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TTAC commentator Philosphil writes:

Hello everyone,

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

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

Sajeev answers:

What an interesting query! Definitely stick with the boxes.

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

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

Steve answers:

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

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