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One For The Road: A first car – at the age of 70


Congratulations to Mrs Rosemary Gault, who has passed her driving test at age 70. She has a flexible £4,000 to spend and is not bothered about mileage or age, but most of all needs five seats. Oh yes, the licence is for automatic cars only.

A Car for the Head

On the face of it, Rosemary should have thousands of cars from which to choose. But as a new driver, she may find that the most important issue to settle before choosing a car is insurance. For that reason, it needs to be a popular make and have a smallish engine. To comfortably accommodate five bodies, the vehicle needs to be at least a Volkswagen Golf-sized hatchback. So I might as well recommend a Golf, which – as a 1.6 SE – is in insurance group 6. The rear seats can take three, though adults will always be a squeeze. Providing the journeys are not too long, it will be fine. This budget will buy a fairly old Golf, a Mark 4 (below), which is comfortable, well built and easy to drive – a refined small family car. The SE model has a decent specification unlike some other model Golfs that can be quite basic. Indeed, I found a 2004 with just two previous owners in the classifieds which had cruise control, aircon, automatic lights and wipers.

A Car for the Heart

Although I would usually recommend the Ford Focus as the car for the heart as it delivers a sporty, spirited drive, I'll make an exception, because Rosemary wants decent space and complete reliability rather than driving thrills. For those reasons, the Toyota Corolla would be a model worth tracking down, not for its styling, because it doesn't have any, but for its many other qualities, including plenty of shoulder room, which will make it far a better place for three adults to be. Refinement is a strong point, as road noise is kept to a minimum, while fuel consumption will be around 40mpg. Toyota's reputation for reliability is also well deserved. Specification levels have always been good and Rosemary should expect electric windows, door mirrors, remote locking and seek out a model with air conditioning. A 2005 Toyota Corolla 1.6 Spirit with around 40,000 miles will go for £4,000 and it will only be group 6 for insurance purposes.