Q: I'm 27 and looking for a sporty car. I have around £8000 to spend and can't decide what to buy. I can't really afford a decent Honda Civic Type R so thought about a Renault Clio 172 Cup or a Peugeot 206 GTI 180. However, I'm worried about the reliability of French cars. What should I go for? Nik Williams
A: First, you might be able to just stretch to a Type R. An early Y-plate car from a private seller with around 40,000 miles on the clock would only be just outside your budget.
If that's too old and you want a cheaper, more recent alternative, you could consider the French alternatives. However, you're right that Renault and Peugeot can't match Honda for reliability. In our What Car? Reliability Survey2005, Renault, slipped down five positions to 25th out of 30. Peugeot dropped one position on the previous year and ranked 16th. Honda came first.
In the same survey's top 100 cars, the Clio fared better than the 206, the Renault finishing in 40th position, five better than the Peugeot. The Civic was second.
If you're worried about reliability you might want to consider a third-party warranty for around £300. Try a company such as Warranty Direct on 0800 7317001.
In terms of driving, both of the French cars are great fun, but we prefer the Clio – it's a real hoot.
Considering the type of car it is, you'll want to give it a good examination. Make sure it has been properly serviced, and look for signs of abuse such as heavily worn tyres (always a problem with these cars), kerbed alloy wheels, scrapes and stone chips around the front.
You should be able to get a 2003 car with around 20,000 miles on the clock for around £8000.