here is nothing wrong with a Ford's reliability, running costs and build quality, although Jenny said the main reason they bought one was the 25 per cent discount she was apparently entitled to.

A Focus would make sense, but maybe she should have a change. And as reliability is important, my instant response is to say "Japanese". Their cars are top of the league, with just about all brands dominating reliability surveys.

Jenny told me that the towing will just be a light trailer and it will mostly be garden rubbish. Even so, if you have a tow bar you do tend to use it, and it would be nice to find a vehicle that can cope with an extra load without too much effort.

Since Jenny and her husband do at least one major trek a year, a slightly more substantial vehicle than a simple hatchback may be a good idea. Space is a factor and I am tempted to suggest a Citroën Berlingo or Renault Kangoo, but they could feel a bit too van-like. So let's think laterally.

A CAR FOR THE HEAD

The Nissan Almera Tino. Here is a very underrated vehicle. Jenny does not need a compact people carrier, but she should look on this as a very spacious hatchback. They are very well equipped and not being the most fashionable tend to be attractively priced.

Jenny does not need to buy brand-new, which would take her over budget. However, a 2004 2.0SE which has ABS and air conditioning, with 10,000 miles on the clock, would sell for just over £8,500 at a car dealer and would still have the balance of the manufacturer's warranty.

The Tino is not perfect but it has loads of useful storage areas inside. The boot is spacious.

The rear seats can be moved around or taken out, although they are on the heavy side. Potentially, Jenny could use the Tino as a surrogate van instead of using the trailer. Otherwise the 2.0 litre engine is more than adequate and there is the option of diesel. Best of all, the Almera always scores well in reliability surveys, even if it fails to register in beauty contests.

A CAR THE HEART

Jenny and her husband should have a bit of fun and buy themselves a Toyota Rav 4. They need only go for the funky three-door version and should find that the chunky style and four-wheel drive ability will help when towing on icy country roads.

The RAV4 has safe and very car-like handling, helped by the permanent four-wheel drive system. The way it corners is remarkable. There is a fair dose of body roll, as you would expect with a high-rise vehicle, but there is grip.

This isn't just car-like; it is GTi-like, with nicely weighted steering and impressively neutral handling. To top it all, the RAV 4 is stable at motorway speeds. The boot is big, especially with rear seats folded, but the sill is very high.

Jenny might like to consider the old model GX made up to 2000 (£5,000-£6,000), but by spending a bit more she will get the much better revised RAV 4. Prices for a 2.0 NRG from 2003 will be £11,600, or £8,500 for a year 2000.

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