By on March 19, 2012

TTAC commentator Philosphil writes:

Hello everyone,

I’m looking to replace my 03 Jetta wagon soon and have test-driven many vehicles. I have periodic back issues and so want a vehicle that has easy ingress and egress (so that ideally I neither have to climb up nor drop down when entering or exiting the vehicle). I’m about 6’, but have a relatively long upper body. I’m also looking for something in the $17,000-$20,000 range (Cdn, or about about $15,000-$18,000 US). Of the cars I’ve tested so far, the ones that seem best suited to my needs are the boxes (to my wife’s dismay–they tend to have the largest opening between the driver’s seat and the top of the door sill). I would also like to keep this car (and actually like it as well) for 8-10 years.

So my question is which of the following vehicles would have a better chance of being an enjoyable long-term keeper (with a projected low cost of ownership as well): 1) A gently used Honda Element, 2) 2012 Kia Soul (with new 2.0l engine and new transmission), 2) 2011 Nissan Cube, or 4) 2011 Scion XB? Thanks in advance for everyone’s input.

Sajeev answers:

What an interesting query! Definitely stick with the boxes.

And here’s where I wish I actually had press cars. While I’ve driven none of these, I personally like the Kia Soul the best in terms of styling, as the Nissan Cube is far too Avant Garde for a vehicle I’d actually own.  That said, the Cube Krom is a cool little ride, and its about as boxy as you can get.  You definitely need to spend a long time test driving each of these vehicles to see which one will be ideal for your back.

My biggest concern isn’t the feel of the transmission, fuel economy or what have you. I am worried about long distance comfort in the seats. Considering I found the Soul’s seats to be pretty comfy and their warranty/pricing is pretty decent (even in Canada) this might be ideal for you.

Steve answers:

This is purely a styling exercise for the most part. All of the vehicles you mentioned should do a very good job of keeping egress and ingress on the quick and painless. In fact, I personally preferred to have my own sciataca suffering Mom consider one of the vehicles you mentioned instead of simply choosing another Camry.

The Soul strikes me as having the right balance between contemporary tastes and an easy compact size. However all the ones you mentioned should be easy to own and keep as well.
My advice is to simply try them all for an extended period as Sajeev mentioned. You may want to even go so far as renting one for a day if you can get access to one that would be available. I don’t believe any of these models have substantial fleet sales. But you may get lucky.
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47 Comments on “New or Used: It’s Hip to Be Square?...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    The advice is solid here. Try it and you sound like the sort of person who will be happiest with the vehicle that has the largest variety of seat adujustments. I personally have been known to adjust the lumbar on a lumbar adjustable seat multiple times during a long trip.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    The Element is a bit bigger and SUV-ish than your other choices, if that’s what you’re looking for. Ours has gone 60K miles with nothing but fluid changes. As for the seats, they’re not bad but not great. I’ve done a few 1000 mile days in them, and felt pretty good. My wife has some back issues, but hasn’t had any complaints about the seats. YMMV of course.

  • avatar
    Downtown Dan

    The Element is a fine car, and will probably last you for many, many years with minimal upkeep. But there are two caveats. If you travel long distances, I would avoid it– the road and wind noise are pretty tiresome. And if you carry back seat passengers frequently, that’s a deal-breaker too– the clamshell doors are pretty awkward, and the back seat has some of the shortest cushions I’ve ever sat on. For a 6’2” dude, there is almost zero thigh support.

    I’ve driven the current xB, too, and found it very likeable in all respects other than outward visibility.

    Have you considered a gently used CRV 2WD? Also, there should be plenty of good deals on closeout Ford Escapes/Mazda Tributes right about now.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    I might have to research it, but I believe this might be the first piece EVER that Sajeev has written with 0% Panther content…

    (Couldn’t resist, Sajeev….but ya know we love ya.)

    That said, I can sum it up in 7 words:

    Scion = Toyota
    Toyota = Bulletproof. (Mostly.)

    • 0 avatar
      patman

      An easy missed opportunity too. A donked Panther should sit just about right for easy ingress and egress although the rubberband tires and suspension modifications may detract from the ride comfort.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Boy, do I know what having back issues is like. That’s the main reason I sold our Ranger and bought the Impala back in 2004!

    Out of all the boxes, what you need first and foremost is: COMFORT.

    Any of the boxes will haul stuff to a more-or-less equal degree, but as the above comments show, comfort over the long haul and day-to-day is paramount. Everything else will fall into place – it’s amazing that when you find the right ride, all else is secondary and subjective.

    One word of final advice: Buy new if you can swing it, especially if you keep it a long time like we do.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @Zackman…..I think the dude is a fellow Canuck. Under 20K…? not too much in new for that price. That being said, there’s a lot of good deals in used,if your willing to shop.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Of those choices the Nissan Cube would be my selection. It has the nicest interior of any of them, and I like the quirky asymmetrical exterior styling.

    If you are willing to move into the used market you could get yourself a very comfortable big box like the Flex. Browsing autotrader.ca it looks like you can find some examples with around 60,000 km (37,000 miles) under $20,000. The V6 will be thirstier than the 4 cylinder little boxes, but when it comes to long distance cruising in comfort and gobs of interior passenger space nothing comes close.

    http://www.autotrader.ca/a/Ford/Flex/REPENTIGNY/Quebec/5_13398934_CT200431710437498/

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I agree completely with the above advice to pay serious attention to seat comfort. Some seats will feel soft & comfy at first but provide no lumbar or long distance support. Keep the salesman quiet and spend some real time behind the wheel.

    The xB has the typical problematic Toyota driving position: short bottom cushions, close pedals, distant wheel that doesn’t telescope. I think the Soul was quite a bit better, but it depends on body type. The xB seats are nice & firm otherwise, and ingress/egress is perfect.

    Haven’t been in a Cube, so can’t comment, but the previous Versa had cushy unsupportive seats, plush and impressive as they were at first feel.

  • avatar
    vvk

    All the cars on your list are rough-riding, noisy, gutless penalty boxes with terrible seats. What you need is a CAR designed for old people, who have severe physical limitations when it comes to entering and exiting vehicles. Toyota Avalon and Lexus LS come to mind… If you want excellent seats, look for Volvo or SAAB.

    Plenty of (used) choices in your price range. If shopping new, try Chevy Cruze with cloth seats. They are truly terrific seats and the car is supremely quiet and comfortable.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      vvk has a point regarding long-term likability. I would much rather own a 10-year old LS than a Cube. Power, refinement, comfort, build quality, etc. But you are trading in reliability to do it. An LS will have ~80-120K miles on it to fit in the $15-18K USD price range. It will probably need serious repairs in the 8-10 year window Philosophil is looking at. Don’t even want to know what a how a used Volvo or Saab will hold up in that time frame.

      Entry and exit are good but won’t be as effortless. And they all drink more fuel. The revised Soul with new engines & transmissions is getting great reviews.

  • avatar
    Rental Man

    In the US Enterprise RAC usually has Kia Soul and maybe a Nissan Cube within reach. I have not seen a 2012 there yet. You can call a local branch and ask. If you are near and airport drive around the rental companies and see who is heavy on KIA. Or Cubes. Then stop by a local branch and see the manager. They will gladly drop you a line when one hits their lots. Don’t forget a good survey. They live for that. Honda is very rare in rental fleet. Element were nearly unseen. So is Scion.

    Kia Soul has a harsher ride then I like especially if it is loaded with 18″ wheels.I like the Honda Fit yet it becomes annoying on long trips.Nissan Cube has lower seating I think then others.

    A base FWD 4Cyl outgoing Ford Escape has a better ride and low operating costs. Can be had with rebates very close to your budget. That being said other base SUV’s might be the answer as well as the Mazda5.

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    I agree w/ possibly renting one for the day. If not, see if your local dealer has a nice used one and ask for an extended test drive of that. I’ve definitely had new & used salespeople offer to let me keep the car overnight to let my spouse check it out, make sure it fits in the garage, make sure car seats fit, etc.

    If one dealer balks at this, let another have the chance to earn your business.

  • avatar
    George B

    I doubt that any of the “youth oriented” boxes listed have good seats for someone with back trouble. Tore a disk in my lower back 8 years ago and I have to be careful about lumbar support, seat comfort in general, and suspension setup.

    Would a used Dodge/Chrysler minivan fit the budget? The Volvo XC90 has the most comfortable combination of seats and ingress that I’ve experienced, but I think it’s outside of the budget.

    I’ve driven a 2008 Toyota Camry LE rental 1100 miles in a day with no back discomfort. No problems driving a 2010 Toyota Camry SE 960 miles in a day either. Both were excellent cars for interstate driving and the 2010 with 6 speed automatic, upgraded engine, and less soft suspension was nice enough that I would have bought that exact car for myself.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    You’ve gotten solid advice. I’d go with the Kia Soul. As you noted in your price range you can get a lot of car for the money.

  • avatar
    ja-gti

    Coming out of an 03, be aware of the new head restraint regulations that came into effect in 09. The regulations require the head restraint to be no more than 2.5 inches from the back of the head of the current 50th percentile male testing dummy. In the real world that means a head restraint that is tilted forward and and is uncomfortable for a large number of people. Don’t want you getting neck pain to go along with your back pain.

    (Type “uncomfortable head rest” into Google to read it for yourself.)

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      Yep, that’s a deal-killing issue that makes most every modern cars unbearable for me. It ensures a never-ending backache, to guard against the possibility of whiplash. So I’ll either stick with older cars, use an older headrest on my modern seat if possible, or join the ranks of those who are bending their headrest mounts to ease up on the angle. All in the name of safety!

  • avatar

    The Kia Soul would be my choice, especially the new model with the upgraded engine and transmissions, but I believe it still rides on an older platform IIRC.
    Honorable mention goes to the Mazda 5.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I’m surprised nobody mentioned finding a quality ergonomic bucket to install in whatever Philosphil gets. Did Jack race his Neon with the factory buckets? With a custom seat, he can concentrate on matching his needs for ingress/egress, driving position, noise and ride.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Full disclosure is that I am a nut for Nissan and once lost 1″ height due to a short trip I took. That was through a ceiling for 10′ to a concrete floor. The height loss was due to a crushed T12 vertebrae and several ones in the lumbar area that cracked. Not proud of that trip but it influences my vehicle purchases now.

    I drive a 2011 Nissan cube. My wife liked the little curve around window. I tolerate it. Can’t see it from the inside and my back doesn’t hurt because of it.

    It weighs almost 2800 lbs which is less than the xb by 200 lbs. There are two trailer hitch companies who will sell you a hitch rated for 2klbs with a 200lb bumper weight. I intend to buy one. That makes it minivan size.

    The car treats me well. No problems in 40k miles. The 1.8 goes pretty quick. It stays out of the way of traffic and when broken in easily cruises at 80mph. About the only thing on the market that I would trade it for would be a minivan and I probably actually wouldn’t (see above). I get 34-35 mpg on the highway. Never got less than 30 anywhere.

    I think my wifes desire for the little wrap around window did us ok this time. Previous Nissans have all gone over 200kmiles with me. Hope this continues the trend.

    • 0 avatar
      Banger

      x2.

      In our case, I fell in love with the Cube first, from a purely functional standpoint. Tons of passenger volume OR cargo space (and let’s be honest, how often do you need both? I know we don’t very often.) My wife balked, but then she sat in one while our previous car (a 2004 Sentra) was in for service, and it was love for her, as well.

      Compared to the Sentra, which was a pretty low-slung, traditional Japanese compact car, the Cube is like sitting on a park bench when it comes to ingress and egress. The seats are far more plush than any park bench I’ve ever seen, however, and have proven comfortable on a few two-hour stints behind the wheel. We haven’t had the chance to take the Cube on a serious cross-country trip yet.

      My only caveat is I wish the wheel telescoped. Years of driving small pickup trucks has conditioned me to expect my wheel to fall pretty close to my chest, with my elbows bent quite a bit. Being 6’2″, I have plenty of legroom in the Cube with the seat lowered all the way down (it goes back a little bit as you lower it from its highest position), but my arms are pretty outstretched to get to the wheel. It makes me sit upright more than I otherwise would, which is probably a good thing for my back on long trips. Never had a complaint when doing a lot of driving in it. Like I said, no cross-country trips yet, but we’ve done plenty of all-day shopping trips with multiple stops in-between 30 minute drives. No issues for me, and I have a sensitive back, as well. The Sentra was an ergonomic nightmare by comparison.

      So far, our maintenance costs have been the absolute minimum. We maintain the Cube by the book, taking it in for service every 3,750 miles. Typical oil change and tire rotation at our Nissan dealer costs ~$35-45 depending on whether I save the coupons they e-mail me periodically. The big service at 15,000 miles cost us $149 and is something we shouldn’t experience more than once a year. Not bad considering we’re taking it to the dealer service department.

      We routinely get more than 32 mpg. Our lifetime average is 36 mpg in mostly 45-55 mph two-lane highway driving. On the few interstate trips we’ve taken, we’ve averaged at least 32 mpg with the cruise set at 75-80 mph.

      We considered the Kia Soul. The interior felt more cramped for passenger space (the Kia has more cargo space with the rear seat in the upright position, so maybe that explains it) and the deal really wasn’t all that much better once you figure in likely resale value. We’ve owned a Kia, and it wasn’t worth anything after three years of ownership compared to what we paid. Not a huge concern, but worth considering. Also, the drivetrain didn’t seem as refined as the Cube’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder and CVT transmission. The CVT makes driving the Cube like riding on a magic carpet. Definitely matches the relaxed, living room on wheels attitude of the Cube.

      We did not consider the Element because of its higher MSRP and lower EPA fuel mileage. They’re cool, though. For a more utilitarian person like myself, the rubber floors and easy-clean interior of the Element is appealing. But even with that attribute, the Element is missing my favorite feature about the Cube: The refrigerator-style hatchback door. Seriously, tall people everywhere can appreciate that little design tweak.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      My wife was ready to take delivery of a Kia Soul, but fell out of love on delivery day and switched to the Cube. While I hated the looks of the car at first, she loves it and it has grown on me as well. The Cube offers some advantages:

      -High seating position. With the drivers seat raised up your legs and back are all at right angles (vs. sitting on the floor of the car). The SUV seating height combined with a lot of headroom makes for good visibility, comfortable driving, and easy egress.

      -Low beltline. If your are tired of gunslit windows the Cube is almost like a fishbowl. Makes parking and city driving easy.

      -CVT. Nissan’s CVT makes for comfortable city and highway driving. 120k mile warranty is nice.

      -Fuel economy is about 32-34 city or highway.

      -Maneuverability. The car has a very tight turning radius and is very easy to park or merge.

      -Passenger room OR storage room. The back seat slides back for lots of passenger leg room; or you can slide the seat forward for lots of rear storage space. However, you can’t do both.

      Downsides:

      -Tilt wheel blocks gauges when in the fully raised position, which is where it needs to be if you raise the drivers seat up. I have to estimate my speed between 40 and 120mph.

      -Some wind noise at highway speed. Not bad, but not a Lexus.

      -Side hinged (vs. top hinged)rear door. Some people like it, some don’t.

      All in all a great city car. I have taken it on a couple of 6 hour trips and it was fine on the highway as well. Definitely worth a test drive.

      BTW, OEM standard service intervals are at 7500 mile multiples. 3750 would be overkill for most people.

  • avatar
    Wodehouse

    What about the previous generation Mazda5?

  • avatar
    Juniper

    It may be larger than you want, but I have driven my Ford Edge to both Pac and Atl coasts with no body aches at the end of long driving days. in the past in other cars my back has bothered me after a long day on the road. I am about your size and it is easy to get in and out of. Check it out.

  • avatar
    hriehl1

    I just bought a 2012 Mazda5 Sport w/ manual transmission for $17,400 (USD) before TTL; the high end of your range.

    I test drove the Soul and Cube and went for the Mazda. It is way roomier and I’d challenge the prior comment about uncomfortable seats… I drive the lowest-end model and they’re OK… no better or worse than other subcompacts or compacts. Lots of room for people and cargo, sliding doors are great, easy in-and-out, real-world 29+ MPG (I drive gently)… what’s not to like?

    It is worth a look just to be thorough. Yes, it won’t get quite the real-world mileage a Soul will get, but when the difference is translated into dollars-per-year, it was a few hundred bucks; to me well worth the added utility the Mazda5 provides.

    • 0 avatar
      Tessai

      Also voting for the Mazda5 and I have a 2007. The seats are basically the same as those in the Mazda3 so if you find them comfortable, you’ll be comfortable here too. They aren’t the best but I’ve sat in far worse.

      The seat height is perfect for my mother in law who has bad knees and can’t easily climb up or down into a car. My wife has back issues as well and the 5 is comfortable for her to get into, too.

      Size wise, the car has roughly the same exterior dimensions as a Mazda3 so it is easy to park.

  • avatar
    dejal1

    Kia Soul + Cardboard car = the Kia Soul Black Sheep commercial from 2010 with the hamsters. One of the finest commercials ever made.

    Do dah dippity.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      +1 on Kia Soul commercial kudos. The original Black Sheep hamster ad was tremendous. I know the spokesrodents are controversial, but they sell a lot of Soul.

  • avatar
    hp12c

    As others have mentioned all these “box” vehicles tend to come up short for long-haul comfort. Maybe consider a larger sedan with a high seating position like the ’08-09 Ford Taurus or Mercury Sable? Bet you could get in to one of those for not much money.

    • 0 avatar
      pdieten

      Agree with this: I’m also 6′ tall with a long torso and occasional back issues – my ’09 Taurus turned out to be exactly the right thing. Tall enough that I don’t have to duck to get in at all and the seats are the right height.

      • 0 avatar
        Rental Man

        I Other then MPG and maybe box love the Taurus / Sable are great for getting into and the high seating is still missed in the new model. Trunk is hugh without a weird shape. As a former rental manager with lots of options I took those cars on long trips. Most others trips were done by sister Taurus-X.
        Took an Altima Hybrid on a one day 1100 mile trip. Never again.

        Camry SE should also be looked at. I hate the Camry LE. The last SE with the 4Cly is the best of the bunch for the $$$ and MPG.

  • avatar
    Mullholland

    I just did 1000 miles in a 2012 Kia Soul on an $22 a day weekend rental from Budget. Traveled from SoCal to NoCal and back. Really liked the engine and auto transmission. Mine was the + version so it didn’t have the 17″ alloys and low-profile tires. Surprisingly low levels of wind and road noise at highway cruising speed for a car that is this high profile. Was also surprised by the ease of acceleration from 60 to 80 MPH. Depending on who in the family of four was driving, it returned 27 to 32 MPG. Also did considerable time in both the front and back seats. My back isn’t a problem, (having a Miata for a daily driver keeps that in shape) but I found both front and rear seats comfortable for 400 plus miles.
    Don’t remember if you posted your height and weight, as these are important data points in determining comfort levels in smaller wheelbase vehicles. I’m pretty average height and weight @ 5’10′ and 200 lbs.
    I think the Budget weekend rental deal runs through the end of March. Give one a drive and see if it would work for you.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    If you are getting a box, then I have to assume that utility also comes into play. In that regard, the Element is the best of the bunch. Remove the back seats and the amount of stuff you can haul (kids to college, trash to the landfill, plasma TVs home from the electronics store) is nothing short of phenomenal. I actually own two Elements, one a manual and one an automatic. The seats are comfortable (I’m 6’3″ and also have a long torso), ingress and egress are a snap, and the reliability of both has been stuff of legend. Neither has gone back to the dealer for any issue in the six years and 70,000 miles each I’ve owned them. Element batteries are weak — expect to replace that every few years, and light bulbs burn out more frequently than other cars I can remember. But that’s it. Both of mine are AWD, so fuel economy is just okay. In 80% city driving, I’m averaging 20 MPG overall with the automatic and 23 MPG with the manual. On the highway, the poor aerodynamics lead to a a disappointing 25 MPG. The Soul, Cube, and xB all surpass that by a wide margin. I haven’t driven the Soul or Cube, but I did drive a first generation xB and it was a blast — nimble and surprisingly peppy for such a small engine. The Element isn’t too shabby with the manual, feeling frisky and possessing a small turning radius. The automatic, like all of them these days, is programmed for fuel mileage so you can get slug-like behavior if you don’t get your foot into it. Another plus to the Element is the higher seating position than the others. That makes it nice not to be blocked from view by SUVs and minivans on the highway.

    I don’t believe you will make a bad choice with any of these cars. You’re obviously secure enough in your stature to take the ribbing that inherently comes from others, particularly from those that can’t understand why anyone would want to own an “ugly” car. The most criticism will come with the Cube, followed by the xB as a close second. Elements are common enough now that people really don’t pay them much mind.

  • avatar
    gottacook

    If you can find a gently used one, check out the previous-generation (2006-08) Subaru Forester. Very easy to get in and out of; very easy to see out of; very nice interior (one or more orders of magnitude nicer than the current too-tall model); many versions have the giant sliding moonroof. Detriments: a somewhat harsh ride at times; skimpy rear-seat legroom; AWD-typical fuel economy, even with the stick shift.

  • avatar
    dvdlgh

    Back issues, I know them well. I have degenerated discs and get pain injections in the SI joints, facet joints and the spinal canal. I drive a 2006 Hyundai Sonata. I believe it’s one the tallest in its class. The passenger seat has height and lumbar adjustments. The seats are comfortable and give me ample support for my back, seat and thighs. Getting in and out causes little problem. The longest trip I’ve taken was 210 miles, twice in the same day. I was pretty comfortable the whole time. The Sonata has standard disc brakes all around, 4 wheel ABS, stability control w/traction control and front, side and head airbags. The four cyl/AT has ample power. Regular maintenance is all I’ve done to it. This generation is from 2006-2010. A low mileage 2010 may be worth checking out.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    Some great suggestions here, people. Thanks for the feedback. It’s actually been a while since I first submitted this letter (I think I may have sent it to the wrong address, and hence it got a little lost), and I have purchased a replacement since that time. Here’s the long and short of it.

    I looked at the taller cars like the Taurus, and found the sills too low, requiring some neck twisting to get in. While the Escape (and Tribute) were okay, they were not as easy as the other for me to get in and out of (a bit of neck twisting there as well), and I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep one of those for that long.

    I looked at Subarus, but I live in Canada and the nearest dealer in my town is either in Detroit or two hours away in Canada. They were high on my original list, but the hassle of dealing with potential warranties and such was too much of a turn-off.

    I looked at most SUV’s and most were neck twisters for me, and I was looking for something that I could slide into with no difficulty. The Jeeps actually worked well enough in that regard, but I couldn’t see myself liking a Compass or Patriot enough to own one for 8-10 years.

    I really liked the Mercedes B200, but wasn’t a fan of its styling (believe it or not), and was a bit scared away (rightly or wrongly) by the potential long-term maintenance costs. I also liked the Tiguan, but the base model was way too pricy.

    The Venza had very good ingress and egress, but it was both a bit large for my needs (my wife already drives a Grand Caravan), and a bit pricy as well, even used.

    I’ve always loved the FJ Cruiser, but it was a little too high and the poor visibility left me feeling uncomfortable behind the wheel (to my wife’s dismay). The nearest one in my price range was also relatively high mileage (which left me doubting it even more).

    I really liked both the Cube and Soul a lot, but my wife took a very strong disliking to both. I was willing to compromise with her on this since I still had a few good options remaining.

    I liked the XB well enough, but I wasn’t too fond of the feeling of ‘tunnel vision’ it seemed to generate. Still, it was a good option.

    I really liked the Element as well, which actually surprised me because I always thought its styling was a bit too surfer-dude gimmicky for my tastes. I loved the airy feeling in the cabin, and though the ride was a bid harsh (and noisy, as others have noted), the somewhat minimalist interior and utility-oriented design suited my general sensibility. The problem was the Element was a lot more expensive than the others, especially in Canada where its starting price was actually higher than the CR-V ($28.000-$29.000 for the base level–pretty pricy). I also tried the CR-V, but much preferred the Element (and the CR-V’s were getting a premium price used).

    Fortunately the fact that the Element had been recently discontinued seemed to work in my favor because the local dealerships seemed to be having a hard time moving the few they had remaining. I kept a close eye on a number of dealer-owned vehicles in a 200-300 mile radius from where I live and after a few months of patient waiting, I was able to land a dealer-owned 2009 Element EX (AWD) with 18.000 km (a little over 11,000 miles) for $21,500 CDN (before trade-in). It was two hours away, but worth the drive. The original sticker price on a vehicle like that here in Canada would have been between $33,000-$34,000 (like I said, quite pricy, but about the same for any reasonably well equipped SUV up here). So my patience and vigilance paid off in the end and I was able to get the vehicle I most wanted (though I actually would have preferred in it orange instead of silver), and I also got a decent value on the trade-in as well (only $500 short of what Volkswagen had offered me for the Jetta, which was significantly higher than some other places I had gone).

    The seats are not bad, and fit my body style well enough (though not as well as the B200 or a Volvo that I had tried). I can actually slide right into my seat without having to climb at all, and the sill is high enough that I can slide in wearing a hat (whether a salt and pepper, a fedora, or a cowboy hat–I like many styles of hats depending on my mood) without having to twist my neck. My wife thinks it’s ugly (and wishes I had gotten the FJ Cruiser), but she can at least live with it and she actually likes to drive it as much as I do, so that worked out alright as well (which suits me fine because the used Element was my preferred choice in that price range).

    I’ve really come to love that little Element. It satisfies all of my basic requirements, and its utility theme both suits my interests (I do a lot of woodworking and such) as well as my own self-image (after all, a vehicle is like a suit of clothes whose choice and style almost always says something interesting about the person wearing it).

    Thanks again for everyone’s input. It’s greatly appreciated.

    • 0 avatar
      Rental Man

      Philosophil, I am happy you found the car you wanted very close to your price range. My granfather was very hard to move in his late days and we all found that sliding him into leather seated cars was much easier on all of us.

      Having the seat covers replaced with Leather should help sliding in. They can install seat heaters while at it. You can order your color (Bring on the Orange…). Happy Birthday to yourself I say!

  • avatar
    dwight

    For comfort and longevity, the Honda and Scion are best bets. I’ve driven the Soul and felt it was short on legroom. The suspension felt mushy and overall, on my one test drive, I didn’t have the confidence that it was going to drive all that well by its fourth year.

    I rented a Scion xB through Autoshare and felt it had everything I needed except it also had an uninspiring ride. It was quite comfortable still the same.

    I also got an Element through another car sharing facility and found it to be a little soft with the suspension. Not that you’ll be kart racing in it.

    As for the cube, from what I heard it gets tossed around in the wind on the highway. I’d skip it.

  • avatar
    tonykaz

    Hello , The Soul is outstanding .
    My wife and I purchased a Soul this last year after 25 years of Minivans . We are in our middle 60′s . The Kia Soul + is magic for us , it fits very tall people in the back seat , all the seats are comfortable for long road trips , the Car cruises easily between 80 and 90 mph , visibility is very good , build quality is as good or better than any of the 50+ cars we’ve owned over these last 45 years , it runs like a sewing machine , the brakes are beyond outstanding ( the best we’ve ever driven ) , ours came with the CNA 10year / 120,000 Warranty Contract which extends the full Factory Warranty to that tenth year ( which is transferrable to the next owner ) . Our gripe is that it doesn’t come with a Compass like our MiniVans had in the overhead area . I should be shy about this Kia and it’s qualities because I’m a retired Auto Company Manager , I should be in a Chevy or Buick but my wife fell for the Kia , it came fully equipped for about 16k sticker , ending price was around 19k with the big warranty package , it lacks nothing . In closing I can imagine that you too will be writing nice letters like this , 6 months after you buy a Soul for yourself and family . My best regards , tony

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    I know you said you found the best car for you, but seeing how there are many of us out there that have problems getting in and out of cars, I am going to throw this out there…the Chevrolet HHR. Yes the styling is controversial, yes they just discontinued it. But by golly that was one of the easiest cars to get in and out of! When I bought mine I was looking for something that would be good for me with my bad knees and it suited the bill perfectly. However, if one was to go with one, it must be a loaded 2LT, it’s a completely different and vastly underated car compared to the plain models. If I could afford it I wouldn’t mind having another one…

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    An import s***box like the Cube/xB/Soul won’t last 8-10 years, unless you garage it and drive less than 4 miles a day. You’ll wind up replacing every bit of those things to keep them running once the warranty runs out. There’s a reason they sell them so cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      Hey, you sound familiar! Aren’t you the old guy from the VFW down the block who used to say the same things about them gol-durned Hondas and Toyotas back in the 80′s? Jeez, I wish I’d listened to you…those Civics and Camrys kids like me were buying couldn’t hold a candle to real cars like those big Oldsmobuicks of yours. By the way, why did you feel the need to trade them in every two years? Surely it wasn’t durability concerns…oh, what’s that you say? OK, I’m getting off your lawn.


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