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Car Choice: Something elegant and sporty, with room for a border collie

Sharon Finch is looking to replace her Ford Puma with something similar which is also elegant, sporty, has good performance, is very responsive, and is not too big. Sharon says the Puma is easy to park, but she does not want a Mini. Style is the most important factor – although a border collie occasionally needs a seat. Sharon has up to £20,000 to spend. Her mileage is on the low side, running at 7,500 miles a year around the M25.

A car for the head

There are some great coupés around at the moment, though possibly not as small as a Puma. What first comes to mind is the Volkswagen Scirocco, which looks sharp enough and comes with a wide range of engines. The 2.0TSI is just over £20,000 and is good to drive too. A teeny bit small in the back, but certainly room enough for a collie I reckon. So Sharon should definitely have a test drive of one of those, which is probably the closest in spirit to the Puma, but bigger. However, there is a model, which is a bit smaller and falls into the category of hot hatchback – the Honda Civic Type R. This is a very distinctive looking car anyway, and in three-door form it does appear to be even more other-worldly. I don't know whether it will be stylish enough for Sharon. It is, though, very affordable and very quick. The 2.0 litre engine needs to rev hard, but the reward is a great sound and good acceleration. It costs £17,660, although it is worth paying £1,000 more for the GT model, which has air conditioning, vital for those long hours on the M25. I think this may be the easiest car for Sharon to live with, and although the rear is tight the boot is quite reasonable.

A car for the heart

Sharon did reveal to me that the car she would really want would be an Audi TT, pictured below. She was keen to emphasise that she preferred the original model, and not the more recent restyled one. Now why shouldn't Sharon have one, especially as her annual mileage is modest and budget generous? It means that Sharon could buy the very best example she could find. Certainly the styling continues to turn heads. Even better, the TT manages to be just as engaging and stimulating inside. High quality materials and fine metal details make it a real delight. Less great are the coupé's marginal rear seats, which at least can be folded down to make a decent enlarged boot for the dog. Some have criticised the fact that the TT is based on a more humble Golf, but the standard four-wheel drive system means that in all weathers it remains glued to the road. This is an easy car to drive quickly, although those who want comfort could find the suspension a bit hard. However, £18,900 buys a 2006 3.2 V6, from an Audi dealer, with just 25,000 miles on the clock. Alternatively, if Sharon wanted the smaller engine then £16,900 gets a 2004 1.8 225 model, with a similar mileage, from the same dealer.

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.