Nik recently moved to Boston and he has found that his ND Miata is not the most ideal car for city traffic, terrible roads, and bad winters. He would also prefer something a bit more spacious for hauling gear. What car should he buy?
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Here is the scenario -
I recently moved to Boston for a job opportunity, and my dear ND Miata is probably not the ideal daily driver in this climate. It’s also not the best for hauling gear for my band. I’m looking for a car that’s a bit more practical while retaining some of the Miata’s driving spirit. I’m single and don’t have to worry about transporting kids, etc., at this point.
Must be fun to drive. I prefer cars/hatchbacks on the compact side. Exterior aesthetics matter to me. I don’t want something over the top like a Civic Type R. A quieter cabin and nice sound system would be awesome. I’m fine with used or new. I am targeting around $40,000 but could push up to $50,000 for the right car, also open to moving downmarket.
Budget: up to $50,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Location: Boston, MA
Wants: Fun, Quiet, Compact But Practical
Doesn’t want: Another convertible
Nic, be prepared for the mob in the comments that will insist that the Miata is JUST FINE for driving in Boston and that piloting a rear-drive convertible in snow BUILDS CHARACTER! Personally, I am not really a convertible guy and as I have gotten older I have grown a much stronger preference for comfort.
Since you plan on giving up the sporty car, there really is only one appropriate body style for a New England resident, and that is a wagon. Now, don’t go running down to your local Subaru dealer yet. There are more appealing options than the Outback, such as the Volvo V60. The V60 came in two flavors, the more traditional “wagon” and the lifted CrossCountry. The 2019 model year was the only year where AWD and the larger T6 motor were offered in the wagon without the lift and body cladding. This is the one you want.
Here is a Certified 2019 T6 Inscription trim with 22,000 miles. It’s at the top of your budget but the car retailed for about $60,000 and it’s loaded with everything you want including a 300 hp turbocharged engine, a quiet interior, an upgraded $3200 Bowers and Wilkins stereo, and some of the most comfortable seats you can get. It won’t feel as dynamic as your Miata, but it will have plenty of space for your band gear and be a nicer place to be on snowy roads with Boston traffic.
Nik, you seem like a fun dude. You’re single, living in Boston, playing in a band; you need something a bit more inspired than a station wagon. Normally I’d recommend just sticking with the Miata (as long as you’ve got a Club or later Grand Touring, with the limited slip, you’re totally fine in the snow) but I can see the need for more cargo space if you’re hauling anything more than a single guitar and practice amp.
What you need, then, is to add one (1) more door to your equation with a Veloster N. It’s well within your budget, so you can use some of the extra dough you’ll have kicking around on some snow tires and winter wheels, but there’s no sacrifice. The cabin is quieter than a soft-top Miata, the hatch is downright cavernous compared to the outside of the car, and the driving dynamics are worlds more interesting than any five-door Volvo. Bonus points for its short overall size, to help you squeeze into those tight Boston street parking spots.
Given that Veloster Ns are cheap performance cars, I’d recommend looking for new or CPO to get the most warranty you can. Your local Hyundai dealer has one en route right now, to be delivered Monday. Make your appointment with the sales consultant now, before they have a chance to slap some dealer markup on it. Then, once the weather clears, make the drive up north to Mt. Washington to let that engine sing.
I’m never normally one to argue against a Volvo wagon, but I’m more inclined to follow Steve’s way of thinking when it comes to picking out your next set of wheels, Nik. If you say you want something fun to drive, on the compact side and with space to haul gear, there’s really only one option for you. You need a proper hot hatch. Something that packs heaps of fun and style into a practical shell.
That’s why, Nik, you should look to the Ford Focus RS.
Sure, it might have been discontinued in 2018 meaning you’ll be stuck with something second hand. But when second hand comes with a turbocharged engine, six-speed manual and a Nitrous Blue exterior, who’s complaining?
And, speaking from experience, the five-door has plenty of space for lugging band gear ‘round. Unless you’re usually trundling timpani or xylophones to your gigs, the five-door Focus will suit you down to a T. You can just about squeeze a drum kit, sousaphone and a few saxophones into the trunk and back seats of a five-door Focus if you really put your mind to it.
Now, when it comes to picking out your Focus RS it is a bit of a mixed market, with some examples going for silly money right now. But, in the Northeast at least, it looks like you might be in luck as there’s a few up for sale right now that fall in the $30,000-$40,000 price range. This 2017 example stood out to me and it’s just outside Boston.
Nik, I know Tom suggested to you a Volvo wagon, but everybody has done the Volvo wagon, and as someone who had owned one, you wouldn’t be missing out if you go in another, foreign wagony direction. I’m going to try and one-up Tom and ask that you consider another wagon that has everything you’re looking for, and a little more: a Mercedes-Benz E350 wagon.
The E-Class Mercedes didn’t come into its own until the 90s. It’s a step up from the C-Class in luxury and money, and you definitely feel that difference when you’re inside. Lots of soft touch materials, an incredibly quiet interior, all the room you would need for your band stuff (and your other band member’s gear if needed) and available with Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel drive to get you through that East Coast snow.
The best one I could find near you is this sharp, 2016 Mercedes-Benz E350 with the 4Matic option over in Watertown, MA for $31,987. It does have around 90k miles on the clock, so if you want something with a little less mileage, you might be able to find it if you expand your search.
Its 3.5L V6 is typically known for not having many issues. And if you still have near $18k left in your budget, you can easily get it looked over to make sure she’s in tip-top shape. Also, that Steel Gray Metallic paint color will help hide some of the dirt from driving on those Boston roads in the winter.
Mercedes-Benz announced this week that it’s killing the wagon, so now is the absolute perfect time to grab one.
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