Saturday 22 October 2016

A crossover or a saloon? New car high-rev risk? Best cars for bad backs?

Published 09/12/2015 | 02:30

A driver with back pain should talk to someone who specialises in that area.

Aidan Timmons and Motoring Editor Eddie Cunningham team up to help readers make the right choice with their next car. Aidan visits dealers all over the country to produce a monthly guidebook on the values of used cars. He is co-editor of Motor Trade Publishers, who supply a car-valuing service to the motor trade, insurance companies and finance houses. Eddie is author of former best-seller 'Clever Car Buying'.

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Give me a couple of good reasons to buy (or not to buy) a saloon when I could buy a small crossover. I am 45, a lone parent of two teenagers and now have €30,000 (including trade-in) to spend on a new car in the new year. My existing car is a Toyota Corolla saloon and I've been happy with it. But my two children want something like their friends' parents crossovers or SUVs.  I'm half tempted because they look so well and I like the notion of sitting higher. At the same time, I like my Corolla. I told my children I'd ask ye.

Aidan: Well, for a start, whatever you do, be sure you are happy with what you are buying. Teenagers have a habit of growing up, flying the coop, and not giving two hoots what you drive. Saloons are fine for someone in your position. They are mostly smart, stylish, spacious, and relatively good value for money. Having said that, crossovers are ruling the roost in the €30,000 bracket and you've hit on the reasons why. You sit higher, they look more of their time and their popularity does not seem to be a short-lived fad. Kia has just launched a new Sportage and I think that it looks fantastic. Get either the EX or EX S/R (sunroof) model. On the used car market the Sportage is regularly perched top of the crossover class.

Kia's seven-year warranty means owners are tending to hold onto their cars for longer and in turn, not as many are traded back into the market; thus stabilising values. In fact, strong residuals, for the time being at least, is chief among the reasons to opt for a crossover. The Hyundai ix35 has just been replaced by the new Tucson. Hyundai provides a comprehensive five-year unlimited mileage warranty so you are well covered there, too. Pay closer attention to the Comfort Plus or Executive models rather than the entry level version. Considering you have a Corolla, the RAV4 is worth a close look too. You might get a good deal on your Corolla, too. Is Renault on your radar? The new Kadjar is causing a bit of a stir in this market because it looks great and drives beautifully. A 1.5 diesel Dynamique model with Sat Nav is keenly priced at €28,290 ex metallic and delivery. Let me throw a small spanner in the works, though. I have just handed back the new Peugeot 508SW (estate) and get this; for €31,580 you get a 1.6 HDi Allure model with all the trimmings. It's got practicality in spades, looks great and I found myself wondering just how much more car I could possibly want. Maybe take a break from saloons for a car-change or two and see what the crossover/estate market has to offer. As gambles go, moving into the crossover segment is one with minimal to no risk.

Eddie: I could add plenty more to Aidan's list, the Nissan Qashqai being one, but just for the sake of it I'm going to argue for the saloon. While I agree there are lovely crossovers out there I have to ask why try to fix something if it isn't broken? Moreover, you'll have plenty of change out of €30,000 for a brand new Corolla, or Focus or Civic or whatever. They are proven performers. You say yourself you have been happy with it. Why change? I wouldn't when there is no need.

My wife and I are looking forward to buying a new Ford Fiesta in the new year. Our existing Fiesta is really old now and we are giving it to our daughter as a cheap runaround until she can afford something herself. However, I am worried now after a friend said I'd need to be careful how I drive the new car for a few thousand kilometres as revving it hard could damage the engine. I'm not a great driver and am inclined to drive in lower gears where the revs are higher. Please advise.

Aidan: I have to preface my answer with a Socratic admission that I don't know as much about this as I probably should but you say that your existing car is very old and still going so you must not be too hard on your engine. Even still, manufacturers are under enormous competitive pressure to reduce fuel consumption and so there have been many breakthrough technologies to aid with heating the engine up as quickly as possible. Some of these include different oil viscosities and using more aluminium in the engine block or even combining the exhaust manifold with the engine. The quicker and engine gets to running temperature, the more efficient it becomes; and the harder you can drive it. Think of how race cars run a warm up lap to get everything up to temperature and you should get the idea. It's very difficult to give more detailed advice from my arm's-length position as I don't know if your impression of revving the car hard matches with mine. I would consider holding revs above 4,000rpm for a sustained period and bringing the needle almost to the red line for every gear change as hard work. Sure, there is a 'bedding in' process for some components like the clutch and gearbox but so long as the engine is warm, there is enough oil in it and you don't subject it to undue pressure then you should be fine. I would be more careful with your new tyres as they have a slippery preservative coating on them. Take it easy for the first few hundred kilometres, especially if conditions already create their own risks. The same goes for your brakes. Check your oil level regularly, too. But most important of all, enjoy your new car.

Eddie: I think you are worrying too much. Engines need far less of a 'run-in' time now than heretofore and you don't strike me as a person who will abuse one. However, here's a sure way to keep the revs down: drive a little slower than you normally do for a couple of weeks, change gears a little earlier and don't let the revs go above the 2,500rpm mark. I'm telling you this even though there is no need to be concerned but I'd hate to think of you letting it overshadow the enjoyment of your new car.

What can I do to improve the support from the driver's seat in my old Nissan Tiida? I suffer from back pain, especially after driving for an hour to visit my daughter. I have put cushions, supports and anything I can think of under me and behind me, but it still takes five minutes for me to stand up straight when I get out of the car. I don't have money to get a new one though I could probably put €5,000 to it if ye were to name a model.

Aidan: I am reluctant to recommend another car to you because I cannot confidently promise that you will have more success by switching. We have had queries from lots of people who struggle in one car or another that are otherwise perfectly fine for the vast majority of owners.

There are manufacturers who win awards from national chiropractor organisations who still receive complaints about their seats. It's a deeply personal problem but one in which I sympathise. Has your pain only just started happening? Could the problem be with your back?

A few physiotherapy sessions could be more successful and a lot more cost effective. If you're totally convinced it's the seat, or the height from which you have to enter and alight from the car, then talk to your Nissan dealer and see if there is anything they can do for you. Perhaps the seat rails match another model with a harder seat.

The problem with test driving a different car is that you need to drive it for an extended period to gauge whether or not the problem persists. If it comes to it, then look to change into something like a Nissan Note or Opel Meriva. They have higher seating positions and are typically favoured by those in a similar position to you. Exhaust the cheap options first, though.

Eddie: I can tell you from bitter experience that you need to talk to someone who specialises in that area. A friend bought me a simple curved back support in a supermarket a couple of years ago and when I feel a twinge I bring it with me. It is superb. But I can't say it will work for you. My daughter spent a lot of money on one for me too and it's great. I mention both because I've been lucky with the cheap and the expensive. The most important thing is to have someone assess what suits your individual situation. Spend a few euro and get it sorted. It can be done, I promise you. One more thing: often times the angle or reach of the steering wheel can compound our discomfort and put more stress and strain on the back and shoulders. You need to check on that too.

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