Due to the cost of fuel and insurance, Matt Marks and his partner want to cut down to just one car. They currently have an S Reg Renault Megane Scenic 2 and a two-year-old Ford Ka. As a composer and musician, Matt needs space in the vehicle for keyboards, amps and other equipment – and he likes the height of the Megane Scenic. So he wants space and fuel efficiency. The budget is up to £2,000, but ideally the pair want to spend less.

A car for the head

The Nissan Almera has loads of kit and space, plus a nice cabin. The compact people carrier is also a massively underrated model. It is ultra-reliable and ultra-useful for most small families, plus it's great value. There's a definite nimbleness to the car too, though that goes when you load it up with passengers and luggage. Engines include 114bhp 1.8-litre and 136bhp 2.0-litre petrol units, while the two diesels are both 2.2s, but with 110 or 134bhp output. SE adds air-conditioning, while SE2 has alloy wheels and a CD player. Powered rear windows and a CD changer are standard on the SE+. It is possible to get a 1.8 SE from (2001-2002) for just over £1,000, while a diesel 2.2 will be similar with a slightly higher mileage and return 44mpg overall.

A car for the heart

I don't rate the Megane on reliability. Though I do understand why Matt might enjoy its soft ride and flexible interior. There is another French car that would be just perfect. The Citroë* Xsara Picasso, pictured below, is the cheapest way to acquire some space for the family and get a comfy ride and a decent engine. The ride is supple, all engines are decent (the turbodiesels excellent) and it goes round corners tidily. You get five individual seats, and a roomy boot. The seats fold and are light enough to remove altogether without breaking into a sweat. The 90bhp 2.0 HDI is a strong puller and there are two 1.6 HDI diesels – a 92bhp version and another with 110bhp. Trim levels start with the LX, but step up to the Desire spec for its air-conditioning. Top-spec Exclusive adds cruise control, electric rear windows, electric sunroof and alloy wheels to an already decent package. All models have a CD player, remote locking, twin front and side airbags, ABS brakes and electric front windows. The 2.0HDi gives 51mpg overall officially and is affordable, so Matt and his partner could buy an SX example, with 95,000 miles, with climate control as standard, for around £1,300.

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.

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