Car Choice: Now the children have gone, it's time to shrink the car

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Bryan Cadman is 58, and now that the children are away at university he can get rid of the Renault Scénic, and is looking to downsize to a smaller family hatchback. Bryan has a 30-mile daily commute, so is looking for an economical car, although he likes the idea of an automatic gearbox. His budget for the car, which he expects to last for at least the next five years, is about £8,000.

A car for the head

One of the most outstanding hatchbacks launched on to the UK market in the past few years has been the Kia Cee'd. Here is a roomy, well-built car that is easy to live with and drive and which, when bought brand new, has a seven-year manufacturer warranty.

The interior is as roomy as any other hatchback around, which means that four large adults won't have a problem. On the road, the Cee'd is still a comfortable place to be. Although it is not as sophisticated as a Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus, the upside is that this is a better value car, either new or used. The specification is decent enough so that the basic S has air conditioning, front electric windows, and central locking.

That is enough kit for most drivers and only the top level L is worth going for rather than the intermediate GS, as the L has climate control. When it comes to economy there is a diesel engined model, the 1.6 CRDi, which will return an impressive 60mph overall, while the petrol 1.6 manages 40mpg. In the used-car market there are limited numbers around as owners are holding onto them, but Kia dealers do seem to have some low-mileage models from 2007, which means five years left on the warranty

A car for the heart

Although a Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra is the obvious choice when it comes to a compact family hatch, one model that can get overlooked is the Mazda 3. Although it is related to the Focus, the Mazda is very much its own car – it's great to drive, is certainly practical and it comes with a great reputation for reliability.

Available as a saloon or hatchback, the hatch is probably better for Bryan to find a more versatile vehicle, after several years with a Scénic. Oh yes, and a hatch will be easier to sell if Bryan wants to move it on in a few years' time. In the back there is enough room for a couple of returning university students.

Up front the driver has a comfortable enough position because the steering wheel and seat adjust in all directions. Being based on a Ford Focus means that the 3 is good to drive and that should make the commute slightly more enjoyable. But Bryan is not covering a huge number of miles, so should not worry too much about buying a diesel when a petrol will do. A 1.6 will deliver 39mpg and it is a fairly lively engine. For £8,000 he can buy a 2006 car with a low 12,000 mileage.

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF 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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