New or Used: Mind Reading and Wagon Lust

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
new or used mind reading and wagon lust

Mark writes:

Hi Guys,

I read TTAC regularly and am debating what to do about getting a new car. The situation is I had a 2001 Volvo S60 which started experiencing transmission “issues” that the mechanic could not replicate, so I traded it for a 09 Fit to get better mileage. The Fit was an excellent appliance car, but felt a bit tinny after the relative comfort and solidity of the S60. The new Lexus CT200h got me excited and my sister-in-law needed a new car so I sold her the Fit and am awaiting the Lexus. However it appears that actually fitting my kids in the back of Lexus won’t work. What would you suggest as a car? I want good mileage, because I have a city commute, a bit of luxury and reliability with not ridiculous repair costs. I had hoped the Mercedes C300 Estate would come here, but it won’t and BMW has me concerned about repairs costs. Could I be happy with a used Lexus SportCross? Please provide your perspective.

Steve answers:

We can’t read your mind. There is a big part of me that says, “Hey. All this guy wants is a hybrid with a bit more room than the CT200h.”

Then the next little voice says, “My good God! Have we sank to the level of serial numbers when it comes to model names?”

I’m surprised the CT200h won’t fit your kids. I recall test driving last year and thought the rear space was fine. But who knows? Maybe your kids are well over six foot and husky.

The Sportcross also has a small rear seat. Sorry.

As for alternatives… there are dozens to choose from. I happen to like the 2008-2009 Audi A6. It clicks all the buttons of a sporty and comfortable ride and there are plenty of low mileage CPO versions to choose from. You can usually get one of those for a lot less money than a Mercedes C300 or BMW 5-Series and if warranty issues are important to you, the CPO warranty will go a long way.

If you want new only, the Infiniti G25 is a wonderful car that is sitting on dealer’s lots (106 days in inventory). The price will be comparable to the CT200h. It will also give you a lot more real world power than the CT while offering reasonable fuel economy (20/29) and a more spacious interior. Go drive one of those and see if you like it.

Sajeev answers:

Life is full of compromises: the only cars I passionately desire are well out of warranty, making spare parts hard to find at times. So let’s get down to you.

Don’t expect a C300 Estate (if it ever arrives) to be any better than a BMW in total cost of ownership. And forget about pleasing everyone or everything in your next ride, odds are they won’t have the room to play nice with each other. All modern Euro Wagons are for ownership under warranty exclusively, unless you hate your wallet. This isn’t a Caprice-Roadmaster-Panther Love thing: it’s a lament over the USA-centric design of the 1990s Honda Accord Wagon, Toyota Camry Wagon, or Ford Taurus Wagon. I’d love to throw you into an Accord wagon right now: Honda Crosstour FTW?

But if you like the Lexus IS Sportcross, get it! Sure the back seat is smallish, but the real problem is that the latest version is about 6 years old. It will need a host of upkeep to keep it in top shape: tires, hoses, belts, fluids, shocks and who knows what else was worn out by the last owner. Maybe nothing, but I suspect your time value of money is important enough to give you pause on a used SportCross.

Can’t take the heat? Get out of the kitchen and straight to your nearest CUV. Or maybe…the Acura TSX sport wagon: one drive will put your mind at ease and push enough buttons to make you happy for years to come. Or maybe even longer.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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  • Wstansfi Wstansfi on Jul 22, 2011

    Mmmm. I had heard that the CT200h gave up some backseat room that's present in the prius... To understand cost of early ownership, all you have to do is price the lease options and you'll quickly see that BMW is less than Mercedes is less than Audi. Little lux, wagon, backseat? I have heard that the TSX wagon is nice but that the backseat is actually a little smaller than in the TSX sedan. Probably ok if you yourself are not over 6'. Good luck!

  • A D H A D H on Jul 22, 2011

    I have a 2002 Sportcross in MN. Will turn 100k when I go grab a cup of coffee in a few minutes. Bought as a more exciting option than a Subaru GT wagon (had 9 months) and before that a 88 E30 M3. Enjoyable car, smooth, great power, RWD and enough personality to keep me happy. Understeers too much but that can be fixed. In my 6 years of ownership I have done standard maintenance but no repairs. These are reliable cars! I have an independent BMW mechanic work on it. Good: Reliable, fits two kids in car seats, snow tires make it great in snow, super economical, BMW like feel. Bad: Mileage 25 hwy, 19 city, road noise, understeer. Our other car is a Sabb 9-3 which gets better mileage and we got for a steal new. Previous post mentions the issues with that. If you don't by the Sportcross go with a new TSX wagon. Backseat is about the same. Drove and considered but the Lexus has more personality. You can pick up used, pay off quickly, and enjoy as long as you are entertained.

  • Jim Bonham Thanks.
  • Luke42 I just bought a 3-row Tesla Model Y.If Toyota made a similar vehicle, I would have bought that instead. I'm former Prius owner, and would have bought a Prius-like EV if it were available.Toyota hasn't tried to compete with the Model Y. GM made the Bolt EUV, and Ford made the Mach-E. Tesla beat them all fair and square, but Toyota didn't even try.[Shrug]
  • RHD Toyota is trying to hedge their bets, and have something for everyone. They also may be farther behind in developing electric vehicles than they care to admit. Japanese corporations sometimes come up with cutting-edge products, such as the Sony Walkman. Large corporations (and not just Japanese corporations) tend to be like GM, though - too many voices just don't get heard, to the long-term detriment of the entity.
  • Randy in rocklin The Japanese can be so smart and yet so dumb. I'm America-Japanese and they really can be dumb sometimes like their masking paranoia.
  • Bunkie The Flying Flea has a fascinating story and served, inadvertently, to broaden the understanding of aircraft design. The crash described in the article is only part of the tale.
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