Ever hear the phrase “It’s too much car for you”? Sounds like something from an ’80s movie, right? Truth is, with the widespread adoption of automatic transmissions, anyone can hop in most any car and drive away. However, when you’re just starting to learn, you don’t want a luxury land yacht/isolation chamber with a V6 that’ll happily go 50 km/h without any throttle input from you. And our selection criteria for the ideal beginner’s car makes Goldilocks look accommodating: eager throttle response that doesn’t simulate Speed Racer, firm braking that doesn’t induce whiplash, accurate steering that’s not too heavy or light, good visibility out of the greenhouse that doesn’t make you feel exposed or vulnerable, comfortable suspension that neither destroys tailbones nor feels detached from the road, and finally, safety features and technologies that don’t inspire reckless behaviour. It’s a hefty list that can be summed up in alliterative fashion: speed, steering, sight, suspension, safety. Go a step further and what it boils down to is simply control.
Despite all the animal-inspired model names, a car is not some wild, untamed beast – it is a machine that’s been engineered and assembled with care. Your first time behind the wheel should not in any way, shape or form resemble the rodeo at the Calgary Stampede. That being said, certain vehicles do provide a gentler introduction to the world of motoring bliss. These vehicles, from the moment you start up the engine, will provide feedback and react to your inputs in a predicable manner so that you’re never second-guessing yourself. When you’re out on the road, you get a feel for the road conditions, with a ride that’s neither too vague nor too crashy. Though they may be equipped with cameras and sensors, you don’t need to rely on them to keep track of your surroundings when driving or parking – they’re a safety net designed to inspire confidence, not carelessness: you are still expected to remain present in the operation of your motor vehicle. That’s the magic word here: control.
So, what qualifies and what doesn’t? Read on and find out!