One for the Road: A five-seater diesel good for the school run


Ken Christopher wants a car for his daughter to replace a diesel Rover; it must seat five, be suitable for the school run and come in at a maximum £2,500.

A Car for the Head

The Nissan Almera Tino (pictured) is a very useful compact people carrier, which is better to live with than look at. It has loads of kit and space, plus a nice cabin. Ultra-reliable and ultra-useful for most small families, it's great value. It's also fuss-free, with very little body roll through the corners. There's a definite nimbleness, though that goes when you load it up with passengers and luggage. Petrol engines include a 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre, while the two diesels are both 2.2s but with different power outputs. All are fine for school runs and around-town use. SE trim adds air-con, while SE2 gets alloys and a CD player. The 2.2 diesel returns around 44mpg and is group 6 for insurance. A 2003 example in SE trim from a car dealer would cost £2,200.

A Car for the Heart

The Mercedes A-Class provides a clever rethink of the hatchback layout, which sandwiched mechanicals under the floor and puts passengers in a roomy cabin. It is as big as an E-class Mercedes on the inside, but no bigger than a Ford Ka on the outside. So five people and their luggage, or in this case lots of child-related items for school and hobbies, should not be a problem. There is a large choice of engines and specifications, but I think the 1.4 petrol would be more than adequate in basic Classic trim. It would do 39mpg overall and the insurance group is a reasonable group 5. A 2003 example in Classic SE trim is just £2,250. The diesel option, 170CDi, ought to return 57mpg. But the car would be older, year 2000, and be in a higher insurance group (7).

Looking to buy?

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