Car Choice: No need to replace your lovely old car – restore it instead

Helen McLennan is looking for a car to replace the family's old and ailing Peugeot 206 GTi. Ideally, she would like to buy exactly the same again, but failing that she wants a smallish hatchback with what her husband calls "a bit of poke". Helen mostly uses the car for shopping and occasional longer journeys. She would like to spend up to £10,000 but would consider a bit more.

A car for the head

The Peugeot 206 was a truly wonderful car and undoubtedly a modern classic. It was responsive, fast and uncluttered. This was a focused performance hatchback that made the equivalent Golf GTI seem slow and leaden by comparison. Indeed if Helen and her husband have £10,000 I would argue that a freshen up would be in order. Replacing the parts that need it would cost not that much at all. Clearly this is a car they both love, and what better than to have it returned to its former glory? There are plenty of decent Peugeot specialists out there who would help. Or maybe buying a later example in immaculate condition would be a good idea, as a 2006 206 GTi will only be around £4,000 from a dealer. If Helen didn't want to go to the bother of rebuilding their current GTI, why not buy one that is as good as new? It makes sense to me and effectively recycles an older car. Otherwise an up-to-date equivalent would be something like a Renault Clio Renaultsport which has great handling, a spacious interior and is lots of fun on a B road. There is also the Peugeot 207 GTI, pictured below, a great grandson of the 206. It should be better on motorways and a tad more refined.

A car for the heart

Although I've decided that the car for Helen's heart really would be her old GTi rebuilt or rebought, there may be rather more up-to-date cars that could fit into the family lifestyle. Because practicality is not a priority, I would be inclined to think that a Mini Cooper would be the answer, especially the quicker S. It has a 1.6 turbocharged engine, which is very eager, especially when you need it. Like the old Peugeot, the Cooper manages to combine a good turn of speed with absolutely superb handling. That means the Cooper is quick to react to all the driver inputs and it clings excitingly to corners. On the motor-way, the Cooper may generate a bit of wind noise and be firm on the road, but overall it is refined and well behaved. The only problem with the Cooper and the S version is that they are not that well equipped as standard and not that cheap either. So Helen will need to decide what specification she wants. A 2005 example, with well-equipped Chilli pack specification and 40,000 miles on the clock from a BMW Mini dealer will be within Helen's £10,000 budget.

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF or email James Ruppert at, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested, and your budget.