I need a new car. Difficulty level: car(!), awkward cargo
June 14, 2021 1:02 PM   Subscribe

We (MrR and I) have recently begun the search for a new car. We will be buying a new car, because I want to keep it for at least a decade. We'd prefer something predominantly US-built (I know this includes some foreign nameplates). We'd like a hybrid (pure EVs are not an option - I don't want the 600mile trip to see my mother turn into an epic 24hour charge station-to-charge station quest). What are we looking for?

We'd hoped to be able to just buy the newest model of the car I drive now (a Ford Fusion), but they stopped making it. :(
- large, flat, cargo space (I regularly haul a 50"x23"x18" instrument case); if not a trunk then a cargo lid is a necessity. The case fits just fine in the trunk of the Fusion. It'd be terrific if I didn't have to drop a seat back to fit the case in. (No trucks - the instrument will bounce around, and will freeze in the winter.)
- durable. I want to keep the vehicle for at least 10 years, 15 would be nice. (So far, the Fusion has needed nothing other than regular maintenance (brakes, tires, oil changes, etc) and factory recalls. It just rolled over 200K miles.)
- a reasonable lack of road/wind noise. MrR's Escape is too noisy

I really do not want a minivan (we don't need that much space) or an SUV (most are too noisy). So far, we are looking at the Camry Hybrid and the Accord Hybrid. (Fusion Hybrid, Bolt, Prius, and Tesla will not work.) Are we missing anything?

We live in a major metropolitan area and have access to just about every brand sold in the US. (A friend suggested Hyundai, but my impression is that Hyundais don't last for 10 years as a general thing. I could be wrong.) Nothing from GM or Fiat/Chrysler/Jeep or Volkswagen for Reasons.
posted by jlkr to Shopping (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I like my Prius Prime - you'd have to fold down a seat, but otherwise, I think your instrument would fit.
posted by rw at 1:05 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]

If your only complaint with SUVs is the noise, check out the Toyota Rav4 Prime (or even just the hybrid). We got the Prime - plug-in electric hybrid, and it's perfect for predominantly city driving (all-electric for around 40 miles) with the hybrid as a backup for longer trips (~550 miles with a full tank of gas, not counting the electric-only miles). In electric mode, it's silent, and in hybrid mode it's quiet like a hybrid, not noisy like a gas engine.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:14 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]

A friend suggested Hyundai, but my impression is that Hyundais don't last for 10 years as a general thing. I could be wrong.

They rolled out that 10 year 100,000 mile warranty like 20 years ago without collapsing, so they’re doing OK. We had one for like 13 years, and it was still running when we replaced it.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 1:22 PM on June 14

Response by poster: Not to thread-sit, but the noise problem with most SUVs is road/wind noise, not engine noise.
posted by jlkr at 1:26 PM on June 14

I just got a hybrid Kia Niro and love it. It's technically an SUV, but it's a very small SUV - it feels more like a wagon to me than an SUV or crossover. You would need to drop a seat for the instrument case. It's rated 47/51 mpg and has an 11.9 gallon tank, so you'll need to pee before you need fuel on a road trip. I have not noticed excessive road noise, but I'm used to a 2012 Prius C, so your mileage may vary. I think it's worth a test drive for you. :)
posted by joycehealy at 1:38 PM on June 14 [3 favorites]

They rolled out that 10 year 100,000 mile warranty like 20 years ago without collapsing

In my looks at Hyundai, the 100k mile warranty doesn't actually cover very much. It's mostly engine components that if they don't last 100k miles in 2021, it's a seriously terrible car.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:21 PM on June 14

Just to open your options up a bit, and I know this is opposed to what you said: you may want to reconsider your hard rejection of BEVs. Many makes are introducing BEVs with 250-300 mile range, like, say, VW or Hyundai. Here's what they say about charging the Hyundai:
It has been designed with an 800 V electrical architecture, which means it can recharge the battery pack from 10-80 percent in 18 minutes when connected to an 800 V, 350 kW DC fast charger. However, E-GMP also supports the more common 400 V, 150 kW chargers with no additional hardware. Hyundai will include two years (from the date of purchase) of unlimited 30-minute DC fast charging sessions at Electrify America stations.
The VW ID.4 doesn't charge as fast, but it's still respectable: "A DC fast charger takes just 38 minutes to charge the ID.4 from five percent to 80 percent, at a maximum of 125 kW." Also VW's included charging package is three years, not two.

Even assuming you'd have to to make two 30-ish-minute stops on a 600 mile trip, in ten hours of driving that seems reasonable to me. Personally I'd want to stop twice even with two drivers trading off, and without the need for a forced charging break, just to eat and pee and stretch my legs a bit.

BEVs are something to consider seriously now.
posted by fedward at 3:54 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]

Hyundai/Kia are equally reliable now as the major Japanese brands.

Mazda has now passed Toyota/Lexus as most reliable brand on Consumer Reports’ annual survey for the last two years. But they just discontinued the car you’d want (the 6). You can get one cheaper now as result. It’s a fine competitor with Accord and Camry.

The Camry and Accord are rock solid as ever and will easily give you that decade of service if maintained to schedule. And because even now no one wants a sedan anymore, you may even be able to find one that costs less than MSRP.

I’d go Camry hybrid. It does everything you need while calling absolutely no attention to itself or the driving experience. It’s a rock and gets great mileage.
posted by spitbull at 4:31 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]

If you really want a gas powered mid-sized non-luxury sedan for the long haul — the next decade — buy one in the next year or two. They’re dropping like flies. The segment just fell 20% over the last two years to its lowest rate in decades at 9%. They will quickly start to disappear from the US market, except in luxury models, where higher profit margins make smaller volumes economically feasible for automakers.

By the way a Mazda6 (see above) shares a deep lineage with the Ford Fusion you like. They both began as the Mazda 626, then the Ford Probe, then the Mazda 6/Ford Fusion (early models) before they parted corporate ways completely.
posted by spitbull at 4:52 PM on June 14

Another vote to just get a Camry Hybrid and call it a day. It’ll be fine. Camrys excel at being fine.
posted by rockindata at 6:12 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]

I was shocked to find a 2013 Prius-V that fits all those needs! Canada stopped importing them for the regular Prius, but I'm not sure about the US.
posted by itsflyable at 7:56 PM on June 14

Response by poster: fedward The problem with an EV isn't the range. It's that there are no charging stations along anything resembling a plausible route to Mum's. (MrR poked the endpoints into PlugShare and the best route was 24 hours start to finish, and went about 600 miles out of the way.)
posted by jlkr at 8:16 PM on June 14

As much as I recommend the Toyota, be aware that the company has donated to Republican congresspersons who didn’t vote to certify the presidential election *since* 1/6. And toyota also supported the Trump admin attempt to roll back California emissions and mileage standards. Thus, while they still make fine vehicles (however nowhere near as superior as the average metafilter car thread consensus seems to be, Toyota is not significantly more reliable than any mainstream Japanese or Korean brand in the modern era), I heartily recommend looking at a Kia Optima/Hyundai Sonata. Numerous friends have bought those over the last couple of years, and I’ve driven quite a few of them. They are really just as good as Honda/Toyota/Mazda/etc, still a slight bit cheaper per feature and class. Their dealers suck (so do most dealers, but Kia/Hyundai is notoriously bad) but the cars are good stuff. I wouldn’t hesitate at all to promise a decade of service from one that’s well maintained, likely a good bit longer. And yes the ten year/100k warranty only attaches to the initial new purchaser (can’t be transferred on a used one) and “only covers the powertrain.” The powertrain is what you care about! Everything else will be fine, and Korean galvanized steel is as rust resistant as anyone’s — some say it’s the best. Although you’re likely to get a non-union American built one anyway. The drivetrains of modern Hyundai/Kia cars are tried and tested — their engineering is conservative if anything — and I would call them mostly rock solid. They’re later to hybrid technology but I’ve seen no issues with the hybrid sedans.

Also in my experience an Optima/Sonata is the quietest midsized sedan for road and wind noise, since that matters to you.

You really can’t go massively wrong buying a consumer commuter midsized sedan, even the few American models left. These days the vast majority of cars are reliable as long as they are not driven abusively and — this is critically important — they are maintained exactly to manufacturer’s schedule. Nothing matters more to longevity and durability now. Nothing.
posted by spitbull at 7:31 AM on June 15

The powertrain is what you care about! Everything else will be fine

That makes no sense. If everything else on the car will be fine, why not just cover it with the same power train warranty? Hint: it won't. And plenty of parts inside the car cost as much to repair as engine components.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:27 AM on June 15

And your example of something likely to fail that costs more than the engine (about $4000-5000 on a midsized sedan, OEM new replacement) and transmission (about $2000-2500) is what now?

Other than body or frame damage from a wreck, which of course no warranty will cover, nothing else in a modern internal combustion car comes near the cost of replacing the engine and transmission, also known as “the powertrain” or “drivetrain.” Not the sensors, not the ECU, not the exhaust system (even including a catalytic converter), not the brakes or fuel or steering systems or air conditioning etc. None of that gets near the powertrain replacement cost.

And if your motor and transmission make it to 100k, which they almost certainly will on any modern commodity car that is properly maintained, most of your other systems will make it too.

Go ahead and look up what warranty services most cars ever require. And the vast majority of cars only come with a 3 year/36k or more rarely 5/50 warranty. No company warranties your brake lines or wheel bearings for 100k.

I actually do know what I’m talking about. Modern Japanese and Korean commodity commuter cars rarely ever have major failures before 100k (really before more than that) if properly maintained. But the only major failure that will actually break you is engine or transmission.
posted by spitbull at 3:43 PM on June 15

And I’ll put a Hyundai Sonata up against a Toyota Camry exposed to the same conditions any day. The real world differences are small enough that they’re nearly statistical noise. Cars are made by automated processes now. Engineering is very advanced. Other than one-off lemons, which happen with any brand, no modern Japanese or Korean branded commodity commuter car on the market has a particularly poor record. Individual brands have had their issues — Subaru with head gaskets, for example — and they are almost always covered by extended service warranties and bulletins when there is a model-wide issue anymore. The last really widespread issue to affect multiple brands — and entirely covered by manufacturers since its emergence — is the massive Takata airbag recall.

I’m a decent amateur mechanic, and my current two vehicles combine for 320,000 miles and 30 years of service. Both are Mazdas. Neither has ever needed a single major repair that wasn’t wear and tear. Both get maintained to the very letter of their manufacturer spec. I’m like that. A 100k warranty is a gimmick anyway. Hyundai/Kia offered it to overcome a reputation for low quality that hasn’t been true in 15 or more years. The odds are extremely high you’ll never need it if you take care of your car.

This isn’t the 1990s. A lot of metafilter automotive discourse is unnecessarily fearful.
posted by spitbull at 3:54 PM on June 15

RepairPal uses repair cost to rank the reliability of new cars. They rank the Sonata 5th and the Camry 3d for 2020 models (Sonata is redesigned for 2021 however) both with 4 stars and “above average” reliability.

Overall Hyundai/Kia (and Honda/Acura and Mazda) beat Toyota/Lexus across their offerings, by the way.

They also point out that the bumper to bumper warranty on a Hyundai is 5 years or 60k miles, at the upper end of the industry standard, and here’s the thing: major flaws in the design of a new model or problems with a particular vehicle that are due to manufacturer screwup will almost always occur before the first few years. Out beyond 5 years/60k no competing brand is covering your full powertrain at all, or anything else. So it’s not that Hyundai/Kia don’t offer a comparable warranty to everyone else. They offer one of the better initial b-to-b warranties, then they tack on 5 years and 40k more miles of guaranty on the most expensive systems in the car. It’s a genuinely good deal, if one that will mostly help you sleep better rather than ever being used.
posted by spitbull at 5:21 PM on June 15

Oh and these statistics are the reason, by the way, why Consumer Reports recommends you NEVER spring for ANY of the “extended warranty” coverage offerings they’ll hard sell you on when you are closing the deal on a new and reliable model. A total profit center for dealers, who know how unlikely major warranty claims are.
posted by spitbull at 5:24 PM on June 15

I don't want the 600mile trip to see my mother turn into an epic 24hour charge station-to-charge station quest).

(MrR poked the endpoints into PlugShare and the best route was 24 hours start to finish, and went about 600 miles out of the way.)

Your numbers don't add up. You are saying that a 600 mile trip would be 1200 miles in an EV.

In 2018 or 2019, sure, but in 2021? Highly unlikely.

I wonder if MrR poked inappropriately? For example, looking at Tesla Superchargers, the worst state in the USA is North Dakota, which only has 4. But North Dakota is only 320x200 miles in size, and I'm quite skeptical you could have a trip in ND in a Tesla which included 600 extra miles of driving for a 600 mile tip.

Are you sure your numbers are right?
posted by soylent00FF00 at 5:26 PM on June 15

Response by poster: Comments:
- 100K is dead minimum. I drive about 15K a year, I want the car to last at least 10 years
- In general, sedans are quieter than SUVs, until you get into luxury SUVs. Any non-budget sedan will likely be acceptable.
- Systems other than powertrain that fail and cost real money to replace? Brakes. (The brake lines on the 2005 Malibu rusted out at 120K, we sold it for salvage because that would have cost at least $2000 to replace.) Master cylinders/brake control units aren't cheap, either. And there's a lot more to a car than powertrain - the Malibu was a beater at 10years/75K (the seats were flat, the radio got two stations, the mirror controls didn't, the interior was falling apart, the trunk release sometimes worked, etc), although the powertrain was good. I want my new car to be decent at 10 years.
- soylent00FF00 It's entirely possible that MrR messed up the poking in of destinations or route restrictions. The fact remains that a pure EV will turn a 600 mile/10 hour drive to my mother (who is 90) into a much longer trip, and if I must go to her, I won't have that kind of time.
posted by jlkr at 11:53 PM on June 15

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