Far be it for me to know what women want; I'm no Mel Gibson.
But as an observer, anyone can generalise on the subject of what women want in their car. Not women whose cars are bought for them, but regular working women. Just watch when you're out driving and some trends emerge.
The cynical might suggest that for a good proportion of women colour is critical for car choice, and to my mind that's probably not unreasonable. Look at superminis, for example. Most are much of a muchness. Similar power and economy, space and dynamics, reliability and warranty. So to buy on colour primarily (and shape as the other determinant) isn't as silly as it seems.
Most women, I'd imagine, investigate life's second largest purchase using a few more criteria. That said, it seems to me that many younger women view the car as a fashion accessory. Two I know, one in her 40s, one in her 50s, both bought Golf cabriolets recently. "I've just always wanted a convertible" both said. I suspect that what they really meant was "I just really like how I look and feel in one of these". From a male car reviewer's standpoint, I'd say the Golf convertible is probably the best open-top value you can buy at present, and I said a heartfelt "well done, you" to both of them.
A younger acquaintance is after a new car, she has around $7k to spend and has her heart set on a second-hand Mazda3/Axela. Nothing will dissuade her from this, though it's probably not the right car for her.
I asked her what it was she wanted in a vehicle and she said it had to be economical, and it had to be appropriate for the odd big trip. Realistically, pretty much anything will do the latter, superminis even, though some will do it with more decorum than others. I suggested the Mazda fits the bill for her secondary concern, but for economy she could do much better - a 2.0L auto Maz3 averages around 8.0L/100km. Moreover, for the money the Mazda she'd be buying would be high mileage. Given she lives and works in city environs, she'd be better off with a supermini for ease of parking, visibility, and turning circle. All that jazz.
And of course the small Honda was one I suggested she look at because of its uniquely large hatch area, similar in size to that of the next class up (Honda relocated the fuel tank under the front seats to free up luggage space). Or perhaps a Micra, lightweight, economical, inexpensive. To both suggestions I got an are-you-serious look? And she's probably right; you more often see older women driving these models.
And that's the point; the car for the young woman is not necessarily just a means of conveyance; it's also a fashion statement.
Back when I was thinking about my first vehicle - which turned out to be a motorcycle because my parents weren't keen - young fashion-conscious women wanted Mini Minors, and if they had a bit more coin, a Mini. Today, the Mini is as much a fashion icon as it was back then, though nowadays is a bit more expensive, having moved into the BMW fold. For a while the MX-5 gained favour too, but that's now being driven by a widely divergent bunch.
As time went by the young woman's favourite became the VW Golf (with the less well off opting for Polo) and it stayed popular until the Suzuki Swift, Ford Fiesta and the Mazda3 happened along.
Women seem to like the edgy looks of the Mazda and Ford. The Swift takes some styling cues from the Mini, short overhangs in particular, and that and its affordable pricing largely explain why it's so popular here. Oddly, it's not anywhere near as hot in Australia.
If you're a woman who happens to like cars, you don't just buy any old Golf, Swift or Mini; it's the Golf GTI, the Swift Sport or the Cooper S, anything that differentiates it from the run-of-the-mill model that everyone else has.
So what has my young friend opted to do? Nothing; she's running around in her Dad's beat up Ford Ka, and doesn't seem keen to relinquish it any time soon. She reckons she cannot believe how little fuel it uses compared with her former car, an Astra. When she does buy a vehicle, it will probably be a Mazda3/Axela because you simply cannot put a value on how good a car can make you look and feel. And she will doubtless be happy with everything about it, except its economy.
I have probably overlooked other car makes and models popular with working women. Feel free to comment, and tell us why you think they're hot items. SUVs we will leave for another time.