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Help: choosing wife's next car

We are ready to choose my wife’s next car, and need suggestions. She loves cars with personality (prior cars: new beetle, Fiat Pop). But now also wants a smooth ride and we expect to need room for a grand-kid car seat. Nissan Maxima rides nicely but lacks personality. Any suggestions for a car seat friendly, smooth riding car that isn’t a Yawn-mobile?

When I saw the title said “wife”, I knew it is bad news/she will have to decide esp now that you mention she “loves” some cars. Some wives don’t care much about cars as long as they function well as an appliance, yours seems like has a different attitude towards cars.

You will have to start with a budget and also decide if you are buying new or slightly used. Even a Corolla size car would have enough room for a car seat. When my kids were young we had one in a car seat and one in a booster seat in a Corolla. The ride might be a bit rough in that size category, but when you move one size up, all is good IMO (Think Camry, Accord, Mazda 6, Sonata, Optima).
The Mazda is known to have better handling.

seems you should post this question on a “wife’s” forum, not a car forum

Our budget range is fairly wide - anything up to around $40K or a little more is fine, and we’re open to either new or used. The ride quality of models like Camry, Mazda 6, etc is good, but the problem is they have no personality. They’re pretty much completely unremarkable (definitely “Yawn-mobiles”). When you see a new beetle or Fiat 500, you know what they are - they’re distinctive, and that’s important.

We tried a Nissan Leaf, and it wasn’t bad. Being pure electric is cool. A little unsure about the battery range.

Can anyone suggest a car that’s distinctive and rides well?

You should look at a Mini Clubman and maybe even a VW Golf. I had a GTI and it was really nice.

Someone asking total strangers for help choosing a vehicle for their wife . That is really silly.


Thanks Steve! The Golf and (especially) Clubman look promising. We’ll put them on the list to check out.

Can anyone suggest other cars that have comfortable, smooth rides and are distinctive?

I have to agree.
Asking somebody to choose your car for you is not very different from asking another person to decide what you should eat for dinner, but–of course–the purchase of a car will have much longer-lasting significance than a meal would have.

I’m sure that the OP knows what “lacks personality” and “distinctive” mean to him, but if he was to ask 10 people to define those bits of ambiguous automotive terminology, he would get at least 8 different answers.
(Translation=this terminology–in relation to a car–is entirely subjective)

Rather than asking random strangers with unknown agendas for advice of this nature, I would suggest that the OP go to Barnes & Noble (or another large, well-stocked magazine stand), and that he buys a copy of the Consumer Reports New Car Buyers Guide. This comprehensive publication provides objective advice and information regarding every passenger car model sold in The US, and this would allow the OP to narrow-down his possibilities on the basis of whatever criteria he and his wife have in mind.

After narrowing-down the possibilities with that publication, then it will be time to visit multiple showrooms, and to take multiple test drives in order to determine what model(s) fit his and his wife’s needs and wants.


Yes, of course this is very subjective, and we would never buy a car based only on a stranger’s advice. But I definitely do want advice on cars to go evaluate. For example, I wouldn’t have thought to check out the Clubman were it not for Steve’s suggestion.

Maybe the clearest meaning of “distinctive” to us is that it’s easily recognized. Many people seeing a Camry coming down the road couldn’t tell if it’s a Camry, Sonata, or any other “Yawn-mobile”. But if it’s a new Fiat, it’s obvious what it is. Here’s another test - someone in a parking lot says “Oh - look, there’s another one of those …!”. That probably won’t happen with a Camry.

Checking Consumer Reports New Car Buyers Guide is also a great suggestion, and we’ll do that - Thanks!

Any other suggestions?

I can tell you my experience with the conflict between cars with personality and new grandchildren. When kids are small, babies and up to 2.5 or 3 years old, the car seat has to be in the back seat, facing back. That takes up A LOT of space, with the car seat banging into the front passenger seat. We had a Lexus is300 hatchback, 4 doors, and with the car seat in place the front passenger seat was useless. It had to be pushed all the way forward and the seatback was upright. The car became a 2 passenger car, driver and one in the backseat behind the driver. We sold the car and bought a new Honda CR-V with all the bells and whistles. It’s a very nice car, but not sporty or quick. On the other hand, we can sit in it and so can the kid. We tried out a Mazda CX-5 and it was very nice and speedy feeling, but the ride was definitely rougher. You pays your money and takes your choice.

Our friends bought a Clubman for the same reason, and now they have to sell it because it’s too small. Our daughter bought a Subaru Forester, and it works well, but sporty or speedy? Nope.

My advice? Buy the car seat now, and take it with you to the dealers and install it in anything you look at. Do not buy anything without trying a seat in it, because you will underestimate how big that thing can be when it’s installed facing the back of the car.


I used a 2002 Mitsubishi Eclipse to transport 2 Granddaughters with kiddie seats, booster seats, and finally bare car seats. They enjoyed star gazing through the hatch window.

I go with a Mazda 3 over a Golf. If you need more room, the Mazda 6 would be worth a look.

Kia sportwagon

Wow - great advice - thanks! We’ve looked at several now. Two Mini models (Clubman and Countryman) both had a pretty bumpy ride - not really better than our Fiat.

Great idea about taking a car seat. We’ll try to do that.

We tried a BMW I3, and I think our shopping might be done. Wife likes it, and we found a 2014 with 18K miles for $23K. We’re a little unsure about the range limitations of an electric but our driving is local, so we think it’s ok. The ride is good, meets our “distinctive” criteria and (for me) it’s fast.

Anyone have feedback on I3’s, or other models to suggest looking at?

The BMW looks funky from outside (I guess that would give it some personality), I hadn’t liked the looks much but a friend got one and I have tested it. The interior is much roomy than I would have thought and it rides very well for the size. My friend has a 50 mile daily commute and so far no range issues.

I looked at the BMW web site and saw the starting price for an I3 (42000 +) that means the 2014 has lost almost 1/2 of it value in two years. Of course I am always leery of a vehicle that hits the sales lot that soon but that is my personal thought. When I get to the amount of money that would put me in a new car the used cars are forgotten about.

New Audi A4 or 2 year old Audi A6. If you don’t mind a 3 or 4 year old car, look at the Mercedes Benz E350. They will all be close to $40,000. The E350 is a CR best bet as a used car. The Audis will handle better and will be comfortable, but the Benz will be more comfortable and exceptionally quiet. If any of them interest you, find a dealer with some on the lot and take a test drive.

I have a hard time believing an I3 can swallow a rear facing carseat and still carry a passenger in the right front seat in any kind of comfort. Get that seat now and try it out. The measured leg room is not a valid test, because the carseat back angle slams right into the top of the front seat.

Look at this article.

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If the I3 doesn’t work out, you might try a Subaru Crosstrec.

We wound up buying the I 3. It looks like it will be good for a child car seat. Of course range limitation is the big variable for electric cars but this one seems like it will be OK - time will tell. When battery capacity is not a constraining factor this thing is the most fun to drive car I have ever tried. When you drop the pedal it feels like someone lit a rocket behind the car! And never buying another gallon of gas for it is pretty great.

Thanks everyone for the great helpful suggestions.