I’ve lately been scouring back issues of Consumer Reports, reading on different cars, determined to find the one that will provide the best balance of mileage, protection, space, and value. Reliability is key, because if we actually do buy a car, it’s going to need to last the three of us a good long time. I started with the Honda Fit, thinking small and nimble meant gas-frugal. When my neighbor found out what I was looking at, he told me to consider an Accord, which he claimed had comparable gas mileage and offered more protection. Consumer Reports put that myth to bed, but I then looked at a Civic, which isn’t that much more expensive than a Fit but offers plenty of room and similar efficiency.

Side B

For comparable cars, I’m adding in the Scion Xd due to the mileage and reliability ratings, as well as the Nissan Versa and the Toyota Matrix. Even though Jen’s 10-year-old Saturn coupe gets 40mpg, modern Saturns are out due to reliability issues and lousy gas mileage, and I’m ruling out any other American brands for the same reason. Subarus are out due to thirsty AWD, as is the Mazda3. I refuse to buy a Hyundai, Kia or Suzuki because I already own enough plastic toys.

Note: I also looked at hybrids but I’m not impressed with the available space: if I need to cart baby, luggage, and X-mas presents around, interior room will already be at a premium. I also looked at VW’s TDI offerings, but their cumulative reliability ratings leave me shivering with fear.

To level the playing field, I’m trying to stick with the same basic setup in each car. As much as I hate the idea of a 4-cylinder for durability, it’s the best mileage option. A stick shift is a no-brainer; we both prefer them, they’re cheaper, and they get better mileage. Crash ratings are important to us, obviously, but I understand I can’t own an Excursion and expect to afford the gas, so I’m going with the offense-is-the-best-defense strategy. Each of these cars have standard front and side curtain airbags and ABS brakes.

  Honda Fit Sport Honda Civic Honda Accord Nissan Versa SL Scion Xd Toyota Matrix
Price $15,765 $18,260 $23,515 $14,452 $13,822 $14,973
Engine (4cyl) 1.5L 109hp 1.8L 113hp 2.4L 177hp 1.8L 122hp 1.8L 128hp 1.8L 132hp
Transmission 5-spd man. 6-spd man. 5-spd man.
MPG (avg) 34 31 24 29 29 27
City/Highway 33/38 22/40 22/31 n/a n/a n/a
IIHS offset Good Good Good Good Acceptable N/A

(All statistics courtesy of Consumer Reports)

So what’s the deal with the Civic getting 22 city and 40 highway? That seems like an awful big spread to me. If I lived in a more rural area, I’d say Civic all the way, but I’m in one of the more congested corridors of the East Coast. I’ll take 33mpg in the city, thank you. I like the idea of a hatchback, and I intend on putting a good-quality roof rack on whatever we buy, as well as a hitch (if I can).

We also have two glowing reviews from Fit owners vs. one from a former Accord owner. My ex used to have a Civic, and I enjoyed that car well enough to consider one of my own. Much of the final decision will involve a test drive.

To be continued…

Date posted: May 13, 2008 | Filed under finn, life, travel | 6 Comments »

6 Responses to Car Shopping.

  1. Linda says:

    The Prius is short on space? I’m surprised – they look decent. Pretty pricey, though.

  2. the idiot says:

    I wasn’t impressed, but then I wasn’t looking at it in relation to a Fit or a Matrix. The price tag is too high, though, like you mentioned.

  3. Linda says:

    I was coincidentally next to a Honda Fit in the bank drive-thru just now. I don’t think I’d ever seen one before – super cute!

  4. the idiot says:

    It’s almost too cute. I’d really rather have a four-seat pickup truck, but that isn’t going to happen. And I can’t argue with 38mpg, not anymore.

  5. Rob says:

    For what it’s worth, and we have two kids, we have loved our Honda Pilot. Gas mileage is okay and safety is top notch. And there’s plenty of times when we can put them in the way back. Not that you’d ever do that with an infant. : ^ )

  6. Rob Bennett says:

    One other thing…manuals are great but when you have a screaming kid in the back seat, automatic can’t be beat.