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Empty nester

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta

Sd131

I am searching for a smaller more fuel efficient car to replace my 2004 Highlander. It is reaching 350,000 and prob could go longer but it needs brakes, a new timing belt, and Ac knob getting loose. I hate to say goodbye to the best car ever but it's probably time. I can use that money to help buy a new car.

Any opinions? I'm looking at Prius, civic hatchback, Impreza, crosstrek, Hrv and Mazda 3 hatchback. the rav 4, forester, crv and c5 don't seem much smaller than my highlander.

BTW - other than maintence and brakes, the only big item I replaced is the Ac. Same parts 15 years later. I'm not even good at taking car of cars. But I do keep up with oil changes and loosely with the scheduled service maintenance.

Need minimum of 4 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 25000
Maximum age: 3 years

Maximum price: US $ 22000

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Response from Sd131

2:53 pm April 12, 2019

Me again - I'm really looking a smaller car that will be as last as long and as well as my highlander. Do you think any of the ones I mentioned will?

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Response from LectroFuel

12:58 pm April 13, 2019

The Highlander has grown throughout the years, and your old one is close to the size of a newer RAV4 and other small crossovers.

Toyota is still the most reliable car brand. If you want to make it to 300,000 miles, you don't want a turbocharger. They wear out some of the powertrain components and are another thing to break. There is not a history of reliable turbo engines like there is for naturally aspirated. Also, a non-planetary gearset CVT is not great for long-term reliability. A lot of hybrids including the Prius use a planetary CVT, which is a simpler design than a regular CVT.

For the cars you mentioned, these are the cars that will likely last the longest: Prius and maybe HR-V. Mazda3 is third, but I don't think they usually reach 300k miles. Reaching 300k miles is pretty rare in anything other than a Toyota, old Honda, or old diesel car. The problem with guessing which car will hit 300k miles is that we can only guess.

If you don't care about acceleration, the Prius will be the best car. I get 54 MPG in my 2016 Prius and 70 MPG in traffic. It is a great car. Our old Prius went to 262k miles before the brake accumulator went out and we decided to donate it. The only other things that broke were the AC and a water pump. The interior cargo space is also very big for the exterior dimensions.

The Civic Hatchback has a turbo in all trims. The Civic sedan has the non-turbo engine in the LX and EX trims, but you give up a lot of cargo space. All Civics have a regular CVT unless you get a manual. The HR-V has a CVT, but no turbo. It might get close to 300k miles.

The Mazda3 has been very reliable and doesn't have a turbo or CVT. We have a 2015 3 Sedan and it is good if you can stand the road noise.

The Impreza and Crosstrek have boxer engines that are prone to head gasket failure. I wouldn't count on a Subaru going to 300k miles. They also have a CVT unless you get a manual.

Cars that should be added to your list are the Corolla Hatchback and maybe the Hyundai Elantra GT. The Hyundai could get to at least 200k miles.

Getting to 200k miles is much easier because all these cars could do that. I would be happy to get that far beacuse, unfortunately, your Highlander raised the bar for reliability perhaps too much. You and I have not mentioned a single bad car. All of these are reliable; some of them may just not hit 300k.

I think the Prius is the top pick. Lowest maintenance cost, best MPGs, most reliable, and practical. Get a 2017 or newer to get all the safety features on even the base model.

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Toyota Prius
Toyota Corolla Hatchback
Mazda Mazda3

Response from AcuraT

8:56 pm April 13, 2019

Lectrofuel is correct. Toyota is stll tops in quality although the margin between it and some of its competition has narrowed significantly. Going 300,000 is tough for any car, even Toyota so there is no guarantee in any of this.

The Toyota Prius of the cars you mentioned hits all the check boxes you want. Smaller car than what you have. Amazing gas mileage for a four door sedan. Very reilable car. In your price range even on some 2018 models.

Here is the one downside of a hybrid car - the battery pack will need replacing around 200,000 miles almost guaranteed. The cells do wear out. However you save so much in gas over those 200,000 miles it is something you can plan for and replace if you want - but it costs as much as $1800 for the batttery pack not including installation if you don't work on a car. Most sell the car when it fails and you can find on Youtube plenty of do it yourself individuals who make a fortune buying that battery pack for a car they buy for $500, replacing it themselves, and then turning around and selling it for $4500 - making $2000 in the process (and their time of course). The car can last 300,000 usually without too many problems just expect that one big cost around 200,000.

The Toyota Corolla hatchback is another car about the same size that is a gas engine, also gets great gas mileage (although not as good as the Prius) and will not have the battery limitation. Just a thought as they frequently go 300,000. No guarantee as Lectrofuel states, but on those the odds are higher and 200,000 is a pretty safe bet.

After that the Mazda 3 is the second car I would go with over the HR-V. I have driven the HR-V and did not like it at all. If you consider that car, drive it first. It does not drive as well as either the Prius or the Mazda 3. Mazda is one of those companies that can come close to Toyota in quality.

The RAV 4 made by Toyota is also very durable. Maybe not quite as much as the Corolla and the Prius, but very very close and also would have a good chance of making 300,000 and 200,000 with no problem. It is a little smaller than your ancient Highlander but not by a lot. In all these cases I recommend you test drive it to see if it is the size you want or too big.

The key thing about going 300,000 is electronics and powertrain. Any of those three cars can do it but the battery on the Prius is a limitation (again, just look up on Youtube on Prius battery replacement - you will be shocked at the mileage it happens and how many people are replacing them although 200,000 is not that bad of a mileage number for that).

You will notice neither Lectrofuel nor I think that Subaru will go 300,000 and he gives a good reason why. They are very good cars, but they are AWD, get lower gas mileage (cost of traction), and while they last a long time they are not probably going to go 300,000 without some major issues. Again, 200,000 is probable but not as likely as Toyota or Mazda.

I am not as big on Honda as Lectrofuel is but the Civic I am sure is a fine reliable choice that could also go 300,000 if you like it. Likely to go 200,000 without too much trouble.

Best of luck in your search.

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Response from AcuraT

9:38 pm April 13, 2019

There is a new car that starts for $21,000 that is coming out now, and it is based on existing technology that neither Lectrofuel nor I mentioned. It is the new Toyota Corolla Hybrid. It gets great gas mileage, has the reliable Prius hybrid system, and is based on proven technology. It combines the Corolla technology and the Prius technology.

Downside is you are getting the base car which is well equipped with a lot of safety features. Upside is it is a new car in your price range. Downside is testers say with the gas 1.8 liter engine it is noisy. Upside is it very quite in electric mode. Downside is the 200,000 mile battery replacement. Upside is it is highly likely to last 300,000 with that one expensive repair as this combines Toyota's most reliable platform with the very reliable battery pack.

Just one more thought to add to your selection. I normally would strongly urge against a first year car but in this case a Toyota with proven technology, I think this is a good fit for what you want.

Above still holds true. Best of luck.

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Response from LectroFuel

12:55 pm April 14, 2019

The Corolla Hybrid is good. I didn't mention it because I thought he or she wanted a hatchback. The Corolla Hybrid is well equipped for being the base model. LED headlights and taillights, auto climate control, 8" touchscreen with CarPlay, 7" instrument cluster screen, push button start and smart key sensors on the doors, full speed radar cruise control, auto high beams, auto brake with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane keep assist, and electric parking brake. I sat in one and noticed the door panels were mostly hard plastics because it is the LE. I'm pretty sure it will drive better than the 1.8L in the lower trims of the regular Corolla Sedan because of the added torque of electrification.

We have a 2014 1.8L Corolla with the CVT and all I can say is that I really don't like the powertrain. The CVT in Toyota's hybrid system is SOOOOO much better. They carried over that powertrain in the L, LE, and XLE trims unfortunately.

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Response from AcuraT

4:17 pm April 15, 2019

Lectrofuel, always appreciate your well thought out answers. One question since you own the Corolla, what is it that you don't like about the transmission? Is it the usual complaint on the way it shifts and accelerates, or something else?

Just wondering. I am not in the market for a car for my kids right now but in three years and will probably lool at a used one. Will probably give it a try in any case for myself at that point. Thanks.

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Response from ralittle2

10:40 pm April 15, 2019

I'm in the market for a car for my daughter and am looking at the Corolla. One thing I was disappointed to see is that they have gone to a CVT recently. I know they can't be as bad as Nissan's version which seems to get the worst reviews, but it's still a CVT.

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Toyota Prius
Toyota RAV4
Lancia Flavia

Response from ralittle2

10:43 pm April 15, 2019

Actually, there is another car you might want to toss in there... the new Honda Insight. It's a hybrid and is basically a Civic hatchback, but it looks better.

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Response from LectroFuel

7:02 pm April 17, 2019

The Insight is a sedan. It is like a Civic Sedan Hybrid with a nicer interior and exterior. I drove one and it was pretty nice. I liked how the car propeled forward like an EV. The 1 speed direct drive transmission is kind of wierd at first. You put your foot down and the car accelerates forward nicely, but the engine doesn't spool up for a few seconds. Pretty good performance, but I thought there was a huge disconnect between engine speed and acceleration.

AcuraT, the only cars I have driven with a CVT are the Prius, Civic, Pathfinder, and QX60 so I don't know if I just don't like traditional CVTs or if it is because I'm just used to the Prius. Also, we haven't had the JSD service campaign performed on the CVT, so I'm not sure if it will change transmission behavior.

The Corolla sometimes jerks forward with slight throttle application from a stop. Once moving, the RPMs climb and then fall down a second later despite having the same throttle application. It is the typical rubber band effect. There is almost no point in using 50-85% throttle because 50% throttle feels like you are giving it 90% of what it's got. Only at full throttle does it feel like it is giving max power. It is like there is a dead point in the pedal between 50% and 80% throttle.

For a normal person, it might be OK, but it isn't for anyone looking for something that wants even a little bit of excitement. We already knew the Corolla was nothing exciting.

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Response from Sd131

10:32 am April 18, 2019

Thanks for everyone's great input!

Just one follow up:

corolla hatchback - are you all saying that the CVT affects driving performance or that it may also affect reliability?

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Response from Sd131

10:51 am April 18, 2019

And - just to throw a wrinkle in - what about the corolla hatchback manual. Would that be better than the CVT? I like a stick shift.

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Response from AcuraT

11:22 am April 18, 2019

The Toyota CVT is made by Asian, which is partly owned by Toyota. Most CVTs on the market today are made by Jatco, a Renault/Nisssan tranmission. Subaru uses them on their AWD cars for example, as does Nissan and a few other manufactuers. Due to the Renault/Nissan transmission they have a pretty bad reputation.

Toyota's is newer CVT (I think it came out the 2018 model year on the Corolla first) has only been out for a short period of time. Theirs is now a hybrid as it has a "first gear" and then uses the CVT. Here is a short technical explaination on how it works:

https://www.roadandtrack.com/new-cars/car-technology/a19431445/toyota-cvt-with-1st-gear/

I don't think enough is known about their transmission to know their reliablity. For one year there have not been many issues, and Toyota recently recalled their CVT because of reliablity issues they don't want to have:

https://www.consumerreports.org/car-recalls-defects/toyota-corolla-hatchback-recalled-for-transmission-issue/

The manual will definately be reliable. The CVT is still up in the air, although Toyota's history is good it is a new technology and they sometimes stumble on new things like powertrains (the 1999 Toyota Camry V6 had engine sludge issues its first year of production - I had one, and I suffered from it).

Thank you Electrofuel for your comments, I understand the rubberband effect (I have driven one years ago for a month - a Ford Taurus with such a transnmission, and I know what you mean). I agree, not exciting, but at least from your experience fairly reliable although not the most refined.

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Response from LectroFuel

7:46 pm April 23, 2019

CVTs can affect performance and reliability just like how normal geared transmissions can. The only benefit to a CVT really is gas mileage and perhaps if you like not feeling when the transmission shifts.

The Corolla Hatchback stick shift is said to be pretty good. I've heard the 2014-2019 Corolla Sedan's manual was like a a stick shift from a truck, which isn't good.

Keep in mind I was talking about the Toyota CVT that was introduced for 2014. For the new 2020 Corolla, the L, LE, and XLE trims have the same old transmission with the same engine from the 2014-2019 Corolla Sedan LE Eco. Going back through 2014, the transmission has been reliable so far.

The 2019 Corolla Hatchback has the new engine and new CVT with an actual first gear standard in every trim, SE and XSE. As AcuraT said, they recalled the new CVT in the hatchback. The SE and XSE models of the upcoming Corolla Sedan have the powertrain in the current hatch.

The hybrid is only available in the LE Sedan, so that prevents you from getting many features.

In the end, I thought car reviewers were exaggerating how bad traditional CVTs are to drive, but now I see what they are talking about.

One thing to correct with AcuraT is that the hybrid has the Prius' refined CVT, and the SE and XSE Corollas have the CVT with the first gear.

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Response from AcuraT

8:58 am April 24, 2019

Thanks for that Lectrofuel, I should have been specific about the "newer" CVT with the first gear, I was not talking about about the older one which Asian/Toyota has more experience with - appreciate the clarification.

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