What kind of car should we look for?

We are in the market for a new car, and I was hoping for some feedback from all you experts :slight_smile:

First, it needs to withstand Minnesota winters, and be safe. Four wheel drive would be nice but it isn’t mandatory. We were thinking about the new Toyota Yaris, but have heard mixed safety reviews.

Second, it needs to be a hatchback. We would prefer something used, but a lower end new car would work too.

Third, a smaller car with good gas mileage is a must.

Thanks for any advice!

You should be aware that, Toyota’s reputation not withstanding, Consumer Reports gave the Yaris a fairly low rating. They much preferred the Nissan Versa, the Honda Fit, and yes…even the Hyundai Accent and the cheapest Kia…to the Toyota Yaris!

However, if you are looking for a used car, take a look for a Subaru Impreza, as the standard Subaru AWD system (you DON"T want 4WD!!) is the best in the business, and the Impreza is the most reliable model that Subaru makes, overall. An Impreza will not get gas mileage as good as a Versa, a Fit, an Accent, or even a Yaris, but they do come in hatchback configuration, they are reliable, and they all come with standard AWD.

I’m with VDCdriver. You should check out the Subaru line (I admit I’m biased, but for good reason I think). You will have no trouble in the snow with any of the models and get a comfortable ride. If a Forester will suit your needs it has a 5 star crash rating. Nice improvements were made to them starting in '03.

I’ve never had problems in the snow with FWD. If the snow is too deep, just don’t drive. If your job requires that you be there in all kinds of weather (e.g., emergency worker) you should consider AWD. The Versa is larger than the other compact hatchbacks. You might want to test drive one.

The Yaris is an exceptonnally reliable car and easy on gas. But it is cramped, noisy and in Minnesota you wear heavy coats in the winter. You don’t really need AWD where you live, front wheel drive with good winter tires is entirely sufficient, unless you live on a farm. My best bet would be a Toyota Matrix, it’s a Corolla with a lager hatch back body. Seats fold flat for big carrying capacity. The clone of the car is the Pontiac Vibe, same quality, etc, but a GM badge, and sell for less used than the Matrix. My brother is a retired farmer and he absolutely loves his Matrix. The Subaru Impreza is in a class by itself; it also comes in a hatchback, and costs more than the Matrix or Vibe, and has allwheel drive. It will use more gas, and cost more to maintain, but is quite reliable. The Honda Fit Hatchback is probably too cramped for you as a familiy car. It has outstanding relaibility, large amount of space with the seats folded, and good gas mileage. It is a great second car, in fact my wife cannot wait to get one. I Nissan Versa is a nice car with good inside room, nice to drive, but UNPROVEN RELIABILITY. Time will tell how good it is. The larger Nissan Sentra is nothing to write home about in any catagory. A further good choice would be the Mazda 3 with a hatchback, called the Mazda3 Speed. It is very roomy, hatchback, fun to drive, and reliable. Cars I would not recommend are the Ford Focus, any Volkswagen, and the newer Korean cars, which may be hard to service where you live.

I will only comment on the 4WD and only one part of that. 4WD and AWD can help get you though deep snow, but most FWD cars can do that until it gets deeper than their ground clearance. It does NOT help you stop faster or stay on the road any better. It may help you get out of the ditch after you slide in however.


               MOWERMAN 789

The Honda Fit looks like a great car and I saw one with a big hatch. I own a Yaris and the wiper lever is always getting hit and it bugs the heck out of me. The horn button is huge and I’m always honking it by accident. It needs cruise control to do steady speeds on the highway. The speedometer is easy to read. FROM THE BACK SEAT! Nice car.

Wilbur and Orville are making cars?

I disagree with your assessment of the Versa’s reliability. Edmunds.com’s True Cost to Own says that repairs in the first 5 years should average $797 - equal to the most reliable new cars on the road. Since actuaries at extended warranty companies determined this projected cost (not the manufacturer), it seems that the Versa is reliable.

AWD and 4wd help you stop much better in very slippery conditions. 4 wheels under the compression/torque of the engine(letting accelerator go) stop much better than a front set of wheels that can send you into a spin.

Also AWD helps with lateral stability as corrections if used with light throttle have significantly more traction available than those on a FWD/RWD. They simply correct easier under the certain conditions where throttle correction is used.

I have been driving 20yrs with AWD cars mixed with a few FWD and a RWD.

look into a used jacuar v6 four wheel drive and good room inside. you can find a 2003 for around 17000 with 100,000 mile factory warr
the big audi has alum body not sure about fwd. not hatchback but lots of trunk. I have xb scion but the new scion are bigger they have lots of room not be fooled by size great car. and engine is bigger also. I call it my hummer 4 watch clearence for snow. element is higher

How does anybody know? The car has only been on the road a short time. Extended warranty companies play the odds, that is what insurance is all about. If a Chinese Chery were sold here today, they would probably not insure it since the company is unknown. Edmunds figues for all cost categories other than repairs are OK, on the repairs they are guessing or out to lunch!

An individual owner can’t play the odds since he only has one car! The economics of extended warranties have been discussed at great length here, and center around:

  1. Many exclusions, coverage mainly on things that don’t break
  2. Many owners not making claims because they move or forget, or have lost their maintenance records
  3. Too much trouble to make a claim

Just for interest, Edmunds says the 5 year 75,000 mile projected repairs (not maintenance) on a VW Passat are only about $1500 over the first 5 years. Dream along!!

To base future repair costs on the price of extended warranties is ludicrous at best and fraudulant at worst. I would like other posters to comment on this Edmunds practice.

The 1986 Ford Taurus was a break-through vehicle, and praised by all car magazines, and even Consumer Reports. It turned out to be a highly flawed vehicle with numerous expensive problems, may not covered by warranty.

Look for a Honda CRV. You will get decent gas mileage, AWD, Safety and Reliability all in one package. My mother has a 99 CRV with almost 100k, no problems at all. It grips the road when the winter weather comes through (except we live in KY, so mild winters usually). Oh yeah, hatchback too.

Edmunds finds out what an extended warranty costs and divides by two. The warranty companies have access to repair records for all cars so that they can offer the warranties at a price that is attractive to buyers and makes money for them. They feed their families with the proceeds, so they better know the score. I think they do.

It is nice of them to divide this figure by two, but we don’t know what the actual figure is going to be. All poster have expressed their doubts about the rationale behind extended warranties and how representive they are of the real world. Industrial companies design what we call Life Cycle Mainteance and Overhaul Plans. These are based on taking each piece of equipment, looking at both historical costs for such equipment, modified by the operating environment, and the current and forecast labor and pasts costs. Even these are not accurate, but in a business environment are good enough.

We now know that the range of repair costs between, say a Honda Accord or Toyota Corolla and a Volswagen Golf can be a factor of 10, even before the extended warranty expires. Yet, the published figures only show a modest variance. It would be bad for business Edmunds to totally blacklist a car on high maintenance costs; something Consumer Reports and TrueDelta and I will happily do since we do not owe any company or industry anything.

If I based the maintenance & repair cost projection on insurance payouts or rates and other external factors, my clients would ask me what I had been smoking. They can do that themselves. Edmunds basically takes a shortcut and uses insurance figures (which do not represent the real world, as stated before) and adds them to their other costs, which are much more accurate.

The descrepancy becomes really great after the warranty expires, because of the much shorter design life of European cars, and the problem-prone Japanese cars (there are some) are getting the benefit of the doubt in Edmunds statistics.

So, I cannot, in good conscious, make a car recommendation based on the smoke and mirrors approach by both Edmunds and the warranty people. I’m sure Edmunds would have given the 1986 Ford Taurus at least and average repair cost rating, thus fooling a lot of trusting readers. Their risk is zilch, the warranty company’s risk is low, since they cover many vehicles.

In general, as most posters know, it is very risky to buy a new car in its first year of production. Even Consumer Reports has a detailed article on this. The only company I used to trust as an exception was Toyota, and we now know that the new Camry, Avalon, and trucks have some serious problems.

So, would I buy a Versa for my wife, even though she thinks it is a net car; not in a million years. Not until it proves to be a reliable car, and many recent Nissan models have not been able to do that.

Any new car properly maintained will be as reliable in Minnesota as in Florida.

First get a Consumer Reports New Car Preview at the local bookstore.
Then check the ones you like with the National Institute for Highway Safety website for crash results.

Then test drive the winners.

Good recommedations. Consumer Reports buyer’s guide divides cars into recommended and not recommended. This is a good inital cut to separate the sheep from the goats. It also includes safety issues, so all “Recommended” models have acceptable safety gear. Test driving the narrowed down selection is very important, since it is actually possible to buy a really good car you don’t like if you don’t drive it first. Listening to the salesman is usually counter-productive and will just confuse you.