What car should I get?
February 16, 2015 2:41 PM   Subscribe

It is approaching time to replace my beloved 2001 VW Diesel Bug. What should I drive next? There's a nice snowstorm under the cut.

My beloved 2001 VW Diesel Bug is falling apart; I am passing the point of "cheaper to repair than replace". Additionally, my life has grown since I got her, and she just doesn't fit my life anymore. But I'm stymied about what to replace her with, so I cast myself upon Mefi for suggestions.

Considerations for a car, roughly in order:

- holds people: My wife is 6 foot tall, and has been game about fitting into the Bug, but it is not comfortable for her. Her girlfriend is over 6 foot tall. I need to be able to carry people around (and thus, I’m looking for something with 4 doors. Folks are tired of doing gymnastics to get into the back seat of the Bug. :) )

- easy to get into: My mother’s mobility is fading, and while she’s game about riding in the Bug, she has to pretty much fall into the seat, and getting out is a struggle.

- holds stuff: we like road trips. Something that can hold us, our stuff, and the world’s most adorable dog in his crate (obligatory picture) would be ideal. I need to be able to haul my mother’s wheelchair in and out of the vehicle easily as well (she can walk, but needs the chair for longer distances). Unless the trunk is large, this is easier to do in a hatchback/wagon/van.

-cost: This is flexible and questionable, depending on what my financial circumstances do this summer, so let’s go with under 20k-ish for now, since I’m just in the information gathering stages.

- MPG: I’m likely going to have to punt here; not much that meets the above requirements is likely to get the MPG that the Bug got when she was running well. I’d like to get over 20, and over 30 would be awesome. (I’m used to buying diesel, so what idea of what fuel costs is calibrated up, anyhow).

- I’m likely going to buy an automatic (wife has a bad right shoulder) unless I run across a deal I just can’t pass up in a stick.

- As small as possible, given the above considerations: I rented a car to go to Indiana last Labor Day weekend, and got given a Town and Country minivan. I was not a happy camper (the rental dude: “You can drive the party bus this weekend!” Nooooo.)

Minor considerations: bluetooth and a decent sound system, but I can aftermarket those.

Considerations I don’t have to worry about: driving in the snow (I’m lucky enough to have a job where I get to stay home when it snows; if wife ends up essential personnel after grad/professional school, we’ll look at a truck for her then); kids.

The unicorns currently under consideration:

the new Honda Fit: good MPG (fuel economy.gov reports 33/41, dealership dude said he touches 50 with the eco options, FWIW), cargo space, mom was able to get in and out of one easily, wife fits in the front and back comfortably. Not cheap, but could be worse price wise, depending on which model I get.

Mazda 5: mom gets in and out of this super easy and really really loves it. I have some dear friends who have one, and he (a large tower of an Eastern European dude) fits into it easily, which means that wife and GF would. The puppy’s crate fits into it easily with the third set of seats down. I could carry people and stuff. The sliding side doors make it easy to get in and out of. It’s a van, but drove like a car for me. Crappier gas mileage (fueleconomy.gov says 22/28), but realistically that’s still cheaper than flying to Indiana to see my bestie. Potentially cheaper than the Fit, depending on what year I get.

Dearest hivemind, what other vehicles should I be considering? Thank you!
posted by joycehealy to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total)
I got half way through and was shouting, FIT! Husbunny, who is 6 ft LOVES his, all kinds of head room. Great on gas, easy to park, cheap to repair. Holds its value.

I like that you can configure the seats easily and haul whatever. Puppy should love it.

I like the features you get in a Fit.

My bestie just got a Mazda 5 and she loves it! It's a much larger vehicle.

I will say that you should maybe buy the car you like most for your daily commute.

FWIW, I LOVE the Town and Country for long trips. The gas mileage sucks so hard, but we go on trips with 5 people and it's just great for 4 adults and a teenager. We put the kiddo in the far back with her books, tablet, videos, head phones, etc. We listen to Sirius and chat. So fun!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:48 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I reckon it's off the list because of the price tag ($22k to start), but a 2015 Golf TDI is a great car with a great transmission. It's also going to feel like a damn rocket ship if you drive it back to back with your current TDI :)
posted by ftm at 2:54 PM on February 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm 6'4" and I don't have any problems with a 2012 VW Golf or my old 2005 VW Jetta Wagon. Most modern VWs have adjustable seats so you can crank them up and down. My 6'4" teenage son fits in the backseat of the Golf fine. So if you like your VW, you can keep your (new) VW. Apparently the Jetta wagon is going to be replaced by a 2015 Golf Wagon and while there are reviews of it, it's apparently not yet for sale, so who knows what the price will be. We've loved our Jetta Wagon. Maybe try to find a 2013 or 2012 used Jetta Wagon in good shape? I bought both my cars used and I didn't have any surprises.

That said, I have friends who have a Mazda 5 and it is good compromise between a minivan form factor and a station wagon size.

Don't buy a minivan. They're terrible in many ways with their only positive being that they're spacious.
posted by GuyZero at 3:05 PM on February 16, 2015

Going to make a semi left field suggestion and say Subaru Forester. I learned to drive on a 1st gen one, and a friend of mine has the very newest generation(i believe a '14). It still has awesome headroom, is easy to drive, etc... but now the interior is WAY nicer and the dashboard looks like something from star trek TNG(bluetooth phone audio, etc).

My dads one is approaching 250k miles and is still doing ok, with no major screwups or even major maintenance required through that time. Does it feel a bit like a grey nosed dog? Yea, but it just... wont die, or break in any not-worth-it- way yet. I also drove my dog around in it for years, and he loved it. The back area is so tall and just generally spacious for how small the car is. It's also the easiest car to park i've ever driven, which i think is a combo of seating position and window placement.

Gas mileage isn't incredibly, as subaru has never really been tier 1 on that point... but it's decent, and the newer ones are better. It's not amazing like a fit, but it's just a more comfortable car that will much more comfortable fit a wheelchair or a dog crate. It's also just... nice to drive. I completely understand why people fangirl over these cars.

Oh, and like the honda, subarus hold value incredibly well. A used several year old one will cost almost as much as a new one, and even my dads olddd one would still be worth an amount that shocked me if we hadn't put so many miles on it.

Also, and i don't know how much you care about this... but the automatic transmission is brilliant. I hate the one in my partners newer nissan, and have driven or ridden in many cars with blatantly frustrating ones that don't kick down when they should, or shift up inexplicably and kill your acceleration. The subaru is crisp, and only shifts when it makes sense. A+.

Don't buy a new VW. They're not any better, and if anything worse when it comes to random BS repairs. My uncle traded his in after maybe 3 years around 2010 because he was so frustrated with the stupid problems, and that is not an uncommon story. He had a golf TDI 4 door, like what was suggested to you... and got in it one day to find it full of water from either a failed sunroof drain or a bad seal, on a two year old car! The dealer basically just went "oh, heh, yea that happens once in a while..." and that was the tip of the iceberg. Nope. If you search through ask, you'll find plenty of other people going "NOT A NEW VW NO".
posted by emptythought at 3:08 PM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was next to a new Ford C-Max today and was surprised by how roomy it looked. I'm also a 6 foot tall woman who hates being squished in a tiny car. It didn't look like I would have had to squish to fit in the C-Max.
posted by cecic at 3:17 PM on February 16, 2015

Your wife might not fit in the front of the Fit with the back seats down. It pushes the front seat forward and makes it tight for me.

Other tall person approves cars you might consider include:
Toyota Rav4. Like the Tardis, impossibly large inside.
Toyota Matrix. 4 6 footers will fit easily. Not super zippy and a bit plastic-y inside but a solid car.
VW Passat.
Volvo wagon, probably used in your price range but huge without being a van and nicely appointed.
posted by fshgrl at 5:06 PM on February 16, 2015

I was checking out the Honda Fit just yesterday. The LX with automatic transmission will cost $19,400 to drive it off the lot; the EX is about $2,000 more. Next weekend I'll be visiting the Subaru dealer to check out the Impreza, which is just a smidge more than the Fit EX. I love Honda but I think but the color options are totally uninspired. The Impreza appears to be a little bigger than the Fit and I like the Jasmine Green color!
posted by kbar1 at 5:11 PM on February 16, 2015

I had a Honda Fit that got totaled in a car accident a year ago and loved it so much that when I got the insurance payout I turned right around and got another one. They are AWESOME for being small, efficient cars that pack in a ton of cargo space. NB: it turned out that it was about 3k cheaper to buy it in Georgia than it was in Texas, for reasons that are unknown to me at the moment. I had snowflake reasons that would have let me buy it in either place equally well, but if you also have travely snowflake reasons this might be an option--well, maybe look into that?
posted by sciatrix at 5:47 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

We own a Mazda 5 and love it. Fits in all parking spaces, comfy to drive, has a mature drivetrain, great reliability for us in Denver winters, and either a 3rd row of seats or a ginormous rear trunk. To the world its a Micro-van but in America it's just a small mini-van, only the Ford C-max is similar but is much smaller inside.

We have two kids and grandparents, so we can seat six when we need it. It's really easy to get in and out of the second row with the sliding doors. This is a huge benefit when getting in and out in parking.

Also Mazda has the same quality (according to Consumer Reports) as Toyota and Honda, but without the price bump. In our neighborhood most people have full minivans, or sport-wagons, and it is a happy medium for us. The minivans are wider and longer, and the sport-wagons all have roof storage to hold what people need.
posted by nickggully at 6:26 PM on February 16, 2015

For others, you might look at the Jetta TDI if you want a similar feel and lack of spark plugs as the Golf. Prius V is a large station wagon. Subaru Forrester has high ground clearance and a large cargo compartment.
posted by nickggully at 6:33 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Love our 2013 Passat SE TDI; not a damn thing has gone wrong with it. It gets 50 mpg on the highway. It starts easily down to 4 degrees F, and slightly less easily below that. It fits three kids across the back, and a six-one passenger in the front regularly. The early-2000s reliability problems seem to be a thing of the past. It's a workhorse and ps the sound system is awesome.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:36 PM on February 16, 2015

Also check out the Jetta Sportwagen; that was our second choice, but we took 3 car seats over cargo space.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:37 PM on February 16, 2015

I'm 6'6" and I feel like I have a ton of room in the previous gen diesel Golf.

But generally speaking, things are just way better for tall people buying cars than they were in 2001. I've done a lot of renting lately, and I can't remember the last time I had a problem. Ford Fiesta? No problem. Fiat 500? The seating position is weird, but it fits OK and is fun to drive. Hyundai Accent? Enough room and better sorted than I ever expected a base Hyundai to be. Chevy Sonic? Good fit, and so, so much better than I ever thought I'd see in a low end Chevy.

I'd give the Ford Focus and Fiesta a look. The Chevy Sonic is a bit smallish and silly looking, but might do. All of them are a bit plasticky inside (one of the things the Golf has totally spoiled me for).
posted by wotsac at 10:39 PM on February 16, 2015

Seconding the Subaru Forester or, if you want something that looks more car-like, the Liberty/Legacy wagon. Reliable, tough, spacious, Forester is easy to get in/out because of the seat height and (particularly the Liberty/Legacy), superbly well-balanced and pleasant to drive.
posted by dg at 2:15 AM on February 17, 2015

Thirding the Subaru Forester. I recently bought an Outback, basically the same thing but not as conveniently tall. I love it. Seems to fit your criteria.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:42 AM on February 17, 2015

Was going to suggest a Subaru Forester or Outback. The Outback is a little smaller but has a nicer and quieter cabin.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:24 AM on February 17, 2015

I love my Mazda 3 Sport. My 6 foot 4 inch boyfriend fits into it no problem.
posted by rpfields at 11:36 AM on February 17, 2015

I got half way through and was shouting, FIT! Husbunny, who is 6 ft LOVES his, all kinds of head room.
I'm 6'2" and mostly leg. I loathe my girlfriend's Fit. She thinks there is plenty room and at 5'6" there is ... if the driver's seat is all the way back. Where does that leave someone eight inches taller to go? Nowhere -- knee and ankle cramps within 10 minutes. Oddly, my Mini Cooper had more leg room than her Fit did ... but then again I could also put the driver's seat so far back it touched the rear passenger seat.
I'm 6'4" and I don't have any problems with a 2012 VW Golf or my old 2005 VW Jetta Wagon. Most modern VWs have adjustable seats so you can crank them up and down. My 6'4" teenage son fits in the backseat of the Golf fine. So if you like your VW, you can keep your (new) VW. Apparently the Jetta wagon is going to be replaced by a 2015 Golf Wagon and while there are reviews of it, it's apparently not yet for sale, so who knows what the price will be.
I'll jump on the VW bus (hah!) too. I love my 2011 GTI (same interior room, etc. as a the 2012 Golf mentioned above, different engine) and fit so well I don't even need to put the driver's seat all the way back. I can also fit in the back seat of my car too.

As for the Jetta wagon being replaced by a Golf wagon, everywhere but the US, it was called the Golf wagon (I mean, look at it, it's a Golf in the front with a longer body in the rear ... but the same wheelbase as the Golf). Cite. As for reviews, things might be a bit different because the entire Golf line (Golf, GTI, wagon, TDI, eGolf, etc.) just got updated to the MQB platform and a few other changes so now they're all MkVIIs. (But everything I've read on the GTI side said improvements all around.)
posted by Brian Puccio at 11:11 AM on February 18, 2015

Thanks, everyone!
posted by joycehealy at 2:54 PM on March 1, 2015

« Older What car is this?   |   Pickles that rise like the Phoenix Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.