When Car and Driver editors buy cars, emotion often trumps logic. We love performance, so practicality isn’t a major consideration. But for many buyers, a car is a rational choice; they buy what they need to transport themselves and their loved ones as safely, comfortably, and cheaply as possible. It’s a smarter way to buy, but it isn’t any easier. With more than 400 new cars to choose from, how do you pick the right one?
Start by considering a series of questions, but beware: Once you find the car that fulfills your every need, an emotional connection may well form whether you like it or not.
What Kind of Car Do I Need?
Forget the number of models available, the number of body styles alone can be overwhelming: coupes, sedans, station wagons, crossovers, SUVs. How do you decide what you need?
Coupe/ Convertible: If you want a car that makes a statement about you, coupes and convertibles are typically the most expressive designs, but restricted access to the back seat (if the car you are considering even has one) seriously limits their practicality.
: If there are kids in the picture or in the near-future plan, four doors are a likely requirement. Even if children are small enough to ride comfortably in the back seat of a coupe with any regularity, consider the difficulty of constantly climbing into and out of the back seat to tend to a child before committing to just two doors.
: If you add another door—bringing the total to five—you’re looking at hatchbacks and station wagons, which offer SUV-like space without the dynamic and fuel-economy compromises of heavier vehicles. These cars are pariahs in the U.S. market, but many buyers are starting to reconsider, as fluctuating fuel prices and increasing environmental awareness have them thinking twice about crossovers and SUVs. As manufacturers get increasingly creative and design ever more stylish hatchbacks—their roofs are sleeker than wagons’—the market is warming to the segment.
Station Wagon: Station wagons have perhaps the worst reputation of any body style on the market, but we’re fighting to change that. They offer the best attributes of a car without the trade-offs of larger crossovers and SUVs. The Mazda 6 wagon actually had more passenger and cargo volume than the Mazda CX-7 crossover, was quicker, and got better fuel economy. It was so immensely unpopular that it was discontinued last year, and a forthcoming CX-7 promises a weaker engine in an effort to reduce fuel consumption.