By James Ruppert

Mike Ogdon's elderly Peugeot 206 has only three doors, and is awkward to get in to and out of in tight parking spaces. The seats are also rather low for his wife, who has back trouble.

They need a hatchback (for carrying cans of diesel fuel for their houseboat stove), five doors, and higher seats. The boot needs to be a reasonable size so that their dog can be happy on board. Mike covers 6,000 miles a year and the budget is £6,000.

A car for the head

Personally I am surprised that Mike has managed to cope for so long with such a small car. Almost any five door car would make life a lot easier. Actually I don't think that a big hatchback would help them that much, which is why a Vauxhall Meriva could work really well. Here is a smallish car that is very versatile indeed. First of all the seating is set high and very comfortable, as this is effectively a mini people-carrier. It is just as flexible too, because the rear seats move independently. Branded as Flex Space, the three seats each move forwards and backwards, and the outer two even move side to side and – most importantly for Mike's dog – they fold into the floor, which can create a massive 1,410 litres of rear storage space. The 1.4i engine is economical enough and should return around 40mpg. Mike's £6,000 will buy a 2007/2008 1.4 Club with around 20,000 miles on the clock and that specification means that air conditioning is standard, which is always worth having.

A car for the heart

Whereas the Vauxhall Meriva is relatively easy to find, the similar Mazda 2 (pictured below) is similar but rather more exclusive. The Mazda is related to the Ford Fiesta, is good to drive, and has almost sporty handling. The important thing for Mike's wife is the front seating – which is high and has won car magazine comfort tests. There is plenty of head and legroom, and a relatively flat floor so space is maximised at all times. The rear seats will fold and there is a large, square boot as a result, although the seat backs do not lie flat, and that may not be ideal for the dog – and his opinion may well be the decider! The 1.4 engine will return over 40mpg and there is also a smaller 1.25 litre unit, which may also be adequate to cope with Mike's relatively low mileage. The 1.4, though, is probably the best all round option. I found an older shape 2007 model, with 11,000 miles on the clock and with a full service history, for £5,000, which is great value for money.

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF or email James Ruppert on, giving your age, address, and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested, and your budget.

Search for used cars