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Oct. 13th, 2007 @ 09:01 pm Car Shopping 2007
Current Location: home
Current Mood: contentcontent
Yes, it's that time again. It's been 5 years since our last new car which now has over 100,000 miles on it thanks to the wife's commute. And, my trusty 1996 Honda Accord is starting to disappoint me (locks are breaking, driver's window doesn't close right most of the time, a/c temp knob getting wonky, just getting old all around). So the plan is to replace the Honda, I'll start driving the Subaru, and the wife will get the new car.

With the 80 mile round trip commute fuel economy is paramount and that leaves us two choices: The Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic Hybrid. We test drove both today.

We went to Toyotaland of Springfield who had 6 2008 Priora on the lot. We had the kid with us so we got to put his booster seat in. He enjoyed the Prius because it had "cool cupholders" and "lots of nice things". I was actually impressed by how well it drove and handled since I had heard criticisms of those things. And surely it is one of the most gadget-freak friendly cars on the market today. Our salesguy tried to get us to buy one TODAY but that's not how we ride. Also, they do something interesting: They ask you what websites you've done research on. They then come back with a pricing report (in this case Edmunds) and talk based on that price. If we go back I'll retort with a lower priced website (cars.com) and start from a few hundred over invoice like you're supposed to.. The fact is Priuses are getting close to MSRP most of the time. I'm confident we can do a little better but I know I'm not making the deal we did on the Subaru. We actually had our salesguy walking out after us after the sit down with the sales manager. I wouldn't say they were high pressure but they definitely tried to sell us a car. Oh, and they had a scratch-off game where we won $10, which we put towards a pizza and pasta lunch before our next stop.

Which was VIP Honda, right down the road from our old place (not to mention stitchinthyme and origamislayer's home many years ago). We pull in and see an 2007 model (which I recognize immediately from the old EPA fuel economy ratings on the sticker.). So we get a salesguy and we go driving.

First, the car's rear bumper was scratched badly by being backed into the concrete wall in front of the building. We get in the car and it smells like stale cigar smoke--although that may have been our salesguy, it was hard to tell. I know we're not buying this particular car today.

The Civic is nice, really, but the hybrid technology isn't as nice as the Prius. It always starts on gasoline power, and rarely goes all-electric. When you start from a stop there's a shudder as the gas engine restarts. I assume that's why city mileage is 40 instead of 48 for the Prius (highway mileage is 45 for both). The feedback about what it's doing is much less than the Prius gives you--I don't think I even saw an MPG meter. Admittedly, though, it was hard to separate our feelings for the car from the horrible smell and scratch this vehicle had. The salesguy was decidedly low-pressure and barely talked to us. Normally I wouldn't mind that but he also had little to offer about the actual vehicle. At least it meant we could just high-tail it out of there when we finished the drive.

The boy did not like the Civic because "it smelled like cigars". When I asked him to not consider that he still liked the Prius because "it was cool."

Overall, I really liked the Prius. It's a nicer car. It costs about $3K more but that's manageable for us. Our issues now are checking on things like repair issues, relative insurance costs, overall cost of ownership stats, and then deciding when it's best to act (I think it might be in a couple of weeks, near the end of the month.)

I also might try the Costco car buying service. Does anyone have experience with that? I'm hoping it can get us more of a discount on the Prius than we might on our own.

For those wondering what happens in 5-6 years when we replace the Subaru, well, who knows. We might just put 200K on the car we buy now, and I'll get a new compact SUV (hopefully a nice hybrid from which there should be several choices by then.) I don't think we need to figure this out yet.
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Date:October 14th, 2007 02:45 am (UTC)
You drive a silver Forester? OMG, SO DO I!!!!!1

Mine's a 2005 XT.

I adore it.

Have you been to the Forester Owners Forum? It's great there.

Oh yeah, I'd definitely get the Prius over the Civic. However, did you know there are cars that get better real-world mileage than the Prius? I wish I could remember in which magazine I read that - it was either Car & Driver, Motor Trend, or Consumer Reports.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 14th, 2007 01:29 pm (UTC)
Oooh, your Forester has a hood scoop! Ours has been great, and we can't really complain about the mileage for what kind of car it is, but we still need to be doing better for the wife's commute. Does yours have an aux input on the radio? That's the only thing I want from it as my daily car (I was able to buy a line input for my Honda that plugged into the CD Changer interface, and works great, but there's no equivalent for the 2003 Forester radio.)

I think the thing about real-world mileage was more that the Prius did not line up with the pre-2008 model year EPA estimates (60 city, 51 highway). CR rates it 44MPG overall, which is very close to the 2008 EPA estimates (48/45/46).

There's also that study that claims a Prius has a higher overall environmental cost than a Hummer because of the battery and other exotic things, but there's apparently some bad assumptions in the data, like a Prius will only last 100,000 miles and a Hummer will last 250,000. And the nickel in the battery, while there are some mining and other environmental issues, isn't much worse than the rest of the car, or other cars (or the fact that a Hummer weighs twice as much as a Prius, which isn't that small of a car.)

[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 14th, 2007 01:38 pm (UTC)
Of course it has a hood scoop since it's the turbo model. :D It's such a fun car to drive. My model year doesn't have the AUX input - I believe that came with the 2007 model year, as 2006 got the head unit that could play MP3/WMA data discs. The AUX input is in a strange place, though - where the ashtray used to be - so you have to have that little door open, and then there's no good place to put in whatever device you're connecting.

There are various mods to the stereo that can be done, but I'm not sure about your model year. Check out scoobymods.net.

And you're right about the real-world Prius versus the EPA estimates. I think the point of what I read was that you could buy like a Yaris or a Fit, get almost the same mileage, and spend half as much money.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 14th, 2007 02:51 pm (UTC)

2008 estimates

Yaris: 29/36
Fit: 28/34

Not even close to the hybrids. Plus the Yaris and Fit are much smaller cars. They're nice, and a great value, but probably not the best match for our lifestyle.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 14th, 2007 02:58 pm (UTC)
I'm hoping that in a few years, Subaru has a good solid hybrid model. I really like the way the Subaru drives, but the gas mileage isn't so great relative to the hybrids.
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Date:October 14th, 2007 05:46 pm (UTC)
A big part of that is the full time AWD--the energy losses of 2 transaxles will always keep you down.

I think Subaru is working on something--there was a rumor they'd just use Toyota's system, but I think they're developing their own.
Date:October 15th, 2007 04:05 pm (UTC)
How was the rear visibility on the Prius? The rear window seems so horizontal that I've wondered how good the visibility would be.
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Date:October 15th, 2007 05:55 pm (UTC)
It's weird--there's basically the main hatchback window and then a smaller (4" high or so) window under the rear spoiler. The model we test drove had a backup camera which shows up on the display. I wouldn't just use it while driving but it would be useful to see if there's a kid or pet or thing behind you before backing up. I've driven cars with worse rear visibility, but this is not the best either. The front was good despite the large pillars on either side of the windshield for the side curtain airbags.