Help me stop researching and finally buy a car
April 18, 2019 6:11 AM   Subscribe

I have been overanalyzing what car to buy for months and could use some advice.

I've driven my current car, a Honda Accord, for almost 20 years, and it's been very reliable. However, from the moment I bought it, it felt too big. I'd like something slightly smaller.

Here's what I'm looking for:
- Comfortably fit my tall family of 3 (partner is 6'4")
- Reliable
- Under $20K (open to used but not sure it makes sense given how long I keep cars)
- Good gas mileage
- Easy to park
- Good safety ratings

My commute is around 20 minutes. We go camping a a couple times a year, but nowhere that's particularly remote. We also live somewhere where it snows a couple times a year.

Cars I've considered:
- Honda Fit
- Subaru Impreza
- Honda HR-V
- Kia Soul

I'm learning toward the Honda Fit but would really appreciate advice. I'm kind of frozen in the analysis stage right now. If you have one of these cars, I'd love to hear how you like it. I'm especially interested in hearing how reliable your car is and whether you think it's worth getting the extra safety packages.
posted by JuliaKM to Shopping (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Try out a Honda Civic hatchback and a Toyota Corolla hatchback. The newest Corolla is a much better car than previous and now includes a hatchback body style for the US market. Both these cars will be much nicer - quieter, better ride, safer - than the Honda Fit for only a few thousand more. Between the Civic and the Corolla, it's a matter of preference.
posted by everythings_interrelated at 6:20 AM on April 18, 2019

I have a Honda Fit and I love it and it's been very reliable (and talk about easy to park!), but I'm not sure whether it would be comfortable for someone your partner's height.

My partner just bought a Hyundai Kona. It's a great car - comfortable, great safety ratings, good gas mileage, fun to drive, good storage for camping. We went to a dealership that participated in a Costco prearranged pricing program and got the car for well under MSRP.
posted by coppermoss at 6:21 AM on April 18, 2019

Best answer: Assuming y'all fit comfortably, you literally cannot go wrong with the Fit or HRV.
posted by ftm at 6:24 AM on April 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

Between the Civic and the Corolla, it's a matter of preference

Whatever you end up considering, have your tall partner sit in it first. The newest models may be different, but the previous versions of the Civic and Corolla were noticeably different in interior space (with more room for tall people in the Civic).

It's an irritating process, but it also lets you eliminate a lot of cars right off the bat -- there are plenty that may look great on paper, without actually fitting the tallest person in the family very well.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:25 AM on April 18, 2019

I had a Kia Soul for about 5 years and really liked it, but it's a smaller car than it seems to be (I'm always hauling around set pieces and furniture for theater, and everything is just a smidge too large to fit into the Soul) and it's a lot louder inside when you're driving than other cars on your list.

On the upside, though, a basic model you can get brand-new for under $20K (or at least you could in my area when I went looking last September) and they do drive really well for a long time with minimal maintenance.
posted by xingcat at 6:26 AM on April 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have all Subarus and have had great reliability and experience with them all. I am tall 6-1, as are all 3 of my sons, and they all fit comfortably in an Outback and Forester. The one son has a Legacy. I have not been in an imprezza.

But - if you go used, Subaru will give you the best quality/reliability. 2 of the 5 I have own were used, and they went into the +200k mile range before I turned them in. I have a 2010 outback bought new that is up to 180k and going strong.
posted by rich at 6:34 AM on April 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Do you live somewhere with winter weather? Of the ones I've driven (not current models), Corollas are way better on snow and ice than Civics are. My sister-in-law traded her Fit in after her first winter with it.
posted by Kriesa at 6:41 AM on April 18, 2019

I'm slightly taller than your partner and found the Fit to be suprisingly roomy for it's compct size. But it's a vehicle that you'll want to swap out for snow tires each season. I also fit well in the Soul. I have and love my sweet Honda Element, but they are only available used and I wouldn't consider it to be a small vehicle. Subaru is a good choice for fit and build quality, but new usually well over 20k. Best luck in search!
posted by enfa at 7:26 AM on April 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've had my Soul for 5+ years and although I love it for the price, I have zero allusions that it's capable of lasting 20 years. I mean it's fine... but it's just not gonna get there. If that sort of longevity is your criteria, I'd definitely go for a Honda or the Subaru.
posted by cgg at 7:42 AM on April 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

My husband and I are both tall (6'3" for him and 6'0" for me). He fit fine in the Fit - I didn't because I'm all legs. He doesn't care to drive my Civic because he feels like the configuration he needs for his height doesn't work well for him.

Go sit in all of them and go from there.
posted by skittlekicks at 7:44 AM on April 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

On the winter driving thing: I live somewhere hilly and snowy. I used to drive a Fit, I now drive a Subaru Outback, and I looked hard at an HRV before buying the Outback. I'd say HRV unless you live somewhere very warm or urban, in which case the Fit would be fine. Don't do the Impreza; if you do a lot of driving in really bad conditions, get a used Outback or Forester from a recent model year (after they dealt with the head gasket issues).

I loved my Fit and with snow tires it did surprisingly well on paved, plowed roads. I was perfectly happy with it when I lived in town and took mostly short trips. Had to switch when I moved out of town due to the low ground clearance and poor performance on steep, snowy hills and mud. I would have switched to the HRV if I lived somewhere with less crappy roads--it's a lot easier to park and the AWD and ground clearance are perfectly adequate for most placed--but I went with the Subaru because of its performance on uneven/gravel roads, deep snow, and mixed terrain (like early spring when the gravel roads are half snow, half mud).

I test drove an Impreza and wasn't impressed. At all. It felt smaller on the inside than the Fit and HRV and its reliability ratings aren't nearly as good as a Honda's. If your family of three includes a kid in a car seat, bring the car seat when you test drive it. I found it hard to get a kid in/out of the back of the Impreza without hitting my head repeatedly, and I'm a LOT shorter than your husband.
posted by xylothek at 7:51 AM on April 18, 2019

Best answer: My husband is 6' 6" and can comfortably drive our Fit.

That being said (and I realize I'm in the minority here) we both really hate our Fit. It for sure meets your guidelines, but the road noise is SO LOUD and we've had a series of weird small problems with it it (the latch on the back hatch sticks and occasionally we can't open the hatch, something in the dash makes an "ice cubes in a plastic glass" noise, random trim pieces have broken off inside, a seatbelt latch broke, etc.) that are frustrating.

Mechanically it has been nothing but reliable. But it is a deeply unpleasant space to ride in, particularly on long trips.
posted by anastasiav at 7:51 AM on April 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

What have you test-driven?

It sounds like you keep cars a long time. I recommend a used Toyota Prius. They're fine in snow, great with snow tires. Routinely go well over 250K miles, save gasoline, and much larger than you think. Great for camping because in a Toyota hybrid, you can use 12V stuff and it runs off the storage battery, *not* the starting battery.

And your environmental impact will be reduced.
posted by theora55 at 8:12 AM on April 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Is there a reason you're not considering a Corolla? Fits your criteria (no pun intended), and I love mine. I'm only 5'11", but it has noticeably more headroom than some other cars I've rented (e.g. Jetta).

At this point, though, you've narrowed down your list enough that it's time to just go out and test drive. That's how you'll make your final decision: You can read all you like, but until you sit behind the wheel, you won't actually know, and it might surprise you. My wife was all set to purchase a Subaru Forrester based on her research, and went with a Toyota RAV-4 instead after test driving.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:28 AM on April 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Tall people and cars are complicated... I’m short with my own set of problems, but my 6'4" SO is fine driving most cars (loves our Prius), yet my 6'0" friend complained he couldn't even get all the way into the driver's seat of the Fit. I suspect body proportion is at play here, as well as driving style.
posted by serelliya at 8:40 AM on April 18, 2019

Best answer: Here's a possible method to use. YMMV. (*chuckle*)

If you *have* gone to the dealerships, and had everyone sit in all the cars, then you should have most of the information that you need. Exclude anything that involves the word "uncomfortable" for any of the three of you.

Then, if the price is better on one of them, you can use that as your differentiator. (For me, very few things rank above price.)

If you're still undecided, and the prices are too similar to write off all but one, then go with your gut and get the Honda Fit.
posted by Citrus at 8:57 AM on April 18, 2019

Honestly, the thing to do is for you and your partner to go out, try these out, maybe try some other ones out, and that is likely to help you organize your thoughts quite a bit. As a big, tall guy, I remember that the last time I really did a shop, I discovered things like the Mini being long enough, but having no room for my left arm, the Accord of the era being a wall of undifferentiated plastic buttons that I found gross, and though I didn't consider the Golf before, it turned out to be spacious and friendly in a way that I really liked.
posted by wotsac at 9:03 AM on April 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'd add crash test safety and headlights to the list, since you keep cars for years. Honda Fit (headlights: marginal), Honda HRV (headlights: acceptable), Subaru Impreza (headlights: good, the highest rating) and Kia Soul (headlights: good). But the Kia Soul does not get the highest rating for passenger side crashes.
posted by MichelleinMD at 9:16 AM on April 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Those all look a bit small for the described inhabitants except maybe the HRV. Outback and Forester match but are probably too expensive. Toyota RAV 4 or Highlander might do it.
posted by w0mbat at 9:29 AM on April 18, 2019

I absolutely loved my Kia Soul. It was great on gas and incredibly fun to drive. We live in a place where it can often snow quite a bit and I never had trouble with it in the snow (had good winter tires). It also has pretty reasonable ground clearance compared to other compacts.

We also do a lot of camping and that is where the Soul was not so great. It was fine when it was just my wife and I, because we could fold down the back seats. But once our daughter came along it got really hard to pack our gear. We don't pack particularly heavily, either, but once you've got a cooler and a tent in there, the truck space is almost entirely used up. If you get one with a roof rack (or, like us, find an after-market solution), then you'll be OK.
posted by asnider at 10:19 AM on April 18, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks for all the ideas! I'm going to take another look at the HR-V and get my family to sit in the HR-V and Fit. If those don't work, you've given me great ideas on where to look next.

We have done some test drives:

- Overall fit was good in the model without the sunroof
- Partner thought it didn't feel solid when driving

Honda Fit/HR-V
- I tested these alone and liked both

- Amazing car but our legs just don't fit well. If we were shorter, this would be my top pick.

- I did not like the rear visibility but loved everything else

We live in the South where it snows once a year and very few roads get plowed.
posted by JuliaKM at 10:29 AM on April 18, 2019

I scanned the above, would consider the following:
Hyundai Kona - top rated compact SUV, fun to drive.
2019 Toyota Yaris (the old Yaris sucked but the 2019 Yaris is a rebadged Mazda 2, an exceptional car. Used to be called the Yaris IA). A superb compact.
Kia Soul is a great car if the quirky aesthetic appeals to you.

I have a predilection for highly reliable, relatively fun, relatively economical to drive cars. I had a Honda Fit but I just hated the tin box feel especially at highway speeds and their safety ratings is descending.

The Kona and the 2019 Yaris I would say are must test drives based on your description.
posted by jcworth at 10:29 AM on April 18, 2019

You and your partner should also sit in the back seat if your third family member is an as-yet-not-full-grown offspring. With you and/or your partner as parents, s/he may be tall, and if you plan to keep the car long enough for your child to reach full height, take the spaciousness of the back seat into consideration.
posted by carmicha at 4:48 PM on April 18, 2019

- I did not like the rear visibility but loved everything else

I've had a Prius since Bush was president. Prius has great qualities but is bad in the snow.
posted by w0mbat at 11:06 AM on April 19, 2019

I love my Fit. But I do not love the back seat. You said your family is three people. If you have two tall people with the seat slid back as far as it goes, there is very little legroom in the back. Don't know if you considered that when you drove it.
posted by Stewriffic at 6:03 AM on April 20, 2019

Response by poster: Thank you for all the advice! We ended up getting a 2020 Kia Soul S and have really liked it so far. It's a comfortable ride and even the tallest person can ride in the back. We will see if it stands up over time. We got a really good deal and I am thinking that even if I replace it in 10 years, it will be worth it.

I was tempted by the HR-V but the LX interior felt very cheap and it was significantly more for the higher model with safety features. After months of researching Honda Fits, I drove one again and realized it just wasn't the right car for us.

We nearly switched to the Mazda CX-5 at the end but it was just too expensive.
posted by JuliaKM at 5:05 PM on April 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

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