Wise Investments For The Wise
What kind of cars might really suit a Senior Citizen? Experienced motoring journalist Jonathan Crouch has some suggestions…
Not much of automotive marketing is directed towards Senior Citizens but older people form an increasingly important part of the car buying market. So which current products might be really suited to a Senior Citizen driver?
Well, there are a number of things to consider here. Few in this age range will want to prioritise performance and handling - and most will be on a relatively strict budget, with some acquiring their car through the Motability scheme.
Such a person will probably see an automatic gearbox as a non-negotiable feature. They probably won’t want anything too large or powerful. And they will probably prefer to do without the inconvenience of having to keep plugging their cars in.
Armed with all of this information and having tested most of the industry’s latest products, I’ve come up with the following suggestions for Senior Citizen motoring.
Honda usually does things differently - and has done so once more with the latest Jazz supermini, now offered only as a full-hybrid. This Honda’s e:HEV hybrid system is made up of a 1.5-litre petrol engine and two DC electric motors. The engine’s main job is to act as a generator, providing battery charge for the main propulsion motor to drive the front wheels. That’s what’ll be happening in the ‘Hybrid Drive’ mode this car will revert to most of the time.
But Honda wanted this model to have some fully electrified zero emissions capability too, which is why there’s a second electric motor. In periods where the engine’s operating, this additional motor harvests energy when coasting and braking, converting it into electricity which, if not needed for immediate use, is then stored in a 0.86kWh lithium-ion battery packaged in under the rear floor. This can then drive the car for short periods without any engine input – from start-off or when the car switches to its second driving mode, ‘EV Drive’, intended for low speed urban use.
The result of all this cleverness is not only exceptional running cost efficiency – think 62.8mpg and 102g/km of CO2 on the WLTP cycle – but also superb refinement. Honda’s been less successful in its efforts to improve ride quality and handling. This Jazz is also comfortable over long distances - and around town the combination of super-light steering, great all-round visibility and the relatively high seating position combine to make this Honda an ideal urban companion. Inside, there’s a spacious cabin, including a rear seat base that pivots up like a cinema seat so that tall items can fit – like a small tree from the garden centre. Out back, there’s a decently-sized 304-litre boot.
Renault Clio E-TECH Hybrid
Hybrid technology has often been decreed too pricey for the supermini segment, but Renault has attempted to democratise it with this car, the Clio E-TECH Hybrid. It's a little pricier than an ordinary Clio but the French brand hopes you'll be impressed by the key WLTP figures here - 64.2mpg on the combined cycle and 98g/km of CO2, plus there's an 'EV' option that gives limited all-electric driving range. Renault claims that a Clio Hybrid will be able to travel for 80 per cent of urban journeys on battery power alone. The gearbox is an auto of course (but of the more unusual ‘dog box’ clutchless variety) and the motor is powered by 1.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack located beneath the boot floor. The rest of the drivetrain has somehow been shoehorned beneath the bonnet.
Inside, it’s much like any ordinary Renault Clio with soft-touch trimming, tactile touch-points, smart piano key switches and supportive enveloping seats. The need to incorporate various extra e-functions in the ‘EasyLink’ centre-dash portrait-format screen means that it must be of at least 7-inches in size with a Clio Hybrid – and ideally you’d get yourself a trim level featuring the larger 9.3-inch monitor.This adds the finishing touch to what Renault’s tried to do here, feeling satisfyingly sophisticated as you poke, pinch and swipe your way through menus for things like Navigation, ‘Apple CarPlay’/’Android Auto’ smartphone-mirroring, apps, Multimedia options and a decent quality DAB audio system.
The instrument binnacle can also be quite colourful because you have to have virtual dials with a Clio Hybrid. That’s so as the various extra e-drive read-outs can be incorporated, these sitting within a 7-inch colour screen, which, at the top of the range, can be upgraded to a wider 10-inch monitor if you’d like. There’s reasonable rear seat space. Rear seat space is fairly compact, but adequate for the grand children. And out back, there’s a 301-litre boot.
In MK4 model form, the Toyota Yaris has been further Europeanised, with sharper styling, a better quality interior and improved media connectivity. Most important though, are the significant changes made to its segment-leading hybrid engine, giving the car better fuel economy, lower emissions and a greatly enhanced capability to operate on electric power alone, at higher speeds and over longer distances.
What the original versions of this Yaris Hybrid were designed to do, they did brilliantly. Just not in a very engaging way. This MK4 version though, is rather different – as you’ll feel instantly from the way it zips more energetically away from rest. That has much to do with the denser cells used in the new 0.76kWh lithium-ion battery that powers the two electric motor generators integral to its completely re-designed fourth generation self-charging full-Hybrid drivetrain. This still works with a 1.5-litre petrol engine, but that combustion unit now has three rather than four cylinders and is mated to a completely re-worked e-CVT auto gearbox that now responds far more quickly to throttle inputs, rather than in its own sweet time.
Combined power output is 114bhp, but you’ll only really feel that if you switch out of this car’s usual ‘Eco’ drive mode and into the alternative ‘Power’ setting. There’s a further ‘EV’ mode in which the car can run on battery power only for up to 4 miles or (in theory) at up to 80mph in totally electrified form. All Yaris models are now full-Hybrid-powered with auto transmission and front wheel drive – in which form they’re class-leadingly clean frugal according to WLTP figures; a base-spec variant can manage up to 68.9mpg on the combined cycle and up to 92g/km of CO2.
Inside, a big step forward’s certainly been taken. The fascia style is more modern, the trim materials are of higher quality, the 8-inch central infotainment screen now no longer has a turn-of-the-century look and, providing you avoid base trim, there’s even a set of circular digital dials in the instrument cluster. There’s reasonable back seat space for two, but the boot is fairly compact – at 286-litres.