With the fall semester just around the corner, Consumer Reports recently offered its best choices for parents and teens out shopping for a car to bring back to school.
When looking for the right car for teens, including used models, CR recommends picking cars with safety features such as electronic stability control and curtain air bags and good crash-test results.
“Often parents think that putting their child in the biggest car is the safest thing they can do, but that’s not so,” said David Champion, senior director of CR’s Automotive Test Center in East Haddam, Conn. “Teens are the most inexperienced drivers on the road, so you want to make sure they’re driving something that handles well, is agile and has as many safety features as possible — especially electronic stability control,”
In addition to naming good cars for young and older drivers, CR also named good picks for all sizes and types of drivers, including the tall and small. All the models on CR’s lists have at least average reliability and are Recommended vehicles. CR named only one car suitable for all four driver types: the Honda Accord.
CR only Recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR’s Annual Auto Survey of its more than seven million print and Web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.
Here is a look at CR’s picks:
Best for teen-age drivers. ESC is standard or optional starting with the years listed below.
— Small cars: Hyundai Elantra SE (2008-2010), Mazda3 (2007-), Scion xB (2008-)
— Midsized sedans: Acura TSX (2004-), Honda Accord (2008-), Kia Optima (2007-)
— Small SUVs: Honda CR-V (2005-), Nissan Rogue (2008-)
Best for senior drivers. Vehicles that offer easy access and decent visibility are good choices for older motorists and for those with limited mobility. A roomy driving position and comfortable seats are also pluses.
— Minivans: Honda Odyssey
— Small SUV: Subaru Forester XT Limited
— Upscale sedan: Hyundai Azera
— Family sedan: Honda Accord
— Microvan: Kia Rondo
Best for tall drivers. Vehicles with plenty of head and leg room are best for taller drivers. Some models have seats that are highly adjustable, and drivers of all sizes will fit well.
— Family sedans: Honda Accord, Fort Fusion, Nissan Altima
— Small SUVs: Subaru Forester, Acura RDX, Mitsubishi Outlander
— Midsized SUVS: Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Nissan Murano, Mazda CX-9
Best for small drivers. These vehicles have good visibility and the controls and pedals are within easy reach. When test-driving cars, pay close attention to how well you can see out of all windows.
— Family sedans: Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima
— Small SUVs: Subaru Forester, Volkswagen Tiguan, Acura RDX
— Midsized SUVs. Acura MDX, Lexus RX, Ford Flex.
Surviving the worst-case scenarios
If you ever find yourself in a perilous situation while you’re behind the wheel of your car, knowing what to expect and being prepared can provide peace of mind, and maybe even save a life. According to Consumer Reports, Rule No. 1 is to keep your cool and help your passengers remain calm. Panic won’t benefit anyone.
Some tips that can help:
— Memorize the locations of window switches and door locks. Note whether the front doors unlock by just pulling the door handle.
— Don’t forget obvious safety precautions, such as making sure that all of your tires, including the spare, are properly inflated.
— Keep a spare key with you or in a magnetic holder that can be hidden on your car’s exterior metal areas, such as a wheel well.
— Maintain an emergency kit that includes basic first aid supplies, a small shovel, a tow strap, jumper cables, reflective plastic triangles, and rock salt or sand in snow country.
— Always bring your cell phone and its car charger with you, especially on long trips.