Wednesday, 7 August 2013

'13 Toyota Rav4

I've been looking forward to driving the new Rav4 all year, and the wait was certainly worth it. This car is quite possibly the best I've driven from the Toyota fleet. Its looks are ultra-modern with sloping headlights, flared wheel arches and rear privacy glass. It really is a head turner. But looks are not everything as they say, so lets delve a little deeper.

Is it comfortable? In a word, very. The front seats hold you in place while offering excellent lumbar support. The suspension is among the best I have ever felt. Potholes are barely noticeable, which is good for people like me, who have spinal problems.

Is it easy to drive? Well the steering the light, especially for a big car. The ride height is near perfect and if you go for the Icon or the Invincible models, which include Toyota's Touch multimedia center, you get a rear camera, which makes parking in tight spots that much more easier

What about space? Space is something the Rav4 has in abundance. It's so spacious that you could practically hold a small cricket tournament inside. With the front seats pushed all the way back, there is still ample leg room for rear passengers and as for the boot, well it's big, plenty big enough for a wheelchair and shopping and because there is no need for a spare tyre, due to the car coming with a special substance you insert into a punctured tyre, then under the boot, there is another boot!

So, how much does all this cost? Well, prices start at a respectable £22,595 for the basic 2 wheel drive model. Unfortunately, if like me, you are only able to drive automatics, whether that be due to disability or simply driving choice, then you have to buy the Icon model, which is £3,000 more. You may think that that's a lot just to have an automatic gearbox, and you'd be right. But you don't just get the choice of a normal automatic gearbox. You can pay slightly more and get the Multidrive S gearbox. Yes you can simply put in Drive and be on your way, or you can put it into Drive-S, where you can manually change gears either by using the + and - with the gear stick, or using the paddles situated behind the steering wheel. After trying all three methods, my favourite choice was using the paddles, though it can take some getting use to.

If you are looking for a reliable, inexpensive, high-riding car, and can afford to splash out a little, then i suggest you look no further than the new Rav4. It suite all of your needs, and then some.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Citroen C4

The Citroen C4, launched in late 2004, and designed to replace the Xsara, is now in its second generation, and boy has it been improved. My personal biggest hatred of the first generation C4, and some of you might disagree here, was the steering wheel. The wheel was one were the outside moved, but the inside stayed in the same place, so you never knew which way your wheels were pointing until you started moving.

One thing i will say about the first generation, is that it wasn't an ugly looking car, but the this new one, is even better. With its big grills, prominent lines and angry looking headlights, it really is a car that fits in with the 21st century.

Personally, I've never been a huge fan of French cars. The peddles were always to close together, so if you have a shoe size bigger than a 7, your right foot would always be pressing slightly on the brake as you drove a long. And they were plagued with electronic problems. Hands up if you have ever seen a Peugeot 206 driving down the road with its brake lights on.

So, down to business, what is it like from a disability point of view. Well the following review was from Lauren Millgate who owns a C4 VTR+ 5 door manual.

"I got this car on mobility as my disability meant that I struggle to walk, get in and out of the car (we had a 02 plate ford fiesta) and injure more easily than is normal so I needed a car that was easier for me to use. I can’t drive so my husband is helping me with the driving aspect of this review. We chose the C4 as it has a fairly big boot, is 5 door and still looks sleek and stylish and we are a young couple. There is no difference in price or advance payment between the basic range VTR and the mid-range VTR+ when going through motability and the VTR+ has more ‘extras’, such as rear parking sensors."

"I fell in love with the car the first time I went for a test drive in it and didn’t bother to look at any other cars afterward as my husband and I both loved it. The ride is smooth and soft but with enough suspension and shock absorbance that you don’t feel minor bumps in the road. The car (so my husband tells me) has fairly light steering but has enough weight behind it to give you a good feel for the car whilst being very easy to manoeuvre and gear changes are smooth and easy. The display in the car is easy to read and you can change the colour and brightness of it to suit you and you can turn some parts of the display off – this is particularly useful for night driving as it helps your eyes to adjust to the road ahead instead of getting glare off the display.  There are lots of controls on the steering wheel that are well placed to make them easily accessible but don’t get knocked and make calls as you try to turn a corner. The controls in the car are soft to touch and don’t need much pressure and are also well sized, which I find useful as I often have trouble using my hands so they would be suitable for people with things such as arthritis also. They are also not complicated and confusing to use in terms of being able to change the settings of the car as to how you like them. The fuel economy is also one of the best in its class; we have managed to do over 600 miles on one tank. There are also display settings to show how you are driving in terms of fuel economy.

"The front seats are soft but supportive and completely adjustable with adjustable lumbar support also. The back seats are also comfortable.There is also an adequate amount of leg room in the back seats when the front seats are back. The boot is 408 litres, so comfortably fits a folding wheelchair and still has room for a few items of shopping. The wing mirrors also have lights underneath them that light the pavement when you unlock the car on returning to it or get out of the car. I find this a really useful feature as I have issues that mean I don’t always know where my limbs are without directly looking at them. The doors aren’t too heavy and they have a fairly long door so that it’s easy to get in and out if you have difficulties bending your legs as I do.

"This car is fantastic for disabled people and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it and it is still functional for an average family also whilst still looking ‘normal’. I love the fact that I can use this car so easily. It blends in and still performs the tasks I need it to as a disabled person and doesn’t, in effect, make a huge statement to everyone else that I am disabled as some cars do."

This one seems to be coming up trumps in all the right places, lets just hope the French have learnt a few things over the past years.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Kia Picanto

The Kia Picanto, a small and quirky city car available with 3 and 5 doors, launched in 2004 and has been popular worldwide ever since. In January 2013 it was voted the most reliable car in the UK and comes with a variety engines.

As a small city car, it is rather good looking, full of prominent lines, grills and fashionable headlamps. Kia have spent a lot of money designing the look of this car, and it seems to have paid off. Making this car good looking has attracted a younger clientele, especially with most models having free road tax and being cheap to insure.

All in all, a good looking reliable car. But, and that's a big but, this is far from the most practical car for people with disabilities.

The Picanto is small, possibly too small for anyone with physical difficulties. The cabin is cramped and if there are 4 people in the car, the boot is near non-existent, so no room for a wheelchair on scooter, and with the Picanto being very low down, getting in and out could be very tricky.

Emma Lou owns a 1.1 '2' automatic Picanto, she doesn't use a wheelchair but describes what her car is like from a disability point of view.

"My Picanto is a 1.1.2. It's just the basic, I didn't have to pay any money upfront. The boot is tiny, i cant even get my mums case in it. I dont have a wheelchair, but I think it wont have much room for one unless they have the all the back seats down, or split seats. It goes really well, petrol is a little thirsty, but then it depends how fast you drive.  To me I can get in and out easily, as i'm only little with an extra cushion to sit on.

I have the Auto 5 door, so far this car is the best I've had, though the Ford Fiesta Zetec was just as good."

One thing this car does have in ample amounts, is safety equipment. From the common 6 airbags and Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS), to doors that lock when you drive, and automatically unlock after a collision. The latest Picanto scored 4 stars on the Euro NCAP test, not bad for a small city car. Kia have built this car to be as safe as possible for the driver and passengers.

So, a small city car that is easy to drive, easy to park and safe but not so easy to live with. The Picanto seems to be having an identity crisis, and it's the practicality side that really lets this car down.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Honda Product Recall

This is a short post to inform Honda drivers that Honda UK has a product recall on a selection of cars due to faulty passenger airbags. This recall mainly affects CR-V's between 2002-3 and a small number of Stream and Jazz models between 2001-02.

Owners will be notified by post and asked to make an appointment to visit their local Honda dealership. Work to carry out these essential repairs will be free of charge and are strongly recommended.

If you have any queries, please visit the Honda UK Product Recall  website or contact your local Honda UK dealership.

This post was brought to you in association with Honda UK.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

'08 Toyota Verso

The Toyota Verso, launched in 2009, designed to be a compact MPV, was a replacement for the Corolla Verso. The Verson carries on the long tradition of safety and reliability that run through the Toyota range, with Euro NCAP declaring it to be the safest MPV on the market in 2010.

A standard Verso is comfortable, spacious and reliable, but when alterations are needed for the disabled, things can go slightly wrong. The following review was written by one of our readers, Mandy Sellars, who explains some of the difficulties that she has experienced with some of the alterations needed for her condition.

"My car is a Toyota Corolla Verso, its a 7 seater one.
I have had this for 4 years and its been adapted for me to use: it has an extended steering wheel so I can reach it as due to my condition I need extra leg space.
There are extra runners on the drivers seat so that it touches the back seats, this gives me the room I need to sit in the drivers seat.

"It's a 58 plate thats makes it 4 years old i think? sorry hopeless with these things.
well its difficult for me to give a clear definition as to whether its comfortable as i get pain from driving, but i think essentially for most people it could be.
Yes it's easy to park i dont have problems at all. Of course for me i always need to park in a disabled space as you will know thats not always easy.

"The extra seats in the boot have been removed and fitted with a hoist to lift my electric wheelchair in to the back of the car. The wheelchair is a sunrise quickie F55 so it is taken apart to fit in the boot, the arms, footplates, back and seat are removed. it fits snuggle in the boot but doesn't leave much room for anything else to fit in the boot.

"I have hand controls to drive my car and have found that Toyotas new gear control, which is known as a multi mode gear box, which they say is in-between a manual and automatic gear box. However, I would definitely say that for anyone who has to use hand controls not to go for a car that has a multi mode gear box. The reason being is that with a standard automatic you can stay static on a hill without putting the hand break on, however, with a multi mode gear box you need to use the hand break when stationary on a hill. This is where the problems start, having to find the biting point in the acceleration with one hand whilst taking the hand break off with the other and no hand to steer with!! so this in my opinion is very dangerous and such gear modes shouldn't be offered to someone using hand controls.

 "I know the way to start cars has changed a lot over the years and now there is a button on the dash board, this for me personally is pretty difficult to reach, it was so much easier when you put a key in on the steering wheel to start the car."

Mandy's experiences go to show that if you have a mobility issue that requires you to alter a cars specifications, then much thought is needed as to whether some alterations will actually make you life more easier, or not.

Hybrid Cars For The Disabled

Hybrid cars these days are becoming more and more common place on our streets. The attraction of saving money, as well as saving the environment, is making people turn to hybrid technology. There are several manufacturers these days who produce hybrid cars, none more so than Honda. You can find out more about the range of hybrid cars from Honda UK here. But are these cars really fit for purpose when it comes to meeting the needs of the disabled?

In short answer, yes. Hybrid cars are designed to be just like a normal car. All of the controls are the same, all basic functions are the same. In fact, apart from a few additional buttons in the cabin, such as "Eco" and "EV", there is nothing significantly different. I have personally reviewed a selection of hybrid cars, and with disabilities, I can honestly say that they are just as easy to drive, and live with, as my normal car.

A lot of people worry about lack of space in the cabin due to batteries, but this simply isn't the case. In most hybrid cars, the batteries are either under the boot on under the centre arm-rest, so space is not compromised. I have yet to find a hybrid where I cannot fit my wheelchair in the boot and often there is still room to spare.

Another concern I have come across is people worrying that the batteries will die and will cost a veritable fortune to replace. The truth is that these battery cells last a very long time and most manufacturers a warranty on the batteries, Honda offers a 5 year warranty, though personally, I have known hybrids still using the original batteries more than a decade later.

Hybrid cars are the future of motoring, cutting down on carbon dioxide production and reducing fossil fuel consumption and Honda are already paving the way for the next generation of hybrid vehicles.

This post was brought to you in association with Honda UK.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Toyota Yaris/Hybrid

The Toyota Yaris has been with us for quite a while now, since 1999 in fact, and in that time it has seen several face-lifts, but none of those are as striking or as pleasant to look at, than the new model. The Yaris is classed as a Subcompact hatchback, which basically means it's smaller than the size of a usual hatchback. But don't let the size fool you, there is plenty of potential in this little run-about.

With a small car such as the Yaris, suitability really depends on your mobility needs. Because this car is small, it is rather low down, so if you struggle getting in and out of cars, but are keen on a Toyota being your next car, i would suggest you look more at a Prius Plus or the Auris. However, if entering and exiting a car is not so much a problem, they the Yaris could very well be the car for you.

Toyota has really pulled out all of the stops lately when it comes to the looks of their cars, and the Yaris is no exception. The bold lines and ridges, the large front grill and LED daytime running lights, to name but a few,  make this car a real head-turner.

As for space? Well let's not forget that this is a small car, but there is still plenty of space in the cabin for 5 people and the boot is big enough of house a folded wheelchair. In general, the inside is a pleasant place to be. Everything is where you expect them to be, and if you buy the T4 or the T Spirit model, you have the option of Toyota's Touch and Go system. A 6.1 inch touch screen multimedia system with SatNav and mobile device connectivity, make it a very worthwhile option to have.The only item that i found to be missing, and really could do with, is a centre arm-rest.

The Yaris is a small, fun car to drive. With light steering, excellent lumbar support and a good suspension, this is a car that is easy to drive, easy to park and easy to live with. Running costs are low too. For the Diesel version, you pay only £20 a year in tax and zero if you choose the Hybrid. Both the Diesel and the Hybrid have very good Miles Per Gallon (MPG) figures and insurance is low too. The T2 1.0 petrol 5 door is in insurance group 4 and Hybrid in insurance groups 8-9. Prices starting at £9,995 for the Yaris and £15,195 for the Yaris Hybrid, make it a very tempting car. For true value for money though, i do recommend the Hybrid. It might be slightly more expensive to buy, but the money you will save while running it, make it a very sensible choice, especially for town and city driving.

If you are looking for a small town car, that is cheap to run, good to look at and excellent to drive, then i suggest you look no further than the Toyota Yaris. Your only problem now, is choosing which variant to buy. For further in-depth details about this car, please click here to navigate to the Toyota page for all specifications on the Yaris.

The Toyota Yaris was provided to us for review by Vantage Toyota Preston.