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Small Cars - What do you drive?! WHY?

 
pollinator
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Now that the construction phase is largely done, I'm looking at buying a daily driver.

My 3/4 ton truck just isn't hacking it on the fuel expenditures...especially on longer drives.

Looking for a smaller, more fuel efficient daily driver.

I've owned two subarus (and loved them), but do not require AWD.

A few cars that have caught my eye:

  • Toyota Matrix - (flat folding rear seats)
  • Honda Fit - (flat folding rear seats)


  • Just seeking reliability and a classic that will keep on rolling...think Camry, Accord, Corolla.

    What do you drive and why?
     
    pollinator
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    I drive a vw tdi diesel which gets 47mph when I drive like hell's hounds and 50 when I drive like going slow will add ten years to my life.

    When I can, I'll buy a used Tesla S3. My relatives have one and their energy cost are equivalent to 130 miles per gallon.

    hell yes. I'll say it again, their energy costs/fuel cost are equivalent to 130miles per gallon. Tesla's cars broke NHIST safefy machine then sued Tesla when they started to advertise this fact.

    You can still get diesel tdi's which get over 40mpg
    You can still get geo metro's if you search real hard and rebuild them to get 45 to 50mpg. Get two of them so you can be overhauling the other. Make sure you get the right model of the geo metro cause not all models got that kinda mileage.

    You'll have to get a special make of the Toyota Prius to get 45 to 50mpg  all of the Priuses used to get 50mpg or better but now suck except the special makes, check wirecutter.com for the best mpg  -then go buy a used or new S3 Tesla.
     
    gardener
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    We drive a Pontiac Vibe, which is a clone of the Toyota Matrix. Ours is 18 years old (2003), has had few problems other than the regular rinse and repeat sort of stuff which we are very conscientious about (like oil filters etc).
    We *love* it for the convenience:
    - it will hold 10 bags of chicken feed with the back seats down to distribute the weight load
    - the rear hatch lift-over height is essentially 0 which makes it easy on the back
    - the front passenger seat also folds down so if you've got something long to go in it may take it so long as it's narrow
    - we added a trailer hitch and it will pull our ~4ft X 8 ft trailer within reason

    What we like less:
    - I'm short, so the sight lines for backing up are lousy - that said, I've not considered them good since I had to retire my 1985 Toyota Tercel.
    - our back hatch area did not have any carpeting which is great for sweeping it out, but not so good from the slipping perspective - we got some indoor/outdoor carpet that was rubber backed and cut it to size and it just sits there and can be easily pulled out for cleaning so in fact it's worked out perfectly fine, but we didn't get the cheapest available so at the time I was a bit aghast, but since it's lasted 18 years, I really can't complain.

    FYI - ours is 5 speed manual - don't know if they're at all common. In fact, our truck is manual and hubby's friend suggested it was an anti-theft device.
     
    Rob Kaiser
    pollinator
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    I'm less concerned about the *ultimate* in fuel economy and have absolutely zero interest in hypermiling either.  However, I'm looking for a fine balance of efficiency and practicality...hence the fold flat seats in the Matrix or Fit.  Was looking at Geo Metros as well - but seeking something a little newer.  I do not plan on doing much (if any) mechanical work on the vehicle.  Likely looking at a gasser, not a diesel or hybrid.
     
    Rob Kaiser
    pollinator
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    Jay Angler wrote:We drive a Pontiac Vibe, which is a clone of the Toyota Matrix. Ours is 18 years old (2003), has had few problems other than the regular rinse and repeat sort of stuff which we are very conscientious about (like oil filters etc).
    We *love* it for the convenience:
    - it will hold 10 bags of chicken feed with the back seats down to distribute the weight load
    - the rear hatch lift-over height is essentially 0 which makes it easy on the back
    - the front passenger seat also folds down so if you've got something long to go in it may take it so long as it's narrow
    - we added a trailer hitch and it will pull our ~4ft X 8 ft trailer within reason

    What we like less:
    - I'm short, so the sight lines for backing up are lousy - that said, I've not considered them good since I had to retire my 1985 Toyota Tercel.
    - our back hatch area did not have any carpeting which is great for sweeping it out, but not so good from the slipping perspective - we got some indoor/outdoor carpet that was rubber backed and cut it to size and it just sits there and can be easily pulled out for cleaning so in fact it's worked out perfectly fine, but we didn't get the cheapest available so at the time I was a bit aghast, but since it's lasted 18 years, I really can't complain.

    FYI - ours is 5 speed manual - don't know if they're at all common. In fact, our truck is manual and hubby's friend suggested it was an anti-theft device.



    I didn't know that the Vibe and Matrix were one in the same!

    https://www.guideautoweb.com/en/articles/3357/pontiac-vibe-vs-toyota-matrix-six-of-one-a-half-dozen-of-the-other/

    I may read up on this and begin pricing out Vibes since they appear to depreciate a little more than the Toyota.

    If the guts are the same, who cares?
     
    master steward
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    We bought an '09 Honda Fit new, 11 years ago. It's still going strong. I love it. It navigates well in snow and ice (as long as the snow isn't deep), the seats fold down (this was really handy before we had kids, as we could fit random shelves and dressers found at yard sales in there). The hatch space is pretty reasonable, too. Now that we have kids, we can't fold down the seats nearly as easily--as we usually have kids there! But, it's roomy and holds the car seats well. There's good head space, too. My brother is 6'5", and he fits in our Honda Fit, as well has his Yaris. My parents have the Matrix, and it's done well by them, too. The Yaris is the smallest, then the Fit, then the Matrix. We bought all our cars around the same time, and they're all doing well.

    We average 34-36 miles per gallon with an even mix of rural, city, and freeway driving. When doing long road tips without traffic, we can get about 42 miles per gallon.

    I love our car!

     
    Nicole Alderman
    master steward
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    Speaking of what you can fit in it without the seats folded down, we can often get two big (40 pound?) bags of pine shavings, as well as 2 40 pound bags of chicken feed. And that's just in the back. We can put quite a few bags of feed under our kids feet, too .
     
    gardener
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    For many years I drove a 5 speed ford escort.  That was a great car for just getting from place to place (kinda limited on cargo space).  I could get 35 mpg easily.  

    I sold the car as it was getting up on miles, but I miss it frequently.  That car was the last manual transmission I ever owned.  Too bad, it was a great, reliable and affordable little car.

    Eric
     
    Rob Kaiser
    pollinator
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    Nicole Alderman wrote:We bought an '09 Honda Fit new, 11 years ago. It's still going strong. I love it. It navigates well in snow and ice (as long as the snow isn't deep), the seats fold down (this was really handy before we had kids, as we could fit random shelves and dressers found at yard sales in there). The hatch space is pretty reasonable, too. Now that we have kids, we can't fold down the seats nearly as easily--as we usually have kids there! But, it's roomy and holds the car seats well. There's good head space, too. My brother is 6'5", and he fits in our Honda Fit, as well has his Yaris. My parents have the Matrix, and it's done well by them, too. The Yaris is the smallest, then the Fit, then the Matrix. We bought all our cars around the same time, and they're all doing well.

    We average 34-36 miles per gallon with an even mix of rural, city, and freeway driving. When doing long road tips without traffic, we can get about 42 miles per gallon.

    I love our car!



    For sure, years ago - my dad and I rented a car and drove to Indiana for a workshop at Darby Simpson's place.  I was initially disappointed when they gave us a Yaris, as I'm about 6'3" and 200lbs - but surprisingly, I fit comfortably inside that little car and enjoyed driving it.  A mechanic friend of mine is a "honda guy" and speaks highly of his Fit.  The fold flat rear seats is what is making me look at it.  I'm a Subaru guy at heart, but seeing as I have a 3/4 ton truck, the practicality overrides the cool factor and my love of the Subie.

    Look forward to exploring the Fit, Matrix, and Vibe more...as well as hearing feedback from others on their practical little fuel efficient cars!
     
    pollinator
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    I am currently driving a Honda Insight- hybrid. Cost us 4k used. Gets good gas mileage. Some major cons for me though- it's SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO LOW to the ground. I scraped it driving in town actually and now all of my sensors are screwed up. It's also super light. I get blown around by the wind almost as much as a semi truck.

    Before the Insight I drove a Kia Rio. I drove it for 11 years until it had 180k miles on it. I loved it. I mean they're crappy cars but it did really well in bad weather. I miss it!

    saw the posts about what you can fit in the cars.

    I don't know what the Insight can fit because I'm banned from putting things in it by my spouse. The KIA could fit an entire hay bale in the trunk though.
     
    Posts: 70
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    We have a Camry because we inherited it. However, when we are in a position to buy a replacement we would really like a Honda Fit. I have driven them before, and they are impressively easy to handle in the city (e.g. better turning radius and sightlines than the Camry), and spacious in the right way. They are well named because you can fit your stuff in the boxy back, and you can fit the relatively compact car into a parking spot.
     
    pollinator
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    I bought my Corolla used in 2004, and haven’t done anything but oil changes and struts because I beat this poor machine up. I get 33 mpg which is about the same as a Fit. I would say as much as I love this beater I have thought of getting a vibe for the cargo room. I have carried 5 rolls of 4000’ high tensile in it which is 800#, and the suspension is the same on the vibe/matrix. I have 200000 miles on the poor thing and it’s been awesome. I recently found a vibe in the neighborhood for sale that’s a 2008 and may upgrade if mine does before the vibe sells. My wife hates it!

    The alternative would be a CRV or RAV which get maybe 23 mpg but are all wheel drive and have substantially more clearance. Subaru doesn’t get much better mileage and the additional cargo room would be super. I would be very leery of old hybrids (like >8 years) as the batteries are often pretty much spent if they have been used in stop and go and you are basically driving an underpowered gas machine but carrying a bunch of battery weight.
     
    pollinator
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    Rob Kaiser wrote: I was initially disappointed when they gave us a Yaris, as I'm about 6'3" and 200lbs - but surprisingly, I fit comfortably inside that little car and enjoyed driving it.



    I bought a Toyota RAV4 (used) in retirement and like it well enough.  We are rural in northern Minnesota and if I don't have 4X4 I at least want AWD until I may get to the point where I just drive the truck in winter and any sedan/hatchback during the non-winter months.  My own experience has me liking the Japanese imports more that the domestics (USA) for reliability reasons across several decades.....that may have changed in the most recent offerings but I can't speak to that.  The mileage isn't great because of the AWD, but that's the trade-off.  Would relish bombing around in a Honda Fit or similar pint-size.....really miss my older CRV with 5-speed man.

    But to the point of my clipped lines from Rob K., I can't recall where I heard or read of it, but somewhere I picked up the notion that Toyota went to great lengths to design comfortable seats.  Although it doesn't appear from internet comments that all are in agreement, I must say I feel them to be very good to my back....and continue to try to push for Toyota sedans when needing to rent.  Being about your size as well, I don't feel to have ever had a bad ride in a rented Toyota, whereas only *some* of the domestic rentals have been equally as comfortable....and several of the latter downright tortuous.
     
    Posts: 276
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    I drive a 1980 CJ-5 Jeep.

    My first car was a 1977 CJ-5.  I still have it, but unfortunately in my younger days I converted it into a rock crawler.  I don't really care for it anymore.

    I will always own a CJ-5 or earlier model Jeep.  I've owned several Willys pickups, and wagons over the years, but my heart belongs to CJ's.

    No power anything, brakes are manual, steering is manual, no electronics, no bs.  A simple car for a simple person.

    I get complimented all the time on my Jeep.  There's just something about them.

    I dream of having a daily driver flatfender for around town runs.  One that could be cranked over by hand if need be.

    New Jeeps are nice, and new cars in general are a pleasure to drive.  I dislike them very much.  Too many extras for things to go wrong.

    When people ask me about four wheeling/off roading and I tell them I don't really do that anymore, they question why I drive one.

    My reply, "Your car door has more moving parts in it (and you probably have four), than my entire car does.......and of course, my car has no doors."

    Enjoy all the moving parts that fail with your vehicles.

    :)

    Get it, the Jeep smiley.......which I actually also dislike.

    Meh....
     
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    Well....For day to day best bang for the buck I drive a 93 Dodge 3/4 ton diesel,
    I used to drive a Samurai that on the sweetest day of its life may have gotten 28 mpg.
    My First Gen gets 23 mpg can haul everything and pull the neighbor out of the ditch and snowplow concurrently!
    If the weather is perfect an old Suzuki 250 dual purpose bike gets 72 mpg, but in N Idaho the weather turns lousy often enough its a rare day the Suzy gets a workout!
     
    gardener
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    I have put a quarter million miles on my 2005 Honda Element, which I bought "new/used" in a family transaction from a family member who disliked it after putting 5,000 miles on it.  I love it.

    I don't obsessively track gas mileage, but it's basically a Honda Accord with a big box on top.  It's not thirsty.  It's all plastic inside (you can literally hose it out with a garden hose if you're careful) and the rear seats fold down (back) or up (while flat, against the windows) or can easily be removed.  The AWD clings to icy or muddy roads like nobody's business.  

    But what I really love is how bulletproof it's been.  Aside from a few headlight bulbs and brake pads, literally NOTHING broke or needed repair in the first quarter million miles.  After that, stuff started to wear out: ac compressor, electric window motors, key locks, a couple of motor mounts, a bunch of suspension stuff.  But that was a case of replacing worn out stuff in a comfortable shop.  I still have never had a mechanical failure on the road that made me get towed home.   I've been driving it for 14 years and when I told the guy who helped me with the repairs that I was hoping to make a million, he looked at me and he looked at the Element and then he said "You ain't gonna live that long."  (In truth we both think half a million miles is a reasonable hope...)
     
    pollinator
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    I need a Honda or Toyota buzzbox for this year while I work on my bus. They are so reliable. Nissan can be good also. A friend said the Vibe is a good choice. I’m not sure picky.
     
    pollinator
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    What small car do we drive?      Smart Car

    Why?                                       Because it's fun.

    I also have a Nissan Frontier pickup truck, but the Smart car is far more fun.
     
    pollinator
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    We have two toyota Yaris, and they are great little cars; good mileage, reliable, and with the seats down i can fit more than most people expect( plenty of firewood, lawnmower, live trees, full-size band saw, are just a couple recent examples.

    If you do go with Yaris, stick with model years 2007-2011 - after this they moved production of the new model to Mazda(or Hyundai, can't remember which) and the quality suffers a bit (body panels now plastic and falling off easily).
     
    pollinator
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    My wife and I have had good luck with Hyundai.  We've put on loads of miles and gotten fairly good gas mileage.
    My son likes the stow and go storage in his Grand Caravan, if you want a larger vehicle.  It doesn't get as good mileage, but, it's pretty handy for hauling stuff.
     
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    I drive a Prius (the sedan).

    It's a sort-of-hatchback, so you can easily carry a lot of stuff, and the mileage is hard to beat: 52 mpg (on average) if I'm the one driving, around 48 mpg if it's my husband who drives a little faster. In summer, without winter tires and a ski rack, I can average 58 mpg.

    I've hauled my share of lumber or soil bags with it.

     
    If we don't do the shopping, we won't have anything for dinner. And I've invited this tiny ad:
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