David Crawford fondly remembers the Mini Clubman he learnt to drive in. He now has a family (some of whom are of driving age) and needs to replace their Skoda Favorit. He has up to £2,500 for a car that's cheap to run, fix and insure, and can carry four. Good for in town, plus the odd motorway trip. A bit of style, like the old Mini, would be a bonus.

A car for the head

So, we need a car that can accommodate at least four of the six-member Crawford family and will be insurable for the latest licence holders. A small family car should fit the bill but the difficult bit is to find one with some style and character. Rather oddly, I would go for one of the most popular models sold in the UK over the past decade, the Ford Focus. Its sheer ubiquity means prices can be on the soft side and, being a Ford, running costs are lower. David will probably have to go for the smallest engined 1.4 to take advantage of the lower insurance group, which is four for the basic CL model. This Focus will also be the earlier model, which is more sharply designed and still stands out from a lot of duller hatchbacks. The engine is small and adequate around town but the Focus is renowned for its sporty handling, which should please the younger Crawfords. For just over £2,000 you should find a 2000-2001 1.4CL with 60,000 to 70,000 miles.

A car for the heart

The Rover 25, a distant relative of the Mini Clubman, might have similar period charm. Now that the company no longer exists, Rovers have added cool and are not seen as hatches for the elderly to do the cat-food run in. The 25 is not that big and may feel a bit tight in the back, but it's fine for short journeys around town. Again, aim for the smallest engine, a 1.1, and insurance group four. Overall, these cars have proved cheap to run. The 1.1 will return around 42mpg and servicing is straightforward. Equipment levels are not that generous but are adequate for its role as a second-string car. The 25 is also a fairly comfy and classy car, which is fairly quiet inside despite a few rattles from the trim. That should not matter to David, though, as a 25 is a good-value buy right now. A little more than £2,000 will buy you a 2001 1.1iE with between 50,000 to 60,000 miles on the clock with a warranty from a dealer.

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, 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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