Consumer Reports names best car choices for teens and seniors

(August 28, 2012) YONKERS, N.Y. — While they stand at opposite ends of the demographic spectrum, and both groups include many good drivers, statistics show that overall teenagers and older drivers are involved in far more crashes and highway fatalities than any other age group, according to a special report by Consumer Reports.

For its latest investigation, Consumer Reports reviewed government and industry data. Mile for mile, the crash rate for drivers ages 16 and 17, for example, is almost nine times as high as that for middle-aged drivers. People 80 and older are involved in 5.5 times as many fatal crashes per mile driven as middle-aged drivers. 

For young and old drivers, the reasons behind the risk are as different as the people themselves. Teens struggle with inexperience behind the wheel and developing brains that might not accurately assess risks. Older drivers have plenty of experience and even tend to drive less, but age-related conditions can impede their driving ability. And when a crash happens, their fragility leads to more severe outcomes.

Asking loved ones and friends to hand over their keys, because of diminished skills can be an awkward milestone. Many seniors reduce their driving voluntarily as their abilities decline. But at some point, they might become unsafe to themselves and other motorists.

The full report on risky drivers contains insights into the risk factors for these drivers, along with tips to help deal with their unique challenges and test-based recommendations on the best cars for teens and older drivers. This report is available at and in the October issue of Consumer Reports, on newsstands Sept. 4.

Best Cars for Teens:

Buying a car for a new driver can be a balancing act between getting one you can afford and finding one that's safe and reliable. Consumer Reports recommends consumers look for a vehicle with advanced safety features, such as electronic stability control (ESC) and side-curtain air bags, and one that performed well in independent crash tests.

Parents should avoid getting their teen a large pickup or SUV; its high center of gravity makes it more prone to roll over. Large vehicles can also have unwieldy handling and poor fuel economy, and they allow teens to carry more passengers, which increases the crash risk. Consumer Reports compiled a list of new and used vehicles that provide balanced performance in CR tests, have had average or better reliability, come with standard ESC, and did well in independent crash tests. In alphabetical order:

    Acura:  TSX
    Chevrolet:  Equinox (V6, 2010-2012), Malibu (4-cyl., 2008 or later)
    Ford:  Focus sedan (2009-2011), Fusion (4-cyl. and hybrid, 2010 or later)
    Honda: Accord (4-cyl., 2008 or later), Fit (2011 or later)
    Hyundai:  Elantra (2011 or later), Elantra SE (2008-2010), Elantra Touring,  Santa Fe (V6, 2007-2009, no third-row seat), Sonata (4-cyl. nonturbo, 2006 or later), Tucson (2010 or later)
    Infiniti G25
    Kia: Forte (2010 or later), Optima (nonturbo, 2010 or later), Soul, Sportage (4-cyl., non turbo, 2011 or later)
    Mazda: 3i Touring (2009 or later), 3s Touring or Grand Touring (2007 or later), 6i (4-cyl., 2009 or later)
    Mitsubishi:  Outlander (2007 or later,  no third-row seat)
    Nissan:  Altima (4-cyl., 2010 or later), Rogue, Sentra (2010 or later)
    Scion: xB (2008 or later)
    Subaru: Forester (nonturbo, 2009 or later), Impreza, (nonturbo, 2009 or later), Outback Sport (2008 or later), Legacy 2.5i (2009 or later)
    Toyota: Camry (2010 or later), Corolla (2010 or later), Matrix (2010 or later), Prius (2010 or later), Prius V, RAV4 (2004 or later, no third-row seat)
    Volkswagen: Jetta (2009-2010),  Golf (2010 or later), Rabbit (2009)

Best Cars for Senior Drivers:

Consumer Reports' list includes new and used vehicles that scored well in Consumer Reports tests for access, visibility, front-seat comfort, driving position, and controls. All vehicles have average or better reliability, and most have standard electronic stability control. (It's optional on the Ford Taurus, Mercury Sable, and Toyota Camry prior to 2010.) In alphabetical order:

    Acura: RDX (2013)
    Ford: Taurus (2008-2009)
    Honda: Accord V6 (2006-2007), Accord (2008-2012)
    Hyundai: Azera (2006-2011), Genesis (2009-2012)
    Infiniti: M (2006-2010)
    Lexus: RX (2006-2009)
    Mercury: Sable (2008-2009)
    Nissan: Altima (2010-2012)
    Subaru: Impreza (2012), Legacy (2010-2013), Outback (2010-2013), Forester (2009-2012)
    Toyota: Avalon (2005-2012), Camry (2007-2012), Highlander (2004-2012), RAV4 (2006-2012)
    Volkswagen: Tiguan (2009-2012)