2009 Mobility Buying Guide



Just as there is a wide range of disabilities, so, too, is there a wide range of vehicles for those who are mobility-challenged. Those with arthritis and other conditions causing mild to moderate mobility difficulty will find many vehicles offering key comfort and convenience features. Paraplegics and others with severe disabilities also have automotive options, since there are many choices that are both conversion-ready and highly capable.

Sedans

The Toyota Prius is most famous for being a hybrid that gets 48 city/45 highway mpg, but this sedan also offers tons of mobility-friendly features for those shopping in the compact/midsize segment. Arthritis strikes millions of Americans each year. This condition often causes joint stiffness that can make simple maneuvers like turning a key a painful ordeal. The Prius offers a push-button ignition that saves drivers from having to execute this maneuver. The car's buttonless, easy-to-maneuver gear selector and touchscreen controls are also arthritis-friendly. Toyota's Prius has wide door openings that facilitate ingress and egress, and a spacious, versatile interior.

Full-size sedans offer an attribute prized by those who are mobility-challenged: roominess. Their generously sized cabins foster driver and passenger comfort, and their cavernous trunks are big enough to accommodate mobility scooters and other equipment. If you're looking for a massive trunk, you'll find none larger than those of the Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable twins. In addition to their 21 cubic feet of cargo capacity, these sedans offer high seating positions and excellent visibility. Those who value refinement will appreciate the Toyota Avalon. Polished both inside and out, this sedan boasts a well-furnished interior and a tranquil ride.

The value leader in the full-size segment has got to be the Hyundai Azera, and it should be your first choice in this segment if you're on a budget. It offers almost as much room as the Taurus and Avalon, and features build and materials quality that belies its humble price tag.

A front bench seat is an important feature for many mobility-challenged drivers, but these seats are less prevalent than they have been in the past. You can still find front bench seats in sedans like the Buick Lucerne and the Chevrolet Impala.

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Wagons and SUVs

The Scion xB is a popular choice for wheelchair users, who need ramps for access. This chunky compact has become a conversion favorite with good reason: It offers ample interior room, and provides far superior gas mileage to full-size vans (EPA estimates are 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway with an automatic transmission). In conversion xBs, the ramp deploys from the rear, which helps this Scion fit comfortably in standard parking spaces. Keep in mind, though, that the xB isn't that high in stature. It's a great choice for those of average to shorter height, but taller folks may find that there isn't enough head clearance to accommodate them as they wheel in on their chairs.

In the SUV realm, the Honda Element is a conversion favorite. It's no problem getting wheelchairs into and out of the Element, thanks to its wide-opening clamshell doors. Clean-up of mud and spills is easy with this Honda, thanks to its waterproof urethane flooring.

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Full-Size Vans and Minivans

Full-size vans continue their popularity with wheelchair users as conversion vehicles. These are the largest vehicles on the market, and their ample headroom is a big plus for taller wheelchair-bound drivers. Their shortcomings include poor fuel mileage and maneuverability due to their size.

Far and away the best option in the full-size van segment is the Dodge Sprinter. It costs more than competing models, but provides outstanding maneuverability and fuel economy that's impressive relative to others in this class. Ergonomics are remarkably friendly, and build quality is stellar.

Minivans remain the most popular choice for those with conversion in mind. Their prime advantage is practicality: Minivans are more agile and fuel-efficient than full-size vans, and are more fun to drive. Though they offer less headroom than their full-size counterparts, minivans are spacious enough to accommodate most wheelchair-bound drivers.

Chrysler's minivans — the Chrysler Town and Country and the Dodge Grand Caravan — are great candidates for conversion. They also offer useful features (such as Swivel 'n Go second-row seats that pivot toward the doors to facilitate entry and exit) that are valuable to passengers with all kinds of mobility challenges. The Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna — longtime class leaders in this segment — are also superb choices thanks to impressive reliability and refinement.

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