Courtesy of Hyundai
When a friend asked the Andersons for a good replacement for her aging Ford Bronco, they suggested the Hyundai Tucson, above, because it suited her price range and active, outdoor lifestyle.
As auto columnists, we're often asked by friends and readers to suggest specific cars that they should consider when they're ready to buy.
Answering these questions is almost as personal as therapy, since we have to understand their personal likes and dislikes - as well as factual needs - before we search our database to find a car that will match.
We got just such a question last month from a friend who works as a hairstylist in a Los Altos shop. She was replacing an aging Ford Bronco that had passed the point where costs to keep it running were less than the cost of a new car, provided a new car could be found for under $25,000.
We first talked about what she liked about the Bronco. She mentioned the driving position, which allowed her to see over smaller cars in traffic.
She also said she kept her bicycle in the back during the summer so she could ride local trails on long twilight evenings after getting off work.
And, since she liked to go backpacking and skiing in the winter, the go-anywhere ability of the car - combined with good load space - was important to her.
With those parameters, we could eliminate convertibles, compacts and coupes.
A small station wagon - like the new Mazda 6 - was a possibility. However, she expressed a deeply rooted aversion to the image of station wagons, though the idea of a minivan didn't bother her.
Taking into account her budget, we came up with two possibilities.
To save money, she could consider a good-quality, low-mileage used minivan, like a Honda Odyssey, provided she bought through a dealership that offered a manufacturer's used-car warranty.
Or she could consider a new crossover vehicle that combines attributes of cars and SUVs - what the auto writers are calling a "cute-ute."
A few weeks later - after searching our lists, talking to other journalists and driving a few possibilities - we found a vehicle that she said may be the perfect choice: a 2005 Hyundai Tucson GLS.
Stickered at just more than $20,000 with optional all-wheel drive, it offers the higher seating position of a sport utility vehicle, as well as good load-carrying space in the back for a bicycle or camping gear. A rack on the top can be easily fitted for skis.
The optional all-wheel drive will give her good driving ability over dirt roads to hiking or biking trailheads, though with the all-weather tires she'll still have to mount chains on the front wheels to make it to Lake Tahoe in severe snow conditions.
Nevertheless, the car is small, so it's easy to maneuver and is EPA-rated at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 26 on the highway.
The fact that it's a brand-new car means not only a dealer warranty from a dependable manufacturer but also that the vehicle is equipped with up-to-date safety devices, including traction control, ABS and all-round air bags.
And the Hyundai Tucson is cute - just the image for a style-conscious young woman who is active and enjoys the outdoors.