Car Choice: Oh, baby, we need to change the motors

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Ralph Averbuch's family has just got bigger with the arrival of baby Ben. They live in Pencaitland in East Lothian and drive a Suzuki Grand Vitara threedoor and a five-door Toyota Corolla. The Vitra is impractical and uneconomical and ideally Ralph wants to replace both cars with a large family vehicle and an economical runabout. Ralph has driven the Citroen Picasso extensively and likes it. As for the small car both the Smart FourTwo and Kia Picanto intrigue him.

Ralph is right to consider changing vehicles because it is always essential to have the right ones for the job. I know that the Grand Vitara is not that old and hope that Ralph can sell it on without making a large loss.

The Corolla is not the sexiest vehicle and it may be worth less than Ralph thinks. Ideally, Ralph should try to sell privately to maximise his money. I agree that the Citroen Xsara Picasso is a good buy, not least because they are great value buys both new and used. Prices start at £9,999 from Citroen. There is aneconomical diesel 2.0 Hdi that returns 51.4 mpg and a second-hand example might be worth considering. As for the Smart, I do feel that restricting himself to a two-seater may be a mistake.

A CAR FOR THE HEAD

The main family car is the priority purchase and needs to be the sensible buy. I reckon the Fiat Multipla makes sense. Ralph, baby Ben and Ben's mother can sit three abreast at the front. And there are three more seats in the back. The Multipla is more of an all-purpose vehicle with a decent boot and it is easy to park. Yes, the Multipla is clever, roomy and good value and on pot-holed urban streets it can straighten out the bumps well enough, but on the open road it is a revelation - the performance is almost lively.

That common rail JTD diesel engine delivers around 30 per cent more economy than the 1.6 petrol with an average consumption figure of just over 44mpg. Certainly the 1.6 petrol is cheaper to buy, but Ralph should appreciate the economy and resellability of a Multipla JTD especially with the more powerful 115 as opposed to the 105 unit. Ralph should aim for the higher spec ELX trim.

A CAR FOR THE HEART

You could not get a friendlier car than the Smart, but I believe Ralph needs something slightly more practical. A basic Smart Pure manages 57.6 mpg but a Seat Arosa with a diesel engine manages 64.2.

Closely related to the Volkswagen Lupo, the Arosa is better value and the more sensible choice. It is fun to drive around town or on the open road, but only with the larger engines. The boxy cabin should mean plenty of room and at the front there are no complaints, but rear legroom is at a premium.

That boot may struggle to take a weekly shop although the rear seats do split and fold to help out unlike a Smart. Standard equipment is good when you get above the cheapest models, but I reckon that Ralph should keep it simple and not worry about electric windows and central locking. Prices are below £5,000.

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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