Marie and Gerald Patterson are relocating to France, and their employer has offered them a choice from the following cars: Peugeot 308, Renault Scenic, Opel Zafira, Citroën C3 Picasso, or Citroën C5. The vehicle they choose will need to cope with a regular commute and also a six-month-old child. Practicality and comfort are key, although they would also like the car to be fun to drive.
A car for the head
For once, I don't have a free hand – but at least there are no budgetary limitations to worry about or having to look for used examples on sale. There is a curious mix of vehicles here, and I would discount the Citroën C5 because it is a large comfortable hatchback, which is a good thing, but for a smallish family seeking day-to-day practicality, not ideal. The really obvious choices here are the Renault Scenic, which is refined to drive, and the Opel Zafira, which is badged as a Vauxhall in the UK. Of the two, the Zafira is more fun to drive, with the sharper handling that Marie and Gerald are after. It does have seven seats, which is potentially four more than they really need at the moment. However, because the seats fold back into the floor they don't exactly get in the way. On the road the Zafira is both refined and, as mentioned, has almost sporty handling. The down side may be that some could find the suspension too firm over potholes and around town. In France, Marie and Gerald will most likely be offered the turbo diesel model, which returns 45mpg and is not just smooth, but offers strong acceleration too. Yes the spacious, sporty and practical Zafira is the easy option.
A car for the heart
When it comes to finding a small family hatchback that you can love, it can get a bit more difficult. The Renault Megane Scenic is certainly very civilised, but I do think that Marie and Gerald would be enchanted by the Citroën C3 Picasso. It certainly looks the funky part. Not much bigger than a small hatchback, it manages to be considerably roomier and it feels like it too because of the high roofline. The rear seat is a two-piece folding item, but more crucially it slides back and forth so that Marie and Gerald can fit all the baggage in the boot, which is very deep, and a decent size anyway. Again they are more than likely to be offered the diesel model, and there are two versions of the 1.6 HDi which will return up to 60mpg. The specifications can vary across Europe, but the level of equipment can be a bit mean at the lower model levels. Ideally they should make sure that air conditioning is part of the package, as it helps a family keep cool, calm and collected when out and about. I think that there is a "feel-good factor" with a car like this, and that offsets the element of driving fun, which becomes far less important as family responsibility kicks in.
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