Small-but-smooth-driving car recommendations for an injured driver?
August 3, 2017 10:24 AM   Subscribe

We're thinking of buying our first car to reduce my wife's commute time. She has a history of lower back area issues: a herniated disc, a misaligned pelvis. A bumpy drive is painful for her, but we can probably only afford a smaller-sized used car. Any recommendations for mid-sized sedans or something smaller that offer the comfortable ride of a larger vehicle/something with a higher suspension?

As I said, the biggest factor is a car that rides smoothly as opposed to bumpily (the streets in Toronto are not the greatest). She has ridden in some hatchbacks where she felt every bump in the road, and Smartcars are brutal for her.

Other main priorities:

- fuel economy (both for financial and environmental reasons; if only we could afford a hybrid)
- price (we are trying to stay under 12k Canadian)
- reliability and safety
- good for city and highway driving

Basically, is there a sedan or hatchback that actually has a nice high suspension, keeping her away from the road? Or is there a compact SUV with good gas mileage that we could actually afford?

Also, since we're very new to this, please don't hesitate to recommend ways to smoothen up one's ride other than the specific make and model: upgrade shocks? Buy a certain kind of tires?
posted by Beardman to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total)
 
I'm sorry I don't have an concise answer, but I found it fun to think about, so:

tl;dr: It's very subjective, once everything is operating correctly.


When comparing cars, consider the wheelbase and the tire diameter. Bigger is smoother for both.

Once you've picked a car, you need first need to make sure the entire suspension system is in good working order. The main job of the suspension is to keep your tires connected to the road, a side effect is a nice ride. There is a lot involved in the suspension of a car, and worn-out parts will wear other other parts of the car.

Later, when making changes, if you have options in shocks/structs for the car, you can chose a less firm shock, but this will not make a big change.

If you have options on wheel and tire size, pick a smaller wheel so the tire has a taller sidewall--the is the opposite of fashion, but does create more bump absorption. Supple Life.

Make sure to keep the tires at the pressure marked in the manual (or in the driver door jamb sticker). You can lower it a little to make the ride softer, but it will reduce your gas mileage and the life of the tire.

I've found the posture I can maintain in a car has a lot to do with how I feel the effects of the road. Each car supports different angles for arms, legs, torso, and neck. An SUV might have a very different posture that might be helpful, but I would expect it to have a stiffer ride quality than a car.

I rent a lot of cars and can't think of a small car that was particularly soothing. The Mazda 3 is probably the most sporty (so most bumpy) and the Nissan Versa was a little smoother and wallowlier. Ford Focus somewhere in the middle, the Civic as well. The Honda CRV is pretty smooth (I usually call it boring). The Nissan Altima is pretty cushy, as is the Camry. But this is all pretty subjective and you'll just have to test drive to get a feel.
posted by concavity at 12:57 PM on August 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


My Volvo has a very smooth ride. It is certainly not cheap, but I've never had a more comfortable car.
posted by sulaine at 7:18 PM on August 3, 2017


I test drove a Toyota CHR a few weeks ago and the lower back support was outstanding. Fits all your other criteria, too, except for price. I did not buy it for other reasons, but it was very comfortable.
posted by raisingsand at 7:56 PM on August 3, 2017


Go check out a Kia Soul. We have one and it checks off most of these boxes. It's surprisingly roomy inside and it's high enough that you don't have to duck down to get in it. We get about 30-32 mpg in ours, with the bulk of the driving being highway. I have taken the car on multiple out of town trips and have never found the seat comfort to be an issue.
posted by azpenguin at 9:40 PM on August 3, 2017


Take a look at Mazda5, it is the smallest of the minivans. Minivans usually have a very good ride, and are very easy to get into and out of. I would stay away from small SUV's for a good ride. The AWD systems adds a lot of unsprung weight which is bad for smooth rides.
posted by bartonlong at 8:30 PM on August 6, 2017


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