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Car handling/driving opinions

I have been looking to buy a used car and would like any owner’s opinion on how your Camry / Civic/Altima handles on the road.

I have a friend who SWEARS that his BMW will protect him :slight_smile: in case of any mishap…and none of the cars I mentioned above are safe…but I digress.

I have test driven all the cars I mentioned above and read up safety reviews. Altima does not figure in the recommended used car buying but I liked the car - just feels richer (interior materials /general finish).

Does your Camry/Civic car handle very well at Freeway speeds/occasional visits via a windy road?

i currently have a 99 corolla and I know how it feels driving to tahoe (rarely) and all the cars I have driven feel a gazillion times better :). Any pointers will be helpful.

Your friend is making a foolhearty assumption. I hope his driving habits aren’t reflective of the assumption. A crash can kill you in a BMW just as easily as it can kill you in a Camry.

If you like the Altima, go for it. Those that I know that have owned Altimas have been very happy with them. I personally drive a Scion tC, aort of a sporty Camry (it has the Camry engine), and it’s excellent on the highway. But once a car has a few years on it, it’s history, mileage, and maintenance begin to affect the vehicle’s handling. Two 5 year old Camrys can easily be very different cars.

Thanks for the reply. I always argue about the BMW as well.
Another question is :is it true that Toyotas tend to feel (for the lack of a good term) “not very grounded” at higher speeds as compared.
I know my '99 old Corolla does a little at higher speed but is it true with newer camrys at all??

I’ve owned a dozen BMWs in my 40 years of driving and never felt they would “protect me in case of any mishap” (nor will any other car). I rely on my defensive driving as much as my car’s safety equipment. Research car safety tests and ratings and find the best one for you.


I have been driving a 1998 Civic DX since I bought it new, and it still handles like a dream. However, the handling is probably the best thing about it. It does have a lot of shortcomings, including wind noise and engine noise at highway speeds.

A recent model Civic with side curtain air bags should be just about as safe as a BMW, and it might not have the same noise issues. You really should test drive all of these cars on the highway before you buy one.

I believe the newer Civics come with standard ABS, traction control, and stability management systems. On a freeway with crosswinds, I would rather be in my Civic than just about any other vehicle available since it is very aerodynamic and easy to handle. Even though my model didn’t come with ABS, traction control, and stability management systems, it is quite forgiving of maneuvers that would send other cars into a spin.

Honda Civic automatic transmissions are often a source of stress for their owners, but mine has a manual transmission. If you get an automatic Civic, make sure you take good care of the transmission. I would change the transmission fluid every 30,000 miles if I had one.

The Altima is a good car, but the last time I rented one, I didn’t like the way it handled. It has plenty of power though, especially compared to a Civic. It reminded me of an old Ford Mustang with “all of the power, but none of the handling.” Perhaps Nissan has improved the handling, so I think you need to test drive one on the highway before you make up your mind.

[i]EDIT: I put four new struts on my car about 40,000 miles ago, which might explain why I think the handling is one of the best aspects of the vehicle. If your Corolla feels unstable on the highway, it might just need some suspension work.[/i]

The Camry is basically a generic sedean it’s no sports car, it has average acceralation, average braking, average handling. It’s boring albeit reliable transportation. The Civic is very much the same only with slightly sportier handling, The Si model is the one to get if you want some pep and sharper handling. If you want something sportier to drive, that won’t give up too much in the way of fuel economy or break the banck, opt for the Subaru WRX, Mazdaspeed 3, or Acura RSX. If you want a bigger car a turbo Legacy or an Altima SE-R would be viable options.

“handling” and “Camry” usually don’t appear in the same sentence, except if “bad” is in there, too! The Ford Fusion and Mazda 6 have both gotten great comments on handling along with reliability, I’d look at them if you considered a Camry to be an option.

Have you had the shocks/struts changed on the Corolla anytime recently? It’s amazing what a fresh set of shocks will do for your handling. I drove a similar vintage Corolla as a rental car a while back and I thought it drove great, but my daily driver was a very old pickup truck at the time, so perhaps it is all relative.

It definitely is relative :slight_smile: I have some young and senior people travelling with me and I wanted to switch to something that is safer and more grounded. My corolla on high speeds seems to sway a little, but it drives great and has been trouble free…I have had the misfortune of encountering some idiotic drivers in SF area who cut across in freeway with NO warning and it is really nerve wracking. I always wonder how safe is my car for my passengers.

I’ve owned numerous Toyotas, including a Camry. A camry is a perfectly safe family car when driven responsibly. It’s not designed for high speeds or aggressive handling. Anyone who drives aggressively would be disappointed in a Camry.

My tC, while not a sports car, is perfectly solid and stable at over 105 mph. I’ve had it there a few times. 90 mph when I’m passing on the highway, which is often, is pretty easy to hit and perfectly stable. I do not recommend driving this fast. I do it, but I strongly recommend against it.

But it’s all relative. If I drove a Nissan 370Z every day I’d probably not feel grounded at these speeds in a tC.

I had a 86 Toyota hatchback so I guess it would have been a Corolla perhaps (Toyota’s are not my favorite and this feeling came before recent troubles)While living in Switzerland. On trips into Germany it definitly was not a car that instilled a “full control” feeling above 75 mph, not a car to max out in terms of speed.

Even me being a BMW fan had to acknowledge the superiority presented by Mercedes in the event of high speed crashes and I worked a lot of them with my “coroners helper” friend, saw more people walk away from nasty Mercedes crashes than any other vehicle.

I hold the same opinion as Whitey about my Civic(yes I still have my 99 Civic), though it’s a year newer, and an EX trim level. I’ve not had any problems with my automatic transmission, but I’ve also changed the fluid regularly too.
I test drove a new Civic a year or so ago and thought it was completely boring to drive.
Look at a Mazda 3 or 6 if you want some sporty feel, with Japanese reliability. I love my CX-7 and can’t see myself changing out of it anytime soon

I’ll put up a good driver in the worse car legally on the road against a poor driver in the “Safest” car on the road any day. It sounds like your friend is counting on his car saving him from his poor driving.

Here’s a good source for comparison of any car to another:

Click on the ‘latest results’ button in the upper right, or chose earlier years. The MB E-class is much better than average, but the other rated models are worse than average. The 3-series BMW is much better than average as is the 5 series (7 series is better than average). What your friend says is true: BMWs are safer than other cars. This refers specifically to bodily injury payouts by insurance companies, which is all about you and not the cars or injuries to those in other cars in an accident.

Civics are known for their handling. Especially the new ones, and the 4th gens (1988-1991) thanks to their excellent double-wishbone suspensions, but I suspect that’s probably too old for your consideration list. If you want sharper handling than a Civic, you’re going to have to get into a sportier car.

I live in Colorado, so I have lots of windy roads to drive on, and I bought the Nissan Altima because it provided the best feel on these roads out of the cars you mentioned.

The Altima 3.5 SE model will have better suspension than the 4cyl 2.5 S does that you will mostly get at the rental agencies. Also, the stock Continental tires on the 2.5 cars, and the 3.5 SL model are really soft, and are prone to make the car feel floaty at higher speeds, and in strong side gusts. Change them.

Or, buy a Porsche, like I did, and leave the Altima for in town driving, and store runs.


Thanks Bladecutter. I would love to,but porsche right now is not practical for me. I will note the point about the Tires.

That’s where the Altima comes in!

Just on Sunday, my gf and I drove in the Altima over to Lowes, and bought a 32x80 screen door.
We popped the trunk, put the back seats down, and the front seats forward, and slid the screen door into the car.

Closed the trunk, got in the car, adjusted the front seats a bit, and my gf drove us home.

If it had been a 36x80 door, I would have needed to bring my trailer. :wink:

Its amazing what all I’ve been able to fit into the Altima over the past 3.5 years.

Oh, and the past two year, we’ve bought 3 trees to plant in the back yard.
For those, we used the Boxster, with the top down to bring the trees home.
Who says sports cars can’t be green? :slight_smile:


I hauled a potted tree in my MR2 once. Took the roof off and away I went. I got some VERY strange looks :wink:

Though a BMW will never “protect you”, my vote is always for a good RWD over ANY FWD plow king. Anyone who thinks any fwd car is a good handler was probably raised on one. Every thing is relative except when comparing RWD cars to FWD cars.