Car Choice: Retired couple seeks low cost, easy access runaround

Paul Jackson is 60 and has just retired; his wife is just about to. They have a Subaru Impreza Sport, which has been brilliant, but it is getting old and expensive to run. They do about 10,000 miles a year, local and motorway, and hope to do more journeys. They would like a five-door car that's easy to get in and out of and performs like the Subaru, but would like low road tax, insurance and are flexible about the fuel. Their budget is £6,000 to £7,000.

A car for the head

This is a difficult one. How do you go about replacing a four-wheel drive vehicle, which is economical, practical and easy to live with? To do that, you should really choose a Japanese soft roader with a diesel engine. It won't be that new and it may have a few miles on the clock, and it won't be that cheap to tax and insure. So here's the obvious answer: either a 2004 Toyota Rav 4 or an older Honda CRV. I'll plump for the Toyota. The Rav 4 is nice to drive, just like a proper car and also very comfortable, unlike many off-roaders. Paul will have to go for the diesel to boost his miles per gallon, being disappointed by the Subaru struggling to 30mpg. The 2.2D will return around 40mpg and £7,000 will buy 2004 examples with a 90,000-plus mileage. Its specification is fairly comprehensive with air conditioning and alloy wheels. Ideally Paul should aim to buy from a dealer and get a warranty. At the very least the Rav 4 should have a comprehensive service history, as on the whole this model is one of the most reliable on the used car market. The perfect compromise between car and 4x4.

A car for the heart

I don't know if we can recommend a vehicle to replace the Subaru directly, but there is an underrated hatchback, which offers plenty of benefits for Paul. Roll forward the Suzuki SX4: a relatively compact, cheap to buy and cheap to run hatchback with added ride height, which is important because it makes it easier to get in and out of without going for an oversized 4x4, or a people carrier. The SX4, inset left, does have a limited amount of boot space, but as Paul says that there will mostly be two of them, it should be fine. There are several engine options from a 1.6 petrol and a couple of diesels, 1.6 and 1.9. Significantly the petrol engine will still return about 40mpg. Road testers have found the 1.6 engine noisy. £7,000 will buy a 2007 1.9 DDiS that should return almost 45mpg and have a reasonable 30,000 miles on the clock. I believe that the SX4 is different enough, as is the Subaru, to appeal to Paul and deliver lower running costs.

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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