New Or Used?: Thinking Outside The Box Edition

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
new or used thinking outside the box edition

Marc writes:

My wife and I have a 6-month-old girl. Hurray, she’s a joy! While all is cool with my wife’s 2006 Accord V6, my 2004 Scion xB just does not seem, well, safe anymore. I love the small-on-the-outside-yet-cavernous-on-the-inside quality of this car (I’m 6’4″), but feel it would not bode well for my daughter if there were a bad accident. Plus, the 108hp engine is getting boring.

I want something safe and fun to drive. By “safe” I mean solid and meaty, and AWD would be nice too (we live in eastern Massachusetts); by “fun to drive” I mean quick and with a manual transmission, or at least a manumatic. We have lots of stuff to cart on weekend trips to the in-laws, but I like wagons (hence the Scion). And we definitely don’t need/want two sedans.

Price range is mid twenties, but less is always better. Might go high twenties for the right car. I figure I can get about $7500 for trading my xB (only 34k miles). Also, having a good amount of remaining warranty (1.5+ years) is important to me, so it can’t be too old. Some certified pre-owned makes are okay.

Here’s what I’ve considered, and why I’ve ruled them out:

2010 Subaru Outback: manual tranny only available on 4 cylinder, which has about three miles worth of clutch travel; I prefer the 6, but it seems over-priced and the only manual option is paddle shifters. Yuck.

2009 Subaru Outback XT 5M: these are going for a premium price right now. I don’t need a car THAT badly!

2010 Subaru Forester XT: was kind of fun to drive, but no manual tranny on the XT, only a lame-ass 4A (at least it’s a manumatic)

2010 Mazdaspeed3: awesome but too small. (I would sacrifice AWD on this one)

2010 Mazda CX-7 turbo: waaaay too much turbo lag.

2009-10 Subaru Impreza WRX: awesome but too small.

2009-10 VW Tiguan: manual tranny only available on the base model (no AWD)

2009 Toyota Venza: meh. (and overpriced)

2007-08 certified pre-owned BMW 328xi wagon: AWESOME! But come on, $32k for a used car??

2008 certified pre-owned Volvo XC70: just cannot bring myself to buy a Volvo.


Sajeev Mehta replies:

How about a 1-2 year old Jetta Wagon? Oh wait, you probably wanted the money in your daughter’s college fund safe from a mechanic’s hands: we hammer the Europeans for their cost-per-mile expenses for good reason, ya know. The same is true for Subies, to a lesser extent. So the Scion xB is right up your alley. A brand spankin’ new one, that is. Get it with a stick, a few tasty options and be well under budget. Enjoy a new car warranty and low interest rates too. Sure, the new xB it’s an unholy degredation of everything we enjoy in the original xB, but it’s certainly bigger and safer under the laws of Physics. And it is still a great wagon for growing families, realistic about what they need and can afford. And with Toyota’s current troubles, wait a little while to find a good deal and maybe even a Hyundai-like warranty to boot. You can’t touch this.

Steve Lang replies:

Toyota generally over-engineers their first generation models. The Lexus LS, SC, RX and all the Scion models (including the Xb) were initially released with thin profit margins and loads of content. However since you seem hell bent on shoveling thousands of dollars in hard earned savings down the tailpipe, why not splurge. Buy yourself an 2007 Audi A4 with as many trimmings as you desire. Make it a CPO model so that you don’t have to pay as many bills as Audis generally inflict.

The A4 of that vintage has an excellent sporting character, AWD, Manual tranny, and it’s also been given the proverbial Frank Williams seal of approval. On the safety front, the A4 has perfect scores on the NHTSA and IIHS ratings as well as better than average injury claim filings by the HLDI. Finally most Audi dealers have suffered the indignities of A4’s wallowing in new-car heaven for ungodly periods of time. Everything else you mentioned is pretty much a pretender compared with a true compact sports car (A Venza? Are you that pussywhipped?). Test drive an A4. Then calmly but firmly smack yourself in the head with a two by four and keep the Xb.
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2 of 88 comments
  • Italianstallion Italianstallion on Feb 18, 2010

    After 6 years, I replaced my manual '04 Xb with a a manual '09 Forester Premium, for much the same reasons. The Forester isn't as much fun to drive (I miss the Xb's tossability), but the increase in comfort and refinement is welcome, as is the giant sunroof. Safety-wise its a vault. I love the car. I've also driven the '10 Outback with the 6-speed manual (a good friend has one). Its nicely appointed in Premium trim (no leather available w/ the manual) and it's a bit more refined than the Forester. Well worth the $24K, but the Forester is better looking IMO and has about the same utility.

  • Vvk Vvk on Feb 19, 2010

    > 2007-08 certified pre-owned BMW 328xi wagon: AWESOME! But come on, > $32k for a used car?? Last February (2009) I bought a loaded 2007 328xiT with manual transmission, 26k miles for $25k. First owner, all paperwork, perfect condition. Even got Thule cross bars for the roof rack from PO. At $32k they can keep it. These are rare as hen's teeth, so prepare to search for a long, long time.

  • Inside Looking Out This is actually the answer to the question I asked not that long ago.
  • Inside Looking Out Regarding "narrow windows" - the trend is that windows will eventually be replaced by big OLED screens displaying some exotic place or may even other planet.
  • Robert I have had 4th gen 1996 model for many years and enjoy driving as much now as when I first purchased it - has 190 hp variant with just the right amount of power for most all driving situations!
  • ToolGuy Meanwhile in Germany...
  • Donald More stuff to break god I love having a nanny in my truck... find a good tuner and you can remove most of the stupid stuff they add like this and auto park when the doors open stupid stuff like that