Mr Rhodes is a young 77-year-old and, at 6ft 2in, is always after extra driver legroom. He has been interested in recent road tests in these pages featuring the Smart ForFour and the Mitsubishi Colt.

I am sure that Mr Rhodes is aware that under the skin both cars are pretty much identical. If he likes the idea of a quirky Smart then the ForFour certainly delivers, with removable body panels, three roof options and the distinctive Tridion safety shell.

The Smart's rear seats split, fold, recline and slide. A 1.1 Pulse could be his for £8,995. Rather more conventional in appearance is the Mitsubishi Colt, with the three-door 1.1 Attivo starting at £8,249.

The general road-test opinion seems to be that the Smart is the more involving drive. The Colt though seems a bit more grown up, though, and just a bit more solid inside and out. It is always going to be personal preference of course and Mr Rhodes really needs to drive both cars.

Getting a discount on the Colt seems a lot easier than the Smart, but both are good value buys and the Colt in particular is very well equipped. Personally I like the people-carrier proportions of the Colt, but then the playful nature of the Smart is undeniable. There are also some alternatives that should be considered.

A CAR FOR THE HEAD

There is a lot to like about the Kia Picanto 1.1 LX. This mid-range model costs £6,245 and comes with a CD player, air conditioning, four electric windows and remote central locking.

What Mr Rhodes will particularly appreciate is that this is a very spacious little car. There is a high roof-line and plenty of room even for back-seat passengers. Only the boot is a little on the small side.

The little engine is very enthusiastic, but on the motorway it struggles a bit. Otherwise it is reasonably refined and not to bad to drive hard, although this isn't why you would buy a Picanto. You buy because it is cheap, and there are UK-based brokers who can save a few hundred pounds more on the already low price.

Running costs are low, the three-year unlimited mileage warranty is good and you can't argue with an overall fuel consumption of over 57mpg. Prices start at just £5,495, and they are proving to be very popular. This means that there are lots in circulation, which for such a new model is a very good sign.

A CAR FOR THE HEART

There are some brilliant models in this category. We have mentioned both the excellent Honda Jazz and Fiat Panda before, but I think it is time to mention the Renault Modus.

If the Picanto seems less than flexible for Mr Rhodes' needs, then the Modus is a clever little package that could be the one for him. The sliding rear bench seat means that rear legroom in partcular is never an issue, and that also means that the boot space can easily be increased. The high roof will at least give Mr Rhodes plenty of headroom.

As a driving machine it is easy to handle, with a small turning circle, light steering and a decent range of lively engines.

Compared to the Picanto it is expensive, with prices starting at £9,250. It also does not have the equipment that the Picanto has and a similarly kitted-out model will cost Mr Rhodes well over £10,000. But it is still cheap to run and may well be easier to re-sell in the longer term. The insurance starts at group two and the fuel consumption for the smallest petrol engine is around 47mpg.

Mr Rhodes has to compare the two models and may well feel that the Modus is a little more grown up and practical, but in sheer value terms the Picanto is the overall winner.

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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