#MyCar2015: The best options for empty nesters
Forget the F-type Jag and the pony tail when the kids leave, Campbell Spray has more realistic options
It's the big downsizing quandary: Do you celebrate that the children are off your hands and treat yourself to something special? Or do you swap years of running errands in Dad and Mum's Taxi for the rest of your life crammed in a washing machine on wheels with the personality of a gerbil?
It isn't quite as stark as that but it can be as many swap the family bus for a car that ages them 10 years just as the children leave home and you perhaps have the time to really enjoy some motoring fun for the first time in decades.
Of course it might be that bit premature, for just as you hope the children are off your hands they come screaming back with their mitts out for help to buy their own house or flat because of the new mortgage deposit rules.
The best thing to show that they have gone is to get a vehicle that spends their inheritance, hasn't enough space for them or grandchildren and will show that there is real life in the old dog or bitch still.
In fact that reminds me, get a hound too. The space that was left after my children no longer needed taking to school was filled very quickly by Sam, our Labrador/collie cross, who tests a new car every week and no doubt believes he could write better than I.
Anyway back to that statement car. It has to be the Jaguar F-Type (€94.5k), for pure brio and hardly enough space to pack a spare pair of knickers, or the Alfa-Romeo 4C (€70k), which has total Italian elan and is an absolutely sure way of losing a packet.
The Audi TT Coupe (€47k plus) drives like a dream and at least would take the dog and a couple of grandchildren if you were feeling generous.
More realistically you are not going to kick over the traces and do need something to drive that shows you haven't completely joined the tummy-tuck and boob-job brigade.
At one time Nissan was the home for the hip-replacement gang with awful cars like the absurdly named Tiida, which was a box-like saloon of total boriness. The Qashqai changed that and rescued the marque.
The Nissan Note (€16k plus) manages to mix fuddy-duddy heritage and good space with touches of class and could be a good option.
The Peugeot 2008 (€19k plus) is a very interesting compact crossover which ticks a lot of boxes and is worth considering. A revised model is on the way this summer.
From the same manufacturer the 208 GTi will rekindle passions, but Sam says coupes are a nightmare for two and four-legged creatures alike to get into.
That's why the new five-door Mini (€20k plus) could be just what the downsizer needs.
Go-kart handling that will remind you of your youth but masses of practicality as well.
If you want a bit more space and ability you can move up to the Mini Countryman (€24k plus) which can come with all-wheel drive.
While we are in the premium sector the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer (€32k), the marque's first front-wheel drive car, seems to say what you need while the Volvo V40 (€28k plus) is a real class act with a cross-country AWD option. You could show off with the beautiful Mercedes-Benz CLS (around €70k) but that's all you do.
When it comes down to the realities of being on a tight budget and going for a car big enough for all your - and dog's - day-to-day needs, and just enough room to pick up from the airport or drive down the country, I can't do better than the present Sunday Independent Car of the Year, the Hyundai i10.
It's a brilliant all-round package starting at €12k. The five-year warranty is a plus here as it is with the marque's bigger i20 and ix20 models if you need that bit more room.
The Skoda Fabia and its rugged big brother the Yeti are worth looking at too.
Yet there's always an awful pang in downsizing: Saying goodbye to the kids, closing the bedroom doors and moving on in life.
If you can afford it - and it is a big if - the Land Rover Discovery Sport (€37k and easily almost double!), which I write about in tomorrow's Sunday Independent, is the ultimate luxury grandparents' car. It has masses of style, trekking ability, solid class and the possibility of carrying seven. It shows you care after all and it could become a family heirloom.
Me? I'll take Sam off in the Jaguar.
OTHER MODELS TO CONSIDER
You could opt for the tried and tested Nissan Qashqai - a firm favourite with Irish buyers. The Hyundai i10 offers great value for money, but if you really want to push the boat out (literally) then the all-new Land Rover Discovery Sport is the job.