There is plenty of room to manoeuvre when trading in the saloon for a bigger vehicle, writes James Ruppert

When they drive over to France to spend a couple of weeks with the in-laws, James believes it will not provide the capacity they need as they have left a pushchair behind recently. Their budget would probably be around £7,000 and James is happy to consider an estate or MPV.

The time comes when every family has to upsize to cope with their ever-expanding offspring. It isn't their dimension but the exponential growth in the amount of stuff that you have to cart round to keep them fed, watered and happy. Excellent as the Fabia is, James has to consider something not necessarily much larger, but certainly more flexible.

James tells mehe is not badge-conscious and will consider an estate, but has saved me from writing 200 words on the Citroën Xsara Picasso by saying that he and his wife hate it. He likes the Mazda 5, but reckons it is a bit too rich for them at the moment. I don't know if James would like a van, which usually has huge load areas and easily takes items such as baby buggies.

I am certainly a fan of the full-size estate, which need not be a pain to park and drive and can be less bothersome than a bulky MPV. There is certainly no shortage of options for James and he should take the family and luggage with him before deciding.

A CAR FOR THE HEAD

James suggested the Skoda Octavia to me, which is not only great value, but even before folding the seat there are a considerable 560 litres of load area space which makes it one of the largest in this class of estate.

He can also go for the powerful and effective and economical diesel engines that make longer runs easier. One criticism is that all but the Elegance models have a load bay, which has a step in the middle of it, so it is not completely flat. Also the boot sill is quite high.

In the medium estate class I would also like to direct James towards the Vauxhall Vectra. This has a good-sized boot of 540 litres and is very practical with easy-fold rear seats. Best of all, though, it is a very comfy drive. It is refined with good seats and excellent levels of standard equipment including cruise control, air conditioning and a CD player. It is good value and there are some good economical and refined engines.

A CAR FOR THE HEART

For a vehicle the family might fall in love with, I am tempted to suggest an adapted van like a Citroën Berlingo Multispace, the closely related Peugeot Partner Combi or a Renault Kangoo. With rear sliding doors and a flat rear load bay and relatively high ceiling they are very practical for a family of four or five.

The specifications can be more than basic van, though, with optional air conditioning and electric windows. Some, though, hate the looks, the security is not always as sophisticated as with conventional cars and at speed they can be boomy and unrefined. For those reasons then I'll go for a compact MPV.

I would thus recommend to James the Renault Scenic. It is a question of whether he can afford the latest version or is happy with the old shape model. The load areas are a decent size and the older model is becoming great value now. The three individual rear seats flip and fold, which means James's children can sit there with a table between them. It's trial and error but I think he can get two buggies in the back diagonally.

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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