Friday 21 October 2016

Car-seat nightmare; Car for four children; Boot for wheelchair; My choices for €20k?

Published 27/05/2015 | 02:30

Families often want space both for passengers and the equipment that accompanies young children.
Families often want space both for passengers and the equipment that accompanies young children.

Aidan Timmons and Motoring Editor Eddie Cunningham team up to help you make the right choice with your 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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I bought a brand new Opel Astra last year and have found it to be the most uncomfortable car I have ever driven. This is my third Astra in a row; I've had numerous other makes over the last number of years. My problem is the car seat. The shape of it makes for uncomfortable driving which I have never noticed before.

I have tried all kinds of cushions etc but nothing suitable. I am 5ft 2ins tall and there is a strain on the knee while driving. I do have a touch of arthritis but nobody seems to be able to come up with something comfortable while driving. I will probably end up having to sell the car. Have you any advice?

Aidan: This is a deeply personal dilemma and so it is difficult to answer at arm's length but I will do my best.

Firstly, though it is of no comfort to you, I am somewhat surprised by the seats in your car. Opel has won awards from chiropractor associations in Germany for the technology they employ in their seats. Apart from the engine, seats are often the most expensive component in cars.

Exhaust the least invasive options before you look around. Extendable seat bases should be the first port of call. Many manufacturers offer the longer seat bottom as an upgrade. If you don't have this type of seat already, perhaps ask your Opel dealer to organise a test on one. If you can remove the seat and replace it with a more comfortable option, then this is eminently more attractive.

By elongating the base of the seat, your knees are cushioned and there is less of a strain on your lower limbs overall. As a total nuclear option, perhaps look at buying an automatic. If the problem is predominantly with your left knee then you can give it a good rest while the right does all of the work.

I feel sorry for you and hope that you find a suitable and cost-effective solution. If you get further along the road to making a decision, please come back to us and we will help narrow your search even further.

Eddie: Aidan's suggestions should sort you out I think. I'd urge you to try everything before selling the car because the chances are you will have the same problems with others.

It is of little consolation to you but your case is a prime example of why people should take a long, long time making sure the car fits them rather than the other way around. The latter is often the case when people are buying; they get caught up in the excitement of a new car and overlook the basics. Keep in touch. We'll get you through this.

I am looking for a new saloon, SUV or estate with sliding boot to fit a wheelchair (40ins x 40ins'). Also with a high seating position in front seats. Budget approx €25,000 to €30,000

Aidan: Mobility companies can retrofit various hoists and other such devices to lift the wheelchair into any car. That gives you a much broader choice. You can then opt for the car you prefer most rather choosing one with a sliding boot but with which you have no other affinity.

If you can get away with a car with virtually no loading lip and which has a removable base then look at the SEAT Leon ST and the Skoda Octavia Combi. The latter in Elegance trim with a 1.6 diesel engine and automatic gearbox comes in on budget and would make a lovely companion on long trips.

What's more, once your wheelchair is in the boot, there is enough residual space for lots of other things. Eddie, what SUVs or crossovers do you suggest?

Eddie: I drove the Peugeot Teepee recently, Aidan, and it is, I'm told, in demand for people with mobility issues. It also has a good, reasonably high seating position in the two front seats. Also look at the likes of Ford's Tourneo and Volkswagen's Caddy where there is plenty of rear room and the possibility of fitting a hoist.

The VW Caravelle is widely used too for carrying people needing wheelchairs. There are people carrier/van options from others too such as the Fiat Doblo, Citroen Berlingo, Toyota Hiace and Renault Trafic which can be converted to people carriers with wheelchair hoists.

We have four small children under six so seats and space for buggies etc are a must. We have a Discovery HSE which is great but has no space for buggies when the third row of seats is in use. We have looked at the new Mercedes V-Class and it appears to be very spacious. What are your thoughts?

Aidan: Good choice. The new model V-Class has shaken off many of the Vito van characteristics of the older models and it seems to tick your boxes perfectly. The V-Class is broken down into Compact, Long and Extra Long.

The entry level V200 automatic costs €52,390 and has 136bhp. Motor tax is €570 a year. The same engine is used in the V220 but it comes with Avantgarde specification and so there is a sizeable price leap to €62,935. Power increases to 163bhp but motor tax remains the same. Account for an additional €1,000 for long versions of the aforementioned models and don't forget about metallic paint and delivery charges.

I've not yet driven Volkswagen's new Caravelle but I have been in a fair few of them to know what your family and other passengers can expect. The seating arrangement is clever. The two rear rows of seats slide on rails and can even be removed should you need extra space and less room for occupants.

The 2.0 TDi engine is frugal and I strongly advocate opting for the DSG automatic transmission. It is a real treat. At the very least it is worthy of further investigation.

Eddie: I've briefly driven the V-Class and I think it would suit you though it costs a few bob. You can have three seating options: a six seater (three rows of two), seven seater (two rows of two and one of three) or eight seater (one of two and two of three).

With the extra long version you can have six or eight seats depending on your preference and what cargo space you need. It's costly but you'd be set up for a long time because those children, bless them, are not going to get any smaller.

Please give me three choices of car to go looking for in the €20,000 bracket. I want something like a SUV but not big and tough looking. I am trading in an Opel Corsa (100,000miles) and want something smart. I don't mind if it is one or two years old.

Aidan: Three choices you say. Right-ho! Number one; Nissan Juke. Back in fashion in the used-car market and dealers are actively seeking to trade them in so there should be some choice.

The 1.5 dCi engine does the rounds in lots of models throughout various brands and is a lovely little unit in the Juke. It is stylish but not brash or large. If you want creature comforts then forego XE models and instead look at SV or even the much rarer SVE models; if you can find one. 2014 registration plate SV models are within reach.

Number Two; a 2014 Renault Captur 1.5 dCi (yes, same engine as the Nissan) in 'Intense' trim. Great aesthetics and seating position make for a comfortable and fashionable mini-SUV.

Number three; if you want something bigger then look to the Hyundai ix35/Kia Sportage/Nissan Qashqai/Skoda Yeti. That is four options for the price of one.

The Sportage is arguably the prettiest and I can see its styling remaining fresh for some time to come. They attract a premium in the market so your budget won't go as far as it will with some of the other options. 2011 EX models are within your grasp and perhaps some 2012 models, too.

However, the 2011 model came with a sunroof as standard and the 2012 models, at €20,000, could well be mostly the lower LX specification.

Eddie: Let me add the new Mazda CX-3 to Aidan's excellent range of choices.

It's here soon and you may have to stretch a couple of thousand more to get into a new one, but you did say you wanted something smart. The CX-3 fits that box. If you don't do big mileage stick with the petrol.

Also Opel's Mokka is well-liked. There should be a few second-hand models around now.

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