Best Transmission and Engine

Which midsize car that cost around $20,000 has the best 4 cyliner engine and tranmission? How does torque affect how long an engine will last? What factors indicate how durable a 4 cylinder is.

The major factor in durability of any engine–be it 4 cylinder, or 6 cylinder, or 8 cylinder–is the maintenance that it is given. Any modern engine is capable of going over 200,000 miles if the owner maintains it by the book (manufacturer’s maintenance schedule), or–even better–if he has it serviced more often than the manufacturer specifies.

Torque has everything to do with acceleration, but it has no bearing on how long an engine will last.

To compare midsize vehicles easily, pick up a copy of the Consumer Reports New Car Buyers Guide.

The best indicator of 4-cyl durability is history. Toyota and Honda have the best reputation for 4-cyl. But even with reputation, NOTHING BEATS PROPER MAINTENANCE. I’ve heard a lot about Fords, and they have a sketchy rep. But, I have a 2000 Explorer with 180,000 miles on it, and, with proper maintenance, have not had any problems or breakdowns in the last 5 years I’ve owned it. Our family has owned Fords, Cadillacs, Mazdas, Toyotas, Suzukis, and Infinitys. All have had over 200,000 miles before we trade up, and have rarely had breakdowns or expensive repairs, like blown engines or transmission failures. I remember one transmission failure on a '77 Thunderbird around 1984, and a thrown rod in an’81 Caddy that happened in '95. Other than that, fairly trouble free.

Define BEST.

For some it would mean most reliable, another the smoothest, you might want the most efficient, or longest life or …

I should add that having a great transmission and engine is of little good if the wheels fall off.

ALL the current midsize’s for $20k will last 150k-200k without any serious repair. Most even longer dependent on driving type, eg lots of miles/year on highways/country roads.

The key is maintaining them with proper fluid changes (oil, transmission, coolant) and driving reasonably.

Best engine and transmission combo would have to be the ubiquitous Chevy 350 SB with the TH 350 tranny. The Ford 460/C6 combo is also very stout.

If you?re after a midsized 4 banger, then the Accord and Camry are perennial favorites.

Honda has the best 4 cylinder motors in my opinion, reliable, long lived, and good power with VTEC valves. The Civic is bigger inside than it looks, but an Accord with a 4 is good car. The Camry 4 is solid too.

I prefer a manual over an automatic transmission. Manuals have more gear ratios, are less complicated, require less maintenance, and last longer. Manuals do require clutches to be replaced but rarely fail completely. Auto’s hold up fine with regular maintenance, when neglected failure is expensive to fix or replace.

If you want to find the most reliable engine and transmission, my vote is for Honda Civic with a manual transmission. Of course, if you don’t know how to properly operate a clutch, you should change that to a Toyota Corolla with an automatic transmission.

With engines and transmissions, I think the most important factors for longevity are maintenance and driving style. It helps if the parts, like oil pumps, water pumps, hoses, belts, etc., are well designed and well built, but the difference in quality between one car and another is pretty minor in most cases.

I answer the question as a triva question. SAAB’s 2.0 4cyl that they used for years starting with the 900 in about 1983 is my favorite. I did not do heavy line work on SAAB but I never saw my co-workers doing much either.

Big displacement 4cyls did have oil control problems (common when the pistons get large) and you should look at oil capacity and filter system, so I guess that eliminates many VW’s.

I don’t think a filter just being small is a problem.

The FORD Pinto 4cyl is another engine that is known for reliability. Then there is the “Iron Duke” from GM.

I would stay away from older DOHC 4cyl’s but they seem to have this technology down now.

Engines: Toyota, Honda, Mazda (not Ford), Nissan

Transmissions (automatic): Toyota, Nissan (not the CVT), Mazda, Honda

As stated the maintenance these units receive will largely determine how long they last.

In general, avoid turbo chargers, souped up units like the “R” engine in Nissans, etc. The base 4 cylinder will be the most reliable and last the longest.

If you’re looking at reliability…I LOVE the Honda’s, Nissan’s and Toyota’s. But not all the problems I’ve had with domestic vehicles have been with the engine and transmission…unless you count Alternator or starter as part of the engine. Last GM product I owned it was everything else that I was dumping money into…Alternator, Carburator, Water-pump, starter (royal pain in the butt to replace), ball-joints, broken spring…Those other things can add up real quickly.

I’ve had a slew of Honda, Nissan and Toyota 4 cylinders over the years, and one Saturn. All of the vehicles have had minor problems, but none with the engine and only one of the Honda’s had an issue with the transmission.

The Saturn has the worse reputation for reliability, but mine has 188k miles on it with no major problems and low oil consumption, so my conclusions are that I agree with those who say “its the maintenance, not the maker”.