So… We’re Buying A Car Part 3

The last time I wrote about our adventures in automobile buying we had stopped by just two dealerships, sat in a few of them and bid adieu.  Then we became crazy busy with work, vacations, and chores.  You know, life.  Shopping for Mariko’s car was put on the back burner.

This weekend we got out to do some more looking for the hatchback/crossover/wagon that she wants.  Our biggest revelation about the real world of car shopping these days? Some stores just don’t have any.  Weird.  Last time I heard the economy was in shambles.

We stopped by a Toyota dealership and were told there were no RAV4s, Venzas and just a few Highlanders (loaded to the gills).  Oddly enough there were a dozen Prius’ and the guy said he was dealing.  I just kept thinking about the Toyota Sell-A Thon ads I keep seeing on TV while surveying a largely barren lot.

A trip to the Hyundai store found the same thing but it’s due to white-hot popularity not a tsunami.  The salesman (a descendant of Kit Carson no less) said they just can’t get enough vehicles.  While I could have my choice of a few Equus’ on hand, there were no Elantras, Sonatas or Accents other than the demo units.  We were there to look at a Santa Fe. There were two.  And one Veracruz.


Ford was all but out of the new Focus and there were no Chevy Cruzes at all. (though I did see my first Sonic).  The Kia dealership said they were looking forward to a shipment of Optimas, most of them pre-sold.  If people don’t have jobs and have stopped spending money they don’t have, you’d never know it by car shopping.

The Big Duh

I’ll also comment on how wildly different our showroom experiences were.  Most salespeople were great and even low pressure. A few were truly dreadful.  Sit-com grade horrible.  Makes me realize how far removed I am from the buying process since I get cars from the manufacturers every week.

A Ford salesman could not find a Focus for us even as I kept pointing at one.  “That’s not a Focus, that’s a Fiesta” he insisted.  Uh-huh.  Right.  One salesperson completely blew us off when I said “for various reasons we’re considering everything from a Volvo XC60 to a budget Kia Soul”.  Understandably an unfocused list, but dude, don’t roll over and play dead.

2011 Chrysler Town & Country

Contrast that with a masterful effort at the Chrysler/Dodge dealership.  My wife said the Journey didn’t quite have the visibility she wanted so he asked her to wait a moment because “there’s a vehicle better suited for you”.  He swung around with a Town & Country and patiently explained why it was perfect for a petite woman.  And you know what?  It was.  He actually got us to consider a mini-van and we only have two kids (with one leaving for college next year).  Amazing.  Well done sir.  Though really, at this point in our life it would be like cutting butter with a chain saw.

Marathon Day

Our strategy on this day is to check cars out first without driving.  A refresher, this is due to my wife who stands five feet tall.  The way the A pillars are raked back these days they can block her left side view when she sits close to the steering wheel.  Or in some cases the seat doesn’t come close enough to the pedals.  Also, she is NOT an enthusiast.  It’s almost comical how different we are but still get along great.

While we have already looked at them, we go for a Jetta SportWagen, Tiguan, and Outback refresher.  Immediately our “no drive” strategy is toast, we end up driving them because… well, because.  We lose time but find the Tiguan fits her very well, though a bit pricey for the size.  Outback is a good size but she doesn’t like the way it drives.  I can’t get a real explanation on what that means but if you’ve been married as long as I have you just kind of go with it.

At the Kia/Chevy establishment our salesman is a pleasant guy and he shows us a 2012 Soul.  Sorento and Equinox are also on our list.  Mariko still wants to believe that a 20K car can have an Audi-grade interior, the 2011 Soul burst her bubble.  The 2012 gets a bit of an upgrade with a rubber-like like feel on many of the hard plastic parts. She’s happy to see that but still disappointed by the smaller cargo space.  Sorento has much, much more of that.  That of course means she feels it might be too big.

The Equinox seems to have the Goldilocks touch, with a size that’s just right.  She can see out of it and the seats are very comfortable.  But the seats don’t slide forward enough so it’s off the list.  Soul is on because it’s affordable.  The salesman sends us on our way with a brochure.

Ice Cream Break

We stop at DQ (a real treat since they are quite rare in the Seattle area).  Over a Cappuccino Heath Bar Blizzard (highly recommended) Mariko asks whether a Volt would be a good way to go.  Financially it might work, Seattle has very cheap electric rates, much of it hydroelectric.  She generally drives around 30 miles a day.  And who knows where gas prices are going?  The eco image is a real positive in the Northwest as well. Mariko is wary of the 35K price tag though (after incentives) and not keen about the two passenger back seat.  We decide to crunch the numbers later (but really, availability is the real issue here).

Fully caffeinated and with sugar coursing through our veins we  head to the Hyundai store.  The Santa Fe is quickly nixed simply because it’s too big and next to the newest “fluidic sculpture” models on the lot (not for sale BTW, only for test driving) it looks dowdy, especially inside.  Tucson has the same A pillar problem as Sportage so that too is nixed.

As I stated earlier, Toyota has no cars though we have managed to find a Venza and the A piller blocks her view.  Honda has no CR-Vs (though we’d wait for the 2012 model due out soon anyways).  She deems the Crosstour too big for a five seater and, in her words, “remarkably unattractive”.

Focus is off the list because of a back seat she finds too cramped (a few of her friends are on the tall side, not good for them).  Edge is also cut simply because it’s hard for her to get into.


The Volvo XC60 is one of my favorite crossovers, certainly on the high end of our budget.  Perhaps because of the price, it does not strike her the same way.  She is ambivalent.  Huh?  Like the Sportage denial, this is disappointing to me.  She says visibility is okay so I put it on my list even though it’s her car.  So there.  I hope that a demo of the City Safety system on a real test drive will impress her.

While we didn’t set out to drive any vehicles we did take Journey and T & C out (in addition to the two VWs, the Subaru and the Kia).  It’s hard enough buying a car, it’s nearly impossible for two people to agree on one.  I am obviously an enthusiast, she sees them as a necessary tool.  The fact that she says the VWs “feel really good when driving” is glimmer of hope that deep down she understands that a car can evoke an emotion.

That said, we have narrowed our test drive list down to these cars in alphabetical order-

Chevy Volt (dark horse but we’re checking budget and availability).

Honda CR-V (when the new one hits later this year)

Kia Soul ! (or “exclaim” in English.  Great value, newly freshened, original design)

Subaru Outback Limited (suddenly she has a renewed interest because of good size and AWD)

VW Tiguan SE (perfect fit, AWD, a bit expensive for size)

VW Jetta SportWagen (very comfortable, practical and has the TDI option)

Volvo XC60 (a bit pricey for our budget but City Safety and great design are tempting, for me anyway)

I have a strong guess as to what she really wants.  I will keep you all informed…


  1. faceless_el says:

    looking forward to the end results and I do agree with your statement that ” It’s hard enough buying a car, it’s nearly impossible for two people to agree on one.”

  2. ilmhmtu says:

    Have you considered the new Subaru Impreza hatch? You won’t be able to drive one until December, but it might be a perfect late-to-the-running addition. Efficient, AWD, affordable, lots of space.

    My guess is that she goes with the Jetta Sportwagon. From what you write, it sounds like she likes it a lot!

  3. intotheoh says:

    Can I guess? Do I get a hat!? I’m going to say the Tiguan becuase you’ve been to that dealer multiple times. If it were me I’d go for the Equinox because its content rich for the same price. Thats the thing about buying a car…so subjective!

    • TV says:

      It seems to change day to day for her. We have a few more cars to drive before the decision is made. To complicate things we have a friend who is thinking about selling an ’06 XC70 with 36K miles in mint condition.

      Equinox is off the list. She can’t reach the pedals. Seriously.

  4. DCR says:

    TV, after watching the family enjoy themselves on vacation with the Chrysler mini van, have you guys given some thought to the 2012 Toyota Venza. I am certainly hoping DCR gives that puppy a full review (evil twin, TP) one of these days rather than just a press junket. Toyota may or may not have been incorporating all of the feedback that they have been given over the past three model years on that car. And, any new news about Toyota’s 2012 Camry hybrid power train coming over to the Venza platform would be appreciated.

    • TV says:

      We have looked at Venza, it was nixed because the A pillar rakes back so severely it blocks my wife’s left side sight.

      I’ll talk to the Toyota folks about a hybrid powertrain in Venza. They generally don’t talk about future product and since I haven’t heard any rumors floating around I’m going to guess it won’t happen. You never know though. Check back in a day or two for a response.

      Welcome to the sight! I like your handle. TV

    • TV says:

      Here’s the update- Toyota says “We have no announcements on a Venza hybrid, but we do hope to offer a hybrid offer on every vehicle in the Toyota lineup by early in the next decade and we’ll sell one million hybrids per year before the end of the decade”.

  5. motorstreet says:

    Get the Jetta Sportwagen TDI and a set of snow tires. It’s $29000 fully loaded or less if you get the manual. The Jetta Sportwagen has a big back seat, lots of cargo space, it’s pretty quick, it kept the high quality interior, and it will get 50 mpg on the highway (I regularly get that in my Golf TDI) and well over 30 in the city.

  6. crash says:

    I feel for you….some of your stories about buying a car ring true to when I bought my beloved Mazda. It’s remarkable to me how poor some of the salespeople are.

    I (personally) think if you’re going to look at the new CRV – you should also check out the CX5….’just right’ size, amazing fuel economy (from the reports at least) – and Mazda reliability.

    Beyond that – I’m still sold on the Volt…saw my first one in Canada the other day – good looking car!

    • raschmidt says:

      I agree with you on the CX-5, I parked next to one the other day, and it certainly had some interesting dimensions. I couldnt believe how short it was, yet still tall enough that you dont really have to duck your head in the way I have to in my Volvo. I’ll always be partial to the XC60, but the CX-5 seems to me to be just about the perfect size vehicle for the average person. Small enough that it’s not some oversized SUV, and still is sporty too, but has all of the SUV functionality. Can’t wait for the Ford Kuga to come to the states, we’ll see how that compares!

      • raschmidt says:

        err or am I thinking the CX-7? I was trying to find out if the CX5 was out yet but I can’t find any info on it for the States. If it was a CX-7 that I saw, then the CX-5 is going to be pretty tiny.

        • TV says:

          CX-5 won’t be out in time. We need to buy by the end of the year so it’s not a consideration. From the little I’ve read about it seems like it will be the about size of a Ford Escape maybe a hair smaller.

  7. tailfin61 says:

    The VW JSW would be a great choice, it really is a great all around vehicle. Besides our Volt we also have a 2010 Jetta sedan and it’s been totally trouble free in almost 20K miles. While I love our Volt, doesn’t it have the “A pillar” issue as well?

    • TV says:

      No, the A pillar seems to be OK for her on the Chevy. It’s odd how that changes from car to car. Thought the Elantra would bug her too but she’s OK with it (she doesn’t like sedans though).