By on June 16, 2011

Bryan writes:

I have a new baby, and a prized Miata, and want to keep both. Therefore I am considering selling my daily driver, a 2002 Cadillac STS with 82K miles. In order to reduce overall monthly costs, I need something with extremely high MPG. Therefore I am considering the Honda Fit.

I like small cars. I love the Miata. However, the STS is simply the nicest car I have ever driven. It’s like being friends with a mobster. Life with the “Soprano STS” is easy: soporific comfort, isolation, lots of leather, and nonchalant delivery of raw power if/when I need it. Did I mention this is the same model Silvio drove to whack Adriana in the NJ Pine Barrens? Every time I get nervous about the Northstar head gasket, the car pinches my cheeks and reassures me “ya worry too much!!!”

Secretly, while out of earshot from the car, I’ve made plans to get out. By driving a $11k Honda Fit, I can save $70/month when payments, maintenance, and $3.75 gas is factored in. When payments are over, I’d save $160/month.

But is it worth it? Can I have more fun/frugality in the Fit than luxury in the Caddy? One STS fact: each front seat has 10 individual air bladders that adjust every 20 seconds to the pressure points of the driver. It is the Most. Comfortable. Car. Seriously, driving the Caddy is like getting away with murder while intoxicated. Traffic melts away. Other drivers defer. Everything rushes by in silent fast motion. Did I mention it’s the last GM car to use soft leather? Or that it was the most expensive American sedan when new? As in Goodfellas, “it was a glorious time”.

So why the Honda? Thou shalt not keep a high-mileage Cadillac.  Although head gasket failures were less common in 2002, Northstars still reliably blew their top that year. I already have a mysterious coolant leak. I’m starting to burn oil, though not too much yet. And the driver’s heated seat is broken. An insidious wheel-bearing noise is coming from the front, but it’s been unchanged for a year and that’s somehow even scarier. And finally, I get 17 MPG mixed.

Is it time for the Honda Fit Protection Program?

Assumptions:

  • Cadillac payments: $100/mo, 0% interest, 19 payments remaining
  • Honda payments: $174/mo, 3% interest, 36 payments
  • Gas at $3.75
  • Caddy maint: at $1000/year
  • Honda maint: at $500/year

Monthly cost graph to 48 months:

Cumulative cost graph to 48 months:

Sajeev Answers:

Dump the Caddy immediately. Coolant leaks aren’t gonna end well on a Northstar, even a 2002 model. IIRC, that was the year for improved head gasket sealing, but that’s not to say that earlier 2002s slipped by without the upgrade. I am not a Northstar guru, hence my recommendation to run away. But conversely, your love of Cadillac and creative flair for writing mean you simply must own an LT-1 powered Fleetwood: if you think the STS is a nice car, you should drive one. Especially a Fleetwood with Impala SS suspension bits.

Well maybe an older Cadillac isn’t a bright move, considering your responsibilities as a father and possible future financial obligations…those graphs (with assumptions I consider mostly bunk) to boot! So let’s wrap it up and bring it home.

The STS goes away, but I am concerned that you’re making monthly payments on a car that old. Sure it’s at 0% interest, but you won’t be so luck with your next ride. That’s one reason why the low-value Honda Fit isn’t winning me over. They aren’t especially thrifty, and not just from a fuel economy standpoint. But clock the mileage between it and the Civic anyway. Why do you need a sporty Fit when you have a Miata? Save yourself some green and get a less desirable, more affordable car with more family appeal: a comprable Civic, Focus, Corolla, Sentra, Elantra, etc for thousands less. The list of mainstream value-mongers far outweighs the benefits of a Fit.

Save your cash for the Miata and your future LT-1 Fleetwood. This is your only hope to keep the Cadillac Mafia from givin’ you cement shoes.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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74 Comments on “Piston Slap: A Way Out of The Cadillac Mafia?...”


  • avatar
    twotone

    I’d keep the Miata and get a gently used Lincoln Towncar. One sports car, one mafia mobile.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I was disappointed by the amount of carseat room provided by the Grand Marquis. (Isn’t the Grand Maquis same car as the Towncar, but with a different logo on it?)

      The Grand Marquis that we rented had exactly the same amount of fore/aft caraseat room as our Prius back home — except with an unnecessarily long hood. Also, hatchback is far more practical than a sedan for hauling baby stuff. And the Grand Marquis got around than half of the fuel mileage. For my purposes, the Prius is just a better car.

      I know people like the Panther platform for other reasons (the closest the Prius gets to mafia cred is in weeds: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZJjTEmXaf8), and those Ford V8s does have a certain charm… But, seriously, it seems like all of that V8 power is wasted hauling around all of the metal required to make that inconveniently-long hood work… If you’d put that V8 into a car that isn’t so heavy, then you could get the full benefit of it!

      • 0 avatar

        The Town Car has 3″ more wheelbase, and that’s not including the long wheelbase models that came out later. And shame on you for the badge engineering thing…this isn’t a Lincoln MKZ.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        A sedan is far more practical than a hatchback for hauling all the kid stuff, it’s safely locked away where it can go flying into the back seat. The Prius isn’t bad though because it has a more substantial than average privacy panel, the storage area is pretty deep and the small space between the upright rear seat and window will keep the larger items in the back and not on your kid in a serious wreck. For safety of hauling things I’ll take a sedan, any sedan over a hatch but preferably a Panther. For the record a Short wheel base version of the Panther tips the scales at just over 4000lbs making it one of the lighter full-size cars.

  • avatar
    ajla

    It’s like being friends with a mobster. Life with the “Soprano STS” is easy: soporific comfort, isolation, lots of leather, and nonchalant delivery of raw power if/when I need it…

    …It is the Most. Comfortable. Car. Seriously, driving the Caddy is like getting away with murder while intoxicated. Traffic melts away. Other drivers defer.

    Bryan understands the Cadillac brand better than anyone that currently works at GM.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Somebody at the RenCen give this young man a job! Or make Cadillac designers watch mob movies and TV shows till they design something worthy of the Fleetwood name.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    @ Sajeev What do you mean when you say that the Fit is not that thrifty? Maintenance? Repairs? Could you be more specific?

    Also, with a new baby, he needs room for a carseat, and when rear facing they need a lot of room, so I’m not sure if many of the cars suggested will fit the bill.

    p.s. I also liked your writing as well, Bryan. Very smart, swift and witty.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The Fit is one of the most economical cars on the market. A used one for $11,000 addresses the relatively high price of a new one. Unless Sajeev is comparing the mid-30s fuel economy with that of an old Insight, there really isn’t much to support his position. It isn’t like car lots are covered in clean, low mileage, one owner Civics for four figure prices.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        http://www.intellichoice.com/1-12-2007-18364-1/2007-honda-fit-4dr-hatchback-cost-of-ownership.html

        Intellichoice cost analysis for the 2007 Fit came up with an Excellent rating, thousands lower than comparable models.

    • 0 avatar

      Look at the EPA mileage of the Fit vs. a Honda Civic.

      These things aren’t terribly efficient, are small and are priced WAY too close to a Civic or Corolla. The value proposition is NOT there if you already have a Miata.

      • 0 avatar
        srogers

        Why is a Civic supposedly better than a Fit? The fit has more interior room, more cargo room, and I’ll bet that a baby seat fits better in the back too!

        If you’re talking driver comfort, the Civic might win there, but it’s no star either.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        The Fit is a great car, but it’s fit and finish is an embarrassment. It’s loud and uncomfortable at speed; a Civic is a veritable Rolls Royce in comparison.

        Damn shame Honda can’t release a modest-sized hatch in NA for people who enjoy/need to drive long distances.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The Fit was tested pre-CAFE push. It was geared for the real world instead of a particular dyno lab. Its real world mileage is still at least as good as the Civic, and better than the 2006-2011 Civic.

        Embarrassing fit and finish? I’ll believe it is noisy, but I’ve been in each generation of Fit. Reviews that compare interior elements to those of Acuras are well founded. The Fit is an actual Japanese product, and it very well made out of high quality components.

  • avatar
    Lemmy-powered

    Congrats on the baby. These are great times for you.

    When I became a father last year, I sold my Miata. I haven’t looked back yet, but the day will come when I will. So, yes, do try to keep your Miata, even if you just store it until the day you can take the kid for a ride.

    One phrase you used in describing your Cadillac concerns me: “Everything rushes by in silent fast motion.”

    If you like that about your mobster ride, steer clear of the Fit. We have (she has) a Fit, and while it’s a go-Kart around town, on the highway it’s about as fun as a moped trip across North Dakota. Noisy engine, high-strung steering, and most of them don’t even have armrests.

    Moreover, to buy one nowadays, you’ll be bidding against all the morons willing to pay a lot for a Fit, just so they can save a little in fuel. What kind of proposition is that?

    I don’t know what you should get, but you should get something with room and comfort to spare. This is for you, for the family, and for all the junk you’ll be hauling around.

    Trust.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    Sajeev is right. Time to dump the wrong wheel drive Caddy for a PROPER V8, RWD machine. First choice would be a 1994-1996 LT-1 powered Impala SS. You want to talk about a “mobster” like car…..this is it. Second choice would be a Mercury Marauder. Not nearly as desirable as the Impala SS, but a sharp looking, comfortable car that also has that “mobster” look. One of the LAST desirable vehicles Ford ever made.

    Thirdly, an LT-1 powered Cadillac Fleetwood would fit the bill. All the pros of having an LT-1 powered vehicle with the comforts of a Cadillac…but lacking it the “mobster” dept.

    As for the Fit…you won’t be happy in one. You don’t go from a large, comfortable. V8 powered automobile to a cheap, throw away appliance that has a squirrel for an engine.

    • 0 avatar
      jerseydevil

      FYI- i’m pretty sure the sts is rear wheel drive. The DTS is front drive.

      • 0 avatar

        It was FWD in 2002.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        Back then, STS was actually a trim/option package on the Seville which was a FWD platform. This was replaced by the actual RWD STS in 2005.

        I’d love to have soft leather seats in my ’06 STS. Aside from that I love the car. I love the Northstar, it’s exactly what a car like that should have: smooth, quiet and it has a good kick. And, thanks to the miracle of perception-induced depreciation, you can buy an STS for short money. With a V8. It’s a killer deal for a very nice car.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      I never understood the appeal of the Marauder. It looks like you inherited the car from Uncle Abe in Miami and to look less dorky you threw some mag wheels and a cat-back exhaust on it. Not a sporting line on it; it still screams either “cop car” or “get me to the airport in time”.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Part of the appeal of the Marauder is that it looks like a cop car at least in black. That means you get an open hwy to let it stretch it’s legs like it likes too. When you come up on someone at a good clip they drop their cell phone, put on their seat belt, and get the hell out of your way. You also usually get the professional courtesy of LEO’s running radar, they usually let you roll by, wave at you and pop the Fit or what ever penalty box is behind you. Not screaming hey look at me helps in other ways too and it is quite fun blowing the doors off of the flashy cars with grandpa’s old car.

    • 0 avatar

      Check out this sweet Marauder that I spotted for sale at Mark’s Cruise Night…

      http://www.markscruisenight.com/03mercury.html

  • avatar
    SVX pearlie

    @OP: With a new baby, and tight money, you need a reliable midsize / full-size sedan.

    Grow up, be a man, and lose the Miata.

    Dump *both* of your cars and get an Sonata, Optima, Accord, Malibu, or Fusion. If you have no money, buy a 2007-2008 CPO. If you have the money, maybe look into a CPO Gen 1 CTS.

    I know it’s not what you wanted to hear, but you asked for advice, and that’s what I’ve got.

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      A CPO Gen 1 CTS would definitely fit into his budget…they’re somewhere between $9k-15k. Great car with the 3.6l. Of course, the Gen 2 is a bit nicer.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        Thanks, Tex.

        An Optima starts at $19k (Dealer cost). Incentives probably get that down to $18k or so.

        For the extra $3k, a new Optima probably beats a $15k CPO CTS.

        OTOH, the Optima probably isn’t twice the car as $9k CPO CTS,

    • 0 avatar
      jerseydevil

      go from a miata and a caddy to an optima? sonata? just shoot me now.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “Grow up, be a man, and lose the Miata.”

      I wouldn’t give this advice that way. As someone who has recently made the transition in to parenthood,I would advise a “wait and see” approach. You really really want to do *something* while you’re waiting for the kid to be born, and most people who are wealthy enough to own a car have decent home already. So, changing cars seems like something you can do. But, really, most cars with 4-doors and a back seat are up to the task — just so long as you buy the portable kid stuff to fit your car (which is much cheaper than buying a car to fit a stroller).

      Parenthood “changes everything”, or at least the context of everything, so the best thing to do is to just let it happen and then see what you think. I’d advise him to the CTS and the Miata for at least 6 months after the baby is born, and then see what he feels like he needs.

      Like me, he may find that whatever money he has is better spent on taking care of the kid and that, in real life, any car with four doors and a backseat is just fine for hauling kids, if you keep your brain engaged when you choose your stroller[0] and pack-and-play[1].

      [0] If you even need a stroller. My wife is a baby-wearing advocate, and I prefer to carry the little guy or make him walk.
      [1] If you even need a pack-and-play. Grandma keeps one at her house for our son’s use, so we often don’t need to carry it with us. And the Graco that we have packs small enough to fit in the Prius, and newborns are often happiest sleeping in a carseat or in the big bed anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        @Luke: It’s tough love.

        He’s dumping his full-size/mid-size 4-door w/ trunk for a subcompact to keep a 2-seat toy?

        Based on what he shared, it looks like money is tight and I simply don’t think he can afford the Miata. If he’s got the extra cash, and just wants to keep size & cost down, I missed it.

        If he had money, he wouldn’t have a 10-yo STS that he’s paying down and looking at another, higher car payment. He’d own that STS outright, be saving $500/mos toward the next car, and we’d be discussing what to get when the STS finally gives up the ghost.

        If he wants more money, he should be saving money as best he can and looking at used cars versus making monthly payments.

        I’m not sugarcoating it. Man-to-man, I’m telling him how I see it, and hoping he listens.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        ….Grow up, be a man, and lose the Miata….

        Horrible advice, indeed. Being that you have a Miata, you get it in terms of the car/man interaction. Sure, parenthood means a new set of priorities no question about it. But parenthood does not have to mean you can’t have a fun ride in addition to the required parental unit-mobile. In fact, when life stresses you out and you need to escape the juice-box fueled lifestlye, a half hour of scrubbing off some rubber will have you relaxed and ready for another hour of Barney and Friends.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      The above sedans (except maybe the Sonata and Fusion) are pretty bland. Look at a used 2003+ Altima with the 3.5 liter V6 and manual transmission. That’d be a fun four-door with plenty of room for a rugrat (or two) and their associated detritus.

      The Mazda6 also fits into this category as well.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      @SVX: Exactly. And it isn’t like a Miata is rare or hard to find, there will be millions of the damned things cluttering AutoTrader 2040 Edition after you raise the kid to the currently-forecasted age-29 post-adulthood end-of-dependency age, if you manage to still have enough money to buy another toy car.

      Also, the fact that this guy has 19 months of payments left on a 2002-anything suggests that toy cars and parenting may not be mutually compatible pastimes for this household.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    45K mile, LT-1 Fleetwood:
    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1996-cadillac-Fleetwood-Brougham-45000-miles-Must-See-/110699669899?pt=US_Cars_Trucks&hash=item19c636e98b

    Impalas all under 40K miles…one or tow with less than 10K miles:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1995-Chevrolet-Impala-SS-only-37-380-miles-/220798040637?pt=US_Cars_Trucks&hash=item336896ba3d

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1995-CHEVROLET-CAPRICE-IMPALA-SS-/300566772979?pt=US_Cars_Trucks&hash=item45fb2cfcf3

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1996-IMPALA-SS-ONLY-18722-ORIGINAL-MILES-/110700047703?pt=US_Cars_Trucks&hash=item19c63cad57

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/IMMACULATE-IMPALA-SS-PRIVATE-COLLECTION-/160597454936?pt=US_Cars_Trucks&hash=item25645ab058

    -This one has only 6,700 miles!!!
    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1996-Chevrolet-Impala-SS-6-700-actual-miles-/190545373466?pt=US_Cars_Trucks&hash=item2c5d63a91a

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1996-IMPALA-SS-ONLY-37K-MILES-EXC-COND-SERVICED-/220798047907?pt=US_Cars_Trucks&hash=item336896d6a3

    And lastly, a Marauder:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/2003-Mercury-Marauder-Back-black-/260801344824?pt=US_Cars_Trucks&hash=item3cb8f8b538

    God I’m having a hard time not looking at those Impalas. Truly one of the greatest cars of the 90s.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Awesome, someone else that obsesses over similiar decisions like I do. Of course, instead of an STS I have an old TL. And instead of a Miata, we have an Outback. So, I’m not as in much a pinch as you seem to be. I obsess over replacing the Acura when I really don’t need to (it only has 135k miles) with a similiar-sized newer compact that is cheaper to run. BUT will cost me $300-400/month unless I leased it.

    Quite honestly, the Honda will feel noisy, cramped, and slow. You’ll hate it for not being the Cadillac.

    If you can, I’d dump both vehicles and get a used Acura TL, Cadillac CTS, Lexus IS, Infiniti G… you get the idea. Something enjoyable to drive but also with a V6 and a smooth ride for you and the family. And also something that is relatively maintenance and worry free.

    Or something more mainstream if you’d prefer.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      That TL & Outback combination is a lot more practical than Miata & compact.

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        Very true. I guess I just meant in general terms of obsessing over a decision with charts and tables.

        I did a full-blown analysis of upgrading to a smartphone (iPhone) vs a new regular phone with additional services. And then combining plans with my wife… you get the idea. In the end, it saved us a bit of money, especially because the shared minutes are on my plan and work pays for my plan.

        And I got a new toy with a fruit on it.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      @TEXN3:
      Don’t worry about it. An Outback is a perfectly good kid-hauler. It has 4 doors, a back seat, and LATCHes, right? You’re in great shape, because LATCHes are optional.

      Seriously, if you’re worried about the car, that means your nesting instinct can’t find anything worthwhile to do around the house. In other words, you’re in great shape.

      Get some rest before the baby’s born — you’ll need it, especially during those first few weeks.

      • 0 avatar
        sastexan

        @Luke42: LATCH makes life much easier, definitely, but it isn’t necessary. Neither for our cars have LATCH – once you get the hang of the seat belt, you can do it about as quickly as LATCH (but you most definitely need a fireman to show you a few times and review your work).

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        I love LATCH, especially for carseat bases.

        You can get that base in there really solid, and it won’t move.

        Even for regular seats, the installation is so much more secure.

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        Luke, our baby is 3 months old and our oldest is 4. Back to regular nights of sleeping too.

        But you’re right, both vehicles are great family haulers…the TL doesn’t do as well with our big-ass psuedo-jogging stroller (but that’s not permanent). I am in great shape though, house wise, as I just got my 2 big projects done for the year! You sound like my dad, if I’m obsessing over the unnecessary then I must be doing pretty good.

        LATCH is great, except for getting the damned thing realy tight. But I only take the carseat(s) out when cleaning the cars. the 2007 Outback has it, the 1998 TL does not.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      Noisy, cramped and slow shouldn’t phase the guy. You’re forgetting that he already owns a Miata. I would think that he’s not so deluded that he’s expecting a Fit to ride like his Caddy.

  • avatar
    autoarcheologist

    I also vote for dumping the Miata. The kids going to want to come along at some point, and finding another Miata isn’t like finding another Alfa Guilia Spider.

    We currently have a BMW e39 540it, which satisfies the need for speed, and comfort, and hauling stuff. And an Alfa Berlina “the Racecar!” that is my occasional commuter, and the fun car. Our daughter loves it, and both cars satisfy my need to be cheap, have fun, and have plenty of garage time.

    But for that first year, you won’t want to work on anything, nor have the time for it.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    I really hate to tell you this, but if u are diggin the STS and all its plushness, u are gonna be cryin liked a baby in the Fit. Don’t get me wrong – I like small sporty cars – I own a Golf and a magnificent DTS that I use for work. Its night and day here. I love the VW, hooning is GREAT, suspension, etc, fast turns – wow. But if I’m after isolation in a soft leather puddle, with piano music tinkeling in the background, its the DTS (or the STS as you report). There’s. nothing. like. it.
    Good luck with this one.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Parenthood changes your perspective, though.

      I think he’s jumping the gun here and should wait until he finds out what parenthood requires before deciding on what tools he needs to get the job done. But, he may not care as much about plushness after he’s settled in to fatherhood.

      Best to wait until after the baby is born and learn the ropes of parenthood, and THEN choose a vehicle that does what HE needs it to do. I’ve found that what I need from my daddymobile is a lot more modest than what most car manufacturers and monday-morning quarterbacks think I need.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        In all likelihood, you’re probably right.

        That said, he’ll need a car that can (eventually) fit a full-size child booster seat, along with a stroller / playpen in the back.

        For this, 4 doors are pretty much required, and a decent-sized trunk / hatch is a great help.

  • avatar
    A A

    As the owner of an ’11 Fit, I was trying to match up your Cadillac observations. There are actually zero similarities.

    No real comfort, per say (2-way adjustable seats). No isolation to speak of (Sounds like a 747, especially in 5th on the interstate). Leather only on the steering wheel (which I laboriously sewed on). Zero raw power (Well, depends on how fast you pedal).

    I love the Fit, but if you are still in love with those attributes of the Cadillac, then maybe the Fit is not the best option for you. It sounds like you need something a little bigger and cushier. The Fit is practical, but there are no luxury pretenses with it.

  • avatar
    colin42

    Simple sell the Caddy & the Miata and replace with an RX8

    I.e. all the benefit of the Miata and you can easily fit a baby seat in the back
    Sure the mpg isn’t that great but the spg (smiles per mile) would be 100 fold of the Caddy

    If you insist on something more economical then the question becomes does you milage most closely resemble the city, highway or combined epa mpg, If highway there are plenty of larger cars that can get close the fit highway numbers, Consider something like the pre 2010 Sonata with the I4 engine – sure they’re not as good as the current model, but better than many give it credit for.

    If you want / need the hatchback style the what about Pontiac Vibe or Elantra touring (might be too expensive)

    • 0 avatar
      EdSTS2000

      BZZT… Wrong answer! I have a 2000 Seville STS, my brother in law has a 2006 RX8. He barely averages 15MPG over a full tank and requires premium, my STS (and the 2002 as well) takes regular and I average 19MPG over a full tank with the A/C going full boogie (FL in the summer is an oven) and lots of city driving.

      So on the basis of gas mileage alone an RX8 is disqualified.

      And if the OP’s 2002 is a late model 2002, he has the F55 magnetic ride control suspension… the same advanced suspension type as the Corvette ZR1, Cadillac CTS-V, Ferrari 599GTB, Ferrari 458 Italia, and Audi R8. With it the STS is a much better handler than you would expect a FWD V8 luxobarge to be.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Take it from one who’s had three of them, your life is about to change in ways that you cannot imagine. Hard as it may be, now is the time to start dumping the toys. Cars cost money, even sitting still in the driveway (depreciation, registration fees, insurance). You don’t want to have more cars than you need, and the cars you have need to be not toys.

    Personally, as a general-purpose vehicle, I find the Honda Fit to be something of a penalty box. Yes, it’s space-efficient; yes, it’s fuel-efficient. But it’s very obviously built to a (low) price and is not a pleasant drive on the highway at 65-75 mph.

    Having just recently returned from a four-day rental experience with a new Ford Foucs, including a round-trip drive from Phoenix to Tucson (about 180 miles), I think Jack Baruth’s raves about this car are completely justified. I was driving the midline sedan (SE) model with the DSG 6-speed autobox. Let me tell you, at a steady 83 mph (the GPS doesn’t lie), this car is leagues apart from any Honda Fit in terms of calm comfort at speed. The car does not feel underpowered, so long as you tell the DSG’s brain that you’re not interested in upshifting at 1700 rpm. I, too found, the DSG a little weird; it doesn’t feel like a slushbox; nor does it feel like a manual. Left in “auto” mode, it seemed to have two personalities, from which the driver can easily choose. Constant moderate throttle application from a stop produces early upshifts (under 2K rpm) and seemingly decreasing acceleration, once the car is out of the first or second gear. Use more throttle (but not max) and the DSG brain seems to get the message that you’re not interested in hypermiling . . . and shifts come somewhere over 3K rpm and acceleration is more than acceptable. While I didn’t try to be adolescent with it, with the stock suspension on the stock steelies and tires, the car turned willingly and did not throw up gobs of understeer as one might expect for “wrong wheel drive.”

    As far as comfort goes, I’m 6’4″ and was totally comfortable in the front seats. The trunk is a little tunnel-like, but bigger than you would think. My passenger and I were easily able to converse while tooling down the freeway at 80+ (try that in a Fit!).

    If you convert MPG into GPM and then into $/M for buying the fuel), you can see that the incremental savings of the Fit’s rated fuel economy over the Focus’s is not worth talking about.

    The joker in the deck is whether the Focus — especially the new DSG — will be as reliable as the Fit. But, with a new one, you have three years before needing to worry about that.

    Funny thing is, I got into this car more or less by accident. I had reserved a “full-sized” car but the agency didn’t have one, so they offered me a free upgrade into a previous-generation Explorer. Having no need of its capacity and not finding driving an overweight, underpowered truck (and paying for lots of gas) to my liking, I spotted a couple of new Focus(es) and said “I’ll take one of those.”

    Of course, this car is not going to be like your Caddy, but it’s understood that nothing is more hazardous to your wallet than owning a high-mileage, old luxury car (other than, perhaps, owning a high, mileage German sports car of uncertain maintenance history) . . . regardless of where it was made.

    In the future, I’m going to pay special attention to Jack’s reviews. Based on our similar reactions to the Focus, he and I have similar “taste” in cars. . . or at least the stuff that registers positive for him, registers positive for me.

    If you can swing about 20 large, for a guy in your situation, the Focus might be a better ride than you think.

  • avatar
    Thinkin...

    Congrats on the kid. Having just been through such a change myself, let me offer one wee bit of advice. Rear-facing carseats are a force to be reckoned with. If either you or the wife are tall, I highly suggest that you take the carseat with you to some dealerships and test out getting it in back seats. Some pretty large cars don’t even fit them…

    I went with a 2006.5 Scion xB (the first gen, the one that looks like a toaster) and it is the perfect mix of versatility and thrift. It has the roomiest back seat of just about any car (even behind my 6’3″ frame), so rear-facing carseats aren’t an issue, rear glass is tinted by default (necessary for the kiddo), and I occasionally haul furniture, which it can swallow with aplomb. 30+ mpg, no matter where or how you drive it, and surprisingly nimble despite its look. As long as you don’t mind driving stick, it gets two thumbs up. (Just avoid the automatic, as there isn’t much hp on tap.) You can get a perfect one with ~50k for around $9k, and be good for the next 100,000 miles.

    Or, if you’d rather keep the cushy driving and sporty driving separate, get a Nissan Versa. They are cheaper, roomier, more efficient, and far more comfortable than a Fit. Yes, they’re ugly as sin, but this will be far from the last aesthetic concession for the kid. No matter what you buy, it’ll be filled with stale Cheerios and covered in all sorts of strange stuff within the year. Good Luck, you’ll soon start enjoying the Miata more and more!

  • avatar

    Especially with a baby on the way, safety should also be a consideration. For such large cars, the sts and dts did not garner the safety ratings I would’ve expected. The front impact scores can’t be compared across classes of vehicles, but the side impact scores can. I’m impressed with the scores the Fit received considering it’s lower curb weight. (http://www.iihs.org/ratings/rating.aspx?id=737) A used midsize Camry with higher mileage might also be worth considering. Since you already have a fun car, there’s no harm to having a beige transport for daily driving.

  • avatar
    ninjacoco

    I’m going to recommend the opposite of what the other guys are saying: keep the Miata. My dad got rid of his Corvette to make way for me, and I haven’t forgiven him since, haha. Even busy dads need something to do, something to be passionate about, something to take the stress off–and if that’s the Miata, keep it. They’re reliable and dirt cheap to keep going, so keeping the “toy” here makes perfect sense to me.

    As far as the Daddymobile goes, I think the other guys are right: the Fit seems like a pretty far leap. Look around for a better compromise and don’t shy away from a decent used car.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      You nailed it. For a car enthusiast website, the amount of folks willing to dump a fun car (when it is entirely possible to keep it) because of a baby on the way strikes me as odd. I’d understand if it came down to one car only, but that is not the case here. And if it was one car only, I’d sure select a vehicle that not only offers the requisite utility, but was engaging to drive, too.

      • 0 avatar
        Sam P

        ” You nailed it. For a car enthusiast website, the amount of folks willing to dump a fun car (when it is entirely possible to keep it) because of a baby on the way strikes me as odd.”

        Seriously.

        On the BMW boards I read there are active discussions about what car seats will fit in the back seats of a 1-series coupe (and there are models that do and meet current kid seat regulations). None of this “you’re a father, do the right thing and buy a Clark Griswold-esque penalty box” stuff.

        Of course, my perspective is different as my wife doesn’t want kids (and honestly, neither do I).

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    This is the classic trampoline effect… and also the first of the seven deadly sins.

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/12/hammer-time-the-seven-deadly-sins/

    First, get the STS inspected. After nine years it may be nothing than a minor hose leak.

    Just… wait… don’t buy anything… find out the truth about your current car before you blow the five figures on another ride. This may be an excellent time to get better acquainted with Cadillac enthusiast sites. I don’t recall ever seeing an 02′ STS with head gasket issues at the auction although electrical issues are very common.

    If you absolutely must buy something, my top choice for an $11k Seville STS replacement would either be a low mileage, late model Pontiac Bonneville GXP or a Buick Park Avenue Ultra. Both of which have about 80% to 90% of the Caddy’s virtues with virtually none of the vices.

    Keep the Miata. We have two kids and still make very good use of a two seater car. Your life will change but the cars don’t have to.

  • avatar
    Verbal

    Did Silvio just say “cunt”?

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Dont listen to those guys trying to suck you in and get you to give up your fun car. You will be sacrificing almost everything for your child, you dont have to give up a Miata too. Its not an extravagant toy, and contrary to popular belief, it IS difficult to find a good Miata for a good price. Keep it… period.

    As for the STS… gee, you really like it a lot. I would really hate to see you give it up something you so obviously care for, just for chasing good gas mileage. The problem is, most cars that are comfortable and roomy and good highway cruisers simply dont get GREAT gas mileage. You are not going to be happy in a Fit, and you probably wont really like a Civic that much either. Nothing small is going to compare to the Caddy.

    My recommendation, if you MUST get rid of the STS: Hybrid Camry or Hybrid Fusion. They have the room, the comfort, and the gas mileage. They are reliable. Get one in black, tint the windows… it will be close. Or, if you like to gamble, a TDI Passat might work too, at a much lower price point.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    If you dump the Caddy, that car will whack you. :)

  • avatar
    Tifighter

    I don’t know; he’s looking at spending $11k on a car…some of these recommendations are a lot more than that. What about something like a Versa? You might even haggle a new one close to that price, it has a much softer highway ride than a Fit (the Cadillac of subcompacts?), would have a warranty, and has seriously roomy backseat that easily takes a car seat. MPG not as good as the Fit, but cheaper to buy and the later years have good reliability.

  • avatar
    CraigSu

    Since you like the Miata so much, look at the Mazda5 as your Caddy replacement. If you compare it to the Fit, I think you’ll like what you see and how it drives.

  • avatar
    Alexdi

    I think you’d hate the Fit. Dump the Caddy. Replace it with an ES300 or, if you can swing it, an ES350. Same coddling isolation, fewer problems.

  • avatar
    Zammy

    Bryan, I don’t think you have thought this completely through.

    You are probably use to thinking about things as “my car(s)” and “my wife’s car(s)”. You write that you have a Miata and an STS, but you never write what your wife drives.

    Listen buddy, that bundle of joy means your life has *changed*. It isn’t about you and your wife anymore, it is about your family and what is right for everybody.

    So, important questions you didn’t answer are:

    1: What does your wife drive?
    2: What are your future plans for daycare? Who picks up? Who drops off?
    3: How many children are in your future?
    4: What sort of recreation do you enjoy or do you predict enjoying in the future? Do you vacation by car? Do you go camping by car?

    On the one hand you have your Miata, which is a fun toy for you. But it is completely impractical as a family hauler. But since you like it maybe that could become your daily driver? Disable the airbag, remove the spare tire, and you could probably put a spare carseat in the trunk to handle emergencies.

    On the other hand you have your STS, which is actually a pretty practical family hauler. You’ve got room for your wife, your child, your next child, and a trunk full of diaper bags and pack-and-plays. What you don’t like about it is the reliability and the fuel economy. I hear you on the (cough cough Northstar) reliability issue – and you *already* have a coolant leak. But here’s the nut about fuel economy: you are going to want at least one big vehicle in the family for what lies ahead. You are going to want all the room you can get for kids, pets, toys, etc. And big vehicles just don’t get good fuel economy.

    Sorry, but I just don’t see the Honda Fit being the perfect solution for you.

    Like I said earlier, it would help to know what she drives, what your daycare plans are, and how many more children are coming.

    If you plan 3 or more children you should just bite the bullet now and buy a minivan.

    If you are going to have one more and stop at 2, then maybe a Mazda 5 would work, or you could just take the Chevy Malibu route.

    Oh, one more thing, you need to factor insurance into your cost assumptions.

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      Excellent points!

      Whatever you do, definitely take the car seat (and even the stroller if you have one) with you when you try out various cars. They take up much more room than you’d think, and you’ll want the general process of getting a baby in and out of a car seat to be as trouble free as possible because you or your wife are likely going to be doing it a lot.

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    Don’t forget to include the cost of insurance! You probably can’t afford to risk $12k to run without collision coverage on a new(er) car. A $2k investment means no collision and a big savings.

  • avatar
    Ian Anderson

    If you want to keep the FWD, find an ’04-’08 Acura TL with a manual. I too love the Northstar V8 but it is utter hell when it starts to break (I still want one in a mid-engined Fiero with a 6MT though). The Acura can probably be found under $20K with decent miles, Acura doesn’t seem to go through the trouble to CPO their manuals though.

    If you want RWD, buy anything on the Panther platform. Seriously, anything. Sporty/quick? Get the Marauder. Mob mobile? Long wheelbase Town Car. Cheap? Used Civilian Crown Vic or a Grand Marquis.

    Any of these should be big enough for your family right now and that should be your primary consideration, at least in my opinion. Or like Zammy said if you’re planning on more kids just go buy a minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      If GM is making a Fiero replacement, I want the new 270-hp 2.0l turbo that they’re putting in the Regal GS. That would be awesome in a 2-seater!

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Dont’ listen to these guys who are trying to trick you into getting rid of the Mazda, just because they gave up fun doesn’t mean you have too. Is there some reason you can’t use the Mazda for the commuter?

    As Zammy asked what about your wife’s ride, who is going to be doing most of the running the kids around, or will it be shared about equally? When I had my first kid I got my first Panther and have been hooked ever since.

    Like so many people you’re manipulating the numbers to justify the irrational decision you’ve already made. Only in this case you’re using it to justify getting a penalty box. 1K per year is way high for keeping the Caddy around long term. 500 is more reasonable and it will be cheaper to insure making the Fit more expensive for at least the next few years. As Steven noted before you get rid of the Caddy see exactly what is wrong with it. The water pumps aren’t the most reliable and after almost 10 years of use the “constant tension” (spring) hose clamps often loose their tension and start to seep. Has the vehicle received it’s regular doses of GM specified “coolant conditioner” (stop leak)?

    If you still feel the need to replace the Caddy a Fit is pretty much the worst choice to make. A Fit is not going to be able to carry all the stuff that comes with a kid comfortably and safely. You need room for that pack-n-play, stroller, diaper bag, and some luggage w/o piling it high above the back seat or folding half of it down and placing the stuff next to the kid.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      @scoutdude: “If you still feel the need to replace the Caddy a Fit is pretty much the worst choice to make. A Fit is not going to be able to carry all the stuff that comes with a kid comfortably and safely. You need room for that pack-n-play, stroller, diaper bag, and some luggage w/o piling it high above the back seat or folding half of it down and placing the stuff next to the kid.”

      I was with you up to this point. We fit all of this in our Prius, and the Fit has many of the same things going for it when it comes to use-of-space. The Fit seems to be a competent little car, and competent little cars are just fine for family haulers.

      The questions is how many kids he plans to have and how quickly. Our Prius works just fine for one kid, and I suspect it’ll work OK for 2 kids. So, there’s no need to upgrade it until some time *after* the 2nd kid.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        But the Prius is a mid size by EPA standards. So while the Fit is pretty interior volume efficient for it’s size it is no where near the car a Prius is in: cargo volume that can be safely stored, useful passenger space, refinement, or MPG. If he could get a Prius that isn’t trashed or had way too many miles on it for that 11K it would be a good choice for a competent practical car. The Fit is only fit for Honda station wagon fanbois. There are larger cars that get better MPG, don’t cost more to buy, cost less to maintain and insure and are much more refined.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    Hey everyone, after a few months I have an update. I did indeed “go legit”, and purchased a salvage-title 2007 Honda Fit at $9400 with 73k miles. I negotiated money for a set of four new tires, and have done the following maintenance: serpentine belt, spark plugs, trans fluid, wipers and air filter. It’s a far more palatable menu of driveway procedures than the water pump, crankshaft sensors, engine mount, $200 HID headlight, $369 LED taillight module, cabin air sensor, delaminating dash, blown speaker, and heated seat that the Caddy needed or has had. I switched insurance from Metlife to Progressive. With the Snapshot discount insurance costs are much less than I feared.

    While I loved the Cadillac, I love my Miata more, and therefore the Honda is no penalty box for me. Sure, the 1.5 is geared well for city driving , but there’s no action. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook eating egg noodles and ketchup but that’s OK for a new dad. It is quite roomy inside. The infant seat fits just fine. With LATCH it’s not the end of the world to move it. You all know about the amazingly flexible interior. There is plenty of head, shoulder and hip room and best of all, lots of glass. You never feel cramped. Cargo space is just OK, but not small, and the trunk well is very deep. Maybe not deep enough for Billy Batts, but big enough for a paper bag of stolen guns and the babysitter’s lucky flying hat.

    It’s also no louder than the average new Hyundai. Callers on the other end can make me out, but I usually make all calls from an outside line anyway.

    I am in downtown Minneapolis, so I need a small car that can do it all. Yesterday I fit fifteen 2x4x8s in the Fit, with the hatch just cracked open. Finally, even though I sit in traffic an hour each day, I am getting (no joke) between 30-32 MPG mixed.

    One commenter very astutely noticed a large omission in my fleet plan. Yes, we do have a third vehicle: a 2010 Tucson. It has a class II hitch and a rooftop cargo box, so that’s the family swagger wagon. It’s a bummer to have yet another car payment, but it’s reasonable and she very much deserved a new car. It’s the only “comfortable” car in the mix. We split the dropoff/pickup about 60/40 with her doing most.

    As for the Cadillac? Well, uh… I had a problem, and I tried to do everything I could. You know what I mean. It’s gone. And we couldn’t do nothing about it.

    The buyer pointed out some other issues I didn’t notice during the sale, so I figured it was time. Who cares? I wasn’t gonna pay for it anyway. You pour in a ten dollar bottle of coolant and it goes right out the back. It doesn’t matter. It’s all profit. And then finally, when there’s nothing left, when you can’t stand another rough shift or buy another bottle of coolant, you sell the car for blue book.

    So in the end it’s a great fleet mix. Yeah, the expenses are nearly a wash, but the Tucson looks one way and the Miata looks the other way. And the Fit’s like, “whaddya want from me?”, which is just perfect.

  • avatar
    Ian Anderson

    After watching the video a few more times I thought, wouldn’t it have been a lot easier for Adriana to escape with the car if it was a SLS with a bench and column shifter compared to the STS with buckets and console?

    (Yes, I know the answer and I know it’s obvious).

  • avatar
    bryanska

    A quick follow-up: after a year with the Fit, I couldn’t be happier.

    Repair costs have been zero. Zip. Even with a 80k mile salvage car. I have touched up the paint and replaced the battery, belt, fluids and brakes. But the car makes no odd noises and throws no mysterious codes associated with crankshaft sensors or TCS. It’s literally halved the cost of gasoline (I have a year’s MPG records). The super flexible interior means that I treat it a little rougher than the Caddy. I haul a lot more building materials, etc.

    The baby seat fits just fine. The center console is barely there and the windows are huge, so the Accord-sized front seat feels even larger.

    Of course, there is no power to speak of above 30 MPH. And every day I walk into work, I stroll past a 2004 maroon STS with a tan interior. Whenever I see one my heart skips a beat.

    So even though I’ve saved lots of money owning the Honda, I do very much miss the Cadillac.

    I’m torn between two long term plans:

    1) Driving the Honda to 250k and investing in leather seat covers, sound deadening, seat heaters, and a premium in-dash sound system.
    2) Trading it in 5 years when my MBA loans are paid, and treating myself to a 2013 MKZ or even a DTS.


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