Warning - long post ahead
While I appreciate the apparent concern for our safety, I'm really not interested in this turning into a debate about what reports to believe about the Prius. Please let's not go there.
We took the day off work today and visited the local Honda, VW, and Toyota dealers plus a very quick pass through the Mazda lot. I should probably do this in the "why not this car?" section but I'll save that for another time (maybe, I do get lazy).
Honda - We took a decent drive in a Fit Sport. She liked the interior, still loved the cargo space, although we forgot to check out the "refresh" configuration. We still have a drive-in theater in town and thought it could be nice for that. The orange sitching in the cloth seats gave it just enough interest. No nav or active safety systems wasn't a drawback for her. Havng Apple/Android on the base audio package was a plus. Pick up was a noticably lacking in comparison to her '03 Jetta but we both thought it drove fine. I thought engine noise was a little high, but well within expectations. We took a shorter drive in the EX-L to see if we thought the upgraded seats would be worth the price hike. Decided they weren't. Surprisingly, she liked white better than red. I was voting for the Helios Yellow, but she preferred the white. The few extras on the sport trim kept that as the winner for the Fit.
For comparison sake we took out a Civic. We honestly didn't pay attention to the specific model and trim. All I can say it that it was the 4 door and the salesperson mentioned it was a turbo (was not an Si). Not even 2 minutes in the interior and my wife said no. We both thought the interior was very bland (it was two toned beige/black). A quick drive didn't overcome our impressions of the interior. Settled on the Fit Sport and we'd go with after market seat heaters.
The Honda dealer also is the Mini dealer here and our Honda salesperson is a Mini owner (but they do split up coverage so she couldn't show us the Minis). After a little looking and conversation with our Honda salesperson, my wife decided she wasn't really interested.
Toyota - was our 2nd stop after Honda. Based on exterior styling, the PriusC was the only one of potential interest. Didn't have a lot of time as we were both getting hangry so we ended up checking out the interior and taking it for a spin around the (very large) parking lot. Interior felt cheap to me, wife didn't care for it either. Drove fine, size fit with expectations, but did't make the grade. Didn't help that the salesperson didn't start on the right foot with us by taking up too much of our time inside.
After fueling ourselves up with lunch we continued on.
VW - Started in a Golf S. My wife immediately commented if felt familiar. I agreed that it was very similar to her Jetta, which turned out to ultimately be it's downfall. It drove really well. I had a little fun with the tiptronic and the paddle shifters. We both appreciated the classic, understated instrument panel. Upon return we hopped into the SE for a comparison of the interior options. Unlike the Honda, here she really did like the step up on the interior and features, however, it still didn't really speak to her style wise. She particularly noted not being a fan of the few areas of glossy black plastic, notably on the console near the shifter. Ultimately she decided it was just too much like her Jetta and didn't really inspire a desire to get a new vehicle (as much as she really does like her Jetta).
She was about worn out but before we took off, I talked her into checking out the Beetle. Sure enough, she lit up as soon as she sat in it. It was just a base S, but she immediately took to it. It had enough of the familar VW elements she likes in her Jetta, but pulled her in on overall style (I did put exterior styling as the top priorty for a reason). On conveniece, we have some minor concerns given she like to put things on the back seat of the Jetta, and that would certainly be more difficult in the Bug. Driving may not have been quite as nice (for me) as the Golf, but certainly in the same ballpark as our Jetta and a good step above the Fit. With this being the expected last year (our salesperson said they have nothing official from VW, but did agree that is the expectation) it may be a bigger challenge to find the the Bottle Green or Tornado Red with the Style and Comfort package, but they did tell us there are currently a reasonable number available they could get.
Mazda - We were heading home past the Mazda dealer so we made a quick stop in the lot to look. She and I both have the same opinion on exterior, from some angles it looks good, others not so much. The real killer however was the look and position of the infotainment screen. She absolutely hated that. The 2 minutes walking around the car and looking in the window was more than enough for her. We headed out before a salesperson could come out to even say hello.
Where does that leave us? Fit vs Beetle. Fit has her mind. Beetle has her heart. Same scenario as we were in back in 2003 when we were looking at Civic vs Jetta. That one worked out really well for her so I suspect there is a slight edge on the Beetle, but if we really do wait until later in the year as we had planned, we might not be able to find the right Beetle at a good price. We also liked our Honda salesperson better for whatever we decide that is worth.
I'm sure we'll be back for at least one more drive on each and will at look at CR since there isn't any reliablity data here at TrueDelta on the Beetle (only prelim result for 1 model year). We'll see if she decides she can wait or if we bite the bullet a year earlier than planned either because of Beetle availablity or that she just decides she's ready for the new car.