Car Choice: 'I have £15k and want a comfy, high seater'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Veronica Moloney is retired with a back injury and her husband has an arthritic back and knee. The one car they have found comfortable for them is a Suzuki Wagon R. She liked the high position of the seat and that type of vehicle. Specifically, Veronica does not want a 4x4 or people carrier, it must be economical and able to cope with occasional long-distance journeys. Her budget is up to £15,000.

If we have any reason to be grateful to off-roaders it is that it introduced everyone to the benefits of a Lord of the Manor seating position. From the lofty position in a Range Rover you can see over hedgerows and, more importantly, what is happening ahead.

Drivers and passengers also had more headroom and interior space, which often meant they were much more comfy. The trouble was that a lot of baggage came along with all those benefits in the shape of a ton of four-wheel drive oily bits. The fact is that you don't need all that.

One hugely successful vehicle is the compact people carrier, which may be a better option than the micro people carrier that Veronica went for a short journey in. However, the lines are now being blurred between what is known as a supermini and a people carrier. The Ford Fusion should be perfect as a sort of high-rise Ford Fiesta, which they described as the first urban utility vehicle. Trouble is, apart from ride height, it does not offer much over the standard Fiesta. Luckily, there are plenty of talented alternatives.

A car for the head

There is a new Mitsubishi Colt. The old one was utterly forgettable, but the new one has been redesigned and thoroughly rethought not least because the company is part of the huge DaimlerChrysler group and their investment has paid off.

The Colt is a practical five-door hatch that pretty much does everything within a small area. Interior space is generous and the rear seats do clever things. They split 60/40 in the usual way and also fold, slide, recline, tumble and can be removed. It should be easy enough to drive and there is a small 1.1-litre, which is buzzy at high speed but fine around town, it will do around 50mpg and the price starts at £7,999.

For longer journeys there are two larger petrol engines, a 1.3, which is almost as economical, and the 1.5 which is great on the motorway and starts at £11,499 and returns 45mpg.

There is also a diesel option - the 1.5 DiD, which is also £11,499 and returns just over 60mpg. Overall, it feels like a quality product and Mitsubishi have a great reputation for building utterly reliable vehicles which also contributes hugely to low overall running costs.

A car for the heart

We could recommend the Honda Jazz as usual, but if Veronica likes the look of the Suzuki, probably the best of that breed is the Fiat Panda, in sheer value for money terms. Here is a car that is great around town and out on the open road. Front seat occupants where Veronica and her husband will be are fine and it feel very spacious for such a small car.

Driving a Panda is enjoyable and pressing a switch to get extra light steering to sneak into a parking space has to be a great idea. The 1.2-litre engine is probably a better option. The Panda is not quick, but Veronica should get a very pleasing 50 miles to the gallon.

Servicing costs are low too and the insurance group starts at one and goes no higher than three. If Veronica needs flexibility then she can order the optional sliding rear seat, which turns the adequate boot area into a more than adequate one. Prices for the Panda are very friendly indeed, starting at just £6,295, while the top specification 1.2 Eleganza is £8,095. The Panda has to be on top of Veronica's shopping list.

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