Mini Clubman or Fiat 500?

I am considering changing our second car for a small, cheap-to-run car with low tax. I would buy newish. A Fiat 500 or Mini Clubman both appeal, the Mini possibly as a diesel and the Fiat as a 1.2-litre petrol or diesel. Any thoughts on these cars? I would prefer a leather interior, which I know limits the choice, and a full or partial sunroof. Are there any other small vehicles I should be considering, or even medium cars that have cheap tax? I guess my budget would be up to about £12,000.

Asked on 21 April 2012 by JA, via email

Answered by Honest John
I like the Mini Clubman (lots of people, strangely, don't) and prefer it to the standard hatchback. Since mid-2010 the diesels came with BMW's own chain cam 1.6 or 2.0-litre diesel engine, and that's the diesel to go for rather than the previous PSA 1.6 belt cam diesel. A Fiat 500 can come with an optional opening sunroof or a full roll-back canvas roof in the 500C. All 500Cs are fitted with the improved suspension that only came to mainstream 500s from year 2010 build. The 1.2 petrol engine is economical but, frankly, weak (I know, I've got one). The 1.3 Multijet diesel is very perky but can suffer DPF problems if used for repeated short runs from cold. The most fun engines are the 900cc TwinAir (free annual VED) and the 1.4 Abarth that, in the real world, give similar fuel economy figures whatever the 'official' figures tell you. Look them up in the car-by-car reviews and road tests at www.honestjohn.co.uk.
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