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VW Rabbit vs. Honda CR-V vs. Subaru vs. ...?

My 2000 Subaru Forester is on her last legs: I’m facing a second head gasket repair in 30,000 miles, and have decided it’s time to cut my losses and move on to a newer vehicle with fewer miles.

I’m living in Wyoming at the moment, but am a permanent resident of Vermont, and will be back in Vermont for good in about a year and a half. The Forester did a great job for me through a couple of New England winters, but maintenance became VERY expensive (a byproduct, I think, of having a car with 140,000 miles on it).

I’m looking for something used in the 2-4 year range, with fewer than 40,000 miles. Frankly, I’m skeptical about just how important AWD is come winter, but have been considering cars with both FWD and AWD. So far, my front runners are:

1. VW Rabbit. Smaller, but fun to drive. Concerns include: Gas mileage, rumored VW reliability issues.

2. Honda CR-V. Great reliability. Concerns: Possibly too big? Gas mileage.

3. A newer Subaru. I’ve LOVED my car, even if it’s been a pain in the wallet.

I’ve also test driven a used 2009 Toyota Matrix, but was unimpressed. Any other suggestions?

Thanks for the help!

From my limited knowledge about Subaru’s I hear that the head gasket isn’t a problem anymore. People I know who own them swear by them.

The Honda CR-V is also an excellent vehicle…Very reliable.

Not too sure about the reliability of the VW Rabbit. They don’t have a reputation of being very reliable.

2005+ the Subaru 2.5L 4 cylinder was finally revised and is not prone to that head gasket issue.

With regard to AWD vs FWD. AWD is helpful but not requirement for most. If you have issues with FWD due to your local conditions(plowing, snowfall, driveway etc) adding a set of winter tires will solve it quick.

Any of them should be fine.

Mileage: Compare the government numbers. They may not be right on, but they are likely going to not be too far off when comparing one car to the other.

Reliability: It is really difficult to get reliable accurate meaningful data. Let me explain.

There is a relationship between the reported problems and the kind of driver: The driver of a Rolls Royce might report a defective gas cap as a problem where a Ford driver would likely be less likely to report it. They also drive different. How do you think the driver of a soccer mom van and a muscle car driver are going to compare when looking at problems.

Finally I often see someone putting great faith into the difference of cars, one getting a 1.5% problem rate and a similar car getting twice the number of problems. (Twice that number is only 3% One out of 33 cars compared to one out of 66 cars. Neither is likely to show up on the average car of that make and model. )

BTW I have a VW 2002 model diesel. I have had no problems only standard maintenance and I get mid 40’s to mid 50’s in the milage game.

Frankly it appears you know what you want from a car, I suspect you will make a good choice.

Good Luck

Honda CRV. If you want a little better MPG, get the front-wheel drive instead of the AWD. With the CRV you don’t have to limit yourself to a vehicle with less than 40,000 miles or less than 4 years old. These have been very reliable.

You’re going to end up spending a lot more money on your other 2 choices.

If I was to rank them, I would say:

  1. CRV
  2. Subaru
  3. Rabbit

A car, suv or wagon, all 3 completely different vehicles. I made the move to a crossover due to some unplowed roads where I live and my Civic would scrape the top of the snow as I drove down the street, I have yet to experience winter driving in the new car yet, but am hoping it’ll be ok. A Mazda 3 would be an alternative to the Rabbit.

Thanks for the advice, everyone. I’m going to just keep test driving for the time being. Unfortunately, where I am in Wyoming, my options are limited. It turns out the Toyota dealership in town has a few promising used Priuses from 2007-2009, so I’ll start there. No Subaru or VW dealerships in my area, but I could start widening the search. The CR-V reviews are stellar, but I’ve got a little bit of guilt about driving an SUV. While the cargo capacity and AWD security is nice, it’s not necessary. So long as I’ve got a hatchback and a roof rack for skis, I should be all set…

Great points on the reliability front! I think the reason I’ve been so heartbroken about my Subaru’s current state is that I was so, so meticulous about service… but I either ended up with a car someone didn’t take very good care of, or just a lemon.

I’m yearning for the Golf TDI ? but it’s out of my price range, sadly. The diesel cars are so, so intriguing to me.

IF you feel guilty about driving an SUV, check out one of the hybrid models that are available. You might not feel as bad about driving one then

CR-v’s get really good gas mileage up there with most non-hybrid economy cars, I wouldn’t feel guilty about driving that at all. If you were looking at a Ford Expedition on the other hand…