When we reviewed the Whill M back in November 2017, to say that it didn’t light our fire was a fair assessment Whilst it didn’t look like a wheelchair, it had a few issues that left us feeling that in balance, it was incredibly expensive for what it was. The Whill C has been developed to change all that, so Dominic was despatched to TGA Mobility in Sudbury to take a first look.
Whill C Specification
The Whill C has a basic and clear specification, which is unusual when it comes to wheelchairs. It’s available in two seat sizes – 18 inch and 16 inch. There are colour options f black, gold, grey, white, blue and red. That’s more than some other wheelchairs out there that have the options of black or… um, black. It also comes with a horn as standard.
Options include lap belts, smart keys, a second lithium ion battery and a cane holder. Our must add is the under-seat basket which features in our supermarket test further in the review.
The Whill C weighs 52kg and has a length of 100cm. With a 16 inch seat, the overall width is 55cm, with the 18 inch it’s 60 cm. This means it will easily fit in with the National Rail and bus specifications for wheelchairs.
On the road with the Whill C
The road or pathway is going to be the natural home of the Whill C. So you’ll be comforted to know that the Whill is quite at home on most surfaces. With no free-spinning casters, you’ll not get issues on light gravel, the surface of choice around a garden centre.
Tactile paving is no longer an issue because the 4 wheel drive is gone. This is a great improvement. The handling is much more refined as a result and its coupled with a better profile management solution (more further on in the review).
Handling basic bumps is not a problem face or 45 degree on, thanks to those unique roller wheels at the front. An inch or so side on requires some power (as it would in any power wheelchair) – it’s not a monster truck, so don’t expect it to be.
In the supermarket
I have to be honest – someone who is going to use the Whill C is not going to be someone with a high clinical need. They’re going to be able to take advantage of some of the new features of the Whill C, such as the under seat storage system.
This needed testing, so off I went to a popular supermarket next door to the TGA office to give the Whill C the loaf challenge. With the help of a brilliant member of staff, we managed to fit 5 loaves of bread in, still leaving enough space for two fish and some tartar sauce. Quite impressive.
The under-seat basket is an £85 option – and one we’d take.
Transporting the Whill C
I need to compare to the Whill M a moment, which only has a folding backrest. By comparison, the Whill C is a dream, being able to be dismantled to a number of parts. But is this easy to do?
I needed a guinea pig and that person was none other than Mr Tim Ross of TGA. He confessed to me he has never taken one apart for transport, so set about the task with nothing more than the wheelchair and his keen mind.
Imagine his surprise when he lifts the cushion and finds clear, simple instructions. Within minutes he had the Whill C dismantled down neatly. I was impressed, as from the way he kept double checking the instructions that he had the right handle or release catch, it was obvious he really hadn’t dismantled one before.
If you’re the user, you’ll probably not be the one doing the dismantling. However, those who might be supporting you would be, so be confident that it’s not going to be the most complex task.
Driving the Whill C
It’s still controlled from both sides, like the Whill M. Gone is the aircraft like lever controls though – it’s now an up/down button press with an LED screen that tells you the speed profile. It’s a lot more simple to use, with clear awareness of how fast you should be able to go.
The drive controller is still the same rectangular shape, so it nestles into your palm more than between your thumb and forefinger – great if you have arthritis or dexterity issues. They can also be specified on opposite sides for someone who drives left or right. Sensitivity can be adjusted according to the user, which is a huge benefit.
In short, this is a vast improvement over the original Whill M. Storage, better drive, better looks… so what don’t I like? Well, the intrusion into the transfer space by the tip-back arm rests is a little frustrating and the access to the storage space underneath is inconvenient, as its under the seat.
But lets not forget, this is aimed at a user with lower clinical needs. Because of this, they have more options open to them than a user with higher clinical needs. The transport element is really good though – the fact it comes apart to go into a small family car is useful, especially when the alternative is a basic wheelchair appeals for independence.
It’s expensive. The feel of quality for that price is partly off-set but is it totally worth it? It’ll be down to the battery life and the service that TGA offer to really make up for the £3,995 price tag. And for a 10 mile range, it’ll be a challenge to really go too far with the Whill C.
The unique selling point for us is that it looks like the smartest office chair in the building. If you’re trying to provide indoor mobility for users, it breaks a lot of barriers without requiring re-configuration every time. Perhaps that’s why Heathrow provide them for customers, as it looks less wheelchair-like and more “smart chair”.
The Whill C is available on Motability as a special order item. For further information visit TGA Mobility.