Michael Kaliszer would like to get a car for his ageing parents who now have a 1995 Toyota Corolla 1600. His father has a bad hip and has difficulty getting in and out of cars, as indeed does Michael, so the car should have high seats. Mainly for city driving, the car should also be smallish, reliable, quiet and automatic.

Sadly we all have to get old and that means getting in and out of a car can become increasingly difficult. Actually, a car with gullwing doors provides the easiest access for everyone, including those with restricted movement. I know this because I recently spent time in the Bristol Cars showroom where it was demonstrated to me that traditional doors are rather stupid. A gullwing door lifts up taking part of the roof with it so there is no bending involved when you get in. You simply swivel your legs over the door sill and then push yourself gracefully into the standing position. Sadly, gullwing doors are furiously expensive to engineer and only found on six-figure sum supercars such as the Bristol Fighter. Luckily, there are now a number of compact people-carriers with high seating positions and those with less flexible limbs find these relatively easy to get in and out of.

A car for the head

There is an easy answer to this question. The Ford Fusion is nothing more than a high-rise Ford Fiesta – and that is a very good thing indeed. Ford thought they were building a funky off roader-style mini people-carrier, but here is a small car that couldn't be easier to get in and out of. The high driving position combines with a large glass area, and the comfort level is good, with excellent head and leg room. Plus, two adults are seated easily in the back and there is plenty of room in the boot for supermarket trips. The 1.4 petrol engine is adequate around town and comes with the option of an automatic gearbox. On longer runs the engine may sound harsh to some, but I don't think that will be an issue. Prices for a 2004 model start at around £3,800.

A car for the heart

Michael's parents may not have their heart set on a particular car, but I am sure that their experience with the Toyota Corolla has been hugely reassuring. Here is a car that could be described as the dullest on the planet but which has never let anyone down. That's why I would suggest that the current generation Toyota Yaris is worth a look. The seat positions are very high, although I would recommend test sittings before buying. The 1.3 engine can be found with an automatic gearbox which is reasonably economical and should return a mpg figure comfortably in the mid-40s. Ideally, any Yaris buyer should aim for the T3 and Spirit specifications, which are reasonably comprehensive and include air conditioning, or the more sophisticated climate control. It would be possible to buy 2005 models with low mileages (around 14,000) from Toyota dealers, or even car supermarkets for around £8,500.

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or email James Ruppert at carchoice@independent. co.uk, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested and your budget.

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