Car Choice: Plenty of space and no corners cut on visibility

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Mr J G Vickery has a Vauxhall Meriva, which he has owned for a year.

Mr J G Vickery has a Vauxhall Meriva, which he has owned for a year. The model was chosen because his wife suffers from Parkinson's disease; the higher seating position made getting in and out easier. However, Mr Vickery has been alarmed by the blind spots resulting from two thick pillars and a "useless quarter light". He reckons it is dangerous and has written to Vauxhall to say so.

Meanwhile, he is considering replacing the Meriva and needs a decent boot, room for three adults in the back, preferably a diesel engine, and the ability to do long journeys comfortably.

Mr Vickery has highlighted a problem that has recently become a big motoring safety topic. Volvo has stated that it intends to devote specific research and development time to resolving visibility concerns. As many as 19.7 per cent of accidents involving these vehicles are attributed to the blind spots that Mr Vickery has described, so it is no surprise that they have been described as "killer pillars".

Recent research by the insurance company esure identified a phenomenon known as "looked but failed to see" (LBFTS). Figures from the Department for Transport estimate that 15 per cent of all road accidents and 20 per cent of accidents at junctions result from LBFTS incidents, often involving vehicle blind spots. Modern cars have increasingly thick A-pillars in the interests of greater strength and crash protection. A-pillar blind spots are tricky for drivers to overcome and vary from vehicle to vehicle, meaning drivers need to slow down and be extra vigilant at T-junctions and tight bends. Rear-view blind spots are usually easy to deal with through careful mirror positioning.

The really bad news for Mr Vickery is that the Vauxhall Meriva came last in road tests for visibility, according to the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL).

A car for the head

Up at the top of the visibility list, in second place, is the Ford Mondeo. It may be a typical company rep's car, but boring it is not. It is great to drive and cheap to service and has excellent all-round visibility and a comfortable driving position. It is available as a saloon, a hatchback or an estate, all of which have a sizeable boot and plenty of room, carrying five adults easily. There are two 2.0-litre turbodiesel engines, producing 113bhp or 128bhp, and, more importantly, they both return almost 50mpg overall.

Inside, the Mondeo is well-finished and appears to be much better quality than previous generations. Its reliability rating has been very good. For the Mondeo, Mr Vickery has a wide choice of well-equipped models and ought to consider a nearly new or year-old model to soak up the worst of the depreciation. As an all-round car, the Mondeo is very hard to beat.



A car for the heart

The third best car for visibility is the Volkswagen Polo, says the TRL, but that would be too small for five adults, so it would be better to go for the visibility winner - the Audi A4. This will easily take two adults in the back, although adding a third might be a squeeze because foot room is limited. As Mr Vickery expresses a preference for diesel power, he will be pleased with the 1.9 turbodiesel, but he might also want to consider the 2.0 FSI petrol, which is almost as economical. This car is refined and comfortable, the only drawback being the price. Mr Vickery will have to find just over £18,000 to buy an entry level 1.6-litre new, and almost £20,000 for a diesel. I spotted a 2002 2.0-litre petrol model for £8,999 and a diesel saloon that had done 90,000 miles for £9,495. For peace of mind and a clear view, that may be worth it.

* 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 you are interested in.

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