It took me a long time to get here. I am currently taking driving lessons with Chris Piper, perhaps the best-known instructor in Eastbourne. My test is planned for December. A great friend bought me driving lessons for my birthday in June - at my time of life (I'm 45!). Anyway, I'm totally loving my lessons and would like to buy a nice manual car to maintain my skills.
I started-out considering the Mini Cooper, nice and small for a novice to handle. But I have dogs, so I looked at the Ford Focus. Then I noticed the more glamorous Golf GT TDi - it seems to have an attractive blend of speed and economy. But if I have to wash, wax and maintain it, I want something which gives some pride of ownership. The 3-Series Touring looks ideal. Not unwieldy, but plenty of space for dogs. Fully-comp insurance, even on a 330i Touring, for me is a very reasonable £540 - no doubt the result of me being closer to pensioner than teenager, and that the last car crime in our village was about 6 months ago (when someone bashed the door mirrors off a Mazda).
After so many years as a pedestrian, I never thought I would ever be responsible for a car. Thankfully, this forum looks like a massive resource.