Teen-Safe Wheels: Value prices, predictable starts, crash avoidance give midsize sedans edge with novice motorists
By JIM PARKER
The Post and Courier
No one’s dubbed it the Goldilocks test.
But the blond-haired girl’s time in the Three Bears house does bear a resemblance to parents’ advising their teen drivers on picking out a car.
You know, “This car is too big, this car’s too small, and this dependable, safe and not too costly car is just right.”
At least that’s how automotive researcher Edmunds.com sees things this year. The company suggests teens drive midsize cars, considering their moderate costs, low collision odds and dependable results.
They recommend 10 models, one new and one used apiece from five carmakers.
“Midsize sedans offer teen drivers the best combination of safety, reliability and affordability,” said Carroll Lachnit, consumer advice editor for the online information service.
She added, “Small cars might be more affordable, but they don’t offer as much protection in a collision as larger vehicles. And large cars might hold up better in a crash, but they can be difficult to maneuver and could be intimidating for first-time drivers.”
According to Lachnit, some experts believe sport-utility vehicles with stability control are a good fit for teen motorists. SUVs offer protection in a crash and can steady themselves with stability control. But she said, “There is far less risk of a rollover in a sedan.”
Edmunds.com rolled out the teen driver list as summer starts and school kids including young motorists are out of school.
The auto information company agreed that newer cars have the most up-to-date technology when it comes to safety. But used vehicles can be proper choices if they haven’t be driven hard.
“When it comes to safety, a vehicle’s age is less important than the features it offers,” Lachnit said.
She said “must-have” safety equipment — airbags, anti-lock brake systems and electronic stability control — “have been around for many years.”
Meanwhile, many midsize cars have downshifted from V-6 to four-cylinder engines, which Edmunds.com considers “a proven safety benefit.” A four-cylinder engine typically can’t accelerate as quickly, making it less likely for teens to speed. Also, small engines can get improved fuel economy and don’t pollute as much.
The researcher said its editors evaluated every vehicle in the midsize segment and selected 10 models that parents should consider for their teenaged drivers. What follows are the choices, their fuel mileage, estimated price and a brief description from Edmunds.com.
• 2013 Chevrolet Malibu — Fuel: 25 mpg city, 37 mpg highway; Price: $25,235; The redesigned Malibu is a top choice for a family sedan.
• 2012 Volkswagen Jetta — Fuel: 24 mpg city, 34 mpg highway; Price: $15,515; The Jetta is roomy and more affordable than ever.
• 2012 Toyota Camry — Fuel: 25 mpg city, 35 mpg highway; Price: $22,055; The redesigned Camry has a number of small but effective changes.
• 2012 Hyundai Sonata — Fuel: 24 mpg city, 35 mpg highway; Price: $19,795; Fresh off a full redesign last year, the Sonata remains the car to beat in its class.
• 2012 Honda Accord — Fuel: 23 mpg city, 34 mpg highway; Price: $21,480; The Accord still has a lot going for it.
• 2011 Hyundai Sonata — Fuel: 24 mpg city, 35 mpg highway; price: $16,894; The previous Sonata was a solid contender, but the (newly retooled) Sonata vaults itself to the top of the class.
• 2010 Volkswagen Jetta — Fuel: 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway; price: $14,351; The Jetta remains the only discount-price European sedan offered for the U.S. market.
• 2010 Chevrolet Malibu — Fuel: 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway; price: $13,603; The Malibu is a solid entry in the highly competitive midsize sedan category.
• 2009 Toyota Camry — Fuel: 21 mpg city, mpg highway 31; price: $13,460; As expected, the Camry is pleasant to drive and spacious enough to keep a family of four content on a long road trip.
• 2009 Honda Accord — Fuel: 22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway; price: $14,345; The Accord offers an appealing combination of spaciousness, a relatively upscale feel and a reputation for reliability.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.