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Car Choice: Trendy and reliable? Yes, you can have both

Chris Andrews is 38 and feels that his X reg, 1.8, petrol Ford Mondeo is starting to look and feel a bit tired after 150,000 miles. With about £8,000 to spend, Chris is tempted to buy either the new Mondeo or a Skoda Octavia but he wonders if there is an equally reliable yet trendier alternative? Chris is also thinking that it might be better to go for a newer, higher mileage car and he is curious about what he can expect from a modern diesel?

A car for the head

It boils down to the mileage that Chris expects to cover. For low miles, petrol will be fine, but averaging 15,000 to 20,000-plus miles a year and it has to be diesel. It is a false economy to spend a lot on a diesel and not get the full benefit. However, if your budget is tight then a cheap high mileage diesel can be a false economy as they can be very expensive to fix – a set of injectors on many models is around £1,000. Never mind, lets choose the car for the head as a diesel. There are many fine ones around but Chris wants style, and for that reason he should take a look at the Honda Accord. It's a very classy five-door that is refined and spacious. Officially the diesel 2.2i-CTDi will return an impressive 51.4mpg. Probably the best bit about the Accord is that it looks and feels like a quality car, with a well-built interior that is spacious enough for five adults and has a generous boot. For £8,000 you can get a very tidy 2006 example from a Honda dealer with around 40,000 miles.

A car for the heart

If Chris is prepared to consider the Skoda Octavia, he should upgrade to the Superb (below). It's a superb driving experience and you can't get trendier than a large and luxurious saloon like this, and Chris would be getting a lot of quality German car in a Czech package. There are several petrol options and while some might argue that the smaller units could struggle with such a large body, actually they are all refined and effective. The largest V6 engine isn't worth the extra fuel bill, but the 2.0 will return more than 33mpg and be civilised enough. Soft suspension gives comfort, at the expense of handling, but the seats are big and the leg- and head-room immense. The basic Classic has enough kit for most buyers – air conditioning, CD player and electric windows. A 2006 Classic 2.0 with less than 30,000 miles is around £6,000 from a main Skoda dealer, and that's great value.

James Ruppert's latest book, The German Car Industry: My Part in its Victory, is out now

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.