Car Choice: 'What I really want is good visibility'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Chris Rodely is looking for a car, although she seems uncertain as to exactly what it should be. Small to medium-sized, possibly hatchback, diesel turbo that must be able to reach 60mph in 10 seconds.

Where Chris is more certain is that she wants a car with good visibility, with an ergonomically designed driving seat that can be adjusted up to improve that visibility. Chris feels that four doors make more sense, so what would we recommend?

It seems that the shortfalls in Chris's current car, a Honda Civic Coupé, are the defining factor in this cry for help. First of all, she finds that the coupé is too low and that obviously restricts her view.

The 1.6 petrol engine is not the most powerful, either, hence her requirement for a more competitive acceleration figure. Indeed, Chris finds the Honda more sluggish than previous Peugeot diesels. She must then enjoy the pulling power of a diesel so that all she has to do is floor the throttle to build up speed. The Honda's engine is high-revving and requires some frantic gear-changing to make the most of the available power. Maybe she would prefer an automatic?

That's a decision she has to make, but the really important thing is to ensure that Chris is comfortable. If she can't see out of the car clearly, and if the seat is too low, then she can't be confident enough to overtake properly or even park sensibly. No wonder this is one of the most regularly asked Car Choice questions, and it will be up to Chris to do some showroom testing to make sure that the cars we recommend measure up.

A CAR FOR THE HEAD

The Skoda Fabia, which is roomy, practical, well built and comfortable. It drives and feels like a much bigger car. The build quality is not in question as everything feels solid and well finished. It may look small but the interior has been cleverly designed to maximise space, and there is, of course, driver-seat height adjustment via a ratchet. Four adults have no problem fitting in, and the large doors ease access, front and rear. Drivers and passengers appreciate the big-car feel, with quality materials used throughout and excellent fit and finish. The suspension easily copes with rough roads, while external noises are kept to a bare minimum, making the whole experience very refined.

However, there are only two models that actually qualify for Chris's performance requirements. There is the 1.9Tdi vRS diesel, which costs £12,400; and the petrol 2.0 Elegance at £11,800. Both are well equipped, but the diesel returns 55mpg, and the petrol 36mpg, so Chris will have to offset that difference and, long term, the sporty diesel may be the better buy. Overall, though, a Fabia is not only cheap to insure and can be economical to service, it also retains its value better than most similar small hatches.

A CAR FOR THE HEART

I feel as though I should recommend vehicles similar to the Fabia but with a funky body, such as the Seat Altea, but the styling affects the view out, which may bother Chris.

Then there's the Ford Fusion, the high-rise Fiesta, which would suit Chris in seat-height terms and afford a commanding view out, but just won't be quick enough. Instead, Chris should consider a Mazda 3. Underneath, it is Ford Focus-related, but this is a little more individual for Chris. She should love the seat, which moves up easily, and the steering wheel, which adjusts for rake and reach. And Chris will be further relaxed by the very clearly laid-out instrumentation and controls.

There is a saloon version, but Chris would be better off with the hatch. Again, if Chris needs performance, she needs to select the right model and that means either the 2.0 TS2 or the 2.0 Sport, which cost £13,750 and £14,750, respectively. The TS2 has climate-control air conditioning and broadly similar kit to the Sport, which has a bodykit, more speakers for the stereo and a smart black dashboard. I reckon that the TS2 will be just fine for Chris, and she will get around 34mpg.

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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