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The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta

karip

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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