Drivers who are shorter in stature or more petite might find the search for a new car to be a bit more difficult. Most vehicles are made on an assembly line and are designed as a one-size-fits-all approach. While vehicles offer seats that can be adjusted to suit the driver’s needs and other features to aid the drive, not all vehicles are easy to adjust.
Shorter drivers need to have plenty of visibility during the drive, but they also need to be able to position the steering wheel and the seat to ensure that they have adequate control. In 2021, Kelley Blue Book (KBB) included a list of the best cars for shorter drivers, but what are the safest cars for short drivers?
To understand the safety of the recommended cars for shorter drivers, the list from KBB is compared to safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Safety reports are issued for each make/model, and the safest cars are awarded with either a Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick rating. The vehicles designated with the “+” offer good or acceptable headlights as standard features; those without the “+” offer these headlights as options.
The following KBB recommended models were awarded a Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick for the 2022 model year:
- Hyundai Santa Fe (Top Safety Pick+)
- Honda CR-V (Top Safety Pick)
- Nissan Rogue (Top Safety Pick+)
- Toyota Camry (Top Safety Pick+)
- Mazda CX-30 (Top Safety Pick+)
- Kia Soul (Top Safety Pick)
- Subaru Outback (Top Safety Pick+)
- Chrysler Pacifica (Top Safety Pick+)
Best Used Cars for Short Drivers
KBB’s list was released in late 2021 and included mostly 2021 models. The list can be a great resource for those looking for used models. The list includes the vehicle’s starting MSRP (from 2021), its safety rating from IIHS and fuel efficiency, too.
In addition, KBB also rounded up its used car recommendations. Since the list was compiled in 2021, the recommendations for used models go back to around the model year 2015. KBB listed five used car choices for shorter drivers:
- 2019-2021 Subaru Forester
- 2017-2020 GMC Yukon
- 2015-2017 Honda Accord
- 2018-2020 Honda Fit
- 2018-2019 Audi SQ5
The Most Affordable Safe Vehicles for Shorter Drivers
Among the vehicles that earned a Top Safety Pick+ or a Top Safety Pick rating, there are several affordable options that could be a good choice for buyers on a budget. The most affordable model is the 2022 Kia Soul, which is priced less than $20K. Here are the safest models for shorter drivers from the most affordable to the most expensive:
- Kia Soul $19,790
- Mazda CX-30 $22,500
- Toyota Camry $25,845
- 2022 Honda CR-V $26,800
- Nissan Rogue $27,150
- Subaru Outback $27,645
- 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe $27,700
- Chrysler Pacifica $37,095
Tips for Shorter Drivers Shopping for the Best Car
KBB also included features that could aid the drive for those who are shorter. Car shoppers can look for cars with telescoping steering wheels, adjustable seats, power/automatic lift gates and even running boards (they can be used as a step).
In addition to the features recommended by KBB, shorter drivers also could look for:
Smart rearview mirrors
These use a camera in the back for the vehicle to see a real-time view behind the car. Smart rearview mirrors are beneficial for all drivers during bad weather or night driving. These mirrors aren’t offered by every manufacturer, though.
Blind Spot Warnings
Every driver has a blind spot. Some models might offer standard blind spot warning systems to alert drivers about a car in the area that isn’t visible.
These cameras are starting to become a standard feature. When backing up, most drivers had to turn and look behind them. Backup cameras make seeing the rear view of the vehicle much clearer; in addition, these cameras are useful when backing up in tight parking spots.
Take a Test Drive Before Buying
Shorter drivers and taller drivers might not find that every vehicle model is an ideal fit for them. Taking a test drive could be the best way to determine if a car is the best choice.
While buyers can research the recommendations of suitable models and even check out what advanced options they can choose to create a more comfortable ride, the test drive could make or break a buyer’s decision. Not only does the driver need to determine if the model offers what they need in terms of space, affordability, safety and comfort, but the test drive also can reveal the nuances of the vehicle’s mechanics.
Even if the car buyer finds that the seats can be adjusted perfectly and the model includes all the features they want, what if the car is just not a smooth drive? The only way to determine how the car handles is to get behind the wheel.
Car buyers might have a list of two or maybe even three top models that they like. Then they can test drive their favorites to determine which vehicle fits all their needs.
All Car Shoppers Might Focus on Fuel Efficiency, Too
The price of fuel is variable according to supply and demand as well as any external disruptions like overseas conflicts, pandemics, and even trade embargos. Older drivers probably remember times when gas climbed to overwhelming prices.
When gas prices surge at the pump, buyers might focus on finding the most fuel efficient vehicles. Many standard models offer decent fuel efficiency—around 30 MPG. However, larger SUVs or heavy trucks might not be so fuel efficient.
Some buyers focus on hybrid or electric models to lower or even eliminate their dependence on fossil fuels. While there are buyers motivated by the rising costs of fuels, other buyers are focused on the environmental concerns related to standard automobiles and the fuel they consume.
Among the models recommended for shorter drivers (that also had great safety ratings), a few offer hybrid options. However, hybrid models are priced higher. What are the best hybrids for shorter drivers? Try these hybrid versions of KBB’s recommended models:
- Toyota Camry Hybrid
- Honda CR-V Hybrid
- Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid
- Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
What Are the Safest Electric Models for Shorter Drivers?
MotorTrend included a list of the safest hybrid and electric cars, but the list was not focused on the best cars for shorter drivers. A test drive could help determine if the model is right for the buyer. Those who are looking for the safest electric models might focus on these cars:
- Tesla Model 3
Rear-Wheel Drive: $49,900 / estimated range of 272 miles
Long Range: $57,990 / estimated range of 358 miles
Performance: $62,990 / estimated range of 315 miles
- Tesla Model Y
Long Range: $65,990 / estimated range of 330 miles
Performance: $69,990 / estimated range of 303 miles
- Audi Q4 e-tron
$49,900 / estimated range of 241 miles
- Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron
$52,700 / estimated range of 241 miles
Those who want to explore the Tesla models can visit a dealership to see the vehicles in-person and perhaps take a test drive. In addition, buyers also can place orders online.
Buyers who want to better understand the design differences of the e-tron and Sportback e-tron can visit Audi dealerships. A test drive also could be beneficial to understand the feel of the electric models on the road.
What if Buyers Can’t Find their Ideal Model?
While KBB includes an extensive list of options for shorter drivers, the supply chain for automobiles has been impacted by the microchip shortage as well as other issues that might be related to the pandemic. Depending on the dealership and the preferred model, inventory could be limited.
Buyers might not be able to select the exact color they want for their car, or there could be other limitations. Again, though, each dealership might be different. Some buyers might not face any issues.
Shopping used models also could be a challenge in some areas. Used car selection is variable; buyers might have a list of different models that they would prefer to ensure that their used choices aren’t so limited. For example, maybe they can find a 2020 Kia Soul but not one from 2019.
Used prices also are impacted by several factors including the make/model, age, condition and the mileage. Car buyers on a tighter budget and looking for less expensive used models might face trade-offs on choosing a model with slightly higher mileage or an older vehicle.
The Safest Cars for Shorter Drivers
There are many vehicles that have earned a Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick rating/award from the IIHS and several are ideal for shorter drivers. While those who are shorter can review the recommendations from sites like KBB, they also might take a test drive to ensure that the model they like really is a great choice and a good fit.
Some buyers also might gravitate towards hybrid or electric models to decrease their trips to the gas station or eliminate those trips completely. Several models that were recommended for shorter drivers also are available in hybrid options.
Whether shorter drivers are searching for the safest, most affordable or even the most fuel efficient vehicle, they can find a model that is ideal for them. Research the options, take a test drive and visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s website to review a safety report on any make/model.