Piston Slap: Norwegian Longroof Reformism?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap norwegian longroof reformism

TTAC Commentator Sjalabais writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I am and have always been a car guy. Since I am an academic with two left hands and sausage fingers, my flavour have been indestructible 70s Volvos, of which I have owned a couple.

Now I am a father and a bit cash-strapped, with the need for an occasional 7 seater. A Volvo V70 with rear facing extra seats has been voted down in the household assembly, I am thus looking for a blob-shaped car. My location is Norway, but my issue is recognisable for any car guy in this situation, I fear.

My problem is that I can only afford roughly ten-year old quality vehicles, or newer cars with awful reputations. The latter include 2004-2006 VW Touran and Opel Zafira, the former 2002 Honda and Toyota models. In between I find the rusting time bombs by Mazda and the remarkably substandard build quality Mitsubishi Space Wagon. A Previa or Grandis would be acceptable, though they are a bit on the large end of the scale and usually very expensive to buy and maintain.

The Toyota Avensis Verso comes attached with a halo and is priced accordingly. The same is true, to a lesser degree, with the Honda Stream. Both have tiny engines that suck the fun out of blob-shaped 7 seaters that comes so naturally with them. That’s why I have tended to focus my interest on strong, but ugly Mitsubishi Space Wagons. But their paint, chassis, engines, clutches and transmissions are dead at 10 years and/or 150000km driven.

So would it be advisable to go for a low quality car like the Mitsubishi that’s been refurbished by owners desperate to sell before the next big investment? Or should I pay more for an older, but more reliable and well-build Honda or Toyota?

Sajeev answers:

What a difficult question for someone who lives in America!

Actually no, because there’s one universal truth for any used car buyer: buy the used car with the most service history, the newest wear items (tires, brakes, etc.) and the most original body/interior you can find in your buying area.

Of course, nobody will blame you for avoiding a vehicle known for colossal engine/transmission failures, or anything else that might “rub” your family the wrong way. So perhaps you must buy the cheapest of the cheap: perhaps a Honda/Toyota with high miles but an extensive service record is your best bet. Or maybe a low mile Mitsubishi/Ford/Renault/etc…who knows!

Time to punt: what say you, Best and Brightest?

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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3 of 76 comments
  • Jimbob457 Jimbob457 on Jan 15, 2014

    Sajeev's advice is excellent as a place to start. Subsequently, once you find what looks like a promising candidate, you need to get down to cases. From this point on, larger generalizations about this, that or the other thing are just bullshit. It gets down to the engineering weaknesses of a specific model of a specific year of a specific brand (see the internet), and the condition of the specific example you are considering buying (see your trusted independent mechanic). Engineering weak spots in any ten year old car are usually well known. For example, the 2004 Acura TL is considered an excellent vehicle overall. Even so, you can Google '2004 Acura TL sucks' and get a nice summary of its weak spots. Some 2004 Acura TL have poor transmissions that show up early. Avoid these. Acura V6 engines have a plastic timing belt that needs replacing after about 10 years. $200 USD for parts and about five hours shop time. Budget for this. The 4 cylinder Acura TL has a timing chain. No problem. Initial screening of the condition of your prospective purchase is your job. Check tire wear. Look closely. A good job of detailing can cover up wear. Then go to your mechanic. Pay him for his opinion. He has seen hundreds of cars for every one you have seen. Remember. You can hardly overpay for a good used car. You can never get a good enough deal on a bad one.

  • BangForYourBuck BangForYourBuck on Jan 17, 2014

    I live in the US (FL). Believe me, If I could buy a Space Wagon here, I would. --a nice option, in my opinion.

    • Sjalabais Sjalabais on Jan 17, 2014

      The car might cope better with your less harsh climate. I'd also think it would cost next to nothing in the US, being fairly cheap in superexpensive Norway.

  • Slavuta Civic EX - very competent car. I hate the fact of CVT and small turbo+DI. But it is a good car. Good rear seat. Fix the steering and keep goingBut WRX is just a different planet.
  • SPPPP This rings oh so very hollow. To me, it sounds like the powers that be at Ford don't know which end is up, and therefore had to invent a new corporate position to serve as "bad guy" for layoffs and eventual scapegoat if (when) the quality problems continue.
  • Art Vandelay Tasos eats $#!t and puffs peters
  • Kwik_Shift Imagine having trying to prove that the temporary loss of steering contributed to your plunging off a cliff or careening through a schoolyard?
  • Inside Looking Out How much costs 25 y.o. Mercedes S class with 200K miles?