David McNamara, 69, is starting to suffer from osteoarthritis. A long car drive can become wearing on the joints. According to his physiotherapist he would be better off in a car with a driving seat that allows him to sit up straight, to ease the pressure on his hips and knees, and is higher off the ground, so it's easier to get in and out. At present David drives a five-year-old 1.6 VW Golf Estate, worth about £4,000 or £5,000. He would be prepared to spend up to £15,000. Seating space for grandchildren and boot space would be welcome.
Something that car manufacturers are notoriously bad at making is car seats. Only the most expensive models plus Saab and Volvo have any idea that we need to be comfortable and well supported. Even if you don't have a serious condition, like David, you still have a right to a comfy seat.
Certainly buying a vehicle that is high off the ground is a good starting point to make getting in and out easier. Finding those models is easy but David might like to consider a specialist seat from a manufacturer called Recaro. Famous for their sports car seats, they have diversified into making something called an Orthopaed. It has very low side bolsters so that getting in and out is easy, and a very flat seat cushion. There are also all sorts of clever things such as a climate package which, depending on the conditions, cools or heats the back. Everything is adjustable from the shoulder to the lumbar support and even the seat cushion, which can be moved for better thigh support. It also has a built-in side airbag. David needs to find a local dealer and try one out. However, this is not a cheap option because prices start at £1,240.
A car for the head
The Nissan Qashqai is an impressive and very different package that should suit David. He told me that he is after style rather than practicality, but this has both. David will sit nice and high, the Qash-qai looks just like a 4x4 vehicle, but it isn't (well actually there are now four-wheel drive models). The height-adjustable driver's seat and a steering wheel that moves for height and reach should mean that David can find a layout he is happy with. There is plenty of head and legroom in the front of the car and getting at least three grandchildren in the back should not be a problem. The boot in particular is large and well shaped. There is plenty of standard equipment; air conditioning, alloy wheels, electric windows and a Bluetooth hands-free telephone kit are all part of the package. David told me he only wanted petrol and the smallest 1.6 might suit him. Although this is a heavy car, it still manages to return 42mpg. Otherwise there is a 2.0 model. Prices start at £13,699 for the two-wheel drive Visia model.
A car for the heart
The Skoda Roomster might be a tad smaller than David was expecting, but I think it might fit his lifestyle and look funky into the bargain. Like the Golf he already owns, this car is made by Volkswagen, but it is a lot less boring than that estate car. David should like the upright driving position, the seat can be raised while the steering wheel adjusts for rake and reach. The rear is a bit tight, but for two grandchildren it would be no problem and one smaller child should be fine too. The seats can be reclined, folded or removed. Not only that, the two outer seats can be moved inward and slid back and forth to make the best use of the space, hence the name. The boot is a very decent size and suitably square. There is a 1.4 petrol engine, which may be a bit underpowered, so the 1.6 would be better and should return up to 39mpg. Standard equipment includes CD and electric front windows. The price for a 1.6 in higher 3 or Scout trim is £13,010.
Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or email James Ruppert at firstname.lastname@example.org, giving your age, address, phone number and details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested and your budget.