Car Choice: Nothing like a head-on crash to get you thinking about safety

Jady Newton's Suzuki Jimny was written off in a head-on collision with a car that was on the wrong side of the road. As both airbags were deployed, it has made her think a lot more about safety. She has £3,600 to buy a new car, which must have airbags, be no more than seven years old, and is not French. Jady would like a car that is interesting – and realises that she might be asking a bit too much.

A car for the head

Jady does not need four-wheel drive, and would like a bit more space than the Jimny offered. So is this Car Choice all about safety? If that were the case, we would have to find a Renault, which consistently score five stars in the Euro NCAP car safety ratings. But then Jady does not want to buy French, and she also has a preference for something that is out of the ordinary. Well, I am going to ignore that last requirement because if safety is going to be the priority, then the car for the head has to be a Ford Mondeo. This would be the older shape model from around 2004, which came with six airbags, anti-whiplash headrests, and full-curtain airbags, which were fitted as standard. And simply in terms of how it handles, the front- wheel drive Mondeo makes the drivers and passengers feel safe. This is a large car, but I reckon that Jady won't feel daunted or out of touch as the Mondeo responds so well. The 2.0 TD diesel may be the best, but the 2.0 petrol would be fine and be available with lower mileage, which she wants. A 60,000-mile 2005 2.0 Zetec hatchback at £3,250 is a larger, safer and sensible proposition.

A car for the heart

I know that four-wheel drive is not essential for Jady, but the Subaru Impreza (below) offers on-road security and she does not have to buy the rally-ready Turbo version. There are tamer Sport models, with either the 1.6 or 2.0 litre engine. Jady ought to go for the larger engine, which is more suited to the four-wheel driver layout and is better equipped. For Jady it has twin airbags, anti lock ABS brakes, and on the top models side airbags, too. That permanent four-wheel drive system really does make a huge difference as it means that the car will stay attached to the road even in quite severe conditions. Whereas most two-wheel cars will have to take it easy, the Impreza won't fall off. That is no excuse for driving irresponsibly of course, but it is very reassuring to have four-wheel drive. This Impreza model does not look run-of-the-mill, especially the bug-eyed version that she can afford, which has prominent headlamps. It is a relatively rare sight on our roads but has a lot of credibility as a car that can tackle all conditions. I found a 2001 model in the classified ads which, though older than Jady would like, has 60,000 miles on the dial, a full history, and at £3,495 is great value for the perfect "safe" car.

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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