Car Choice: Big man needs small car

Brent Charlesworth has a 1.6-litre Astra estate. It has been an excellent car but he wants to replace it with something smaller and more economical to run. He also wants low exhaust emissions. The added complication is that "small" cars are a problem: Brent is 6ft 4in. Ideally, he wants a mainstream model so parts and servicing are not an issue.

Thanks, Brent, for another question on the subject of sitting comfortably in our cars. Every other Car Choice query has something to do with seats and legroom so here is the proof, if manufacturers needed it, that we demand comfort. Mostly they skimp on the cost of a seat unless you pay extra for an orthopaedic version in a luxury motor.

Personally I have found Saab seats to be the most comfortable, especially over long distances. For Brent, though, it is not just the seat, but legroom, too. Often it is possible to modify the seating arrangements as we have explained before, and a good garage will be able to modify the seat runners or install longer ones.

There are crash safety concerns: a car will only be tested with standard equipment and modifying a new car can invalidate a warranty. A further question is whether Brent ever has anyone sitting behind him. If not, then why not modify the seat so that it will go back further than normal?

If Brent wants to save on running costs, one of the biggest ones is depreciation. Ideally, then, I will point him towards a used vehicle.

A CAR FOR THE HEAD

I find myself strangely drawn towards the Ford Fusion on Brent's behalf.

This is effectively a high-rise Ford Fiesta. Indeed, it looks like an off-road Fiesta. Ford thought this would be a big hit with youngsters but the opposite has happened: OAPs love the fact that the driver sits higher than in the standard hatchback. That means a good view out and also excellent head- and legroom. I think Brent will fit in, but he will have to try one to make sure. He should also like the Fusion's excellent dashboard layout and those chunky, easy-to-prod buttons and clear dials.

I don't think the fact that the Fusion is seen as an older person's car should put him off. It is a Ford and that means low running-costs and cheap insurance. The petrol 1.4 and 1.6 engines will do around 43mpg, while the 1.4 TDCi diesel nudges 64mpg. In CO2 terms the petrols range from 154 to 160g/km, while the diesel is 116g/km. Not being hugely popular, prices are on the low side: a 2002 example will be a little over £4,000 with 50,000 miles, but spending £5,000 gets a low-mileage later model, which is great value.

A CAR FOR THE HEART

There are at least two small French cars that Brent should consider. Both offer a micro MPV driving position, which are accommodating to the longer figure.

First, there is the Citroën C3, which has a lot of character. In this model, steering wheel and seat adjust quite a lot, and head- and legroom should not be a problem. I'd say that Citroën has established a good reputation for offering new cars at very attractive prices. Certainly, used examples are great value, as a 2003 1.4 Desire will be about £3,995. The 1.4 engine returns more than 45mpg and, in pollution terms, 145g/km is the CO2 rating.

Alternatively, there is the Renault Modus. This small car has wide opening doors and is also tall, with height-adjustable steering and plenty of head- and legroom. Inside, it certainly feels like a much larger car. A 1.4 petrol engine returns 42mpg with a CO2 rating of 161g/km, whereas the 1.5 diesels can exceed 60mpg and produce up to 125g/km. Since the Renault is a newer model than the Citroën, prices for the 2004 model start at about £6,000.

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.

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