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Comfortable car for a car enthusiast with arthritis and a long commute

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta

bujonathan

Hey guys,

I'm a car enthusiast with a long commute (42 miles). Past cars include a 2003 VW GTI, 2008 Honda Civic Si, 2004 VW R32, and I now drive a 2012 Mazda3.

I also happen to have arthritis, which is getting worse as I get further into my 30s. So, I need something with light steering, a smooth ride, decent fuel economy (long commute), and decent reliability (again, long commute). When I first bought my Mazda3, the steering felt really light and the ride felt really smooth, because I was coming from my R32. Now that it's nearly 4 years old and has 110k miles on it, the steering is starting to aggravate my hands, and the choppy ride is becoming a pain in the neck (literally). Reliability and fuel economy have been excellent though.

I'm willing to spend ~$25k, although I'd happily extend that budget, or, consider somethiing used that was under buget so long as it's a car I can keep long-term. What's most important to me is finding something that:
A) Doesn't aggravate my joints which means a smooth ride, light steering, good seating position.
B) I can keep long term, which means it's interesting (e.g. not a Camry), reliable, and good highway fuel economy.

Priorities: Ride smoothness / Fuel economy / Reliability & durability

Preferred Bodystyle(s): Sedan / Hatch / Wagon

Car Needs: Daily commuter / Long trips

Need minimum of 4 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 20000
Maximum age: 4 years

Maximum price: US $ 25000

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Response from jasonmreece

7:23 pm July 24, 2016

I'm really sorry that you're having to deal with arthritis, especially at such a young age. I've had several family members with psoriatic and rheumatoid arthritis and I've seen (but can't truly know) how difficult it can be.

I've given some thought to your question and I've came up with quite a few suggestions. I'm making the assumption that the ride quality of your 2012 Mazda3 is the main problem causing you discomfort....let me know if that's not that case. But based on that, I think your best bet is to go with a mid-size sedan that is still fun to drive, but also has good ride quality (and comfortable seats).

I also don't know exactly what you're wanting in terms of features/tech and performance. But here goes-

1- Is the 2016 Mazda3 an option? When the 2014 debuted, it was a signficant improvement in all areas over the 2nd gen model (2010-2013). If so, you could go compare the 'i' Grand Touring (with 16" wheels and 2.0L engine) and the 's' Touring/Grand Touring (18" wheels and 2.5L). They all come in under $25k on TrueCar.com.

2- The 2016 Mazda6 Touring is another idea. The ride is slightly better than the Mazda3, but the 19" wheels aren't ideal (and the only way to get the smaller 17" is on the base i Sport). But still a great (and gorgeous car).

3- My other favorite mid-size is the Honda Accord. The ride quality is very good, but handling and overall performance aren't too shabby either. The 'Sport' model is the looker, but it has 19" wheels/tires that might make the EX/EX-L a better choice with more conservative 17" wheels. The EX also adds some nice features like Honda LaneWatch, power moonroof and several other convenience features. If you want leather, you'll need to go with the EX-L or there is a 'Sport Special Edition' for 2017 that is simplly the Sport with heated, leather seats.
* Honda offers the 'Honda Sensing' package for $1000 on most trim levels and it's an exceptional value, IMO. It includes Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow (great for commuting in traffic), Forward Collision and Road Departure Mitigation (auto-braking) as well as Lane Keeping Assist.

4- The new Honda Civic is another idea. The EX-T or EX-L should fall under the $25k mark and the 1.5L Turbo and 6.8sec 0-60 time are pretty cool. Fuel economy is very good and the ride quality, based on several reviews, is also top notch. Note- Honda Sensing is also a $1k option on most Civic trim levels also.

5- If the lack of leather and moonroof are deal breakers, then this option is off the table. But the 2016 Kia Optima LX Turbo (1.6L turbo, used in Hyundai Sonata/Tucson 'Eco' models) is a very interesting vehicle. I think the Optima is very nice looking inside and out. The LX Turbo has 16" wheels (although they look okay on the car, more like 17s) but the handling and ride quality are both very good. The only option is a Technology Package (Blind Spot Info System w/ Rear-Cross Traffic Alert, Navigation, Rear Park Assist, LED tail lights, 12-position power driver's seat with 2-position memory and a handful of other features) and it still comes in under $25k (TrueCar). Oddly, the 1.6T performs almost as well as the significantly more expensive and far less economical 2.0T used in the top-level SX and SX-L. The 100k Powertrain Warranty is also reassuring.

6- The Ford Fusion is another great option. The Fusion's only real problem is the EcoBoost engines which aren't that powerful and don't deliver exceptional fuel econony. But the 1.5L EcoBoost is adequate, if not quick, and is the better choice than the pricier and thirstier 2.0L version. The 2016 Fusion SE (with 1.5L EcoBoost, Leather (Luxury Pkg) and Ford MyTouch/Tech Pkgs) comes in under $25k. The more interesting choice, IMO, is the Fusion SE Hybrid (quicker than the 1.5L EcoBoost and fuel economy is in the high 30s overall. The Fusion got a 'mid-cycle update' for 2017 and the 2017 SE also appears to be in your price range if you are conservative with the options. My best friend just got a 2017 Fusion Titanium (2.0L EcoBoost and AWD) and it rides and drives great, although acceleration from a stop is nothing special (0-60 in the low-mid 7sec range). But the rest of the car is so good that it still merits consideration.

Moving on to some pre-owned (ideally Certified Pre-Owned) suggestions-

7- A CPO 2014-2015 Volvo S60. If you stick with the standard 17" wheels (a Sport Pkg with 19" and a 'Sport' chassis were popular and it looks great but will shake the fillings from your teeth on less than perfect pavement), it rides and handles well. Volvo has the best seats in the business, they're more like thrones. The fuel economy isn't especially great on the 2.5L turbo 5cyl, but it's not bad either. A 0-60 time in the low-mid 6sec range more than makes up for it.

8- The Acura TSX was one of my favorite cars (the TL was an abomination and the TLX isn't much better). A 2010-2014 TSX could be a good fit. It's very sporty but the ride isn't harsh. It also gets decent gas mileage and it's about as reliable as a car can be. The 201hp 2.4L 4cyl was used in the overwhelming majority of these, but a 3.5L V6 was optional and is more common on 2010-2011 models than later ones.

I feel like I've just recommended half of the cars on the market, but they're all cars that I would personally buy and I'm not easy to please! I just tried to think of cars that weren't dull as dishwater to drive (any Toyota) but still had great quality, reliability and a ride less harsh than your Mazda3. BTW, I still have a 2006 Mazda3 s 5-door (bought new in 12/2015) so I can relate to the excessive road noise and less than ideal ride quality. I also have a 2012 CX-9 and, compared to its competitors, it's at the bottom of the list for ride quality. I love them both but my next car will be a little more comforable overall (and a new Mazda may accomplish that).

Good luck, I hope this helps and please let me know your thoughts or questions about any of these!

Take care.

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Honda Accord
Kia Optima
Ford Fusion

Response from bujonathan

8:58 pm July 24, 2016

Hi Jason,

Thanks for the kind words and suggestions. Arthritis can be a bit frustrating to deal with, especially at a young age and as a car enthusiast (I've already given up on driving manual transmissions). But I try to adapt as my health changes.

My primary issue with the Mazda3 is the steering. When I first bought the car, it felt really light in comparison to my 2004 VW Golf R32. But now that either me or the car is a bit older, it can feel heavy at parking lot speeds, which puts a lot of strain on my hands and elbows. My second priority would be something that rides a bit more smoothly. I'm not too worried about tech or outright performance... I really just want something I can happily drive for many years and like you said, isn't dull as a dishwasher. I guess in summary, something really comfortable but with a little personality.

The Accord and a CPO Volvo S60 are good suggestions. I actually really like the current V60, and I think if I wait a bit, these will start popping up as certified pre-owned on dealer lots. The Accord is in its final year of production, so I can probably snag a fair deal on one.

I previously considered a Mazda6. A friend of mine has a 2016 Grand Touring model and let me take it on an extended test drive. It definitely rides smoother, especially on the highway. The steering effort at parking lot speeds was pretty much the same as my Mazda3, however.

I also considered a Chevy Cruze turbodiesel. Loads of personality, light steering, and a smooth ride. The reliability of the diesel model absolutely scares though!

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Mazda Mazda6
Chevrolet Cruze

Response from Dnslater

7:28 am July 25, 2016

I second the Volvo V60 suggestion. Or find a lightly used C30. Volvo's are famous for having the most comfortable seats in the business which could help you. It sounds like you need a car with minimal steering feedback, which unfortunately is the opposite of what many "driver's cars" offer. Toyota is fairly famous for having minimal feedback and a smooth ride, so you might consider something like a Camry. Could also look at a lightly used Lexus CT200h hatchback. Good looking car and a great commuter.

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Volvo V60
Volvo C30
Lexus CT

Response from bujonathan

9:09 pm July 25, 2016

Dnslsater,

Thank you for the suggestions! I need to look into Volvo reliability, but I think that's a good compromise between European flair and comfort.

I just can't bring myself to buying a Camry. The midsize class is probably the right direction, but I just can't justify spending my hard earned money on a car that doesn't interest me. I would consider other cars in the class though, such as the Subaru Legacy and VW Passat.

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Response from Henry2024

12:48 pm July 27, 2016

As a person with slight arthritis (50 yrs old), I can sympathize with you. If your arthritis is getting bad, I would not recommend a sedan, because I can tell you that as your arthritis gets worse, the more difficult it will become to get into a sedan and have to climb out of it. You also do not want a truck or full size SUV for the same reason: Its difficult to climb into those vehicles when you have arthritis.

My wife has a Lexus RX350 which is a midsize SUV and it is very easy to get in and out of. Its easy to get in than my Honda Accord. The ride on the Lexus is very smooth and quiet, while the mated 6 cylinder engine is very smooth and powerful. It is a joy to drive. There's also the Lexus' proven reliability.

You can find Lexus RX350 used under 25,000. Remember it's a Lexus, and high mileage is nothing to a Lexus. Remember also the people that buy Lexus, they generally do not abuse their vehicles and the used ones will be in great condition.

My arthritis isn't as bad yet, so it's not too difficult yet for me to climb in and out of my 2013 Honda Accord. But one day it will be. I also have a 2011 Subary Legacy 2.5i Premium, and while it is a decent car, the ride is not very smooth at all, its more sporty.

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Lexus RX

Response from mkaresh

7:57 pm July 27, 2016

Some great suggestions have already been made. I'd just like to note that Hondas tend to have especially light steering.

A number of recent Hyundai and Kia models have had steering with adjustable assist. The button is on the steering wheel.

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Response from bujonathan

8:34 pm July 27, 2016

Henry, your CV suggestion is a good one. Any you'd reccomend that get good gas mileage and have good reliability? The Mazda CX-3 and CXand CX-5 get good mileage, I'm afraid the ride won't be much smoother than my Mazda3 though.

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Response from bujonathan

12:04 am July 28, 2016

Micheal, I appreciate the suggestions. I think the Honda Accord will be added to my short list. I really like the looks of the Sport model, and if the 19s ride too rough, I could downsize them to 17s from an EX or Hybrid model.

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Honda Accord

Response from Henry2024

9:59 pm July 28, 2016

If one of your priorities is a smooth ride, I don't know why the Accord would be on your short list. I have a 2013 Honda Accord LX, and I can tell you first hand that the ride is not smooth, in fact, you can feel every bump in the road. Have you looked at carcomplaints.com yet? The biggest complaint about the Honda Accords are the uncomfortable seats and the back pain it causes. The headrests of the Honda Accord are angled too far forward, causing upper back pain, neck pain, etc. The uncomfortable seats are not evident in the test drive. It takes time for the pain to develop.

I just ordered a memory foam neck pillow in the hope that this will eliminate the neck and back pain. I will also order a lumbar support pillow for my lower back. I've never had to do this to drive any car, ever. My back is starting to kill me now. If the neck pillow and lumbar support do not work in alleviating my back pain, I will have no choice but to trade it in.

Think about it. Can your arthritis handle the uncomfortable seats of the Accord?

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Response from bujonathan

10:29 pm July 28, 2016

Sometimes things aren't evident on a short test drive, so I appreciate the honest feedback.

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Response from Henry2024

11:51 pm July 28, 2016

When I took the test drive, I thought the ride was ok and the seats were alright. I didn't realize at the time that the forward angled headrests would cause me pain later. Now I know, and it saddens me because it is a great looking car. Hopefully these foam pillows will do the trick.

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Response from mkaresh

3:46 pm July 29, 2016

Ride comfort and especially seat comfort are especially hard to evaluate during the typical dealer test drive. People complain about Honda seats post-purchase more than others, but especially in their smaller vehicles.

People are different sizes and shapes, so the only really valid opinion of seats is your own.

Some dealers will let you take a car home overnight if they think you're a serious buyer. It might also be possible to rent contenders, though it is hard to find Hondas as rentals.

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Response from bujonathan

12:03 am August 7, 2016

Mike, do you have any oppinion on the VW Passat? Is the steering sterotypically German heavy?

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Response from mkaresh

8:22 pm August 15, 2016

I don't recall the Passat's steering being heavy. It has just a little more heft to it than the typical midsize sedan. They're roomy cars with somewhat plain styling. Reliability has been about average. I've reviewed them a couple of times--check the "more about" beneath the photo.

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Volkswagen Passat

Response from NormT

10:46 am July 20, 2017

The late model Buick's have very lightweight electric steering. The 2016 Buick Envision Premium is quieter than the Lexus RX and is about $10,000 less than a Lexus NX200T with the Envision having more options standard than the NX. The Envision has the best AWD with Twin Clutch that allows a single wheel to move the car while the other three are slipping. The torque vectoring help turn the car by sending power to the outside rear wheel in a turn where other lessor awd systems brake the inside wheel.

You know after the aching joints to act up is you hearing starts to go. The Buick Envision is even quieter than the Lexus RX. A used 2016 Envision Premium l 2.0T can be found in the $29,XXX range.with a fee thousand miles. Which puts it below loaded economy cuv's like CR-V, Rav4, and Forester. The Envision offers awd, 2.0T, tri-zone climate control, heated seats and heated steering wheel...

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Buick Envision
Buick LaCrosse
Buick Encore
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