Could you suggest an economical, reliable 4-door car which offers a bit of fun?

I have been running a Ford Focus 53-reg 1.8 Zetec diesel for the last seven years. The car has been very reliable except for water in the passenger foot well, about three times in all, and I have just had the clutch master cylinder replaced. As I no longer do much motorway driving, I would like to change my car but am unsure what to buy. My main criteria are that it has to have four doors with enough room in the back for two children, economical, reliable and safe plus a bit of fun, as I do more country lanes now. I was thinking something about a year old or a very good "new car" deal. I have a budget of about £10,000 -£12,000. I only do around 6,000 miles pa now so was wondering if diesel is still the better option for me?

Asked on 27 October 2010 by LK, Sonning Common

Answered by Honest John
For 6,000 miles a year you don't want a diesel with a diesel particulate filter. It will cost you more in grief and repairs than any saving in fuel. The latest SEAT Ibiza 1.2TSI 105 is very good. Look for discounted prices at www.drivethedeal.com. The latest Suzuki Swift 1.2 is good too. And I'm a huge fan of the Mazda 2 1.3TS2: (www.honestjohn.co.uk/road-tests/mazda/mazda-2-2008...l and www.honestjohn.co.uk/road-tests/mazda/mazda-2-auto). Always check with www.drivethedeal.com to see what kinds of discounts they can offer, that make 'list prices' irrelevant.
Similar questions
My wife and I have a young and growing family. Our 2009 Audi A3 Hatchback 1.9 TDI is now creaking at the seams and we're looking for a secondhand practical vehicle. It needs to be capable of carrying up...
I have 10k max to spend on a car. I need it to be economical but nippy. It has to be roomy and safe, reliable and cheap to service as I commute 16,000 miles per year. I want something that's fun to drive...
I am a student nurse in need of a good, reliable and reasonably economical car. However I am quite the car snob - having grown up around big brothers who like their cars, I have somewhat acquired the same...
Related models
Enjoyable and fun to drive. Economical engines. Sensibly priced. Feels well built. Ride harshness over bumps improved for 2011.
Cheap to run. Five star Euro NCAP rating. Clear and simple dash layout. Facelifted with improved engine range from spring 2012.
Cheap road tax and economical. Base-model is well equipped. Five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating. Swift Sport is great fun.
 

Ask Honest John

Value my car