My wife died last year and I want to get rid of the Honda Civic we bought together six years ago. I want a car, not an SUV, and I want something comfortable but not too complicated. I don’t want anything electric. I can spend $40,000 but I’d rather spend $30,000. I’m 73 years old, so this may be my last vehicle. What do you recommend? – Bill
Petrina Gentile: Sorry for your loss, Bill. It’ll be easy to sell the Civic now – and you’ll get top dollar for it because demand for used vehicles is high. But with the chip shortage, you may have to wait a few months to get your hands on a new vehicle.
Mark Richardson: I’m not sure why Bill wants to sell the Civic, but I normally recommend staying with the brand you’re used to. If that’s okay for him, the new Civic is an excellent option. It is safe, reliable, and all its controls are intuitive. It won’t seem complicated at all.
Gentile: I’d never dump the Civic – it’s a great little car that’s fuel efficient, affordable, spacious and practical. It has been Canada’s best-selling passenger car for more than two decades for a reason. But maybe it’s time for a change for Bill, given his current situation. We should consider some other options for a fresh, new start.
Richardson: The obvious competition is the Toyota Corolla. It’ll do everything the Civic will, and it’ll cost about the same. It’s frugal and he can get some special touches on it for not much extra, such as active cruise control, which is simple to use and, once you’re used to it, you’ll never go back.
Gentile: But, he’s 73 and says he doesn’t want anything “too complicated.”
Richardson: Age has nothing to do with it, and it does make driving more pleasant when covering longer distances by keeping a safe distance from the vehicle in front.
Gentile: Sure it does, but most seniors I know never use that technology. Still, the Corolla is a nice car and if Bill doesn’t want an SUV, he should look at the Corolla Cross crossover – it’s taller than the Corolla sedan so it’s easier to get in and out of the driver’s seat. And it starts at less than $25,000, which is well within his budget.
Richardson: He’d probably love the Corolla Cross. Older drivers with inevitably stiffer joints often appreciate the slightly higher seats. You ever seen an old guy trying to look cool while getting out of a Lamborghini? I’m asking for a friend.
Gentile: That’s not pretty. The Corolla Cross is a nice size, too – it’s easy to drive and park. The rear seat space is a bit tight, but it doesn’t sound like Bill needs that anyway. The dashboard layout is intuitive and straightforward. Plus, it has many standard safety features.
Richardson: Toyota has not stripped away all the knobs and buttons and replaced them on the digital touch screen, or with voice control. I think Bill will like that, maybe more than the Civic. More expensive trim levels tend to do that, but that’s often the only way to get the leather seats he might prefer.
Gentile: What do you think of the Hyundai Elantra? It’s good value.
Richardson: That’s a classic case. You want leather seats? You have to get the top trim, which includes a fancy navigation screen and does away with the simple radio tuning knob.
Gentile: At this stage of his life, Bill deserves the leather seats, but I don’t think he’d like the technology, including the fancy centre screen on the upper-level model.
Richardson: He may deserve it, but it’s moot if he can’t afford it. I think Bill should go sit in a Chevy Malibu. It’s a very stylish car that we tend to overlook, but GM is better than most about offering upgrades as packages without having to buy stuff you don’t want. If he adds the $4,500 Plus package to the $27,000 Malibu LT, he’ll get the comfortable leather seats, a sunroof and a bunch of safety items he doesn’t have to think about. He’ll be out the door for around $35,000, and he shouldn’t have to wait too long, either.
Gentile: He might like the Malibu – it is often an overlooked vehicle. And it’s a soft, smooth ride.
Richardson: As long as he isn’t one of those many people who was turned against Detroit cars by their shoddy quality 20 years ago, I think it would be a good choice. The right size, the right price, the right level of comfort and a change from the Civic, if that’s what Bill wants.
Gentile: And if he doesn’t like it, the Corolla Cross will do the trick.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated Toyota stripped away the knobs and buttons from the Corolla Cross. In fact, it has kept many of the knobs and buttons and not replaced all of them with a touchscreen.
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