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Buy a new compact car. HELP!

Want suggestions on which new car I should buy.


Budget: up to $25k

Style: must be hatchback

MPG: must be very fuel efficient

Maintenance: very reliable, less repair cost

Person: Only I drive most of the time. My wife already got a minivan. So looking for a compact car.

Mileages: drive 8000 miles each year (3000 miles local, 5000 files highway).

Environment: Live in Michigan, could be very cold in winter, but flat (no mountain). Apartment setting, no garage.

Safety: Must have ABS, vehicle stability control and/or similar safety features. Not sure if 4WD/AWD worth extra fuel cost though.

When: Doesn?t have to be buy now. Could wait till next year for better deal. I am driving 1991 Honda Civic hatchback now, get 30/40 mileages. Twenty years later, with all the wonderful technologies, the cars on the market even get even worse MPG. Very disappointing. Seems not very attractive to me.

A few choices that I have done research:

Smart for two

Hyundai Acccent hatchback GS 2DR

Toyota Yaris hatchback 4DR

Honda Fit

Ford Fiesta hatchback 4DR

2012 Ford Focus


Scion xd

Kia RIO5

Nissan Versa hatchback 4DR

Toyota Matrix

Toyota Prius

MINI Cooper

VW Golf

VW Golf TDI (diesel)

Subaru AWD (such as Impreza hatchback, Outback, or Forester)

Honda CRV 4WD

Toyota RAV4 4WD

For $25k you can expand your selections to larger, better-made, safer cars with little or no mileage penalty.

From your list I like the Honda Fit and Ford Focus, personally. Since you have time, the best advice is to test drive as many as possible in similar situations as your normal driving.

Be careful you do not buy a car that is too small–I would cross the Smart, Yaris, Mini off your list.

You will not like the mileage of an AWD so cross off RAV4, CRV, and Subarus.

It’s not my cup of tea, but a few people at work have Prius’s and are happy with them.

For example, a coworker bought a 2010 Prius for his 100 mile daily commute (35m highway, 15m semi-rural). His Prius is getting ~50mpg under these condition. Another has a Prius with about 130k miles on the clock with no issues.

Ed B.

Here’s my take on the suggestions

Smart for two : No way, overpriced,and for all the tradeoffs you have to put up with you aren’t rewarded with exceptional mileage or anything.

Hyundai Acccent hatchback GS 2DR : Not a bad choice

Toyota Yaris hatchback 4DR : Not as good as the Corolla

Honda Fit: Probably your best bet

Ford Fiesta hatchback 4DR: Seems like an okay choice, it’s been sold in Europe for a couple years

2012 Ford Focus: Should be much nicer than the current Focus, it’s been on sale in Europe for a couple years now.

Mazda2: Cheap, and gets good mileage, but it’s tiny, and kind of crude

Scion xd : Not a bad choice

Kia RIO5: Not a bad choice

Nissan Versa hatchback 4DR: The Sentra is the better choice

Toyota Matrix: Good choice

Toyota Prius : Pricer than the others, you won’t be putting enough miles on the car to really justify the fuel savings.

MINI Cooper : Pricey, but fun to drive, repair costs can be high

VW Golf: Less frugal at the pump than most of the others, but not a bad choice

VW Golf TDI (diesel): You probably won’t put enough mileage on the car to justify the added cost of the diesel

Subaru AWD (such as Impreza hatchback, Outback, or Forester): Not a bad choice, AWD will cost some MPGs

Honda CRV 4WD : Good choice, fuel mileage won’t be great

Toyota RAV4 4WD : Same as CRV, but the V6 gets about the same mileage as the I4 and offers excellent performance.

Thanks for your comments. I like your reasoning that too small and AWD should be off the list. Looking at MPG, even those AWD such as RAV4, CRV and Subarus have 21-29 MPG range while small cars like Honda Fit has a max 35 MPG on highway. Seems six-mile diff is not significant enough to give up small SUVs and AWDs? Also, Honda Fit is only marginally longer than Toyota Yaris, everything else is the same, i.e., width, height, etc.

Thanks for the comments. I like Prius too. But not sure how the MPG is till good in cold. We could get 20 below in winter (not count wind chill) here in Michigan, and very long winter. The batter life is also another concern in cold. Could be very costly to for a new battery down the road. Besides, the extra money paid for Hybrid would take 30 years’ driving to break even.

Let me summarize.

– Resist the impulse to buy expensive “fuel efficient” cars, such as Prius and TDIs. Not worth it.
– Avoid buying too cheaply made small cars, such as Smart, Mazda2, Yaris, Fit, etc.

[i] MPG: must be very fuel efficient

Maintenance: very reliable, less repair cost

A large part of fuel efficiency is the driver. If you are not familiar with how to drive for reduced fuel usage, do a little research and lean the basics.

Proper maintenance is the key to low cost. Don’t skimp on maintenance. Do all the maintenance recommended in the owner’s manual. It will cost you less in the long run.

You have a lot of good cars on your list. Since you have time, why not planing on stopping by a dealer or two each week, look over some from your list, maybe test drive one or two. Keep notes on what you like and don’t like. See if you can start reducing the number of cars on your list.

I have a few favorites on your list, but they are my favorites, you need to make your own list.

One thing I watch out for. Getting into and out of the driver’s seat. Try it with someone standing beside your car where another car would be parked in a parking lot. Can’t open the door all the way. How easy is it now?

Good Luck

Good Luck.

Thanks for your suggestion. I actually have test drive 1/3 of those cars on the list. The problem is the more I test drive the more indecisive I become.

I am driving a 20 year old Honda Civic. Therefore, any, I mean ANY, new car that I test drive will be a wonderful experience for me!

Sometime I guess less research is better. Follow your instinct, and then live with her for the next dozens of years, and accept all flaws/mistakes along the way.

A Honda Civic hatchback would be perfect. Consider that the Civic 4 door sedan does have rear seats that fold down. Not a hatchback, but pretty handy. Perhaps when you test drive the Honda Fit you might want to test the Civic too.

A thought about AWD. If the area you drive is flat, frequently plowed in the winter and paved and the car you buy has traction control and you would consider wintr tires, I see absolutely no reason to buy awd. The exception would be if you just liked the handling of an awd car and bought it for other reasons. Then you get a “twofor”. If fuel efficiency is that high on your list, I agree with the Civic/Corolla mindset. If practicality in operation is as important, a compact SUV (CRV, RAV) You have lots of wiggle room. I suggest you buy a CR auto issue, check out their most reliable and economical recommendations, and start driving the roads you will travel on your tryouts. Use the tryouts “exactly” the way you would use the new car. Cars that have good satisfaction ratings, like the Civics, are safe buys.
When in doubt, I’d stay with them (though I like the Accords).

The key words there are owner’s manual. Some dealerships will tell you you need some fuel system flush or oil system flush, or will say that your car will blow up if you don’t add in this very expensive oil/fuel additive, that they just happen to carry.

OTOH, a Prius will be considerably more expensive than other less fuel efficient models on the OP’s list. Given their driving habits of 62.5% freeway and 37.5% city, with very low annual mileage, a hybrid is financially a terrible deal in this case. You want more % city and considerably more miles total to make it worthwhile.

I’d strike it from the list if financial return is at all a consideration…

That’s a pretty wide range of selections, without a common styling or design theme.

Have you considered the Mazda5? They’re cheap, TONS of room, and pretty good gas mileage for the amount of space you get.

And if you like it, the Ford Grand C-Max will be on sale soon as well, and hit the same market…

Without looking in detail at your list, your requirements are similar to ours. We are looking at the Toyota Matrix, Hyundai Elantra Touring, Mazda 2, Ford Fiesta and the Honda Fit.

All of the above will give you reliable and long lived transportation. Avoid any VW, Smartcar, Mini Cooper and most of the others.

At the small number of miles you drive, a hybrid is a waste of money, a smart car has too limitations and a Golf Diesel in Michigan will be problematic unless you park inside. A Golf will also cost much more to keep running, so negating any advantages in fuel economy.

Avoid AWD, in Michigan you are best off with a good set of winter tires.

If you do a lot of highway driving, the Matrix, Elantra Touring, The Mazda 2 or Ford Fiesta would be good choices. The Honda Fit does everything on your list, but it is noisy on long drives.

I am mostly interested in smaller, hatchback style car rather than SUV or minivans. I don’t want those vehicles built too cheaply either. Good quality, reliability and performance for cold north while getting good mileages as well. I know it’s kind of push too much.

I like your honest reasoning. Thanks!

BYW, I looked at Toyota website, it’s still showing 2010’s model. When are they selling 2011’s model or it has been discontinued?

Well, just add Mazda 3 & 6 to the list. At 25K you really have a lot of choices.