Currently I drive a 2003 Ford Focus 1.6 Ghia. It's an excellent car for what I want, but I hate it. There's nothing wrong with it, it's just really bloody boring. Every time I look at it I fall asleep a little.

I've been contemplating replacing it for about nine months now (I've owned it for just over a year). As a student I need to be sensible - I'd love an old Jaguar but the running costs would cripple me. To justify swapping the reliable and efficient Focus, I need something equally reliable and efficient. Just reliable and efficient in an interesting way.

So naturally, I started looking at old Rovers. Stop rolling on the floor laughing. I stumbled across a 2003 45 Impression S 2.0 diesel at a local garage. The Impression S bit means it comes with lovely leather seats that make it a really nice place to sit, while the 2.0 L-Series is known to be bulletproof. I had the same engine in my Freelander and it was great. I've also heard reports of it returning 60 mpg in the 45 (downhill with the wind behind you and a little internet forum exaggeration thrown in for good measure, possibly) - but it should definitely be more efficient than my Focus.

To cut to the chase - I test drove it and the clutch was on its way out. It also had zero history and nothing more than the word of the previous owner that the cam belt had been changed. The seller was also adamant that supply for these is strong so wouldn't budge on price, and he offered £750 for my Focus, which was disappointing.

I'm not one to be put off easily so sat in their car park and did a search on AutoTrader for other 45s for sale locally. There was a 2005 that sounded perfect, apart from the 1.6 K-series engine. Everything else about it was great (ok, it didn't have leather either, which I REALLY wanted), but I glossed over these minor issues and went for a look anyway.

On the plus side, the 45 had an even smaller mileage than advertised and looked absolutely gorgeous thanks to its bluey purple paintwork and facelifted exterior. It was also cheaper than advertised online, showing £1000 in the window. If you follow the prices of these, you'll know £1000 for a facelifted 45 with FSH and mileage that suggests a lifetime spent inside a garage is a bit of a bargain.

You know what they say about being too good to be true? Yeah, that. We opened the bonnet, and yeah, sludge in the expansion tank. Not to be deterred - a failed head gasket is the norm when looking at second hand K-series Rovers - I asked for a test drive.


Young Darren tried his best to get it out but a flat battery and a Honda Civic parked in front of it meant it wasn't going to happen. A few minutes later the car was jump started and I was turning on to the dual carriageway on a test drive. Yes - turning on to a dual carriageway, in thick fog, in a Rover with head gasket failure so no heat going to the steamed up windows.

What followed was the scariest test drive of my life, which I won't go into for legal reasons. The nice chap offered me £700 for my Focus (although I think he'd have been open to the idea of a swap, if I'd been naive enough - he knew the 45 was borked).

When I got back I returned to the office (well, portakabin) to give the keys back and tell them "thanks, but no thanks". I was told to sit down and look through the paperwork while they argued with a poor Eastern European couple who were trying to buy a car from them. "No, you can't pay a deposit now and collect the car next week, we need the cash payment and the £50 admin fee NOW!" 

I hate buying secondhand cars. I suddenly appreciate my Focus a lot more now.

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