2. Fiat Panda (2003-2012)
A European city break might provide fun for a weekend, but a European city car can be fun every day, and few are better than the Fiat Panda.
This chic little five-door Italian offers low-cost motoring in a refined and spacious package that will accommodate four adults. The Panda has excellent steering that is particularly light at lower speeds, making parking a doddle. We’d go for the 1.2-litre petrol version, which is nippy around town and should return around 50mpg if you’re careful.
Cars from 2003 to 2007 were recalled to fix an ABS system short circuit that can cause a fire, so make sure this has been done. We found a 2007 1.2 Dynamic with less than 100,000 miles for £750.
3. Ford StreetKa (2003-2006)
Spending a week on the Cornish Riviera can be hit and miss, but on the right day when the sun’s out, there’s little to beat it. And there’s little to beat a Ford StreetKa, both for the money and for the entertainment value when the top is down and the sun is out.
It’s as stylish as a St Ives gallery, and driving one is as much fun as surfing a barrel wave in Newquay. The StreetKa is easy to drive and manoeuvre around town, although it’s less refined on motorways. Check that the roof mechanism is in good working order and there’s no water damage inside. Look for corrosion on the front subframe, too.
We found a 2003 StreetKa with 49,000 miles on the clock for £1500
4. Mercedes-Benz CLK (2002-2009)
You could sail around the Mediterranean, or you could be cruising around in your very own two-door Mercedes coupé.
The CLK has aged well and remains attractive and stylish, and in the right spec — we’d choose Sport with AMG alloys — it continues to turn heads. It has a sporty feel, is well built and is at its best as a long-distance grand tourer, although it is a little cramped in the back. Go for the silky 3.2-litre petrol V6 with the excellent automatic gearbox.
Owners report few issues, but keep an eye out for excessive wheel arch corrosion and go for a fully serviced example. A CLK 320 Avantgarde from 2003 with 95,000 miles on the clock could be yours for £2950.
5. Lexus GS (2005-2011)
A five-star luxury trip to the Maldives might be holiday nirvana for some (or perhaps most), but consider that for the same five-figure spend you could get a Lexus GS 450h — and being a hybrid, you’ll be doing your part to keep those sandbank atolls above the water line.
You’ll be treated to exemplary main dealer treatment, a comfortable ride, excellent refinement and strong engine performance, plus loads of standard ki,t and it’s all wrapped up in a reliable package. The GS isn’t the best on the motorway, though.
Check the wheels for early oxidisation, but other than that, few owner issues have been reported.
Prices for 2008 GS 450hs in top specification with 60,000 miles on the clock start at around £10,000.