As life goes on, we start to notice various changes.
Stupid simple things like crouching down to pull up weeds in the garden – something we didn’t think twice about before – suddenly need careful thought so we can get back up again.
Most of us naturally give some consideration to mundane things like this. But we may not give much thought to what sort of cars will be most suited to us as we get older.
Nevertheless, just because we age, it doesn’t mean we lose our tastes and preferences.
On that note, we’re not much into tarring all people with the same brush here, so the stereotypical scenario of ‘old person drives small hatchback’ isn’t what this article is about.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with driving a small hatchback, so it's still an excellent place to start, but there’s plenty of variety, too, to suit a range of tastes.
Many of us go for small hatchbacks as we age because driving larger vehicles becomes a tad cumbersome. In addition, smaller cars are easier to clean, easier to thread through town centres and villages and, of course, they’re easier to park. And, once you're in a car park, you've more room to get in and out of them.
The Ford Fiesta is great in this regard. It is good looking without being outrageous; it is also cheap to buy, run and maintain. The Fiesta comes in a range of variants, too. These include sportier models and the 'Active' version, which raises the ride height and gives a more rugged, off-roader appearance.
Its last test by the European crash-testing body Euro NCAP awarded it a five-star safety rating, too. It is well-equipped, and although the Ford isn't packed to the rafters with technology, it does feature lane-keeping assist to ensure you don't accidentally drift into the wrong lane.
A Honda Jazz may also be a good alternative, especially as it's taller, so getting in and out is more manageable. These days, it's only available as a hybrid, but it comes with an automatic gearbox, which makes things easier.
Volkswagen is also another manufacturer worth considering. The adorable ‘Up’ is a small hatchback that’s got lots to offer, including the Tardis-like trait of appearing bigger on the inside. A Polo is slightly bigger still, with even more space inside, and it’s comfortable and cheap to run.
Nearly every single manufacturer has an SUV on offer these days.
You may see the word ‘cross’ (short for ‘crossover’) a lot, too. This is usually a small hatchback that's been given rugged off-road styling and a raised ride height to look more like a small SUV (the Ford Fiesta Active we mentioned earlier is a good example).
Cross versions are generally a good fit for those after something a bit bigger and a slightly raised driving position.
Speaking of Fords, the Puma is a top choice here. It offers all the above while still being relatively small, with attractive and trendy looks. Based on the Fiesta, it’s good to drive and cheap to run, despite having a decent amount of power.
Equally, the Toyota Yaris Cross and the Citroen C5 Aircross might be good fits, too. The Toyota has supportive seats and plenty of safety gadgets, including a smart pre-collision system. Meanwhile, the Citroen has very absorbing memory foam seats and supremely comfortable suspension.
The Volvo XC40, is one of the safest cars on the market today, too, while the XC60 is equally brilliant if you want something a little bigger. Then there’s the Volvo XC90 if you need something even larger.
If you're looking to head into the world of all-electric cars (and why not, they aren't as intimidating as you might think), then consider the spacious and well-equipped Kia Soul EV. The long-range and practical Kia e-Niro is also a great choice, while the keen-handling Skoda Enyaq iV might also be a good fit. The larger-than-it-looks Hyundai Ioniq 5 is excellent in every area, too - including comfort and safety.
If you're thinking, 'hang on, I want a proper SUV,' then we've got you covered.
A Peugeot 5008 might not be high up your priority list. Still, it's very comfortable and well-equipped. At the same time, Skoda and Kia make another appearance (yes, they are brilliant these days) with the practical Kodiaq and the comfortable, safety-tech laden Sorento, respectively.
If you’re at the higher end of the market, then the luxurious BMW X5 or the air-suspension of the Land Rover Discovery are both very comfortable. The Audi Q7 is great for luxury but is set up more for driveability, although that's not to say it's uncomfortable by any means.
Saloon cars generally don’t have the same level of practicality as hatchbacks. But for those who need to drive something bigger, they can be a perfect choice.
On that note, we shouldn't forget to mention the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Admittedly, the E-Class has always been seen as a car for your retirement (unlike its more personality-driven rival BMW 5 Series), and you may not feel that you want to drive around in something that effectively tells the world your age.
But the reality is that the E-Class has been given a radical makeover in recent years. It has got sharper looks but has lost none of the good features that made it perfect for older drivers, notably that it's luxurious, spacious and practical. However, the air suspension that we'd recommend to maximise comfort is an optional extra.
Likewise, the 5-Series is a best-of-all-worlds contender that blends comfort with space, practicality, technology, and keen driveability. The Audi A6 and Jaguar XF are also worthy of mention for similar reasons.
If premium brands are out of your price range, the Volkswagen Passat might suit. It has got a classy cabin and is very comfortable to drive while still being a practical and well-equipped choice.
The Volvo S90 is refined in terms of ride comfort, too. While if you want something cheaper that’s good to drive but is also quite supple in terms of suspension, then the Mazda6 is well worth checking out.
The Skoda Superb is a car that also lives up to its name. Skoda now makes some of the best cars on the market, outside of the premium brands, and you might find you get more for your money versus a Volkswagen.
If you’re after something with the platform of a saloon but the practicality of a hatchback, then why not consider an estate?
The good news about the Skoda Superb, which we championed above, is that the Estate version is excellent, with lots of space, good build quality and a large boot, complete with a soft, comfortable ride. There is a self-charging hybrid, too.
Likewise, BMW has long been an advocate of the estate car. Its 5-Series version is arguably the best of the lot, with rear air suspension as standard and a good line-up of engines to suit economy and power, including a plug-in hybrid version.
Mercedes-Benz is getting in on the act, as well, with the E-Class Estate, which offers all the benefits of the saloon with increased practicality. At the same time, the Audi A6 Avant might be worth adding to the shortlist, albeit we'd recommend the optional air suspension to improve the ride comfort.
If you need something cheaper, then the Ford Focus Estate is a car that provides great value for money. However, it isn't the most comfortable, so we'd recommend the adaptive dampers, which are an optional extra. At the same time, the Peugeot 508 SW has a pleasingly absorbing ride that blends performance and fuel economy.
If you're after a sports car, the reality is that most of the advice we’ve given so far – practicality, spaciousness, economy, and ride comfort – goes out of the window.
Sports cars tend to be low down, so they’re difficult to get out of. Unfortunately, they are also wide, so they’re more challenging to park and have big wheels, making them less comfortable.
They often don’t have rear seats, and the ones that do are often unusable for adults, and boot space is slim to nil.
But, if you consider yourself older but fitter (oh, and have a sizeable bank balance), you may want to consider a Jaguar F-Type.
While sports cars aren’t generally famed for memory foam-like suspension, the F-Type is undoubtedly among the more comfortable performance cars. It also offers more thrills than just about any other vehicle we've mentioned.
Things To Consider
These are just a small selection of cars on offer. The best advice is to do as much research as possible, focusing on your priorities.
There is so much technology in cars nowadays. But if you consider yourself a technophobe, don't be threatened by the plethora of driving assistance and safety gadgets offered by new cars today. Most are designed to prevent accidents in the first place, so they're there to help rather than get in the way. Plus, any good dealership should be able to give you a full rundown of what everything does.
Suppose you want to do away with constantly changing gear. In that case, you'll find that all plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars are automatics, so that's worth considering. Honestly, owning and operating such a vehicle isn't the scary rocket science technology-fest that you might think it is.
Regardless of what car you’re after, write up a shortlist and make sure you test drive each one before committing to buying or leasing anything.
One of the biggest priorities for older drivers is ride comfort. Generally speaking, sportier variants of most cars will feature firmer suspension. So, those are best avoided if you want to minimise a bumpy ride. And it’s worth asking if there are any optional extras, such as adaptive dampers or air suspension, which can help improve the ride comfort.
In addition, if you look at any new car on a manufacturer's website, you'll notice they are available in different versions. These are usually referred to as 'trims' or 'grades'. You will often get bigger wheels the higher up the ladder you go, which can often be another comfort-killer.
But that’s good news for comfort-seekers, as it means sticking with entry-level cars will often produce the most absorbing, comfortable driving experience – and that should save you quite a lot of money.
Just make sure that, by choosing an entry-level vehicle, you’re not selling yourself short when it comes to the car’s features.
Often, the entry-level model will be there to suck people in at a lower price. But then you'll notice it'll have something significant missing, such as satellite navigation or an infotainment screen. So, it sometimes pays to have the next trim level up with some cars, and you may be able to downgrade the size of the wheels you get.
If that F-Type sounded tempting and you’re 80 going on 18 and still want sharp, keen handling, big wheels, and sportier characteristics, then it’s more than likely the reverse of the above will be the best fit for you.
And why not? Yes, it’ll likely be a lot more expensive – and there’ll undoubtedly be other compromises, too – but you really can’t put a price on being young at heart.