Ben Garside is 37 years old and has a 2003 Ford Focus TDCi Zetec, which has been remapped for better performance and also has lowered suspension.

He wants to replace it with something sporty, with good performance and handling. Also required is good fuel economy and reasonable running costs. It must have enough space for Ben's bike and camping gear. He travels around 6,500 miles a year on private journeys and has a budget of no more than £7,000.

A car for the head

I know that Ben wants a diesel, but I always think that a diesel for the sake of it can be a false economy, especially if the annual mileage is small. Oh yes, and sporty cars have traditionally been petrol powered – although that has been changing. So the challenge is to get a car that is big enough for a bike – never easy to accommodate – yet is sporty, and returns at least 40mpg on a run. In fact the most difficult element of this is the bike. Perhaps Ben should just get a bike rack and be done with it. Interestingly, a rack will cause drag and increase the fuel consumption. Certainly quick release wheels make life a little easier. My first thought is a Ford Focus, or even a Ford Mondeo estate. Ben knows that these Fords handle sportily, though they may not look cool enough. The diesel engines will return up to 47mpg overall and these models are easy to find and good value. Not only that, they are cheap to run and maybe alloy wheels and a different grille (ST model items) will change the looks for the better. Ben's £7,000 buys a 2007 Mondeo Ghia with less than 50,000 miles on the clock. Bargain.

A car for the heart

Sporty, but bike-friendly cars? Well I'd say a BMW would come the closest to delivering driving pleasure along with a reasonable amount of room if it is the Touring estate model (inset). To be honest, the estates are rather more lifestyle than load luggers, but with the rear seats folded and wheels removed Ben may be able to get his bike on board. A problem may be that Ben will have to buy a highish mileage example with 90,000 plus on the clock. However, if the BMW has been looked after there should be little to worry about. Within his budget, Ben could buy a previous shape 320 or 330 Sport, which for me is the best-looking 3 series ever. The Sport pack should do it for Ben, with tuned suspension and nice alloy wheels. The 320d engine will manage over 50mpg and it will get to 60mph in under nine seconds. However the 330d has some real shove, as this is a large engine in a relatively compact car and it will get to 60mph in less than eight seconds and also return around 42mpg. In the used car classifieds I found a 2002 model with 88,000 miles on the clock, in Sport specification, too. All Ben has to do is make sure that his bike fits in the back, otherwise this is a frugal and fun way to cover 6,000 miles a year.

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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