Elizabeth Mann is 59, and although she lives overseas she is set to return to her home in rural Scotland. She will need a 4x4 because of the weather and the poor state of the roads. She previously owned a Subaru Justy. Until full retirement and a pension, she will have to run this car on a part-time income, and as economically as possible. She has up to £15,000 to spend.

A car for the head

As money is tight for Elizabeth, I really think that she should consider a used car so that she won't lose too much in depreciation and also keep an emergency fund. I would direct her towards the Suzuki SX4. For those who need the practicality of a hatchback and the ability of a four-wheel drive, this is the best option. Not only is it smaller and lighter than a traditional off-roader, this particular SX4 is also economical to run. The 1.6 petrol engine in the four-wheel-drive version should return around 40mpg under normal driving conditions. Off-road, despite not having a greatly increased ground clearance, it is very capable, so when on road, it will handle quite extreme weather conditions. Like most small hatches it will seat four quite comfortably, and some find the boot adequate rather than generous. Around £9,000 will buy a 2007 model with around 40,000 miles on the clock and a good warranty from a main dealer.

A car for the heart

Elizabeth's old Subaru Justy is no longer a current model and the Daihatsu Terios I am going to recommend here has also been discontinued. But I have spoken to International Motors – who used to market the brand in Britain – about the spare parts situation and both they, and all ex-dealers, are committed for the foreseeable future, so Elizabeth should not worry. The Terios is styled a bit like a traditional 4x4 but its half the size and less than half the cost to run. The 1.5 litre petrol engine should return up to 39mpg, and the insurance (group seven) is cheap. Reliability is very good, which is not surprising because these models are effectively downsized Toyotas. Off-road it is very able, although some may find it a bit noisy and unrefined. The revised model from 2006 onwards is far better than the original, and it has electric windows and air conditioning as standard. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find because the recent harsh winters have made it a very popular buy. But £8,000 will secure a 1.5 S model with 28,000 miles on the clock 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 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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