So… We’re Buying A Car Part 4

The saga of buying a car for my wife continues. If you remember, she’s looking for a comfortable hatch/wagon kind of vehicle.  At 5’0″ visibility has been an issue, so has steering wheel and pedal placement.  The list is becoming smaller though, we’ve whittled the contenders down to three. They are in alphabetical order…

Kia Soul ! (or “exclaim” in English). Not even on the list originally, Mariko has gravitated towards it ever since we went to check out the Sorento.

Why she likes it- It’s a great value (loaded with nav, keyless, heated leather, and back up cam it’s a skosh over 22K.  It’s also useful with a roomy interior and a hatchback design.  For 2012 it gets new drivetrains with more power and fuel economy, a freshened exterior and interior, and a killer Infinity sound system (though she could care less about that).

Her concerns- While she really likes the unique design, she wonders how it will age.  Also, the cargo area is the smallest of the bunch and she’s a mighty practical woman.  She likes the brown color that is featured in many of the press photos, oddly one that isn’t offered in the US.  Not too crazy about hamsters.

Subaru Outback Limited This is a vehicle that’s just the right size and here in the Northwest where we live, AWD is handy (though not a necessity).

Why she likes it- It’s a good size for her, she’s very concerned with other people feeling comfortable and it can handle four of her friends pretty easily.  Subaru is practically the official car of Seattle, there are lots of them around.  She likes the rugged look.  It’s among the lower priced AWD vehicles out there too.

Her concerns- It has the lowest fuel economy of the cars she’s looking at.  Doesn’t like that she has to get the Limited to get a good looking interior.  Subaru is practically the official car of Seattle, there are lots of them around.  Realizes she will seldom truly depend on AWD.

VW Jetta SportWagen It’s a very comfortable, practical vehicle with clean lines.  The size is right too.  Trunk space is good and I have requested that if she were to chose it, the panoramic sunroof package is mandatory.  It completely transforms the car.  We need all the sunlight we can get in the grey Pacific Northwest. She is interested in the gasoline engine, not the TDI.

What she likes- Priced right in the middle with all the options.  Quiet and comfortable, she says “it feels zippy in the corners”.  Best interior of the bunch, especially likes the synthetic leather that doesn’t need any maintenance.  Good amount of cargo room.  Free scheduled maintenance for three years.

Her concerns- Thinks the exterior is a little boring looking.  Likes the TDI fuel economy but doesn’t want to pay the extra price for it or the fuel.  Would like it to come in AWD (this is after considering the Tiguan, a car she liked but ultimately dismissed as too expensive for its smallish size).

So that’s it folks, I doubt there will any other cars considered since we’ve driven just about everything there is.  She will be making her decision in the next week or so.  I put my guess in an envelope months ago and sealed it up in front of her, a good test of how well I know her.

Let’s make it interesting- I’m behind on getting hats out so the first five people who guess the right car (those who have not won a hat) get a stylish DCR hat. So get your guesses in.


  1. buzzy says:

    Hey Voelkers… guess knowing Mariko is a wise and parsimonious lady, and we’re in the midst of some hard times…I’m exercising my franchise and voting for the Kia Soul. Hope you bring it home. Love to see it.

  2. SB9T says:


  3. Elliot says:

    WV. “Best interior of the bunch” and I bet every time she drives it is from the interior. VW styling may be boring but it is usually evolutionary so the previous models don’t look so much like previous models.

  4. kenwenzel says:

    Since I want a hat and the other cars have been voted for over five times I am for the Kia Soul !!! Not what I would buy, but then I am an enthusiast.

    • TV says:

      Ahhh, playing the numbers. She is NOT an enthusiast. None of the cars she’s choosing are what performance junkies would go for though the SportWagen has some soul to it. Hmmmm, unintended pun.

      • kenwenzel says:

        I just hope that a year from now she is happy with her choice, Yep, playing the numbers. Still hoping for the hat, but hat, or no hat, I hope she is satisfied with the choice she makes.

  5. Just-James says:

    Based upon the three choices, I believe she will go with the most practical and choose the Subaru Outback. The Volkswagen Jetta wagon is a good car but, being a Volkswagen means you usually have far too many electrical and engine gremlins. Also her dismissal of the diesel engine is sad, as it is far better than the noisy inefficient old 5 cylinder that is the mainstay engine. The Soul is a left field choice. Funky and fun and practical, but maybe a little too small. The Outback is the logical and practical choice.

  6. DCR says:

    Having driven an to-remain-unnamed euro brand for 7 years that required lots of visits to the dealer where some years I saw the service advisor more often than some of my friends, TV, my vote goes to the car with the fewest number of known issues both short-term and long-term maintenance wise. From taking a gander at the chat so far, I would have to go with the all-revamped 2012 Kia Soul that you are planning to review shortly. Just hope it makes your wife’s year-end deadline.

    VW carries with it some well-publicized historical baggage with the electrics, coils, dual-clutch tranny, you name it and as one issue gets addressed another one pops up and grabs the headlines. Saw the post on the Subaru steering issue. When the field has been narrowed thusly, my vote goes to the one with the lowest historical and projected TCO.

  7. langleyhs2013 says:

    my bet is the vw jetta sportwaggen, because it offers carefree maintenance, yet part of me thinks the tiguan (it might be pricey) will be a better choice, what i have learned when i was buying by vw, is that their credit department has a lot of opportunities and the prices might even out. maybe that is because i am a loyal vwgroup buyer?

  8. fatbaldandhappy says:

    Hi Tom, I have thoroughly enjoyed your reviews for quite some time and appreciate the real world human perspective you apply to them. This car buying experience has been interesting to follow. I’m impressed with your wife’s discipline to apply thoughtful pragmatism over impulsive passion. I think it’s common to fall victim to the latter when you fall in love on the showroom floor. Not that it has ever happened to me… cough cough.

    My guess is the Jetta wagon. Seems like it fits the 90% rule and IMO it’s the best looking, most fun to drive of the three choices. (and for your sake, probably the easiest to wash given the lower roof.)

    • TV says:

      She’s very disciplined, much more than me actually. But even she has fallen victim to emotion along the way. I think she has solidified her choice, she’s been calling around trying to find models. Early in the model year it hasn’t been easy to find what we’re looking for. I’ll let you all know in a week or so since this is going to be hell week at work.

      BTW, love your user name. TV

  9. superpowerly says:

    Jetta Sportwagen gets my vote. I would buy this vehicle if I was looking for a new car.

  10. josegt says:

    My bet is with the Subaru Outback. That is because you guys had a Volvo SW, and I suppose your wife cares about safety or the sense of it and Subaru gives you that for less money than Volvo does. Keep the great work coming. God Bless.

  11. crash says:

    I’m going w/ the Jetta wagon…I’m surprised in the US diesel is more $$

    • TV says:

      Just so everyone knows, Mariko would NOT buy the TDI. She’s interested in the gas engine. I’ll update the original post about that. She has crunched the numbers and doesn’t see the pay off (she does mostly city driving, only works four miles from home).

      • intotheoh says:

        In that case I’d say its definitely the Subaru. Its bigger, has AWD, the Subaru boxer engine is way more acclaimed than the VW 5cyl.

  12. DinoParks says:

    Hey Tom, love your podcasts. I think she will pick the VeeDub. If I don’t win the hat, can I purchase one?

  13. ilmhmtu says:

    I vote for the VW Jetta Sportwagon! That sunroof would be amazing.

  14. Toaster says:

    Hey Tom,

    Just curious, why was the Sorento eliminated? Seems to me it’s got a great combo of looks, practicality/utility and value.
    Maybe I’m a bit biased, I seem to really like everything Kia/Hyundai puts out these days. Speaking of which, I know there’s a refreshed Santa Fe coming soon, do you have any details on it?

    Keep up the good work, and btw, I’m really enjoying this story. Can’t wait to see how it ends up! My bet is on the Subaru.

    • TV says:

      No details on the upcoming Santa Fe, sorry but I’m going to guess it looks great. Sorento was eliminated simply because Mariko realized she doesn’t need a seven passenger vehicle. Also, she has rediscovered that in a very urban city like Seattle, small size has a big advantage.

    • saf001 says:

      I’m on my 3rd Kia (2 post Hyundai control). They are a great value IMHO. Have you considered the Elantra Touring?

  15. mpls says:

    I’d guess Jetta.

    Surprised you didn’t look at the Mazda 5. My wife is similar height and loves the visibility, cargo room, mpg, and (most of all) sliding doors to load kid in carseat.

    • TV says:

      We did look at the 5 and it was a finalist (both my mom and mother-in-law drive one). In the end, with one kid heading off to college, we don’t need the room and Mariko felt the road noise was a bit high. She also felt the interior plastics a bit average (I agree). Still, a great and under appreciated vehicle.

  16. augaug says:

    Sounds like her heart says Soul, but her head says Subaru or VW. Given that she thinks the VW is a bit boring looking, I’m guessing Subaru. That way she gets away from the “boring look” of the TDI, and gets the most space for her money, plus, head decisions include things like AWD, heart decisions don’t worry about those details. I’d vote with my heart and get the Soul, but I guess that depends on what you drive, Tom. In my house, the “other vehicle” is practical. If your “other vehicle” is only the Miata, then there’s no way she gets the Soul. So my final answer is the Subaru.

    • augaug says:

      By the way. Any chance we’ll be seeing a test of the 2012 Soul? Or is there not enough changes to warrant a full test on it? (I’ve seen the previous test that you’ve done on the Soul. Can you tell I like small quirky cars!)

      • TV says:

        I shot a Soul piece when I was down at the Rio event. It has significant upgrades, more power, quieter, slightly better interior, new transmissions and better fuel economy. It will probably be up in a month or so, I have to put other brands into the rotation. Lots of new stuff coming out you know.

        I drive what I’m testing for the week and my personal car is an original year Miata that I bought new. We’ll be keeping the Volvo V70 for my daughter and son to destroy.

  17. hiptech says:

    Hey Tom,

    Been absent for a while so I must have missed the “purge party…” what became of the TSX wagon, wasn’t it originally in the running?

    I tried to backtrack through the posts but didn’t see when it was rejected?

    • TV says:

      Mariko’s back and Honda’s seats just don’t see eye to eye. She can tell she’s sitting in a Honda blindfolded. Also, the way she sees it, she’s getting AWD with the Subaru for less money. Remember guys, she’s NOT an enthusiast, but that said, she knows the VW is fun to drive and kinda likes that.

      It wasn’t so much a purge but a dribble, plus her small size eliminated a few vehicles for her.

      Hope things are well. I PROMISE I’ll get the hat off to you. As you fully understand, life can be overwhelming at times. That and our unit manager lost the key to the storage cabinet where the hats are kept. Hope things are well.

  18. pereflight says:

    If it was my choice I’d personally go with the soul, but my guess she’ll be going with the good old Subaru. It seems to be the most practical car of the bunch and seems like the safest choice… Psyched to hear what you end up getting… This has been fun, since I love car shopping, and would love to get a new car myself, but it’s not in the budget right now… Thanks Tom for including us!

  19. dcfoster3 says:

    I’m going with the Jetta.

  20. beau2 says:

    i guess the kia

  21. spidey1968 says:

    My guess is the VW Jetta. She won’t want to drive what everyone else is driving.

  22. faceless_el says:

    my guess is she’ll pick the Subaru.
    I’m patiently waiting for your next update.

  23. intotheoh says:

    Its either the Subaru or the VW given the multiple visits. Both will hold their value well and are well suited for the PNW and comparably priced at the package levels you’re looking…aaargh thats a toss up. I’d say the Subaru will ultimately win out.

  24. apollo says:

    go with the vw. it drives great has lots of room and looks like an audi.

  25. Jake02 says:

    Jetta for the win! The Soul… No thanks and as a former Subaru owner I’m not disappointed in a brand any more than Subaru! At least the mirrors fold in now though (on the US spec model)…

  26. ThatGuyJM says:

    I believe the Outback is the best car of the bunch. If she is truly practical, that will be her choice. =D

  27. JF says:

    Thanks for the update! I’m sure she will pick the Outback :)