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Can't make up my mind on a new car

I drove a 1994 Civic EX AT Sedan until the transmission died at 255,000 miles.

For a new car, I need at least 4 doors - for a 2 year old toddler and wife. My wife drives a 2 door early 2000’s Civic LX. Although, she is the one ferrying our kid around the most, she does not want to take over a new car. She just wants my new car to be the family car on the weekends. We take no long trips, – yet and lived around NYC area.

I am looking to keep this car 10-12 years. Long term reliability ties with good gas mileage (I think gas will hit 4.50 by end of 2011).

I have looked at

2011 Civic LX AT sedan (best gas mileage, chepeast price, no traction control or stability control - just sick of the idea of another Civic, let alone an LX when I had an EX and there does not seem to be anything really that much better mechanically on the 2011 EX than the LX.)

2011 Subaru Impreza 2.5i AT hatchback (worst gas mileage of the group, AWD is nice in the snow, repair costs are high, Subaru dealers were a pain to negotiate with)

2011 Mazda3 i Touring Sedan AT (god gas mileage, fun to drive, small trunk, not sure about reliability)

2011 Mazda3 s Sport Hatchback AT (slightly better mileage than Impreza, fun to drive, expensive for what you get, not sure about reliability)

2011 VW Jetta S sedan AT (big trunk, good gas mileage, reliability is not good)

Corollas seemed to be severely outdated.

Am I missing anything in the $20,000 and under segment?

Sorry, we “live” not lived around NYC. In other words, 5 days per week the car will be going 10 miles each way to and from the train station

Have you looked at Hyundai Elantra?

There has been recent review in WSJ and WSJ guy loves it.

I will check it out. What’s their reliability?

Ford also revamped its line up as well. May be you should consider Ford Focus as well.

Please read the article. I don’t know. May be someone here share their thoughts.

Having owned a GM product and having watched my parent’s struggle with a Chrysler product, I just don’t trust Big 3 brands for reliability.

I think you might be mistaken. Ford Focus used to be made as 2 model. One for USA and other one for Europe. Both are essentially 2 different cars. It sounds silly but new focus is imported from Europe. Now there is only one Ford focus same in Europe and USA. You should look more into it to find out about its reliability. Again WSJ guy loves both Ford focus and Hyundai Elantra. This guys usually don’t like most cars no matter how expensive or luxurious they are.

It seems like you are price conscious. No problem there. Are mostly driving in the city? But if this is the case have you looked at used Camry Hybrid? You can find plenty of 2-3 years used Camry hybrid less than 20K and its interior is much better most economy cars.

I thought about hybrids, but everything I read leads me to believe that a battery pack replacement is in the offing at around year 5 or 6. Besides, if my phone batteries have a peak life for 18 months tops, why should I think that hybrid battery packs are better?

I am not a fan of used cars; I don’t have enough expertise to know what I am buying and stop feeling as if I am buying someone else’s problem.

Cost consciousness is more a style of life. I could afford to buy something much more expensive in cash and not feel it much, I just choose not to. To me a car is mainly transportation, hopefully reliable transportation. I like a nice interior, but I thought my old Civic when new was just fine.

You really can’t go wrong with the Honda, Toyota, Mazda, Hyundai, or Ford. I would add the Chevy Cruze to that list.

Personally I would avoid the extra expense of the Subaru AWD system and the repairs of the VW, but they too are nice cars that have their audience.

You sound like you are on the right track–just pick the car that you like best on the test drive.

Agree! Also avoid any Volkswagen, Kias are not as good as Hyundais yet. My choice would be a Hyundai Elantra. Next a Mazda 3 standard model, or Honda Civic.

The Chevy Cruze looks good but is too new to trust. GM has a long history of taking 3-4 years to get the bugs out of a new car.

When I bought my '03 Civic EX in 2003 the EX came with ABS brakes and the Vtec motor. The LX and lower models had neither ABS or the Vtec. Now I think the '11 Civic somes with Vtec and ABS. For a more zippy 4 Door Civic you go to the Si model now. That gets you more power, handling, upgrades in audio and interior. The Si is great but I’m not sure you drive where you can benefit from the extra power. There is a decrease in mpg too, but not that much.

You might want to look at the smallest 4 door offering from Acura.

Based on my experience with my Civic, I’d recommend you stick to Honda or Acura. There is a new Hunydai getting good reviews for a small car. The Civic is due for a new model soon, perhaps you can wait it out. The next Civic might be awesome, fun, and reliable. Most mechanics I speak with believe the Civic has always been Honda’s most reliable, best engineered, and best built offering.