Chris Morfey's question is without doubt the most common Car Choice conundrum. Motor manufacturers should take note because the majority of buyers seem to tolerate their seats and never properly get comfy. That is why trying a car for size is utterly essential, and telling Chris which is going to be the most comfortable is almost impossible. Saabs do indeed have brilliant seats, which is why there are two in our family. There is one option, though, which means that the Morfeys can drive the car they like, and that is by fitting an orthopaedic seat. The only suppliers I know are Recaro (01926 414111). They would recommend that Chris and his wife go along to their factory for a fitting. Also, as these seats do not fit every car, ideally the Morfeys should speak to Recaro before choosing a car. The seats are not cheap, starting at £960 and rising to £1,750 if the Morfeys choose a fancy fabric, or want a climate pack (which has a heated seat cushion, just like an old Saab in fact).
Alternatively, a specialist seat cushion supplier like benefitsnowshop.co.uk has coccyx cushions and pelvic tilt seating wedges that start from £18.00.
A CAR FOR THE HEAD
I'd go for the full orthopaedic seat option, which is why I am consulting the Recaro seat frame guide and matching that against Chris's requirements for a quality built smaller car. I would ask him to take another look at the Volkswagen Golf. An older model will be within budget. Although regarded as a little bit dull, there is no denying that the Golf is finished to a satisfyingly high standard, especially inside. It will take a Recaro seat, although I have always found the front seats in the Golf to be large, comfy and easy to adjust.
I would recommend that Chris go for the higher specifications (at least the SE) because, after a well-equipped Saab, no air conditioning or electric rear windows is going to be something of a disappointment. Where the Golf does stack up is on safety, with a well-designed body, plenty of airbags, and a four star rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests.
It's not an exciting drive, and Chris will need to pick the right engine.
A CAR FOR THE HEART
If the Saab remains the individualists choice, the Audi A3 is the sportier and sexier version. Not that the A3 is an idiosyncratic or rare car; it's the company car of choice for all thrusting executives. Again I find the A3 easy to be comfy in, but a replacement Recaro seat will fit just fine and in the sportier Audis you will actually find Recaro seats fitted as standard.
When new, the Audi was expensive compared to the Golf and the situation is still pretty much the same. Both models are better value now for the simple reason that they have been superseded by newer versions. The Audi, though, will cost a bit more and Chris has to balance the sporty appeal of an older A3 against a slightly younger and more staid Golf. A 2002-model A3 1.9 Tdi 130 SE with 40,000 miles on the clock would be £11,300, whereas a Golf in 1.9 GT Tdi 130 form is £9,900. If Chris prefers the idea of petrol, then the A3 1.8T is a hot hatch and a classy one at that, the perfect replacement for a Saab.
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