Old Subaru vs New(er) Suzuki

My best pal Morgan wants AWD in a small hatch, and and would like to spend about 10k. She’s considering a 2006 Impreza /Outback Sport with 80,000 miles or 2011 Suzuki SX4 with 36,000 miles. Keeping in mind that neither of these vehicles would be covered by warranty and Suzuki’s bankruptcy/airbag recall issues, which is the better choice long term? She doesn’t drive a lot, so she won’t be putting on many miles herself, but would like something reliable that can handle the occasional trip to the mountains. She’s likely to put on less than 10,000 miles per year and would like something that will last her about 7 years.

If I had $10,000 to spend on a car I would not buy either one. I would go for a newer 2 WD car with a proven reliability record. This amount buys a good Hyundai Elantra, or Mazda3, for example.

Choosing between the two listed, I’d go for the Subaru, since service and parts will be difficult for the Suzuki.

The subaru will need its timing belt, engine seals, idler pulley tensioner, etc replaced at 90k. Just keep that in mind when considering the price. If you were going for that car, offer him 1k less.

AS the owner of many 4wd trucks and awd cars the past number of years, I agree with @docnick. Suzuki will shortly stop selling their cars here in the US and parts for these things were hard to come by before. Old awd cars with questionable history are poor buys. Everyone wants a cheap awd car. You pay on ther front end for good reliability (new Subaru for example) along with adequate maintenance, or you look for another alternative. These two options, old and new but poor service are no brainer “no” recommendations. Unless the warranty on an older Subaru is for an additional 60k, still no. Buy a much cheaper fwd car and rent an awd car for that infrequent trip to the mountains. It is seldom worth having awd/4wd unless you really need it for your job, use it lots for recreational activities or actually live in the sticks, which I do, and need 4wd everyday in the winter, just to get the newspaper or food…
Besides, a newer fwd car with traction control may be a good alternative.

Neither are very good choices IMO. The Suzuki would be the winner if Suzuki were still selling cars in the US. Without a dealer network, there could be service issues down the road due to lack of parts. Minor things like tune ups, brakes, etc. are not going to be a problem. Body panels and trim could make accident repairs frustrating as parts may take a long time to source.

I don’t care much for Subaru’s as used cars. An '06 Subaru could prove to have some significant problems.

Why is AWD needed? With a low mileage driver she could run a winter tire (Michelin X-ice) all year round and get great winter traction from a FWD economy car like a Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, or Mazda 3. These would all be cheaper used cars to buy, cheaper to maintain, and cheaper to run as the Impreza is a fuel guzzler for such a small car.

Which Is Better, A 2011 Suzuki Or 2006 Subaru ?
It’s Like Asking, “Which Do You Prefer, A Black Eye Or Fat Lip ?”

Many folks drive in the mountains with conventional cars, even in the winter. I’ve done it many times.


Scratch the Suzuki right off the bat. Given the choices…I’d go with the Subaru if she wants AWD.

I would be leary on Suzuki not for reliability but parts availability.

Subaru is a complete hit or miss. Some are beyond reliable while others suffer. I have been beyond lucky with my turbo Legacy wagon over 8yrs/150,000 miles.

Have you considered a bit rare but Pontiac Vibe AWD or Toyota Matrix AWD? Both are mechanical twins with Pontiac being cheaper to purchase. GM is committed for parts and majority of replacement are Toyota. Just avoid the manual transmission as they were a major problem in them but maybe not offered with AWD anyway.

I understand the need for AWD as not having it for myself and mountains visits means walking 1mile across drifted driveways with kids in tow or sliding off the road during mud season at my family’s mountain house. Typically we have too hook folks up with FWD and even snows to a tow strap and fire up the Kubota 4wd tractor or use my Acura MDX (with all-seasons) to drag them along.

I suppose it depends and YMMV but I live in upstate NY near Ithaca. I had driven FWD for years with all sorts of tire quality but always All Season.

Then I got a Subaru (new) and never really looked back. In the winter, for any given tire quality / tread depth, AWD was a difference between barely getting in my driveway or easily driving up the 100’ hill to the top. No more tobaggan towing groceries up the hill because the car can’t make it. No more needing a relative with a 4WD Pickup to go in to work or town.

My sister has bought several 10yr old Subarus and found them as reliable and as costly as several 10 yr old FWD chevys other relatives have purchased. You get an old car, you have to replace stuff. You buy a used heap, and you regret it.

As to FWD, yes, you can get around in the winter with it. You’ll take a few more days off work in the winter (in the north), but that’s probably fine. I’m not sure I believe in buying winter tires and either paying to mount and unmount or for extra rims, storage etc. That stuff isn’t free. And the more you take tires on and off a rim, the more wear on the rim and chances for a mechanic to mess up your rims.

Personally (not being a mechanic) I think Goodyear Tripletreads are a very good compromise vs summer and winter tires, AWD or not.

Finally, I’ve found occasions where AWD helped in the summer - mud, gravel, etc…

Much of this depends on where you live however - if you’re rarely going to the mountains, it might be fine to go FWD and rent a vehicle. A 13 day rental I did recently was cheaper than a full transmission/differential fluid change on a Subaru for instance, though that was for a basic car. I think the rental for a week for a SUV was about equal to the maintenance…