I get emails for car purchase advice all the time, so rather than just reply in an e-mail, I've decided to share these Q and As with the rest of you. If you have your own question to submit, you can email it to email@example.com
Starting off, a co-worker who drives a massive amount of miles each year and is interested in new vehicle e-mailed me:
My 17 year old son wrecked my 2006 Scion xB – insurance company totaled it due to extent of damage ($7000+) and mileage (190,000). It was in great shape and ran perfectly – but alas – she is history. (my son is ok except that now he has no wheels and that’s an inconvenience for me and my wife)
I have a KIA Soul with 90K miles and would look to upgrade for me and let him use the Soul.
Thinking of getting another Scion due to xB experience and need a cheap car as college tuition on 2 kids is BRUTAL.
I kinda like the XD – any comments?
Appreciate any insight you could provide
The Scion xD is one of those cars that I can’t get excited about but can’t say much against either, it’s just a car. It will start and run every day and delivers rather unremarkable performance. It doesn’t have much power but it doesn’t get great fuel economy to make up for it. I assume you’d buy an automatic which leaves you with just a 4-speed auto when the rest of the industry is using 6-speed units for better acceleration and fuel economy. Toyota also makes the Yaris on this platform with a less powerful engine, cheaper interior, and lower price. Sales of the Yaris and xD have been fairly slow, so the dealer will probably buy you a lap dance just for looking.
If you’re not married to driving a hatchback, I’ll have more suggestions. Here are some competitors in this segment to consider:
I’ve recently had the Chevy Sonic as a test car and really enjoyed it. It is roughly in the same price range as the xD… it also sports one of the best crash test ratings in its class having both stability control and more airbags than Congress. The turbo version has better real-world gas mileage than the non-turbo. There is very little power advantage getting the turbo, it is there entirely for improving fuel economy. With as many miles as you put on cars each year, the turbo might be worth springing the extra money for. If I were shopping in this segment, this one would be my choice because it feels like a much more substantial car on the road.
Ford Focus - Ford is rolling out lots of deals on the Focus 5-door. I’m personally not a fan of the styling but that is a subjective thing. The hardware under the skin is sound. If it matters to you, the Focus was designed by Ford of Germany.
Subaru Impreza 5-door may be another car to look at if having AWD interests you and you can swing another $1500. When equipped with the CVT transmission ( which drives like an automatic) it is only rated for 33mpg highway but most owners report getting much higher than the EPA rating on the highway. Subaru has long been thought of as the Japanese Volvo in terms of safety ratings.
Hyundai Elantra GT - I haven’t driven it so I don't have too firm an opinion, but its price may be a bit high with a starting MSRP over $18k.
Kia Soul – You already have one and you didn’t mention getting another. It is also due to be replaced with a new model very soon so you might be able to pick one up cheap as a leftover.
Volkswagen Golf – The car itself is fine, but you can’t get a decent engine until you spend well over $20k. The base 5-cylinder engine is the worst of both worlds, having the power of a 4-cylinder with the fuel economy of a V6, and the refinement of a John Deere. No exaggeration, I’ve gotten better fuel economy out of a V6 Camaro and V6 Chrysler 300 than VW cars with the 2.5 liter.
Ford Fiesta/Mazda 2 – Same car under the skin. I’m not a fan. They feel cramped and flimsy. Spending just a little bit more money gets you a far more solid car in the Chevrolet Sonic or Ford Focus.
Nissan Versa – It’s the cheapest new car on the market today… but just No. Don’t do it. You get what you pay for.
Honda Fit – Catches a lot of hell for the interior, but none of the cars in this segment will be sporting mahogany inlay. This is another car that, like the Scion xD, will start and run each day, but is unremarkable in the performance it returns being one of the least powerful in the segment yet producing mediocre fuel economy numbers. Price will probably scare you away here because Honda dealers are unmotivated to negotiate price much since there are so many Honda Kool-Aid drinkers out there.
What do you readers think? Anything I forgot that should have been included?