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Bankrate's 2007 New Car Guide
For women mostly
Women have become major players in the auto world and they're getting more respect.
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For women mostly
What women really want -- from a car
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Putting safety first
Women are particularly vulnerable in rear-impact crashes -- they often sit closer to the steering wheel and there is bad positioning against head restraints -- and tend to be more at risk for neck injuries, says Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. As a result, it's important to make sure that the vehicle has head restraints designed to protect in a rear-impact crash and has good ratings for rear-crash protection.

Features experts suggest women seek:

  • Air bags (including side air bags).
  • Seatbelt pretensions.
  • Crush zones in car.
  • Antilock brakes.
  • Electronic stability control systems.

Top 5
The five features women are most interested in, according to the J.D. Power survey, are:

  1. Power lift gate/trunk/hatch.
  2. Sunroof.
  3. All-wheel drive.
  4. Remote engine startup.
  5. Bottle holders in door panels.

That compares with the 2000 survey when the most sought-after features were run-flat tires, sunroof, split fold-down rear seat, "smart" passenger air bag and rear-passenger air bags.

Features like power lift gates and remote engine startup reflect the increased desire for comfort, says Vogelheim.

"These cars have gotten better equipped. You can heat up the car on a cold day or cool down the car on a hot day by having your air conditioner or heater jumping on."

Tech touches and GPS
Not too long ago, power windows and doors were a luxury. Now there are navigation systems and electronic features, such as hands-free telephones and the ability to connect an iPod to a voice-activated system, Vogelheim says.

A lot of women are gravitating to General Motors vehicles because of its OnStar system that allows them to stay connected at all times, especially if they get into an accident or get lost, says Caldwell. "A lot of women have a fear of getting lost."

OnStar and other GPS systems help simplify women's lives, especially as moms take their kids to activities in towns they have never visited, adds Pam Scholder Ellen, an associate professor of marketing at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

The J.D. Power survey found that the top technology/safety features that appeal to women include:

  • Lane departure sensors and blind-spot detectors.
  • Rear back up camera and sensor.
  • Side curtain air bags.
  • Sleep detector sensor.
  • Pre-accident alert.
  • Personal style.

And when they look at style, women seem to be much more interested in color than men, Nerad says. "We're seeing more imaginative and more colorful interiors returning to vehicles these days," he says. For example, blues are becoming more popular, Nerad adds, and chocolate browns have joined interior options.

While focusing on the practical, women want to look good in what they're driving, says Ellen. "The car defines people,'' she says. "So if you look at someone driving that unattractive car, that person's aware that they're kind of judged by the car that they're driving."

-- Posted: Aug. 2, 2007
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