Can a car matchmaker help me fix this mistake?
February 28, 2019 5:29 AM   Subscribe

I bought a Prius, not realizing how much the seat and area between the driver's and passenger's seats would annoy me. I also don't know a lot about current cars and am uncomfortable car shopping. Please review my Goldilocks/snowflake criteria below the fold and give me some alternatives to consider trading it in for, once the outside temps make test driving a less miserable thing.

My first car was a 1965 Comet. I love bench seats. Alas, those days are no more. Help me avoid the worst discomfort of the non-ergonomic, liability-minimizing seats car makers are using today.

The current car has the center console extending at too-high a height to the armrest between driver and passenger. There is a ridiculous niche underneath this 'bridge', no doubt designed by a non-purse carrying moron. I'd like a more open/accessible space over the ?drivetrain where I can set my purse.

Some other desirables:
• Definitely used, not new; models around 4-8 years old.
• 4-door, can have hatchback or trunk.
• Seats not too high, not too low-- from the ground especially (getting in and out) but also as much as possible from the vehicle floor as well.
• Handles decently in snow (actually the Prius is a little substandard here, too)
• Can take a trailer hitch (lightweight trailer for infrequent hauling of Stuff)
• Average to better-than-average gas mileage

Now let's bracket my wants with my unwants:
• No trucks, no SUVs.
(Hmm, I can't come up with any more, which makes my snowflake index fairly low, but I guess that's a good thing.)

Okay, please suggest any models you think might suit. TAI!
posted by dancing leaves to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
My beloved 2016 4-door Ford Fiesta would suit you other than the fact that it probably can't tow very much. Looking at the very similar but larger Focus, it seems that the middle bit is the same and a fine place to put your bag. That's a new model but they've been basically the same for a while now so 4-8 year old version would likely not vary much.
posted by cilantro at 7:07 AM on February 28, 2019

I think your best strategy is to visit a CarMax, and sit in All The Cars. They will be grouped by type of car, then sub-grouped by make, so you can see all the compacts, all the hybrids, all the midsize cars next to each other.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:26 AM on February 28, 2019 [4 favorites]

The 2013 Chevy Impala had a bench seat as an option. As you’ve found, bench seats are common in trucks these days but not in cars.
posted by w0mbat at 7:54 AM on February 28, 2019

We used a broker to narrow down our desired car, and he then helped us every step of the way thereafter (finding the exact right car, negotiating price, shipping, etc). If your budget allows for this, I highly recommend it. If you'd like a specific recommendation for who we used or more details, shoot me a memail.
posted by slipthought at 8:49 AM on February 28, 2019

Honda HRV? Subaru Impreza? You will typically trade "good in snow" for good gas mileage, although you can mitigate some of that with snow tires (we have winter tires for our Prius).
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:57 AM on February 28, 2019

The Toyota/Scion xD sits up just a bit higher than most cars - it's the perfect height. Great gas mileage. I don't believe it can tow, though. Handles well, and is quite nimble. Quite reliable too.

You might also look at the Subaru Crosstrek or their hatchback that's smaller than the Outback. These sit up a bit higher, and are all-wheel drive, so great in the snow. I believe some of them are also rated for towing.
posted by hydra77 at 9:16 AM on February 28, 2019

Any vehicle can be made to handle decently in the snow with the right tires. Ground clearance and the vehicles handling traits are a factor (along with AWD, traction control, etc.) but mainly it's the one part of your car that actually touches the road that determines how well it does in the snow.

In an ideal world you'll have one set of wheels with summer or all-season tires and a 2nd set with snow tires. Swapping tires each season can be hard on the tires and having the 2nd set lets you use a different size wheel/tire. People often use a smaller diameter wheel with a taller sidewall so the outside tire's diameter is about the same but the taller sidewalls let the tire flex more which improves ride and traction on uneven terrain (like deep snow).

Having just recently taken my own advice and installed snow tires on out most frequently driven car, I cannot emphasize enough how vast an improvement snow tires are over all-season tires. Driving on hard-packed snow-covered roads with the snow tires feels like the car has about as much traction as it did on cold but dry roads with the all-season tires.

I think most models will be a little bit too new to fit in your budget but there are a bunch of these weird car-cross-over SUVs that are very popular that check a lot of your boxes. They're a bit too tall to be considered a sedan but they're not really SUVs either. The Honda HR-V is a good example. The Mazda CX-3 might lean a bit too much towards the SUV end of the spectrum but it worth consideration. There are a couple of Subarus that fit the bill (and they've been making them long enough there should be decent used examples).
posted by VTX at 10:16 AM on February 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

I know you say no SUV, but how do you feel about CUV? Something like the Honda HRV, Mazda CX-3, etc. These two cars get good gas mileage by non-hybrid standards. I also find the seats more comfortable than my current car (a 2008 Honda Civic). I haven't tested it out, but they are supposed to give you better snow handling. They are also both available with AWD.

These cars are a little taller than a sedan, but I didn't find the HRV too high, and I'm quite short. They dimensions are comparable to my Honda Civic in terms of length and width.

One issue with these two cars is that they are relatively new models, so I'm not sure that you'll be able to find anything more than a few years old.

(I've sat in the Honda HRV, but not the CX-3. I really liked the seats in the Honda HRV, but I can't remember off the top of my head whether you'd be happy with potential purse placement, although I am a purse carrying person.)

(On preview, I see VTX also covered this.)
posted by litera scripta manet at 10:19 AM on February 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

2016 Chevy Sonic.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 3:12 PM on February 28, 2019

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