Saturday 24 February 2018

#MyCar2015 - It's one L of a dilemma: What's the best car for a learner?

What's the best car for a learner driver?
What's the best car for a learner driver?
Volkswagen Polo
Peugeot
Toyota Yaris
Ford Fiesta
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

MANY young drivers get their first car from parents or elder siblings.

But most have to scrape the cash together somehow and do the best they can on a limited budget.

Regardless of price, there are several basic elements you must check before parting with a cent.

I say basic, but they are often forgotten in the excitement and rush of buying and owning your first car.

1 Make sure you have plenty of room and comfort behind the wheel - this is so obvious but often overlooked.

2 Take time in the driver's seat. Check the seat has adjustment for height and distance from the steering wheel. And check the steering wheel is adjustable. You would be surprised how nominal this can be and you are stuck with an uncomfortable reach every kilometre you drive. It makes you less safer because you are under strain.

3 Check you can scan all mirrors - rear-view and wings - without having to move your head. Only your eyes. This is absolutely essential because when you come to do the test the examiner will watch for how you monitor what is going on all around you.

4 Check the rear screen. For design purposes, some cars have shallow little rear windows with reduced visibility. And some that have large screens have micro-wipers to clear a tiny crescent of visibility. These are the small things that can make your first car a joy or a nightmare. That's why you've got to keep putting yourself in real-life situations with them.

5 Check you have good over-the-shoulder side visibility - a lot of accidents happen when we don't see cars coming up alongside. Depending on how far forward or backward you sit, the central pillar may block your view.

6 That's why it is so important to get the basics right from the start. Remember little things contribute to safety, comfort and ease of driving. Then, when you're happy with them, you can listen to the salesperson extol the virtues of the audio system.

So what cars should you be looking at?

I'm going to stay within a fairly narrow band of smaller, second hand models (all around 2010). And they all have good petrol options.

That realistically is what most younger start-up drivers will be out to buy.

1 It is no coincidence you see so many driving instructors and younger drivers in a Nissan Micra. One of the easier cars to drive, it has plenty of space, good all-round visibility and is handy to park in tight spots. It's reliable, goes forever and is always saleable on the second hand market or as a trade-in. No harm to know that when you come to buy your first Merc.

2 The Peugeot 206 is a first-time favourite too. There's good visibility front and rear, an excellent driving position, has aged well and doesn't look frumpy or old-fashioned. It's a better car to drive than the Micra and is especially well up to longer journeys.

3 I like the Ford Fiesta because it is so straightforward. The cabin of older versions was a bit sparse but later models are much better decked out. There's an excellent gear change (helpful when you're starting out). And because so many Fiestas have been sold over the years, getting reasonably-priced spare parts if you dent a bumper or need something under the bonnet is not going to be a problem.

4 The Toyota Yaris I'd recommend for all-round visibility. You get a great seating position.This has a great name on the secondhand market too and is in keen demand - as you will discover. If you have to pay a little more now, then you will get it back when you trade up later on.

5 The Volkswagen Polo has, until recently, been dull enough. But its solid build and sturdy nature mean you have real protection if, God forbid, you have an accident. You won't but it's no harm to have this 'mini Merc' around you.

6 The Skoda Fabia is sturdy, roomy and rock solid on the road. It is one of the better value cars - an important budgetary consideration - and has stood the test of time better than most.

Irish Independent

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