Sam Vigo's Renault Mégane has died. Although he is 21, the usual student-friendly Ford Ka won't do: he needs space and does motorway miles. He has a budget of £2,000 including insurance.

A Car for the Head

Student cars are a perennial problem and, as with insurance, much depends on the individual. Sam tells me that insurance for him on a 2.0 Mondeo is £1,000, which makes the budget for his next car, yes, £1,000. I think he should consider an old-style Nissan Primera. The Nissan Primera saloon, hatchback and estate just about have it all: practicality, reliability and driveability. What they do not have is any style, which means many buyers still overlook the British-built model's many abilities. The hatchback and saloon have roomy and useful boots. Perhaps the most surprising thing is that they are lots of fun to drive. Yes, the Primera is one of the most underrated family cars on sale today and a great used buy. A year 2000 1.8S with 89,000 miles will be £1,000 and come with mod cons such as air conditioning and an immobiliser.

A Car for the Heart

The Peugeot 406 cleverly combines driver appeal with superb refinement and ride comfort. It is a roomy and practical car, too. Fleet-car running costs mean that servicing and parts are reasonable and used spares easy to find. Around 40+mpg for the excellent diesels, 1.8 is the best petrol at just over 30mpg. The 406 succeeds in being one of the most comfortable saloons or estates Sam could buy. The ride quality is superb; hardly troubled by uneven surfaces, it is always quiet, smooth and refined. Inside, the cabin is roomy, with good seats and reasonable levels of trim quality. A lovely way to travel and as a driving machine it has huge levels of grip, good balance and sharp steering. A fun package and £1,000 buys a 2003 2.0HDi 90 saloon with 75,000 miles.

Looking to buy?

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

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