Mike Ford has an unusual request: a vehicle suitable to transport a couple of elderly mothers, who are 93 and 95 respectively. At the moment Mike has to cope with one wheelchair; now he envisages that before long he will need to accommodate two. So access to the boot needs to be easy as heaving the chairs in and out is an issue. A wide opening passenger door would be good and the budget is a generous £15,000 to £20,000.
A car for the head
Mike also wants a vehicle which is economical to run and not too big. However, two wheelchairs can take up a lot of space, and they need four doors, so I won't be recommending a tiny city car. There needs to be some compromise and I believe that Mike would find that in the adapted van-type vehicles such as the Citroë* Berlingo. When practicality is the most important requirement, this class of vehicle has to be the default choice. What buyers get is masses of usable space for small-car money.
Never mind all the clever storage cubbyholes that should please Mike; the most important is that there is a very low loading lip to the hatchback and a large, flat square that should easily take two wheelchairs. The slightly higher than average seating always makes it easier for older passengers who don't want to fight gravity when getting in and out of a car. Even better, the rear doors slide back for brilliant access.
If Mike wants to go for a diesel, the 1.6HDi engine will return up to 50mpg with careful driving. At the moment there are some special offers and it's possible to be on the road for £12,145, or take advantage of a 0 per cent finance offer.
A car for the heart
I think that the Berlingo or similar would do the job. However, something slightly smaller and arguably more stylish might be the Skoda Roomster. It has a very good-sized boot that is square and flat with a lip that is bumper height, so it's easy to haul wheelchairs over. There are two full-sized seats at the back and it is probably best used as a four-seater so that there is plenty of space for everyone. The rear seats do recline, which helps to get passengers comfy.
The 1.9 TDi engine is the most economical, returning 51.4 mpg under official conditions. If Mike does not do big mileages, then the 1.6 petrol would be the best engine and make it flexible enough for a variety of conditions. He would probably prefer to buy an SE model, which has the essential specifications these days including remote locking and air conditioning.
Overall, the Roomster has proved to be reliable in service, but I would also recommend that Mike considers an older model so that he does not have to bear the loss of depreciation. With £9,000 as a budget he can buy a very recent 2010 1.2TSi SE model that will return 50mpg.
Looking to buy?
Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF or email James Ruppert at firstname.lastname@example.org, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested and your budget.