesel gets to 53.3 mpg. They could get a 2006 1.2 or a 1.5 DCi for their £5,000. But only a test drive will truly help them decide which way to go.

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.

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