Our motoring editors share their expertise on fuel performance, electric cars, driving over the age of 70, and downsizing from a big car
Top Gear contributors Dan Read and Paul Horrell answer Boundless members’ most common questions around driving, cars and motoring.
What’s the best small car that feels big?
"I’m thinking of downsizing from a Jaguar S-Type but love that big-car drive. Which smaller cars come close to the big-car driving experience?”
The S-Type was replaced in Jaguar’s range by the XF. Then, beneath the XF, came the XE. So, look first at an XE. It’s about 20cm shorter than an S-Type, but the width is about the same.
Smaller again is a Mercedes CLA – the all-new version has just arrived. If you’re buying used, avoid the hard-riding AMG trim on the old version. Another car with a relaxed, solid driving feel – and you might not have thought of this – is the Skoda Octavia. The top Laurin & Klement trim has some luxurious touches.
One of the best routes to a soft big-car ride is to look at a hatchback with raised suspension height. If you can stretch to a new or nearly-new car, try a Ford Focus Active X or Mercedes GLA – the Mercedes was also adapted to become the Infiniti QX30. Its elaborate styling might suit your S-Type taste.
More advice from our motoring team
What happens to my driving licence when I’m 70?
“What are the restrictions around driving post-70? Are there any changes of entitlement and what would one have to do in order to, say, keep the permission to drive a minibus?”
Peter J Rice
At the age of 70 your driving licence expires automatically but don’t be alarmed, there’s no need to re-sit your test, you just need to renew it by completing the DVLA’s D1 form (you can order it free of charge online) and again every three years after that.
This might sound inconvenient, but it’s the DVLA’s way of screening your medical suitability to get behind the wheel as you’re obliged to declare any condition that may affect your driving – including eyesight issues and diabetes, if it’s insulin-treated.
The DVLA may then contact your GP or arrange for a doctor or specialist to examine you. In some cases, you may be asked to take a driving assessment, eyesight test or driving appraisal.
Your existing entitlements will also renew at the same time, although those with category C and D licences for lorries and buses must renew annually from the age of 65 anyway. Volunteers may also drive a minibus of up to 16 seats from the age of 70 once their ordinary car licence has been renewed by submitting a D1 form.
For full details, see the DVLA Licence Renewal website.
We received some additional information from Boundless members, whose advice is below
To retain your entitlements you must also complete the D2 application form and the D4 medical report. The first part of D4 must be completed by an optician, and the second part by your GP, in that order.
Your GP will need a 30 minute slot for his examination and paperwork, and this is not covered by the NHS (I paid £35 and £120 to my optician and GP respectively).
Will I get stranded if my electric car runs out of charge?
“I’m considering changing from an ICE to an EV, but I have range anxiety. What’s the best practice for ensuring you don’t run short and would running out of charge be covered by most EV insurance policies?”
Given a driveway and a reasonably robust home supply (check this first), you can simply plug in overnight at home. Your car will begin every day fully charged, enough for 200-plus miles in many of today’s EVs. On days when you drive further, motorway services and many other locations have rapid DC posts that can give you another 150 miles-worth in less than an hour.
At your destination, some urban streets, hotels and NCPs, and many shopping centres and supermarkets, have charge points – these will mostly be the slower type. It’s critical to plan ahead, because these charge point networks are on several different payment schemes, and many demand that you join in advance. Websites and apps such as Zap-Map can find you a charger, and allow you to filter by payment scheme.
Your breakdown cover will include rescuing a dead-flat car – some providers ferry you to the nearest charger, while the RAC has launched a roadside EV-charger that will provide a 10-mile boost. LV= was the first insurer to provide cover specifically for EVs, including recovery to the nearest charge point as standard.
Is there any benefit to using premium unleaded fuel?
“Is there any real benefit from using the more expensive performance-branded fuels such as Shell V-Power or BP Ultimate?”
It depends what sort of car you drive. If it’s a high-performance petrol, it’ll enjoy the increased octane content of upmarket unleaded. In broad terms, high-performance petrol engines have higher compression ratios. The higher the octane, the more compression the fuel can withstand before igniting. More compression equals more power and better efficiency. It won’t transform your average hot hatch into a dragster, but it might rev more freely and accelerate a little more energetically. ‘Regular’ petrol engines probably won’t benefit as much.
Diesels work differently, and so performance diesel fuel is marketed more for its cleaning power than horsepower. Indeed, the additives and lubricants it – and premium petrol – contain may help to protect against damage and flush out sooty build-ups around injector nozzles, a bit like removing limescale from a showerhead. There’s no need to use it every time, but the occasional tank or two won’t hurt.