Tell me of the autos of your homeworld, Usul.
June 12, 2005 2:55 PM   Subscribe

What do you dislike about your vee-hickle?

So the well-loved Prelude is (1) very small and (2) getting on in years, and it's time to think hard about adding a new or almost new vehicle to the stable and retiring the Prelude to commuting and other metro-area use.

Given that our plans for the next few years involve adding another wee pup to the current one, the vehicle must be able to haul two medium dog crates and enough luggage for two people for two or three weeks, and it should be comfortable enough doing so for two or three 10--12 hour days in a row (we regularly go from D/FW to Florida, or D/FW to Toronto, or both in a giant hateful triangle, to see our kinfolk). Ideally, we should be able to squeeze in 3 dogs (two corgi-sized and a retired racing greyhound or whippet) Just In Case.

We (or at least I!) would prefer a wagon as I don't relish tipping over, but there are precious few of those out there so I think we'd be willing to hold our collective nose and pick up a small SUV if needs be. On the list so far:

Legacy wagon (or Outback, I suppose)
WRX wagon (+ a car-top carrier, probably)
Passat wagon, probably the diesel
Mazda 6 wagon
Hyundai Tucson?

I suppose we'll also look at the Toyota Matrix, PT Cruiser, and Jetta wagon, but they seem like they'd be smaller than we want. The Volvo go-devil wagon is sadly out of reach for us.

So the question:

If you have one of these of recent vintage, what do you dislike about it? Not reliability stuff -- I hope we can find hard numbers on that. But what about the car annoys you, or makes it hard to live with? Is it noisy? Does it not get the mileage it's supposed to? Does radio reception suck? Does it get blown around on highways? Are the seats horrible after 8 hours? That sort of stuff.

Conversely, I guess, what do you really like about it (again, please, excluding "I've never had a problem with it")?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe to Travel & Transportation around Usul, Ethiopia (27 answers total)
WRX wagon (+ a car-top carrier, probably)

I drove one and there was not enough head room for me (I am 6'2").
posted by mlis at 3:03 PM on June 12, 2005

Yeah, I test drove a WRX and it had a really small interior. It was a beautiful (and powerful) car, but the racing-style seats were not something I would want to spend more than a couple of hours in. The Legacy wagon we drove after that was much more comfortable and had a more attractive interior. Not as attractive as the Honda Accord, though, which is what we bought. Get into a Subaru, look around, then get into a Honda and notice the difference. Everything about the Honda is just so nice. It reminded me of opening up an Apple product, as cheesy as that sounds.

A friend has a Hyundai Santa Fe, which is the smaller brother of the Tuscon and she loves it. Lots of room for her and her two large dogs. I have been waiting for something horrible to happen to it since I've never heard good things about Hyundai, but she hasn't had a problem at all and really loves it.
posted by dual_action at 3:24 PM on June 12, 2005

I'm a Subaru Outback owner (2003 Limited), and I *love* it. Good handling, AWD, gets its advertised mileage, looks great, and (obviously) has interior storage space to boot. And I love the dual sunroof (one in the front, one in the back). Seriously, I don't regret my purchase one little bit.

Even though I wouldn't change my purchase, things I would change about the car and model line if I could: it's a little loud on the highway at speeds over 75 (of course, this also helps keep my speed in check!), the brakes are a tad mushy for my tastes, it has Subaru's notorious lack of any possibility for an aux input (so my only iPod option is an FM transmitter), you can't get a manual transmission in the V6 models (for reasons that are totally unclear to me), and I'd love another power outlet in the front cabin (there's a second one in the wagon back, but only one up front). Oh, and at least in the 2003 Limited, the CD player's random function turns off when you turn off the car, which drives me nuts.

The only caveat about any of this is that the 2005 model line is very different from those prior to it -- Subaru made a bunch of changes to make it more SUV-like to get around emissions and mileage standards. It's slightly higher off the ground, the interior is a bit different, etc.; a little research will give you the whole list of differences.
posted by delfuego at 3:31 PM on June 12, 2005

If you are considering a WRX, you should consider the very similar Saab 9-2x. They're practically paying you to take one.
posted by Kwantsar at 3:39 PM on June 12, 2005

driven the CRV - it's not very SUVish and seemed pretty stable (and slow - it's got a 4-banger in it). I didn't feel like I was going to tip it over around curves, and it's the only bigger vehicle I've driven that I can say that about. it's a pretty reliable vehicle; the one I drove belongs to a friend and she seems pretty happy with it. good amount of headroom, lotsa cupholders (wish my car had one that worked), easy to drive, etc. that said I drive a BMW 528i wagon and find it's awesome - if you can locate one you might be able to get a good deal on a 5-series (or, more commonly, a 3-series) wagon unless you're looking for new. (Mine's a '99 and cost just under $17k. BMW wagons seem to be few and far between, at least in my area.)
posted by mrg at 3:49 PM on June 12, 2005

you can't get a manual transmission in the V6 models

I hear ya. But a correction: H6, not V6.

Don't fear the Hyundai - I bought one recently (an Elantra - too small for you) to replace my dead Subaru. Sure, they're "no frills", but they do the job, are light on fuel, and the quality of their vehicles has improved incredibly from those they were producing a decade ago.

Subaru's, on the other hand, give you great engineering under the hood, but the interior has always been a bit...utilitarian. I was surprised that the seats in my dad's new Impreza were little more comfortable than those in my 1989 Legacy. This is probably important for long drives. Also, Subaru's can be very expensive, and sometimes difficult, to diagnose and fix.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a great Subaru fan. But I won't be getting another one until I'm wealthy and comfortable. Until then, my Hyundai is doing me surprisingly well.
posted by Jimbob at 3:55 PM on June 12, 2005

I have a WRX wagon. I quite like it. I'm 5'9" and find the interior more than big enough.

It would probably be too snug for what you have in mind, and if you're going to routinely be using a rooftop carrier, you might as well get something bigger.

My main complaint against it is weak pull at low revs, and a dark interior (I live in a hot climate). Mileage isn't bad, but might be better (especially in-town, when I have to keep the revs high to compensate for the weak low end). It would be nice to have a way to play MP3s--it has a 6-disc changer, which is nice enough, but you'll need a few reloads for road trips. And this is one of those dumb complaints I'm embarrassed to make, but lousy cupholders.

I've driven it on several thousand+ mile road-trips, and found it to be comfortable, reliable, and an all-round good sport--it's a great highway car. It also feels preturnaturally stable on rough or wet surfaces--if there's a downside to that, it is that it invites risky driving (like taking off-camber turns signed as 25 at 60, not that I'd know the first thing about that).
posted by adamrice at 4:01 PM on June 12, 2005

I have a Scion xB which you might be interested in. It's major downfalls? No option for cruise control, which sucks on long trips. I've read about people adding it, though so it can be done. It feels much more secure than most SUVs that I test drove and gets great gas milage. It looks smaller from the outside than it feels on the inside. I can fit four adults, about five sleeping bags, pillows and luggage in mine without feeling too cramped.
posted by amandaudoff at 4:05 PM on June 12, 2005

Ditto on what delfuego said. 2001 VDC Outback Wagon. Great car, no real show-stoppers. I'm a little tired of the two-tone paint scheme after 4 years. The car has proven to be bulletproof. Great in snow and ice, great in hot weather. Plenty of interior room. Major problem is not being able to integrate my iPod without a $150 trip to the car stereo joint.
posted by fixedgear at 4:18 PM on June 12, 2005

Response by poster: A friend has a Hyundai Santa Fe, which is the smaller brother of the Tuscon

I thought it was the other way - whichever, I meant the smaller.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:31 PM on June 12, 2005

Love my 99 RAV-4. I am 6 feet even and have plenty of room. We took a month-long camping trip with 4 people last summer, it was definitely tight but bearable. The factory stereo is nothing special. It handles nicely and I love the tight turning radius.
posted by LarryC at 4:32 PM on June 12, 2005

Ditto amandaudoff on the Scion xB. I'm told the 06 might have cruise control as an option, and I've also heard of getting it put in 05s, which I may look into eventually. It really is huge on the inside - I'm 5'10 and my husband is 6'1 and there is ample room to sit in front and back. I can sit in the back seat and wiggle my knees, which I cannot do in my Jeep Cherokee.

My only two real complaints, besides cruise control, are that the back seats don't meet the front when they are down, creating a bit of a gap for my dogs to fall through, and there's no under-dash lighting (this is an option, however, if you want lighted cupholders) so it's hard to find CDs and sodas at night. Also, we opted for the Bazooka subwoofer, which makes a nice noise but takes up half the cargo area. I may eventually buy my own xB so my husband can have his back, but I will skip the subwoofer.

A thing I love that I will forevermore look for in a car: the front seats lay out almost flat. We recently drove from Fort Worth to Houston and back in a day, and I put the passenger seat back and slept like a baby most of the way back. Overall, the seats are the most comfortable I've ever been in, and we would have made it all the way to Houston without stopping (unheard of, as I've always had to get out and stretch) except that I needed a pit stop in Conroe.

Bonus: Scions are no-haggle.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:43 PM on June 12, 2005

A friend has a Hyundai Santa Fe, which is the smaller brother of the Tuscon

I thought it was the other way - whichever, I meant the smaller.

Looking at their website I can see you are indeed correct, the Santa Fe is larger. My friend got hers before the Tuscon came out and I wrongly assumed the new model was larger.
posted by dual_action at 4:53 PM on June 12, 2005

Have you considered the Ford Freestyle? It is a station wagon based on the new Ford 500 platform. Might be worth a testdrive, anyway, just for a reference point.
posted by Doohickie at 6:12 PM on June 12, 2005

Dodge Magnum? My parents own one, and they love it. My dad loves the acceleration it gets (theirs doesn't even have the hemi), and my mom loves the way it drives. It's got all kinds of neat organizers in the back, but I'm honestly not sure if you could fit all those dogs and luggage in there. Anyway, just another suggestion.
posted by geeky at 6:16 PM on June 12, 2005

Response by poster: Scion: Tastes differ, I know, but they're ugly enough -- to me -- that I can't imagine keeping one around for 10 years.
Freestyle: costs too much to go through brand-new-platform risks, to me, and probably bigger than we want, and I don't trust Ford very far. But name go in book.
Magnum: I don't trust Dodge very far either, unless it's something with a few years of decent reliability.

Thanks, folks, and keep the complaints coming!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:58 PM on June 12, 2005

Gotta Subie Forester. Happy enough with it. Comfortable, feels solidly well-built, bland interior and don't care about it, and hauls a shedload of stuff quite nicely. My complaints: after six months of automatic, I still prefer standard; squishy-feeling brakes (I blame the rear drums); and the shop manuals cost more than life itself (the usual cheaper-class culprits haven't done their own version of it).

Is the Forester available in the USA? I'm surprised it hasn't been mentioned before.

Can't say as I give a damn about vehicles any more. As long as it can be relied on and carries a 4x8 sheet of plywood, colour and seldom-used toys don't really turn me on.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:07 PM on June 12, 2005

I'm not sure if these are available in North America, but the Renault Scenic (or something like it) might be of interest. It's spacious, seats 5-7 (two extra seats are hidden in the back), and is suprisingly well designed. It's amazing just how much Renault fits in to what seems to be a small-ish car.
posted by lumiere at 7:07 PM on June 12, 2005

If you are considering a WRX, you should consider the very similar Saab 9-2x.

Don't do it! I have a 2003 Saab 9-3 Vector. (they only made the vector for one year, it was the model with everything sport, closest thing now is the Aero)

As far as the basic car things, starting, stopping, turning, it's OK, but saab electronics are buggy. The problems I've had include:
  • Sunroof won't close when traveling under 40 MPH (anti-pinch protection malfunction)
  • Won't start (electronic smart key receiver malfunction)
  • Traction control too sensitive (goes off randomly, even when driving at speed limit (25) in road that has been resurfaced literally 10 days ago)(This could actually be unsafe, if the car decides to slow you down exactly when you need to get out of the way of something)
  • Bogus check engine light...
  • Integrated garage door opener doesn't work (the car generates too much interference...)
All of these happened in the first 10k miles, the car has 20k miles on it now (still under warranty), is the biggest waste of $33k I've ever had. If I had it to do over, I'd buy a WRX STi, which was my 2nd choice, my sister has an '02 WRX Wagon and loves it. But the saab as heated seats and leather, my wife said...
posted by darkness at 7:17 PM on June 12, 2005

My parents have an Element and I get to drive them around in it when they come to visit me which is a lot of up and down mountain-y roads, not as much long stretch highway driving. My major complaint about the thing -- which may not be relevant to your life at all -- is that passengers in the back can't really see out the winshield. The back seats are a little higher [there's head room because the roof is convex] and so you look sort of at the sun visors when you stare straight ahead, crappy for doing tourist-y driving for more than two people. Other things I have heard that are bad about them are: they are sort of boxy and high profile so are a little caught by winds, they are hard to put hand controls in if you are in a wheelchair and need hand controls, they are sort of industrial inside, not too plush. Good for hosing out after dogs, less nice if you want to put your parents back there.

fff, the Foresters are available in the US, they're practically the state car in VT since they're cheaper than the Outbacks and nearly as good.
posted by jessamyn at 8:01 PM on June 12, 2005

Another vote for the Element; I have had a 2004 4WD for about 2 months. DON'T HOSE IT OUT if you get one, there is wiring beneath the floor. You can very easily wipe down the interior with a wet rag though. Also a good dog car I hear, as the rear seats are removable/retractable, and the easy clean up mentioned earlier. iPod jack in dash board, 4WD also has a great sound system. I love it.

But that's not what we are here for.


While mileage is good for it's class (21/26) it's a real switch from the fuel-miserly Civic HX coupe I traded in for the E.

The interior being all plastic means that any hard objects placed in the many compartments will make a bit of a racket as you motor around. A pen placed in the dash board bin was driving me kind of nuts last week. Being a glass-is-half-full type, I see this as a good motivator to keep my E clean. Floor mats are available however.

The interior plastics are sort of soft and will get scratched.

I will need to buy an add-on collapsible cargo bin for the rear trunk, groceries skate all over the place and roll around on the flat-from-front- to-back floor.
posted by Scoo at 9:20 PM on June 12, 2005

I'm scoping out Audi's at the moment, and their wagons are HOT!
posted by forallmankind at 9:43 PM on June 12, 2005

I had a WRX wagon that I liked quite a bit. I'm 6'1" and a little over 200 pounds and never felt cramped for space so I'm not sure what the people above are talking about. My wife recently got a Forester XT, which both of us love. Tons of room, really great performance (0-60 in 5.2 seconds) and a lot of space. Probably the best all around car I've seen in it's price range.
posted by freshgroundpepper at 11:26 PM on June 12, 2005

I bought a CR-V (EX) and enjoy it for generous head/legroom, front and back; storage space; AWD, ABS, great safety numbers, overall usefulness, comfort and driveability on a budget.

I don't like the poorer-than-expected MPG (~20, EPA is 24), the relatvely small wheels (15", should be 16" - they look small, but not a functional problem) and the rear-view visibility, which is the case with about every light SUV, but the rear-view mirror is about an inch too narrow. More neck-craning than expected when backing up or changing lanes.

Lastly, acceleration is just adequate; I momentarily turn off the AC if I have to quickly accelerate onto the freeway with a full load of passengers. This would not be as much of a problem if the CR-V came with a manual transmission in the EX model, but it's automatic-only.

Altogether minor inconveniences. I did my homework with a $22000 or so retail price point and there's none better IMO for the money. I expect I'll be driving this car until the next offspring graduates high school, or longer. The 2005 model addresses the mileage issue with a 5 speed auto trans, plus it has more safety features (front seat head curtain airbags) and has 16" wheels standard plus more interior options like full leather.
posted by nj_subgenius at 4:09 AM on June 13, 2005

A side-note: if the Matrix/Vibe is too small for you, then so will be the WRX. The Matrix is, in fact, considerably bigger inside than the WRX (or the Mazada 3, the other major choce in that size), that's why I bought mine. I like it quite a lot, but it would be too small for two adults + two spawn + two dogs for two (or two plus two) weeks of travel.

If you're considering a Subaru, I'd go with fff's suggestion and take a long look at the Forrester. Several people at work have them, with similar requirements to yours, and they all appear to be happy with them.
posted by bonehead at 6:54 AM on June 13, 2005

Response by poster: Will a Forester get out of its own way with the wussy engine, or do you realistically need the turbo?

Thanks, bonehead. I'm still collating, as Ash would say, and haven't gone to actually look at any of them yet.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:08 AM on June 13, 2005

The turbo is fantastic, but from what I remember of the test drive, the regular engine had a good amount of power to it as well.

Especially if you get the manual, as you can control the performance quite a bit more.

As I said above, we're very happy with the Forester and can recommend it without hesitation. Give it a test drive and see what you think.
posted by freshgroundpepper at 10:39 AM on June 13, 2005

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