Searching for Wisdom

Okay, so I’m a small car kind of a girl. I’ve driven Saturns and little cars my whole life. I’m finally finishing graduate school and landing a ‘big girl’ job… plus my Saturn has 189,000 miles and some odd sounds so the time has come for a new or lightly used car.

If I had my druthers, I’d get a Mini Cooper. Really.

The only caveat to this is that I’ve just agreed to move up to the wilds of Coastal Maine (wayyy up there) and the roads are rutted and frost-heaved. I’ve driven in the snow my whole life but am wondering if something bigger might be better.

Just wondering if people would suggest something that runs under $21,000, isn’t a station wagon or a ‘soccer mom’ type vehicle and would sustain me on these crazy coastal roads.

Or, should I just get the mini

Suzuki SX-4 is reasonably priced, AWD, and has become very popular. Are you actually going to be on rutted roads? If so, I’d skip the Mini.

Um, the town has a college in it (Maritime Academy, to be precise) and actually said they weren’t going to fix the roads because it ‘kept the college kids from driving too fast’…

It doesn’t, it just ruins ball joints/axles/suspensions etc.

The system they’re using up there to fill in potholes/frost heaves/giant ruts in springtime is to fill them with sand.

The Suzuki SX-4 has poor rating for personal injury. This will increase the insurance rate compared to similar vehicles like Subaru Impreza, for instance. The personal injury issue is also important if you have a serious accident, of course, but that’s unlikely. If these statistics matter to you, you can find them at the IIHS:

The SX-4 is considered a small station wagon. The Matrix and Vibe are good choices in this segment, too. BTW, the Mini rates very well. What do people in Castine drive? Are there Minis there? Where is the closest Mini dealer?

Well, thanks for giving me some ammo in the ‘Mini vs. Moose’ category.

I’m really reluctant to get a station wagon or a big SUV, mostly because I like the fact that I don’t have to. No kids, carseats, etc. to deal with and I want to embrace this. People in Castine (nice catch, btw) fall into 3 categories: Students, Mainers and Summer People (ie you weren’t born in Maine to parents who were born in Maine). Students drive mostly Trucks/SUV’s, Mainers tend to drive Subarus (which I don’t want), trucks, or GIANT suv’s, and Summer people drive Volvo’s or high end SUV’s.

I’ve read that the wheels in a Mini are way out at the corners. Could anyone tell me if this will do more/less damage with the giant bumps I can drive over.

What matters is the ground clearance, not where the wheels are. I had a VW GTI (not much clearance) in Anchorage, never got stuck, but stayed on paved roads. A Mini is pretty low, I’d worry about a rock taking out your oil pan, etc. Sounds like you don’t want the cars that would work well (CR-V, Rav4, Forester, Impreza, SX4, Vibe, Matrix). But all of them would be just as fun as most Saturns, and will allow you to enjoy your new home.

Are you shopping for transportation or a status symbol?

My first thought is - get the car you want. Nothing wrong with a Mini. I drove one in Guatemala on REALLY bad roads.

That being said, if you have to drive it 75 miles to find someone who has ever worked on one, that can be a real down-side.

Getting your next car serviced is an issue if you have few dealers and mechanics available who know the car. That’s probably a factor with the Mini. If you have a problem the dealer maybe your only option. There have been some mini posts and one regarded a significant transmission problem on a car with not many miles on it, like 50K.

For sturdy, reliable, handle the roads and winter consider a Honda CRV if service providers are available. Otherwise stick to American, Chevy Traverse and Malibu, or perhaps an AWD Ford Fusion?

Thank you everyone for all the help!!

I’m not looking for a status symbol, as much as I just have a preference for small cars and initially looked at either the Civic, the Corrola, or a Mazda 3 and want something kind of fun.

I forgot to mention that one of the reasons I’m staying away from the CR-V or the Rav-4, both of which I really like is that I can’t manage to get them in a stick shift. In the snow especially, I greatly prefer a standard.

After looking into some of these comments and thinking more about it, any comments on either a Hyundai Tuscon or another Small SUV (not a station wagon, please) that comes with a stick (The Nissan Xterra is the only one I know of…)

I’m considering a Suzuki SX4 to replace my 2000 Blazer 4wd in the next 2 years or so. Have you ever considered a small pickup like a Toyota Tacoma or a Ford Ranger. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Range in this forum. Easy enough to find with a stick, economical, and the body and frame construction should handle less that ideal road conditions.

Ed B.

If you really like the Mini, then buy one and drive slowly over the bumps. A Mini will go wherever a Corolla or Civic will go.

I think the Mazda3 is a reasonable alternative. I prefer the 5-door myself, for the practicality, but I’m sure the sedan is just as nice to drive.

My son has a Mini, and I don’t think I could stand the stiff suspension for long. If I were moving to Maine I’d be looking at a Subaru Impreza, but you don’t want a Subaru.

I’d avoid all the small SUVs and crossovers. They don’t get the gas mileage of a small sedan or hatchback, and their AWD systems are not as good as the Subaru’s.

Subaru AWD is better, for sure, but from what she says ground clearance is an issue. A FWD CRV or Rav4 (with winter tires/rims) might also work.

Hoopsies; you are obviously no looking very hard at what those cars you mention really represent! In the fun-to-drive category (excluding sports cars), the Mini is tops, followed by the MAZDA 3. Mazda cars really live up to their “Zoom Zoom” advertising campaign. My son has one in bright red with a STICK SHIFT and winter tires, and it goes just about anywhere. He lives near the Rocky Mountains and is an avid hiker, skiir and snowshoer.

If you really need and SUV (most people THINK they need an SUV), then look at the small offerings from Hyundai, Kia, and the Suzukli SX4.

However for 99+% of your driving a Toyota Matrix, Pontiac Vibe, Hyundai Elantra Hatchback will do very well, if equipped with good winter tires. You owe it to yourself to actually drive some of those.

Finally, my neighbor is barely 5 feet tall; She’s a school teacher and drove a Honda CRV happily for 10 years. She still has the same job but now drives a Honda Accord. She has never been stuck or late for class with either car.