Car Choice: A small shopper, sturdy enough for my golf gear

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Alan Jones has a Citroën Xsara estate, which is coming to the end of its life. He wants to replace it with something smaller for shopping and, in particular, excursions to the golf course with a bag of clubs and a trolley. Alan has established that to accommodate that load in the cars he has seen, he would have to fold the seats, and anyone would be able to see the items.Alan wants a two-seater with a secure load space, slightly bigger than a Mini, but which is not a van.

This is a difficult problem, not least because the golf clubs and trolley are bulky items. Alan is correct in saying that you can get them into most hatchbacks, but it would mean that anyone could see them in the car. His present vehicle is 14ft 3in long, and the replacement must be smaller.

The problem is that a secure boot is a rarity these days. The traditional three-box shape may be popular in the rest of the world, but in Britain we mostly have hatchbacks, and although there are some saloons with large boots the cars are likely to be as big as the Xsara in most cases. The fact is that small saloons are almost extinct.

Many coupés, which are mostly or practically two-seaters, still have separate boot areas, but again they are generally quite large.

Some hatchbacks, though, now have moveable rear seats, which can free up more boot space. It is tiresome, but Alan will have to drag his clubs and trolley around and view many models. I know that you can easily get a set of clubs in the back of Saab and Audi saloons, but it becomes more of a challenge when considering anything that is more compact.

A car for the head

The way I would solve the problem is to buy an old model Volkswagen Polo, which were built up to 1994. It measures just 12ft 4in and does look a little like a bread van, and also has only two doors. Make a full load area cover, perhaps out of MDF, and the problem is solved.

It has good, old-fashioned VW reliability, is very economical and very cheap to buy. Alan may think my suggestion is off the wall, and an alternative has to be another Volkswagen in the shape of the Bora, the ultimate small saloon. However, this car is an inch longer than Alan's present vehicle.

The boot is huge, though, and compared to the equivalent Volkswagen on which it is based, the Bora is much cheaper and Alan should be able to get one of the excellent diesel engines - even a 1.9Tdi 90bhp model would do.

There are other small saloons like the Nissan Almera, but the pre-2000 model is smaller than the Citroën, as is the older Toyota Corolla saloon. There is also the Vauxhall Astra, which measures just under 14ft, but I'm not sure the boot would be big enough for Alan's needs.

A car for the heart

If Alan is happy with the Citroën Xsara, there is a coupé version and the older model, built up to 2000, had a separate boot. At 13ft 8in it is considerably shorter than the estate model, and I think the clubs and trolley would be a squeeze, but there is the moveable rear seat option.

The Toyota Yaris popularised this trick and the Nissan Micra and Daihatsu YRV, among others, have followed suit. A full size set of golf clubs, though, is still going to be a problem and it is something that Alan will have to explore on his own in the forecourts.

The Honda Jazz would easily take the clubs with the rear seats folded flat, but, again, that would mean that everything would be on show.

There is one small saloon on the market, however, that might offer a ray of hope: the Skoda Fabia. It is just 13ft 10in long and although it has not undergone extensive testing as far as golf bags are concerned, the manufacturer hinted that one might just get in. This is a good small car and would suit Alan's needs. I can't wait to find out whether or not his clubs and trolley actually fit.

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