Car Choice: You can be sporty and frugal at the same time

Martin Ellis drives a W reg Fiat Punto ELX 1200 with 78,000 miles on the clock – and at 56 he still wants something sporty.

The replacement car will be used for his 10-mile daily commute to work and for a couple of trips to Edinburgh every year. Martin is looking at a 07/08 Grande Punto Sporting, manual or automatic, costing about £5,400, but will consider any alternatives.

A car for the head

I think Martin should broaden his horizons. Sporty cars come in many shapes and sizes, but can economy and sportyness go together? Well, yes, provided that Martin goes shopping for a diesel. I would highlight the Seat Ibiza in FR trim as a characterful and well-made car that is quick and frugal. The 1.9TD that I recommend will get to 60mph in just under 10 seconds, which isn't hugely quick, although it is very responsive indeed at the lower accelerating speeds. The return during combined driving conditions with the 130bhp model is a projected 56.5mpg. Not only does this model deliver the mileage, but the standard kit list also includes CD, climate control, electric windows and cruise control. A 2006 example with 70,000 miles on the clock, RAC inspected and warranted too, can be had for £4,995. Great value.

A car for the heart

A sports car for the heart, which is quick but economical, is always going to be the Mazda MX-5. It's the best affordable roadster ever, and represents fantastic value for money. Martin didn't mention an open topped car but maybe I can put the thought in his head, as for just over £5,000 he can get a 2003 MX-5 with a 1.8 litre engine and around 40,000 miles on the clock in immaculate condition. Then again he could go out on a rather more risky limb and get an Alfa Romeo 147. It's sexy and stylish, although reliability may be more of an issue. Going for a 1.9 JTD means that as well as being fairly nippy, it will return around 48.7mpg overall and close to 60mpg on a long run. It has lots of chrome details and it stands out on the road. Road testers have found it flawed as a sports hatch, but in many ways that is part of its appeal. It's a beautiful, slightly wayward, creature that is often astounding value for money. For £5,000, Martin could get a 2005 JTD with 68,000 miles on the clock, and in Lusso trim with plenty of extras.

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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