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Economy Sedans (~$16k-$20k)



  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,906

    Maybe you can give us some tips as to how to be selected this time (my having had no success in the mid-sized sedans test drive last winter)? ;)
  • patpat Posts: 10,421
    We don't have any magic way in, I assure you. Just follow the link if you are interested.
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    This seems like the best place to discuss this, since all folk here are into fuel efficiency!

    In my area, the price of gas has eclipsed $4.00/gal. $3.98 on Sunday, and now $4.05 today, these economy cars are looking more and more desirable. My wife is looking for replace here Subi Impreza, and my mind in more on fuel economy. Hers is stuck on AWD. I'm also not a fan of how Subies drive, heavy brakes, heavy steering, loud engine. Cars we added to the list are Honda Civic LX, Mazda3&6, Legacy, Forester. I have asked her to pick out cars she likes, and I filter out the unreliable ones. This is going to be fun!
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,906
    "Economy car" and AWD are a contradiction in terms, IMO. If you are looking for high FE, an AWD car or SUV is not the best way to go. Something in this class of sedans, e.g. Civic, Corolla, Elantra, Mazda3, or in the class below, e.g. Fit, Versa, Yaris, or a hybrid like the Prius is the best route.
  • lilengineerboylilengineerboy Posts: 4,116
    "Economy car" and AWD are a contradiction in terms, IMO.

    I am quite content with the 30mpg we are getting from our Legacy wagon. I appreciate how well it handles (much better than my Accord) and its responsiveness. Of course, they don't make it anymore as now the model they offer has some ridiculous "I wanna be an SUV" tire and wheel package that is both heavier and less responsive. Oh well, I've already got mine.

    Something in this class of sedans, e.g. Civic, Corolla, Elantra, Mazda3, or in the class below, e.g. Fit, Versa, Yaris, or a hybrid like the Prius is the best route.

    I don't know about that, my Accord is getting 30-34 mpg regularly. I think a C car like a Focus/Civic/Mazda3 would be fine as well. If you check out the "whats wrong with these subcompacts," there is a lot of debate over there on the merits of the smaller vehicles.
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    All of the Subaru 2.5L non turbo engines are rates at 20/26 or 21/27 by the EPA. The Legacy is also obtainable for under $20,000. Personally, I don't want to spend much more then $16,000-$17,000. That leaves us with a new Civic, Mazda3 or Mazda6 (lot's of rebate $$ on Mazda6). We would look at the Legacy/Forester if it were pre-owned. I work for a Mazda/F+L+M/Subaru store, and the amount of used Subies at my disposal is just crazy. I can get a year old Legacy 2.5 w/ auto tranny and moon roof for around $14,500-$15,000.

    I'm more for economy, but, since all she has ever driven is AWD Subies, she feels "safe" driving them in winter. Here in CT we get decent winters, however, I have never had an issue driving a FWD car here. I really want a $17,000 30+ mpg new car. But, we will see what happens.
  • lilengineerboylilengineerboy Posts: 4,116
    '05 Legacy Review

    You are right, maybe it is the new rating vs the old but the mileage went down from then to now. Our wagon was just shy of 20k (it is the base model like in the article, a 2.5i stick) with just the stupid auto-dim mirror and the all season floor mats/cargo cover. For our situation, it was just the perfect car at the perfect time, although I do kind of wish we had found a way to step up to the Limited and gotten heated leather seats and the big sun roofs.

    I think where I blew it was getting the Accord EX instead of a Civic SI, a MazdaSpeed6, or just about anything with a pulse.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,906
    If you are averaging 30 mpg in a Legacy and 30-34 mpg in an Accord, you must do a lot of highway driving. So you could probably average 40 mpg or so in a car like the Civic or Mazda3i. Which handle pretty darn well, btw. But if you're happy with 30 mpg, that's what counts.

    I've always liked small cars and like the idea of driving the smallest car that meets my needs. So the 2009 Fit, for example, is looking pretty good to me. Not everyone's cup of tea, I know, but I love the smart, efficient packaging of the thing. Also pretty darn easy to park just about anywhere. But I could live with a compact also; my top choice there for purchase later this year is the Elantra Touring. The 2009 Rabbit 2-door is looking good too with its standard ESP, but FE isn't that good for a small car.
  • lilengineerboylilengineerboy Posts: 4,116
    I've always liked small cars and like the idea of driving the smallest car that meets my needs.

    I think that is a good goal and subscribe somewhat to that as well, the Accord was ~$2500 cheaper than the Civic SI at the time, and can better hold the monster-sized child seat.

    So the 2009 Fit, for example, is looking pretty good to me. Not everyone's cup of tea, I know, but I love the smart, efficient packaging of the thing. Also pretty darn easy to park just about anywhere. But I could live with a compact also; my top choice there for purchase later this year is the Elantra Touring. The 2009 Rabbit 2-door is looking good too with its standard ESP, but FE isn't that good for a small car

    I can't get passed the styling on the Fit, it just doesn't appeal to me, and the FE doesn't seem good enough to offset the size and cost. I also think I am lucky I live in a place where parking isn't as critical.

    I think the Elantra offers a good value. I like the warranty and as long as you are buying it to run into the ground, resale value is much less of an issue. I like the VW because its so fun to drive, but part of the relationship with the car seems to be a relationship with the VW service department, so I don't know if I can handle that.
  • bpizzutibpizzuti Posts: 2,743
    If you check out the "whats wrong with these subcompacts," there is a lot of debate over there on the merits of the smaller vehicles.

    It's valid here too, comparing compacts and subcompacts. Basically, the subcompacts have very little MPG advantage, despite smaller engines and lower weight. A Fit and an Elantra get the same highway MPG per the EPA, for example.
  • bpizzutibpizzuti Posts: 2,743
    So the 2009 Fit, for example, is looking pretty good to me. Not everyone's cup of tea, I know, but I love the smart, efficient packaging of the thing. Also pretty darn easy to park just about anywhere. But I could live with a compact also; my top choice there for purchase later this year is the Elantra Touring.

    Ahh, a fellow hatch lover! Those are the main two I'm looking at as well, though I might also consider a Civic if I want to lose the hatch (wish it still had one)...don't like the 1.8 Matrix.

    What I'd like to know is what's taking Nissan so long to put VSC on the Versa.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,906
    Have you had a bad experience with VW's service? Have you tried more than one dealer? There's a lot of variation across dealers I've found.

    The Rabbit itself is proving to be pretty reliable, at least per the CR members' survey. The Rabbit is now CR's top choice for small hatches. And for 2009 VW is adding 3 years' free maintenance--which isn't all that much really, mostly a few oil changes, but every bit helps. The only major downside for me on the Rabbit is its FE. Since the base 2 door with ESP and AT will cost more than the base Fit or Elantra Touring (or SE), and have higher operating costs because of the lower FE, that will be tough for me to justify. And I much prefer a 4-door (or 5-door) car; the 4-door Rabbit is pretty pricey for this class.
  • Hey Backy,

    I've had my 2007 Rabbit for almost a year. I've gone to the dealership for all of my work, and the service has always been good. It's actually improved since I purcahsed my car, and the dealer and Volkswagen corporate always contact me after service to ask me if I was satisfied or not.
    One thing I do is stick strictly to the maintenance guide provided in my manual, instead of the dealers recommendations.

    This means only bringing my car in every 10,000 miles after the 5,000 and 10,000 mile checkup. The dealer recommends every 5,000 miles, but with synthetic oil, it's only necessary to change out ever 10,000 or six months.

    My 5,000 and 10,000 mile service were both around $100-$120. I skipped the 15,000 mile service, and brought it in at 20,000 miles for about $330 including an upgraded carwash, and some mat work (my floormat clips were not compatible with myincluded floormats). I was only charged for the clips and not labor for that work, and they were pretty friendly about it, but did not tell me I was going to be charged for the clips up front.

    I just check my fluid levels every now and then to make sure I'm not low on anything. I figure they only want my car in more often to get more $$$, and I'm pretty confident that the included owners manual recommendations are just fine, and saving me a few hundred dollars a year.

    The '09 warranty still isn't "all inclusive" for the work and it's actually a shorter warranty than the '07 and '08 models which have a 50,000 mile 5 year warranty.
    This might be a good thing, it might not. We'll see I guess.

    Overall I'm extremely happy with this car. It looks great, it drives great (too smooth for some with the electromechanical steering) It's comfortable, solid and has plenty of room for all my storage with seats that go nearly flat (including the front passanger seat!) there are very few cons in owning this vehicle. One is the fuel economy (compared to Honda Fit, 2006 and earlier Scion XB, and Scion XD) But the '08 has 170hp compared to my 150hp and equivalent MPG. And VW MKV is a huge improvement in fuel economy over MKIV and earlier regular gas VW engines. Expect to get about 24mpg. One other "problem" is the air vents in the car You can't have air going through the top and btotom (foot) vents at the same time. The vents are a bit high, and it takes a while to get the best seat/vent position for driving with the air conditiong on hot summer days. Last but not least, the adjustment knob for the passenter seat is a little bit of a pain you have to rotate a knob to recline, raise the seat. These are all pretty nit-picky complaints in my book, and I hardly feel as if I made a compromise in purchasing this car. As fuel prices go up, I may feel differently, but so far; no regrets, and I feel that it was hardly a trade off. (The only other 3 cars I considered were 2006 Scion XBs which were no longer available new, Honda fit which had an engine that was tooooo small and loud at higher speeds to feel appropriate for such a space efficient car, and the Mazda 3 five door which didn't have great maintenance reputation, and was more expensive out the door for similar features) Besides, a lot of what I see on the road around me in Southern California are big trucks, and suped up luxury cars: I know I'm not getting hit as hard as some.

    Anyway, I hope this info helps.

  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,906
    I heard that the VW warranty for 2009 is the same as for 2008, but the 3 years of free maintenance has been added for 2009. Have you heard differently?

    It looks like the Rabbit is expensive to service (e.g. $100 for a 5k service, vs. the $25 or so I am used to paying for other cars) so I guess the 3 years of free service is a pretty good deal after all.
  • sandman46sandman46 Posts: 1,798
    Seems that we'll be in the market for 2 small cars come the fall. So far on the list are: the Elantra (the current fav), Versa, Sentra, Civic, 3, Spectra, Focus, Corolla and the Accent. Am having the wife take the girls to test drive these over the next few months to decide. Am pushing for them to get the same cars, as we might be able to get a little better deal by buying both at the same time. Both will be cash deals unless the financing rates will be ridiculously low. Luckily, we've got the time to do the research and be able to get them a car that fits.
    If they had their way, they'd be getting small BMW's or the IS250. Funny how they both have expensive tastes in cars and the wife and I have driven small econoboxes since they were small. Guess our frugalness and desire for excellent mileage has not been passed on. But hey, they are 23 & 21 now and like the finer things in life. But once they have to pay all their expenses for these new "toys", I think they'll be happy with our insistence for smaller econoboxs.

    The Sandman :)
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,906
    Since these are for your girls to drive, may I suggest steering clear of the Accent? It has poor crash test scores--only Acceptable on the IIHS frontal test, and Poor on the IIHS side test. I think (?) all the other cars you are looking at got a Good on the frontal test, and some got Good on the side test also--Civic and Versa for sure; several haven't had the IIHS side test yet. The 3 was tested only w/o side bags (Poor), so it would likely do better with side bags. Also the Accent is smaller than the other cars--interior-wise it's about the same as the Civic, but the Civic is a larger and more refined car (as you know).

    How about the Lancer and Rabbit? Also if you wait until fall, the larger-for-2009 Fit will be out. Maybe your girls will think it's cute. :)
  • sandman46sandman46 Posts: 1,798
    The girls think the Fit is a "cute ute" actually and will be on the list. Talking with them at dinner earlier, the Accent was voted out and since Mom has the 3 already, that's a low choice on the totem pole already. I'm pushing for the Versa or the Elantra myself. The Rabbit is off the list for personal reasons and I still don't trust VW's reliability.
    Still, plenty of good candidates to choose from. Luckily, they both have about $16k put away after their college funds for their purchase. Mom, being a CPA, has wisely invested their college funds knowing that this day would come and they'd both need cars for their 1st jobs. We still have a 20 year old son who will be a junior this fall that we'll have to do the same thing with right about the time I retire. Kids!
    But it will be fun for me to try out their final picks, as I don't want to influence them that much. I did reserve the right to veto any car which I feel isn't a good fit for whatever reason and they are in agreement since they both know virtually nothing about cars.

    The Sandman :)

    (P.S. - The Lancer is nice but the mileage figures are nothing to write home about.)
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,906
    This sounds great but two little words: grad school. :)
  • sandman46sandman46 Posts: 1,798
    The oldest finishes grad school in December, the 2nd graduates college in December and has accepted a 6 month internship at Epcot in Disney World. Then either grad school or if she gets offered employment by Disney...she'd grab it.
    So, they both will need cars, as we live in Coral Springs, Florida, outside of Ft. Lauderdale and Epcot is in Orlando.

    The Sandman :)
  • sharon22sharon22 Posts: 28
    Don't know if this is the "right" forum to address my question, but I'd appreciate a bit of advice. My '05 Subaru Outback just isn't cutting it at 22 mpg so I'm looking for a more fuel efficient vehicle. I'm "on the list" for an '08 Prius w/pkg 2; however, I'm trying to figure out if I trully NEED it. Since getting on the waiting list for the Prius, I've driven the Yaris (sedan and hatchback) and really liked it. I live only 10 miles from work, don't drive highway often, take about one "road-trip" a year and want reliability, low cost to own and will drive this new car until the wheels fall off. Is the extra money for the Prius really worth it? When I add the options I want on the Yaris, it's about $10,000 difference between it and the Prius. That's a lot of fuel!
    I'm second-guessing my decision to be placed on a waiting list even though I think the Prius is an excellent car and as "green" as you can get. I want to leave as little a carbon foot-print as I can, BUT . . . Any advice?
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,906
    I went through this same analysis four years ago. I ordered a 2004 Prius in November 2003. It was going to replace a Grand Caravan--wow, big gas savings there, right? The lease ran out on the van in May 2004. No problem, said the dealer, the Prius would be in long before then. But then allocations changed and March turned into July. So I had to look at options. I really wanted a small 5-door hatch so I looked at cars like the Malibu Maxx, Mazda6i, Matrix, and Elantra GT. Like you, I don't drive that much--less than 10k miles a year. I found out I could get an Elantra loaded with every option including leather and moonroof for $13,200. The Prius would have been about $9000 more, for a basic model with SABs and mats as the only options (SABs were optional back then). The Elantra is just about the same size as the Prius, with a mid-sized interior and good cargo space in back. I ran the numbers based on an average 25 mpg on the Elantra (conservatively low I've found) and 50 mpg on the Prius (a litte generous perhaps). Based on 10k miles a year and gas at $4.00 a gallon (which I thought was conservatively high 4 years ago!), it would take over 11 years to make up the up-front price difference based on gas savings. And that doesn't account for investing the $9000, which I could probably double in those 11 years. After 11 years, the Elantra wouldn't be worth much but how much would the Prius have depreciated--and would it need a new battery pack by then?

    Plugging a Yaris into the math would be different, as the Yaris gets better FE than the Elantra.

    Anyway, I went with the Elantra and have been happy with that decision. But I am keeping my eyes on the 2011 Prius when we get rid of the van in 3 years. :)
  • sandman46sandman46 Posts: 1,798
    I'd also check out the Versa and possibly the Aveo also depending on how much $ you're looking to spend. Only drive about 7.5k miles here and am very happy with my '06 Civic LX...perfect choice for my driving tastes. Thought about the prius or the Civic Hybrid for like 2 minutes but decided with the amount of miles I drive per year, the extra upfront cost didn't justify the car.
    So many feul efficient econocars out there now to choose from. These manufacture's are making a killing with high petrol prices.
    Let us know what you decide.

    The Sandman :)
  • no_oneno_one Posts: 29
    May I suggest also considering at the Saturn Astra? It's similar to the Rabbit, but gets better fuel economy. It also has been around for three years in Europe, where it has received rave reviews.... Great handling, comfortable, plenty of space.

    However, while it fits in your price range, your daughters may object to the fact it currently has no aux input jack.
  • poncho167poncho167 Posts: 1,178
    Saturn Astra, probably the best all around car in the compact class. The VW Rabbit, neat car, fun to drive, but too much money and low mpg.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,906
    The Rabbit 3-door costs less than the Astra 3-door, and the Rabbit 5-door is only about $800 more than the Astra XE 5-door. The Astra does get 2-3 mpg more than the Rabbit, but the Rabbit has a lot more power. The Astra doesn't get as good FE as some other compacts with similar or more power, e.g. Civic, Corolla, Elantra, Focus, and Sentra. For a fun to drive compact with good FE, I'd take the Mazda3i or Civic over the Astra, or if it had to be a hatch, the Fit.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    "Saturn Astra, probably the best all around car in the compact class. The VW Rabbit, neat car, fun to drive, but too much money and low mpg."

    Ya lost me with that comment. I've recently driven both the Astra and the Rabbit, and the $16,000 Bunny completely destroyed the Astra in every objective and subjective measure except fuel economy, and even then the difference isn't all that great. Personally I could be quite happy driving the Rabbit for a couple of years, the Astra not so much.

    Best Regards,
  • no_oneno_one Posts: 29
    The Astra has more than adequate power with the 5-speed (can't speak to the automatic, and VW makes the world's most amazing automatic), but yes, the rabbit is clearly superior in this area. Don't know why anyone minds an extra 0.5 seconds from 0-60, though personally.

    However, the fuel economy of the Astra has been significantly better than EPA in my own experience (last tank was 36.2 mpg), whereas the Rabbit has been fairly comparable to the EPA numbers under real world conditions, from what I have read in various forums. This was a major selling point for me (I'm an astra owner, can you tell?).

    Also, the Fit is in a different class. I test drove one and found it woefully adequate. It's good basic transportation, and gets great fuel economy, but it doesn't border on luxury like the Astra or Rabbit does, nor is it as agile.

    Anyway, all the cars you mention are decent cars, and have various pros and cons, which I need not go into. All I am saying is that if one is looking at cars in the $16k-20k range, the Astra deserves some consideration.
  • thegraduatethegraduate Posts: 9,731
    I have yet to hear anything positve about the 1.8L powertrain in the Astra. What I have read says that the engine needs to rev to get moving, but acts as if it hates to rev. I can't say for sure how true this is; just as you can't say you wouldn't get above EPA numbers in a Rabbit, either.

    Personally, neither would be on my list (I'm scared of VW reliability, and if I wanted a hatch, the Versa offers the best interior room, and at 6'5" that matters a LOT to me!). For $16-$18k, you get a VERY well-equipped hatch with the Versa.
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 Manson, WAPosts: 6,913
    build quality/reliability department. That has been the knock on them for quite some time. I haven't really inquired in to that subject for a while so maybe someone could enlighten us all on that. I will always remember a certain VW in our family, my Dad's baby blue '66 Fastback. A nice little car and the one I learned to drive stick in. A 4-speed if memory serves me correctly.

    2011 Kia Soul Sport 5-speed

  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,906
    I agree the Astra deserves some consideration. I just don't agree it's the best car in the compact class.

    My own experience with the Fit is that it is a nimble, fun to drive car. It certainly isn't a luxury car, but for 2009 it will have VSC and factory nav available, plus a roomier and more refined interior and more power. It does have some upscale features e.g. paddle-shifting automatic that neither the Rabbit nor Astra offers. Also I don't think the Rabbit or Astra offer factory nav, do they? And of course the Fit has those "magic seats."
This discussion has been closed.