Car Choice: Mod cons required

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Shirley Harriot would like to replace her Citroën Xsara and has a budget of £15,000 (including part-exchange on the Citroën). She is more concerned with comfort than speed, and although she does not want complex electrics, would still like satellite navigation and a built-in phone. She was drawn to our previous answer about buying British and wonders if there is a small Rover, smaller than the 75 saloon?

On the one hand Shirley does not want complicated electrics yet likes the idea of satellite navigation and a built-in phone. These are rapidly become driving essentials rather than luxurious indulgences. It is therefore easy to understand why she wants them, but the real complication is finding a completely UK-built car which fits the specification. More on that later.

Shirley does not have to worry too much about getting a plumbed-in car phone. Because of the recent changes in the law that make it illegal to use a hand-held mobile on the move, a hands-free kit is the answer, especially as prices start at under £20. The Logitech Over Ear is £19.99 and all you have to do is press a button on the wire to start voice-dialling and manage calls.

In February the Motoring section ran a feature on in-car navigation. There are lots of options and it is possible to incorporate satnav software on hand-held computers, such as the TomTom Navigator, for less than £300. However, there are complete systems from companies such as Garmin, which can be fitted to existing vehicles.

A car for the heart

Lets deal with the UK issue. As we have pointed out before, a true Brit car is a problem, but there are a couple of Rovers which are smaller than the 75, the 45 and 25. Both are getting on a bit in modern car terms and there are some facelifts on the way, but fundamentally these cars will stay the same.

The 45 is available as a four- or five-door and has a good-sized boot and some very decent engines. The 25 is a three- or five-door hatchback that may well prove to be all the car that Shirley needs.

The cars are well built and comfortable if a little dull inside. Driving positions do not suit everyone, so Shirley must take a proper test drive. The image may not be young and thrusting but that should not bother Shirley or tempt her to consider the MG-badged versions.

Satellite navigation is an option across the Rover range and it costs £995 extra, but with prices of the 25 starting at £7,995 and the 45 at £9,995 it is well within Shirley's budget. A hands-free phone is not an option, but there are kits available.

A car for the head

If Shirley wants the spec of her dreams, she will have to forget buying British. In most cases if you want a car with a comprehensive communications and navigation pack you have to pay top money for a BMW, Mercedes or Jaguar.

However, there is one very affordable option for motorists who are not going to run a subsidised company car, the Fiat Stilo. This model has struggled in the marketplace, yet it is a very spacious and practical car with a high level of standard equipment. Some have criticised the refinement, but in day-to-day use this is one of the best value hatchbacks.

Of particular interest to Shirley will be the communications system which is one of the best of its kind. As well as an in-built telephone and navigation system there is also access to a real-life operator who can supply helpful information about journeys and destinations. It is fitted as standard to the 1.8 Dynamic and prices start at £12,700.

Shirley should be aware that discounts are widely available on this model and should shop around for the best deal.

*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 you are interested in.

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