Monday, October 28, 2013

Granny's New Car?

Grandmothers seem to drive a broad assortment of different cars.  I’ve seen little old ladies heads poking up behind the wheels of everything from giant 1980’s era Lincoln Town Cars to brand new Hyundai Elantras.  

The former makes her choice the old barge because it’s the car she’s driven for the last 30 years and if it’s not broken, why would she drive anything else?  Plus she’ll be damned if she’s going to give up the feeling of security afforded her by two tons of body on frame steel.  Furthermore, she has probably been going to the same garage for her repairs since the grandfather of the current owner opened the place.  They know her by name, treat her right and keep her car on the road well within budget.  Long story short, the boat provides her with the comfort of the familiar in a world that’s changing so rapidly around her that she feels she’ll never catch up. 

The latter chooses her new economy car because it’s practical transportation that’s easy to drive, cheap on gas and provides the miles of worry free, low maintenance driving that only a new car can provide.  On top of all that, most compact vehicles offer up terrific luxury content at reasonable prices.  Heated leather seats, excellent sound systems and all the gadgets she’ll care to have can be had for around $25 grand (in some cases, even less).   Nowadays people can easily afford cars loaded with goodies that were decades away from even existing back when dear old Grandma first started driving.  And who can argue with the appeal of that?    

This topic has been on my mind lately because my Granny is thinking about buying a new car.  Her current ride is about 10 years old (although it only has about 60,000km on the odometer) and it’s probably lost some of its appeal when compared to a lot of the new offerings out there.  

Also, she’s been driving Chrysler products for about 20 years and she’s interested in seeing some of the other offerings out there.  After all, there is a large selection of very attractive and functional vehicles in the marketplace these days.   

But which car would work best for her? 

If I were asked what she needs in a car I would give the following criteria:
-          Easy to operate (not too techy)
  • Good visibility
  • Ample storage (needs room for shopping as well as curing and golf equipment)
  • Attractive
  • On budget (under $40K)
  • Decent fuel economy
  • Good safety rating (you never know!) 
Now that’s just what I think.  My grandmother has her own opinion and she would set me straight if I missed the mark on anything, but for the sake of this blog entry (and as a concerned grandson) these are the most important factors that I feel would weigh in on her new car purchase.

So here are some vehicles that I think she may want to consider.  I have scored each category out of 5 and each car then receives a total score out of 35.  The higher the score, the better I think the car will be for my Granny. 

Ease of Operation - 2
  • Automatic transmission
  • Compact size for parking lots
  • Tight handling is good for city driving
  • 3 different drive modes (and flappy paddles) could cause accidental change in driving configuration
  • Too many buttons and awkward display screen may give a sense of difficulty when accessing basic audio and HVAC controls
  • Acceleration lag could mess with her sense of timing when merging with traffic or at intersections
  • Column mounted shifter would mean an adjustment (she has had console mounted shifters for as long as I’ve been alive)
Visibility – 5
  • Hatchback design and a good sized greenhouse makes for good visibility
Storage – 4
  • Hatchback means easy loading of items in back
  • Small size means she may have to fold down rear seats to fit everything  
Looks – 4
  • Overall decent attractiveness in this pretty little Merc
  • Hatchback styling may not grab onlookers the same as a classy sedan
Budget – 2
  •  Price starts just around $30K but will easily surpass $40K after taxes with a couple of options ticked and the dealer extras my grandparents always seem to go for
Fuel Economy – 3
  •  Pretty good on fuel
  • Requires premium grade gasoline
Safety – 5
  •  Lots of driver aids and other safety features
  •  Best European crash rating in a car ever
Overall Score – 24/35

Ease of Operation – 4
  •  Familiar sedan layout
  •  Console mounted shifter
  • Quietest ride for any money leads to reduced distractions from the outside world
  • Not too many buttons on dash means easy operation of basic functions
  • Screen display nicely integrated
Visibility – 3
  • Decent visibility but not quite as good as her current car
  • May have to rely on rear sensors and  rear camera
Storage – 3
  • Slightly smaller than her current vehicle 
  • Large trunk though
Looks - 3
  • Attractive
  • Doesn’t hit it out of the park though
Budget – 5
  • All of the content she would ever want since this model tops out in the low $30’s
 Fuel Economy – 4
  • Does much better than her current vehicle
  • Takes regular, even if she opted for the turbo (for some reason)
Safety – 5
  • IIHS top safety pick
Overall Score – 27/35

Ease of Operation – 4
  •  Basic operation
  • Easy to find controls
  • Good city handling and acceleration
  • Not so great at highway passing due to CVT (but her cars typically don’t spend much time on the highway  anyway)
  • May get thrown off by sport mode and flappy paddles
Visibility - 4
  • Hatchback or sedan, visibility is pretty good in these cars
Storage – 4
  • The hatchback will suit her perfectly for all her shopping/sporting need
  • Sedan does not have the same utility
Looks – 3
  • Good looking overall
  • Sharp angle design may be polarizing to some
Budget – 5
  • The model tops out in the low $30’s
  • Great resale for a non-luxury brand
Fuel Economy – 5
  • Great fuel economy, especially since it’s AWD
  • Regular gas
Safety – 5
  •  IIHS top safety pick
  • AWD means better all-weather handling
Overall Score – 30/35

So by my scoring system, my Granny should really consider a Subaru Impreza.  However, that’s just 3 cars to think about.  In reality, there’s way more out there that she might be interested in that will meet her needs.  Hopefully though, this will get the ball rolling so that by the time she is ready to make that next big purchase it will be one she can be really happy with.  After all, grandmothers deserve to be happy.   



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