Looking for a Fuel efficient, safe, small, car that's good in snow

I recently crashed my wife’s Scion XB going to pick up a keg of beer on icy roads - I will NEVER live this down. The damage didn’t look that bad to me - I drove the car home - but the insurance company totaled the car. We have about $6500 to but a used vehicle. I am looking for a car that is small like the 2005 Scion XB, but is safe (we are expecting). I need room for a dog in the way back. I’m not sure I need AWD/4WD as much as I need a good set of snow tires combined with Stability control AND Traction control. I’ve read that cars a low center of gravity also do well. It has to be fuel efficient - the 2005 XB gets 35 mpg!

So in summary: Safe family car, small for city living, Stability control AND Traction control (I will get snow tires), room for the dog in the way back, and gets over 30mpg. To make it harder - my wife really likes how the XB positions you in the driver seat - a little higher up, knees bent.

Basically, we would get another early model XB - but after it crumpled like a sardine can, we want something safer with a baby on the way. I need a safe XB-like car with Stability control AND Traction control that I will then put a set of snow tires on.

I hate to use the M word, but with a baby on the way would you consider a minivan. Both my wife’s 98 Windstar and 2006 Sienna had high safety ratings. She prefers the more upright seating position of the vans too. Mazda has a few station wagons and a minivan that is smaller than most that might be worth looking at.

Even though we only have two kids and one dog, both minivans have worked out well for my wife (primary driver).

Good luck,

Ed B.

Sounds to me like you should be shopping for another Scion xB, perhaps a later model.

Put four snow tires on it and you’ll be fine.

Happy wife = happy life.

You might also want to look at a Mazda5. Sliding doors are really nice when you’re loading child parapernalia.

You’re going to have trouble matching the 35 mpg from the Scion, however.

If you’re wanting safe, you’re right to avoid the 1st gen xB, not much to it. You might be able to find a 2nd gen xB, which is MUCH stouter, good safety ratings, but not 30 mpgs. I would ‘settle’ for 25 mpgs and a safe car, given your other needs, especially the child on the way.

You now know why you were able to get such good mpgs with your original xB! Just not much to it…

And whatever you get, add a set of winter tires on rims.

I have several things to say:

First off, this is why you should consider brewing your own beer!
If you have to have an issue with alcohol, at least you will be safe at home, while getting blitzed.

Next up, I really don’t understand what you have against the xB, after your accident.

Unless you spent 2 weeks in the hospital from a 10 mph crunch into the car in front of you, after the seat belts and airbags failed, your car did exactly what it is supposed to do - protect you in an accident, when something bad happens to you, and allow you to walk away, with minimal injuries.

But yes, when you replace the xB with another one, since it was your wife’s car you don’t really have a choice in this issue, put snow tires on it, and go buy yourself all the ingredients you need to brew your own beer.

You’ll thank me later on both counts.


All of the responses have good points, here, but I’m confused. You say in the first paragraph that the damage didn’t look so bad and you drove it home, then two paragraphs later you imply that it crumpled like a sardine can. Which is the case?

Also, Stability control, traction control, etc…are not magic bullets. Ice and snow are slippery. Winter tires and careful driving are what counts. My Honda Odyssey has traction control and I find it useless. I actually do better in the snow with it turned off!

Subaru Outback/Forester
Hyundai Santa Fe/Tuscon
Four real winter tires

" . . . (we are expecting). I need room for a dog in the way back."
What are you, a Great Dane with a driver’s license, married to a poodle ?

Besides, why did you need a keg of beer right when the roads were bad ? How long does a keg last you ? I’d buy 3 or 4 kegs (a week or two worth) when the roads are dry. That way you can just buy any old car that has room for a keg or two and a puppy, of course.


Another xB is one way to go. But you have to buy a 2008 or newer to take advantage of the newer body design, and that will cost you $10,000 or more. The 2004/2005 Chevy Malibu Maxx is a little larger, and gets about the same mileage. You should find one for around $6500. The Malibu Maxx is also a very sturdy car in the size class.

ANY newer car with 4 winter tires and the optional or standard in some models “traction control”. It makes the car behave like a limited slip front differential for fwd compacts, and gives most people all the on road traction they need on most roads and tends to give you better mileage than any comparable awd car. It will be tough finding one for $6500, but there may be a high mileage compact out there with it.

I live in Chicago and I have an AWD 2006 Matrix that I bought new. Even with the all season tires this car was good on the snow. After the first winter, I went to winter tires and this car is just awesome handling the snow and ice. It also has decent room (Before we bought our minivan we did have two car seats in it) and the mpg is not bad at all. Both my wife and I use it to commute to work and it’s been really solid. She loves it cause of its size and handling, I just love the whole packafe I paln to drive it into the ground.

"I paln to drive it into the ground."
With awd you should manage to go quite deep. :=)