So… We’re Buying A New Car

2011 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon (c) General Motors

My lovely wife (lovely in part because she’s very frugal) surprised me a few months ago in announcing we need a new car. OK, let me clarify, she needs a new car. I have a daughter that’s about to start driving and the vehicle that has transported the family for the last 11 years will now be her protection (errr, transportation). A 2000 Volvo V70 is the perfect vehicle for a 17 year old.

My wife Mariko is not a car person. The only car vehicle she can spot right away is a Honda, and that’s only when she’s sitting in it since the seats hit her back in a very unique way.

So I have begun the process of winnowing down the endless choices for her. It’s one thing to review a car, it’s another to agree on one and buy it. For the past month I’ve been pointing out cars and logging the ones she likes and doesn’t. There are three main points she must have- 1) It has to be practical (a wagon, hatch or crossover), 2) It has to be reasonably priced, and 3) she needs to be able to see out of it.

That last one is becoming an issue. This woman is packed with personality though at 5’1″ she’s very petite. Today’s aerodynamic designs are laying the windshield pillars back dramatically and when she adjusts the seat to reach the wheel, the A pillar can block her left side vision. Have to admit I didn’t quite take it seriously until I wedged myself into her position and found the view to be kind of scary at times.

So here’s the list we’re starting with (in no particular order)-

Dodge Journey
Subaru Outback or Forrester
Volkswagen Tiguan, Golf and Jetta Sportwagen
Honda CR-V
Volvo XC60
Mazda5, CX-7
Acura TSX Sport Wagon
Toyota Venza, Highlander and RAV4
Kia Soul, Sportage and Sorrento
Hyundai Tucson
Mercedes GLK
Nissan Rogue
Audi Q5
Chevy Equinox and Volt
Ford Focus and Edge

This initial list varies a lot because of the visibility issue and because Mariko isn’t entirely sure what she wants from a car, just that she doesn’t want a sedan. She likes the price and utility of the Kia Soul but has quickly found out the difference between a car that costs 18K and one that’s 40. It’s doubtful the expensive cars will survive the cut, she can afford them but just doesn’t want to. She is very intrigued by the Volvo City Safety system though and the fact that the Volt can save money by running on electricity.

Finally, since this is her car I have promised her that I won’t pressure her into something I want. Though I think the CTS-V Sport Wagon pictured above would be a most excellent compromise, she has dismissed it outright. Hey I drive 60-70 cars a year so I can live with that. So every few days I will check in and let you all know what’s happening with the process. This could get interesting. I think I know what she will end up with and have written my prediction on a slip of paper, put it in an envelope, and given it to her. Let’s see how well I know her.


  1. Capsule23 says:

    adding another two cents to the pile..
    Reasonably priced…
    And be able to see out of it….

    Elantra Touring
    Sportwagen (I’d lean towards diesel, but that’s just me)
    Prius V

    For a little more mullah, the TSX Wagon seems like a decent ride (based on you’re own review ;) )

  2. TheCarFan says:

    For me, the Audi A4 Avant would be a very good choice. It comes with a 211HP engine and has a all the features that a luxury vehicle should have. Also, if you need it, the Quattro system would be a very good item for winter.

  3. revilo1 says:

    Being a Brit, I have to suggest Mariko adds Range Rover to the list.
    The LR2 is under $40,000. and who knows the windshield pillars might just be in the e goldilocks position for her.
    And the New Range Rover Evoque (4 door) is a head turner and maybe affordable if you pay her sales tax!!! : )

    • revilo1 says:

      I meant to say Land Rover!!!
      Land Rover LR2
      Range Rover Evoque

      • raschmidt says:

        I was just thinking about the Evoque! It looks really good, and since it’s a lot of Volvo components it should be somewhat reliable and functional too right?!

        • kty0608 says:

          reliability is not one of land rovers best areas

          • TV says:

            A friend had a Range Rover that needed 6K of work once. That has stuck in her mind so it’s doubtful. Besides, she’s a bit of a reverse snob and is suspicious of top premium brands. She once said she didn’t want people to think we make a lot of money. Hmmm, all I have to do is show them my wallet…

  4. jabv02 says:

    why not a dodge journey or durango or the new jeep compass

    another options…. suzuki grand vitara (maybe not the best mpg but it´s better than the caddi) jajajaja

    toyota highlander

    vw tiguan

    mazda cx7 or cx9

    bmw x3

    even the new ford explorer it´s better now to me it looks smaller ;)

  5. tailfin61 says:

    You had mentioned that she liked the Volt when you had it for a week. I would definitely recommend it. We used just 5 gallons of gas in the first 3000 miles. On a recent trip from CT to the Outer Banks of NC we averaged 45 MPG in the 1000 mile round trip, with a lot of stop and go traffic and 103 degree temps (AC definitely in use). The same trip last year in a VW CC averaged 29 MPG. The seats are very comfortable, no problems with comfort in the 12 hour trip. We are also totally addicted to the quiet smooth operation. We’re just about to hit 5000 and the Volt has been flawless so far.

    • crash says:

      I can’t wait till the Volt comes to Canada….I seriously think that’ll be the next rig in our house…

  6. GusGT says:

    TV, I don’t have any suggestions but wanted to say that I’m looking forward to the Journey you experience as you commit your Soul and Focus on the right vehicle. They say the Northwest environment is the opposite of Tucson (almost Outback-like) so nobody will ever accuse you of living in a Rogue desert. The Cascades are no Golf course but a lush Forrest-er of beauty, almost like being on the Edge of heaven. So, I can think of no better location to RAV4 your next car.

    Sorry, I know I’m not a writer and this isn’t a rant equal to the Vernal Equinox but couldn’t help myself with the play on words. I know someone can be more creative than this.

    • TV says:

      OK, you win on the most puns ever in a post. Anywhere. I’d wince if I wren’t laughing so hard. Thanks Gus!

  7. crash says:

    If memory serves me correctly, you guys took an Equinox out on a vacation – and seemed to enjoy it…was practical…might be the way to go if she’s frugal :)

  8. 68mlo says:

    Best advice is to test drive them all until she finds one she likes and has the visibility she’s looking for. It might be tedious to do so, but driving them all is the way to be sure she’s happy with the vehicle she makes the payments on.

    Just FYI…the TDI Jetta Sportwagen or the Focus SEL 5-door are the ones I’d look at first (if I were shopping right now, that is). :)

  9. kty0608 says:

    To be honest, the only cars I would get on that list are: Forrester, XC60, CX-7, CRV, RAV4, Tuscon and the Edge.

    @JF i agree the new impreza is a wise choice however like you said, it might be a tad small. Also, another thing to consider with the impreza, is that unless your wife can drive a stick shift, a CVT isn’t the wisest choice. (You probably know this) The AWD torque split is 90-10 in an automatic compared to 50-50 split with a stick shift, however I am not sure if this will stay true with the upcoming model.
    The Forrester always has my thumbs up, because it is uber reliable, has GREAT visibility, nice size and economic for it’s class.
    AWD is a plus as well.

    For the CUV’s, i would take them in this order: CX-7, Tuscon, CRV, RAV4.
    The reason i would take the CX-7 is because my family has owned over 5 Mazdas over the years and they have proven to be very reliable cars. It is also very fun to drive, which may not mean much to your wife, but will be noticeable compared the the CRV / RAV4.

    I would not get a Q5 over a Tiguan because they are almost the same car, but with the Q5 having a higher price tag.

    Out of everything on your list, I would personally pick between : Forrester, XC60, CX-7, CRV, RAV4, Edge and Tuscon.

    On a side note, if you require a 7 seater, i recommend an XC90. Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear (most popular motoring show in the world) raves about it and owned one.

    Haha sorry if it sounded like a viewer was informing a professional auto journalist, I got carried away. Good luck with the search!!

    • TV says:

      We need a certain amount of room with kids around for at least a few years. I doubt the expensive ones will stay on the list for long but there’s one or two I’m hoping she’ll like. Welcome to the site! TV

  10. Jake02 says:

    I’d love to see the Voelks driving around in an Audi Q5 (man you guys get good value Q5s, Aus-spec models here start at $62,000 and for that you get nothing) but I have to admit that the Acura TSX Sportwagon is also an appealing choice. But to continue the Volvo thing, why not get an XC60?

    • TV says:

      The XC60 is a personal fav. However this is not my car, it’s for the Mrs. So while I’m coaching her, she needs to feel comfortable driving it. Even I say don”t listen to the auto writers if you personally don;t like a car. Her size makes things a bit tougher.

  11. raschmidt says:

    I would say Venza or XC60, they’re both great crossovers, but if she’s looking to save money the Mazda5 or Kia Sportage would be a great car. I think the Sportage is a great looking and inexpensive alternative to vehicles like the Venza, Edge, or XC60, and the fuel economy is pretty good too!

  12. ssc308 says:

    My wife and I love our 1998 318TI for the practicality of a hatch, the great fuel efficiency of a 4 cylinder and drive of a 3 series…but we are also starting to shop for a bigger 4 door car. I simply am hooked to idea of the new Mazda5 myself especially after watching your review….its true that it is slightly short on power and misses an option for an in-dash navigation, but its really practical. I think your wife should consider it for few simple reasons, its a lot of car for the money.. and she should be having a good all round visibility and will always have space for the kids and your nieces all together. I wish the Mazda5 had more competition in USA like the Ford Grand C-max or an updated Kia Rondo or even the 7seat Prius wagon, but I think it will be a long wait till more of these practical hatches make it across….happy shopping and keep us updated!!

  13. dravi says:

    I think my wife is going to go for the highlander. We both like it, and it seems to be right for our needs. It is big, but not too big. It has 7 seats, but it still is decent with gas mileage. How about the Murano or the Infinitis for your wife?

  14. DCR says:

    Somehow this post made me flashback to the time when my buddy’s wife lowered the garage door on their E350 wagon that still had its hatch and bumper sticking out, but I digress… I watch literally every episode of DCRs and also Brian Cooley’s Car Tech as I am in the same boat. Love the TP trunk test. If it has to be a wagon/hatchback, my vote goes to the CT 200h. CT has going for it the attitude of a Mazda 3 and the soul of a nimbler Prius with albeit a nicer interior. A follow up CT review with the TP test would answer the hauler question nicely.

  15. JF says:

    Here is my advice: buy the new Subaru Impreza 2012 when it comes out. Here’s why:

    - Subaru have actually lowered (shock!) the window line for greater visibility
    - They added extra glass area near the side view mirrors
    - AWD is standard
    - 20% larger mirrors for better safety
    - The wagon version is very practical and has a huge cargo area
    - With the CVT it gets great gas mileage at 27/36 MPG

    Exterior (great 5-door configuration)

    Interior (check out the great visibility by the mirror)

    Hopefully your wife will find the right car for her :)

    • TV says:

      Oh she will find a car. It’s just that she’s picky. Hey, look who she married!

      The Imprezza might not be out in time and might be a little small. We’ll see…

  16. Toaster says:

    What about the Nissan Juke? Too small?

    • TV says:

      Yes, too small. While my daughter will be off to college in a year, we’ll have the boy and his friends for another 4. Need some back seat room.

  17. spidey1968 says:

    If my memory serves me correctly, someone in your family already owns a Mazda5, so my guess is that she chooses the Acura TSX Sport Wagon.

    • TV says:

      Both my parents and her parents own 5s so we are very familiar with it.

      • ssc308 says:

        For a 5-seater with space, did you think about the Elantra Touring, the current generation had the price-cut and maybe a great year end bargain, its a lot of car especially for the price lower than the base Elanra