By on January 4, 2012

Guilmo writes:

Sajeev, I need your help to resolve my dilemma. Picked up a certified 07 Rabbit less than a year ago and am not satisfied with its fuel economy and frankly just bored with it. I’m averaging about 9L/100Km and I know will only get worse come winter. I use this car solely to commute to work and occasionally put a large hockey bag in the hatch.

Gas prices here in Montreal are averaging around $1.30/ liter and going up, costs me on average about $65 /week. Thinking of getting a new B class car to improve fuel economy by half, say one of the newest Kia or Hyundai cars and still maintain my monthly payments in the $ 275 range.

So keeping the same car payment with better fuel economy= savings. Sounds too good to be true, am I missing something?

Oh and the twister in all of this is…. want to get a Porsche 944 for the summer months. Help!

Sajeev answers:

That’s just dandy, provided there’s no negative equity in your Rabbit. A commute to work in a large metropolitan area is sometimes brutal on fuel economy numbers.  Doing the conversion, your Rabbit gives you 26 MPG. That’s what I get in my comparable weight/power Ford Ranger to and from the suburbs of Houston. More to the point, it’s in line with VW’s (USA) economy figures from the EPA.

In Piston Slap terms, the car is totally fine.  And you aren’t driving it incorrectly, with jack “rabbit” (sorry) launches and runs to redline a whole lot.

Then again, Piston Slap also understands you might hate that 5 cylinder mill.  Most of us would understand. Plus, it’s a base model VW, which defeats the purpose of getting a German engineered machine.  Boring!

Here’s my big problem: not only am I concerned that you are upside down on the VW, you also want a Porsche 944 as a summer toy?  It may not matter what you buy for a daily driver, so get the one that’s best for your wallet. Because you’re gonna need plenty of extra cash for your summer car, even if it wasn’t a Porsche.

Even if you are only a few hundred (Canadian) bucks upside down, that’s a stiff financial headwind to overcome in any replacement vehicle. Is it worth the time value of money to find a new car?

Do your math, maybe have someone verify your cash outlay, and consider keeping the Rabbit until the CPO warranty runs out.  That’s when we should have this discussion.


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31 Comments on “Piston Slap: Saving Gas, Money and Porsche 944?...”

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    The VW Rabbit drives rather well. If you’re bored with it, I would be very surprised if you find a 1.6L Hyundai Accent any more engaging. As for fuel economy and potential maintenance/repair costs, well, that may be another story.

    I understand the desire to have a fun weekend car, but it still blows my mind to see someone complain about fuel economy costs on a 26mpg car, while contemplating an expensive to maintain late model toy.

    • 0 avatar
      Engine Guide

      I would have to agree that the gas mileage is rather poor, but before I jumped the gun and bought a lower quality car I would have the engine checked, it may be as simple as replacing the 02 sensor. As far as a replacement vehicle goes I think a Toyota or Nissan may be a better choose

  • avatar

    Sounds like the typical VAG owner’s desire.

    With VW’s aftermarket your bored? Jump on the VW forums as I’m sure there is a forced induction kit that will add 50% power bump and suspension to go along with it.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, I agree. Lower it, better shocks, etc., forced induction kits aplenty, rechip it, diffeent wheels, tires. Theres so much stuff out there, so many VW Golf platform fanatic mechanics.

      THe only way ur gonna get more milage out of a car is to get a hybrid. Talk about BORING. and even more expensive to buy!

      But, as the Bostin car guys say, if you have fallen out of love with your car, its time to get another one.

  • avatar

    I hate to be the miser here, but what about settling on ONE sporty ride, to satisfy both the commuting and summer driving needs? That’d make this more palatable from a personal finance perspective.

    Jetta GLI (I wanna say 32 mpg), maybe a GTI, Kiyashi, Optima turbo, Focus ST, probably lots of other good options I’m not thinking of.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I test drove a base Jetta GLI with DSG recently and didn’t like how it drove in slow stop-and-go traffic. Fairly harsh ride over rough pavement even with 17 inch wheels and neither the DSG nor the turbo like driving slow. Just felt like the wrong car for commuting. In addition, I would be surprised if the GLI gets better gas mileage than the Rabbit with the 5 cylinder tractor engine.

  • avatar
    kid cassady

    If you’re in any way concerned with the gas money you’re spending to fill up a car that makes 26 miles a gallon, you should not buy a Porsche 944. End of story.

  • avatar

    Considering a 944 as a summer car? Here’s a bit of advice from a former (recovering?) 1988 944S owner, whose dad also has owned an S2 and still owns an 87 944NA:
    1) The 944 is not “the cheap Porsche.” It just costs less for the initial purchase than something like a Boxster. Remember that these cars are all at least 21 years old, some pushing 30, so you need to think of them like classic cars. Even if you find one with low miles, everything is starting to wear out due to age, and a lot have been abused as track toys, especially the S2s and the turbos. Don’t even think about buying a 944 unless you can afford to put away at *least* $500/month for every month you plan to drive it (or ~$2-4k/year) for miscellaneous repairs, upgrades, and maintenance. Since you have another car, the alternative is to let the 944 sit until you can afford to repair it, which sucks. You can modify that figure somewhat if you plan to do some of your own work, but the parts aren’t cheap either.
    2) Do your homework on the 944. They’re great cars, and great fun, but they do have some “breed defects” such as the timing belt, the oil cooler seals, etc. Google the Porsche 944 FAQ, and read it all. Join the web forums on Find a good Porsche mechanic and have him check over any car you’re considering *before* you plunk down your cash.
    3) remember that the 944 is a bit slow by today’s standards unless you’re going for a turbo – the standard 2.5L NA has roughly the same HP/Tq as your Rabbit, and it actually weighs either the same or a bit more depending on which model year. My guess is that it handles quite a lot better, but I have never driven the rabbit as a comparison.

    • 0 avatar

      If you find one and clutch is bad, don’t worry, it’s a piece of cake. Very reasonable $$s to repair.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve owned as daily drivers and raced various 944s over the years so know them pretty well. As noted they are much cheaper initial purchase price but if you get the mechanical bits back to properly maintained (that is the reason most are in disrepair) and well sorted out they will still be the “cheap” Porsche. No matter how much the 986 (1g Boxster) have come down in price a used motor will cost $4k versus $< $1k for a 944 if you ever need to replace one – and in the 986 they have the same IMS and RMS issues the 996s had (similar motor). The 944 has a back seat if that's any merit. In addition, you can actually work on the engine in a 944 pretty easily versus in a 986 you have to often remove parts of the interior / the conv top / a lot of undertrays / rear bumpers / etc. just to get to the mid engine setup. I more often advise that if you have to have a flat 6 Porsche – just get a 996 for a few grand more (see 996s for mid teens and Boxsters for low teens) and get the IMS / RMS replaced immediately.

    • 0 avatar

      WEGIV – Quite true. I had a S2 that put me in the poor house and it was only 5 years old. Cheaper to buy but costs as much to keep as 997 twin turbo.

    • 0 avatar

      Another 944 (well, 924S) owner chiming in: A 924/944/968 as a playtoy is very doable. As long as you’re realizing that you’re dealing with a car that is either eligible for vintage plates or very close to it. First off, are there service records? If not, budget an additional $2000 to a good independent mechanic (of which I am blessed) for a new cam belt and assorted sundries and figure that as part of your purchase price.

      My three-year experience with one as my daily driver (when not using a motorcycle) worked out quite well. The car would end up in the shop about once a year at $500/600 a shot. It only stranded me once (the relay to the fuel pump failed), happily within a mile and a half of home. Nothing major has gone wrong, and I’m reasonably not expecting anything major to go in the near future.

      And, with the purchase of the xB, the 924 has been slotted into the “toy” or “four wheeled motorcycle” category for the foreseeable future. Where it will probably service nicely for the next 3-5 years, after which I probably start looking at used Miata’s again.

      WEGIV’s comments are excellent advice, and I can’t add too much to them except for another testimonial that vintage Porsche ownership can be doable. As long as your expectations are in line.

      And don’t worry about the “it’s not a real Porsche” comments. They keep the prices reasonable. And the last time I looked, car being a Porsche design, engine being a Porsche design, engine assembly done by Porsche, sullied only by final assembly by Audi, sure sounds like a real Porsche to me. Nobody complains when a rear or mid-engined model isn’t assembled in the home factory.

  • avatar

    I’d say Scion FR-S to replace both, or rather, to replace the rabbit and function as a nicotine patch to ease the 944 itch.

  • avatar

    I know you’re looking to downsize, but have you considered a Golf TDI? You’ve already got VW experience since you’re driving a thirsty Mark V Golf. So you could always get yourself a newish Mark VI Golf TDI. Better fuel economy and fun to drive with all of that torque. It looks like diesel is about the same price as gas according to I’d look into it if I were you. Your payment might not be super cheap, but you’d have a better car with better resale value than a Korean brand if you sell it in a couple of years.

  • avatar
    Lotus Matt

    Don’t forget about the length of your financing – if you have had your Rabbit for a year and only have 4 years left on it, financing another car at the same monthly rate for 5 years is still going to cost you $275*12 = $3300. Not to mention all the tax, title, documentation fees associated with buying a vehicle.

  • avatar

    A TDI VW would solve the mileage issue, but not the overall VW issue. I am concerned about VW’s long term reliability and cost of parts.

    Any summer car that is 20-30 years old is a not a daily driver in the summer, it is a classic car. It can’t be treated otherwise. Aside from the need to repair/update the 944, it is devoid of modern safety devices. If you must have a summer car daily driver, please get something newer with airbags, etc. It’s OK to have a classic for a weekend pleasure drive, but not to do battle in day to day traffic.

    If you must have a Porsche, there are many fine examples with no maintenance costs whatsoever. They are available in many scales, from 1:12 to 1:64.

    • 0 avatar

      The lack of government mandated nannies in the 924S was one of the major pluses in my estimation. This is a car that treats you like an adult, and if you can’t drive like an adult, you’ll pay for it.

      It even allows you to start the engine without holding down the clutch, figuring you’re intelligent enough to check that the transmission is in neutral.

    • 0 avatar

      FWIW, 88 and later 944s do have dual airbags. I can’t remember exactly when they started making ABS optional, but I believe it was around the same time. Mine had airbags but not ABS. Keep in mind that a mid-80s German sports car that could be considered “classic” is still quite a lot safer than more traditional “classic” 50s-70s Detroit iron in most of the ways that matter – braking, handling, crumple zones, etc, so I would take exception to the idea that a 944 can’t possibly be a daily driver on safety considerations alone. That said, accidents do suck, because the book value of the car is low enough that the insurance company is likely to declare it a total loss when it’s probably repairable – that’s how mine “left” me.

      • 0 avatar
        kid cassady

        Only Turbos from ’87 onward and S models from ’88 onward had dual airbags as standard. They were a (fairly rare, it seems) option for the ’87 S and all ’88-89 NA models.

  • avatar

    I agree with JJ, at least test drive the Scion FR-S it seems like the perfect balance of reliability, fuel economy and fun to drive. This could theoretically satisfy both your desire for a fun to drive car and a reliable everyday commuter.

  • avatar

    Hey B&B, original poster here.
    Well nothing has really changed since I wrote this a few months ago.
    The colder months are already here -17c this morning and averaging about 21 mpg.
    The car is pretty solid except for a noisy chassis and heater fan when cold and the heated seats are the best.
    Looks like I will be keeping the Rabbit for now but if gas prices creep up this summer????
    That’s $3400 per year just on gas for now; I figured by driving a more efficient car there would be more money to fund my summer ride.
    Brettc, you’re on the right path, just wish the Rabbit could be had with a diesel, it’s just the right size and the fuel economy would be awesome. Before purchasing the Rabbit, did look at a Golf IV but read about the reliability being very poor and a new Golf diesel could not be had in basic form like a two door tread-line diesel. The basic Golf Diesel with taxes comes out to about $30K here in Montreal, Ouch!
    The 944 is still up in the air right now but first on the list of my hobby cars.
    Great comments and Thank You all for your advice.

    • 0 avatar

      My suggestion, if you’re looking to buy new, is to come up with a list that strikes your fancy and see if you can rent a few of them for a week and go about your daily driving errands as normal. This will tell you if you’re really going to see if you’ll save some money on gas or not.

  • avatar

    I’ve put 5000 spirited miles on a high mileage 5-speed 928 since August. No problems here.

    Only things that have been done are the tires and the oil, but I think i’m going to have to have the water pump and timing belt done soon – as the car has no service history whatsoever.

  • avatar

    is the Smart car available in Canada?, they truly get good gas mileage in everyday driving and they are not expensive.

  • avatar

    You want a vehicle that can do around 5L/100km in city driving? I guess it’s a Prius for you. Or one of those original Insights. I don’t know what kind of mileage either of those cars get during Canadian winters though.

  • avatar

    Dude do you realize that changing a timing belt on a Porsche 944 cost about as much as you can find a 944 for sale? That can cost anywhere from $1500-2000 just to replace the timing belt, not to mention the fact that all replacement parts are going to be uber expensive. If you’re ok with that i would also suggest finding a personal mechanic who works on Porsches at a discount rate, which is also slim.

    If I were you i would rather think about considering a Mitsubishi Starion (my personal favorite)or Chrysler Conquest (Same Car), Toyota Celica or Supra, Nissan 240Z or 280Z, or even (dare I say) a Ford Probe.

    Any near antique high end German car (Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, and Audi) will cause your wallet and bank account to catch on fire.

  • avatar

    What’s this hate for 2.5 5-cyl? I drove several of those Golfs from zipcar, 200 mi trips, the engine sounds great when pressed, pulls nice. Definitely better than any 4-cyl VW I drove.

    • 0 avatar

      Depending on the year there’s a reason to hate the 5 cyl. I think the 2007 Rabbit only makes 150hp. In 2008 they bumped it up to around 170. My ex had an 07 and I test drove an 08. They were like two different cars. Both are coarse but the extra 20hp grunt made the 08 raucous in an endearing way. Keep in mind the 07 was auto and 08 was manual. I’ve never driven an 07 manual so I can’t do a perfect comparison.

      If you’re looking for something fun and economical you might start looking towards the Sky(activ). Awful joke. I read good things about the new Mazda3 and can’t wait to test drive one myself.

  • avatar

    Depending on where you live you could take the bus for the daily commute (And / or move closer!) and also get onboard with a carshare like Communauto for your “practical” car needs.

    And then get a 944. But don’t buy the one I’m looking for.

  • avatar

    dts187, I have an 07 and you’re right about the power on the 08.
    It makes a huge difference and you lose the whining engine noise on the 07.At the time the 08s were still in the high 16k range while the 07s was in the low 12k.
    Vfc,bus is out of the question, my 45min commute would be around 2hrs..suicide!
    Someone mentioned the Smart car…that is strictly a commuter car.
    Need a place for a hockey bag.
    Thanks again!

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