cos: (Default)
[personal profile] cos
I'm going to keep my used VW Passat wagon here in Cambridge so I have a car when I'm visiting home, and planning to buy a new car in Seattle. I don't know that much about cars, and haven't bought a new one in nearly 20 years (the VW is a 2004 I bought used in 2009 from an acquaintance) ... so I don't know much about the cars that are out there now, even if I buy used again.

Maybe if I tell y'all what I want, some of you may have opinions or suggestions? Worth a try!
  • Long range, easy to refill/recharge anywhere. I think that rules out fully-electric. Although I won't do it that often, I'd like a car that I can drive to places like Eugene (~300 miles) or Yellowstone (~750 miles) in one trip sometimes.

  • Fuel-efficient. So maybe a hybrid. I don't know much about hybrids, never had one.

  • Key that isn't too bulky - one of my main annoyances with the VW is how big the key is. But also, a key that lets me fully operate the car even if its electronics fail. I've had a horrible experience with a rental car that was rendered useless when they key's electronics stopped working.

  • Enough space to carry camping stuff, or a few extra people, or both at once :) But it doesn't have to be particularly large, just not too compact.

Date: 2017-Jan-13, Friday 00:35 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Toyota Corolla? Sedan with a trunk. Seats 4-5 and gets decent mileage. Good repair record.

Date: 2017-Jan-13, Friday 00:46 (UTC)
wotw: (ab)
From: [personal profile] wotw
I'm not sure I have a clear vision of what you're looking for, but since I have a little bit of possibly-relevant and certainly-recent knowledge, I will share it and you can ignore it or not, as appropriate.

My car recently spent a full month in the shop. During that time, I drove a Lexus ES hybrid, which was in many ways awesome. However, I also spent that time shopping for alternatives, as I wasn't sure what prognosis I was facing on my own car. And I discovered some very desirable features that the Lexus hybrid lacks. Namely:

1) A lot of cars these days are traveling wi-fi hotspots. This is an option on a lot of models. Lexus does not (as far as I could tell) offer this option.

2) A lot of cars these days have systems to warn you about drivers in your blindspot. I'd never have guessed how wonderful this is until I had it for a month. But all the Lexus does is flash a light at you when someone's in your blindspot (there's a light on each side mirror that flashes for drivers in your blindspot on either side). Some other manufactuers (e.g. Infiniti) offer much more elaborate systems --- first the light flashes; then if you appear to be ignoring the light and trying to pull into the next lane, your steering wheel vibrates; then if you ignore *that*, the car automatically applies the brakes on just one side to force you back into your own lane. (You can also turn this feature off.) Having the Lexus system was, as I said, far more awesome than I anticipated, and I can no longer figure out how I've survived this long without it. Having the Infiniti system would, I think, be another great leap of awesome.

3) Of the many cars I looked at, Lexus has by *far* the worst interface with satellite radio, iPod, etc --- but still far better interface than on my existing seven-year-old Lexus ES350.

4) Most cars have one screen that you can use for climate controls, audio, navigation ,etc. Only two makes that I'm aware of (Infiniti and Acura) offer *two* screens, so you can have two of the above up at once. Some people claim that having your attention split between two screens is a safety hazard. I say the opposite. When I test drove, I found that having the nav and the audio up on two separate screens meant I wasn't constantly switching between them on one screen, leaving a lot more of my attention free for the road.

5) Hybrids are amazingly quiet. This won't last long. New regulations require hybrids to be noisier, so pedestrians are more likely to hear them coming. If you want ultra-quiet, you've got to buy very soon.

I'm sure 60 other things will come to mind as soon as I post this comment, but I don't know whether any of them are relevant to you. Let me know if you want more.

Date: 2017-Jan-13, Friday 00:49 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I really like the cargo capacity and seating vs cargo carrying options on my Honda Fit. 4 door plus hatchback and besides the usual split back seat that can fold down, the seat bottoms can fold up instead. It's got an electronic fob instead of a key but there's a hardware key built into it for last ditch use. (This may not be in spec for you, depending). Pretty good mileage on the gas fueled one I have but I don't think they have a hybrid version yet. If I run into you this weekend, I can give you a tour of the car if you want. The fob is bulkier than I like for my pocket but I usually wear cargo pants so I have it in my cargo pocket in a little pouch so the buttons don't get pressed by other crap in my pockets or anything. I haven't done any long road trips in it yet but it's quite comfortable for a couple of hours of driving at a time.

Someone turned theirs into a makeshift camper:
Edited Date: 2017-Jan-13, Friday 00:50 (UTC)

Date: 2017-Jan-13, Friday 03:30 (UTC)
laurion: (Default)
From: [personal profile] laurion
Fit is a nice choice. I was choosing between that and (what I eventually went with) the Toyota Matrix for my last car purchase.

Date: 2017-Jan-13, Friday 15:44 (UTC)
gilana: (half)
From: [personal profile] gilana
My husband did a ton of research before we bought a car a few weeks ago. He looked at both the Fit and the Matrix and ended up going with the Mazda3. I don't drive and know very little about cars, so I can't say much about it, but the electronic key fob is not bulky and does have a physical key built in, the hatchback version we got has lots of cargo space, and has good mileage. If you have any specific questions let me know and I'll ask him. (Also it's apparently lots of fun to drive -- very responsive. It certainly feels nice as a passenger.)
Edited Date: 2017-Jan-13, Friday 15:44 (UTC)

Date: 2017-Jan-13, Friday 16:50 (UTC)
gilana: (half)
From: [personal profile] gilana
We haven't done enough driving yet to really be able to tell. Based on the research Aaron did reading forums as well as the info they put out, city should be high 20s–30 and highway is about 38-39. Our trip computer so far says that combined city and highway average is about 31.

Date: 2017-Jan-17, Tuesday 01:22 (UTC)
ext_9394: (periodic table)
From: [identity profile]
We had two Mazda 3s hatchbacks in a row (the first was totaled in an accident -- it definitely kept David safe in a fairly ugly accident), and the fuel economy was not great. The cars were otherwise fine. We just replaced the second one with a Prius V (the Prius wagon) and seriously considered the Fit. We just liked the Prius better and also had a better experience finding one in the actual trim package we wanted to test drive. It does have an electronic fob and I'm not sure there's a way around that. You can pull a physical key out of the fob and leave the fob in the locked car securely, but I'm pretty sure you need the fob to start the car.

The Mazda 3s of a few years ago definitely could do physical-key only; I only carried a physical key for it myself most of the time.

Date: 2017-Jan-13, Friday 16:22 (UTC)
laurion: (Default)
From: [personal profile] laurion
Oh, yeah! For family size and stuff reasons I just bought an SUV, and the Mazda CX-5 was definitely fun to drive and responsive. They don't make the Matrix any more, the closest thing now is the Scion iM, but it really isn't the same. The Mazda 3 does look like a good choice.

Date: 2017-Jan-13, Friday 16:31 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Seconded. I LOVE my Honda Fit. I can cram in all kinds of stuff into it, and go long distances without having to stop for gas.

- I have never had to use the hardware key, so I can't say if it works or not.
- There is a little "economy" button that supposedly saves even MORE on fuel, but you sacrifice some get up and go. (I don't like losing the get up and go when I want it, and I'm a gentle driver in general.)
- I haven't been to any rugged places but I managed okay over at Unicoi in Georgia for the little time I was there.
- I drive 2 hour trips on a regular basis, and have made much longer trips in it. I get plenty of recuperation from gas/rest stops on the longer trips. I find it comfortable to drive, although longer trips tire me out in general.
- It's a little noisy on the inside.
- Sometimes the Bluetooth connection gets wonky and I have to reset everything.
- The clock seems to be consistently 2 minutes slow, which I find annoying but not a deal breaker.
- I did not really do any car shopping, so I can't compare the Fit with much else. I had driven the Toyota whatever is comparable and it seemed more cheaply made, and I was a little scared of it. And I didn't like the Ford whatever (both of these were rentals, and I'm sorry, I'm not car-savvy enough to tell you what these were). Or maybe it was a Chevy whatever. In any event, I didn't like any of the rentals enough to seek them out. I might have considered a Mazda if I had remembered them.

Date: 2017-Jan-13, Friday 02:40 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You should probably prepare yourself to be disappointed on the "bulky key" criterion: the trend at the moment seem to be toward bigger and dumber electronic key fobs.

(I <3 my Mini Cooper, but suspect it fails too many of your other stipulations to seriously agitate for.)

Date: 2017-Jan-13, Friday 03:26 (UTC)
laurion: (Default)
From: [personal profile] laurion
Having just completed a car search, there's not a good way to get the kind of range you're looking for in an all-electric. A Tesla maybe, because you can get a quick(er) charge. You might get -to- Eugene on a full charge, but not back. Yellowstone would probably need two or three charges in each direction. Yes, a car will need more gas, but that's still a lot faster than an electric charge, even a Tesla.

What you should look at is a plugin hybrid. This is a vehicle that is electric most of the time, but has a gas engine for when the batteries are getting low or you need an extra boost to climb that mountain.

If you want to carry both people and stuff sometimes, check out the Prius V. It's a hybrid station wagon. Or maybe the new Prius Prime, which is a plugin hybrid, and they claim over 600 miles on a full charge and tank.

Date: 2017-Jan-13, Friday 03:29 (UTC)
laurion: (Default)
From: [personal profile] laurion
Oh, and as a note on the key thing... almost every car has the big chunky electronic key fob. But it should include some sort of pop-out emergency actual physical key, because even if the battery inside dies you should have the option to get into the car and, you know, have a car. It isn't always obvious, so I'm not sure if the rentals you got had the backup physical key option or not, but you should definitely insist on it in any future car possessions.

Date: 2017-Jan-13, Friday 03:55 (UTC)
laurion: (Default)
From: [personal profile] laurion
Older hybrids used to have issues with acceleration, which made getting up to speed on a highway on ramp (for example) tricky. If a car comes in both a hybrid and non-hybrid version, look for the sacrifices made for the hybrid version. I looked at some vehicles that sacrificed cargo space for the batteries, or did away with the spare tire to make room for the batteries (requiring the owner to have more expensive run-flat tires). Some vehicles are technically hybrids, but it might mean they have an over-excited starter motor so they can turn off the gas motor frequently. These typically don't have great mileage benefits because the electric motor can't actually propel the car, but turning off the gas motor when possible does have a little benefit.

Date: 2017-Jan-13, Friday 08:37 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I would still get a diesel estate (wagon, in American parlance). I think my Mercedes E350 Bluetec is the perfect all-rounder. Good (very good, in fact) acceleration, enough self-driving technology to be helpful, large boot space, very comfortable to drive and sit in, very reliable (so far, 2.5 years in), holds 4 large people or 5 ordinary size people, etc.

The E250 is also said to be pretty good, though it won't have quite the effortless go in any situation that mine does. The E220, if you can get it, is underpowered - don't buy.

(if any of these are available in the USA, of course).

Another Passat might be a totally reasonable choice.

Date: 2017-Jan-15, Sunday 01:17 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I have the latest model Volt. I think it fits most of your criteria. Let me know if you'd like to stop by and take a look, maybe test drive it - and say goodbye before you go.

Date: 2017-Jan-27, Friday 16:16 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My absolute favorite car I've ever owned as a 2006 Scion xB. Limited electronics, limited pickup, but amazing gas mileage (I was getting 35+ mpg combined) and more interior space than even its bigger brother, the 2008 xB. I wish you could still get them. It was a perfectly utilitarian box on wheels. I got hit twice in that car--the exterior is practically Tupperware, and it sprang back into space with a simple push from the inside in both cases with barely a scratch. I put over 80,000 miles on it in four years, and didn't have a single mechanical defect. Now that Roo is 16 and will be driving soon, I'm even looking for a used one for him.

I've bought and driven Ford, Buick, Honda, Chrysler, Saturn, Scion (Toyota) and Toyota. At this point in my life I will go back to Toyota every time. Honda is second--and while I wouldn't describe it as a close second, it's still light-years ahead of everything else I've owned. I understand that there is an entirely different strata of cars that I've never experienced (Lexus, Infiniti, Tesla, etc.) but in the range of non-luxury brands, Toyota has definitely been the most solid and reliable for me.

Date: 2017-Jan-29, Sunday 13:41 (UTC)
totient: (default)
From: [personal profile] totient
If you're looking for sometimes hauling gear, sometimes hauling people, and you're coming from a small wagon, your category is "5-door hatch". There are a lot of these and most of them are imports but don't overlook the Ford Focus which is a very good car (the current model was designed in Europe so it's only sort of domestic anyway; stay away from years that were designed in the US).

I have heard good things about the Prius C. It draws on the Toyota Vitz heritage and I really like the Vitz (sold in the US as the Yaris hatchback, but note that another totally different and inferior sedan/coupe has also been sold under the Yaris name so you'll see bad reviews there).

The lovely thing about buying new is you have a lot of choice. Within category often the cars are really similar. Narrow your choices down by whether the driver's seat is comfy for you to sit in for an hour at a time. If the dealership won't let you drive the thing to Everett and back, you might be able to rent a Zipcar for an hour or two and do the drive in that. Zipcar has different 5-door hatches in its inventory in different cities -- for instance I don't think there are any Versas in Seattle but there are some here in Boston.

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