James Ruppert: These used compact cars are truly small comforts

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.

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



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