The Germanic Auto-mobile Technical Report

As a wheelchair using driver, there are some crucial things I need to know. Simple little things like “is the boot big enough?” My other favourites are things like “where are the buttons” and “will I still be sitting up if I go around a corner?”

So, recently I had the use of a 2014 Volkswagen Sharan.  It was the 2 litre turbo diesel with a 6 speed DSG gearbox, which packs around 138bhp – quite a punch for any vehicle of the Passat/Mondeo size or bigger.  This model was the basic “s” trim, which doesn’t have steering radio controls, cruise control or automatic lights/wipers.  What it does have is all round electric windows… and a lot of storage bins.

Getting into the car, the boot lip is flat – this is vital when lifting a chair in or out, especially if you sit on the boot lid to hoik your own wheels in or out of the car.  The boot itself accommodated my wheelchair laid down – if I wanted to stand the wheelchair up, I would need to remove the wheels though.  The sliding doors along the side mean that if I wanted to, inserting the chair in through the side would be a doddle, especially if you were to take the optional electric rear doors – expect to pay around £700 for those though.

Once in, the front seat is quite supportive for the driver.  The dials have a central read out of which gear you are in (the actual number, not just D for drive), enabling you to work out if you want to manually switch to go up or down in the gear box for whatever reason.  There is also an “S” selection for sport – which adjusts the ratios to give you a quicker response.  I found I never needed it.

Getting out on the road, its important to remember it’s wide – and I mean really wide. Once you have that mastered though, it is a very comfortable ride. I found that the engine pull was very good, especially when getting on to the motorway. The DAB radio picked up any station I could ask it to and the MDI connection to a USB stick was welcome.

My niggles?  There were a few – steering wheel controls for the stereo would have been nice, even on a basic car.  Automatic lights would be a welcome luxury, too. I don’t enjoy reaching about much and if you do need to stay in your seat and supported, then little things make a difference.

So – a verdict?  A great people carrier and lovely drive. Would I buy one?  If I could get the SE or better with the toys, yes I probably would – the sliding doors and huge boot make it a good vehicle to have.  I would consider its sister though – the Seat Alhambra.

The Petroleum Recharging Quandry

I have a bit of an issue and its not one that I can resolve easily on my own without either a bit of trial and serious error (if it goes wrong its a big error) or help.  So, I’ve opted for a bit of help:

Well, actually, that needed a little quick clarification, just in case:

So, this sparked a few conversations, including first cars, comparison of what I’m getting, toys, wheels and so on… but this also showed me several things:

  1. Some people use Service Call
  2. Some people use PinPoint
  3. Some people don’t use anything
  4. One person is waiting for their child to hit 16 so they can learn how to fill the car for them!

So what are Service Call and PinPoint?  They are remote keyfobs that send a signal to a receiver in a petrol station which would, in theory at least, alert a member of staff to assist you refuelling your car.

Service Call Receiver

Service Call Receiver

Service Call I had, I confess, heard of before but forgotten the name of.  It is usually a bright orange box on the window of the petrol station kiosk.  The box tends to sit up high and require line of sight in order to work which, according to the website, has 50m of range.

During my Twitter conversation, I found one user said the following:

Now that is useful in itself, but given the competition…

So, this then makes me ask a question of will I see more use of one more than another.  At this point my mother had already very kindly told me to order a PinPoint device for my birthday present which is upcoming (hint, hint you lot).

So – this seems like a good time to review the PinPoint offering.  This was developed by a company called Contacta and has been endorsed by Disabled Motoring UK, which is a campaign group.  It is not widely installed at the moment but claims to be more reliable than older beacon systems, which I suspect includes Service Call.  A quick check in my local area shows 2 installations, compared to Service Call’s 8 or so.  Neither of them included Tesco though, which is where I am most likely to fill up because of the pay at pump option and club card discounts.

Indeed, PinPoint is widely known:

So – I’ve ordered PinPoint with thanks to my Mother. I’ll probably end up ordering a Service Call too.  Alternatively, I could follow this idea:

Got a bit of a wait though until my eldest reaches 16 though…

 

The Mobility Powerhouse Examination

So, since new year I have been working on a personal challenge – one, if you will, that requires immense concentration and patience.

I have been educating myself in a skill that has required me to master all control, to be able to be calm in situations where I wish to scream profanities and above all else – remember the order in which I should do things.

Mirror.

Signal.

Manoeuvre.

In little under 7 weeks, I’ve had to master theory, learn about hazard perception… as well as the practical element of the brumming, the beeping and the screaming from the passenger seat.

As a disabled driver I’ve found the automatic fairly easy to come to grips with (i.e. don’t).  My teacher was quite patient with me and got me through all my manoeuvre’s, showing me useful tricks to making sure I knew what was going on all around me.  Above all though he also reminded me to maintain my confidence without being over-confident.

Now, the rest of my learning begins, just on my own.