Golden oldies: Best cars for the older driver
It may seem pretty incredible, but there more than 200 drivers currently on British roads who are over the age of 100.
Many of those on the roads haven’t even officially taken their driving test as the formal driving exam wasn’t introduced until 1935.
Still, if practice really makes perfect then surely these veteran motorists should be some of the best around.
A documentary, 100 Year Old Drivers, is due to air tonight on ITV at eight o’clock, which will profile the lives of some of these venerable motorists.
Featured in the programme will be retired teacher Mary Walker, 100, who claims that despite her age she’s still got the need for speed.
She said: “It’s exhilarating, going fast. People that drive slowly, they frustrate you. How fast do I like to go? I don’t think I ought to answer that!”
However, like anything, your choice of car can make or break your driving experience.
Older drivers tend to lean towards comfortable cars that are safe, practical and easy to access over high-performance mean machines.
If you’re an older driver in the market for a new car or a family member or friend of one, we’ve put together a quick list of some of the cars we think they might be interested in.
Launched in 2006, Ford’s S-MAX aimed to bridge the gap between the practicalities of an MPV with the nimble handling characteristics that have become one of Ford’s trademarks.
Tall and spacious in the inside, the S-MAX is easy to access and get in and out of. The seven-seater arrangement means that there’s plenty of room for passengers and the whole family.
The boot boasts a colossal 2,000 litre capacity with the rear seats folded away, which offers an incredible amount of room and flexibility. There’s more than enough room for luggage or for shopping, as well as for wheelchairs or smaller mobility scooters.
A high boot sill also means that the rear is easy to access, so you don’t have to bend down too far in order to reach the cargo in the back.
Only three trim levels are available: Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X Sport. While this isn’t as wide a choice as offered by some other manufacturers, it does mean that it’s slightly more straightforward to choose an option that suits you, and even the basic Zetec has plenty of equipment as standard.
Climate control and electric windows are standard for comfort and ease of use, while parking sensors will aid in backing into tight spaces.
The Titanium model adds larger alloy wheels and cruise control, while the range-topping Titanium X Sport adds leather seats and a panoramic sunroof.
On the road, the S-MAX is comfortable and refined while also being fun to drive. The controls are well placed and suspension irons out virtually all road bumps, giving a smooth ride and the impression that the S-MAX is a much smaller car than it is.
The model can be specified with a number of petrol and diesel engines in varying power outputs, with the mid-range 2.0-litre TDCi diesel offering best all-round value.
It can return 54.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 139g/km, keeping refuelling and tax relatively cheap, while it also offers a decent amount of performance.
Combined with pricing of £23,110 for the entry-level Zetec model, the S-MAX is not only comfortable, entertaining and refined, it’s also one of the most cost-effective options in its class.
Having recently received a nomination for the European Car of the Year Awards, the Kia Soul needs little introduction.
The all-new Soul went on sale earlier this year, and has received a range of updates courtesy of the Korean carmaker.
It’s taller, wider and longer that its predecessor, expanding both headroom and legroom for passengers.
What’s more, its taller kerb height means that driver visibility has been increased, along with ease of access for anyone who finds it hard to clamber down into a smaller car.
It has also received a funky and chic new makeover courtesy of Kia’s design team, featuring the new and eye-catching ‘tiger nose’ grille that’s become a staple on all modern Kia models.
The interior has likewise been overhauled, with a new upmarket aesthetic and control layout that’s been made more ergonomically efficient for ease of use.
Five trim levels can be specified, including: Start, Connect, Connect Plus, Mixx and the range-topping Maxx.
Features available on the Soul include a large eight-inch touchscreen fitted in all trim levels above the Connect Plus grade, while digital radio and steering-mounted controls are standard across the range.
There’s also comfortable front seats and a fully adjustable steering wheel, along with a reversing camera fitting in every version except the entry level Start model.
Suspension has been reworked, giving the Soul a soft and comfortable ride on the often inconsistent British roadways, while the model is remarkably resistant to body roll considering its height.
The 1.6-litre 126bhp CRDi diesel is the pick of the engine range, which also includes a 1.6-litre petrol version. There’s more power on tap than in many of its competitors, making overtaking and quick bursts of speed easy.
Paired with a manual gearbox and the diesel engine will return 56.5mpg and have CO2 emissions of 132g/km.
There aren’t as many seats as the S-MAX, but the Soul still has plenty of space inside. There’s also an impressive amount of interior storage space, with door pockets, cup holders and a large glovebox.
The 354-litre boot can expand to an impressive 1,367 litres when the rear seats are folded back, meaning that there’s plenty of room for most luggage. Accessibility is also good thanks to the large boot lid, and it’s also possible to adjust the height of the boot floor, increasing space by moving it down or making it more accessible by moving it closer to the boot lip.
The new Kia Soul is available to buy now, with prices starting from £12,600 for the entry-level Start model.
For those looking for the most value for money, it’s hard to fault Dacia’s range of budget vehicles.
The Duster SUV is one of the Dacia brand’s hottest-rising models, increasing in popularity year on year, with a million built as of April.
Rivalling class-leaders like the Nissan Juke but with a pricetag less than a small city car, the Duster SUV offers astounding value for money, with prices starting from just £9,495.
The Romanian brand make no attempt to hide the fact that the Duster is basic; you won’t find any of the range-topping equipment in the model that you would in other, more expensive brands.
However, this has actually proven popular with a lot of drivers, particularly older motorists who don’t like the clutter of modern technological inclusions.
What’s more, Dacia is owned by the Renault brand and shares much of its construction and components with Renault, meaning that the Duster is well-made and reliable, plus relatively easy to source spare parts for.
Three trims can be specified: Access, Ambiance and Laureate. The Access is the most bare-bones of the lot, coming without a radio or electronic stability control.
However, the top-spec Laureate comes with a decent amount of mod-cons, including alloy wheels, cruise control and air conditioning, while still being cheaper than a lot of entry-level superminis.
There’s plenty of space on the inside and rugged, no-nonsense interior, meaning that passengers will have plenty of room to get comfortable. Suspension is cushioning and will soak up all but the biggest of potholes and bumps.
It’s also tall, giving good visibility for the driver and for other users, and comes with a spacious boot. The 475-litre storage capacity can be expanded to 1,636 when the rear seats folded down, more than you’d get in the far more expensive Nissan Qashqai.
The boot’s lip is low so getting bulky items in is easy and you don’t have to stretch yourself too far to load up the rear. For such a compact SUV model, Dacia’s engineers have wrung every inch of space out of the Duster.
Two engines are available, a 105bhp 1.6-litre Renault petrol engine and a 107bhp 1.5-litre dCi diesel. The diesel is the more economical and can return 56.5mph with 130g/km of CO2, though it’s only available in the mid-spec Ambiance trim or above.