Car Choice: Giving you the run-around

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Indy Lifestyle Online

ell, Mr Kaminiski, if you average just 2,000 miles a year then don't buy brand new. There is no point suffering any unnecessary depreciation, so it has to be used. The main question, though, is just how far Mr K is prepared to go when it comes to economy. Alternative fuel is an option as he only makes short, local journeys and will always be near to a socket, so electric is certainly possible.

Servicing is minimal as electric motors have few moving parts and charging overnight costs pennies, though there is the fossil fuel issue because Mr K may not know which type of power station his electricity comes from. Electric or alternatively powered cars escape the congestion charge, saving £8 every weekday.

More conventional automatic petrol and diesel cars, too, return decent fuel economy and do not cost much to insure and service. Mr K has plenty to consider.

A CAR FOR THE HEAD

The Smart is the obvious choice. Suitably small, it does 60mpg according to the official statistics but realistically will probably do around 46mpg in the city.

Some go for under £3,000 now, but the semi-automatic gearbox may be a complication. Mr K won't have to use a clutch but will need to negotiate the gear lever. The early cars didn't have power steering but this shouldn't be a problem.

For a full automatic there is the Peugeot 107 which does over 51mpg, but costs over £7,500 brand new. Also, small French cars like the grown-up Aixam and the more toy-like Ligier are automatic, diesel and can do 80mpg. Used Aixams cost from £3,000 at UK specialists and the Ligier is at least £1,000 less.

A CAR FOR THE HEART

There isn't much in the latest Battery Vehicle Society magazine, the BVS Review (www.bvs.org.uk), except for £300 for an immaculate Sinclair C5, but that would be taking the mickey.

If Mr K wanted to spend more then there is the G-Wiz. Small, battery-powered and seating four at a pinch, it costs £7,999 from www.goingreen.co.uk. The world's best-selling electric car, it consumes just one-quarter the energy of a similar sized petrol car and the Energy Saving Trust says it is the most energy-efficient car there is. Exempt from road tax and the congestion charge, there is free parking in central London on meters and in pay-and-display bays and eligibility for discounts in some London car parks. At 1p per mile it works out to 600 mpg and is in insurance group 1.

Cheap battery cars just don't exist, but these were selling at several hundred pounds off recently so Mr K will have to see if he can justify the outlay. Presumably in his part of London it would be easy to resell.

CAR CHOICE

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail James Ruppert at carchoice@independent.co.uk, giving your age, address and contact number, and details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested.

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