One for the Road: A reliable small car for a life abroad


Patricia Alexander has just moved to Spain from Hong Kong, giving up a Mazda MX5 on the way, and now (sadly, in her words) needs a small, reliable and more modest car.

A Car for the Head

No mention of budget, but I think what we need here are small cars which are made in Spain so they will be left-hand drive and good value. A smart-looking little car, a Vauxhall Corsa combines performance and economy, at around 50mpg.

Around town the light steering means that parking is really easy and at speed on a motorway it isn't half-bad. The interior is only adequate when it comes to quality, but there is a decent boot and split rear seats. Most of all, a Corsa is easy and cheap to run. In the UK, £3,000 will buy a 2005 1.0 Breeze with 60,000 miles and a service history.

A Car for the Heart

The obvious choice is a Seat, Spain's indigenous car brand – even though it is owned by Volkswagen – which is a good thing. What buyers get with a Seat Ibiza is a very efficient three- or five-door hatchback, which has decent room at the front though compromised head and legroom at the rear. The model is reasonably refined, keeping outside noise down under most conditions.

However, the firm suspension, which delivers a sporty drive, may cause problems as it bounces over rough road surfaces. Drivers will be comfortable, though, and have a simple, clear dashboard to use. The build quality is high while the running costs are reassuringly low. From decent fuel consumption to reasonable servicing costs, the Ibiza could not be easier to own, or better value. In the UK, £3,000 will buy a 2006 Seat Ibiza 1.2 Reference with 39,000 miles and two previous owners.

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.