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 firstname.lastname@example.org, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested, and your budget.