Being comfortable when you are driving is absolutely crucial to in-car karma. Dr Ross should take a look at the website www.car-seat-data.co.uk, which lists the results of a number of simple tests and should allow her to decide whether her next car will allow her to sit comfortably or not.
For Helen the most important test involves finding out the kerb height, so she needs to sit in the seat and then swing her right leg out as though she was getting out of the car.
With her right foot on the ground, she needs to try and ensure that her lower leg is in a vertical position. Then she should make sure that her thigh is sloping down towards her knee. If it is sloping up (ie if her knee is higher than her hip) she will have difficulty when exiting the vehicle.
On test drives, Helen also needs to check her right leg. After driving the car for a short while she needs to stop and look down and examine the position of the leg to make sure that it hasn't fallen out towards the edge of the seat.
A CAR FOR THE HEAD
If Helen likes her Peugeot 306 then she could switch to its slightly larger successor in the shape of the 307, especially the midi-MPV sized SW model.
It costs a lot more than the basic hatchback, with prices starting at £13,920 and an automatic gearbox costing £1,000 more. There is plenty of room inside for bikes and skis and things. If Helen wants the feeling of quality then the Ford Focus C-Max might also be interesting. All three seats can be removed individually and the boot is very large. Having said this, an automatic 1.6 TDCi is nearly £17,000, and being a slightly larger Focus may not give Helen the "step up" she needs. All prices quoted are relative because it is possible to get decent discounts through UK-based brokers on all of the models mentioned.
Another good small multi-purpose vehicle is the Volkswagen Touran. Helen would only need the five-seat version and when the rear seats are folded down there is tons of room. It may be a bit bland to look at, but it is solidly built and a better option than the old model Mercedes A-Class that Helen was tempted by. That costs nearly £19,000 with an automatic gearbox and Helen would be better off with a Seat.
A CAR FOR THE HEART
Give or take a few centimetres the Seat Altea makes an interesting alternative buy. Underneath it is the new Volkswagen Golf, but on top Helen will get an interesting design and what Seat calls an MSV (multi sports vehicle) rather than an MPV (multi purpose vehicle). It does not have removable seats, but the 60/40 split rear seats should allow Helen to get her awkward loads in without too much trouble. Although there is nothing unusual in this configuration, the clever bit is that the base of the rear seat cantilevers down as the backs are tipped forward.
In addition, the boot has a split-level with a floor that can be peeled back so there is much more storage space. The seat is height-adjustable and the steering wheel also moves up, down, forwards and backwards.
The view forward in the Altea is very clear, but there are some blind spots when reversing because of the pillars. Overall though the Altea is a very comfy car and handles well.
Helen really needs an automatic Altea, which will cost her £900 more, and that has to be added to the cost of either the 2.0 Fsi Sport at £16,000, or 2.0 Tdi Sport at £16,700.
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