Automotive writing often caters to the car enthusiasts: people who are passionate about cars, are interested in the latest technology, want to know how something handles on the limit — and, yes, seek out and click on car content. Most car buyers, however, operate on a different frequency.
When I give car advice in real life, my friends and family typically have a vague idea of what they want and how much they want to spend. They don’t care how quickly a car lapped the Nordschleife, and they stare at me blankly when I try (and fail) to explain torque. They want a car that looks nice and feels comfortable. They want to buy the right car and not feel like they were ripped off.
So for those buyers, we present the following vehicular recommendations. These vehicles aren't the most exhilarating on track day. But they meet requirements, offer considerable value and should be less of a headache than other alternatives.
You just want a family SUV? Get a Kia Telluride
Buying a three-row family SUV can feel like you're settling. Not so with the Kia Telluride. It’s fresh off a World Car of the Year award for 2020, which it won ahead of impressive vehicles like the Porsche Taycan.
The Telluride looks spectacular on the outside, and it's luxury-car-level cushy and spacious on the inside, especially in upper-trim forms The Telluride delivers solid handling and a comfortable ride, and can even take on a decent amount of off-roading. Plus, it’s relatively affordable. The only real issue is that so many people want Tellurides, you’ll have to get on a waitlist.
You just want a luxury car? Get a Lexus ES
Almost every review will note the Lexus ES mid-size sedan is not the most exhilarating drive in the luxury market. But the ES is tuned to what many luxury buyers really want: comfort.
In fact outsold Lexus's sportier (and now cancelled) GS sedan by about a 15-1 margin. The ES has an excellent interior and superb ride quality. Worried about fuel economy? You can get a hybrid version that gets 44 mpg combined. The ES also has Toyota's fabled longevity, so you can avoid a trip to the dealership for the next decade or so.
You just want a crossover? Get a Honda CR-V
If you’re not buying a full-size truck these days, statistically speaking, you’re likely to be interested in a compact crossover. The Honda CR-V, whether you’re looking at the internal combustion or the hybrid version, may be the best all-around choice in that segment.
It offers a pleasant driving experience, and it’s incredibly spacious and practical. It’s super easy to get in and out of, whether you’re installing a baby seat or nursing a surgically repaired knee. The CR-V is cheap, and it'll last forever. There’s pretty much nothing wrong with it.
You just want an affordable car? Get a Honda Civic
Some manufacturers struggle with budget constraints. Honda is not one of them. The tried and true Civic offers the most versatility in the sub-$25K market. It’s fun to drive, comfortable, practical, fuel-efficient and reliable, to boot.
You can choose from multiple engines and both automatic and manual transmissions. The coupe version departs for 2021, but both the sedan and the hatchback start below $22K — which can no longer be said about the Volkswagen Golf.
You need something to handle the snow? Get a Subaru Outback
Subaru has some of the most loyal buyers in the automotive space, and the Outback is a crucial reason for that. It’s one of the most rugged, practical, and capable vehicles on the market, with a ton of ground clearance, space and amenities.
Subaru offers one of the best combinations of safety features, with active safety tech and all-wheel-drive technology both standard. It brings more composure on the road than the Forester (or rival SUVs) and can handle itself off the pavement. Sure, you may reach a level of snowfall where a Jeep Wrangler could outperform an Outback. But when that happens, you’ll probably be asked to keep the road clear for emergency vehicles anyway.