By on January 15, 2014

volvo1978

TTAC Commentator Sjalabais writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I am and have always been a car guy. Since I am an academic with two left hands and sausage fingers, my flavour have been indestructible 70s Volvos, of which I have owned a couple.

Now I am a father and a bit cash-strapped, with the need for an occasional 7 seater. A Volvo V70 with rear facing extra seats has been voted down in the household assembly, I am thus looking for a blob-shaped car. My location is Norway, but my issue is recognisable for any car guy in this situation, I fear.

My problem is that I can only afford roughly ten-year old quality vehicles, or newer cars with awful reputations. The latter include 2004-2006 VW Touran and Opel Zafira, the former 2002 Honda and Toyota models. In between I find the rusting time bombs by Mazda and the remarkably substandard build quality Mitsubishi Space Wagon. A Previa or Grandis would be acceptable, though they are a bit on the large end of the scale and usually very expensive to buy and maintain.

The Toyota Avensis Verso comes attached with a halo and is priced accordingly. The same is true, to a lesser degree, with the Honda Stream. Both have tiny engines that suck the fun out of blob-shaped 7 seaters that comes so naturally with them. That’s why I have tended to focus my interest on strong, but ugly Mitsubishi Space Wagons. But their paint, chassis, engines, clutches and transmissions are dead at 10 years and/or 150000km driven.

So would it be advisable to go for a low quality car like the Mitsubishi that’s been refurbished by owners desperate to sell before the next big investment? Or should I pay more for an older, but more reliable and well-build Honda or Toyota?

Sajeev answers:

What a difficult question for someone who lives in America!

Actually no, because there’s one universal truth for any used car buyer: buy the used car with the most service history, the newest wear items (tires, brakes, etc.) and the most original body/interior you can find in your buying area.

Of course, nobody will blame you for avoiding a vehicle known for colossal engine/transmission failures, or anything else that might “rub” your family the wrong way.  So perhaps you must buy the cheapest of the cheap: perhaps a Honda/Toyota with high miles but an extensive service record is your best bet. Or maybe a low mile Mitsubishi/Ford/Renault/etc…who knows!

Time to punt: what say you, Best and Brightest?

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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76 Comments on “Piston Slap: Norwegian Longroof Reformism?...”


  • avatar
    virages

    Cheap? Seats 7? How about a Dacia Lodgy? Sure it will be full of hard plastics, but coming from old Volvos that shouldn’t be too much of a bother. They are about €10k cheaper than other new 7 seaters on the market.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      This would have been the sensible choice anywhere in Europe, but Dacia actually just started to offer cars in Norway – new, that is. And I am not even sure they have an official importer, since their cars show up new in the used car market spots.

    • 0 avatar
      JalopNick

      Assuming that you find a place to service it (ask at your local Renault dealership), a Dacia would probably be a good choice. No frills for sure but they seem to be engineered to last forever (simple = less stuff to break, I suppose). Virtually all cabbies in Romania run Dacias and I asked every single one I met what they thought of their car vs other options. 100% of them answered that they would not want a different vehicle and then proceeded to tell me about how some coworkers who own other brands are kicking themselves once the maintenance costs become obvious after some 40-50 thousand km (many cabbies there own their cars and contract with a radio dispatch operator). I’ve been in several cars with over 500.000 km which is thoroughly impressive given where Dacia was not too many years ago.

  • avatar
    Hemi

    I would definitely reccomend getting a used Toyota or Honda with service records, versus any unreliable car. Moreso with you being cash strapped and having to drive around so many people. There is nothing worse than breaking down with your whole family and then paying crazy amounts to fix it. You will pay more upfront, but will save in the long run from expensive repairs and headaches.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    Steve Lang generally recommends buying an unpopular, but generally reliable, vehicle.

    Did Chrysler sell its minivans in Norway? I know that Chrysler sells minivans in the EU, so if one is available, can you buy one for less than a Honda or Toyota? Particularly if it has a small gas engine instead of a diesel? Since you will only be using it occasionally a gas engine’s increased fuel consumption may be acceptable in exchange for a lower purchase price.

    I don’t know how much parts would cost, however, there is a supportive forum group for older Chrysler minivans at forum.chryslerminivan.net

    And you’re not necessarily cash strapped :) Everyone in Norway is now a millionaire! http://business.time.com/2014/01/10/every-norwegian-is-now-a-millionaire-kind-of/

    • 0 avatar
      spreadsheet monkey

      Translating Steve’s advice to Europe leads us to the Opel Zafira which Sjalabais is already considering. For the money, these are cleverly packaged and (mostly) reliable vehicles, which are cheap to buy thanks to their desperately unfashionable image. In the UK at least, they are available with a turbocharged 2.0L engine which makes them (kind of) a sleeper.

      Link below for you ‘Mericans, if you’re curious:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opel_Zafira

      • 0 avatar
        Sjalabais

        Yes, the Zafira was recommended to my by a mechanic. Not necessarily as a reliable car per se, but as a car that is incredibly cheap to fix in addition to a very low price of entry. Compared to same size Toyotas I could get either a Zafira that is 3-4 years younger, or has 100,000-150,000km less on the odometer.

        • 0 avatar
          ekaftan

          I live in southamerica and drove a 2002 Zafira for years. Lowly 1.8 liter engine and 4 speed auto transmission. Except from having to clean the throttle body every 3 or 4 months (a known problem heavily documented in Vauxhall forums) it gave me almos 100.000kmts of trouble free service…

          I am no longer married and drive a pickup truck that my work provides me with, but it would be one of my first choices if I ever need occasional 7 seating. And I said occasional… with 7 people in you have almost no luggage space and performance is abysmal :)

          But mechanical problems, none.

    • 0 avatar
      Battles

      Parts prices and an irrational fear and loathing of Chryslers in Europe (maybe only the UK, not sure) make the Voyager a less than brilliant choice.

      Spreadsheet Monkey nails it with the Zafira.
      It has the advantage that it can be run in three or four passenger mode for extra space when the full seven seat capacity isn’t required.

      The Steve lang formula could be applied to a Fiat Multipla but they don’t have a great reliability reputation.

      • 0 avatar
        Sjalabais

        There are some brands I would never consider, unless they suddenly improve significantly in all the statistics available. Chrysler/Fiat is certainly among them, and you are right about that fear and loathing. How irrational that is, I can’t tell. Reliability statistics are to be taken with a grain of salt, but they certainly don’t support the Chrysler case. In addition, my wife drives a nice Toyota Camry – with automatic transmission. The automatic completely ruins the driving experience for me, and I expect it to be difficult to find a Chrysler with a manual transmission.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    In the US, this situation calls for a used minivan of some sort. They’re about as efficient as a full-sized car, so their excessive size isn’t as much of a downside as I used to think. Minivans depreciate fast, but they stay useful – so used ones are a great practical option for cash strapped family men here.

    I wonder how hard it would be to import a used Dodge Grand Caravan or Chrysler Town and Country from the US or Canada?

    If it’s feasible, then it could be a practical car with some foreign novelty attached to it.

    Then again, I’ve assumed that one of the reasons Fiat bought Chrysler was the strength of the Grand Caravan as a global product. Maybe fiat is selling American-style minivans in Europe and I just don’t know it?

    P.S. If I stare at my van long enough, I can *almost* convince myself that the minivan is the logical evolution of the three row family station wagon. I’m also nonplussed by any vehicle where the driver can see the hood – large engine compartments strike me as being mostly wasted space which hinder visibility and maneuverability.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      I don’t know of minivans, but a guy about 8-9 years ago was telling me that te cost to import an H2 to Norway was US $65,000, WITH the rear seats removed, more if they had kept them installed.

      Totally different vehicle but, I’d still imagine it would be cost prohibitive.

      Personally I would push for the Volvo myself, But, I don’t seem to have popular opinions here…

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        New or used?

        Northern Europe taxes cars pretty heavily. I don’t recall what the basis of the taxes in Norway are. Hopefully the OP will explain a little bit about now this works.

        If it’s a displacement tax, that would really punish a big/heavy SUV that requires an enormous V8 just to move the vehicle. Most American-style minivans have V6s in the vicinity of 3.5L, which could still be a monster engine under those rules, though.

        A nornally aspirated 3.5L V6 is nothing like little twin turbo engines that these kind of taxes reward, so taxes certainly could be a big problem. More familiar taxes could be a big problem, too.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          I don’t remember, but I want to say new.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Alright using that website.

            I put in an older model H2

            The info it wanted was rediculous CO2 output? NOX output? Who knows this stuff.

            Based on a euro website the 08 with the 6.2l has 100g less CO2 @ 412 than the 6.0, so I put that at 500 g/km
            NOX levels, couldn’t find anywhere so I just put at 150 mg/km
            Weight, its older and lighter so about 2,900 KG
            Output 325Hp and cost $53,000 US

            I’m not sure why I would need a scrap deposit.. Quite possibly the dumbest tax I’ve seen in a while, but the total comes out to 777 082,50

            Assuming the ,50 means change < one whole unit, the USD to import based on my entered information is US $125,335

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            But wait! There’s more! (I missed)

            Since it is a second hand vehicle you deduct
            1 162 943,64

            Which dividing 1 162 943 by 6.2 gives me $187,571 additional if new

        • 0 avatar
          Sjalabais

          You can calculate the taxes necessary on importing a car here, in English:
          http://www.toll.no/templates_TAD/RegistrationTax.aspx?id=79&epslanguage=en

          I once tried to figure out what it would cost to import a new Ford Flex with the smallest engine. Understood, the “smallest” American engine tends to be a giant over here. Taxation happens according to the vehicle’s weight, CO2-emissions and then some more. The Flex would have triggered 2 mio. in taxes, that is about 326,000USD.

          Check the price list of the Volvo XC90 to compare with your own prices, divide by 6.2 to get USD:
          http://www.volvocars.com/no/all-cars/volvo-xc90/tools/pages/prislistexc90.aspx

        • 0 avatar
          SatelliteView

          Luke, is this thing ON????????

          Fiat bought Chrysler for an entry to a North American market, and not because of “strength of the Grand Caravan as a global product”

          How can one be so IGNORANT???????????

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            You can explain the thinking.

            There’s always more than one reason for a big move, and Fiat is clearly selling lots of their cars in the US under American brands.

            The car business is moving toward global products, which is why we’ve got the most of Ford’s European lineup selling OK in the USA, nevermibd the conventional wisdom about “differing tastes”…

            But, seriously, why wouldn’t Fiat consider selling Dodge Caravans in Europe and globally as a big fat plus to the acquisition? That is, after all, the aspect that’s relevant to the OP’s question.

            The Caravan is just a really good people mover.

            Anyway, since you didn’t explain your thinking, I’m left to guess what you really meant. The world is way bigger than North America.

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      No need to import Chrysler minivans to Europe. We already have gobs of them. And they’re usually quite cheap.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    Also, is there a way to petition the household assembly to reconsider the Volvo? You know the Volvos, you know their faults, and you (probably) know how to keep them running.

    Since bribery is completely acceptable among family members, could you take the savings from purchasing a Volvo over a Previa and take the family on a trip somewhere nice?

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      I didn’t really try that hard, since seven seats became the core option with any new car. A Volvo XC90 is completely out of my price range (also maintenance wise) and the V70 7-seater-solution is not really that pragmatic. But…with the choice I eventually ended up with, there might be room for a classic Volvo on the side. Much better solution.

  • avatar
    b787

    My choice would be a third gen Toyota Corolla Verso. Unlike Avensis Verso, it was available with a 175bhp, 2.2 liter diesel, plus it is supposed to be slightly better to drive than most MPVs. There were some head gasket failures, so I would be very careful, if I was buying.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      I decided against the Toyotas for three reasons:

      1) They are priced to high as used cars, because “everyone” knows that Toyotas are reliable.

      2) Even very new and low mileage gasoline Toyotas appear to consume considerable amoounts of oil.

      3) Diesel Toyotas defy the good reliability name. I am also a bit sceptical about diesels for two reasons: I need full power right away (35 degree, long driveway – a cold turbo diesel engine will strive) and I live close to a city that ponders to disallow diesel in smog situations.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        On 2), this is just baffling from an American perspective.

        I’ve known lots of people with Toyotas. I’ve been one of them.

        I’ve never heard of new, low-mile ones consuming significant oil (indeed, it seems to be pretty rare in high-milers barring obvious engine damage).

        Perhaps they don’t handle Norwegian cold very well, or something?

        (Though equally from the American perspective, the idea that a VW is a “reliable” car as opposed to an “unreliable” Honda/Toyota is boggling.

        In not just an “Everyone Knows” way, but a “all the reliability data” way.

        Perhaps the Touran and the Avensis Verso – neither of which the US gets – are sufficiently different from the US market cars that this Is So generally?)

        • 0 avatar
          Sjalabais

          Almost everyone I talk to has the oil consumption problem. My neighbours with their Corolla Verso, our old Corolla with only 130,000km on the clock, two Avensis I test drove sucked oil en masse when rolling down hill.

          There are a lot of small machines in Europe that you probably don’t get in the US? The Avensis Verso for instance comes with a 2.0 Diesel that is incredibly weak in that gearbox transmission. Test drove two, and both had to be shifted into first in tight city corners due to the weak engine. Haven’t experienced anything like it.

          The Touran is known as very unreliable. Especially electronics, sensors and such, are known to be weak. Everything else similar, a 2006 Touran will be priced like a 2002 Toyota.

          • 0 avatar
            skog

            I can share some intrigue here. I know a guy who used to work as a mechanic at a large Toyota dealer.

            I can’t say the exact model years or models and it may not account for the whole problem Sjalabais is talking about, but for a while this side of 2000 Toyota had major engine block issues. Engines would start using oil at around 40-60.000kms. Replacing the cylinder lining would not be enough as the problem was the engine block itself.

            This sounds incredible, but ive been told that they would call the car in for a large service interval and replace the entire engine block without the customer knowing, saying they needed to keep it for a full day.

            I guess the “truth is out” now on it, but i’m pretty sure Toyota never confirmed this even if a lot of car guys know.

            At first it may seem underhanded, but look at it this way. If this was one of the German brands i’m pretty sure they would’ve charged the customer for it with some lame excuse.

          • 0 avatar
            b787

            I believe it was limited to ZZ engine family. Unfortunately for Toyota, virtualy every petrol-engined European Toyota used one of these engines. In the US, most cars used larger engines, which didn’t have the oil consumption problem.

          • 0 avatar
            Sjalabais

            I can’t find any reply-button to skog or b787 but this sounds incredible! It is a conspiracy-sized claim that Toyota would exchange engine blocks without public statements or the car owner knowing. I mean…wouldn’t you see that when opening the hood? Only the work recquired would in theory generate bills of 1,000-1,200$ in Norway.

      • 0 avatar
        AllThumbs

        I second the Verso. I had a 2008 turbodiesel Verso bought brand new in the summer of 08 and sold in early 2011. It was the best car I’ve ever had– quick, powerful, and VERY economical (even at 160 kph). And it seated seven easily, assuming two or three were kids, though that left almost no room for luggage.

  • avatar
    NN

    the financially savvy side of me says a massively depreciated, lower mileage car that others don’t want to touch…Zafira, Multipla, etc…just a well maintained one. That plan has worked out well for my family car (Mercury Mountaineer) here in the states, which I paid off in one year and have driven about 100k miles on now with few issues. However, Americans aren’t familiar with those particular vehicles I suggest above, and you guys typically consider Volkswagens to be reliable, whereas we see them as maintenance-needy. It’s entirely possible that a Zafira or Multipla is as bad as a malaise-era American car. If that’s the case, then don’t put your family at that risk, and buy the high-mileage Toyota.

  • avatar
    ReSa

    I have no knowledge of prices in Norway, but I’d definitely consider a
    late 2nd Gen. Ford Galaxy or a 3rd. generation with higher mileage if you can find one with all the right bells and whistles. There’s a Bang-For-Your-Kronar factor to be considered here!

    Otherwise, the Grandis stands out as one of my favorite choices in this segment. Its value is a tad below the Galaxy and its reputation is rock solid in Holland.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      Have you tried a Grandis? I have been talking to quite some mechanics I got to know over the last couple of years. They agreed (!! mechanics can do that?) on Mitsubishi cars becoming maintenance needy around the age of 10 and 150,000km. When I look at used car prices, I see that when these conditions apply, values slump. My wife also considered that one a tad too big, so I didn’t test drive more than one.

  • avatar
    Vojta Dobeš

    Hm, I checked the Norway’s used car websites, and here’s my advice:

    1) If you need a really big car, go for a Voyager/Caravan. Quick check shown that a 2005 one can be had for similar money as Touran. Since American cars are quite commonplace in Scandinavia, I think this may be a good bet.

    2) If you want to have some fun behind the wheel, the Ford S-Max is by far the best MPV out there. And it seems you can afford it as well.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Top gear praised the S-Max quite a lot, IIRC. Is Nissan not popular up there in Scandinavia? I ask because the Quest is typically reliable yet unpopular. I’m sure it has a smaller engine up there than the 3.5L it has here.

      Isn’t the Renault Espace supposed to be excellent as well?
      Shouldn’t the OP also consider the XC70 with rear facing seats!?

      I’m also always generally impressed with how well people in Scandinavian countries know English, so good on you and your educational system.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick 2012

        I bet an Espace would be cheap, too. Top Gear has crunched a number of them. An early gen with the base engine should be cheap.

        Is the Opel Sintra available in Norway? They were re-skins of the Venture (which is NOT all that great of a car), but at the right price, it may be worth considering. I’m sure the B&B could smuggle you some junkyard replacement parts.

        But I’m with Nate…stick with the Volvo! I deeply miss my Volvo 945.

        And to further drive home my point, old Volvos are part of your country (caution – beautiful Volvo 240 pictures are at the link)!

        http://www.helgeskodvin.no/240-landscape

        • 0 avatar
          Sjalabais

          Aaah…I miss my 140 and 240s. The Sintra was a catastrophe in Europe, it was pulled after only months on the market because it collapsed in the ADAC or EuroNCAP crash test.

          I haven’t considered the Espace, no. Prejudice! But maybe I should have, my parents had good experiences with Renault over two decades. Nissan was never up for discussion since my former car was a Primera – badly designed, in bad materials, with awful seats.

  • avatar

    I think the Zafira is a good, solid choice. The engines are relatively low tech, but durable, and the suspension is ok. For minimum cost, running and maintenance-wise get the manual.

    The Fiat Multipla would be good but doesn’t it only sit 6?

    If bigger is needed, how about one of the larger French cars, Espace and the equivalent PSA products? Fiat Ulisse? Don’t know much about them, but the Ford vans are usually praised by the press.

    Lots of good, solid choice. I think the OP shouldn’t limit his ptions so much. See if the options mentioned have support in Norway, price some of the main wear items, and off you go!

    Don’t know about Norway, but here in Brazil, Japanese cars have the reputation of never breaking. Except when they do. And when they do it’s usually pretty expensive. That’s why it’s much easier selling a 10 yr old car of the mainstream brands (here, Fiat, GM, VW and Ford) than a Japanese car.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      The same is true about Japanese cars here, pricewise. It is all a big gamble, which is exactly the core of my question. You can never know what is going to happen, but I was looking for an informed choice.

      Seems like there really are two ways of thinking: Buy older/high mileage quality vehicles or newer/low mileage cars with a higher chance of substantial maintenance cost.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    If money really is a problem then ” no Volvo ” is a non starter ~ go find the nicest brick you can and tell the kiddies to go to College so they can afford whatever they like .

    This worked for me when I was poor , the ex still thinks I’m an Automotive Genius (hah) and my Son learned to like tiny cars albeit not the ancient & slow things I always dragged home .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      Norwegians are so lucky to get their college financed over the general taxes. There are even government scholarschips and loans for everyone.

      But I see your point. In a parallel universe I’d even be easily tempted by a two door Volvo wagon:
      http://www.finn.no/finn/car/used/object?finnkode=46132164

  • avatar
    Øyvind Birkeland

    The Nissan Qashqai+2 could also be an option. Peugeot 307 SW can be had with 7 seats. I also think the VW Touran and Opel Zafira are pretty good. The Portugese-made Sharan/Galaxy/Alhambra triplets should probably be avoided since they have a bad reputation regarding reliability. What is your budget (NOK), Sjalabais? The Tesla can be had as a 7-seater, but I guess that is out of the question even though there are no taxes on it here (yet). If 6 seats would suffice, there is always the Honda FR-V…

    • 0 avatar
      skog

      With six seats, there’s also the Fiat Multipla.

      If you don’t mind people trying to kill your car with fire to stop it from procreating. ;)

      • 0 avatar
        Øyvind Birkeland

        If six seats is enough for him we should all try to convince him to bring in a Panther! There are literally none of them here in Norway. A nice Aero Crown Vic maybe?

        • 0 avatar
          Sjalabais

          Haha, I can hear the household assembly veto echo already. A Panther would have been great, maybe a custom made wagon?

          Our budget was 100,000NOK, we bought a car for <60k and spend some money on servicing, tires, full brake redo and we will do some sandblasting/undercoating on it, too.

  • avatar
    skog

    A Norwegian car nerd here too.

    Some people mention Chrysler Voyagers. The voyager has an appalling reputation because of some infamous gearbox issues said to be with the bubble shaped ones.

    Also since Norway is a winter country with a lot of salted roads, the car should have a galvanized body.

    I used to work for the Norwegian AAA, and i can tell you that the Opel Zafira is very unreliable. Then you might as well get a Citroen C4 Picasso. It’s smarter, more reliable than a Zafira and more comfortable.

    Here are my suggestions (too bad Volvo V70 is out, it’s a nice car).

    Citroen C4 Picasso HDI – Very economical and reliable diesel engines, comfortable. Better than its reputation, but no japanese quality of course.

    Honda Shuttle – Hondas are extremely reliable, but rust could be an issue (not sure they’re galvanized). Also they’re a bit boring.

    Toyota Corolla Verso – Highest dealer satisfaction in surveys. Very reliable, cheap to maintain.

    Nissan Quashqai+2 – Still a bit new so i don’t know if you can afford them. They have a good reputation.

    If i were you i’d steer clear of the VW Touran as it’s supposed to be expensive to fix and have lots of faults.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick 2012

      @skog – is the Voyager’s reputation a fair one, and are replacement gearboxes easy to find in Norway?

      • 0 avatar
        skog

        I’d say so, and replacement gear boxes are expensive here. Or rather not the gearbox, but the labor unless you do it yourself. Skilled auto mechanics here command very high salaries, a workshop will charge the customer something like 200 USD per hour of labor.

        Chrysler sold well in the nineties, not only Voyagers but also Neons and Stratuses. Now there are hardly anyone left, and we usually keep cars on the road for a long time.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      I agree on you entire analysis and went for a Honda, see below shortly.

      Does NAF publish its reliability numbers, like the ADAC does?

      • 0 avatar
        skog

        They use autoindex, but they also conduct their own surveys sometimes. In terms of Norwegian market dealer satisfaction, Toyota were extremely high whereas the worst was VW (Møller). A few years ago when i worked there Møller had less than 70% satisfaction, whereas Toyota was like 93% or something.

        People still buy VW like hotcakes though.

        • 0 avatar
          Sjalabais

          I was looking into the Superb once at Møller here in Bergen. The salesman boasted about their “very high profits”. Elegantly, I asked: “Now is the time to talk about discounts?”… =8^)

          Agreed, labour is the problem. Also, skilled labour. I know of people who drive to Sweden both for prices and competence when having their cars serviced.

  • avatar
    Øyvind Birkeland

    How many Norwegians are among the B&B I wonder… I count at least three!

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      I have been a regular reader for 2-3 years, but don’t post much. In the true Norwegian spirit of the janteloven I also have trouble to include myself in the B&B and say: “I’m just about average”. Ha.

    • 0 avatar
      bjarnetv

      Been a regular reader since 2005, but i rarely comment as i haven’t owned a working car in years ;)

      It might have changed a lot over the years, and gone through some turbulent times, but ttac is still the best place for car news!

    • 0 avatar
      skog

      Been a regular reader for 2-3 years. Curbside classic and junkyard articles are my favourites. :)

  • avatar
    jupiter119

    I’m kind of in the same position as Sjalabais, but I want something that seats 6 or 7 in order to get better gas mileage than my Toyota Sequoia (15-17mpg). Obviously I’m in the US and always thought our range of choices here were more limited than in Europe. Sure, there are lots of mini vans to pick from but what if you don’t want a mini van or wanted a diesel? I don’t know about Norway but I thought in other parts of Europe you had a better selection of station wagons and 6 seater type Ford Transit-like vehicles with the option of diesel engines?
    Don’t they sell the Mercedes E320 station wagon(touring)in Norway? Here you see the price of these coming down below 10k easy with beaters in the 1500 price range. From everything I’ve read the 3.2 is bullet proof and gets a consistent 25mpg. The only thing I would stay away from is the AWD models but that’s only because it has more parts and those can break so keep it simple for financial purposes. Being in Norway he might want the 4matic.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      15-17mpg is dismal! I ended up in a Honda and, so far, it does 31.5mpg:
      http://www.spritmonitor.de/en/detail/608353.html

      I don’t consider it a good number though. The engine is tiny (1.7 litre) and I have to drive it at full throttle a lot.

      The range of Mercedes I can afford are from the “rust years”. I also fear the maintenance cost. In the case of MB, I’d say that Volvo is a stronger competitor up here: It is the #4 selling brand and maintenance and parts are therefore cheaper and more available, with everything else roughly comparable to Mercedes.

  • avatar
    jethro78

    Norwegian resident here,

    I am a bit of hobby mechanic and have helped many people with their cars. Our third child came along last year and we moved up to a seven seater. The best vehicle for us was a diesel T4 caravelle. These are dropping in price. I found one that had The same owner the last 15 years. They are no performance machines, but get good mileage, are cheap to insure, have a good ride, are very safe, and huge area inside.

    My experience is The following:

    Run away from PSA 2,2 hdi i.e. Peugoet 807
    Space wagon: ok, but rough ride, drinks fuel and is known to have transmission problems
    Peogeot 307: ok, nice ride, cheap , but also known to have transmission problems
    Toyota versa, good car , but expensive to buy

    Fyi Norwegian vechicle tax is basen upon the weight, hp, displacement, and CO2 emissions. Weight is heavily taxed, and this is why vechicles over 1500kg are very expensive. The govt. has really tightened up in The last years and there is almost no way around, even on private imports.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      I have seen that private imports are not much of an option anymore. For all the insecurity that comes with it, the price savings are not enough.

      Funny that you are #2 to include the Peugeot 307. It consistently showed up in my seven-seater-searches and appears to be a very popular car. But I’d also say it might be the tiniest 7 seater around?

      I look at some Space Wagons. The build quality is horrific, and the cheaper ones seem used up. A lot of small issues, like wires to e.g. the tank lock broken and the plastics inside chipped etc.

  • avatar

    My compliments to Sjalabais for an exceptionally well-written letter! And I’m betting he’s not a native English speaker.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I may have missed the discussion but the request did not stipulate petrol vs diesel. If I was in Europe and mileage was a concern, diesel would be first on my list. However if in Europe and I had to choose gas I would look hard at the new-used Opel and after it look at older Toyota.

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    Thanks a lot for posting my question here! The illustration hits bulls-eye: It’s one of my favourite press shots of the most beautiful 240 ever.

    I send that long question above almost exactly three months ago, so the quest is settled now: I bought a 2002 Honda Stream 1.7 with 130,000km on the clock. I negotiated with the seller for two months and got a 25+% discount on his asking price. The car is Britain’s #2 most reliable vehicle, well-maintained and serviced at a Honda dealer every single year, expensive repairs like the timing belt have been done recently and the seller even got it cleaned professionally. Doesn’t sound like much, but in Norway that is very uncommon.

    The Stream sold new in exactly 141 examples in Norway. That’s why it is a PITA to sell used*. Similar vintage Civics sell for 50-80% more because it is a more common car that has a marked – even though the mechanical underpinnings are much the same. So I feel that even though my question will not be answered for me (yet, hopefully, for others wondering about the same), I happened to follow the advice some of you gave here.

    My impressions of the car are a bit mixed, but I am still happy we went for it. The driving position resembles sitting in a kitchen chair, and the ride is a bit bumpy unless the car is heavily loaded. Honda also did some cost saving in the weirdest places: There is no clock and the entire car has one (1!) key hole – in the driver’s door. Material quality is average and comparable to Toyota. The third seat row cannot be removed, only be folded down. That takes a lot of space, leaving the car with little room for “car rumble” like tools. But the seating positions can be adjusted nicely, there is enough room for people and children in child seats. Everything looks like new because the owner was a pensionist who only used the car to carry grandchildren occasionally.

    Fuel consumption is okay (31.5 mpg), but the engine is probably a bit too small. Onramps and steep hills require full throttle and a low gear. For the most part, it is powerful enough though. Speed limits in Norway are 80km/h, so this vehicle is never going to be raced much. It feels spacious and has an excellent steering feedback. I have never ever driven a car with so tight steering. The Honda got some new winter tires, all four brakes renewed and we will give it an undercoating soon to preserve the vehicle.

    To sum it up, the Honda feels like a very rational choice. We got it cheap and plan to have it for a long time. Maybe…when time and money permit, I might combine this with a nice 30+ year old Volvo on the side.

    *= Currently, 4 Honda Stream are for sale in our country of 5 mio people. Three of them have been for sale since at least november…
    http://www.finn.no/finn/car/used/result?CAR_MODEL%2FMODEL=2000040&CAR_MODEL%2FMAKE=771

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Wow a sort of wagon, nice pick.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick 2012

      Congratulations on the Stream! With it sharing many parts with Honda Civics, hopefully it provides many years of inexpensive service.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      Congrats from another Norwegian here. I had almost the same problem as you a few years ago, and the Honda Stream and even Honda FRV were two cars I considered, since tbh, most 7 seater cars made before the S-Max came, weren’t very good. I tried a few, and can’t recommed neither VW Caravelles or Avensis Versos, as they are just horrible to drive. There are a lot of Chryslers around, and they are usually cheap for a reason, but they are the most comfortable and roomy in their price range by far. If you had found one with the 2.4 gas engine and a manual you would have less problems than most others. It is worth mentioning that most so called 7 seaters, probably including the Stream, are really 6 seater cars, with a tiny emergency seat in the middle of the 2nd row.
      I finally gave up looking for vans and wagons, and bought a Crv since the rear seat can actually seat 3 child seats or adults, unlike most other cars I could find. (yeah, I actually brought a tape measure to a bunch of dealerships in the end, measuring every wagon I could find…) And it has a 150 hp 2 liter, which isn’t too bad by Norwegian standards (getting 25-26 mpg , it is called a gas guzzler over here though)

      • 0 avatar
        Sjalabais

        True, the Stream is not really a 7 grown ups car. We tried to seat all just once. Had to move the two child seats to third row, where the belts are juuust long enough to accomodate them.

        Two more annoying ridiculous cost savings: The heated seats don’t heat the seat backs. Feels like peeing in ones pants. And there is no arm rest towards the car’s center, like in Toyotas and Mitsubishis. It is a walk through design, so there really is nothing to rest on. Can’t be fixed, according to Honda.

        The Stream was available with the 2.0 when new, too. Apparently, no Norwegians bought it. Followed the market for the better part of a year, and I have never seen one.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    Sajeev’s advice is excellent as a place to start. Subsequently, once you find what looks like a promising candidate, you need to get down to cases. From this point on, larger generalizations about this, that or the other thing are just bullshit. It gets down to the engineering weaknesses of a specific model of a specific year of a specific brand (see the internet), and the condition of the specific example you are considering buying (see your trusted independent mechanic).

    Engineering weak spots in any ten year old car are usually well known. For example, the 2004 Acura TL is considered an excellent vehicle overall. Even so, you can Google ‘2004 Acura TL sucks’ and get a nice summary of its weak spots. Some 2004 Acura TL have poor transmissions that show up early. Avoid these. Acura V6 engines have a plastic timing belt that needs replacing after about 10 years. $200 USD for parts and about five hours shop time. Budget for this. The 4 cylinder Acura TL has a timing chain. No problem.

    Initial screening of the condition of your prospective purchase is your job. Check tire wear. Look closely. A good job of detailing can cover up wear. Then go to your mechanic. Pay him for his opinion. He has seen hundreds of cars for every one you have seen. Remember. You can hardly overpay for a good used car. You can never get a good enough deal on a bad one.

  • avatar

    I live in the US (FL). Believe me, If I could buy a Space Wagon here, I would. –a nice option, in my opinion.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      The car might cope better with your less harsh climate. I’d also think it would cost next to nothing in the US, being fairly cheap in superexpensive Norway.


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