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More car shoppiing

2009-02-16 02:52:30.401068+00 by Dan Lyke 13 comments

On Saturday, we drove down to Corte Madera for the Dedication to Special Education raffle drawing festivities (alas, no one we knew won), but on the way down and back we did a little more car searching.

Continued in the comments...

[ related topics: Wireless Bay Area Automobiles Education ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2009-02-16 03:03:59.53671+00 by: Dan Lyke

We stopped in at the Toyota place in Marin to look at the Toyota wagons (too big and too small, and the Scions just felt cheap and had a pitiful turning circle), what was more interesting than the cars was the sales technique. This place reeked of the full-on timeshare sales techniques ("Second prize is a set of steak knives"), complete with the floater playing the sales manager, the "come sit down while I fill out this customer survey" game which gets you following the sales guy's instructions right off, and an amazing amount of not actually listening to what it was we were looking for.

Looked a bit at the Mazda, again at Subaru, a few others that were in the used lots (it's funny, I actually don't know where the closest GM dealers are, although apparently several of the modern GM cars of the classes we're interested in are re-branded Toyotas), went and checked out Honda again, drove the CR-V which got Charlene's attention because it was the first upright vehicle she's driven, although the mileage compromises seem to have knocked it back off the list.

Drove the Volvo C50, which seemed a bit pricey for what it was (and again with the pitiful mileage), but introduced us to the notion that seats could be really really comfortable, and the sales guy there had a fun demo for the electronic stabilization ("When we come up to this turn, accelerate really hard", we come to the turn, a 180 under the freeway, I kind of go into it faster than I normally would, but not really aggressive, and he says "no, stomp on it". Fun to do that in someone else's car, even with the wet roads.).

Finally headed back up to Petaluma, where we stopped at the Nissan dealer. Their answer to the Honda Fit had a number of really lame design decisions, and their smaller SUV had a lot of the same goofy flaws that plagued the Nissan Murano I rented on a trip to snowy Utah, lousy rear visibility, a speedometer that goes to 160MPH (on a freakin' SUV) that doesn't give enough resolution to tell what you're really driving, and this one had super goofy chrome paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Even more than the Scion, I wanted to know if they came with the neon lighting effects and the spinny rims in the next trim package.

Then, just for completeness, we dropped over to the Hyundai dealer. Charlene had a Hyundai once, so this wasn't somewhere we expected to go, but I'd heard a bit about how recent cars are getting pretty good, and once again we were blown away by a car we didn't expect to look at.

The Elantra Touring wagon is about the same size as the Jetta, although it's only available in fairly stripped down bare bones options, but the seats were more comfortable, the mileage was decent for a gas car, and it's quite a bit cheaper.

So tomorrow Charlene's going to drive the Elantra and the Jetta, back-to-back. Things going for the Jetta (and, yeah, some of these are small): mileage, power seats, heated wiper fluid nozzles, automatic windows all up or down from the key fob, folding key, instantaneous MPG display, BlueTooth in the stereo, acceleration (by about two seconds to 60MPH), the sound system, side impact protection, and that it just feels like a different class of car, partially because it's a few hundred lbs heavier.

Things going for the Elantra Touring: Price, seat comfort (including a really nice head-rest adjustment), maintenance and reliability, and people will actually give us a schedule on getting one.

Oh yeah: Additional note on the Hyundai: Their sales technique is like buying a much more expensive car. The sales guys don't do the fast sell. They invite you to go home and think on it. They don't hover. They say things like "we like informed buyers". I don't know if the policies we're seeing come down from the brand, or are just associated with the local dealers, but shopping for the Hyundai was like shopping for a BMW or an Audi.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-02-16 06:34:58.148636+00 by: ebradway

Interesting note about the Hyundai. We had already reached the point where we realized we needed a telescoping steering wheel and that's a few steps up in the Hyundai. Asha also found the headrests to be downright uncomfortable. The sales guy (very low pressure) said they were designed by orthopedists to keep the spine in the correct position. That's the wrong thing to say to someone with a Doctorate in physical therapy when she complains about the headrest hurting her neck. Maybe this guy didn't know how to adjust it...

I've rented several Hyundais recently. While they are light-years better than what they were in the early 90s - they still had a tinny feel. For us, I guess, the Mazda just fits Asha well. I'm a bit more normal in build, so I can fit most cars easily. She's a tougher sale.

BTW, the Hyundai salesman forgot to give us our driver's licenses back after the test drive. I don't think it was intentional but it did get us back on his lot!

Have you tried to Ford Escape Hybrid? I had a friend who had a Mazda Tribute - same vehicle with the V6. It was very nice to drive. The Escape actually gets good gas mileage - even for a compact car.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-02-16 14:28:00.301173+00 by: ziffle

I met someone once who had a Hyundai - she washed it in a self servwe car wash and there several stripes in the paint where she got too close to the paint with the pressure sprayer and you could see the undercoat where the paint came off ....

#Comment Re: made: 2009-02-16 14:36:08.513377+00 by: Dan Lyke

Huh, the headrests on the Hyundai were the most adjustable of anything we've driven, with the 5 steps along the fore-aft axis, and the seats had nice deep bolsters like the Volvo and good solid lumbar support, so part of the reason that car's in the running right now, despite some of its other spartan issues, was the comfort of the seats.

But, yeah, agree that it does feel a little tinny.

The Mazdas didn't fit either of us well, they suffered from what I've taken to calling "the Japanese accelerator foot position" issue, where the slope of the side of the center console forces my foot into a sideways cant. Painful for me for long-distance driving. It's tempered a little bit by the fact that in an automatic I can put the seat further back (because most of those cars also recess the clutch, creating a double-whammy in bad ergonomics), but it's one of those where both of us sat in it and said "doesn't feel right".

I've tried to steer Charlene towards the Ford dealer a couple of times, but we haven't gotten there, and having found the diesel, high mileage without the ecological compromises of the batteries, the hybrids have fallen out of favor. Add those batteries in and it's pretty much a wash on the environmental impact of the additional fuel consumption.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-02-16 14:40:17.170855+00 by: Dan Lyke

Ziffle, yeah, that was definitely the case into the mid '90s. When my parents bought their Sonata, which they've been quite happy with, the explanation was that Hyundai understood that they'd blown their branding, and were now building better cars with lower margins in an effort to rebuild the brand. But we're including the "this doesn't feel as solid as the VW" in our trade-offs list.

Other option we're looking at is seeing if we can swap other seats into the Jetta. That'd probably affect side-impact protection, unless we can find something with the bolster airbags, and most of the third party seats, racing seats, don't recline, so it'll be a bit of a search.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-02-16 15:30:39.927544+00 by: ebradway [edit history]

Forgot about the battery thing...

Sounds like there are some major ergonomic differences between what you are looking for and what we need. Hence our preference for the Mazda. Also the low initial purchase price is quite a draw.

But I might have to drag Asha back to the Hyundai lot to see the headrests adjust. She was pretty put off by the sales drone telling her what was correct for her spine. The Hyundai also comes with a much longer standard warranty. That eats into the long-term cost of the vehicle.

FYI: Along those terms, Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep is still doing lifetime drivetrain warranties. And I believe you can still round up a Jeep Liberty with a Daimler- Benz common-rail diesel. Scratch that... Jeep doesn't sell the CRD anymore

And have you had a chance to try the Jetta with leather interior? I was amazed at the difference.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-02-17 22:06:26.743247+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yeah, ergonomics are a dramatically individual thing, and the field as a matter of professional study is even more ruled by snake oil and false claims than nutrition.

On the way up to our mini-vacation on Monday, we ordered a Jetta SportWagen TDI. Yeah, it's more expensive and all that, but we found a seat configuration that worked for Charlene, and it seemed like the best of the other compromises.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-02-17 22:24:12.720226+00 by: Larry Burton

Wouldn't you really rather have a Buick?

#Comment Re: made: 2009-02-17 23:46:43.787381+00 by: Dan Lyke

Larry, nope. it looks like the Buick of the class we were looking for is the LaCrosse, which doesn't come in a wagon form-factor. The Enclave could also have been a contender, but has (beyond) pitiful mileage. If we were going to compromise even half that far on mileage we would have gone with the Volvo C-50.

And the Buicks have OnStar, which is a further strike against them.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-02-18 01:42:20.224176+00 by: Larry Burton

OnStar paranoia? But you know you can hack them fairly easily. :)

The phrase I used was a marketing slogan Buick use to use. I can't remember the decade it was used.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-02-18 02:55:30.302403+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yeah, I remember the ads, although right now when I try to put them to a jingle I'm getting the "Have you driven a Ford lately?" song.

#Comment Re: Congrats! made: 2009-02-18 10:27:40.690851+00 by: jeff

Congrats, Dan... How long of a wait on those? I bet you're excited to drive it home.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-02-18 15:27:43.733226+00 by: Dan Lyke

Jeff, the dealership is saying June, but that's somewhat at odds with other things we've heard, so I'm expecting July or August.