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One for the Road: A first car in the mould of Volkswagen's Up!


Toby Benians is determined to pass his seventh driving test and wants to spend £3,000 on his first car. He loves VW's Up! but needs something cheaper.

A Car for the Head

I know Toby has been learning to drive in a Toyota Yaris and that is my default choice for first-car buyers. This is because it is good value, cheap to run and insure and best of all it won't break down. Apart from its appealing cheeky looks, the Yaris also works well in town. The high driving position is great while the petrol and diesel engines are enthusiastic and economical. Its downsides, however, are limited luggage space and hard suspension. For £3,000, Toby could buy a 2004 1.0 VVti T2 three-door with 44,000 miles and a full service history from a dealer. Getting a warranty is important for peace of mind.

A Car for the Heart

If it was simply a choice of badge, the majority of supermini shoppers would go for a Volkswagen without a second thought. It is a guarantee of quality, practicality and reliability. But while Toby would love an Up!, a Polo will have to do. And who wouldn't want a scaled-down Golf? The feel-good factor is extremely high with the Polo, which are consistently sensible buys for those who want no-frills transportation that is also well built with a quality image. Toby needs to go for models built from late 2001. That equates to the VW Polo Mark 4. His budget will buy a 2002/2003 example with about 70,000 miles, and many are sold privately, so care is required when choosing which one to purchase.

Looking to buy?

Email James Ruppert at onefortheroad@independent.co.uk, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested, and your budget.