Car Choice: What's comfy, cheap to run, and has room for the dogs?

Jane Laws suffers from a lower-back problem and currently owns a Peugeot 305 Hdi 2 litre diesel estate, which is both uncomfortable and about to expire. Jane is looking for something which has a more upright seating position, and she insists that her next car should have steering-wheel adjustment, up and down as well as in and out. Not only that, it must be an estate car with room to accommodate her dogs and, obviously, in this day and age, it should be economical to run.

A car for the head

Back problems are a recurring theme in Car Choice questions, but we must always emphasise that there is no substitute for going to a car showroom and playing with the seats to try to get comfy. It is certainly logical for Jane to go for an estate car, which has an easily separated rear area where her dogs can travel. The obvious first choice would be the Ford Focus estate. Here is a model with plenty of room inside the cabin for people and, of course, dogs. Even so, this is not the largest small-family estate, however, it is one of the most practical and it has the sort of very adjustable and upright seating which could suit Jane perfectly. Firstly, the driver's seat can be moved up and down with a lever at the side. Certainly the seat is quite high set, which could also be perfect for Jane and give her an excellent view out. The steering also adjusts up and down and in and out, so I would be hugely surprised if she could not get her driving position absolutely right. I don't think the dogs will have a problem hopping into the rear. Having previously enjoyed diesel power there are a couple of diesel engines a 1.6 and 2.0 TDCI, which return 50mpg and 60mpg respectively.

A car for the heart

Jane may want a car that is a little bit different and one of the best and most spacious alternative estates is the Skoda Octavia, pictured. Related to the Volkswagen Golf, it is a very different and strangely more attractive proposition. The Skoda is a fine looking car and it's pleasant to drive, soaking up uneven road surfaces with ease. In terms of overall space it is hard to find a rival which comes close, as the boot is well shaped and suitably huge and, with the rear seats folded, there is a massive 1,620 litres of space, otherwise there is still a substantial 560 litres. In terms of driver comfort the seat and steering wheel can be adjusted in every direction and I think Jane will find that she can get comfy surprisingly quickly. One thing Jane did not mention was a budget, but with around £12,000 to £14,000 she could certainly get a brand new, or nearly new, example. Price will depend on the specification and the engine she wants. Sticking with diesel a 1.9TDI will return around 57.6mpg overall. The level of trim starts at Classic, which has air conditioning and electric front windows. Ambiente will add a CD player with autochanger, electric rear windows, – which may please the dogs – and electric door mirrors, which will certainly please Jane.



Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF or email James Ruppert at carchoice@independent.co.uk,giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested and your budget.

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