Could you recommend a reliable, economical car for our student daughter?

After reading your column we purchased a FIAT Panda for our two daughters to learn to drive. We have owned it for four years and it has proved an excellent choice. Our older daughter is now 21 and is due to start a second degree later in the year. We need to buy her a car of her own, she has built up a no-claims bonus if she stays with our current insurer so that should bring the premiums down a little. She will be living 180 miles from home so we are looking for something that will cover those motorway miles safely and efficiently. Once at university she will use the car for local trips, so I'm not sure if diesel would be advisable.

The car needs to have a larger carrying capacity than the Panda (she doesn't travel light) and I am hoping to reduce my role as a removal service for her. Because she will be living so far away, I would prefer the car to still have some manufacturer warranty when we purchase it - so we are looking for something that is about a year old. So far I have looked at a five-door Peugeot 207 and Suzuki Swift, I am slightly wary of the Peugeot as we owned one years ago and it was so unreliable it became known as the "b----y puggot". Any better ideas please?

Asked on 23 February 2011 by GF, Arundel

Answered by Honest John
Based on its claims stats, with only a 6 per cent incident rate and a £331.92 average cost of repair, Warranty Direct nominated the 207 the 'Most Reliable European badged 3 - 7 year old car'. 207s are better with the later chain cam engines that save a £500 bill for changing timing belts. For reliability, the old shape Fiesta also gets the thumbs up.

The Suzuki Swift you have seen must be the old model. Great fun to drive, with Toyota Yaris engines and gearboxes. Also look at a Mazda 2 1.3TS2 (specifically that model). The latest version is £30 tax, but a year old example will be £90 tax. For space, a Honda Jazz is unbeatable, but is an oldies car and no fun to drive. (GF later bought a Mazda 2 1.3TS2.)
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