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ransom Dork
11/29/11 10:15 a.m.

I'm waiting for a quote from my credit union's auto-buying service on two cars: a Jetta Sportwagen TDI, and a Honda Fit.

I know, weird cross-shopping, but after running around a lot, these are just about the only two cars where two six-footers can sit one behind the other and have a box behind them for stuff... (I was bummed when we tried the Mazda3 and it wasn't even close enough to bother with a test drive).

But I digress. The fundamental questions are these:

  • Is it bat-E36 M3-crazy to purchase a new VW? I'm still reeling from what I perceive as a near-complete lack of quality in especially the A4 era. My personal VW history consists of three A1 Rabbits.
  • The Jetta's a much nicer car than the Fit in many (maybe many, many) ways. But is it close to $10k more pleasant to spend time in? I'm guessing we'll keep this car a long time (unless it breaks a lot), which probably helps to make the argument for the nicer car.
jrw1621 SuperDork
11/29/11 10:18 a.m.
ransom wrote: ...these are just about the only two cars where two six-footers can sit one behind the other and have a box behind them for stuff...

Mazda 5 and Hyundai Elantra get good reviews for backseat space here on the board.

ReverendDexter SuperDork
11/29/11 10:25 a.m.

You should read Busted Knuckles from last month's issue. Per just got rid of a Sportvagen TDI because it was crazy-boring to drive.

ransom Dork
11/29/11 10:28 a.m.

In reply to jrw1621:

The Elantra's out for being a sedan (or taking a 10mpg hit as a wagon), and even more for being totally unavailable in my area with a manual. I don't like automatics in general, and I found the Elantra's to be just as Buickey as any of them. I'm a little jealous every time Aussiesmg posts another great-mpg-and-stone-reliable-in-my-manual-Elantra update, but it's just not available in a format for us.

The 5's intriguing, but the mileage isn't where we want it to be. Javelin's experience there was actually kinda promising, but not quite enough to be what we're after... If we manage to lose our minds and go back to hemming and hawing for a few months, the saleswoman at the Mazda place led me to believe there might be diesel 5s along about April, but I had a little trouble following some of her patter (so I'm not sure about whether I understood her correctly and/or whether she had her facts straight), and I really hope we don't drag this out that long...

ransom Dork
11/29/11 10:29 a.m.

In reply to ReverendDexter:

Oh man... Well, maybe that's good news. If it's not going to be any more exciting than the Fit, that would save us a bunch of money...

I'll go dig that up. Not sure how I missed it.

EDIT: Yeah, Per makes a strong case. But I think the VW would be a lot more fun than the 2000 Civic EX which is the household appliance now. I really have little use for that torqueless, underpowered, slow-steering pile of reliable misery. Hopefully the 2002 will be reseurrected for 'zinging' duties before I lose my soul...

Strangely, I found the Fit to be slightly stronger down low than our Civic. Neither of our candidates are rocketships, though with four adults going up the Coast Range hills, I suspect the Fit is going to be parked in the right lane and hoping not to hold up semis... Even if the Jetta is only capable of comfortably pacing the slow lane.

If there's anything that makes this win-win, it's that both our candidates have much more pleasant steering than the Civic. Even if they don't "dance", the Civic is just soul-crushing...

jrw1621 SuperDork
11/29/11 10:43 a.m.

Have you looked into the Prius V, the new squarebacked Prius?

ransom Dork
11/29/11 10:53 a.m.

In reply to jrw1621:

No, I hadn't; it had gone completely under my radar. And while I'm unconvinced by hybrids (in terms of full-life-cycle ecological concerns) and resistant to lacking a clutch pedal, I look at those MPG figures and that cargo area, and I simultaneously have to thank you and shake my fist at you for complicating this process...

I wonder how similarly they drive to the current ones. I have a couple of friends with those and could perhaps drive one without having to go to a dealership again...

rotard Reader
11/29/11 10:54 a.m.

Quality? It's hard to go wrong with a Honda. Both are boring, so go with the one that will last the longest. Electronics and stuff will almost definitely be better on the Honda. The Fit will smell better, and doesn't have the crazy fun to service stuff like the VW does.

jrw1621 SuperDork
11/29/11 11:01 a.m.

Glad to help
There is also the Lexus version called the CT200. The body seems similar to the new Prius so maybe you could visit the Lexus dealership rather than Toyota again. This Lexus has been out for a year so CPO may be an option.

bastomatic Dork
11/29/11 11:01 a.m.

What will you spend your time doing in these cars? If you're on the city or suburban streets, the Fit is the clear winner. It's zippy around town, easy to park anywhere, and actually quite a bit of fun in these environments.

On the freeway I have to believe the VW would be much better. Our Fit is very buzzy at freeway speeds - it keeps up with traffic very well but only by spinning at high RPMs in top gear. It's not very stable in crosswinds, and the seats are not awesome either.

The Fit has been great for 60,000 miles though, and mileage is great. I think John Brown was very down on current VW reliability.

Javelin SuperDork
11/29/11 11:29 a.m.

The new Mazda5 now has 6 gears instead my 06's 5 and the throttle-by-wire and different engine should net you even better MPG than me. BTW, just over 10K miles in and the average mileage is: 23.5MPG City, 25.5MPG mixed, and 28.9MPG highway, (on the E10-E15 tanks). Mine also has a roof rack.

Lesley SuperDork
11/29/11 11:54 a.m.

The CT200 is cute, but unfortunately, the zombies took its soul. It's also expensive. I just drove a manual Mazda CX5 up in the San Gabriel mountains and loved its handling. Steering ratio is almost exactly the same as the MX5... never thought a little people mover would be that lively. It's a little bit underpowered, but should be available with a diesel early next year... worth a look anyway.

ransom Dork
11/29/11 11:59 a.m.

In reply to Javelin:

That's really very good for something the size of the 5. But we don't need the room as much as it'd be nice to have (at least when not parking), and even the updated version would probably struggle to match our Civic's MPG (which, again, is freaking impressive for something so much bigger and roomier; it's not fair to compare them, but the Civic is the benchmark for "our car").

We're at least partially trying to vote with our dollars for more efficiency. Hilariously, we actually originally included the Mazda2 and Fiesta in the list of cars to look at before discovering that four doors does not indicate enough room to use them for extended periods with adult femurs.

Javelin SuperDork
11/29/11 12:01 p.m.

I'd wait for the CX-5 then. The first all-SkyActiv car and it's an absolutely great car by all accounts.

ransom Dork
11/29/11 12:02 p.m.

In reply to Lesley:

How was the visibility? I've only driven one CX when an acquaintance rented one (can't recall whether it was the 7 or 9, I was trying to forget the whole experience). The primary thing that stuck with me was that the A-pillars were so freaking huge that I had to move my head around to be sure I hadn't lost a jogger or some oncoming traffic behind them...

Lesley SuperDork
11/29/11 12:10 p.m.

Visibility is really good - they moved the a-pillars way back and there's space between the pillar and side mirrors to see when turning. It's a lot smaller beast than the 9, but pretty roomy inside. I drove it with the Skyactive engine - had to flog it a bit on the steep inclines while in the auto tester, but it's more than adequate. It's a lot more fun in stick, but then isn't everything? Still, the auto is good too, tranny shifts well.

11/29/11 12:34 p.m.

My wife's 2010 VW Golf Wagon has been good to us. (knock on wood). The I-5 mileage isn't very good - the TDi should address that.

Solid, quiet and no more timing belt. (Doesn't apply to the TDi).

Don't treat it like like a lawnmower and it will probably be good to you. VW has fixed a lot of issues since the A4's and they were mostly little stuff (ie. things that didn't blow up) except for the oil sludge issues on the 1.8T's.

docwyte Reader
11/29/11 12:44 p.m.

I never had an issue with the Audi problems and I've owned 2 A4's and 3 S4's. Both my parents had A4's as well. If you don't maintain them, they break just like any other car.

Klayfish HalfDork
11/29/11 12:58 p.m.

I think a VW would be fine...as long as you have a reliable back up car to drive for the umpteen times the VW will be in the shop. My coworker has a new Beetle. Bought it 6 weeks ago, and it's already been back twice for issues, and has to go back again. And working in auto claims, I hear all the time about "issues" the newer German cars have with build quality.

We have a Fit in our family, an '08. Agree that it's not the best at long highway commutes. But other than that, it's awesome. Amazing amounts of room inside. Very reliable. We've got 44k on it now, no problems, just routine maintenance. Fuel mileage as good as most hybrids. Slow as molasses, but otherwise fun to drive.

DaveEstey HalfDork
11/29/11 1:21 p.m.

I'll throw my vote in for Prius. It's surprisingly roomy (fits two sets of tires and two people plus a dog with the back seats up) and gets great mileage. I'm 6'2" and the wifey is 5'11" and we're both more than comfortable. Haven't sat in the back but there's more room back there than my 05 Legacy GT had.

It's not a dynamic handler but I find it entertaining to try to make the most of the hybrid system to improve economy. I'm sad if I average anything under 45 mpg on a tank, which only happens if I'm driving like a jackass anyway. Summer tanks I'm mid-50's and some trips I've average better than 60 mpg.

Also, it's dead nuts reliable after 5 years and 90k+ miles.

slefain SuperDork
11/29/11 1:57 p.m.

VWs are first owner cars. The first owner will buy it, drive it for 2 years or less and then trade it in for a new car. Those first 2-3 years will be fairly rock solid and thus give the buyer a positive view on the brand. The second owner on the other hand will rue the day they bought it once the warranty expires and things go to hell. Third and fourth owners will pick up the smoldering shells for cheap and either develop killer mechanical skills or sell the albatross for scrap once their soul has been crushed.

My personal late model VW experience can be summed up like this:

Buy the Fit.

ransom Dork
11/29/11 2:05 p.m.

In reply to slefain:


When you say "late model", what year was your capital combustion device?

ST_ZX2 HalfDork
11/29/11 2:07 p.m.

Hyundai Elantra Touring. Give it another look. I get 28+mpg combined and dont try to get "high" MPGs.

I am 6'6", fit will in front and can sit behind myself and not eat my knees.

$20K gets a fully loaded SE with lots of bells and whistles, very nice handling and great brakes...and strong saftey ratings...and a warranty that is top of the class.

ransom Dork
11/29/11 2:15 p.m.

In reply to ST_ZX2:

Unfortunately, it gets kinda poor mileage for what it is, and to rub salt in the wound, the non-touring Elantra doesn't. I had assumed the 2012 Touring would get updated to modern spec, but no...

There are a fair number of cars that might fulfill the large-enough-box thing and drive nicely (Per's E46 BMW sounds like fun), but we're dead-set on finding something that's more efficient than the Civic.

We're getting a new car due to a combination of reliability concerns and the ludicrously stiff used car market, but also again trying to vote for better efficiency with our dollars.

ST_ZX2 HalfDork
11/29/11 2:15 p.m.
jrw1621 wrote: In reply to ST_ZX2: See the first paragraph of the first posting.

I just did. aside from it not getting 40mpg, the arguments against it are poor. It will get 30+mpg if you try. I bet it would get 32 if I did the speed limit all the time. It handles well enough to be a decent autocross car, and has the utility of a small SUV...and still has a ton of seat room for tall folks. Bonus--the manual has a B&M shifter.

I (6'6"/230) did not fit well in a Fit--the whole car just felt...small. The money saved from a TDI will buy a crapload of gas (that costs a whole lot less than diesel)...not to mention that the warranty is the best in the business.

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