Recommending a good, safe car for my girlfriend

About a week ago, my girlfriend was involved in an accident, where a drunk driver slammed into her car while she was in a traffic jam. Her car, an '07 Chevy Aveo, was totaled; she had a concussion and had to go to a nearby hospital for treatment. Anyway, she needs a car now, and was thinking of getting a Chevy Malibu, a Chevy Cruze, a Toyota Camry, or a Nissan Maxima. She really likes small cars, but is willing to go up to a midsize or somewhere between small and midsize; I recommended that she should go up a little in vehicle size and weight also, for safety’s sake. Although she prefers a new car, she will consider a certified pre-owned car as well, that fits in her budget. I advised her to get a CARFAX report as well. Any suggestions would be appreciated, Thanks.

Any of these cars are far superior in every way, including safety, to the Chevy Aveo. I will suggest that if she is considering the Maxima that she take a long, long look at the Altima as well since it is a little bit smaller, a whole lot cheaper, and almost as nice as the Maxima.

A midsize sedan with a 4 cylinder will give you surprisingly good economy. One of the most economical is the Camry with 35 mpg highway while the others are close behind. Include an Accord too in your search. The Maxima only comes with a larger motor so @Mark9207 is right about the 4 cylinder Altima.

The Aveo is a captive import from Korea with minimal air bags and is really too small to be considered as safe a car as the midsize. Side air bags are standard on newer mid size cars which is key. Air bags and weight and good crash test results are important. Get a publication that rates the midsize cars to help choose.

Check out the Mazda 3, Ford Focus, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda 6, Honda Civic

This Site Could Help You With A Safe Choice.

http://www.informedforlife.org/

CSA

As buscar2 says, the compacts offer the best value in space, safety, and fuel economy. My choice would be a Mazda3 first, followed by Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, and Hyundai Elantra. Those 4 have the best reliability record used and are much safer than the Aveo.

Did the drunk that hit her have a drivers license and insurance? If so, she should be able to buy almost any car she wants…

I second the Mazda 6. The Fusion would be good too. Even the new Ford Focus is getting rave reviews. Nice styling esp on the hatch model.

All the cars you mention are midsized except the compact Cruze. My daughter has a 2012 Cruze and is very happy with it. The Cruze has average personal injury payout based on insurance company data. So do all the cars mentioned above. Results are at the link below. 100 is average, and lower is better.

http://www.iihs.org/research/hldi/composite

below is a link to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the organization that does the officially recognized industry crash testing

www.nhtsa.gov is the site for the national highway traffic safety association, and they’ll have information on crash prvention and protection technologies in the various cars.

Sincere best

Remember that the crash tests simulate what would happen if a car hit an identical one in the manner tested and without applying the brakes.

I really like our Elantra. It offers a lot for the money with a very nice interior. I also was very impressed by the Mazda3, as the SkyActiv engine gives excellent fuel economy. The Elantra won out on a nicer interior, but if we had driven more miles per year would have bought the Mazda. The new Mazda6 is also very impressive, stylish, roomy (like a Camry or Accord) and with amazing gas mileage. The car magazines also love the way it drives. It would be my first choice in the mid-sized class, though there are plenty of other good cars. I love the styling of the Kia Optima (and its sister, the Hyundai Sonata, is also nice). The Camry is homely, but good, the Accord very good in every way, the Altima not quite as nice as the previous generation, but decent. The Ford Fusion is a truly beautiful car, inside and out, very European in feel (it’s essentially a European Ford Mondeo). It’s fuel economy isn’t as good as the best, but it sure does feel classy. The Malibu doesn’t impress me much. It’s not very roomy and the interior is kind of frumpy. I liked the old one better.

The Cruze is a bit smaller, and had some reliability problems its first year, but those seem to have been sorted out. The Buick Verano is a Cruze with nicer styling and a few more options. I don’t think it’s selling very well, so it may be possible to get a deal. They’re both a but roomier than a Ford Focus or most other compacts. The Focus is stylish, but feels a bit tight inside and is expensive for a compact. The reliability hasn’t been outstanding, either, though most of the problems seem minor, if annoying (lots of electrical gremlins). The Dodge Dart I wanted to like, but the cruddy interior is right out of an early nineties Pontiac, with acres of mismatched gray plastic panels that don’t fit together properly. Sad.

There are no factory incentives for the Verano at this time, except a $750 USAA rebate. If they only offer military rebates, the Verano can’t be selling too poorly. The base price TMV is about $500 under MSRP for the base model and $750 for the Premium model.

The Verano hasn’t been out very long. Maybe GM actually has realistic expectations about how many they can sell. It’s a nice looking little car, so I hope it does OK, but small Buicks have been hard to sell in the past. Not that any of the current Buicks are hot sellers. They only kept Buick over Pontiac because it was a popular brand in China (that was true long before WWII - long memories).

Small Buicks, or any small GM car, were a hard sell because they just weren’t close to the competition in most ways. About all they had going for them was selling for a lot less than the competition. Small GM cars now compete well in all categories, including compact luxury cars. But I’d go for the 2L instead of the plodding 2.4L.

A safe car has many meanings amongst my family and friends. The Honda Accord has proven itself several times (my aunt in a '93, my great uncle in a 2002 coupe which rolled over many times, and my cousins 1986 which protected him when he fell asleep driving home late on night) and my co-workers Nissan Sentra from 1996 that his son was driving to college when he had to stop for traffic on the state highway and the truck approaching from behind hit him at around 50mph pushing the Sentra into the truck in front of him, the front/rear crumple zones did what they were designed to do and the son had a broken ankle from the pedal assembly,cracked ribs, and a mild concussion. After looking at what was left of the car my co-worker sent a letter to Nissan to thank them for how well the car performed. After my Aunt was rear-ended by a dump truck in her 93 accord her husband and 4 children all went out and bought Accords because of how well it protected her.

The Accord/Camry/Altima/Mazda6 4cyl’s would be a great choice if a midsize helps you feel safer on the road but she should have what she feels the most comfortable driving, compact or mid-size.

All good suggestions.

I advised her to get a CARFAX report as well.
Don’t waste your time or money. CarFax is a marketing tool. Do a search on this site for lots of useful discussions on it. Or look at this recent ABC 20/20 newsclip on CarFax.

See http://abcnews.go.com/Business/trust-car-fox-hidden-camera-shows-clean-carfax/story?id=18731208

The safe car is the one driven by a safe driver. Car construction may help survive an accident, but the good driver will do better by reducing the likely hood of an accident to start with

CarFax can be useful, but you need to know the pitfalls. If a car is serviced only at a dealer, odds are the CarFax will have all the information. That was the case with the 2010 Cobalt I bought. The CarFax actually helped me decide to buy it once I understood how complete it was.

I appreciate all the suggestions, guys. Keep 'em coming. Just an update, she is seriously considering an '07 Chevy Impala with 45,000 miles and a warranty from the dealer she bought the Aveo from. She got a CARFAX report and found out that the Impala is a one-owner car, accident-free. Any opinions on this would be appreciated as well. Thanks.