Alan Nattrass says with an exclamation mark that he does 10,000 to 11,000 miles a year! He admits to being 78 and his wife has mobility and sight problems, so they need a vehicle that is compatible with those issues. He has a generous £7,000 budget, so let's see what we can come up with.
A car for the head
So, what we need here is wide opening doors and a high seating position which makes entry and exit much easier. Otherwise it will be the usual ingredients of frugality and practicality. This means we should look at smaller people carriers and brands of supermini hatchbacks. And I find it hard to look beyond one model – the Honda Jazz. Its seating position is high, meaning that Alan's wife should find it easy to get in and out. Being a tall car, it has plenty of room inside despite the car being fairly compact. A decent-sized boot means there is lots of room for shopping. I think the smallest 1.2 litre petrol engine will be fine for the bulk of short journeys and should return a decent 50mpg on average. The basic S model is adequate, but for more comfort I would recommend at least an SE which has air conditioning and a more adjustable driver's seat. This is not a cheap car but the Jazz is a high quality one. Buying one that's a couple of years old means that the effects of depreciation are reduced. I found a 2008 example at a dealer; it had done 18,000 miles, had air conditioning and central locking and a decent warranty and it was great value at £7,000.
A car for the heart
Although I am tempted to recommend a compact people carrier for Alan, I get the impression that it may well be a waste of space. Something that could be clumsy to park and just too big could be a problem. So, I would like him to consider a Kia Picanto. Here is a small car with a big heart and unusually wide-opening doors that aid access along with the fact that the body is tall. I would also recommend a swivel seat. Either a complete seat system that replaces the original, or adapted cushions that would allow Alan's wife to get in and out more easily. Although you can buy these for around £20 or so, a replacement seat could be up to a £1,000. Then again, the Picanto is wonderful value for money, so they would be able to afford it. This little vehicle is certainly frugal as either of the small petrol engines will easily return over 50mpg and could not be cheaper to service and insure, ideal for anyone on a fixed pension. Looking in the classifieds, I found a 2010 model (now replaced), with delivery miles, at £7,000. So, that's a brand new car with 1.0 engine and air conditioning and direct from a Kia dealer. Peace of mind right there, and worth a test drive.
Looking to buy?
Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF or email James Ruppert at firstname.lastname@example.org, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested and your budget.