By on March 8, 2012

 

Zach writes:

Dear Sajeev and Steve,
My wife has recently started insisting (more along the lines of demanding) that I get a new(er) car.  While the junkyard gem 97 civic has only served me about a year, it has only cost me $1000 total.  With 270k on the odometer and counting, it is really starting to show its age but runs 80 down the road with cold air and no issues.  I drive 130 miles round trip everyday with practically all of it on the interstate.  The civic gets 34-38 mpg which is the part I like, but I am starting to question the reliability.

So now I am looking for a good commuter car.  The only option that I am dead set on is cruise control for the obvious reason.  While initially an 08 Impreza hatch grabbed my attention, 26 mpg was unacceptable for me.  So now I am left searching again.  I have test drove the Mazda2 and Fiesta and either would meet my needs as far as size goes.  They both seemed pretty peppy for all 100 hp.  I have plans to test drive an Accent but havent made it that far yet.

So now for the question, what else should I consider?  I have no issues with buying CPO or used.  We have an extra car in case something did happen to the civic so I am really in no hurry except for the nagging about how much dislike there is for the civic.

Needs:

  • Price <25k, preferably <=20k
  • Cruise control
  • Comfortable
  • Throw kids (7&9) in back in a pinch
  • good radio
  • >=35 mpg highway, city doesn’t matter

Wants:

  • heated seats
  • leather
  • bluetooth
  • hatchback
  • cheap/easy maintenance

Sajeev Answers:

I dunno what’s worse: the fact that there’s no proper successor to a 1990s Honda Civic (the 6th generation was the last I really cared for) or that your wife makes you feel that way. Then again, I understand how pressure from a loved one makes something as mundane as a new Civic be more like torture to own.  This V8 Luxo Barge fanatic finally gave into such pressure and decided a little four banger truck was all I needed.

Quite honestly, the latest Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra get the mileage you need, have the stuff you want and get pretty amazing mileage.  And they’ll be far more refined than an old Civic on the highway.  While I have problems with your need for leather (think of the depreciation!), these will be the right way to go.  But I am still feeling nostalgic for the good old days of Hondas, and wonder if we’ll ever get a light-ish weight runner like ye olde Civic ever again.

Steve Answers:

I would go at least one step up in size to a compact vehicle.

As Sajeev has mentioned, the Focus and Elantra would easily fit your budget and priorities. I have yet to drive the Ford. But the Hyundai seems to be an absolute gem of a new car with the exception of the leather seats (average) and interior materials (ditto). Compared to a 97 Civic though, it’s definitely a step up. I would consider the Elantra, along with the Cruze and Focus as leaders in today’s compact market segment.If it were me I would simply look for an older used car that attracts your interest. CPO’s are ridiculously expensive these days, and I always tell folks that it is the prior owner who ‘certifies’ the genuine condition of the vehicle. So find someone who is either tired of their vehicle, needs to  move, needs the money, or simply yearns for something else.
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136 Comments on “New or Used: Nagging Wife thinks I need a New Car!...”


  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    The Fit is probably closest to what he has now, and a 5 year old would be a good value.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      My family has an 07 Fit, Base 5spd. Not a good highway car if you are 5’10″ or have long legs. The seat to pedal arrangement is kind of iffy, resulting in leg muscles that are in constant tension. The seat cushions are not large enough, and the seat cannot be adjusted for tilt, so bigger people have unsupported thighs. So despite the phenomenal gas mileage (easily over 40mpg running 70-75 mph, 45 mpg if you keep it around 60-65), I would never use it as a highway car. Although the Sport trim with cruise control may be may alleviate part of the problem.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Agreed. The 2009+ models have better seats & a telescoping wheel which really helps. But at highway speeds, the engine still buzzes, and the road noise is too high. Better than the 93 Civic we had, and probably better than a 97, though.

        If cargo flexibility isn’t a top priority, there are much better compact cars for Zach’s intended use than the Fit.

      • 0 avatar
        afflo

        Ditto for the ’10. I had one for 18 mos.

        I’m 6’1. My knees were always up at an uncomfortable angle, and the rearward seat travel is pathetic. The seat is small, with too-soft, too thin padding… I had pain in my right leg from the seat frame creating a terrible pressure point on my sciatic nerve. The seatback is oddly shaped, with a very cheaply designed active-head restraint (basically a spring-loaded pressure pad in the middle of the back levers the headrest forward… but it puts constant pressure mid-back). The pedals are oddly arranged as well. There aren’t door armrests, just hard plastic cutouts into the door panels.

        It was fine as an urban runabout… in fact, terrific for this. I lived on the Cali coast, and it was a breeze to squeeze into tiny parking spaces, turn around in alleyways, etc.

        It got great fuel economy on the highway. Usually 37-39 at 70 with the A/C running. It was incredibly uncomfortable for highway driving though, and knowing that I was about to make a 3400 mile road trip/move, and then have a longer commute (now 50 miles round trip each day), I couldn’t take it any more.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      When I test drove the Fit on the highway the road and wind noise grew tiresome after only a few minutes. However, I don’t know if it would be better or worse than his 97 civic. If I was going to spend a lot of time on the highway I would want something a little larger, quieter, and more comfortable.

      • 0 avatar
        afflo

        I didn’t find the noise to be terrible in the one I had. I like Inside Line’s assessments, as they actually list the sound levels in the cars they test:

        2012 Passat V6:
        Sound level @ idle (dB) 43.1
        @ Full throttle (dB) 73.7
        @ 70 mph cruise (dB) 69.0

        2012 Accord V6 EX-L
        Sound level @ idle (dB) 47.4
        @ Full throttle (dB) 75.7
        @ 70 mph cruise (dB) 68.0

        2012 Fit Sport
        Sound level @ idle (dB) 42.0
        @ Full throttle (dB) 78.0
        @ 70 mph cruise (dB) 70.4

        That basically matched my assessment – not terribly loud when cruising, but loud and booming when you downshift to accelerate.

      • 0 avatar

        I did not know they did this afflo…this is great, thanks for the tip! Noise is such a priority for me, as I usually only do longer trips in my car.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        I love data, but I’m skeptical about the relevance of these noise readings. I’ve never been in a car that was truly noisy at idle, yet you often see big differences in decibel levels from these publications.

        It gives you no information on the frequency or quality of the sound in the car. I’ve been in cars that seemed very noisy to me, but were within a decibel or two of cars that seemed quiet. Plus, decibels are on a logarithmic scale, so differences of only a few may make a large difference.

        Regardless of what the dB readings are, I found the Fit to be one of the noisiest new cars I have been in.

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        It wasn’t necessarily the volume of the noise, but the quality of the sounds coming into the cabin from the engine and road. The engine just didn’t sound very happy to be working so hard and the interior just sounded tinny and cheap. Reminded me of my parents old Chevette…not good.

      • 0 avatar
        WaftableTorque

        Afflo, those noise readings are awful if you’re comparing them to luxo-barges like an Equus, S-class, or LS. That same publication lists those cars in the low 60′s dBA at 70 mph.

        10 dB is perceived as a doubling in loudness, but it actually represents a 10x increase in acoustical energy that has to be tamed by the engineers. Mainstream cars have a ways to go before they approach those levels.

      • 0 avatar
        afflo

        @WaftableTorque

        Of course it’s awful compared to an upscale car. Compared to a general market midsize or compact, it’s not so far off.

        I am curious about the quality of the road, and where they test. I’ve noticed that some places I’ve lived had much more coarse road surfaces than others. Florida, for the most part, had a fairly fine aggregate used in the asphalt pavement, and even louder cars weren’t bad there. In Cali, it varied considerably. In flyover country, surfaces tend to be louder… rural roads in Texas in particular use a very coarse chipseal that can be VERY loud in some cars, and the poured concrete in the snowbelt can be pretty loud (and rough if you have a short wheelbase).

        So, if the noise is primarily engine and wind, that won’t vary as much from place to place as road noise.

      • 0 avatar
        hammerlock

        The Fit does not have a lot of road noise. I drive it ( 2010) ever day to 100Km on 401 and its comfortable and peaceful. Well as peaceful as you get on the commute into Toronto. It is no tiresome, although it have issues with cross winds. But then what boxey wagon doesn’t.

        the Ford would be first choice but its too expenive new for a the hatch version and I’m sure the resale value will hold for new one.

        The is a excellent highway car.

    • 0 avatar
      jonny b

      Agree with the comments below. The Fit is a great city car but a pretty lousy freeway car. I sympathize with this guy. I loved 90′s civics. My folks kept buying them when we were kids and my brother and I got the hand-me-downs in college. He drove an 93, I had an awesome 91. Fun to drive and unbreakable.

      Now I drive an Elantra Touring and I love it. Fits two kids plus gear easily. And it’s the closest thing I found to a 90′s Civic: cheap, simple, and so far reliable. Not quite as tossable, but with the kids around that’s probably a good thing.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      The 2012 Fit and Insight received greatly improved sound deadening.

      • 0 avatar
        Chocolatedeath

        Just curious as to how you know this? Did they get a small redo this year? I know some press releases of cars will high light year over year improvements. I didnt think they changed anything since last year.

  • avatar
    mjz

    I say keep the Civic and get rid of the nagging wife.

  • avatar
    unseensightz

    I would suggest the Chevy Cruze. It meets all of your criteria save for the hatchback style. I mainly suggest it because with you having mentioned an extremely long commute, the new Cruze, from my own personal experience and reviews, is the best at commuting. Many have noted, as well as myself, that the Cruze feels like a larger car, i.e. more stable/planted, while cruising on the highway and that it has a very quite cabin, two things I would look for if I had a long commute. And maybe check out the eco version for more mileage.

    • 0 avatar
      grzydj

      You can basically get the Cruze in a hatcback form, but it’ll be called a Sonic.

      I think the Fit would do quite nicely for his needs.

      • 0 avatar
        unseensightz

        The only problem I have with the Fit is how tinny and loud it sounds. A lot of Hondas, the Fit not being an exception, are loud on the highway and can wear easily on the driver if they have a long commute.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        The Fit’s strength is interior packaging, not long distant highway cruising. There are much better alternatives for that.

        There’s a good chance that once the poster realizes how quiet & relaxed a compact car can be nowadays on the freeway, he will have a hard time going back to a noisy Honda. And with the Focus, it doesn’t seem like he will be giving up anything in handling or driver involvement. And he can get a hatch.

      • 0 avatar
        S2L2SC

        Another vote for the sonic.

        A bit cheaper and some seem to get high MPG numbers. (depends on engine choice).
        If all you need is a small, efficient & cheap commuter this might be the best bet as far as new goes.

    • 0 avatar
      BryanC

      I second the Cruze suggestion. I routinely get 45+ MPG on the freeway in my manual Cruze Eco. And it’s super quiet.

    • 0 avatar
      hakata

      Just a note, the 2012 Fit is advertising upgraded sound insulation. That may solve the problem.

    • 0 avatar

      The Cruze gets a “much worse than average” frequency of repair rating from Consumer Reports, but check truedelta.com.

    • 0 avatar

      This guy is MADE for the Eco 6 speed. Great fuel economy, funish to drive, well appointed (no leather though), and the nicest highway dynamics in the class.

    • 0 avatar
      ccttac

      Cruze or Sonic are great choices. GM is trying extra hard to be a leader in that segment so you can expect extra value when you buy and extra attention when it does need service.

      I also agree with the comment about living closer to work. Why not?

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        Unless he is renting, not quite the easiest thing to do now a days.

        Difficult to sell a home, not many qualities homes on the market. Find a new job closer to work? Not a whole lot of opportunities there either.

        I’d guess he is stuck for at least a couple more years before the housing market opens up, and the job market opens up.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Economy car? If you increase tire pressures and drive very conservatively my slightly more costing 2000 Saab 9-5 with 116K is seeing over 40 mpg all the while sitting in the lap of near luxury. This car needed some TLC and has a ecu tune and hardware support to take it from it’s measly 170 horsepower/207 torque, when it was getting right under 40 mpg, to near 300 horsepower/ 330 torque. It’ll almost 45 mpg during the warmer weather. This mild winter it saw 35-36 mpg at worst. As with all 12 year old cars, some wrenching is required.

    If you want new/warranty the ultimate gasoline/turbo the Chevy Cruze can see almost 50 mpg on pure highway. Or wait for Cruse diesel that GM says can get 50 mpg.

    With manual transmission and turbo torque these cars are as close as you can get to diesel mpg and driving fun.

    • 0 avatar
      PartsUnknown

      I want some of what you’re smoking. I’m on my third 9-5 (2004 Aero), it is meticulously maintained and I get, max, 32-33 mpg on a straight highway run. Which comports, more or less, with its original EPA highway estimate of 29 mpg. How the heck are you getting 36-45 mpg? Are you sure you’re trip computer is not set to imperial gallons? Are they selling unicorn farts at your local Shell? Please tell me your secret, I’d love to see that kind of mileage with my 9-5.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        Yeah, same here. I’ve had an ’02 9-5 wagon aero with auto, EPA-rated at, IIRC 31 mpg highway, which is about what my experience is driving on a flat road trip (i.e. between here and NYC) at 65-70, admittedly with the a/c running.

        I’ve never done an instantaneous MPG readout, so I don’t know how much more I could squeeze out, say, at 55 with the windows up and the a/c off.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        A 9-5 with manual transmission and tire pressures increased will see almost 40 mpg straight highway cruise with 100,000 mile break-in. The trip computer is about 1 mpg optimistic. Wagon and Aero models add weight along with a heavy automatic transmission.

        There are a couple of us on SaabCentral/SaabNet that see close to 40 mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      snabster

      I’ve only managed to get in the 33 MPG range for a 97 900. I always suspected those 40MPG readers are using the wrong measurement (imperial).

      City mileage on saabs is not good at all — 15 to 18.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I have asked Norm about this before, as I cannot imagine getting that mileage out of a turbo. IIRC, he makes that claim by cruising at 50ish-mph on extremely flat terrain… no hills. And I would guess he is possibly rounding up a bit, adding an extra mpg to account for the trip computer “error”, etc.

        My GTI will average high 30s if I drive really slow on the highway and never stop and only use the estimates between two rolling points on a highway stretch. But once I stop and start a few times, get off for food or pee… it drops.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        What most don’t realize about turbos, at least gasoline 4-cylinder turbos, is there is always pressure on the throttle body at cruise unlike normally aspirated that is under vacuum. I can monitor this via the Saab info display. The Saab info display is about 1 mpg optimistic compared to US gallons divided by miles traveled. I use different gas stations and have 3 other cars that verify the miles traveled.

        My base 9-5 has a smaller turbo(Garrett 17 compared to Mitsu TD04-15 used in Aero) and makes torque quicker and lower than the bigger turbo.

        North Central Ohio is far from flat and probably go up and down half dozen 400-800 feet hills on I-71 along with two 2-mile hills on my 58 mile one way commute. Two minute stop lights and drive thru the engine is off. No idling at start up either. I see mid to upper 30′s one way and mid to upper 40′s the return trip in 45-50F weather. That will go up another 5 mpg when temps see 80′s.

        Get on the highway and reset the computer the average speed is right at 65 or slightly less.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Sorry, I am not buying it. 5mpg more when it gets hot?? 5??

        I can cruise down the highway and if I hit the reset on the trip computer my car will report periods of 75mpg or more. Doesn’t mean I average anywhere near it. Sounds like you are hypermiling… good, that helps obviously. But restarting the car takes fuel, accelerating takes a big hit, even if you baby it. etc etc. It sounds like you are taking a very narrow slice of real world driving and extrapolating from that.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Adapts to Prius’ throttle characteristics and could only get 37 mpg? You guys are not trying. I see 28-29 mpg in stop driving with engine running at stop lights.

        “…the V delivers with an EPA estimated 44 mpg in the city, 40 mpg on the highway and 42 combined. Over a week of errand-running, short road-tripping and a few blasts into the city, I managed 37.3 mpg overall – something that would surely be improved as one adapts to the Prius’ throttle characteristics.”

        http://www.autoblog.com/2012/03/09/2012-toyota-prius-v-review/

        I got 36 mpg(gallons divided by miles) on an almost 550 mile tankful. Guys are stuffing 19 gallons in a 18.5 gallon tank which in theory could see into the 700′s between fillups. Though it’d be hard on the fuel pump. :)

  • avatar
    Franz K

    I had a similar situation years ago with an Allergic nagging Wife and a Cat . Got rid of the Cat . Should of gotten rid of the wife ( which years after I eventually did )

    To paraphrase a famous ancient book . A nagging wife is like a dripping faucet . Either figure out how to stop the drip or get a new faucet .

    But if you’ve gotta keep the wife , drip and all . I’d pass on the Hyundai recommends ( I’m not a fan of over contented , low quality , Vapor Ware for the Gangsta Hamster generation ) and stick with the main players …. Toyota – Honda – new FORD’s ( Focus / Fiesta ) or Scuby Roo ( Nissan and Mazda are on the ropes at the moment and IMHO to be avoided )

    Oh and be a bit wiser and skip the leather . Especially with KID’s ! Leather Maintenance + Kids = BIG expense and Tons of work . Not worth the moment of luxury you might enjoy . Put the money either into a better car or some additional options

    • 0 avatar
      jmo2

      Especially with KID’s ! Leather Maintenance + Kids = BIG expense and Tons of work

      What are you talking about – all my cars have been leather and other than an occasional wipe down they have never needed any maintenance. Also, they are so much easier to clean than cloth.

    • 0 avatar
      TexasAg03

      I disagree on the leather. With kids, I wish my truck had leather seats. Our last two family vehicles had leather and it was wonderful. Easy to clean and near zero maintenance.

      Oh, and I think your apostrophe key is stuck. ;)

    • 0 avatar
      afflo

      Leather + kids is WAAAAY easier than cloth. The fact that the surface is more comfortable and nicer looking is just a bonus.

  • avatar
    retrogrouch

    “I say keep the Civic and get rid of the nagging wife.” – MJZ

    What he said.

    My wife is now used to my collection of 15 to 30+ year old crappy German iron and does not hesitate to take any car for long trips (several hundred miles round trip).

  • avatar
    jmo2

    ” While the junkyard gem 97 civic has only served me about a year, it has only cost me $1000 total. With 270k on the odometer and counting, it is really starting to show its age but runs 80 down the road with cold air and no issues. I drive 130 miles round trip everyday”

    I’m stuck by the logic that the more time you spend in the car, the more clapped out, uncomfortable and dangerous you prefer the car. To me, if you worked at home and only need a car for the occasional Target, Home Depot run then a beat up Civic would be great. But, I would think if you were spending 2-4+ hours a day in the car you’d prefer something comfortable, rewarding to drive and safe, with heated seats and a nice stereo.

  • avatar
    rem83

    With the type of miles you’re driving, I’m surprised no one has suggested a fairly late model (maybe CPO?) Jetta Wagon / Golf diesel. Not only will those give you solid 40s on the highway, but under those operating conditions, the drivetrain should probably outlast most gas counterparts (depends on how long you plan to keep the vehicle, I guess). I believe at the minimum, it should benefit you by reduced depreciation / mile. I think they have a fairly large oil change interval as well, and I’m not sure what other maintenance modern cars even need anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      If drivetrain components were the only expensive things that could fail on a car, then an late model TDI could be a good choice. I think TDIs are overpriced in the used market.

      • 0 avatar
        vbofw

        TDIs do have large maintenance intervals, but they require other frequent maintenance such as fuel filters.

        The problem is getting one around $20k. I think the Jetta sedan can be had for $23ish but the Golf and Sportwagen are high $20s.

        Agreed with TDIs it may make more sense to buy new and enjoy the less than typical depreciation. Used TDI prices are nuts.

  • avatar
    sastexan

    My wife doesn’t understand why I keep my car (of course, some of the other posters on TTAC don’t either judging by the responses to my previous piston slaps). Keep the civic until it shows signs of absolute death. If the engine is in good shape and the timing belt replaced, keep going.

    Also – the 7 and 9 year olds will get taller and if you are a keeper, get something that they will be able to fit into when they are full size (genetically disposed to be tall?). Jetta diesel is great – former coworker of mine bought one with 25k; 2 years later she has 115k on it and gets in the mid-40s with mostly highway but a lot of DC traffic.

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    Get a fully loaded 2005 LeSabre. Since you only care about expressway, the H-body transmission trick for good highway mileage is going to help. You can achieve 30+ mpg highway. You’ll save about $10k over your budget, and you can get one with every feature Buick had and could slap on it. With the 3800 Series III, all the manifold intake issues with the 3800 Series II were fixed. The back seat will be cavernous for kids; the features will work because Buick is the GM division where they do a reasonable job on quality; the powertrain has 20+ years of getting the kinks out enough to be bulletproof; the suspension is tuned for pleasant highway cruising; and the V6 has more than enough torque to be exciting off the line when you need that.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Damn you beat me to it. LeSabres and Bonnevilles are relatively cheap on the used market and I’ll echo all of Mr. GreenMans pluses up there. The only thing I would add is that a Buick Lucerne V6 has all of the same pluses above, supremely comfortable bucket steats, and a high percentage of them came with heated seats and steering wheel.

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      And look like Grandpa on his way to the senior special at the Country Buffet. Skip the Buick, you obviously like a little style.

      • 0 avatar
        unseensightz

        A 97 Civic doesn’t exactly excite either in the looks department. I would say even a late model Lesabre has more road presence and styling than his Civic he drives now has. Plus they are dirt cheap, reliable, roomy and excellent cruisers. My 1996 Park Avenue, with 205,000 on the odometer, can still get 30mpg all day long fully loaded on the highway.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      I agree with you on the LeSabre, but I just wanted to point out I think the H-bodies run a Series II, not a Series III 3800, through the end of their production run. According to wikipedia, the Series III was only installed on the Grand Prix, LaCrosse, and Lucerne.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buick_V6_engine

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “I just wanted to point out I think the H-bodies run a Series II, not a Series III 3800, through the end of their production run.”

        The Lucerne used the H-body.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    +1 on the Fit. That’s probably very close to your old Civic. That car, more than any of the current Hondas, looks to be engineered and built like the 90s Civic that you (and I) loved.

    Another alternative is the Toyota Yaris. I can see you getting 270k miles out of this car without any issues. And it won’t be louder than your Civic.

  • avatar
    Banger

    Well if nobody else is going to say it, I will: Look at a Nissan Versa.

    The hatch is only rated at 32 mpg but will do better if you get the manual transmission and can keep your foot out of it on your commute. I’ve seen Fuelly.com reports from owners getting high 30s mpgs out of Versa hatches. If you can live with the newly redesigned sedan’s sorta homely looks (IMHO), then even better. It’s cheaper and gets better mileage according to the EPA (highway rated at 38 mpg, and you may very well do better than that, if initial owner reports over at Fuelly.com are to be believed).

    Right now, there’s $1,000 cash on the hood of the hatchbacks (I bet it’s because they’re trying to clear inventory before introducing the new design for the hatch in 2013) which can give you a base model with all the options you require except for cruise for around $13,500. Add the “Plus Package” and get cruise and remote keyless entry for $500 more. The sedan doesn’t have as much cash on the hood, but can easily be had with the options you need for around the same price (the base model with no cruise control is $11,000. Eleven thousand dollars, in this day and age!)

    Sure, they’re not the most exciting cars, but they’ve got interior space you and your family will appreciate, they have a cushy ride you’ll value on your commute, and they’re cheap to own.

    If you’re more adventurous with regards to style, I’d recommend the Nissan Cube over the Versa twins. It’s the same platform as the Versa hatch is built on, but you get even more passenger volume than the Versa (better headroom, namely), better visibility all the way around, and slightly more options for your dollar (power windows/locks come standard, for instance, where a base Versa will stick you with roll-em-up windows). An absolutely top of the line Cube SL will cost less than your $20,000 target MSRP. A more modest Cube S with cruise and the basic climate control (which I recommend, to cut down on possible issues in the future with the computer-aided climate control unit in the SL models) can be had for as little as $16,000 if you find a dealer with a fairly good stock of Cubes.

    Beware: You may pay a bit of a fuel mileage penalty, depending on your driving style, thanks to the Cube’s (lack of) aerodynamics. We’ve got 36 mpg lifetime out of our Cube equipped with the CVT automatic trans, but most of our driving is on 45-55 mph two-lane highways and not superslabs. On longer trips, we’ve averaged 32-34 mpg on the interstate with the cruise set at 75 mph. It’s a trade-off we were happy to make because we loved the comfort of the Cube’s interior and its easy-to-park-anywhere nature.YMMV, as they say.

    Other choices I’ve looked at myself and would consider were I in your shoes: The Fords mentioned by Steve and Sajeev, the Chevy Sonic and Cruze, the Honda Fit (if you can put up with the buzzy engine and lack of negotiating room on MSRP), and the Scion xD (again if you can put up with lack of negotiating room on MSRP). I’d also consider larger cars such as the Nissan Altima (good deals under $18,000 abound on this tired design, but it’s a reliable ride) and the Ford Fusion (which is being heavily discounted because it’s about to be replaced by the new redesigned Fusion seen earlier at this site).

    Good luck on your search. Let us know what you get!

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Jeez, I drove a Versa around the freeways of LA and I thought the car was marginally powered. Attempts at acceleration on even a gentle upgrade at 65 resulted in more noise, but glacial acceleration. If the OP lives in Kansas, fine.

      Otherwise, I think this thing is best used as an urban runabout, for which it is very practical and comfortable.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I’ll say a Golf TDI, although they’re not super cheap. Plus you’re probably going to need to do your own maintenance and become a regular on the TDI forums. But they are nice cars and haven’t yet been ‘mericanized like the Jetta/Passat.

    However, if you’re looking for a frugal to buy and frugal to maintain hatchbatch, probably a Fiesta/Focus or an Accent hatchback might be better for you (or even a Sonic). We had an Accent for 2 years and Hyundai treated us well when the Accent broke (and kept breaking). We replaced it with a Jetta TDI, which was more reliable. I think Hyundai has improved their reliability though since it’s now been 11 years since we bought that car.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    270K is a lot for any car, but I assume we’re talking miles and not klicks. Big expensive things can fail suddenly, leaving you with either a junked car or hefty repair bill. A 1997 Civic LX with these miles is only worth $2500 in my area (kbb, private sale, rated at a generous “good” condition). How much does a rebuilt transmission cost? And how well does a 97 Civic fare in a collision? I think the wife has a point.

    A number of new compact cars are rated at ~40mpg that are quieter & safer than a 97 Civic and are surprisingly comfortable on the highway. Don’t need a big old land barge for comfort anymore.

  • avatar
    mistermau

    I don’t have a car recommendation, but I will add that no matter what you get, if doesn’t come with bluetooth, check out the Jabra Freeway. It’s a visor unit that turns itself on and off automatically when it senses motion (or lack thereof). Also has nice, loud speakers, and a FM Modulator to pipe the sound through the radio if you live somewhere where that would be conducive.

    • 0 avatar
      GoTerpsGo

      Sony doesn’t sell it anymore, but I’ve owned a MEX-BT3700U head unit since Sept ’09. It was about $180 at the time from Amazon, and I also got the optional visor clip microphone for $30. I know it’s not the cheapest solution, but its A2DP feature integrates well with my iPhone 4. I don’t listen to FM radio on it unless it’s for traffic reports.

  • avatar
    djsyndrome

    My ’08 Impreza returns 31 mpg at a steady 70 mph. Then again, the fourth generation models will easily beat that, and for how well they hold their value you might be better off trying to get one of those instead.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    If you are looking for a good highway commuter, something like the Focus indeed, or if you prefer one size smaller, the Fiesta or its ilk will work.

    Many of these cars have decent to very good stereos and most now offer Bluetooth, steering wheel controls as standard, thanks to hands free cell phone laws in many states.

    I agree, today’s smaller cars used means almost as much as new and more than a couple of years old, BT ceases to exist in most cars. Aux and USB are more or less standard in most cars and has been since at least 2009, earlier in some higher priced models.

    A Honda Fit is about as good as it gets from Honda, just avoid the autobox as it’s slow to react to one’s foot, making it not feel so sporty.

    Also, if you buy used and it doesn’t have a decent stereo, you CAN replace it with a very good aftermarket, many of which now have Bluetooth integrated into them.

    Good luck!

  • avatar

    I would NEVER have married someone with that attitude.

    Sorry.

    In fact the first thing that came to mind is a scene in what is arguably The Worst Movie ever made – Joe Brooks’ “You Light Up My Life” – where the lead (Didi Conn) is lectured by her boyfriend to get rid of her old car and get a new one.

    The “old car”?

    A 1955 THUNDERBIRD.

    The producers tried to make it look shabby by placing a strip of duct tape on the convertible top.

    BTW the girl who got me to take her to this cinematic travesty looked like a young Sophia Loren. Really.

    A few years later, the woman I married understood my obsession with cars…and thankfully still does.

    We celebrate 30 years in June.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      Ahh how some people can change.

      My wife early in her relationship told me about how she convinced an old boyfriend of hers to get rid of his car because it was “a piece of junk,” and get a SUV. The car in question? A 1967 Chevelle SS in good condition, probably in need of about $1k of TLC. I’m 28 now for some age perspective, and that vintage of cars gets cooler and rarer every day.

      Fast forward 5 years from that conversation to 3 weeks ago. She bought me a 00 S2k with 89k on the clock and says to have fun, put a rollbar in fo the track, and “we’re keeping it forever it’ll just basically become a weekend/track car when we need to upgrade our passenger capacity” and get what I affectionately call a soccer-mom urban assault vehicle.

      Basically, mine’s a keeper.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    It’s amazing that we are second-guessing this man’s marital choice based on the information provided. She could be the sweetest thing in the world who just wants her husband (AND KIDS) to be in a car that can survive a wreck and not break down on the highway.

    Yeah, man, DUMP HER!

  • avatar
    28-cars-later

    Although it makes little sense in this discussion, I thought I’d throw out the obligatory call for Panther Love. Mileage would be the only major concern there, but given the current economic climate you may be able to find a clean low mileage example for a song and pocket the savings for increased operating costs over the current Civic.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo2

      “but given the current economic climate you may be able to find a clean low mileage example for a song”

      Given the current economic climate used cars are commanding record high prices, you have zero chance of finding one “for a song.”

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I am a little puzzled by your PS, and even more by some of the B&B’s reactions. If I read you right, you are complaining because your wife wants you to get a new car to replace your beater Honda i which you rack up 130 miles/day on the highway. And you’re complaining about this? And the B&B, say “get a new wife?”

    Wowza. You should be so lucky. It just might be that she has some interest in keeping your ass in one piece should you happen to collide with something on said highway . . . and just about anything you run into — except for a motorcycle or another 15-year old econobox — is going to be heavier than you are and have a lot more occupant protection. And we won’t even get into the consequences of some mechanical failure on a vehicle that is old enough and used enough that just about everything is subject to catastrophic failure — bearings, suspension pieces, suspension attachments to the body . . . you name it. These cars were light for a reason. I had a ’78 Accord (about the same size and weight as your Civic) that, in 1980 had a failure of the attachment of the rear trailing arm to the body while she and I were going on vacation (just the two of us), carrying a 100 lb. sunfish sailboat on the roof. I.e., the car was hardly overloaded. (and neither of us were/are overweight).

    Now, to the suggestions. I don’t think you’ll find the Fit a pleasant place to be for 130 daily miles on the highway. It’s noisy; and 80 you feel like you are stressing the engine, and it blows around in crosswinds. I’ve driven the new Focus at 85 between Phoenix and Tucson (more than an hour) and I can testify that it’s quiet, stable, comfortable and gets around 38 mpg with such use. (This was not the super-economy version with the radiator grill shutters and other tricks that’s EPA-rated at more than 40 mpg highway. The rear seats are certainly o.k. for two kids for long drives. Two six-footers will fit, but they won’t be terribly comfortable.

    Having owned a diesel once many years ago, I do not have fond memories. VW products have questionable reliability ratings, and their problems aren’t limited to the drivetrain. Check out the price difference between diesel fuel and regular gas. In The Capital of the Free World, diesel is more expensive than even premium gas. In fact, I did the math and calculated that, here it would actually cost more to keep a VW diesel in fuel than it would a Focus, no matter how many miles you drove and without regard to the higher price of the diesel engine. The economy gains of the diesel weren’t enough to offset the higher price of the fuel.

    As for price, I had a firm offer from a a dealer to drive a new Focus SE hatch with sport package, sync audio, sunroof, the 17″ wheels and the manual tranny, which is one of the best I’ve ever driven, for $20K, with a $10K trade in for my 11-year old Z3. If you want to pay less, you can get the sedan, skip the sport package and bigger wheels. That would probably knock $2-$3K off the sticker. Reliability complaints on the new Focus are centered on the DCT automatic transmission and the My Ford Touch electronics. Skip those, and you’ve avoided the problems. Neither I nor my wife liked the way the DCT drove, even when it was supposed to be working correctly.

    In the used market, Steve, who’s in the business, says used car prices are insane. Another car I was looking at — a Volvo C30 — priced out extremely close new vs. a used CPO, when you figured in the value of the routine maintenance package thrown in with the new car. Regarding, CPO programs . . . not all of them are created equal. The best of them add a 2-year limited warranty that covers most things covered by the new-car warranty, and then add a 7-year/100K mile powertrain warranty that doesn’t cover much of anything. But the worst of them just extend the powertrain warranty a year or two and add maybe 6 months to the factory new car warranty.

    With the number of miles you drive, even a 5 mpg difference in fuel economy is going to make a real difference in operating cost. Personally, I am highly skeptical of claims that any mid-sized or larger car, not powered by a diesel, gets more than 30 mpg on the highway, day in and day out. Look at Mr. Karesh’s website that has aggregated user experience data for mileage of many cars, if you don’t trust the EPA ratings. In my experience, with the possible exception of the VW diesel, there is practically nothing that exceeds the EPA highway mileage rating, the way most people drive (i.e. usually faster than the speed at which the EPA test is conducted).

    And, if you buy a used car, you’re assuming the risk of paying for repairs (larger or small) — something you are not assuming for the first three (or four for a luxury car) years of ownership of a new car. Only you can decide what you feel most comfortable with.

    Personally, if you can swing $20K for a new car and are not too interested in assuming that risk, given the amount of driving you do, I’d go for the new car, because the other risk you’re assuming with a used car — CPO’ed or not — is how the previous owner drove it and how he/she took care of it.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      +1

      On all of it.

    • 0 avatar
      WestoverAndOver

      Are you in the District of Columbia proper? I am in Arlington and just did a quick look at diesel prices in Arlington vs. DC and found that it is up to 1 dollar less expensive in Arlington/Falls Church, which are each a stone’s throw away.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        “DC Bruce” means I live in DC. I work in Georgetown. Gasoline is much cheaper in Arlington than in DC, too; although I haven’t tracked the difference between diesel and gasoline over there.

        Sometimes, I actually drive to the intersection of Lee Highway and Glebe Rd. to fill up. It’s worth the little trip.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Interesting how no one ever recommends a Yaris…. (I won’t, either.)

    Seriously, dude. At >$4 per gallon gas and a 130 mile daily round-trip, wouldn’t you really rather have a Prius?

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      What’s wrong with a Yaris? If you factor in the purchase price, the resale value, and the low expected repair costs, I don’t think you can find a car with a lower cost per mile than the Yaris.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        We have a last-gen Yaris sedan. My only concern for the this guy’s 130 mile commute is the driving position. With no telescoping wheel, it’s built for an orangutan; pedals close, steering wheel far, and the new one didn’t improve it. That doesn’t matter in town, but after an hour or so on the freeway it gets really tiring on the arms, particularly if you are stiff or sore.

    • 0 avatar
      etho1416

      A prius is only worth it if most of your miles are in the city which is whereit really helps in the mpg department. If everything is on the highway a small four cylinder sedan will get as good of mileage as a prius but for a lot less money up front. My 2009 corolla manual gets over 40mpg on the highway consistently.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Pick out the new car that you want and run this till it fails. Junk, buy new, repeat evolution.

    I have put a lot of troublefree miles on cars with over 300k. If you want peace in the family you either need to buy a new one or identify the new one you can drop into once this fries or drops an important and expensive part.

    • 0 avatar
      wstarvingteacher

      btw some advice from an old guy. I once made a comment about why I don’t ride anymore, that invited comments about my wife. You are better off if you give everyone a chance to mind their own business about your personal life. There are always wll meaning or macho not so well meaning folks who will give you advice.

      That advice is generally what you paid for it once you are past the point where you want to slap them.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    Skip all the “big iron” – they’ll get 35 mpg, once in a blue moon, going 63 MPH with a tailwind on level ground. You also get to drive around in a big floaty boat that can’t carve up a backcountry road and needs a set of landing lights to park.

    The Mazda2 is along the right path. 2296 lbs and 100 hp work great, and there’s room for four six-footers. The one-size-bigger Mazda3 SkyActiv gets better gas mileage on the freeway but I’m not sure what the payback time for it would be. If you can, hold out for a few months with test-drives of unsatisfactory cars so you can get the SkyActiv 2, which will be even better. Either Mazda is a direct replacement for the ride and handling of your double-wishbone Civic. If you buy almost anything else you’ll miss your old car. “You don’t know what you got till its gone”

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I would get an 01-05 Civic

    Dirt cheap, Honda reliability, completely unloved by the F&F crowd so the prices make sense.

  • avatar
    Dawnrazor

    How about a Prius C?

    I think it’s available now, and it would seem to satisfy all of your criteria nicely (with the possible exception of leather-don’t know if it’s available or not, but heated seats definitely are).

    I know the Prius is not exactly a beloved vehicle around these parts, but it just seems like the perfect tool for the job you need a vehicle to do. You seem to be thinking more with your “head” than your “heart” with regard to this decision, and this is a purchase I really don’t think you would regret on this basis.

    • 0 avatar
      Illan

      the prius c top model comes with faux leather.

    • 0 avatar
      jimbobjoe

      Agreed. With the ridiculous prices on small used vehicles right now, you can get the Prius C, the next generation of small vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      I’ve spent some time in a “regular” Prius on the highway. The car is noisy and hard-riding (attributable to its special low-rolling resistance tires, I suppose) and the seats are pretty basic and seemed like they could lead to sore buns after more than an hour. It also feels “twitchy” at highway speeds and is possibly subject to crosswinds.

      I think the Prius makes much more sense as an urban runabout than a car in which to drive 130 miles daily at speeds up to 80 mph. Also, where the Prius really shines is in urban driving. Its exotic hybrid powerplant confers no great advantage at highway speeds. Its highway mileage is due primarily to its low aerodynamic drag and, by contemporary standards, an underpowered engine which is being operated in its optimum powerband for fuel economy.

  • avatar
    MarkP

    As a completely satisfied owner of a 2001 Golf tdi, I could not recommend buying a used VW diesel, mainly because of all the new, fairly-reasonably-price, 40 (or near 40) mpg gasoline-powered cars out there. The new or newish VW diesels only get a little better than that (although some claim much better), and the cost is over your stated budget. I would test drive a few of the ones recommended above and get the one you like best.

  • avatar
    cc-rider

    I just bought my father in laws 2000 civic lx for a commuter. It has 260,000 on it and runs perfect. These are really simple cars to work on so I am not sure what could be making your feel that tired. Engines, trannys, suspension are plentiful.

    I know they are generally unloved, but I don’t mind the EP3 civic si for a commuter car. It has a great shifter, steering wheel, and seats. Look for the best 2004-05 model you can find.

  • avatar
    Illan

    if you are getting i belive you are better off checking out the new prius c. My recomendation is a Focus with Sync and a Hyundai Elantra. i know what you are going through. im car shopping as wel. my 96 cavalier has 217,000 and the interior is starting to fall apart.

  • avatar
    ckgs

    I suggest looking at a 2008 Acura TSX. 2008 was the last year of the 1st gen, and will check off all of your requirements plus add some niceties, is completely bulletproof, and a great drive.

    I’m at 110,000 without issues, and check the acura forums – people are pushing well over 200,000 with no problems.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Second the recommendation on the ’08 TSX, based on my test drive of the car. Seems to have a bulletproof reputation, and with his $20K budget, one with significantly fewer than 100K miles can probably be found.

      The ’09 and newer car isn’t that bad . . . so long as you don’t look at it when you’re not inside!

  • avatar
    OmarCCXR

    Trading a 97 Civic for a 01-05 Civic seems foolish at best.
    I’d recommend taking a look at the Skyactiv Mazda3 and the Ford Focus.
    Real world mpg is quite good on the new mazda.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Assuming those miles are mostly on the highway.. Diesel?

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Keep driving it for another 5 years, stash the cash and buy your next new car outright. Avoid full coverage insurance too. Just invest in new ball joints and wheel bearings for the old Civic and you should be good.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    How about the Mazda 3i Grand Touring? You should be able to find a sedan or hatch with all of the extras for right at or slightly more than 20k. The 40MPG highway rating for the Skyactiv may be a little optimistic but it should easily get 34MPG.

  • avatar
    gasser

    Fiat 500. A friend of mine recently replaced his ancient Civic with Fiat 500.
    First month— 3 weeks driving, 1 week sitting in the shop waiting for parts.
    Stick to a manufacturer with a USA track record!!
    Buy something new and with a stick. Buy something more quiet and with comfortable seats.
    Pay the auto dealer or the Chiropractor , it’s your choice.
    If you stay married a while longer, you’ll realize your wife is smarter than you are……that ancient Civic has been vastly surpassed in safety and comfort.

  • avatar

    If your wife is the one who dislikes the Civic, maybe she should have more input about the next car as well. After all, if you end up with a car that she hates, you’re going to be in the same boat, but also $20k lighter in the wallet.

    With the number of miles you drive, I’d recommend looking into a used diesel or hybrid. A diesel passenger car means a VW, but there’s extra maintenance costs down the road for those. A hybrid usually means a Prius, but these are really expensive on the used market. Seeing how you’ll probably drive this next car into the ground, I’d consider a lesser known hybrid like a Fusion or Altima hybrid. Alternatively, if you prefer a new car, I’d wait for the upcoming Prius C.

  • avatar
    greaseyknight

    Lets look at the numbers here, 130 miles a day equals to about 34,000 miles a year. Keep that up and it will take only 6 years to get to 200k. So you are going to use up any vehicle you buy fairly quickly, and is a very much a depreciating liability. My suggestion is to have a mechanic check out the Civic for any signs of impending doom, and keep driving it until it croaks from something major. While doing this, pay yourself a payment to save up for something new. Whats the worse that can happen? The civic dies and you get a tow bill to the junkyard, and have to drive the second car for a couple weeks until you buy something else.

  • avatar
    joneill1955

    2012 Focus is a great car that will meet all your requirements. We have a 2012 Focus SE hatchback w/ sport package. Gets 40 to 41 mpg on highway at 60 to 65 mph. Fits 3 kids (ages 8, 10 and 12) in the back easily. Handles great, yet very comfortable quite ride on highway.

  • avatar
    jogrd

    I’d be looking at finding the most comfortable seat and then moving on from there whether it be Focus, Elantra, Cruse or whatever. The 2 and the Fit, as great as they are in town, get tiresome on the highway and in crosswinds. The Fiesta is better but the engine is still screaming by 80.

  • avatar
    daviel

    Get a new Kia or Hyundai with a 10 yr warranty. You are not going to find all those options anywhere else.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    Go read Lang’s review of the Cruze. Then go test drive one. Nicer than the Elantra for the same money.

  • avatar
    George B

    I vote for the Chevrolet Cruze for economical highway driving. Engine power is barely acceptable, but the interior is large and the ride is comfortable. I had a rental Cruze with easy to clean leather-like seats so that option is fairly common.

  • avatar
    Jellodyne

    At least test drive a Mazda3 with the new SkyActiv engine — the only problem with the old 3 was the fuel economy. I’m pretty sure the GT model has your whole checklist covered and gets 39 hwy (but only comes with the 6AT). If you want to row your own, the base 3i with Skyactiv misses some of your options such as leather but has an available 6MT.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      We have a ’10 3 hatch touring with the slushbox (really good auto) and the old 2.5L. Mileage certainly isn’t up near 40, but it is on par with the 2000 Civic EX that it replaced, I would say in the 31-33 range when you stay around 70. I can’t push the new 3s on people enough, they’re great and very fun cars, even with the slushbox.

      Your options are (from the mazda website):

      3i hatch touring (lose heated seats and leather)
      3i hatch grand touring (lose the manual)
      3s hatch grand touring (lose the 40mpg)

      None of those is a bad decision, and IMHO, having cloth makes not having heated seats as much of an issue. Aftermarket seat heaters only cost about $300 installed per seat if you want that in the future, and some dealers may be willing to work something with a local upholstry shop for the sale.

      Is mazda still doing 0% financing?

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    You should post a picture of said 97 Civic. I can almost guarantee you that your wife objects to the cosmetic condition of the car. Does the seat foam poke out of the seat? Are the seats stained and saggy? Replace the seats, get some new floor mats, and get a deoderent gizmo in the car- I bet your wife’s attitude would change in a hurry.

    Our relationship with cars, is just like our relationship with people. Little irritants add up. Once a car, or a person exhibits enough of the little irritating traits, we turn against them. So the bottom line is- don’t let the little irritants add up. Take some time to correct them.

  • avatar
    vvk

    Saturn Astra would be perfect fit, except leather seats.

    Hard to find but cheap, comfortable and frugal. Very comfortable compared to the typical Corolla/Civic/Elantra.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Of all the compact cars I’ve ever driven, the Astra is my favorite. They seem to be priced around $10K for 50K mile examples, which I would consider alright.

      However, the version I drove was a 3-door XR with summer tires. I might not be as enthusiastic about a 5-door XE with all-seasons.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    I don’t think anybody mentioned the Honda Insight. I just checked FuelEconomy.gov and people are getting in the upper 40′s with their Insights. It’s not well loved by the market, so maybe you could get a pretty good deal.

    The Prius or Prius C also suggest themselves because of the high daily mileage but, as someone pointed out earlier, your depreciation is going to be pretty awesome at those annual mileages and a car that’s inexpensive to buy will depreciate less. That suggests a car like the Yaris (they do fairly well on the road and I’ll bet they do better if you keep your speed down) or an Insight, if you can get it cheap enough.

    Of course, resale on an Insight could be a painful thing, anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Zach,

      I just did a quick calc. You’re in the unenviable situation where the difference between 35mpg and 45mpg amounts to serious money over the length of time you’re likely to be using the car. I was figuring on $4 gas. We’ll likely be there soon enough and it seems likely to me that $4 will become the price floor within the next couple of years, maybe sooner.

  • avatar
    afflo

    Wow… I expected this to be FULL of suggestions that he buy a Panther.

    How about a Veloster? Seems to meet quite a few of your requirements.

  • avatar
    daviel

    Veloster would be a great choice. My stepson is an experienced auto mechanic/technician who repairs about all these brands after warranty. He works at an independent garage. He advised me not to buy any brand except Honda, Toyota, Hyundai or Kia. My car I traded in on the Kia Sportage was a Focus SVT. It was a great car and I put about 125, 000 on it but when it went out everything about went. That was it for me. I followed his advice and I think he’s right. Ask a mechanic you know and trust. See what he/she says. Where did Chevy go when they wanted a game changing’ Cruze? S. Korea. Just sayin’

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Mazda3 with SkyActiv option??

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Kia Soul , ford Focus, elantra, maybe a 4 cyl accord would be worth it for the comfort factor.

  • avatar
    Dan

    EPA to the contrary, because what they call highway testing hasn’t the slightest resemblance to a highway, there’s pretty much zero open road mileage advantage to small cars. See Consumer Reports actual road testing results below:

    http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cars/new-cars/buying-advice/best-worst-cars-review/best-worst-fuel-economy/best-and-worst-fuel-economy.htm

    So disregard boneheaded posters suggesting you suffer ten hours a week in a relatively noisy, cramped, and badly riding compact.

    Use the right tool for the job, a midsized four cylinder sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      afflo

      All depends on driving preference… most compacts have decently roomy accommodations for the driver.

      For instance:

      Ford Fusion:

      Legroom, front (in.) 42.3
      Headroom, front (in.) 38.7
      Shoulder room, front (in.) 57.4

      Hyundai Elantra:
      Legroom, front (in.) 43.6
      Headroom, front (in.) 40.0
      Shoulder room, front (in.) 55.9

      Front shoulder room, in.
      Taurus57.5
      Fusion 57.0
      Focus 55.5
      Fiesta 52.0

      Front leg room, in.
      Ta 41.5
      Fu 40.5
      Fo 42.0
      Fi 41.5

      Front head room, in.
      Ta 3.5
      Fu 3.0
      Fo 4.5
      Fi 5.0

      Torso height, girth, leg length all weigh in as for as how comfortable a vehicle is… I just recently (July) drove from Cali to Florida, and then (Aug) Florida to Texas in my ’11 Scion tC, and it is hands-down the most comfortable car I’ve owned (and my cars have been all over the place – CR-V, Accord, Wrangler, GMC truck, Civic, the aforementioned Fit). I had a hell of a time getting comfortable in a rented Fusion driving on the Baltimore Washington Expressway, but doing a 6 hour drive in a rented ’10 Fusion was a breeze. This offends the panther-lovers, but driving across town chaffering my grandmother in her Grand Marquis was one of the most ergonomically unpleasant experiences I’ve ever had.

      The car that fits isn’t always the one you expect… I’ve found that I’m most comfortable with my legs stretched out, lots of legroom and thick side bolsters on the seats – the flat, wide seats in many larger sedans designed for fat middle-aged rumps doesn’t do the trick for my gangly pre-middle-aged frame. Pic a few cars that meet your desires, and see if you can find a place to rent them for a test run on your commute.

    • 0 avatar
      baggins

      +100. At a steady 75mph, the mass of the car doesnt matter that much. My 2011 4 cyl accord just got 35 MPG on a 500 mile round trip, at 70mph, with hills.

      While the I wouldnt recommend the accord due to high road noise, a 2012 Camry would likely be perfect. He’ll get 36+ mpg, only a bit less than a sub compact, and be a far more comfortable and safer as well. Hell, in Consumer Reports tests, the 4banger camry got 41 while the Fit sport was at 36. The Fit is the wrong choice in so many ways. Tall, noisy, and running at high rpm is no way to travel 120 miles a day.

      Plus when he has to tote the kids, the Camry will handle that better too. Only thing the Fit does better is city mileage and hauling odd shaped items, neither was on his list of requirements.

      His commute is made for the Camry class 4 cylinder.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        I can’t speak for Zach, as it’s entirely a matter of personal preference, but I’ve never equated wallowing around in a floaty Camry with comfort. I feel most comfortable driving a car that feels responsive and stable during aggressive maneuvers while providing feedback. I’m not one to zone out on a drive though. I like to experience the interaction between the car and the road rather than simply being delivered in isolation to my destination.

        A mid-size might be the best choice though. The only good reason his wife is nagging him to get a new vehicle would be safety, and they will do better in a collision than a compact or sub-compact, with little to no fuel economy penalty during highway driving.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        I am hearing bad things about recent Camry quality. Might want to look into that. Where does the accord road noise come from?

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        I’ve heard good things about the way the new Camries ride & handle, particularly the SE version. “Wallowing” certainly isn’t one of the descriptors being used in reviews. Some things do change, if only incrementally.

      • 0 avatar
        baggins

        Land Crusher – Accord noise is the tires on the pavement. Lots of grainy surfaces here in Calif. Not sure how other cars abate the noise better but they do.

        RPN – he could get a more firmly riding mid sizer. There are soft and firm cars of all sizes. I agree that a 80s Buick is not comfortable, but with an 60 mile one way commute, I doubt he is doing a lot of agressive maneuvers. On the freeway commute like that, firm ride wears you dowm.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    This is easy. A Focus hatchback knocks off all your needs and wants for less than $25k. I think a Sonic could also do it for less than $20k, though I would prefer a larger, quieter car for lots of highway miles.

    What exactly is it about the civic your wife doesn’t like? If it is just old and beat down, that’s one thing. If she thinks it is too small, loud, and uncrashworthy, you’ll need something at least the size of a focus to address those concerns.

    With a $25k max ceiling, you pretty much have your pick of any mainstream car up through the C segment, and probably lightly optioned trim levels of D segment cars. Start test driving and just buy whatever you and your wife like. I don’t think there is a car out there so terrible that you should avoid it at all costs.

    Used cars cost so much right now I think you need to be a mechanic to get any value out of them. The savings doesn’t seem like enough to offset the repair risk any more.

  • avatar
    yesthatsteve

    I agree with Steve that you should go up in size from the Mazda2 and Fiesta. Even if they’re only occasionally in the back seat of your new ride, they won’t get any smaller.

    My kids were about the same age as yours when I got a Prizm, and everything was fine. Until my oldest grew taller than 5 feet. Then they started hating it. I remember the same thing happened when I was a kid in 1981. My mom bought a ’79 Corolla to replace her ’74 New Yorker, and it was fine until I grew seven inches the following year.

    I eventually went up in interior size to a first-gen Scion xB when the second kid was approaching the 5-foot mark. They love the interior space.

    Look for something with at least 36 inches of rear seat leg room, unless you plan to get rid of it in the next 3-4 years. If it’s a long-term keeper, think about the comfort of your soon-to-be-adult-sized children.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Baggins,
    I am sure the solution to that is easily available. Likely limited to certain tires which could already have been changed. There is usually more than one OEM tire for cars as popular as the Accord.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    Commuting highway 50 miles a day?

    Cruze Eco 6-speed. 42mpg (EPA rating) on 87 octane, seriously comfortable and quiet interior on the highway, enough torque to be fun (and the VTuner setup pushes output to 170bhp/177lb-ft on 91 octane without a gas mileage penalty!) and plenty of options. If you want heated leather you can get it in a 2LT with a six-speed. The LTZ has all the goodies but is auto-only, and honestly a 2LT has all the stuff you’d want anyway.

    Only downside to the Eco is the smaller gas tank (12.6 instead of 15.6) and the absurdly deep gearing, but i think a 2LT manual is still rated at 38 or something like that, and feels a lot punchier than the Elantra, Focus or Civic. Tiny turbo motors ftw.


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