Car Choice: Oh do beehive! An apiarist gives us a buzz

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Craig Treeby is due to retire at the end of the year and lose his company car. He does want to continue his hobby as a beekeeper. Craig's dream is to become relatively self-sufficient, which will mean having a car that is tough, and that has a decent carrying capacity – or could tow a trailer. Craig will keep the car for at least a decade and plans to run it into the ground. His budget for a new car is £15,000-£17,000 but he would actually prefer to find something second-hand for half that.

A car for the head

Craig is not the first beekeeper to ask for advice at Car Choice, and we are only too happy to help. The first thought would always be a diesel van. The trouble is, that also means there will be less flexibility, so it is always a good idea to have the option of some seats. So the obvious answer in these situations, when stuff – and in this case bee-keeping stuff – needs to be shifted, only a van-based people carrier will do. I usually recommend something like the Renault Kangoo. Here Craig will have a van which seats five and has rear sliding doors, which makes getting things in and out even easier. There is a large, square boot area, which becomes absolutely huge once the rear seats are folded forward. Also, the rear tailgate opens extremely high so tall boxes like the hives are not a problem. For long-term ownership and economy the diesel engine, a 1.5dCi 84, will deliver 53.3 mpg overall which should help keep Craig self-sufficient. The high seating position should suit him, but a test drive would be advisable as I know he does not find his current Peugeot that comfortable on longer journeys. For £8,500 Craig can find a 2008 example which has covered just a few thousand miles.

A car for the heart

Although I usually only mention the French adapted vans, there is an impressively spacious one from Italy called the Fiat Doblo . The term "box on wheels" could have been coined for the Doblo, which is very square, not pretty, but full of character – which is why it could qualify as a car, or rather multi-purpose vehicle, for the heart.

Not surprisingly, the load bay is absolutely massive, and that is even before the rear seats are folded down. The rear doors slide for added practicality, but there is a choice of tailgate. The Dynamic model has the usual single one that is hinged on the roof and lifts up out of the way. Alternatively, the Active model has split rear doors that are side hinged and different sizes. That's because it is easier to get stuff out in a tight space, but as Craig is a beekeeper rather than a builder, I doubt he will need the split option.

Certainly the 1.3 MultiJet diesel engine will be useful, returning a frugal 51 mpg overall. Although it looks and drives like a van, the Dynamic trim level, which includes air conditioning and a CD player, means that there are plenty of car-like creature comforts. Just over £8,000 buys a 2008 Dynamic model with less than 10,000 miles.

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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