Nigel Barrett wants a car that he can leave at the railway station. His main priority is security as the car will be left in an unmonitored, unsecured car park all day and sometimes at night. It must also be ultra-reliable; capable of starting first time, every time, on a cold morning, although it will only do short runs of a few miles each day.
A quick-clear windscreen would also be a big bonus for frosty mornings. At weekends it will have to double up as a second family car, for ferrying around teenagers with a hectic social schedule. Nigel is looking for as stylish a vehicle as possible on a budget of 8,000.
Station cars in my experience are cheap and cheerful. Ideally they will also be dull and anonymous, that way they tend to get left alone in the car park, whilst thieves target something with a CD system, or nice alloy wheels.
Older, cheaper cars are good for being left in car parks for long periods of time. Not all drivers are as careful as they could be when it comes to manoeuvring their vehicles, but with an older car, if you get back one evening to find some twit has dented your door, it really doesn't matter. So style and a healthy budget of 8,000 is not the typical station car, then.
Maybe Nigel should think about having two vehicles, a cheap one for the station and one that's slightly more up-market for the weekend teenage run. However, I understand the implications of having two cars, so I'll try to stick to choosing just the one model.
If security is your priority, visit www.thatcham.org, where every car is subjected to a scientific programme of destructive attack testing. The tests are also used to produce security data for the insurance industry.
A car for the head
I would always recommend that buyers after reliability go for Japanese cars. Although there have been huge improvements in recent years, the luxury Lexus brand is particularly successful at resisting thieves.
The Mazda 5, which came first place in the British Insurance Car Security Awards for compact people-carriers, is both distinctive and reliable. Sadly, it is also out of Nigel's budget as it is well into the 9,000 bracket.
The car that came first in those awards for family cars was the Peugeot 407. It has an alarm and deadlocks (which are impossible to open without a key) across the range. The 407 is also distinctive and because it depreciates heavily is very affordable.
It is an unusual choice, but it is a remarkably safe one with pre-tensioning rear seatbelts, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control. It has a huge, separate boot which makes the car even more secure. Laminated glass in the side windows means thieves can't easily smash them in a quiet car park. Prices start at just over 4,000, but 8,000 buys a 2005 1.6 HDi SE with 23,000 miles. Bargain.
A car for the heart
It's a difficult one this, to find a stylish vehicle that is also robust and secure. However, I think the Nissan X-Trail fits the bill. It works as a decent family transporter and is also a tough customer in the car park.
This model is another winner in the British Insurance Car Security Awards, this time in the off-road category. Although the idea of a 4x4 will scare off some buyers as being an inherently evil purchase, there is a two-wheel-drive version available a 2.0-litre petrol model which still looks like an off-roader.
If Nigel is after more economy and engine responsiveness, then he should opt for the 2.2dCi, which delivers almost 40mpg. The X-Trail is a superbly practical family estate car. It is easy to fit bulky adults inside, never mind children. There is also plenty of room for luggage, and with a large plastic lined area, it doesn't matter if the kids put grubby stuff in the back.
Being a Nissan it should never fail to start and it has an excellent level of security that includes an alarm, deadlocks and remote central locking.
And 8,000 will secure a 2003 SVE specification diesel model with around 50,000 miles on the clock.
Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail James Ruppert at firstname.lastname@example.org, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested and budget.