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Cheap to run, somewhat roomy and efficient

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta

Member6528

47 male. 55 mile RT commute. Manual transmission very strongly preferred. I am a "keeper." My first and so-far-only new car was operated by me for 15 years. I've had a crap box I hate for five years. I don't like buttons and novelty in small cars. I would like more electrical outlets than in most small cars. I would really, really like cruise control, but suspect I will be calling Rostra for a local installer in a few years or at least as soon as I'm out of warranty.

I am in a market where a used car not coming up on a major maintenance bill is either a beater, $12k, over 120 kilomiles or all of these. The used cars I am willing to pay for are in the same class as the Nissan Versas, which turned my head toward the possibility of buying new.

My serious shopping started with Versa Note and Fit. Hated the aborted hipness of the Fit. The trim-level of Fit I find most desirable has less soundproofing than the higher trims. Charmed by the simplicity and soft-for-class ride of Note. Yes, the plastics are very plastic but I can live with this. I've considered and driven Sonic, Fiesta and Rio. I very strongly prefer the higher roofs, and didn't like the driver's-car suspension of the Fiesta. Sonic's gauges are something I'd have to get used to but t is surprisingly quiet. Rio was a surprisingly good all-'rounder, but the most expensive car considered in bttom-line pricing. Following Fiesta, Mazda2 is not under serious consideration. Accent is just out of price range, even CPO. Charmed by everything about the Kia Soul save the fuel economy, surprising road noise and the youth-targeted looks. Very much wish Hyundai would devise a nice, boring, perhaps quieter interpretation of the Soul, but suspect it would be priced too high.

I am about a week away from visiting my friendly Nissan dealer and driving away in a Versa sedan or V. Note. Somehow I think something else is out there that I am somehow missing.

In the interest of full disclosure: I flirted with the idea of a '10-'11 Buick LaCrosse. I suspect I would be buying a serious problem just a few years down the road, despite supreme comfort during the last of its good years.

Pricing: Versa Sedan, actual price before TT&L <$10.5k. Versa Note just under $12k. Please don't bother telling me I can get a good used Camry/Accord for the same money. I simply cannot, especially with three pedals.

Priorities: Reliability & durability / Quietness / Fuel economy / Ride smoothness / Price or payments

Preferred Bodystyle(s): Sedan / Hatch / Wagon

Car Needs: Daily commuter / Errands about town

Need minimum of 2 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 70000
Maximum age: 5 years

Maximum price: US $ 14000

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Response from mwcten

12:08 pm August 9, 2015

That's good that you're researching your options, but I would keep in mind that the test drive evaluation exercise is going to emphasize in your mind the car's handling, price, and looks. It will underemphasize long term reliability, real-world mpg, and vehicle versatility. I'm personally a fan of the Fit, which for the three test drive evaluation factors is kind of an also-ran, but it excells in the reliability and versatility departments.

That said, for the prices you're looking at, maybe the Nissan is your best bet. It's not as reliable as the Fit, but fuel economy has improved in recent years, so that is approaching Fit levels. I would just look hard at the interior space and what you need it for. If it does all you want it to do, maybe it's the best car for you. Price wise, it's about the same as a '12 or so Fit, which seems about right; you ought to get the same life out of a '12 Fit as a '15 or '16 Versa. The Versa certainly has better reliability than the domestics and probably the Koreans too.

As an alternate automotive strategy (in the vein of your thinking with the LaCrosse), your all-in automotive costs would probably be about the same if you were to drive a mid-late 00's higher milage manual Acura TSX. A $6-7k private party, 130k mile ~05 TSX would save you enough on the front end that you would be able to cover the slightly increased maintenance and gas costs over a new car (minus decreased finance/opportunity cost). Also, if you're in an expensive-collision-insurance-on-a-new-vehicle versus cheap-liability-only-insurance situation, this strategy makes even more sense. Perhapsthis isn't viable in your local (or close by) used car market, but assuming you're not in a small country somewhere, there's always a one-way flight and drive back home.

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Acura TSX

Response from mkaresh

11:41 pm August 17, 2015

I liked the Versa Note more than most reviewers. The main concern with the Versa is the durability of the CVT, and you avoid this by getting the manual. Like you, I found it quieter than the Fit.

I really wish I trusted the long-term durability of the Chevrolet Sonic or the Chevrolet Cruze, as either could otherwise be a good fit for what you're looking for. Comfortable seats, especially in the Cruze. But their reliability stats have been so-so.

The Buick Verano has been more reliable and is very quiet and comfortable, but a manual is only offered with the turbo and fuel economy is low for the class.

Another possibility is the Hyundai Elantra GT. These don't sell well, and they upsized the engine for 2014, making the 2014 and up more desirable for enthusiasts. So it's possible a 2013 without many miles could be a good value, and the smaller engine is more fuel efficient. Semi-sporting suspension, but not as firm as a Ford's or Mazda's.

The Elantra GT replaced the Elantra Touring. The latter was better in some ways--roomier, larger windows. But it had a less efficient engine and reliability has been so-so.

A final possibility I'll toss out is the Suzuki Kizashi. Very solid and refined for the class. Cruising in 6th, fuel economy can reach the upper 30s. Reliability looks good based on limited data from 2011 (second model year) on. Here as well opting for the manual avoids the risks inherent in a CVT. They were sold with a 5/60 basic warranty and 10/100 powertrain warranty--I don't know if this is still being honored. Suzuki is gone, which kills resale value, so it'll be hard to find an equally good car for a similar price.

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Nissan Versa Note
Hyundai Elantra GT
Suzuki Kizashi

Response from Member6528

4:33 pm August 22, 2015

Thank you, gentlemen. The winner is a '15 Nissan Versa Note S in Metallic Gray. I prefer to row my own anyway, even if Nissan may actually have worked out this CVT business.

Between my posting and the purchase an '11 Fit was advertised at the most beloved lot in town, a Honda franchise. I elected to give the most desired car in this segment another try. The road noise and poor seats discoraged me. I glanced at the new Fit again. On top of the aesthetic factors, the reliability of the new one is tragic even in its first year and I couldn't justify the 25-30% premium in bottom-line pricing over the Versa Note. In my market in August 2015, I simply wasn't getting into a Fit under $18K.

My domestic partner was quick to remind that the Note is almost exclusively driven by women in their 50s, and other substitute-teacher (her words) types, at least around here. She had convinced your reporter to go for the Versa Sedan, "a grown up car". Once on the lot, the "first price" had the cars only about $800 apart. Not to mention that they had my preferred color on the lot. I truly miss the utility of a dearly departed Ford Ranger, even though the bed was seldom full. I don't want to feed a pickup, and this form factor is a compelling compromise.

The seats feel like they were made for me. My Fred-Flintstone feet have no trouble with the pedal actions. The switchgear feels very cheap. The interior plastics are very cheap looking. I like the Note's binnacle over the discount-store one present in the sedan, and don't know exactly why there is a difference. The shifter is very notchy and not smooth. A used V. Sedan I tested was much smoother and I'm hoping it "runs in" with time. Wind noise doesn't start until 65 mph. Road noise and bump resistance is on par with a much larger car. It is dramatically improved over the E90 Corolla being replaced. The few bluetooth calls I have made have all compelled the statement "Where the **** are you anyway?" Presumably, the mic isn't very good. I am more amused by the cavernous rear seat the longer I have it. It will swallow sixteen office-paper boxes without complaint. (They were empty.) The steering is extremely light at low speed, which is alienating to me but surely welcome in denser environments. The clutch is a very smooth, light experience which I hope does not imply rapid replacement.I don't really miss the arm rest, but the replacement for that storage being a large cubby over the glovebox is taking some getting used to.


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Nissan Versa Note

Response from mkaresh

9:53 am August 24, 2015

I'd much rather have the Note than the Versa sedan, so this choice makes perfect sense to me.

You should consider also posting an evaluation of the car in the review section of the site, some very good insights here.

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