Take a cursory search through records of favorite/best cars for women drivers throughout history. We came up with some blanket figures pre 1950, but no specific vehicles. Still, you may be interested to know that in 1948, 36% of farm girls drove cars compared to 72% of farm boys. With another 37% of farm girls wanting to learn how to drive*. Later, statistics started to include an increasingly higher number of women drivers in cities and suburbs driving cars.
Tip-toeing through history is fascinating. In the 50s and 60s, conventional wisdom said that women bought station wagons. “Grocery getters” as they came to be known. As equal rights and feminism took hold in the 70s & early 80s women were looking for cars that didn’t define their sex or ideological roles (particularly that of “house mom”). At least that’s what the movie industry portrayed. I think about Lily Tomlin in 9-5 driving a Buick Skylark coupe with her boss’ “dead” body in the trunk. Or the mother in 1982’s ET driving an Audi 5000 Sedan. In 1979 my mother traded in her Ford LTD Wagon for a Cadillac Brougham Coupe. She never looked back.
The late 80s to the mid-to-late 90s, the term Soccer Mom was born and many, many women drivers were marketed to with images of happy kids in Minivans going from home to school to soccer games then back home. It worked.
It wasn’t until the late 90s and onward that SUVs, then later CUVs, began to take over as the favorite car of everyone, including women. It’s no surprise that our top ten list of vehicles that interest females include 5 crossover vehicles. Still, the list may surprise you. How we came up with the list is, thankfully, a bit more scientific.
Automotive search engine iSeeCars.com published a study based on an analysis of 54 million car sales and over 500,000 consumer inquiries of cars for sale over a 2-year period. This analysis found 10 cars for which more than 60 percent of prospective buyers were women. Without further ado, the list:
#10. Kia Soul
Percent of inquiries by women: 60.6%
Returning for 2019 with an updated interior and tweaked body design is the 2019 Kia Soul. This award-winning crossover/wagon has been popular since launching in 2009. In its 10 years of life, designers have smoothed out its angular exterior and upped its luxury options. With an available Harman/Kardon® stereo system, available panoramic sunroof, and available designer collection styling with two-tone colors, this small CUV will have you in style for a cheap price starting at just $16,490 MSRP. Rounding out its tech is standard Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™. Base MSRP Range: $16,490 - $35,950.
#9. Kia Rio
Percent of inquiries by women: 60.8%
Another Kia to enter the list (hold on there’s yet another two) is the 2019 Rio. Kia’s entry-level sedan has been a popular model since it introduction nearly 20 years ago. In its 4th generation, this base Kia offers an array of tech features that include an available 7” touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™, and available rear camera. This automobile also offers solid safety features for an entry-level vehicle starting at just $13,990 MSRP with anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, which helps you stay on course with improved stability and hill start assist that keeps the Rio in place on an incline. Base MSRP Range: $13,900 - $18,700.
#8. Mitsubishi Outlander
Percent of inquiries by women: 60.9%
A surprising entry on this list is the Mitsubishi Outlander. Mitsubishi on any list since 2010 is amazing. But they’ve been making strides in automotive styling and engineering, especially in the popular crossover segment. To start off, the Outlander is one of the only cars in this top 10 list to offer 7 seats and a third row. The CUV also offers a 7” Smartphone Link Display Audio that allows you to choose playlists, get directions, and safely access apps with Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™. Elegant and simple. The 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander also offers lane change assist, forward collision and blind spot warning. All must-haves for any 2019 vehicle for families, even one with a low starting price of just $24,695 MSRP. Base MSRP Range: $24,695 - $41,495.
#7. Jeep Compass
Percent of inquiries by women: 61.4%
The Jeep Compass launched in 2007 along with the now discontinued Patriot. Since then, the base model Jeep has been a good selling staple in Jeep’s stable of SUVs and CUVs. IHS has also made note that more people have switched to the Jeep Compass from other similar models than any other small CUV. The Compass comes in 5 trims that will be sure to fit any need. With a starting price of just $21,595 MSRP, the Jeep Compass offers world-class safety systems like LaneSense® Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist and Forward Collision Warning with Active Braking, systems normally found on much more expensive cars. The 2019 Jeep Compass continues to offer interesting exterior and interior color packages that delight and turn heads. Base MSRP Range: $21,595 - $29,445.
#6. Kia Sorento
Percent of inquiries by women: 62.0%
Only the third Kia in this list, the 2019 Kia Sorento SUV has been a staple of the Kia lineup since nearly the brand’s inception. This award-winning crossover has been a best seller in this space for nearly 18 years and offers some amazing features found on much more luxurious offerings. The dash offers a gorgeous, wide-screen available entertainment system with both Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™. As a 2018 IIHS Award Recipient, the Sorento offers amazing safety features that include available lane-keep assist, Dynamax™ All-Wheel Drive and Torque Vectoring Cornering. This affordable crossover, starting at just $25,990 MSRP also offers 7 passenger seating with a 3rd row. You can’t beat this SUV. Base MSRP Range: $25,990 - $46,490.
#5. Ford Fiesta
Percent of inquiries by women: 62.8%
The 2019 Ford Fiesta comes in as one of the smaller autos on this list, but don’t let its size fool you. This tyke offers a punch for the price and has been a favorite in the Ford lineup since it was introduced, for a second time, in 2008. The Fiesta is offered in a sedan or hatchback and is the smallest car in Ford’s lineup. It offers high technology in its SYNC® 3, Ford’s easy-to-use, responsive voice-activated technology, a large touchscreen with a sleek user-friendly interface to help you connect to and control your smartphone with Apple CarPlay™ or Android Auto™. Fiesta also offers exclusive Ford technology perks like Ford+Alexa which brings the amazing capabilities of Amazon Alexa from your home to the road (AppLink®, Voice Navigation, Traffic Information, over 50,000 Skills, Amazon Prime shopping and can even control your supported Smart Home devices.) Packed with style and technology, the Ford Fiesta is a bargain with a starting price of just $14,260 MSRP. Base MSRP Range: $14,260 - $21,340.
#4. Kia Forte
Percent of inquiries by women: 62.8%
Not once, not twice… not even a third time in this top 10 list of vehicles for females have we mentioned Kia. But it’s not surprising given the popularity of the brand and, especially, it’s award-winning small entry the 2019 Kia Forte. Introduced in 2008 by the Korean manufacturer in the United States, this car is available as a coupe, sedan and 5-door hatchback. This middle-of-the-road car offers the same great features listed in other offerings from the brand in this article: Touchscreen with Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™, autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot detection, and, of course, Kia’s 100,000 miles, 10-year warranty. With minimal styling on both the exterior and interior of this vehicle, you may want to opt for another Kia product in our top 10 list, even if it starts at a low, low $17,690 MSRP. Base MSRP Range: $17,690 - $21,990.
#3. Volkswagen Beetle
Percent of inquiries by women: 63.9%
The sole European entry on our list here, it’s completely surprising that Volkswagen’s other CUV offerings, the Tiguan and Atlas, didn’t muscle this car out. The current New Beetle, elongated in its 2012 re-style, is a sleeker and more masculine iteration of the re-introduced 1997 beetle. That car was considered very feminine; it even had a flower vase affixed to the dash. So why is this “more manly” beetle showing up on our list? A quick look at features and style might be a clue. Starting at just $20,895 MSRP, the 2019 New Beetle (in its last year of production by the way), offers “bumper to bumper smiles.” I’d add “styles” to that if they hired me for copyrighting. It’s hard to miss styling like its optional diamond stitching leather seats, or its various options of check fabric seating. Or it's sporty squared-off steering wheel. Or its unique, gigantic doors with what has to be one of the largest pieces of glass window in any car on the road. With all the tech features of its luxury brethren, like heated seats, digital temperature controls, rearview backup camera (neatly tucked under the VW logo in the back, and large touch-screen entertainment display offering Apple CarPlay™, it’s not hard to see how the 2019 VW Beetle ended up so high on this list. Base MSRP Range: $20,895 - $29,995.
#2. Nissan Versa
Percent of inquiries by women: 64.0%
Nissan’s only entry on our list is a workhorse for the brand in its small car category. Cheap, efficient and utilitarian, the 2019 Nissan Versa will get the job done without flair or pizazz. And Nissan is banking that this is the car for people who want exactly that. Nissan introduced the Versa in 2006 and is on its 3rd styling for 2019, with a sedan, 4-door version, and the “Versa Note,” a 5-door hatchback. Nissan’s version of the basic tech package, named Intelligent Mobility, brings your music, maps, and apps along for the ride and supports Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™. The Versa, starting at a low $12,360 MSRP also offers spacious room for a small sedan/hatchback. Base MSRP Range: $12,360 - $18,360
#1. Hyundai Tucson
Percent of inquiries by women: 66.2%
Hyundai’s sole entry in our top 10 list is one of the brand’s most award-winning SUV: the 2019 Hyundai Tucson. In its 4th design iteration since the introduction to the US market in 2004, the Tucson comes in 6 trims with technology and styling to match any other competitor. Along with the standard gadgets and gizmos found on many other vehicles, like a large touch-screen infotainment system that supports Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™, the Tucson offers luxury amenities not normally found on a car with an entry-level price point as low as $23,200 MSRP. Like an available sky roof, rear privacy glass, Infinity™ premium audio, blind-spot detection, available 19” wheels, heated steering wheel and LED head/tail lights. Base MSRP Range: $23,200 - $32,950.
An Interesting list
The first thing that strikes me about our list is that ladies focus on affordability. As low as $12,360 MSRP for the very cheap (and I mean cheap) 2019 Nissan Versa, to the $25,990 Kia Sorento, these cars, in their various forms, are affordable.
It’s also interesting that the focus of our list is 70% on Asian brands. Whether or not this is perceived reliability or advertising prowess, particularly on behalf of our clear champion, Kia, remains to be seen.
It will be interesting to see how this Top 10 list of cars for women fares in Q1 of 2019 after new models come into mainstream focus, like the Volkswagen Atlas, more station wagons by brands like Buick, Volvo, BMW and Mercedes that go head to head with Subaru and the like, and luxury crossovers from Cadillac are introduced to compete with european brands that have had a stronghold for years.
* Src. Gender and the Automobile, Margaret Walsh, University of Michigan (http://www.autolife.umd.umich.edu/Gender/Walsh/G_Overview.htm)