What Car? Personal Shopper: best city car for a wheelchair user

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Honda Jazz Personal Shopper

The reader

Dear What Car?,

I need a new car but I have very specific requirements. My husband is paralysed following a stroke. At present we have a Daihatsu Charade, but it is 14 years old and I'm afraid of it failing. I need something as similar to it as possible. As you will know, the Charade has two doors and a hatchback boot. The back seats fold flat so I can get a wheelchair and zimmer frame in with ease. I have been to our local garage and some agents but so far have had no success. Can you help?


The brief

It sounds like Jeni is in need of a city car that's similarly spacious to her current Daihatsu Charade, but also one with folding rear seats to make loading a wheelchair and zimmer frame as easy as possible. And since it sounds like Jeni doesn't cover many miles, a petrol engine is what we'll be searching for.


Buying new

  • Our recommended choices: Kia Picanto 1.25 3 5dr
  • List price: £13,150
  • Target Price: £12,534

If small but spacious is your top requirement, then look no further than the Kia Picanto. It's been our favourite city car for two years running, and that's down to its tidy handling, excellent infotainment system and good boot. When it comes to space for storing your husband's equipment, there's very little in the city car class which can match it. Handily, too, the Picanto's rear seats split and fold 60/40, and lie relatively flat when they're down.

We recommend the mid-range 1.25-litre petrol engine in the Picanto, which offers peppy performance but also keeps running costs sensible. Indeed, this engine managed a very respectable 47.9mpg on our True MPG tests. Team that with '3' trim and you'll get goodies including 15in alloy wheels, climate and cruise control, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and upgraded safety kit. 

And even better, thanks to the discounts available through What Car? New Car Buying, we can save you up to £617 on our favourite Picanto too.

Find a great Kia Picanto deal, or read our full Picanto review

  • Also consider: Suzuki Celerio 1.0 Dualjet SZ2
  • List price: £8999
  • Target Price: £7999
Suzuki Celerio 2019 front right cornering shot

Suzuki's city car is seriously cheap to buy and run, and should be reliable too. It's also impressively spacious by the standards of this class, and all Celerios feature split-folding rear seats.

The sole 67bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine on offer doesn't offer sizzling performance, but it's perfectly acceptable even on faster A-roads and motorways, and returned 57.7mpg on our True MPG test. Our favourite SZ2 models are fairly basic, getting electric front windows and central locking, but not a lot else. The good news, though, is that stepping up to an SZ3 model doesn't cost an awful lot more.

Find a great Suzuki Celerio deal, or read our full Celerio review

  • Also consider: Toyota Yaris 1.5 Hybrid Icon CVT
  • List price: £18,400
  • Target Price: £17,131
Toyota Yaris 1.5 Hybrid Icon CVT

If you can afford to spend a little more, the Toyota Yaris hybrid offers frugal, spacious motoring for a bargain price. And just like the Picanto and Citigo, the Yaris offers split-folding rear seats to make loading a wheelchair or zimmer frame, or both, easy.

Where the Yaris shines, though, is in fuel economy. This version features a 1.5-litre petrol engine and a small electric motor, which means you can drive for short distances using only electric power. If you stick to the city, expect to average 80mpg without trying too hard – so it's good news for your fuel bills too.

Icon models add 15in alloy wheels, cruise control, air conditioning and a 4.2in screen in the instrument cluster to the already generous standard equipment, so you shouldn't be wanting for much else from the options list.

Find a great Toyota Yaris deal, or read our full Yaris review

Buying used

  • Our recommended choice: 2017 Honda Jazz 1.3 VTEC S 
  • Price: £8000
  • Mileage: 19,000

If you're looking for a huge boot and maximum practicality in a small package, then the Tardis-like Honda Jazz may well be the car for you. Fold the rear seats down and the space available could almost house another Jazz within it, or certainly a folded wheelchair and a zimmer frame. It's a class-leading amount of space, and nearly matches those of cars with far larger dimensions. You can even flip the bases of the rear seats upwards so that tall items can be housed widthways in the interior. There's a tiny lip to haul things over, but the boot is quite close to the ground so this won't be an issue. There's a false floor too, so you can stow things out of sight if needs be. 

  • Also consider: 2018 Skoda Fabia 1.2 TSI SE
  • Price: £8000
  • Mileage: 18,000
Skoda Fabia 1.0 TSI 95 SE

Open up the rear hatch of Skoda's popular Fabia and you'll be confronted with a good-size boot of a usefully square shape and with a low lip and easy access. Fold the rear seats down and there's an excellent space which is both long and wide with a flat floor for loading larger items on to - it'll easily house the wheelchair and zimmer frame. Added to that, it's a lovely car to drive.

  • Also Consider: 2017 Citroën Berlingo 1.6 HDI Feel
  • Price: £10,000
  • Mileage: 18,000
Citroën Berlingo Multispace

To some, they may be reminiscent of vans with windows, but in fact cars like this Citroën Berlingo drive a lot better than they look. Their raison d'etre is the amount of easily accessible space they offer in the rear. Open up that huge rear door with its exceptionally low loading lip and you'll be able to shove just about anything you fancy in there – you could almost live in it. You'll need to spend about £2000 more than our other two choices for the same age of car, but you'll get more room than even those can offer.

Our recommendation: buy used

This is very much a question of budget. The Kia Picanto Darren suggests would suit you very well. It's a peppy and classy little car that's also spacious and is our reigning champion in the city car class. It's hard to ignore that car's price tag, though, especially when Mark has found the even more spacious Honda Jazz for significantly less money.

And what a car the Jazz is. Its big boot and magic seats will make loading a wheelchair and zimmer frame, as well as shopping or luggage, easier than in the Picanto, while its 1.3-litre petrol engine is happy enough around town. The good news is that if you want to upgrade to the more powerful 1.5-litre engine, costs only rise to around £12,000.

Our recommendation this time, then, is to buy used. 

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