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The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta


I am so stuck in my search for a car! I currently drive a 2009 Subaru Forester (AWD SUV with 8.7" ground clearance averaging 23.7 mpg), and previously had a 2002 Saturn SL1 (FWD sedan with 5.7" clearance and averaged 29-36 mpg). I commute 26 miles to work (so drive 52 miles round trip), 5x a week or more, all on paved roads, mostly secondary highways (50 mph). I live in New England so experience hills and snowy, cold winters (I put snow tires on in winter). My daily driving is not extreme, except during winter storms, but I do live up a hill (paved), and occassionally drive on dirt roads and enjoy outdoor adventures, so need a vehicle that I can use to transport kayaks and mountain bikes and that can handle dirt roads and trailhead parking lots. I also have a 65 lb dog that I currently transport in the back of my Forester - I'm not opposed to having him in the vehicle but like being able to put him in a separate area when he's muddy or I want to keep him separate from other cargo. Must have features include the ability to attach a roof rack to the top and transport kayaks and bikes (150 lb load capacity). Pluses include heated seats and factory roof rails, as well as newer safety features like blind spot alert, and Bluetooth connectivity so I can make hands free phone calls. I prefer dark cloth seats. I would like to get at least 30 mpg average for my type of driving, but at least need to do better than 24 mpg, which is about what I am getting with my current car. I care both about the cost of gas, and environmental impact of driving a lower fuel economy vehicle. Reliability and low cost of ownership/repairs is important to me. My 2009 Forester has 115k miles and has needed $6k of repairs in the last two years, which is why I am looking for a new vehicle. So far I have test driven 14 cars (well 16 cars, but 14 models) including: Kia Niro, Subaru Forester, Subaru Crosstrek, Subaru Impreza 5-door, Honda CR-V, Honda HR-V, Honda Fit, Toyota Rav4 Hybrid, Toyota Prius V, Toyota Corolla iM, Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, Mazda3 Hatchback, Mazda CX-5, and Nissan Rogue. I am wary of getting another Subaru (mine was very expensive to own from 70-115k, and I pretty much think Subarus are fantastic to 100k miles and then you need to sell them and run away as fast as possible before you have to replace EVERYTHING), disliked driving the VW (super touchy brakes), and felt really at home in the Toyotas, Hondas, and Nissans. I've pretty much narrowed those choices down to three choices: 1) New 2017.5 Rogue SV AWD - I really love the features and feel of this car. The SV trim checks all the boxes of cool features. It's got just about everything I want except that it doesn't get great mpgs (most users get about 24-28 mpg average, although the dealer claims they know drivers getting 30-40 mpg highway in this but I have yet to find any data to back that up). Since I drive 250+ miles a week to and from work, and my work commute doesn't require the utilitarian perks of this vehicle I feel a little guilty getting it. If the Rogue was 30 city/35 highway I'd buy it in a heartbeat. Good incentives at the moment put this at about $2,300 more expensive than the Niro, but you get a ton more for that price.

2) 2017/2018 Niro FE or LX - 40-50 mpgs and still roomy for many needs, albeit smaller than what I'm used to. If this vehicle was priced about $3-5k lower I'd probably go this route, but it feels underwhelming for $23k. It feels like a $18,000 car inside. Kia didn't think out the interior well enough - the heated seats on the EX model are not independent, yet the base model has dual climate control. Just the stupidity of that design makes me tempted to avoid it. Even with all of the available feature add ons, the mileage is the only thing that gets me excited about this vehicle. The rest of it is fine - adequate comfort and room for driver and passenger and acceptable interior design. Kia has a great warranty on paper and has been steadily improving in reliability - but I've heard horror stories about people trying to actually get warrantied repairs covered.

3) Used 2017 Corolla iM - New this vehicle doesn't interest me much but I've seen very low mileage models in the $15,500-$16,500 range and Toyota warranties are transferable. At this lower price point, you get a moderately fuel efficient vehicle with a hatchback design that comes with Toyota's reliability reputation and is comfortable to drive for commuting. The back seat is a little short for taller passengers (I'm 5'5" and fit fine but my 6' tall boyfriend had only an inch or two of headroom to spare), the hatch/cargo area isn't huge, and it only has 5.5" inches of ground clearance but this thing will probably go forever and won't cost me a fortune to keep on the road. Any thoughts about these vehicles or another vehicle I should be considering? Any experience driving any of these in rough winter conditions (with snow tires)? Any com

Priorities: Fuel economy / Cargo capacity / Reliability & durability

Need minimum of 4 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 30000
Maximum age: 2 years

Maximum price: US $ 25000

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Response from NormT

9:26 pm December 17, 2017

with the highway driving I'd go with the quietest which be better to postpone hearing aids when you get older. The 2017 Buick Envision Essence or Preferred AWD is $13,000-15,000 off MSRP for $24,000-26,000 and offer a longer warranty than the other eco n omy cuvs. Fuel economy will be similar to those listed unless you go to $30K for the Premium version as ours get 32 mpg at 65 mph or 30 mpg loaded. Ride height is 8.5" and has a similar awd system as BMW xDrive which js very good.

If you wanted close to 40 mpg at 60 mph our old 2013 Buick Encore would fit the bill...with AWD. But it will be near Lexus NX size but we'll under $20K. Again with longer warranty.

do a search on cars.com, autotrader, and cargurus foe the best prices.


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Buick Envision
Buick Encore

Response from LectroFuel

4:52 pm December 20, 2017

Why would the OP want a Buick that gets 24-25 MPG average when they were turned off of the Rogue's better MPGs? Puzzling...

From your list, I would take the Rogue off because it is generally not competitive in any way in the small CUV segment. The Kia Niro seems like a no to you. The Corolla, while having Toyota's reliability, is not a great car otherwise. It is literally a Scion with a different badge. I would in general avoid Nissan because it seems like their number 1 priority is sales and rental fleets, not quality. Nissan's CVTs are unreliable, too.

Since your budget is $25,000, you can get a Toyota Prius Two, which is under $25k. The Corolla does nothing better than this car. I have a 2016 Four and I think your specifications fit the car perfectly, except it is not AWD. If you put winter tires on the car it should do as well as any other FWD car. It has a comfortable ride (night and day difference from the Corolla) and handles well, unlike Prii from the past. It has automatic braking, high beams, lane assist, adaptive cruise control standard on all trims. There is an option package on the Two that adds blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, automatic braking at speeds below 9 mph, and it allows the car to parallel and back into a parking spot by itself (you control throttle). Adding this package brings the price to $26k. REALLY good value. I get 56 MPG going a constant 80 mph on the freeway and upwards of 60 MPG in stop and go traffic. Most people average about 53 MPG. They are super reliable. I have a 2005 Prius, too, with 250k miles that I gave to my son. It has never broken down, but did have problems with the A/C this year. Hasn't broken down in the 250k miles I've driven it. It still gets 42 MPG. The trunk of the 2016-2018 Prius is bigger than the Kia Niro "crossover." It can go up a dirt hill, but nothing extreme at all. Click these:

The Prius is good in the snow

How Does the Toyota Prius Handle Winter?

The Prius V is bigger, but not at all the same car. It feels older, is not available with the safety features, is louder, slower, not as comfortable, cheap-feeling, less efficient, and not pleasant.

If you don't go with the Prius, a Subaru would probably be the next best thing. Pretty much all of them are decent cars, but the most rugged ones are the Outback, Forester, and Crosstrek. You won't get all the safety features standard, which is a quality that almost exclusively belongs to most Toyotas. Subarus are notorious for head gasket failures though.

A RAV4 Hybrid is another good car if you are not a fan of the Subaru. All safety features are standard on the 2017 and 2018s. The RAV4 Hybrid starts at $29k, so maybe find a used 2017 or one they are trying to sell. The RAV4's main selling points are the safety features and hybrid powertrain, whih gives high MPGs. MPG aside, the Honda CR-V is a better car overall. The RAV4 is more reliable, but it is a negligible difference.

Please respond with what car you bought!


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Toyota Prius
Honda CR-V
Toyota RAV4

Response from mkaresh

11:14 am January 21, 2018

Sorry that I'm quite late to this discussion.

Karip, what do you mean about the heated seats not being independent in the Niro? That you can't separately set the heat for the seat bottoms and the seatbacks? This isn't commonly offered in my experience.

On Subarus, I've noticed much the same as you have, unfortunately. After 100,000 miles they can become quite expensive to keep up. Some reliability scores focus on the first 2.5 years of ownership, so Subarus end up looking better than they deserve to. The newest years might prove to be better, but it's too soon to say.

As for what you should buy, what's not clear to me (perhaps because it isn't clear to you) is how much you need AWD. Often winter tires on a front-wheel-drive car will provide sufficient winter traction. But maybe for some trailheads?

When I tested a Rogue I usually observed suburban trip averages between 27 and 31 mpg. If the Rogue seems like a bit too much vehicle, the new Rogue Sport (a half-size smaller) might be what you're looking for. However, like Lectrofuel I'm not sure of the long-term reliability of Nissans.

Before moving on from the Nissan, I should mention that Nissan did briefly offer a Rogue Hybrid. I don't know how many were made, but probably not many, and maybe only for some regions.

The Kia Niro overall seems like a good fit--if you really don't need AWD or the extra interior space of the others, and if you happen upon a used one or a new one selling at a big discount.

I'm less sure the Prius fits your needs because of its arching roof line. I see you can get kayak racks for them, but wonder how easy these are to use. You might know much more about what makes a kayak rack viable than I do. The 2016 and up is especially efficient, but its looks aren't to everyone's tastes. Among cars with AWD, I like the new 2017 Honda CR-V for you, as its roomy and gets the best fuel economy in its class, but imagine it'll be out of your price range in the near term.

Among crossovers a size smaller, the Honda HR-V seems like it would be a good fit unless the buzziness of the engine annoys you or you find the seats uncomfortable (I did).

Among competitors to the CR-V I personally like the Mazda CX-5. What kept it out of your personal top three? The 2017 is especially nice, but perhaps too new to fit within your budget. Not as roomy or quite as fuel efficient as the CR-V, but it drives better. A final note on user-reported mpg. Driving styles and conditions vary. Also, some people have selective memories. In my experience the EPA ratings remain the best way to compare vehicles. And, if you happen to know how well your personally observed mpg tends to vary from the EPA ratings, adjust those you see for various cars accordingly. Personally, I CAN drive any car so that it SOMETIMES gets much better than its EPA ratings. When testing a Rogue I had one highway trip that averages over 40 mpg. But on the return trip I averaged 28, for a two-way average around 34. Quite good for a crossover its size, but not 40.


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Response from karip

11:41 am January 26, 2018

Thanks everyone for the suggestions. I ended up buying a new 2017.5 Nissan Rogue SV AWD.Of all the cars I looked at, the Rogue was the only car that had all of the features I wanted in one package, and because the dealership had exactly what I was looking for on the lot and I was buying right at the end of the year, I was able to get a really good price.

So far, I've had the car for a little over a month and just recently hit 1000 miles. It's winter in New Hampshire, so I have been driving in mostly freezing temperatures and averaged 26.4 mpg on my last couple fill ups as calculated by Fuelly. The car's onboard dash has shown fuel economy stats that are about 5% higher than real life mpg. (On the last two tanks I got 27 mpg driving the car in regular mode when the dash read 28.2 and 25.9 mpg driving the car in eco mode when the dash read 27.2.) I'm hoping that with milder temperatures and as the engine breaks in it will perform a little better. My best commute was 31.7 mpg and I managed 33+ mpg for a short trip home from the dealership today (both on the dash readout, so in reality a bit lower). I'll also be keeping my car in regular mode for everyday driving; the reduced power of the engine in eco mode actually hurts fuel economy on my hilly commute. Right now, I am using the factory tires (instead of snow tires) because they are brand new so have fresh tread, and I cannot afford a brand new set of winter tires right now. Feature wise, the car has everything I wanted ? remote engine start, push-button start, heated seats, blind spot detection, Bluetooth, TPMS display with actual independent tire readouts (not just a warning light), on demand AWD, real time fuel economy indicators, push button seat adjustments, roof rails, dark fabric interior, and ample cargo space. I find the car comfortable and the dashboard and center console controls intuitive. If I want to, I'll be able to mount crossbars and a hitch mount in the future. If this car can average 30 mpg for my commute in at least the warmer months and ends up relatively inexpensive to maintain and mostly repair free in the years to come, I'll end up very happy with it.
Some notes on the other cars I test drove and suggestions made:

Kia Niro: Our local Kia dealership only had brand new 2018 LX models on the lot. Fortunately, they got a lease return 2017 EX model with 30k miles on it that I was also able to test drive. On the EX model, the button for the heated seats is located in the center console and includes icons and lights for both the driver side and passenger side seats (there are three settings). Oddly, the controls look like two separate buttons but it is actually only a single button and both "sides" operate in tandem. It is impossible to only have one side on, or to have the sides set to different temperatures. This was so odd that I asked the dealer about it - I thought maybe something was wrong with the car and the buttons were stuck - but he said that was the way the heated seats were designed. On a car that has dual indepedent climate control on the base model, it seems like a terrible oversight to employ sychronized heated seats. How many couples do you know where one person is always hot and the other is always cold? And on a car designed to be fuel efficient, it makes zero sense to waste energy heating a seat that contains no passenger. This incredibly poor design choice really turned me off - if Kia overlooked something so obvious, what else did they skimp on? Additionally, our 65lb dog was super squished in the back - he had to duck his head to fit and couldn't really move around much. The Nissan dealership was able to get the Rogue (with everything I wanted) to within $2,000 of the cost of the Niro, which would have lacked features like remote engine start, independent heated seats, and blind spot detection. The Kia dealership wouldn't wiggle on the price (the used EX model with $30k miles was priced the same as the brand new LX models) and the price of the Niro just seemed a bit steep for what the cars were; priced about $3k less would have made the vehicle a much better competitor in my book. On paper the Niro really seemed like the perfect car for me, especially if I could negotiate a good price, but in real life it was less of an obvious winner.

Toyota Prius: The regular Prius was just too much of a compromise for me. Without any incentives, the only thing the Prius had going for it was fuel economy and Toyota's outstanding reliability, admittedly both huge pluses but not enough to make the steeper price and design shortcomings worth going that route. The curved hatch is useless for a dog, and the curved roof is less than ideal for mounting roof racks and transporting larger cargo. For me cargo space is important, but not as important as how that cargo space is arranged, and I did prefer a hatch that was taller in the back. I did briefly consider the Prius Prime, as federal tax rebates for plug-in hybrids combined with dealer incentives made the price competitive and I was really intrigued by owning such a low emissions vehicle, but after reading reviews about how terrible the design was for snowy climates (the Prime has a concave rear windshield and no rear wiper, so snow and ice pile up in this dip and make seeing out the back of the car impossible), I nixed that idea. Unfortunate, because my work has an EV plug in station that no one uses, and it would have been cool to take advantage of that, even if I had to pay for electric. My boyfriend is also not a Prius fan, and even though this was to be my car, we generally use my vehicle for family trips and such, and he disliked the Prius V the most of any of the cars we test drove. His opinion was a small consideration, but I did feel better leaning towards a vehicle he liked as well.

I know the Corolla iM has some similar shortcomings in terms of cargo space but I could get a used one with less than 10k miles on it for about $16,000, making it a good $8-9k cheaper than a brand new Prius. It is a pretty basic car, but I was much more willing to compromise on features when it saved me a significant amount of money; less so when the price tag was similar. The iM also has a flatter roof profile and more squared off hatch than the Prius. Everyone I know who has a Prius loves it (and the maintenance costs for them have been very low), but the current models just didn't fit my needs at the right price point.

Subarus: My experience with my Forester kind of turned me off to the idea of getting another Subaru. Everyone I know who is a car person has either drank the Subaru Kool-Aid or they hate Subarus there is no in-between. Many of the issues I had with my car were "typical Subaru issues" and resulted in a lot of expensive repairs, and I just didn't want to go down that road again. What I paid for my used Forester and repairs for the three years I owned it could have easily bought me a brand new car.

Buick models: Way out of my price range! I don't know anyone who owns a Buick and have no desire to be responsible for such an expensive vehicle. Even with great incentives, expenses like insurance and registration are based on the vehicle's MSRP, not the actual price paid, so buying $34-$40k car would have easily exceeded my annual cost-to-own budget by costing more to insure, register, and maintain, not to mention the paranoia factor of having something so pricey!

Toyota Rav4 Hybrid and Honda CR-V: I considered both of these cars but neither brand offered a trim package that had everything I wanted, therefore I either had to buy up and get an expensive package that included a lot of extraneous features to get the one feature I wanted in order to be able to buy a car off the lot or I had to custom order a car or compromise on features. Both of those things really hurt any negotiating power I had at the dealership; to get all the features I wanted these cars would have been $4-9k more than what I was able to get the Rogue for.

Honda HR-V: This car was buzzy and felt underwhelming. My boyfriend isn't a small guy, and he found both this car and the Fit to feel a bit cramped (too narrow). Oddly, I thought I would really like the crossover type cars (Honda HR-V, Subaru Crosstrek) but these vehicles just felt like a compromise in all directions, and I ended up preferring vehicles that at least excelled at one thing (being really fuel efficient and affordable or being better suited for adventures with more cargo space and ground clearance).

Nissan Rogue Hybrid: Our dealer did not have any of these and I couldn't find any of them in the local area. The reviews I read of the Rogue Hybrid were unforgiving. To me, it didn't seem worth it to try to seek one out by expanding my search radius, especially when it didn't get much love by reviewers. I totally would have test driven one if they had been available at my dealership.

Mazda CX-5: This was actually one of the nicest cars I test drove, and it handled the best of all the vehicles by far. The dealership put us in the highest trim line for a test drive, and my boyfriend really liked this car. Oddly, this car just felt "too nice" to me like something that would never really feel like mine. As pointed out by my boyfriend's co-workers, this seems like a bizarre reason not to buy a car, but I just decided I would enjoy having a vehicle I would want to actually use versus something I'd want to keep pristine and worry about ruining. That combined with not as high reliability or recommendability ratings kept me from going that direction.

I really do appreciate all of the great suggestions. You'd think buying a new car would be exciting, but I honestly hope I don't have to do it again for a really long time.


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Response from NormT

12:28 pm January 26, 2018

Nice, exhaustive review and you've uncovered some things I mentioned in the past. Subaru owners are their own breed as you've found that out. Toyota and Honda are the most expensive, by $4-9K as you found out, in their respective segments of the economy classes. They are really pushing luxury car prices but don't offer the extra warranty, nor the luxury car appeal.

Can't wait for your car review in thr other section by some time next fall. :)

Car buying can be fun as it seems like every couple of months I'm helping someone buy one as my wife's Aunt just bought a 2018 Buick as the deals ship paid off the remaining months of her Ford Escape lease. So I'll ask about her insurance rates.

With all of these n?e drivers aids saving us from acxidents you'd think we'd get a break on our insurance. I'll pay under $500/half full coverage for a $49,320 Envision with multi-car discount. The multi car helps.


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Response from mkaresh

10:22 am January 27, 2018

Excellent write-ups! You really should consider posting a review in the reviews section for at least the Rogue, and possibly one or two of the others you considered thoroughly.

In the end what matters is that you like the car, so I think you made the right call.

On the Kia's seat heater controls, this is news to me. I tested one, but in the spring, so maybe I didn't use the heated or cooled seats? It really doesn't make sense to design the controls the way you describe.


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Response from karip

12:08 pm January 27, 2018

Yeah the heated seats on the Kia were so weird! I'm really glad I was able to test drive the EX because I would have been really upset if I had special ordered a trim line up for the heated seats and found out that was how they operated. I have no idea why they installed them that way - according to the dealer Kia does it on some of their models, but not all of them. It just doesn't make any sense and I don't know of any other car that has heated seats like that.

I'll certainly consider posting some reviews. I tend to do exhaustive research when making a big purchases and read a ton of reviews when making decisions, so I think its always great to share my experiences and observations with others in case they are helpful.


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Response from LectroFuel

7:25 pm January 29, 2018

They could have just edited the picture, but the Kia Niro commercial with Melissa McCarthy showed the driver's seat heater was on and the passenger side was off. They also could have been different controls as the one in the commercial have cooled seats, too.


I agree that the Prius v is just not a competitive car. I don't know what they were thinking with the Prime's rear windshield; just another weird design, but it also is more expensive to replace.

The subcompact segment (HR-V and others) is probably my least favorite type of car. None of them are good and the subcompact cars they are based off of are better.

I'm still in shock at how nice my son's Mazda3's interior is for the price. I totally understand why you felt this way.

Congrats on the new Nissan!


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