Published October 02, 2012
Seven Best Cars for Budget-Minded Retiree
Choosing the seven best cars for retirees isn't easy simply because carmakers don't target seniors. To do so in the car business is the kiss of death. Just ask anyone who worked at Oldsmobile.
Car companies invest money and energy appealing to buyers in the 18-to-45 age range. Still, there are features and attributes that make some vehicles better suited for older drivers.
Bankrate relied heavily on Consumer Reports to narrow the possibilities. It recommended every vehicle on this list. It rated as "very good" the driving position of each, while giving high marks for front- and rear-seat access. All also scored high for ride quality and interior noise control.
Each received the top Insurance Institute for Highway Safety score of "good" for front-offset and side-impact crash tests.
Although we didn't filter based on price or fuel economy, the goal was to keep both reasonable. Only the most expensive is priced more than $36,000, and each gets average or above-average fuel economy for its class. All have automatic transmissions and full power accessories.
The list is representative of several segments from hybrid to sport utility vehicle.
Finally, vehicles featuring power-adjustable front seats with lumbar support, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity and extra safety features scored higher.
The only hybrid on this list, the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid offers much more than just excellent fuel economy. It's packed with standard equipment appealing to seniors, such as dual-zone automatic climate control, power 10-way adjustable driver's seat including lumbar adjustment, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio controls, and Ford Sync AppLink with Bluetooth control for cellphone, iPod and other personal media players.
The 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine and an electric motor collude to produce 191 peak horsepower funneled to the front wheels via a continuously variable automatic transmission.
Fusion's smallish cargo space and tight trunk opening weren't enough to outweigh its affordable price, outstanding fuel economy, better-than-average driver visibility, five-year roadside-assistance warranty and long list of standard features.
Arguably the best luxury-car value available, the 2012 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 embarrasses cars costing tens of thousands more. It pampers, propels and protects with the best of them.
All alliteration aside, using a 333-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the Genesis 3.8 is quick for a large car. A wide trunk opening provides access to 16 cubic feet of cargo room.
The roomy interior is stuffed with luxury appointments, such as leather seating, as well as senior-friendly features like keyless entry/start, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated outboard mirrors with integrated turn signals, eight-way power adjustable driver's seat with power lumbar support, Bluetooth connectivity, and a five-year roadside assistance warranty.
Available options include such items as parking sensors and lane-departure warning.
An upscale, midsize SUV, the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited is the priciest and largest vehicle on this list. Consumer Reports also tested and recommends the lower-priced Laredo, but it doesn't have as many senior-friendly features.
As priced here, the Grand Cherokee uses a 290-horsepower, 3.6-liter, V-6 to drive the rear wheels. A V-8 engine and all-wheel drive are available.
At 69 cubic feet, maximum cargo space is a little stingy for a midsize SUV -- the Subaru Outback has more, but Grand Cherokee Limited shines with a full load of senior-friendly equipment, such as dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front/rear seats, eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with power lumbar control, navigation system, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio controls, keyless entry/start, rearview camera, parking assist, voice-activated Bluetooth connectivity and a three-year roadside-assistance warranty.
"Value" is the mantra of the 2013 Kia Optima SX. It's a nearly ideal passenger environment transported by an aggressive, fuel-efficient powertrain wrapped in a highly stylized exterior skin covered by a remarkably long warranty. That's value in our book.
A 274-horsepower, 2-liter, four-cylinder, turbocharged engine provides the go through a six-speed automatic transmission. A wide trunk opening swallows more than 15 cubic feet of cargo.
We chose the SX model because that's the one Consumer Reports recommends. It also has features we think more mature drivers appreciate, such as keyless entry and start and dual-zone automatic climate control, absent in the base model.
Other senior-friendly features include eight-way, power-adjustable driver's seat with power-adjustable lumbar support, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated outboard mirrors with integrated turn signals, Bluetooth connectivity with voice command and five years of free roadside assistance.
Most affordable on this list, the Mazda 3 iTouring sedan delivers terrific fuel economy. It's priced here with the six-speed automatic transmission.
Because it falls short of the $20,000 threshold, it lacks some of our sought-after features for older drivers, such as power-adjustable driver's seat, dual-zone automatic climate control and keyless start. However, it does offer manual height adjustment for the driver's seat.
Power comes from a 155-horsepower, 2-liter, four-cylinder engine.
In addition to its low price and excellent fuel economy, older drivers should be attracted to features such as tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio controls, remote keyless entry, Bluetooth connectivity and a three-year roadside assistance warranty.
The only vehicle on this list with standard all-wheel drive, the 2012 Subaru Outback wagon is ideal for older drivers who must negotiate slippery road surfaces with snow and mud.
The Outback 2.5i Limited is the only one of six Outback versions that Consumer Reports tested and recommends. In addition to the largest maximum cargo space -- 71 cubic feet -- on this list, the Outback offers a very low lift-over, making an easier job of utilizing all that space.
A 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine generates the power.
Features that helped put the 2.5i Limited on this list include 10-way, power-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar adjustment; heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio controls, remote keyless entry, Bluetooth connectivity, and a three-year roadside assistance warranty.
Some might question including a minivan on a best-of-cars list for seniors, but there is a good reason. The 2012 Toyota Sienna XLE is a road-trip vehicle of the first order.
Sienna can transport up to eight and still lug more than twice the cargo of the full-size Toyota Sequoia SUV. Moreover, it's packed with cup holders and storage cubbies.
Get-up-and-go comes from a 266-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6.
Listed among its notable features: trizone automatic climate control, dual power-sliding side doors, power rear liftgate, eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar control, rearview camera, heated front seats, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio controls, Bluetooth connectivity, two years or 25,000 miles of free maintenance and roadside assistance.