Car Choice: Are you sitting comfortably? Probably not. But motorists can still go soft

Can a driver with a bad back find what he's looking for when so many manufacturers think we all want to be Lewis Hamilton?
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Richard Tweed is 57 and due to retire in three years. But for now, his bad back has to endure a 40-mile commute. His current car of choice is a nice old Citroen XM, which he plans to change in the next year. He has tried a C5 but thought it had been stiffened up too much. All he wants is a softly sprung, comfortable car.

Richard rightly complains that the emphasis among car makers now is on sporty handling at the expense of comfort. Motoring journalists may be to blame for this, insisting that even the most modest car should corner in a manner that would delight Lewis Hamilton. But we all want a car that is safe, so it should be responsive, and if a car is too soft and wallowy then that compromises both braking and suspension and can make passengers feel sick.

Richard should consider an orthopaedic seat or cushions for his bad back. Top-of-the range Mercedes such as the S-Class and the BMW 7 series have excellent seating and all Saabs provide superb back support. But Richard may not want those models or the firmer suspension that some of the cars have.

Now, although a soft suspension may help, a soft seat, as old Citroens like his have, is not ideal as it lacks support. Osteopath Bryan McIlwraith has some great tips at www.carseatdata.org.



A car for the head

I really can't see Richard's problem with the Citroen C5, which is the best balance between a soft ride and safe handling. But an alternative is the Kia Magentis, which, while not a particularly brilliant car, is comfortable and has an excellent reputation for reliability. Compared with the XM, the Magentis is a safe choice, spectacular value for money and much less complicated to look after and run than the Citroen. For just £1,495, I found a 2002 LX 2.5 model with just 47,000 miles and a full service history. Upping the budget to £2,695 puts the later-shape model, a 2.0LE, within reach.



A car for the heart

It is possible to deliver exactly what Richard wants in the shape of a Cadillac. For a while, General Motors thought it could sell the Seville in the European market as a credible alternative to a BMW or Mercedes. Wrong decision: it didn't have the style, ability or image of the Euro saloons. Oh yes, and it was far too softly sprung. So Richard could take his pick from the handful of examples that were bought back then. The V8 petrol engine may prove pricey to run but in retirement his mileage is going to be limited anyway. As an example a 2000 model from a private seller with 83,000 miles will be £3,800. Personally, I reckon a Lexus LS400 would be better. Again it has a V8 engine, but it is whisper-quiet and set up for comfort. Some £1,995 buys a 1993 example with just over 100,000 miles from a dealer.

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