By on February 17, 2010

Marc writes:

My wife and I have a 6-month-old girl. Hurray, she’s a joy! While all is cool with my wife’s 2006 Accord V6, my 2004 Scion xB just does not seem, well, safe anymore. I love the small-on-the-outside-yet-cavernous-on-the-inside quality of this car (I’m 6’4″), but feel it would not bode well for my daughter if there were a bad accident. Plus, the 108hp engine is getting boring.

I want something safe and fun to drive. By “safe” I mean solid and meaty, and AWD would be nice too (we live in eastern Massachusetts); by “fun to drive” I mean quick and with a manual transmission, or at least a manumatic. We have lots of stuff to cart on weekend trips to the in-laws, but I like wagons (hence the Scion). And we definitely don’t need/want two sedans.

Price range is mid twenties, but less is always better. Might go high twenties for the right car. I figure I can get about $7500 for trading my xB (only 34k miles). Also, having a good amount of remaining warranty (1.5+ years) is important to me, so it can’t be too old. Some certified pre-owned makes are okay.

Here’s what I’ve considered, and why I’ve ruled them out:

2010 Subaru Outback: manual tranny only available on 4 cylinder, which has about three miles worth of clutch travel; I prefer the 6, but it seems over-priced and the only manual option is paddle shifters. Yuck.

2009 Subaru Outback XT 5M: these are going for a premium price right now. I don’t need a car THAT badly!

2010 Subaru Forester XT: was kind of fun to drive, but no manual tranny on the XT, only a lame-ass 4A (at least it’s a manumatic)

2010 Mazdaspeed3: awesome but too small. (I would sacrifice AWD on this one)

2010 Mazda CX-7 turbo: waaaay too much turbo lag.

2009-10 Subaru Impreza WRX: awesome but too small.

2009-10 VW Tiguan: manual tranny only available on the base model (no AWD)

2009 Toyota Venza: meh. (and overpriced)

2007-08 certified pre-owned BMW 328xi wagon: AWESOME! But come on, $32k for a used car??

2008 certified pre-owned Volvo XC70: just cannot bring myself to buy a Volvo.


Sajeev Mehta replies:

How about a 1-2 year old Jetta Wagon? Oh wait, you probably wanted the money in your daughter’s college fund safe from a mechanic’s hands: we hammer the Europeans for their cost-per-mile expenses for good reason, ya know. The same is true for Subies, to a lesser extent. So the Scion xB is right up your alley. A brand spankin’ new one, that is. Get it with a stick, a few tasty options and be well under budget. Enjoy a new car warranty and low interest rates too. Sure, the new xB it’s an unholy degredation of everything we enjoy in the original xB, but it’s certainly bigger and safer under the laws of Physics. And it is still a great wagon for growing families, realistic about what they need and can afford. And with Toyota’s current troubles, wait a little while to find a good deal and maybe even a Hyundai-like warranty to boot. You can’t touch this.

Steve Lang replies:

Toyota generally over-engineers their first generation models. The Lexus LS, SC, RX and all the Scion models (including the Xb) were initially released with thin profit margins and loads of content. However since you seem hell bent on shoveling thousands of dollars in hard earned savings down the tailpipe, why not splurge. Buy yourself an 2007 Audi A4 with as many trimmings as you desire. Make it a CPO model so that you don’t have to pay as many bills as Audis generally inflict.

The A4 of that vintage has an excellent sporting character, AWD, Manual tranny, and it’s also been given the proverbial Frank Williams seal of approval. On the safety front, the A4 has perfect scores on the NHTSA and IIHS ratings as well as better than average injury claim filings by the HLDI. Finally most Audi dealers have suffered the indignities of A4’s wallowing in new-car heaven for ungodly periods of time. Everything else you mentioned is pretty much a pretender compared with a true compact sports car (A Venza? Are you that pussywhipped?). Test drive an A4. Then calmly but firmly smack yourself in the head with a two by four and keep the Xb.
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88 Comments on “New Or Used?: Thinking Outside The Box Edition...”

  • avatar

    A4 Quattro Avant wagon would be my choice.


    • 0 avatar

      I like it. I’ll expand it to the Passat 4mo wagon, 04 or 05 model. Get an extended warranty. It’s an Audi A4 underneath (unlike current models), at 2/3 the price, and doesn’t suffer from as many repair hassles as VW/Audi models from the previous decade. Manny trannies in the AWD wagon are rare, but the Tiptonic does a pretty good job.

      I recommend this car reluctantly, as we have two V6 Passats, but they’re just such a good value and there aren’t many wagons out there.

      You say you want a warranty, but with many dealerships, a warranty can be a liability! Aftermarket warranties open your options to a lot more cars…choices where your $7,500 trade-in cash can go a lot further and help you stay out of debt.

    • 0 avatar

      Why not a Subaru Legacy? Marc has every other Subie on his list. I’m thinking an ’07-’09 Legacy GT / GT spec B. 5- or 6- speed manual if memory serves.

      “Then calmly but firmly smack yourself in the head with a two by four and keep the Xb.”

      That was a good line Steven, and probably good advice.

    • 0 avatar

      THANKS TO ALL for the feedback! I have gotten laid off since submitting my question, so it looks like I’m forced to keep the xB, at least for the time being. However, I hope this question has sparked some good discussion (it has), and my search will be back on eventually.

      I will look into an A4 a bit more closely, but the ones I’ve seen on the street seem kinda small.

      I did briefly consider a 2nd gen xB, but was not impressed with the specs. Guess I can look again.

      Thanks again to all. I’ll try to respond to some of the comments below.


  • avatar

    The final decision will largely be based on your passion-to-practicality ratio. If it’s high, get the Audi. If it’s very low, you may end up with a Toyota.

  • avatar


    You have a child, you’ll have a pile of crap to carry around (believe me, in about a year you’ll appreciate the sliding doors) and you want something reasonably safe. Heck, even if you have another child, it’s still reasonable. They added ESC to the 2010, to boot.

    It’s a bit on the slow side, but it makes up for it by being reasonably fun to drive.

    You might also want to consider the Kia Rondo for similar reasons, though it’s not quite as much fun and doesn’t come with a manual on this side of the Atlantic.

    Oh, and if you’re seriously considering the Venza, just get a Sienna instead. Really. You lose nothing but bling and gain a whole heapful of economy, space and convenience.

    • 0 avatar

      Good call. Definitely take a spin in the Mazda 5 and see how it feels. It’s really more car than minivan, so it drives pretty well. The drawback being that the third row is just a carpet-covered piece of plywood – useless for sitting in, but it folds down nicely for storage. Of course, not as much (horizontal) storage as true mid-size wagon.

      Hurry, before next year’s Joker-grin model replaces the tasteful outgoing one.

    • 0 avatar

      The rear seats of that type of vehicle are typically not recommended for child seats (some vans as well).

      That said, it’s not a bad choice either.

      Maybe they’ll replace the cheery-faces with some Mazda6 or Furai styling (yes, wishful thinking)

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      With both my brother’s 5 and ours: Child seats go in the 2nd row, older kids in boosters or small adults in the 3rd row.

    • 0 avatar

      I second this post… the Mazda 5 is a great car, flexible, fun to drive, and get’s great mileage. My aunt has a 2009. It has never been back to the dealer in the first 25K miles!

    • 0 avatar

      I rented a Mazda 5 for a thousand-mile road trip. Definitely worth a look. Get a set of snow tires if the lack of AWD concerns you.

    • 0 avatar

      The Mazda5 is actually kinda on my radar. It seems a little fuddy-duddy, but not without it’s charms.

      Thanks for the suggestion!


    • 0 avatar

      Mazda5 all the way:

      After having 15+ German lux/sports cars over the years (most recent 2004 Audi S4 convertible), the Mazda5 is just what our family needed for now.
      My 09 was a much better deal new than the used 08/09’s (mostly former rentals available), and my wife liked mine so much she bought a 2010.

      It offers a unique combination of space, sport & value.
      It is fun to drive & very nimble, you can even get a manual (we have one of each and the auto is great too and I think better suited to the car).
      The sliding door is hugely practical not just for the kids but loading anything. The 3rd row is great when you need it, and no other vehicle this small has one (except the Rondo which I would never consider – not sporty like the Mazda). I also love keeping the third row seats up to hold groceries & stuff in place behind them so they don’t go flying.

      The small size is great for parking & maneuvering, and the safety is good for its size with full-length curtain air bags.
      I think it’s much cooler than any of the compact SUV’s out there and it certainly drives better than most.

  • avatar

    You may want to check out the Toyota RAV4 with the V-6. These have ample power, but a manual is not offered. The RAV-4 may not be the best in the handling department, though I drove a 4-cyl version and it was not bad for a small SUV. Of course, you can upgrade the tires and suspension. Passive safety is good for the current model, too.

    • 0 avatar

      I have one, with the V6, the thing is alarmingly rapid -in a straight line (0-60 in 6.3ish, apparently). Fuel economy is around 21mpg (actual) for me. I wouldn’t call it particularly entertaining though, better tires help (and are a must if you plan to drive in snow -stock Geolanders were awful), but even then, it doesn’t encourage any kind of spirited cornering. I like it, but in short, it’s like most other smallish CUVs, just with a mental engine.

      Mine has the fairly rare combination of V6, Limited trim and 3rd row. The 3rd row is occasionally useful, but not a place to subject your friends and family to for a long time. It’s also difficult to get into if you have child seats installed in the second row.

  • avatar

    Before you splurge on all the goodies make sure your wife is okay with sunroofs. I know from experience that some women feel an opening in the roof is unsafe since they picture babies being ejected through them during a rollover. As odd as it seems (since the windows are bigger openings) it’s probably an oddity that isn’t worth arguments over down the road.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the tip, but I find them uninteresting myself. I had one in a Celica I once owned (yes, my 6’4″ frame fit quite comfortably into the driver’s seat) but never used it.


  • avatar

    How about the Suzuki SX4 AWD Crossover? My wife and I each own 2009 AWD versions with MT and love driving them. I have the Technology pkg and she has the Touring. We both added a dealer installed moon-roof. Paid under $18k with 7yr, 100k factory warranty. Plus, Consumer Reports just gave the SX4 their highest reliability rating, (much better than average). Oh yes, I traded in my 2006 Scion xB for my SX4.

  • avatar

    My dad got a used manual 2008 A4 Avant at a nice depreciation. It’s a beautiful machine, but with this gen A4, it will be a crapshoot whether you have a 2.0T engine that drinks oil or not. Obv. repairs will be more expensive and frequent than on the Hondayotas.

    That said, if you can wait ’til fall, you may be able to get an Acura TSX wagon with a stick for similar dough. Anybody have a better guess on what the TSX wagon will cost or whether it will come with a stick? I’m guessing $30k+ and yes…

  • avatar

    Rare but a good find:

    Subaru Legacy 2.5GT Wagon. 5 speed, 250hp, awd, great crash test scores. Quite the machine – I had one for a couple years.

    Check out the review of the new Hyundai Tucson here on TTAC – looks to be quite enticing based on the msrp!

  • avatar

    Ooh, oh! Just thought of another one: Honda Element SC. You can get a manual, they’re very safe, easy to clean up, rear-facing child-seats fit easily, even for tall drivers.

    And they can round a track about as well as a Civic Si.

    • 0 avatar

      As an Element owner, I thought about recommending it, but I think the suicide doors may be a pain once the kids start getting in and out on their own. And it only seats four.

      The SC doesn’t clean up easy (it’s carpeted), and doesn’t offer AWD, but the EX and LX fit the bill. I love the rubber floor, should be standard in all kid-friendly vehicles. Manual tranny was discontinued this year.

      I suppose the SC could be coaxed to handle like a Civic SI, but the LX and EX sit higher so don’t plan on doing any tracking in those. That said, they’re lower than most CUVs and quite wide so they’re less tippy than you’d expect, I find mine pretty fun to drive. If you can find a lightly-used manual for sale (not easy I’m told), you might check it out. Factory warranty is only 3 years, but it’s a Honda so that might no be big deal. Of course, we used to say that about Toyota….

  • avatar

    Wagon + AWD + manual transmission + fun to drive + safe = 2007 CPO (certified pre-owned) Volvo V70R. The X/C 70’s hooligan brother.

    Tough to find but worth it.

  • avatar

    Your child is PLENTY safe in the xB.

    Please, please, please, help the world stop this ‘so my kid’s safe’ insanity. You child is light-years safer in the xB than anyone’s kid ever was in ANY vehicle for 90% of the 20th Century.

    Evidence suggests that you made here alive.

    I walked away without a scratch after rolling an 82 Civic Wagon twice. I’ve seen many people walk away unscathed from worse. In even more primitive vehicles.

    I’ve also buried a coupla friends for errors that will make one dead no matter what is being driven.

    This ‘feel safe’ fallacy is how we ended up with the preposterous scenario of a bunch of mommies with 2 kids “needing” a YuSuburbaHo.

    • 0 avatar

      + 1 million on this one, porschespeed! The writer’s current sled is only a 2004. It isn’t like we went from four wheel drum brakes and lap belts to full curtain airbages and ABS in these last six years. If you want a new car because you’re jonesing for a new one, then say it like that. Their current vehicle is fine for what they need, but not necessarily what he wants.

      As for a replacement, I’m firmly with Steven on this one…keep the xB!

    • 0 avatar

      Although a 2004 xB might be much safer than a 82 Civic, simply by virtue of its light weight, it is not one of the safer cars on the road. I suggest you check out some of the crash test videos on youtube pitting an Accord against a Fit or an Audi Q7 against a Fiat 500. It’s tough to beat physics. Anecdotal instances of people surviving accidents in tin cans and others perishing in Volvos does not change the fact that a replacement vehicle that is more massive than the xB will maximize the occupants’ chances of survival, or at least minimize injury.

      In any case, in response to the OP, I’m actually 6’4″ and will likely be in the market for a new family hauler in mid 2011. As a car nut, I can’t help but mull the choices now. The Outback is probably the best compromise of utility, price and driving enjoyment. I’m also going to look at CPO Audi Q5s and Cadillac CTS Sportwagons – they’re more expensive, but also more engaging.

    • 0 avatar

      At least he’s looking at wagons and not gigantic SUVs.

    • 0 avatar

      And another big +1 from me too, for the same reasons.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree on the safety thing. I think the Gen 1 xB had 4-star safety marks, which is pretty good.

      Your daughter will be much less safe when she begins dating and/or texting with her friends in the car.

  • avatar

    I like the A4 wagons, but they really are expensive to own, and they aren’t fun in the same way your Scion is at all. Unless they are chipped they really aren’t “quick”, the extra awd+luxury weight is noticeable, and the gearchange isn’t as rushable as an actually small car, but they are awesome as dual purpose highway/backroad machines.

    How about…
    New GTI – mid twenties, base model is still far nicer than any competitor, best fwd handling/sporting compromise, bigger than a Mini or Mazda3 inside, safe. Snow tires trump AWD anway.

    Used Legacy GT – Below twenty grand, great car, basically almost the Audi at a lower price point, but I think with one less gear.

    New Sx4 – Ugly, but apparently “cheap and cheerful” and AWD. Not sure about safe.

    Spending 5 grand on suspension, tires, shorter shift linkages etc…for the Scion instead. Make the kid ride with mom.

    If you are used to a manual xB I think you would regret a switch to a manual-ish automatic. You will notice the hesitations, mistakes and wooliness of a(ny) auto after driving such a light and simple machine. You would regret it, and there is no auto (DSG included) that will measure up, whatever the salesmen say.

    • 0 avatar

      Look, there are problems here: One cannot really do heavy vehicle + sports car + budget. It looks like you mainly want a bit of fun. Buy a used Mazda 3. Figure out a way to explain it to your wife.

  • avatar

    Place the baby’s car seat into any vehicle you’re considering and try to sit in front of it. I’m 6ft7 and with the right seat position (laid back typically) I fit fine in our mid-size sedans. With the car seat installed I do not fit in front of it with any degree of comfort. This issue is making me seriously consider another daily driver with more space.

    I also have a Subaru STi wagon that I fit fine in (great head room), but it’s too modified to be a decent daily driver/baby carrier. If you’re looking at a Subaru avoid ones with any modifications.

    • 0 avatar

      Holy cow — my son can reach me from the opposite side of the back seat on an STI and that’s NOT a good thing :o

      When you have to do front-facing (especially if you move to a full-sized seat vs. the pedestal ones) you run into all sort of legroom issues.

      Good luck :)

    • 0 avatar

      I second this. Your child must be in a rear-facing seat at least until he she can walk or is 1 year old, whichever is later, and they’re safer if you can keep them rear-facing as long as possible. Neck damage that wouldn’t phase an adult (eg, from a gentle rear-ending) would be harmful or fatal to an infant and could happen in any car of any size.

      Rear-facing car seats must a) be at a safe recline angle and b) must leave a space of about 1″ between the edge of the carseat and the front seats. Very few cars allow that to happen.

      I highly recommend you get a police officer (many departments have car-seat clinics) to vet your car-seat installation. Once you know what a safe seat installation looks like, go shopping for cars based on that. Just about everything on your list is probably going to get disqualified.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for mentioning this. We were in fact bringing the car seat with us on test drives to check the fit and leg room issues. Gotta admit, the 2010 Outback has a great back seat.


  • avatar

    Are you planning on having another child in the next couple of years? If so, ask yourself how long you are planning on keeping the car that you are about to purchase. If it is much longer than a couple of years, then I think you need to ask yourself if the options you are considering now will be big enouth for your two-child family.

    There’s a reason that minivans and midsized SUVs (esp. those with 3 rows) are popular among parents, they haul kids better than anything else.

    If you have room for 3 cars, here’s an option. Keep your XB. Buy a 3-4 year old minivan for mid-teens. The Toyota Sienna has an all-wheel drive option. This leaves you with something approaching the perfect 3 car family fleet:, the small runabout, the all-around competent sedan, and the carry-everything van.

    If you don’t have room for 3 vehicles, and you want to hold onto the fun of small-ish fun cars at least a while longer, I’d go with a new Golf/Rabbit/Jetti GTi and a set of snow-tires.

  • avatar

    –edit–they’re back ;) –edit–

    Lots of good suggestions here, but I’d go:
    1) 2010 Subaru Legacy GT — lots of power, m/t and it’s nice and big, relatively. If you like get-up-and-go, there’s nothing like the feel of going back to a sedan. EVENTUALLY, you end up with less crap in-tow . . . we had that happen shortly after we went from a midsize sedan and a compact sedan to a van and an SUV. Now we’re at an SUV and a midsize sedan . . .

    2) 2010 Forester X25 Premium (M/T) — the subies are peppy and the M/T will make it moreso. My sis has a regular A/T (nothing else)version of this and it’s a nice step up from the wagon.

    If you stick to something in this smaller range (a midsize sedan/wagon or compact suv), and your wife wants an automatic, you’ll have a ton of powerful options if you need something bigger later.

  • avatar

    How about a CPO’ed Saab 9-3 Sportcombi or a 9-5 Sportcombi?

    Living in Eastern Mass you have a choice of four or five dealers within 30 minutes for sales and service. Moreover, Saabs are so common around here most independent mechanics will work on Saabs.

    I have had nothing but good luck with my Saabs for the past 15 years. Anecdotal evidence aside, a CPOed car will take any anxiety out of the purchase.

    Oh, you can’t forget the price. The resale values of Saabs stink. Of course, that cuts both ways; cheap to buy but you will take a bath on resale/trade if you don’t keep it for a good long time and get your money’s worth out of it.

    In short, if you buy right, a late-model Saab is an outstanding value.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 CPO 2 – 3 year-old Saabs are an excellent value proposition. I bought an ’06 9-5 wagon last winter, to replace my 2001 9-5 wagon. 210k miles on the old one with almost nothing but regular maintenance. My daughter’s 2000 9-3 is holding up just fine, too, as did the 1994 900 which preceded the first 9-5.

      Gary Blake Saab in Exeter NH tries to keep a manual or two in inventory.

    • 0 avatar

      For the record, it’s almost impossible to fit a rear-facing child-seat in a 9-3, and kind of tricky in a 9-5 if the driver is tall.

      This goes for just about every low-roof wagon excepting the Dodge Magnum.

  • avatar

    I was in the same boat a couple of years ago. I bought a 2005 Magnum RT in 2008. The hemi is great, drives beautifully and gave me enough room for our baby boy. It gets 18.5 mpg, not great but I have 340hp under my right foot. They stopped making these in 2008, so you can get a used one for mid 20s or less. I had a few problems but they were all covered under the extended warranty I purchased. It’s not as refined inside as the other wagons mentioned, but it is a safe hotrod for that “baby on board” sign.
    Go for the SRT8 magnum and you have 425hp!

  • avatar

    Keep the xB, weld in a rollcage and bolt on a turbo. But seriously, most cars aimed at family life are going to be at least somewhat boring.

    Standard transmissions are a dying breed across the board, but if your dream car is AWD safe family wagon that’s fun to drive and good in snow and with a stick shift you’re up there in enthusiast-dreamland with the RWD turbodiesel wagons we all want.

    You might consider visiting your local Unicorn dealer. Or compromise mightily.

  • avatar

    I can’t believe that here on TTAC no one has yet suggested that they would purchase this low-mile example of a gen1 xB that I presume might have a manual transmission for a small premium over the guesstimated $7500.

    Not that I’m offering; I abhor centralized instrument panels.

    But I agree that if you liked it enough to have bought it already then you should keep it. Your reasons for switching are not good enough reasons to get rid of the car. If you’re really bored with the low power look into a turbo kit. There’s bound to be a turbo kit for a Scion.

    • 0 avatar

      Good call, cdotson.

      $7500 for trade in is much less than you could get via private sale. And it’s not a difficult car to unload I’d imagine.

      Beyond that, none of the cars listed, aside from maybe the Element or Cube can even come close to the xB’s space efficiency.

      If anything, you could search for the rare first-gen xB that has side impact air bags (or is it side curtain?). If I recall, that was an option, late in the model cycle.

  • avatar

    How about a used Mazda6 wagon? I’ve been looking at these lately, and they’re pretty appealing. The 6 is fun to drive, but I don’t know for sure if you can get the wagon with a manual.

    You could get the hatch too – I really like those, but they won’t haul quite as much as the wagon.

    • 0 avatar

      The previous-gen Mazda6 wagon was available with a 5spd; my co-worker has one. The wagons are V6 and FWD only.

      The only AWD 6 was the Mazdaspeed6 and that was sedan-only (but had a 6spd IIRC).

    • 0 avatar

      I only found out about the MS6 being AWD after I got my 2009 Mazda6 — what a shame they didn’t bring that to the MS3 or 2009+ Mazda6.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Ramrod

      I second this choice- the V6/ 5-speed Mazda 6 wagon is out there, but if memory serves, Mazda dropped this combination on the wagons around ’50 or ’06. As a parent, I can can promise you’ll be glad to have at least one wagon/SUV/crossover in the family. I tried to talk my wife into one of these, but she ultimately chose a Honda Pilot, which is perhaps the most boring vehicle ever built.

    • 0 avatar

      Great suggestion. Thanks. I remember admiring these when we went to test a Mazda6 sedan for my wife before we bought her Accord.

      I’ll look for some of these fo’ sure.


  • avatar
    Alex Dykes

    If you truly seek a safe car, and you are willing to list an XC70 here, then that should be your choice. The 2008 XCs run on Volvo’s latest and safest car chassis at the moment, more electronic safety doo-dads than you can shake a lutefisk at, plus it’s got some Euro cred and while not as snooty as a BMW or a Merc, you won’t be shamed at the country club driving up in a Volvo, people will look at it and realise that you chose it because you are safety concious and have kids, in a gee isn’t that sweet kind of way. The Mazdas, Subarus, etc on your list would just tell the crowd at the club that you were too cheap to buy something from the Euro-zone. It’s Crocs vs Birkenstocks.

    Secondly at 6’4″, if you are the long-legged variety of tall, then cross that 3 series off your list, leg room is not the 3 series’ forte. I’d stick with the Scion, after the diaper expense comes college savings.

  • avatar

    The chances of your child being in an accident bad enough to kill or seriously injure her in the xB but not bad enough to do the same in a slightly larger vehicle is approximately 0.00%. Save your money.

  • avatar

    Another Porschespeed+1
    Keep what you’ve got, it’s a million times safer than what we grew up with and more than reasonably safe by today’s standards. Once you’ve got two kids and outgrow the Scion look at larger options. Save your money for your kid’s future, more chance she’ll need college than need all those airbags. I carry my kids in a 96 Windstar which is nothing special but gets the job done for now. For winter safety I have a set of rims with good snows.

  • avatar

    I don’t understand getting rid of your xB. But if you’re still into the box car thing, the Nissan Cube is an IIHS Top Safety Pick. It doesn’t pack awd, but other than that it’s a good vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      The Cube and Versa are both ideal child-carriers (both can accommodate a rear-facing seats even with tall passengers in the front) but the trunk space is a little on the small side, especially in the Cube.

      If you’re ok with that (eg, if it’s just for intra-city runs and you don’t have a big stroller) than they’re fine choices.

  • avatar

    What’s wrong with the XB again? It was given a “Good” (The highest rating) in IIHS tests, so anything you get will be only marginally, at best, safer.

  • avatar

    I suggest a used Volvo V50. You can get it in awd + manual config.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    If I was concerned about saftey, I’d slow down, drive defensively and keep the present car. With the money saved, I’d start a college fund. Eventually, you’d be happy that you did this, believe me.

  • avatar

    I want something safe… By “safe” I mean solid and meaty, and AWD would be nice too

    Thinking WAY out of the box here: A ’00-’05 Dodge Cummins Diesel Quad Cab.
    Safe. Solid. Meaty+++.
    And, as an added bonus, you can add ‘Loud’. People git out of yer way…

    and by “fun to drive” I mean quick and with a manual transmission

    Dodges are quick!
    Dodges come with sticks!
    OK. Granted, they’re more of a ‘challenge-drive’ than a ‘fun-drive’.
    But wait – you’re from Mass!
    Triple the fun-to-drive factor: Just plaster your Ram with a half dozen “Prius-Killa!” bumper stickers and watch the scowls and shocked looks of the average Mass Driver.

    We have lots of stuff to cart on weekend trips to the in-laws, but I like wagons…

    You’ll love a pickup bed even more. Not to mention the gobs of aftermarket covers and tarps and stuff that you can buy to cover stuff back there.

  • avatar

    Nissan Cube. All the quirkiness and roominess of your current car, terrific safety ratings (IIHS Top Pick), reasonable price and available with a six-speed stick. It’s not the fastest car out there, quite specifically not, but if you subscribe to the drive-slow-cars-fast school of fun driving (not a bad idea considering you’re a dad now) it just might work for you.

  • avatar

    +1 to Doug D

    Yeah the size equals safety thing is bunk. If you have to have a different vehicle, look at your requirements, your budget, and take the child seat with you too see if it fits. With the curtain of airbags now a days if you’re not going to survive an accident, you’re not going to survive it. The size of the vehicle will matter very little.

    • 0 avatar


      I’m sorry, but I think you’re just plain wrong. Mass matters. I suggest you watch this Accord crush the Fit (which is ranked “Good” by the IIHS in a crash test against a barrier).

    • 0 avatar

      No Sir, you are wrong! (Sorry too much coffee on an Ash Wednesday.) Do you at least accept the preposition that mass doesn’t matter as much as it used too? I know if a 1970 Impala was going to crash into a Nash Metropolitan I know which car I’d rather be in, but seriously, I don’t think I’m safer in a new Taurus than a new Fiesta just because of the size difference.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re both wrong…sort of. In a head on collision, all other things being equal, heavier vehicle wins, as it’s bringing more mass (and energy) to the party and can push the smaller vehicle out of the way, in effect transferring some of it’s energy to the smaller vehicle. But hitting a stationary obstacle, that extra mass is a detriment, as all that energy has to be absorbed by the vehicle… and it’s occupants. So if you plan on getting in a head on, buy a Hummer. If an oak tree is in your plans, go Smart car shopping. As far as which type of accident is more statistically likely, I don’t know.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m aware that mass doesn’t make a difference when hitting an immovable object, hence the reason a minicar can get a five star rating. The premise of my argument was that a bigger car will crush a smaller car, thus I provided the link of the Accord vs the Fit.

      Educatordan, you don’t think you’re safer in a Taurus than a Fiesta? Why not? Did you not watch the “Good” rated Fit (~2500 lbs) suffer considerable damage when it was hit by the “Good” rated Accord (~3400 lbs). I can assure you that the results would be more dire when a ~4200 lb Taurus runs into a ~2600 lb Fiesta.

      When you consider that the best selling vehicles in the US for the past two decades have been full-size domestic pickups (~ 5000 lbs) and that for a good part of the decade, light trucks (as in pickups, SUVs and minivans) represented over 50% of the new vehicle market, you’ll realize that as accidents go, if a 2500 lb xB has a collision, it is going to be with a vehicle of considerabley more mass. And it such instance, it will lose. So to the OP I say that you’re entirely justified in replacing the xB with a bigger car as a family hauler.

  • avatar

    I’ve got 2 kids, 1 in forward facing Britax and the other in a rear facing infant seat.

    I’m driving an 01 740i short wheel base. The fwd facing seat is fine, but the infant seat bumps up to my front seat. The 7 is a big car. Reality is, if you’re really concerned about space, you should get an SUV or minivan.

    I’m holding onto this car until my youngest is out of the infant seat… then I’m getting the forthcoming X3 with a stick or a GTI. I was VERY surprised with the amount of room in the back seat of that car… more than what is in a 5 series.

    Just thought of another option for you: a G8 GT or for a manual, a GXP. They’ve been hit with depreciation pretty hard. Big on the inside, big trunk, very big back seat.

  • avatar


    What transmission and what color is the xB?


  • avatar

    Why has no one mentioned the previous generation Forester XT. The turbo came with a standard gearbox as standard.

    The IIHS recommends them and they are quite roomy. Plus good low milage examples are in the low 20s.

    Like this one near Boston

    Or few a few thousand more and another 10,000 miles you can get a certified Audi S4 Avant with a stick.

    • 0 avatar

      I personally didn’t mention it because I spent some time in the back seat of one and wouldn’t necessarily call it much roomier than the xB.

      Before the current gen Legacy and Forester (not sure about other models), I thought the back seats of Subi’s existed for the same reason that coupes had back seats:
      To punish someone that the driver didn’t like very well.


  • avatar

    Chevy HHR SuperSport?

    Mini Cooper Clubman?

  • avatar

    If the Mazdaspeed 3 is, as you say, awesome, why wouldn’t you consider the Mazda 5? It’s a Mazda 3 on growth hormones. It’s the same mechanicals as the 3, with the same drivetrain options as the 3, but with about 2.5 times more interior space than the 3.

    I seriously looked at buying a 5 (even convinced Mrs. Monty to go on 3 extended test drives with me), and with the stick was a fun drive. Lots of luggage room, or room for 6 people (two of which have to be on the smallish side!), and it comes with “driving enjoyment” as standard equipment.

  • avatar

    Last July I bought an Outback and a Legacy at the same time (I am sure SL is slapping his forehead). Both 2.5 mt, both with the value pack or whatever it was called (harmon karden and some other stuff). I paid $40,500 cash out the door.

    I think they are both pretty fun to drive and they have excellent crash ratings. Gas mileage is pretty bad, they either need a taller 5th or a 6th. The outback does ~25 and the legacy does about 27 depending on how I drive. The back seats are crap and reception on the radio is atrocious, but other than that I can’t complain.

    FWIW on snow or grass it is entirely possible to generate throttle induced oversteer or even donuts, though you better be ready for it or have plenty of space because it lacks predictability.

  • avatar

    Aside from Audis, it seems like the best fit for you is a Subaru Forester XT or Outback XT with a manual. I know you ruled out the 2009 Outback based on the premium they are going for, but there are earlier model years out there going under 20K.

    Regarding the Subaru back seat comments, I’m really not sure what some of you expect for back seat room. I fit pretty comfortably in the back of my mom’s 2004 Forester XT (as long as the front passenger isn’t all the way back) and I’m 6’2″.

    If you’re willing to forego the manual and/or look at CUVs your options really open up. A whole bunch of Volvos, BMW X3 and X5, the aforementioned Dodge Magnum, etc.

  • avatar

    My long-shot (and late to the party) used suggestions:

    1. Infiniti FX35/FX45: Good performer. Very engaging to drive. Looks cool.

    2. Cadillac SRX 3.6L: The Sigma platform and the 3.6L engine are a very good match. The 1st-gen SRX is like the CTS wagon before the CTS wagon existed. Upgrade the tires though.

    3. Chrysler PT Cruiser GT (manual transmission): Yes, it is a Chrysler. However, this thing is a world away from the usual PT Cruiser crowding the rental car lot. You can get a good example for way under your budget too. It also sounds more your style than something like the Magnum.

    4. Chevrolet Equinox Sport or Pontiac Torrent GXP: I think these were under-rated vehicles, and a lot better than people expect them to be.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Try a Gran Marquis, or a wood grained final edition Roadmaster wagon. yuk, yuk. Neither with a manual, but parenthood isnt really about you, so… I went from old bugs to Jeep Grandwagooneers when the kids came. My twins turned 26 yesterday. Subie wagons are pretty much the 21st century equivalent. If you commute into or around Boston, why on earth would want to row a 6 speed?

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    you can get an A6 a year or two older for that. Its bigger for sure.

  • avatar

    2010 Hyundai Santa Fe. Robustly-built, reliable, nicely finished, long warranty, and a silky 276 hp V6 with 6-speed manumatic. I bought an ’08 after years of Honda and Nissan ownership, and have never looked back.

    The German cars are the best drivers, but raising a family do you really need the hassles and expense? I’m with Sajeev; save your money for the college fund.

  • avatar

    After 6 years, I replaced my manual ’04 Xb with a a manual ’09 Forester Premium, for much the same reasons. The Forester isn’t as much fun to drive (I miss the Xb’s tossability), but the increase in comfort and refinement is welcome, as is the giant sunroof. Safety-wise its a vault. I love the car.

    I’ve also driven the ’10 Outback with the 6-speed manual (a good friend has one). Its nicely appointed in Premium trim (no leather available w/ the manual) and it’s a bit more refined than the Forester. Well worth the $24K, but the Forester is better looking IMO and has about the same utility.

  • avatar

    > 2007-08 certified pre-owned BMW 328xi wagon: AWESOME! But come on,
    > $32k for a used car??

    Last February (2009) I bought a loaded 2007 328xiT with manual transmission, 26k miles for $25k. First owner, all paperwork, perfect condition. Even got Thule cross bars for the roof rack from PO.

    At $32k they can keep it. These are rare as hen’s teeth, so prepare to search for a long, long time.

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