Doug Russell is looking for a family runabout to take two adults and two kids. He has a budget of £6,000 and wants something with a big boot. His current car is a Ford Focus Auto 1.6l – his wife is only licensed to drive an automatic – on an 07 plate. As Doug won't be trading in the car for at least five years, he wants a 59 plate (September 2009) or newer.
A car for head
What's wrong with keeping the Ford Focus? I mean, it is only three years old. If Doug is worried about reliability then he could buy an independent warranty for a few hundred quid, as the best ones will give peace of mind. I think that is a great way of saving £6,000. I do think that a year-old car, with space, and an automatic gearbox, for £6,000 is very ambitious. In fact I mostly found small hatchbacks at that price or plenty of Smart cars, which would not be very practical at all. The only model I found in quantity which was in any way family-sized is the Chevrolet Lacetti. Even then, Doug would have to chip in another £500-plus. This is a good basic vehicle with a decent warranty, but I do think that there are far better used options for Doug to consider. A Vauxhall Zafira is a compact people carrier which is very roomy, nice to drive, and can even seat seven if required. It will mean that Doug would have to put up with a 2007 model with a 1.8 engine and so-called Easytronic transmission. I found one with 49,000 miles on the clock, with electric front windows, air conditioning, central locking and a CD player.
A car for the heart
As the two most important requirements for Doug are space and an automatic gearbox, there is a vehicle which will certainly fit the bill and offer a bit more character than the standard family box. I would recommend a commercial box of a van adapted for civilian use. Often the problem with these sorts of models is that automatic gearboxes may not be an option. However, the Renault Scenic is one of the exceptions. For just over £6,000 it is possible to get a 1.6 Expression model, which has a petrol engine and delivers around 35mpg with an adequate amount of power. But I think what will seal it for Doug is that there is absolutely masses of space inside something like a Renault Kangoo, inset left. That high roof really helps to give a feeling of airiness and contributes to the excellent visibility. For an adapted van it is surprisingly comfy and with the rear sliding doors you soon wonder how you ever managed without them. Practicality is always the key with these types of vehicles, and it seems that the most recent example within budget would date from 2005, but with a reasonably modest mileage of around 25,000-30,000. My verdict: stick with the Ford Focus, or buy a more spacious Kangoo.
Looking to buy?
Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF or email James Ruppert at firstname.lastname@example.org, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested, and your budget.