Anne Moore is 40 and works in television production. She runs a 1999 Renault Clio 1.4 and wants to replace it this year. She likes her Clio because it has been reliable, zippy and economical and she might buy another, but she would like to know what else she ought to consider: perhaps a Toyota Yaris, which she has been told is supposed to the best in the class, a Fiat Punto or even a Mini One. What would be a good buy, new or used, for £10,000? Would it be better to return to the dealer or go to a car supermarket? And the car must look good in silver, her favourite car colour.

MS MOORE has an interesting but common problem, namely which supermini should she buy? This class of car, the small hatchback, is the most competitive which is great news for buyers because the choice of great models has never been better.

But Ms Moore needs to decide whether she favours practicality over character or vice versa. She is certainly right to consider a Toyota Yaris which we have recommended several times. Yet there are other cars she should consider.

When it comes to buying Anne should always explore every option. A local garage can be as competitive as a car supermarket and also offer a more pleasant and personal buying experience. What supermarkets can provide is a wide choice of mostly pre-registered, but otherwise brand new cars.

For instance at Trade Sales (08701 222 970) a Toyota Yaris 1.3 CDX could be found recently at £7,999 a saving of more than £2,000. But there are also UK brokers who can source new cars from a dealer at a price you could never negotiate. Try Drivethedeal.com. As for the colour silver, Ms Moore might like to know it is the UK's favourite colour and just about every car, especially smaller ones look good in that shade.

A car for the head

There are two contenders as the sensible choice. Firstly the Honda Jazz, a small car brilliantly packaged. The rear seats fold flat which creates a long deck. Up front, the driver's seat is very adjustable which should keep Ms Moore comfy.

Ideally, she should try to buy the SE version which has ABS brakes, although prices for the base S start at £9,000. But although the SE is £10,300 it should be easy to negotiate a sub-£10,000 deal. There are also a lot of nearly new models in circulation, which are available below £9,000.

Ms Moore must extensively test-drive the Honda, because some drivers dislike the hard ride and wind noise at speed. A model which is going to be just as reliable as the Honda is the new Mazda 2. It is spacious and practical and if Ms Moore enjoys sharp handling this is just the car. The Mazda 2 is also refined and quiet at speed. On the practical level head and legroom is good front and rear with a decent-sized boot. Both the 1.25S and 1.4TS are within the £10,000 budget, but neither has air-conditioning.

A car for the heart

Everyone loves the new Mini. Even those who, like me, think it is a clever branding operation have to admit the execution is effective and the Mini delivers as driving machine and style icon. The Mini One in particular is a great car.

The engine is not that responsive, but the handling is superb and similar to the original Mini for sheer chuckability. The driving position is great, but accommodation in the rear very limited and the boot is tiny. But the engine delivers a respectable 40 mpg and there is a servicing package that covers routine maintenance for five years.

Trouble is buying one within the £10,000 budget. We found one One at a Mini dealer, a 2001 model with 15,000 miles for £9,995 and a 2002 example that had done 17,000 miles, for £9,999 at a car supermarket. Ms Moore will have to shop around, but resign herself to paying a sizeable sum for a car that barely depreciates. Either that or save up for a new silver one.

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