Dear Sirs: As an aging driver, I was delighted to see your recent analysis of cars with features suitable for a specific granny. I have her same requirements, but with additions: I require a car suitable for highway driving plus some height for good forward vision. Comfortable seating for up to four passengers would be nice. I currently drive a 2002 Ford Focus station wagon. I would appreciate any tips. – Joyce in Oshawa, Ont.
Vaughan: Grannies are us, Joyce. Cato lumbers around like he's 80 and I'm accustomed to watching him painfully lower himself into any slightly low-slung car while I glide in gracefully. He, more than anyone, can tell you all about the need for a high hip point in your next set of wheels.
Cato: Such insightful observations, Vaughan. I'll mention them to my yogi during my next headstand. Upside down, I might even be entertained by your attempts at droll wit.
Or I might just focus on this new fleet of smallish wagons masquerading as wannabe SUVs. The spinmeisters portray little rigs like the Buick Encore as hip urban rides, but they are, indeed, also urban rides for people with sore or tight hips, joints, whatever. Pricing: $29,835 for the base model with all-wheel drive.
Vaughan: They're flogging the Encore as the first "luxury" crossover of its size and it's pretty classy looking. It has a little 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine that is advanced, along with a six-speed automatic for decent fuel economy. Loaded with airbags too – 10 of them, I think. You can get a front-wheel-drive version for $2,000 less. You might look pretty good in this.
Cato: I don't fit into it, is the problem. The Encore looks sharp, has a quiet ride, tall seating position and a bit of cargo room. But while it's bigger overall than a breadbox, it's not much wider. If Joyce and her front-seat passenger are slim, they won't rub shoulders. Athletic guys like me, however, feel stuffed into place.
That's not the case with the Kia Rondo, an interesting wagon-like rig that starts at $21,695. I am a fan. Now if the Rondo seems too much, Joyce should absolutely wait until December when an all-new Kia Soul goes on sale.
Vaughan: Don't wait for the Soul. It is not a granny-mobile; it's for the skateboarding crowd. But Cato's on to something with the Rondo, from a value point of view if you buy the lower-priced versions.
They all have a modern gas direct injection or GDI four-cylinder engine and six-speed transmission. Ride quality and handling are average, but the interior fit and finish is excellent. The base 2014 Kia Rondo LX retails for $21,695, but the loaded EX-Luxury model soaks you at $32,195 for stuff you don't want like a "panoramic" sun roof.
Cato: Vaughan, Joyce is driving an almost-12-year-old Focus wagon. She is not, I repeat not, going to even consider panoramic sunroofs and the like. The base model is plenty of car. Plenty.
Vaughan: Joyce, there are a number of these smallish crossovers that seem to fit your bill, although you didn't mention a price. If you want to blow the bundle you could look at the BMW X1, which I think is the best little crossover of all, but with tax that will cost you forty grand.
Cato: Yes, the X1 ticks all of Joyce's boxes, but again, she's in an old Focus wagon. She's no Bimmer buyer. Why even bring up this one?
Here's what fits her profile: the Subaru XV Crosstrek ($24,495 base). I get the feeling Joyce is ready for something fun and stylish, but also practical, durable, reliable, sensible. She obviously holds onto cars for a long time. The XV is a little bit tall, does well on the highway and is safe, durable and reliable.
Vaughan: Cato's talking about a hatchback that's a bit stylish and has all-wheel-drive that might come in handy in the winter. Yes, it will seat four, Joyce, and yes, it has good outward visibility. I cannot recommend any of the wilder paint colours, especially the bright orange, however.
Cato: Well, Michelangelo, Joyce has many other colours from which to choose. Here's the bad news: Subaru Canada is having no trouble selling Crosstreks. I mean, Crosstrek sales were up 37 per cent in September, year-on-year. So, Joyce, don't go looking for rich discounts to sweeten the deal.
But give it a test drive. While you're at it, pop into a Mitsubishi dealer and give the once-over to a Mitsubishi RVR – base price with AWD is $25,698. Ah, but Mitsu sells a front-drive version for $19,998 to start. The ideas behind the RVR seem identical to the thinking that created the Crosstrek. Honestly, Joyce, a front-drive RVR may be the ticket for you. Or wait for the Soul. The Rondo seems too much for you, however.
Vaughan: Nope. Granny needs a Buick – the Encore. And please, could we get some younger readers.
|2013 Mitsubishi RVR SE 4x4||2013 Subaur XV Crosstrek Touring AWD||2014 Buick Encore Convenience AWD|
|2.0-litre four-cylinder||2.0-litre four-cylinder||1.4-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged|
|148/145 lb-ft||148/145 lb-ft||138/148 lb-ft|
|Part- and full-time four-wheel drive||All-wheel drive||All-wheel drive|
|CVT||Five-speed manual||Six-speed automatic|
Curb weight (kg)
Fuel economy (litres/100 km)
|8.6 city/6.6 highway||8.9 city/6.7 highway||8.9 city/6.7 highway|
Source: car manufacturers
Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV
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