Deval has a Kia Forte and a Grand Caravan that are at the end of their life. He will be moving into an apartment with only one available parking space. He has a $25,000 budget wants something that is spacious for road trips but not too thirsty for gas.
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Here is the scenario -
I currently own a 2017 Kia Forte and a 2007 Dodge Caravan. I use the Kia as my daily driver and love the 40 MPG. The Caravan I have for weekend road trips and conventions. It’s nice to go to a convention and be able to take 4 people and all their stuff or just go to the hardware store and pick up a sheet of plywood or a new table saw - I can fit just about anything in the Caravan. But at 23 MPG it’s not the best choice for a daily driver. I average between 40k and 50k miles per year.
Unfortunately, the engine in the Kia is about to self-destruct (based on noise and oil samples) and the torque converter in the Caravan is acting up. I’m also moving to a condo with only one assigned parking place this would be a good time to go down to one car.
I want good reliability and longevity. Big enough to haul people and stuff, but also with decent fuel economy. Has to be something available within the next 6 months. A 2-year wait won’t work. Also, I’m a big person but fit comfortably in a 2010 Corolla or 2017 Forte.
I’m looking to spend up to $25,000
Budget: up to $25,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Location: Chicago suburbs
Wants: Utility, Fuel Economy, Build Quality
Doesn’t want: A gas guzzler
Deval, so what you really want is either a Ford Maverick or Hyundai Santa Cruz. The problem with that strategy is that the MSRP on the Hyundai is well over your target and sourcing a lower-spec Maverick that is actually available and not marked up is going to be near impossible. In a normal market, you could order the Ford and get it within your time frame but that isn’t in the cards right now.
What you need is a “hold me over” car until the supplier issues get ironed out. Then you can order your Maverick at a price point that works for you. Between now and then I would suggest a VW Golf Sportwagen. Before we get into the comments about “German build quality” the MK7 series Golfs have been pretty solid and any 2018-2019 model year cars will have the balance of the 6 year/72,000 bumper-to-bumper warranty which would give you plenty of protection while you wait for the market to cool off.
The Golf also gets respectable gas mileage at up to 36 MPG on the highway. The wagon body style will hold a ton of stuff while still being easy to park and maneuver around town. Here is a 2019 model with around 22,000 miles right within your budget zone.
You know what you need? You know what I need? You know what everyone needs? It’s a Jeep, that’s what. And not just any Jeep: the best Jeep of all time — a versatile off-road beast that’s small on the outside but big inside, where it counts [taps chest]. A machine that won’t break, that looks charming, and that’s easy to maintain. I’m talking about the Jeep Cherokee XJ.
“Wait wait wait!” you may be thinking, “That thing gets horrible fuel mileage.” And you’re right. Even a stock five-speed four-cylinder fuel injected two-wheel drive XJ will only do 22 MPG highway with a tailwind. But here’s the thing: Jeep built a diesel for Europe.
I know, I know, this may seem a bit outside the box. And in reality, maybe you should just buy a Ford Maverick, but I say Live A Little. Just imagine hearing that steady, calming Clackidy-Clack under the hood at a stop light. You push the fantastic AX-15 five-speed’s shifter into first, the light turns green, and that diesel engine’s torque builds. You shift into second and then BAM, the turbo hits and you feel a surge of power as you shift to third. It’s glorious. And it’s even efficient.
I have the same 2.5-liter VM Motori turbodiesel in my 1995 Chrysler Voyager, and it’s fantastic, scoring 34 MPG. You can probably expect closer to 30 in the XJ due to the less aerodynamic profile, but that’s still respectable. Plus, I have a hot take that, in the long term, diesel vehicles may be easier to drive in the U.S., since gas powered passenger cars will eventually be phased out for EVs, while long-haul trucks will remain reliant on diesel far into the future.
My van has 260,000 miles on it, and around 2009, it had major engine work. The cylinder heads on these 2.5-liter VM engines do tend to have issues, especially once the motor sees lots of heat, but take care of your cooling system and/or throw some new heads on, and the thing will never die.
The XJ you see above costs about $6,000, and is for sale in Germany. Could you get the Jeep in six months as you requested? I don’t know. This particular 1998 model doesn’t quite meet the 25 year-old import age requirement, so you might either make sure that it’s exempt from that rule (I think it is) or just look for one from 1997 or back. In any case, for well under ten grand, you can get a diesel, manual Jeep XJ that will meet all of your needs, and you can save the $15,000 to beef up your doomsday stash of Malört, or whatever it is Chicagoans do with spare cash.
Deval, let me be absolutely honest with you: I have no interest in providing you with an actual, reasonable, rational choice. I just can’t do it. I’m not even really sorry, because I know, deep down, that if you’re willing to abandon the cruel ties of rationality and reason, you can find something that generally meets your needs yet manages to change your life, dramatically, for the better.
Mostly. You’ll be pissed when it breaks down, but the rest of the time will make it worth it.
That’s why I think a fantastic solution for you would be a Citroën DS Break, which is what those silly French people call a wagon.
Now, hear me out: the DS wagon is a fantastic machine, comfortable, roomy, engaging to drive, dramatic, dripping with creamy French character. I’ve driven one, and adored it.
The seats are like couches, the hydropneumatic suspension feels like you’re riding on a river of marshmallow fluff and shredded MyPillows, it’s roomy as the Grand Canyon, and that clamshell tailgate is a wonder.
Okay, the fuel economy is likely only around what you’re getting now (25 mpg can be expected, based on what I was told by the owner of the one I drove) and, yeah, they’re old cars, so they’re not going to be modern-car reliable, and when something does go wrong, it’s going to be tricky to find someone comfortable working on it.
But, on the other hand, these things really aren’t as complex as they get made out to be, mechanically, and there’s actually decent support for owners.
Look, here’s a nice one in LA for $18,950, and your road trip back to Chicago in that Goddess will be the sort of thing you’ll be talking about for years. In a good way!
You don’t have to get something boring! You could introduce this majestic machine into your life, use it with glee, and find that you’re actually happier as a result. I’ve seen it happen when interesting cars get inserted into people’s lives, and it can happen for you, too.
Just think about it, okay? You were the one who came to Jalopnik, not Consumer Reports or Adulthood Quarterly. Part of you wants this, and you know it.
I can tell.
Bad news, Deval. I think I’m going to buy that DS wagon. But, so as not to leave you car-less, I tell you to do exactly what I told my own sainted mother to do back in 2015: Buy a Honda Odyssey, like this one.
You’ll give up a little fuel economy, but you’re combining cars, so you’ll save overall. It’s comfy and capacious, plenty of room for plywood or whatever else you decide to stuff through that big rear hatch.
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