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New Car Decision

I am a retired single woman living in the Northwoods of WI. I now drive a 99 Prism which has 176,000 miles on it. It runs great and gets great mpg but is starting to rust. I am looking for a new car that can tow a small trailer and gets great gas mileage. I use the trailer 20-30 times a year to tow my kayak various other stuff. Something with AWD would be good for the snow but I’m not sure I want to sacrifice the mileage. I was considering a Prius but I guess it is “no tow”. Any ideas??

If it’s light weight towing, and you want awd, you might wait for the 2012 Subaru Impreza. Supposed to have best awd mpgs. But your success with the Prism makes me suggest a new Corolla and a set of winter tires.

Suzuki SX4 could be another option, but once four wheel drive is added gas mileage suffers.

I Live In The Sticks, Too.
I Have To Chuckle When Somebody Suggests Cars Like A Suzuki Or Even A Subaru.

If marstj’s location (" . . . living in the Northwoods of WI.") is anything like my location, there are no dealers (or shops) for Suzuki, Subaru, or any Asian or European foreign cars nearby. I can’t even imagine where a Suzuki dealer is and Subaru is a 4 1/2 hour round trip.

We do have many nearby Ford, GM, and Chrysler dealers, however.
There may be an independent shop that would try and work on the foreign cars, but for a new car under warranty, a nearby dealer would make much more sense. Maybe she’ll ring in and let us know the situation. American brands may have to be recommended.


CSA is correct that the only local dealers - within 10 mi - are Chevy and Ford. There is a Toyota dealer about 50 miles away - not that far when you consider distance up here. Subaru would be in Wausau about 80 miles - there are a lot of Subaru’s on the road here and I would consider that new Impreza if I can wait for 2012. I would like to get at least what I get now as far as mpg - which is in the 32-35 range. That’s one reason I’m driving a 12 year old car - there don’t seem to be that many good choices. I was in New Zealand recently and saw many Corolla hatchbacks - any chance that model will be available in the US? In addition to the towing I need to carry xc skis so a hatchback or fold down seats.

You can always buy a Jeep. Then you can go to a Jeep Jamboree in the Northwoods

Consider a Chevrolet Cruze Eco with a highway rating of 42 mpg. It has well over 100 hp so a lightweight tow would be easy. Dealers are everywhere and front wheel drive does well in the snow. I am also from the upper midwest so I can say that front wheel drive is adequate. I have towed much more than a kayak with a 51 hp VW diesel such as a medium sized motorcycle. If your brakes are adequate for your towing load, the engine power will simply not be an issue in the relatively flat terrain of the midwest.

Aren’t your neighbors doing well with front wheel drive cars?

When We Recently Rented A 2011 Chevrolet Malibu For A Week Long Vacation, I Looked At A Cruze. I Was Impressed With What I Saw.

The Malibu we rented looked like it had a fold-down rear seat, nice for transporting skiis. I don’t know about the Cruze. I believe there’s a 4-cylinder Malibu model that gets about 33 Hwy MPG. We had the 3.6L V-6 and hwy MPG was under 30 hwy.

GM has a good warranty on their cars. Check it out.


How big is the kayak? You might be able to get by with a larger wagon and stuff it in the back rather than tow it.

If you want to tow kayaks,any fwd car will do assuming the weight is under 500 lbs. I commend you on your choice of cars(prism) and recommend you stay with a Reliable product. The new cars have traction control making Fwd cars more viable. So Toyota Corolla wagon in awd or not (Matrix) or a Subaru Impreza are your awd options. The awd cars make better tow vehicles than fwd cars, so that is another rational.
Read CR recommendations as well and don’t go exclusively by ours. The Focus and other Ford compacts are good convenience choices too.

Is this a new or used car? If new or lightly used, I’d suggest a Chevy Equinox with the 4-cyl engine. You can likely do away with the trailer. The FWD Equinox gets 22 MPG city and 32 MPG highway. That’s great for a SUV. With AWD, the same SUV gets 20/29. Your choice. This generation Equinox was first available in 2010.

I take it you missed her MPG requirement?


If it’s light weight towing, I think you can go with prius