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Need suggestions: Buying a car for a special needs child

I have a four year old special needs child, so having a reliable car is essential for me for emergency reasons.

BHPian RedMaw recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

I have a four year old special needs child, so having a reliable car is essential for me for emergency reasons. My trusted first-gen i20 broke down 3 times within 6 months due to ECM issues. It has been at the mechanic for the past 3 months and a new ECM board cost whooping 70K and has a delay of 1 month due to chip shortage. We have a very low yearly mileage of around 6K km and 90% of that drive will be on highways only. My special needs child can neither sit nor stand without support. Earlier, our i20 back seat was big enough for my kid to lie down during travel, and later we switched to a child seat but she is outgrowing the child seat quickly. So, we need a reliable car which can support my child’s needs as well.

We began our search with the below criteria:

  • Back seat comfort and ride comfort paramount.
  • SUVish car (it will be easier to walk in) and easy to modify if the need arises
  • Max width 1800 mm (due to 2000mm parking constraint).
  • Auto box (After driving CVT for the first time, I couldn’t let go of the comfort of the auto box).
  • 6 airbags (My better half insists it’s mandatory).
  • Budget 15 - 20 lakhs (50% will be in loan and we are already at our max).
  • Must serve us for 10 years due to high cost (Thanks to GTO for the excellent thread).

Before coming to Team BHP, we have visited almost all showrooms in the November/December timeframe and TD’ed a few cars. Below is our showroom and TD experience:

Honda:

To be honest, we went to the Honda showroom first, so that Honda can be rejected first. Honda does not have any CSUV and I did not pay much attention to the 5th gen Honda city. My uncle has the 4th gen City so I am not very enthusiastic about getting the same car. When we went to the showroom one fine evening. it was deserted, dull, and dark. The lone receptionist welcomed us, we explored a parked Honda City without much interest. I was not very impressed with the interiors which looked more like 2014 but was still classic looking. I did not like the dashboard either with lots of hard plastics. Exchanged some numbers and went straight to the Skoda showroom.

Honda City TD experience:

Even though the XUV700 was our first TD, the Honda sales executive followed promptly and proactively asked us to do a TD. We asked him to bring the City for the parking test which it passed with flying colors. Sales executive had brought a Zx CVT and I conveyed to him that I have never driven an auto box before. He taught me how to change gears and let me drive. I was initially a bit hesitant due to lack of auto box experience but agreed after his teaching. CVT was very easy to drive with minimal input. It was very smooth and linear. The lane assist camera worked well while parking but the ORVM on the door will need some time to get used to. The audio quality and the media unit were very average. Reverse camera was pathetic and the interior was underwhelming for an 18 lakh car. Still, everything looked classy and non-offending. My wife liked the back seat comfort and said she never felt any jerk or potholes. I thought it felt a little bouncy at lower speeds over potholes. Overall TD was good.

Skoda:

The Skoda Showroom was bright and was filled with Kushaq, Kushaq, and more Kushaq in all variants. Naturally, we explored the Kushaq. Though I did not own any Skoda cars before, I have ridden in the Skoda Rapid and Fabia. So with that in mind, I felt Kthe ushaq was not of the usual Skoda quality. I liked the media center and dashboard look but that’s it. There was no Skoda thud and build quality seemed lacking. In the rear seat, there is no under-thigh support and can accommodate only two people. Once we told the initial budget of 15 lakhs, the sales executive lost his interest and stood there for the sake of being present. There was no physical brochure or price list. The sales executive promised to send it via WhatsApp but till now I haven't received it. One funny thing is, the Skoda sales executive called me after a few days and asked when are we booking the Kushaq. I mean, he did not offer a TD or send brochures but went straight to booking. I told him we were looking at Honda City as well and he got angry/upset and asked us why we are booking the City when we looked at Kushaq. He continued that “Skoda is coming with a superior product Slavia which will eat and throw out the Honda City”. I asked him to send that brochure and he promptly sent it and forgot about us.

Hyundai:

We visited the Hyundai showroom on a Saturday and the place was crowded. There were at least two customers at each car except the Alcazar. An unenthusiastic sales executive attended us, his attitude was he is doing us a favor and we are disturbing him. We checked out the Venue first and it was too cramped, I could not comfortably get in or out. We tried the Creta and the sales executive outright told us, Creta will not fit in our parking (Creta width is 1790mm and our parking width is 2000mm). So we checked out the Verna and the backseat is again cramped. iThe 20 offered enough space but I was not interested to buy an i20 again for 13+ lakhs. We left only with the price list. The sales executive promised to send the brochure via WhatsApp but never sent it (He later sent Creta brochure after taking TD).

Hyundai Creta TD experience:

After visiting Honda and TATA showroom, their sales executives was in constant touch with us to do a TD. But with Hyundai it was the other way around. We had to check with the sales executive to do a TD. When we asked for a TD, the sales executive, repeated the same thing, it won’t fit in our parking but agreed to bring the diesel SX(O) MT for testing. The Creta was a good fit in our parking and had enough space to spare. Even though it was diesel, the clutch was lighter than the Nexon petrol clutch. The car touched 120 in 5th gear and upshifting to 6th gives a relaxed ride. The driver seat had a commanding position and there were lots of tech/party tricks in the car. As an existing Hyundai owner, I know, I won’t use most of this tech and it will mostly fail over the year. The panoramic sunroof was good, but I was afraid of reliability and what happens during a crash. The back seat comfort was good, but does not provide Honda City level comfort. The back seat could have been better since there was acres of space in the back. The ride was comfortable and there was no swaying. My wife still felt nauseous (Don't know whether it’s due to diesel smell or motion sickness).

Mahindra:

Compared to the Hyundai showroom, the Mahindra showroom was less crowded but there were a couple of families checking out the XUV700. We were welcomed and a sales executive immediately attended us. He wanted to show us all models but we politely refused and asked for only the XUV300. Saw a TD vehicle in a nearby yard and was underwhelmed by interiors and boot space. The XUV300 looked big from the outside but the interior was a compromise. We were still OK but the boot space (or lack thereof) removed the XUV300 from our list.

Mahindra XUV700 ride experience:

We were ready to leave but the Sales executive insisted we look at the XUV700. We told him about our budget and parking constraints but still, he insisted that the MX model will be within our budget. We agreed for a TD. I told the driver I have never driven an auto box, so he declined to let me drive. We took a drive for few km only, but the driver was showing off every feature of the car including ADAS, Sony speakers, sunroof etc. I liked the slab-type entertainment and speedometer digital combination. My wife also liked the back seat very much. The only nitpick was we had to climb inside instead of walking inside the car. We were floored by the ride and quality of interiors, in spite of our parking issues, we were ready to book (I thought parking be dammed. we will park outside). But, the long waiting period was the sticking point. Without knowing which year I will get my vehicle, I was not ready to book. The sales executive sent us the price list, brochure, accessories list, etc via WhatsApp.

PS: My better half was ogling the new Thar. Its a pity I could not afford two cars.

Volkswagen:

The next day was a Sunday and we went to the VW showroom. The sales executive had gone for lunch and the showroom was closed. But still, the sales executive sent us price list, brochure, and some pictures on WhatsApp. On Monday, we visited the showroom again and saw the Taigun. We liked the Mustard Yellow color but as with the Kushaq, the interior was not VW quality, VW has even changed the famous Polo horn. The backseat was inadequate with low under-thigh support and space for two adults only. Build and paint quality were the best of all vehicles we saw.

VW Taigun TD experience:

We TD'ed the Topline 1.0 AT model. Outright, we felt a lot of jerks as if the tyre was over pressured. So felt lots of motion sickness. But, the driving pleasure in Taigun was unmatched. The steering was a pleasure to hold and the 1.0 TSI packs a punch and begs to be pushed. During the TD, a two-wheeler guy suddenly came in our path, with just a flick of my wrist, I was able to avoid him. The Taigun kept its composure and I avoided him with ease. There was no drama, no squeaking, no fear in a tense situation. During the return to the showroom, I sat at the back and immediately felt the lack of under-thigh support and the ride was not cushy or comfortable (17” rims with over pressured tyres and stiff chassis might be the culprit). We rejected Tthe aigun with a heavy heart. My wife still likes Taigun's yellow mustard color very much and I liked Taigun's drive.

Tata:

We visited the Tata showroom on a Sunday and unlike many other showrooms, many sales executives were present on Sunday as well. Saw the Nexon, even though it was tall, the interior space was strictly average or comparable to our i20. Saw the Harrier and was impressed by the interior space and quality. Sadly it was too big for our parking. Tata does not have any cars in the C2 segment which is a sad tale. We would have bought a bigger Nexon or smaller Harrier.

Tata Nexon TD experience:

After lots of pestering by the Tata sales executive, we agreed for the TD of the Nexon. The Nexon was just barely able to accommodate our parking (width 1811mm). We did a TD of the petrol manual. I did not like the manual after Honda City's CVT experience. Driving the Nexon felt like driving my i20 with a higher seating position but the ride was good. The petrol struggled (lots of noise) to cross 100 on the highway. The Nexon eats potholes for breakfast but the rear seat was not comfortable compared to the City.

MG:

We kept postponing the Astor because I did not want a Chinese car. After TD'ing the above cars and not being impressed by anything, we visited the new MG showroom and it was sparsely crowded. Couple of ZS EVs were parked for charging. Outright, I and my wife liked the Astor look and were for the first time WOW'ed by the interiors. The interior quality and build quality were at the least a segment above this price point. The maroon color leather interior was very well put together but we noticed lots of scratch marks on the leather (I doubt it will last more than 5 years). This was not a cheap Chinese car but a proper British one.

MG Astor TD experience:

As much as we were wowed by the interiors, the 1.5 petrol CVT was strict meh only. The car took forever to accelerate. It was the slowest in all our TD's. Could not even cross 90 before the 2 km highway stretch ended. Lack of paddle shifters will be troublesome during overtaking, which might need good planning. One can not easily downshift to overtake like manual or CVT with paddle shifters. The driver's seat had a commanding position and the ride was good (not great like the Honda cCty). Back seat comfort was very average. The back seat was sloped downwards and we kept slipping during the TD, also under-thigh support was nonexistent.  Front seat runners were sticking out like a sore thumb in an otherwise beautiful car. The seat and cushion were good but we kept slipping for every braking or acceleration due to the sloped bench seat. Lack of under-thigh support caused pain in my legs very soon and my foot kept hitting the front seat runners for every movement.

Maruti Suzuki:

Visited the Maruti showroom and it was crowded. Unfortunately, we had a pathetic experience in the showroom. No one attended us and everyone was busy, we waited for a few minutes and started ourselves with display Ciaz. The Ciaz interior was pathetic and had lots of rough edges. Build quality was not good and no 6 airbags on any trim. Next, we saw the XL6. The Interior was again not good for a 13L car and again no 6 airbags on any trim. The middle row was offered only as captain seats and we wanted a bench seat. We wanted to look at the S-cross but the car’s door was blocked by other cars. While we are walking out, a sales executive asked us what we are looking for. We told him our requirements and he suggested the Ertiga. We thanked him and walked out.

Kia:

Visited Kia on Sunday and the showroom was deserted except for one sales executive and one family. The sales executive asked us to wait for 5 mins and kept attending to another family. We explored the Sonet and Seltos ourselves. We liked the Seltos and the interior space was similar to Creta. The Sonet did not look like a sub 4m car and was built big. However interior space was average only. We waited close to 45 minutes before the sales executive excused from other family and came to us. We got the price list and saw the variant X. He said 1.4 GTX Plus DCT was available immediately (on-road 21.5L). It was way out of our budget and conveyed him the same and left. TD was not offered and our contact details were not taken.

Nissan was skipped due to the viability of the company and except for the Duster, Renault did not have any car above 10 Lakh. One thing to note, for all these showrooms we went on our two wheeler only and I don’t think any sales executive took it as a negative.

Our shortlist as of now is three cars:

Honda City:

Positives:

  • Rear seat comfort and ride quality was excellent (My SO kept Honda city as a benchmark for comparison).
  • 6 airbags in mid variant (cost 17L for CVT and 15.5L for manual).
  • CVT was very easy to drive.
  • Boot space.
  • On going discounts and easy availability (within a month).

Negatives that can be improved with additional cost (~60K):

  • Neutral speakers.
  • Road noise (needs insulation).
  • Average tyres.

Negatives that cannot be improved:

  • Not a big car or Pseudo SUV. So I don’t know how easily it can be modified for special needs.
  • Need to crawl in.
  • Infotainment system.
  • VGA camera with no dynamic guidelines.
  • Hard plastic dashboard.
  • No split seat.
  • Honda long term presence in India.

Hyundai Creta:

Positives:

  • Big car with lots of party trick features.
  • Okish Rear Seat comfort and sorted ride quality.
  • 5 years wonder warranty.
  • Lots of rear space.
  • Split seat.

Negatives that can be improved with additional cost (~60 k):

  • Rear seats (needs small padding or cover).
  • Average tyres.

Negatives that cannot be improved:

  • No safety rating.
  • 6 Airbags in Higher variant only and it cost 20.5L on road for CVT.
  • Hyundai occasional costly niggles.
  • Waiting period (~ 3-6 months as per sales executive).New refresh might come soon with an additional price increase.

MG Astor:

Positives:

  • Looks and wow quality interiors.
  • Biggish car.
  • Ride quality (when we are not slipping from the back seat).
  • Tyres (continental UC6 tyres).

Negatives that can be improved with additional cost (~60K):

  • Rear seat (need major work to make it non-slippery with under-thigh support).

Negatives that cannot be improved:

  • CVT box is sluggish and gas guzzler as per the sales executive (only 7-8 KMPL in city and 12-14 in the highway).
  • Front seat runner sticking out like a sore thumb in the back.
  • Sunroof is covered by thin cloth? Worried about it.
  • Long term warranty.
  • Ease of service and spare parts availability.
  • Waiting period.

Pre-owned cars:

I am a proponent of pre-owned cars. Even though they have their own set of negatives, finding one with 6 airbags is very difficult. And even if we find a good car, the asking price for every pre-owned car is through the roof.

The elephant in the room, Toyota Innova:

With our needs, the Toyota Innova ticks most of the boxes. But due to our parking constraints, we did not take a TD. The older model Innova might just fit in our parking, but the asking price for a used Innova is unreal. A 2015, 1 lakh+ kms run Innova, which needs new tyres and battery was quoted 14 Lakhs. I tried to negotiate for 11 Lakhs but the owner sold it for 12.5 Lakhs within a week.

The City was the benchmark for us but it’s not a CSUV car. The Creta ticks most boxes but it’s costly and might cost us more in long run. The Astor needs some compromise and I am worried about long-term reliability and service. I am still ok to go with pre-owned cars if they are good.

An Indian male life expectancy is 70 years. At 35+, I am a middle-aged Indian with a special needs child. I used to enjoy lone, late-night drives with melody songs and if I was alone like that, I would have purchased the  Taigun. But, I have to balance my needs and my child’s needs. I might have around another 30-35 years or 2-3 more new cars to enjoy. With this in mind, I request the members to guide me in selecting a good car.

PS: If anyone has special needs child, can you please share your experience here or via message?

Here's what BHPian Aditya had to say on the matter:

Hey,


That's a very difficult list of conditions to meet. However, your prayers might have been answered today. The Kia Carens is brilliantly priced and will fit in your budget and parking space. It comes with some good engines and gearboxes and 6 airbags are standard. It also has a bench seat for the middle row if you choose the 7-seater. The only negative I see is there is no safety rating available. Even so, I recommend you have a look at the car.

One thing you should keep in mind is that an SUV / MUV is not likely to ride as well as a sedan. The Honda City is an excellent car if you are not into spirited driving. The running gear does not keep up with the engine at high speeds. Leave that, there is not much wrong with the car. No wonder it's the best selling car in the segment for so many years.

VW group cars like the Vento and Rapid were mechanically sound, but the new lot has seen too many failures for me to recommend right now. I love the XUV700, but there's not telling when you'll get your car.

Here's what BHPian Iyencar had to say on the matter:

If you’re open to preowned, a previous gen CRV is going to meet your needs. What you want is a big, safe, 5 seater with a wide seat and a big boot for your particular requirement. Regarding modifications, if a car has integrated seat airbags, then removing the rear seat may not be an option so please keep that in mind. Could you clarify in a little more detail what modifications is it that you need?

Here's what BHPian Poitive had to say on the matter:

Hi Redmaw,


Two cars immediately come to mind: Kia Carens, as Aditya already mentioned and MG Hector. The Carens suits in terms of budget and size, and is said to have a soft ride. It has an immense wheelbase of 2780mm which exceeds all else in it's segment and more - more than the Innova and Fortuner. So should allow ample space to modify. It has an exact width of 1800mm. It being a new car might well mean more niggles, as can be seen with the XUV700 on it's thread.

The Hector has an excellent plush ride and is very spacious. 2nd row with more legroom than the XUV700. It is a refined vehicle. I test drove the Diesel Manual version and an extensive drive report with focus on space, ingress-egress and the drive experience can be found at this link (also has reports on a few others). I loved the space and ride quality. Also good ingress-egress. It is significantly narrower than the XUV700 and 35mm over the 1800 mark. The variant with 6 airbags might overshoot your budget a bit if OTR is what you had in mind. The good thing about the hector is that it has seen it's early days of niggles and now owners rarely report issues. Auto/CVT is only available in petrol, and the FE might be an issue, but you said you have low mileage.

I wish you all the best in finding a suitable vehicle.

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