Barbara is coming from a decent small car that is only just run-in. Rather than opt for part-exchange, where she will only get the trade value of her vehicle, Barbara should sell it privately. One careful lady owner with such a low mileage should interest a lot of potential buyers and help her get a decent amount of money to spend on the replacement.

Barbara needs a taller and better vehicle, and the Vauxhall Agila may not be the perfect answer. Sitting up front, the windscreen pillars can get in the way of a clear view out and the equipment levels can be patchy. For the price, an otherwise identical Suzuki Wagon-R may be the better-value buy.

The Chevrolet Matiz, previously known as the Daewoo Matiz, was found by What Car? magazine last year to be one of the most comfortable and ergonomically sensible City cars. The 1.0 SX has air conditioning as standard and costs £7,695. Despite updates, it remains an old car and there are lots of other options in this category.

A CAR FOR THE HEAD

It's hard to choose one stand-out vehicle when there are so many options. Recently, we have recommended the Daihatsu Sirion - the 1.0 S model has air con as standard and costs £6.995. We also like the Kia Picanto, which is very well-equipped, and the 1.1 LX model with air conditioning costs £6,595.

Another much older favourite is the Toyota Yaris, which has a usefully high driving position and the price for a T3 model with air conditioning is £9,095. A used example with very low mileage could save Barbara another £2,000 or so. She should consider using a broker to save money if she must buy brand new.

The Yaris may be old, but it is lively and has a well-thought-out interior. It is pretty much the perfect small car, even though Toyota has introduced the Aygo, which is smaller and more basic. With air con, it costs £7,700, but there are better-value alternatives.

A CAR FOR THE HEART

The Peugeot 107 is an Aygo with a different badge, and for £7,500, Barbara could buy one with air con. It certainly looks funky, even though it is not that refined. An equivalent and equally identical Citroën C1 would cost just a bit more than the Peugeot, but the Sirion and Yaris would be much more comfy to live with.

For real character with few compromises, it has to be the Fiat Panda. Barbara would sit higher and have a good all-round view. There is plenty of room inside, the refinement levels are good and interior space is more than adequate.

A 1.2 Dynamic with air conditioning is probably the pick of the range and works out at £7,545, although discounts should take that below £7,000. This is remarkable value for money and for £80, Barbara could have a height-adjustable driver's seat. The boot has a useful amount of room.

Running costs for the Panda are very low and Barbara should expect to get up to 50mpg.

Please write to Car Choice, 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 that interests you.

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