High-mileage couple seeks stylish, fun motoring. Must have electronic memory seats. James Ruppert is on the case

Neil Bradbury and his wife Donna have an X-reg Peugeot 607 with a 2.2-litre diesel engine. They have run it from two years old and now, having racked up 25,000 miles a year to reach 125,000 miles, it is becoming expensive to own. They want to get a newer car, less than three years old, with a reasonably low mileage.

As there are just the two of them the type of car is not important, but as Neil is 6ft 3in tall and Donna is 5ft, electronic memory seats have been a boon. Donna is a gadget nut and would like something a bit more fun than the 607. Neil has an aversion to German brands and Donna won't consider Skodas, Volvos or anything that would be suited to the recently retired. After trade-in, they want to spend £10,000.

On the one hand, I have a wonderfully free brief to recommend just about any car that isn't boring. But I am also under some pressure, as this will be the Bradburys' only car.

Neil tells me that he has a long and proud record of owning odd and unpopular cars that have depreciated like stones. That again frees me to recommend the less than usual, as Neil and Donna will hopefully be up for it. They have, though, a self-imposed bar on the usual German marques, and also on the mainstream prestige cars that are the obvious alternative buys.

So, it's a problem. Now, depreciation is the most expensive word in the English language, and the Bradburys perhaps don't want to hear this, but they have been losing a rather large fortune by buying odd cars.

The secret is to buy at the lower end of the depreciation cycle: when the car is a few years old, say, rather than new or nearly new. Also, cars that are boring and mainstream will be easier to sell in the future. I don't know if this is something that they want to do, as I don't want to compromise their motoring beliefs.

A car for the head

The default prestige car for those who don't want to buy one of the usual German suspects is Saab. Not only that, but it's possible to buy one with a diesel engine. I doubt, after years of appreciating the Peugeot's decent economy over a substantial 25,000 miles a year, and the effortless way these engines operate, that they want to go back to petrol.

A diesel Saab it is, then. I don't think they look like old men's cars, which is what Donna is most worried about. I'd like to think that Saab stands for a thoughtful, progressive owner who appreciates the individual style of the youthful 9-3.

Oh yes; and there's also the 9-5 saloon. To be honest, it does look a bit middle-aged, but going for the estate ver-sion changes that, as it actually looks quite rakish.

A 2.2TD Saab 9-3 has decent equipment, which can include electric seats. It will return 42.8mpg overall. However, I came across a 9-5 estate at a Saab dealer, with the diesel engine, that had covered just 5,782 miles. It has a massive standard specification, which obviously includes electronic seats. With just one previous owner and a full service history, this seems to have everything going for it, especially its price – £9,995.

A car for the heart

The more I think long and hard about Neil and Donna's needs, the more I think of Alfa Romeo. Here is a range of models that certainly stand out from the crowd, for so many reasons.

Take the 147, a beautifully styled small hatchback that should be the right size for Neil and Donna whether they went for the three- or the five-door model. The interior is just as interesting as the outside, with good driver comfort and electrically adjustable memory seats as an option.

The 1.9-litre diesel engines have lots of mid-range acceleration, and that combines with an impressive 48.7mpg overall. I came across several 2005 147s with the diesel engine and within the £10,000 budget at Alfa Romeo dealers, car supermarkets and independent car dealers.

I believe they would find this to be an exciting, distinctive and sporty little hatch. The handling and ride are firm, but that's what you get if you want an exciting drive. The equipment levels are very impressive. If electric seats are important, Neil and Donna should at the very least go for the Lusso model, which has alloys, CD player, steering-wheel-mounted stereo controls and cruise control; perfect for covering 25,000 miles a year in comfort.

Car Choice

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or email James Ruppert at carchoice@independent.co.uk, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle you're interested in, and your budget.

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