Car Choice: Wanted: spacious, reliable, economical and cheap

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Paul Sharpe is 55, and a daily commuter travelling 500 miles a week. He has driven a diesel for a number of years, and an automatic more recently. Currently he owns a 2001 Renault Scenic automatic. However it has not been that reliable, and Paul is after a car with lots of space which is economical to run. His budget is rather limited, though, at between £5,000 and £6,000.

A car for the head

I could refer Paul to the Car Choice answer I gave last week, but he needs fresh ideas, and clearly reliability is going to be a priority. The best vehicles to go for are those built in the Far East. Indeed, there are plenty of oneoff imported automatic diesels that were never official models in the UK, such as the entertainingly named Mazda Bongo and Nissan Elgrand.

Fine as they are, I think that Paul would bebetter off with a mainstream model and there are not many options with Japanese people carriers. I would recommend that Paul takes a look at the Kia Sedona. There are plenty around within hisbudget and it has a tough 2.9 CRD engine, made by Mercedes Benz. It is larger than a Scenic and has bags of room, especially when all the seats are not in use. It should return around 36mpg, and on the whole the reliability for this vehicle has been very good. For £5,000 Paul would be able to buy from a dealer a 2005 example in excellent condtion with 60,000 miles on the clock. I found quite a few in L and LE specification, which has air conditioning, and pretty much everything he needs.

A car for the heart

As an alternative to going Japanese, I would suggest a Ford people carrier. Ford’s reliability is good, most garages find them easy to fix and there is usually not much of a wait for parts, which arealso reasonably priced. The Galaxy is available with the automatic/diesel combination, but I am mindful that the Galaxy could be a bit big after the Scenic. In that case the Ford C-Max (inset) – a sort of more grown up Focus – might be the answer. Like its slightly smaller brother, the C-max is nice to drive, but would also have the advantage of a raised driving position. Paul has mentioned that henolonger wants to crawl out or squeeze himself into acar, and something like this would be ideal.

It should also have the space that Paul needswithalarge boot, which gets even bigger with the rear seats folded. Not only that, but they can be lifted completely out of the way with alittle bit of effort. As for economy, Paul ought to get close to 50mpg without too much effort. He may get a 2007 example from a dealer, but with nearly 90,000 miles on the clock. Paul needs to do some shopping around, but it will be worth it.

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF or email James Ruppert at, 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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