Car Choice: A great, comfy Seat

Tall people with dodgy knees need high seats, good headroom and an automatic gearbox, says James Ruppert
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Indy Lifestyle Online

John Burton and his wife are both in their late 60s; he is 6ft 3in and with a knee replacement. Consequently they are looking for a car that has fairly high seats, so that it is easy to get in and out of, with good head room and leg room and a high or adjustable steering wheel.

Plenty of boot space or a hatchback would also be useful, but they don't want any vehicle that is too large. A one or two-year-old car would be perfectly acceptable, and petrol consumption is not an issue as they do only a small annual mileage. Their budget is in the range of £10,000 to £20,000.

Here it is, one of the most regularly asked questions at Car Choice, namely I want a comfy car, what can you recommend for me?

John and his wife have every right to expect that they will be at ease behind the wheel. That does mean they will have to sit in an awful lot of cars to find the right one, as there is no substitute for doing that, but maybe we can help the Burtons to come up with a useful shortlist.

John mentioned in his letter to me that many seven-seat people carriers he has looked at would be ideal, but that they would be a little bit on the large side for a retired couple.

Well, there are several schools of thought on that one - not least that you can never have enough space, whether it is for carrying shopping or for giving family members and friends a lift. Larger cars are, almost by definition, normally more comfy cars with plenty of space for larger and more adjustable seats.

One vehicle that I think would be appropriate in this situation is the Toyota Yaris, with its high seating position, but John tells me that he found the Yaris was too small. Also, the fact that a car is small does not give much of an advantage when it comes to slot parking these days.

You may take up less road space, but realistically, as fuel consumption is not an issue, then John should consider something that may be larger. Certainly the Burtons' budget is very generous, so there is plenty of choice to be had.

A CAR FOR THE HEAD

With a dodgy knee it is best to go for an automatic gearbox, but as for the rest of the car I would go out on a limb and point John in the direction of the Ford Fusion.

Essentially, it is a high-rise Ford Fiesta which has confused new car-buyers, who have not bought it in the numbers that Ford expected. Its marketing department thought funky youngsters would appreciate the off-roader looks and high driving position, but they didn't.

Instead, the Fusion has become a bigger hit with the grey panthers, who like the great view out and the fact that you step up into it rather than have to bend down. For those reasons alone it is a vehicle that's worth considering.

Then there is the excellent cabin layout, with great big easy-to-prod buttons and clear dials. An automatic gearbox is essential and with the 3 and + specifications it comes as standard, along with an alarm and alloy wheels.

On top of that, remote central locking, air conditioning and electric windows plus CD are also part of the package. A year old-1.6 Fusion with 10,000 miles from a dealer and still under the manufacturer's warranty will be just £7,900.

A CAR FOR THE HEART

I was thinking of pointing John in the direction of the Mercedes A-Class, which is small yet very spacious. However, some essential items, such as rake-adjustable steering, were options and may not be part of the specification of every A-Class.

Also, being a Mercedes it can have a premium price, so it is better to consider a less mainstream vehicle, such as the Seat Altea. Here is a stylish, great value and very well equipped small family car that is effectively a tall hatchback.

The driver will get a height-adjustable seat and fully adjustable steering which moves up and down and for reach, so getting comfy should not be a problem. This is a conventional hatch in ability, so no magically appearing extra seats, just split and fold, although the boot has underfloor storage, which is useful.

The build quality is very good and the engines are based on Volkswagen units, so there's no problem there. The 2.0 FSI is available with the automatic gearbox. A 2005 example with 10,000 miles would cost £9,500 from a dealer.

Seat calls this an MSV - multi-sports vehicle, but I reckon it's a PFJ, or perfect for John.

CAR CHOICE

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail James Ruppert at carchoice@independent.co.uk, giving your age, address and contact number, and details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested and your budget.

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