Currently reading: James Ruppert: These used compact cars are truly small comforts
A Jazz is among the cosiest second-hand bargains you can buy, though it won't get you to your destination very quickly
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4 mins read
1 June 2021

A recurring question over the years isn’t about top speeds, cubic capacity or stopping distances but to do with seats – not the number of them, but how comfortable they are.

Back when I worked for old-fashioned national newspapers, this was essentially a daily enquiry. Getting comfy in a car, as you will know, is a process of trial and error. It can take a lifetime, but a quick fix is always to buy a pricey ultra-adjustable orthopaedic aftermarket job. Spending a grand on a Recaro is usually cheaper than buying a whole motor.

Reader Trish recently asked me for a smallish comfortable car, but I’m not sure that one really exists. By their very nature, small cars are there to do a rudimentary job with the minimum of fuss. Comfortable cars are usually big cars that cost a bit when new. So apart from recommending the switcheroo in her hatchback, where would any recommendations take us?

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One route is a well-built German. The Audi A1 and BMW 1 Series aren’t necessarily those with the smoothest rides; and anyway, as much as I like a 1er, the rather more unconventional BMW i3, which will drive smoothly with no drama, might make sense.

I would go for the range-extender version to negate any range anxiety. They can cost a bit, but there are lots of examples around. I found a 2013 i3, which even had heated seats and only 45,000 miles, up for £10,999.

Otherwise, it’s the compact SUV and crossover crowd, which seems to offer the most options, provided they don’t have stupidly low-profile tyres.

The original Citroën DS had a wonderful ride, but that doesn’t mean modern DS-badged cars feel like magic carpets. Even so, I’ve always liked the DS4, a fat hatchback that’s reasonable value nowadays. I found a 2015 1.2 Puretech at £5999 with just 35,000 miles, a couple of previous owners and a decent service history.

Then there’s the splendid example that old people like me set by buying the Honda Jazz en masse. I’m sure that it has quite a bit to do with utter reliability, which is of course the best reason to buy any used motor.

Getting in and out of any Jazz is a doddle, and mostly they go everywhere at nowhere near warp speed. You can get a oneowner 2007 1.4 i-DSE for a cheap £995, which should be great, but a 2016 1.3 EX with 31,000 miles and air conditioning is probably the better buy for Trish.

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At the end of the day, a comfortable small car is an entirely subjective purchase that takes a lot of real-world research. Often, though, it’s newer, lower-mileage, looked-after used motors that are the comfiest, mostly because they will be less hassle.

Tales from Ruppert's garage

Kia Optima 2.4 GDi Auto, mileage - 60,000: If you’ve ever wondered what happened to the Yank Tanks, well, they were effectively replaced by Korean large saloons. The Chevrolet Caprice and Ford Crown Victoria have left the minds (if not the hearts) of many Americans in favour of the Kia Optima. This one is US spec: left-hand drive with a slushbox. You will pleased to hear that it isn’t mine but has been borrowed by a resident of the Ruppert ranch as a brief stopgap. It’s a 2015 example that has racked up 60,000 miles and was up for sale at $8000 (about £5700). It’s a comfortable enough bus with acres of room inside, so it’s really not hard to see the appeal.

Reader's ride

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Saab 9-5 Estate: Douglas nominates the 2002–2009 Saab 9-5 2.0t and 2.3t as the best Bangernomics cars right now. He says: “I’m on my third, a useful estate. Pictured is my old 2.3t at 245,000 virtually trouble-free, hugely comfy miles. These are robust, properly engineered cars with enough Saab in them to be charismatic, reliable and respectable. Four-pot balancer-shaft petrols are best, but the 1.9 diesel is also frugal and staunch. Regular oil changes for the auto ’box and sump cleans are crucial. Only the neglected rust, so spray WD-40 underneath.”

Readers' questions

Question: Prices appear to have increased substantially across the used car market. Are dealers trying to recover revenue lost in lockdown? Des Browning, via email

Answer: A report by a leading used car classified website claims forecourt prices rose 7.1% year on year in April. However, rather than dealers trying to recover revenue lost in the pandemic, it blames the trend on rising dealer confidence and the demand and supply imbalance affecting the market. As we reported in April, market experts expect things to ease as we approach autumn and for prices to settle down. So wait a bit – or, if you must buy now, make sure you get the going rate for your part-exchange. JE

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Question: I’ve visited all the major car museums and now want to discover some lesser-known ones. Can you suggest any? Colin Dexter, Norwich

Answer: I hope your old MGB is reliable, Colin, because the less well-known museums we’ve found are quite far away. There’s the CM Booth Collection for Morgan fans in Kent, Moretonhampstead Motor Museum in Devon, the Atwell-Wilson Motor Museum in Wiltshire and the Anglesey Transport Museum. Scotland has the Moray Motor Museum in Elgin and Northern Ireland the Abingdon Collection in Omagh. JE

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D Grant 1 June 2021
The Jazz will get you to your destination almost as quickly as any other car in Britain's congested roads. Autocar testers seem to inhabit a different world from the rest of us.
scotty5 1 June 2021

Used car prices rising - it's all to do with supply and demand.

Hold on, did I read a report not so long ago in this magazine of huge numbers of used cars that dealers couldn't shift? Wasn't the article accompanied by photos of row upon row of used cars stored on what looked like a disused airfield or something similar?

Perhaps I'm getting confused with another story but amongst the usual suspect of reasons as to why the cars were not selling, I'm sure a few commentators brought up Brexit. Now the market is so in demand that prices are rising? It's a funny old world.

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