Hi Jeremy and Michael: My 83-year-old, recently widowed mother surprised me by saying she would like to get a new car. She drives a 2005 Mazda3, but has said she would like something smaller, as she doesn’t drive very far (and not on the highway) – just to the grocery store, doctor’s appointments, etc. I was thinking a Honda Fit or Hyundai Accent, but I know there are a lot of excellent cars in this category. Her only criteria are automatic transmission, air conditioning and no keyless start. I look forward to your advice. – Ian in Mississauga.
Vaughan: That’s great – 83, still has her licence, I assume, and going shopping for a new car and not a mobility scooter. You should be so lucky at that fast-approaching age, Cato.
Cato: Ian’s mom inspires me. Just as Geraldo Rivera, the Fox News pundit, did in his shirtless, must-see YouTube birthday video. As a “happy” Geraldo said while flexing his pecs, 70 is the new 50. Mom has shown us that 80 is the new 60, then.
And believe me, car companies know it. Aging car buyers – and drivers – are the present and the future. Just one tidbit: If you’re 75 and older, your age group has a greater probability of buying a new car than the grandkids between 25 and 34. That’s from a University of Michigan study. Now you know why we’re seeing so many new models equipped with stuff mom will find useful.
Vaughan: I saw our pal Dennis DesRosiers, the auto analyst, wringing his hands about retiring boomers turning in their cars. He says they’ll try to hang on as long as possible, but will go from two- to one-car families. How does that study square with your study?
Cato: Not exactly. DesRosiers doesn’t expect the typical two-car boomer household to downsize in the next 10 years. After that, who knows? But he also says that this fat boomer demographic will keep defining exactly what car companies make and how they sell. Yes, the oldest boomers are nearing 70 and car companies are designing vehicles for them. Grey power and all is good for mom.
Vaughan: I only read DesRosiers because he sends me his stuff for free. If I had to pay what he charges car companies for his insights, I’d probably have to sell my car, too.
Cato: What you’d get for that car suggests DesRosiers comes cheap. But we’re painting the big picture, while Ian wants snapshots of the cars mom would like.
So Ian, start with the Honda Fit. A perfectly functional four-door hatchback. Roomy, easy to load, dead reliable and, at $14,580 to start, affordable.
Then the Hyundai Accent. A four-door hatch that starts at $13,749.
And the all-new 2014 Nissan Versa Note hatchback. Cheapest of the lot to start at $13,348. The Note is the newest design in this trio and it has big instruments, decent seats, lots of handles to help oldsters get in and out, and storage space galore. Nissan pitches it at younger buyers, but this is good ride for pensioners, too.
Vaughan: Surprisingly comfortable seats. Nissan is also loading technology into relatively low-priced cars to appeal to the smartphone-obsessed kids. But a lot of this stuff is perfect for seniors, too.
You can get that Versa Note with 360-degree video monitoring, not in the lowest-cost version but at the top end. That’s a brilliant idea for any granny backing out of the driveway. Look at the screen and see what’s on all sides of the car.
Cato: That Around View Monitor used to be sold only in luxurious Infinitis, but no more. Older folks of modest means no longer need to crane their necks to back down the driveway.
Vaughan: A Fit is a terrific car for an elderly lady. That’s not what it was designed for, but it makes sense because it is so practical. Not great on the highway, but that’s not in the plans of our 83-year-old.
It’s another of the cars like the Scions – built for the 20-year-olds, but terrific for senior citizens if you don’t mind booming stereos and coloured lights.
Cato: Just keep the volume down. Okay, the Accent. Functional and pretty, too. Worth a test.
Vaughan: It might be too swoopy-looking and low-slung for granny, but as a value-for-money guy, I love the car. It’s a perfect first car for someone, but I don’t know if it’s a perfect next-to-last one.
Cato: I’m fine with any of them, but first on the list is the Versa Note. The deal-maker: the Around View Monitor. Granny will love it.
Vaughan: Go Versa Note. It’ll last a decade, Ian, and then your mom can start thinking about her next one.
|2014 Nissan Versa Note 1.6 S||2013 Hyundai Accent L hatchback||2013 Honda Fit DX|
|1.6-litre four-cylinder||1.6-litre four-cylinder||1.6-litre four-cylinder|
|100/107 lb-ft||138/123 lb-ft||117/106 lb-ft|
|front-wheel drive||front-wheel drive||front-wheel drive|
|Five-speed manual||Six-speed manual||Five-speed manual|
Curb weight (kg)
Fuel economy (litres/100 km)
|6.1 city/4.8 highway||7.1 city/5.3 highway||7.1 city/5.7 highway|
Source: car manufacturers
Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV
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