By on August 17, 2011



Sokhom writes:

Sajeev and Steve,

I’m almost done with my tour here in Korea and it’s time to return to “America-land.”  That means it’s car shoppin’ time!  So if you’ll remember, I still have my S2000 that my father-in-law’s taken care of but I don’t want to use it as a DD.  And my wife wants a car of her own as well.  We’re going to Ft. Huachuca, AZ and lots of road trips to TN and other lands are in our future.  I want a spacious (read: wagon and AT) highway cruiser for the wife and something cheap and cheerful (read: MT) that I won’t mind baking in the AZ sun.

So here’s the ROE (rules of engagement):
Wife’s car: $30K-$40K, wagon-y, AT, luxo-ish
My DD: $10K max, MT, beater-ish

Sajeev answers:

The definition of “Cheap + Cheerful” is way too subjective, but my interpretation for a Honda S2000 owner is something pure: crank windows, boring styling, totally forgettable yet fun to thrash because its so slow and nearly impossible to drive fast enough to raise an eyebrow.  So it comes down to availability in your area: Focus sedan, Versa, Elantra, Sentra or any non-Toyonda with its unnecessarily high resale value and brand recognition.  You don’t need a good car for normal people, you just need a good car!

As for the wifey, you gotta do it right and proper.  You can’t be rolling around in your shitbox, hate it, switch to the S2000 and make her jealous!  In the spirit of marital bliss, I’d recommend a TSX sport Wagon, used 3-series or A4 Avant with the mandatory CPO warranty or a handful of crossovers that just have the stuff you don’t find else where: panoramic roofs, amazing ICE, gigantic chrome wheels, nutzo styling, etc.  Then check out a slightly used Lincoln MKX, Infiniti FX, Mercedes ML (CPO only), BMW X5 (CPO only), or maybe a Northstar-powered Cadillac SRX.

Since you are a “regular” I think I know you very well (and your wife too, natch) I’ll demand you buy these two cars:  a shift-it-yourself Versa with no options and an Acura TSX Wagon.

Steve answers:
“Wife’s car: $30K-$40K, wagon-y, AT, luxo-ish”

The Honda Odyssey would be at the very front of that list. If you are going to do very long road trips nothing beats the space and comfort of a minivan. You should also consider a Chrysler Town & Country. They now have excellent handling (see Jack Baruth’s recent review here) and are every bit as luxurious as the Odyssey when fully optioned out.

My DD: $10K max, MT, beater-ish ‘cheap and cheerful’

I would test drive a long list of Honda, Subaru,  Mitsubishi, Ford (the rare 1st gen Fusion comes to mind), Scion Xb, and any other model with a manual transmission that strikes your fancy. I like the Xb if you are going to do a lot of in-town driving. Highway driving would encourage a midsized sedan like the Fusion with a 4-banger.

Good luck!

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31 Comments on “New or Used: His and Hers Rides?...”

  • avatar

    How about that new Lexus hybrid hatch thing for the wife. The Lexus CX-HV, or some such thing? I imagine it’s a bit more luxurious than the TSX, and since the TSX no longer has the sporting credentials it once had, it won’t be much more boring than the TSX, but gets much better milage.

    Also, thanks for your service!

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    Just use the S2000 as a daily driver. Its an absolutely brilliant daily driver, and you can use the extra $10K to make your wife’s car even better…

  • avatar

    A4 Avant, TSX wagon or CTS wagon for the wife, ’05-’07 Focus as your DD. Foci are pretty cheap, reliable, and fun to drive all in one!

    • 0 avatar

      Sometimes I don’t agree with the advice, but not today.

      TSX wagon is +++, and as an alternative to the Focus I would suggest a 2.3l Mazda 3, preferably a Sport model. More stick cars available used, make it just a bit more of a buyers market, and a lot of fun. Plus, easily under $10k and no fears of rust in AZ.

  • avatar

    Wagon-y and fun to me says audi A4 wagon which can be had very nicely equipped for $40k. My a4 sedan with the sprinkles led headlights, sporty bits package and 19″ wheels cost less than that.

  • avatar

    For the wife, you at LEAST have to consider the Ford Flex, right?

  • avatar

    In the same vein as Sajeev’s answer, a loaded Jetta Sportwagon could be a good fit. It’s stylish, has good steering, and has the pre-bean counted interior. As an added bonus, if she doesn’t mind a diesel, you’d get great mileage on those long road trips.

  • avatar

    Congratulations on having such a nice budget to work with… it really must be nice to have $10k for a “beater”!!!

    For me, I have always had this thing for “matching” my cars, and you have the perfect opportunity here, starting with your S2000. Stick with Honda/Acura across the board. We have all constantly complained about Hondura going soft on us, all automatic trans and everything, but this is exactly what you want for your wife… So I also vote for the TSX wagon. I will also put in an honorable mention for the RDX, the TL, the Odyssey, and even the Crosstour if that floats her boat. Bring her to the dealerships and let her go crazy. For your “beater”, find whatever used Civic that you like. Will you pay more? Yes, but honestly if you can afford it, you will appreciate it in the end.

    Good luck!

  • avatar

    Wife: CTS wagon – new or CPO

    DD: Vibe / Matrix with MT

    • 0 avatar

      i dont know about the vibe/matrix. although the manual trans makes a GIANT difference in this car, they are pretty disappointing cars. The first generation is very slow and soft except xrs trim w/celica engine – and good luck with any of those you find…there weren’t a whole lot of them and the ones that there are may be kinda riced or previously driven by people who thought they were.

      The second generation at least has an engine that will allow you off the ramp onto the highway (in S and XRS trims, but not base). It isnt bad a smooth running engine with something like 160hp/170tq and a nice broad torque band thats there whenever you want it. But the car is tall and overweight and this results in a car that is adequately fast but not a drop more and it doesnt FEEL that fast. Then you get 24mpg combined and realize that is as bad as the Mazda 3, which has FAR better handling and IS faster and FEELS much faster, and I believe even has an extra cog in the transmission.

      Even in xrs trim and 5MT: big wheel … low profile performance tires that are not cheap to replace as often as they will need it … upgraded double wishbone rear suspension with various front and rear sway and stabilizer bars … … you are better off going with civic si.

      the car just aint right. Dash too high, view back too not there, ride too harsh (xrs), ride to squishy (non-xrs), ride too loud (all trims), seat fabric too stain-prone. Stereo too shitty to be heard decently at speeds over 40mph (except maybe jbl wiht some stereo tape you buy to find and pad all the sources of plastic on plastic rattles)

      I guess some positives are that 3 full sized bodies can ride along in your personal hell where you torment yourself every time you see a “torment” car:
      — like the impreza with only slightly worse gas mileage and slightly smaller back seats but more fun to drive (especially in snow)
      — or the scion xb which basically cuts out the BS and is a roomier matrix without … um … some stuff. styling stuff and other stuff i cant think of but that make the price several thousands less. it has same 2.4 engine and can be had in MT. and can hold more stuff
      — the previously mentioned mazda 3
      — Honda Fit. less car, less money, more MPGs Far more clever car and more fun around town.
      — aforementioned civic si

      as they say, YMMV…

  • avatar

    Wife: $40K
    Hubby $10K

    S2000 aside, anybody else see something wrong with this distribution?

    • 0 avatar

      I’m under the impression that HE set the price limits. When you’ve got a sport car waiting for you in the garage, it doesn’t matter what else you’re driving on a daily basis. I think he recognizes that.

    • 0 avatar

      nope, even if s2k wasn’t in the picture

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, it makes sense to me. One really nice, semi-lux car. One car you don’t care about ruining. Doesn’t matter who they go to particularly. Otherwise it would be two used low-end Camrys…and really, what’s worse.

    • 0 avatar

      Not really for 2 reasons. #1 Something any guy who’s been married to the same woman for a long time will tell you, “If Mama ain’t happy nobody is happy”. #2 Since it is going to be their road trip, and likely primary family, car he’ll probably put as many miles on it or more as she does. It sounds like “his” is just going to be more or less an appliance car. And he does have the S2000 so he’s got a fun car when wanted.

  • avatar
    Mr. K

    Ford Flex poor sales=good price
    Caddy CTS The Cadillac of wagons
    Nothing wrong with an oddity
    Used lexus RS perhaps with CPO
    Not sure the deals but a Chrysler T&C might be nice and they are dealing
    I hate them but a Toyota Venza

    Sporty MT’s:
    Acura RS
    Honda Civic perhaps ya can stretch for a type s
    BMW z3
    Mazda 3 (might be a touch too high still)
    E46 3 series
    Nissan Maxama (the 4 door sports car!) not many with manual though
    Z24 J body (caviler/Sunbird-fire)
    older V8 Mustang – it will get bad MPG and not perform as well as others but it will be inexpensive and easy to keep running.
    Saving a good one for last: Toyota MR2

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Easy, new Flex for your wife, option it as you please. The darker colors with contrasting roof are very nice looking IMHO.

    For you? Old Miata so you’ll always have something to compare your S2000 against. Or buy a Cobalt coupe with the 5-manual and almost 0 options. Beat the tar out of it – nobody will care that your thrashing a Cobalt. It’s always more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow.

  • avatar

    The S2k isn’t some sort of sacred cow. It’s already one of the best candidate’s for own criteria! Just drive it and let your wife get whichever amorphous blob CUV is in style right now.

  • avatar

    A New Volvo XC70 seems just about perfect for the wife. For you maybe, a used Subaru Impreza WRX.

  • avatar

    Have you been to Ft. Huachuca before? I also work at Ft. Huachuca, and would suggest you consider a few other things in your car search.

    First, there is only one particularly good independent mechanic in town (that I know of, anyways), and they are usually backlogged. If your car goes in for anything, expect it to be there for a while. Get something reliable. (Also note that there is not alot around Sierra Vista, and there are huge dead zones for cell coverage, even with Verizon/Alltel.)

    Second, most of the local dealers have a pretty poor reputation. From time to time, the base commander will blacklist local dealers, and the general recommendation is to go up to Tucson if you want to buy a car. (And for most of the luxury brands, bypass Tucson for Phoenix/Chandler/Scottsdale.)

    Third, many of the brands listed in the comments (Volvo, Acura, BMW, Mercedes, Infiniti, Lexus, Audi, Subaru, Mitsubishi (recently shut down)etc…) simply do not have a presence down here at all. If you get one of these brands, and are going to have any work done at a dealership, expect to drive up to Tucson (~1.5 hours each way).

    Fourth, as you are no doubt aware, we are close to the border. There won’t be a problem on base, but I would be very wary of a soft-top convertible (your S2000) in some of the areas around here. I know of folks who have had their soft-top Miatas cut open and looted.

    Fifth, while parts of I-10 are undergoing a major renovation, many of the roads out here are still very bad. If you expect to spend any time at all on the local roads, I would strongly suggest considering cars that are not overly noisy, and that have at least somewhat forgiving suspensions. I have a sport suspension in my car, and sometimes it can be rather tiring.

    Sixth, pretty much anything in Sierra Vista is twenty minutes or less away (half of that is getting on/off post) and local traffic is relatively light, but there are a lot of things you or your wife will probably wind up having to go up to Tucson for. That drive is quite a bit longer. If you expect to pick up any large items in Tucson (e.g. furniture), then a roomy wagon, van or similar is probably smart.

    Seventh, SR-83 is a fun road (when it isn’t busy) and only adds about 10 minutes to the SV-Tucson drive.

    Good luck, and welcome to AZ!

  • avatar

    For the wife, I think all the previous suggestions are reasonable. For yourself, I would love to suggest you consider or check out a bugeye WRX, or an early-2000s Legacy GT, both of which are great to drive, decent on gas, and very capable vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      The Walking Eye

      Both of which are highly likely to have been flogged by the 20 something who bought them. If you can find one that wasn’t it may be a good choice, but good luck on that.

  • avatar

    I’m the suggestions of Flex, CTS wagon, XC70, A4 wagon, TSX wagon, just depends on how much space you need & sportiness/cushiness tradeoff.

    For the daily why not a Mazda2? Nippy, fun to drive, cheap. If you do a lot of highway miles a larger car would be better of course.

  • avatar

    For her:

    Acura TSX Wagon
    Acura TL SHAWD
    Used 3-series touring
    Used E-class wagon
    Mazda CX-9
    Cadillac CTS Wagon

    For you:

    Acura RSX-S
    Acura TL – previous gen, the pretty one
    Mazda3 2.3
    Lexus IS Wagon
    Mazda6 2.3
    Ford Fusion
    E46 3-series
    E39 5-series

  • avatar

    Sorry, but unless you have little ones to take with you, I’d scratch the Odyssey off the list straight away. As much as I like our 2001 (and they haven’t gotten any smaller since then), I would much rather drive any of my other smaller and lighter cars, as would my wife (and +1 on the must be nice to have $10K for a ‘beater’ comment – I’ve owned close to 30 cars and the most I’ve ever spent is $7K).

    And our Odyssey is LOUD out on the highway – they didn’t put much dampening in, that’s for sure. I don’t know if the later generations are any quieter or not.

    Where the Odyssey shines is in packing the family on a trip. Also there is nothing as nice as slipping into a tight parking spot and sliding the rear doors open when there wouldn’t be enough room for conventional doors to open even halfway, and then easily extracting the kids out of their back seats, without leaning over and having to crawl inside the car.

  • avatar

    From one service member (who’s currently in the sandbox) to another, I’d like to welcome you home. I’ve only driven past Ft. Huachuca, on my way back to Barksdale from California, after picking up our GTO. I don’t have any real advice for your wife’s car, as sadly, my wife doesn’t entertain me with interest in any form of wagon. And due to your requirements, the two wagons that I do like probably wouldn’t fit the bill. A Dodge Magnum SRT-8 or a Volvo V70R. The Magnum’s interior is more than likely to cheap and boring, as it is to me, and you didn’t mention whether or not a Volvo’s brick on wheels styling is to your liking.

    For a beater, how old are you willing to look? You could try to find an unmolested SC300 with a 5-speed, and if you have the time, keep an eye out for a ’97 model, as it has the revised front bumper and interior. Probably not your style, but you can find some post ’91 C4 Corvettes within that price range if interested. Acura RSXs can fall into your beater price range. With $10k, you can find a pretty nice e36 M3’s as well. Early examples of G35 coupes can be had for less than $10k as well. 98-02 Trans Ams and Camaros can easily be had for under $10k, and if you can put up with their interiors, you will have a lot of power, and the ability of 30+mpg on the highway while lugging along at ~1700rpm/doing 70mph.

    I don’t know how many of these would tweak your interest, as most of them are cars that I would be happy seeing in my driveway (minus the RSX, and make the SC a 400). I currently own a ’00 Trans Am and an ’04 GTO, so I’m going to bias towards them. Happy hunting!

  • avatar

    You know, I just picked up a car that i think might be a good candidate for the wife. A Mercedes E-class wagon. You can get a pretty good one CPO for that money, and it’s exactly the sort of thing for somebody who needs/wants useful interior space but doesn’t want to do the SUV thing. And it’s an awesome road trip car…smooth, comfortable, and enough room for 4 people and a ton of stuff.

    I did a little research and went with a base model E320 rather than the higher-powered ones. It wasn’t so much the fuel economy as reliability. The “nicer” E-class cars have far more gizmos and stuff that seems to break pretty regularly.

    It’s not a performance/sporting car, but you’ve got that covered already. And I definitely prefer it to any similarly-priced SUV out there. They’re harder to find, but worth a look.

  • avatar

    For the wagony car you should look at a Kia Soul. They are very nicely styled and cost < $20 new. The 2012 will come with a 6 speed automatic. If you want something less flashy and more luxurious then an TSX wagon can't be a bad choice as it is a good car if you can get past the beak nose styling Acura has been suffering from. Maybe something like a Kia Sorrento or Honda CRV too.

    Keep the S2000 and save money. They are very reliable and fun to drive.

  • avatar
    George B

    Ford Flex or Edge for her and MT Ford Focus for you.

    As seldom says, rural Arizona doesn’t have the automotive repair infrastructure for luxury brands and smaller volume foreign brands. Same problem for road trips across the middle of the US. Your shopping list is probably limited to non-luxury brands from GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan with the best rural support for Ford and GM.

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