Mark Jenkins currently drives an M registration Golf TDI estate, which has done about 145,000 miles – and it's getting a little tired. Mark does a lot of mountain biking, hiking and kayaking, plus he has a new job which has a daily 110-mile commute. He wants reliability, economy, and comfort, but he's also deaf and his hearing aids pick up a lot of noises generated by the car, so something quiet would be good. Mark has between £3,000 and £4,000 to spend.

A car for the head

The problem is that smaller cars – because Mark says he does not want another estate – are not always that refined. Ideally, Mark should be looking at a Golf-sized car, which can isolate road noise far better. The Skoda Fabia, which is based on Volkswagen running gear, is a very quiet proposition. Here is a car which can be driven on motorways without creating any annoying drones or wind noise that can spoil a long journey – and obviously interfere with Mark's hearing aids. So I believe that the Fabia could be the answer to Mark's needs. Combined with the 1.4TD engine, it will mean an impressive 61.4mpg. On his daily commute that should really make his fuel budget go an awful lot further. The Fabia is also a good little car to drive, is not easily unsettled and feels solid on the road, as if it was a much larger vehicle. Equipment levels are a bit mean, with driver and passenger airbags, ABS brakes, and not a good deal else, unless Mark wants to go looking for a model equipped with air conditioning. I found a basic 2005 50,000 mile 1.4 TDi Classic, which would be perfect, on sale at a dealer for £4,000.

A car for the heart

My first thought would be a Nissan Micra (pictured), which is a very refined little car, but maybe something slightly larger could be in order. A Ford Focus might be a good idea and so might a Peugeot 307. I would also suggest that a Toyota Corolla would be a very good idea. This was a Toyota designed in Europe and is all the better for it. They managed to reduce any engine roar and tyre noise to a minimum. The petrols are much quieter than the diesels, and if possible Mark needs to drive both under dual carriageway conditions to make a final decision. The 1.4 engine returns 42mpg overall, whereas a 2.0 TD would be closer to 49mpg so there is not a lot in it. Certainly the level of equipment – which is far better than the Skoda – won't disappoint Mark. All cars are equipped with a CD player, remote central locking, electric front windows, and door mirrors. I know that Mark doesn't need a large car, but I know his Golf had a hard life because of his extreme hobbies, so the decent sized boot and good rear accommodation means there is loads of space for his outdoor stuff. A 2002, 61,000-mile, 2.0 diesel in T3 trim, with a warranty, can be bought for £3,995 from a dealer.

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.

Search for used cars