What Car Should You Buy: The Worst Entries Of 2021

What Car Should You Buy: The Worst Entries Of 2021

Come along on this retrospective of the worst recommend—if you dont hear frm me, pleas someonw snd hlp

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Photo: Jalopnik / David Tracy

Now that we’ve seen the best entries in “What Car” from this year, it’s time for the worst ones. I’ll start by saying we have taken precautions to spare you from our bad car-buying impulses, but they don’t always work. There are rules that bar some of us from making the same recommendation all the time. Otherwise, it’d be Jeeps, Smarts, and GTIs all the way down.

I would probably recommend a BMW 318ti nine out of ten times, even though it’s the wrong car nine out of ten times. Ten out of ten? I’d fill out every slide with my own entries, because I’ve made my fair share of bad recommendations. But this isn’t a one-man mea culpa, or a dashboard confessional for me alone.

A bad rec. is a bad rec. regardless of who’s behind it. We’ve all made some questionable calls, and this is a good thing! You need some variety for better and worse. Good taste, bad taste; it’s all part of the flavor.

So, here’s a look at what I think are the widest pitches we threw. These are the worst entries in “What Car You Should Buy?” for 2021:

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Expert: José Rodríguez Jr. - The Sedan Is Cool Again

Expert: José Rodríguez Jr. - The Sedan Is Cool Again

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Photo: Subaru

Buyer Wanted: A funky, unique car

We Recommended: 2021 Subaru Legacy

(No, José. A white sedan from Subaru is decidedly not funky and unique.)

Scott, I commend you for your long-lived tenure with your Nissan Juke. I almost went with the Toyota C-HR because it kind of reminds me of the Juke, but trying to recapture what was cool about your Nissan is the wrong way to go. Let’s try for something different, and by different I mean a segment that many drivers and carmakers have lately turned away from: the sedan!

I’m recommending the 2021 Subaru Legacy. This is the other Subaru, the one most people overlook because the Outback blinds everyone to how cool the Legacy is. I’ve known exactly one Legacy driver, while I’ve known countless Outback owners. Every time I see a Legacy sedan in the wild, which is not very often, I get excited. The Legacy is a very handsome car and I would put it against any Mazda, Honda or Toyota in terms of value.

The car starts at $22,895 new, and gets good gas mileage both on and off the highway, even with its all-wheel drive. You mentioned that you don’t need much room, but this sedan could comfortably carry both your occasional passenger and your dog. You could even spring for the turbocharged boxer for just slightly more than your budget.

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Expert: Tom McParland - Same Formula, Modern Features

Expert: Tom McParland - Same Formula, Modern Features

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Photo: BMW

Buyer Wanted: A safe commuter car that’s problem-free

We Recommended: 2016 BMW 228i Convertible

(When the warranty on that BMW expires, it’s all downhill from there.)

Matthew, this is one of those instances where everyone says “this guy needs a GTI.” I figure there has to be a reason why you haven’t already chosen what seems to be the obvious solution to your problem, though. I imagine you are going to part ways with the 240 convertible and would prefer something that gives you a similar driving experience albeit with some updated safety.

That car would be the BMW 228 convertible. I realize you asked for something “reliable” and I am recommending a used BMW and those should maybe not go together. However you can find a number of good cars for around $25,000 that would give you plenty of buffer in your budget for some extended coverage. Similar to your 240, the 228 is a compact convertible (or coupe) with a four-cylinder motor sending power to the rear wheels. (AWD models are also available.) BMW claims up to 34 MPG on the highway which is pretty respectable for a sporty car. The back seats are surprisingly usable and you did say you only need to put boosters back there in “emergency situations.” Here is a nice example in OH with under 50,000 miles for just under $25,000.

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Expert: Jason Torchinsky - This Feels Like The Modern-ish Version Of What You’re Into

Expert: Jason Torchinsky - This Feels Like The Modern-ish Version Of What You’re Into

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Photo: CarGurus

Buyer Wanted: A comfy, sports car with dealer-free maintenance

We Recommended: 2005 Audi TT Quattro

(This one was hard, but the ergonomics don’t seem quite there for a 70-year-old, and the maintenance could turn to a hassle ruling out service entirely.)

First, Dave, let me remind you that according to most people, 70 is the new 25! I’m pretty sure I heard that somewhere. If you’re still interested in a manual sports car, I’d say your youth glands are still pumping something, so you may as well take advantage of that. And I think I know a car that feels a bit like a more modern take on the small, nimble, quick cars you gravitate to: an Audi TT!

Sure, the engine is at the wrong end, but the TT’s character feels like an update of your old 914, and I’ve always loved the clean look of the TT, especially in coupé form.

I’ve driven these a bunch, and they handle great, are genuinely fun to drive, and, yes, I think they’re pretty comfortable, too. I’ve road-tripped in them, and while they’re small, the seats are quite good and it’s a world of difference from your ‘70s cars.

Here’s a nice charcoal gray AWD one with a six-speed manual for under $10,000! In Oregon, even. A steal! Sure, mid-2000s Audi/VWs have their share of issues, but among the drivetrains of that era, the 1.8 turbo was one of the better ones, I think, and, you know, it’ll still be a step up from the Triumph, reliability-wise. I’d hope.

I really like these cars, and I do think you’d enjoy it. You’re only 70 once, remember!

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Expert: David Tracy - Give Your Commute Some Soul

Expert: David Tracy - Give Your Commute Some Soul

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Photo: Facebook Marketplace (Garret Sweigert)

Buyer Wanted: A sporty, reliable commuter car

We Recommended: 1951 Chevrolet 3800

(I don’t think an Old Chevy will be a suitable replacement for a GTI as a commuter.)

First, allow me to chuckle a bit at your plight, because it mirrors that of so many owners of oughts-era Volkswagens. The things are just absolute shitboxes, to the point where it’s now a running joke in the car world, even if I do feel your pain.

Anyway, you’re commuting in the city I take it, so it’s unlikely that you’ll be hitting free-flowing canyon roads, which is why having a great-handling, quick car really shouldn’t be the priority. If you don’t want an EV for peak efficiency (and probably solid reliability), but want something actually fun for city commuting, I suggest something with soul — something that will put a smile on your face even on grid-pattern roads. Something that, even if you’re just driving 10 mph behind a long line of Uber and Lyft Toyota Camrys, you’re enjoying.

You should get an old car. Something bone-simple that won’t ever die, and that you can fix with a flathead and a pair of vice-grips. Don’t spend the $9,900 that the seller of the Chevy truck above is asking on Facebook Marketplace; that’s too much money. But this type of machine is what you should buy. Find something that’s already dialed in if you don’t want to tinker (the truck above clearly needs a bit of love), and then enjoy the airflow through those quarter windows; take your wife on a romantic weekend drive-in movie date and share some popcorn on that bench seat; row through those three gears on the floor to give your traffic-filled commute a little more spice.

It won’t be the most comfortable, but the commutes will feel special. Maybe that’s not what you want, but I’m always going to suggest fun over practicality.

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Expert: Mercedes Streeter - Cheap Speed

Expert: Mercedes Streeter - Cheap Speed

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Photo: Honda

Buyer Wanted: A fast, spacious wagon

We Recommended: 2021 Honda Gold Wing

(I love motorcycles and wish they were on WCSYB more often. Oh! What Cycle Should You Buy? Maybe? But even the Gold Wing can’t replace a wagon.)

I love your taste in quick and spacious Audi wagons. However, there’s another way to get heartrate-increasing performance without parting ways with six figures. Try a motorcycle!

You can get a whole lot of speed for dirt cheap with a motorcycle, but I think I have the right one for you: the Honda Gold Wing.

I can already see people in the comments scratching their heads, but hear me out. Compared with a car, a Gold Wing is more than plenty fast. It’s also really comfortable and is packed with techy features like you would find in a car, so you can eat up so many miles at great speed, if you wish. A Gold Wing has you covered on space, too. A common mod for these motorcycles is a tow hitch. Hitch up a Harbor Freight trailer on back and boom, your motorcycle is almost as practical as a wagon.

And best yet? You can get a Gold Wing brand new for well within budget at a dealership. You have nothing to lose!

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Expert: Adam Ismail - Here, Have A Legend

Expert: Adam Ismail - Here, Have A Legend

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Photo: Autotrader

Buyer Wanted: A comfortable, sleeper or tourer

We Recommended: 2002 BMW M3

(An E46 is absolutely a legend, but it’s not subtle and it might not be the highway car for our reader.)

I sought out a comfortable tourer for you Bjarne, I really did. But when I saw this clean-looking, one-owner E46 M3 on Autotrader within your budget, well… who passes up an E46 M3? Not me, that’s who.

Anyway, a couple of things to note here, because no E46 anyone can reasonably afford these days doesn’t come without its share of caveats. For starters, this example has the sequential manual, not the conventional six-speed. Some people would tell you a multi-level marketing stint would be a more prudent investment, but those who have actually owned and driven them say it’s fine.

The more immediate worry is that this car has 91,000 miles on it, which is so close to the big six-digit mark that it suggests an intensive service is looming in the near future. Service sucks, especially service on a BMW. But this is an E46, god dammit. Comfort when you want it, and back road bliss when you don’t. I’d let it put me in debt.

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Expert: David Tracy - Get That Volvo Or Maybe Get This Subaru

Expert: David Tracy - Get That Volvo Or Maybe Get This Subaru

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Photo: Bring A Trailer

Buyer Wanted: A fast, tunable longroof

We Recommended: 2006 Subaru Forester

(A crossover!? Really, the Forester is OK. Tom’s wagon just knocked us all out.)

The answer to your question is the Volvo V70 R. Tom wins.

But should you decide — perhaps because you want better aftermarket support — that another Subaru should join your stable, snag a Forester 2.5 XT. It’s not as Wagon-y as the Volvo (it’s shorter), but compact can be fun, especially when you’re whipping a vehicle around turns. A 2006 Forester 2.5 XT, like the one that sold for about $11,000 on Bring a Trailer last year, weighs around 3,300 pounds; the Volvo V70 R weighs roughly 400 pounds more.

The Forester XT’s 2.5-liter flat-four makes 230 horsepower compared to the Volvos’ 300, but thanks largely to the curb weight difference, the Subaru could be a little quicker, with Car and Driver clocking a 5.9 zero to 60 mph time compared to the Volvo’s roughly six second sprint (measured by MotorTrend).

Of course, the Subaru isn’t as nice. The manual only has five gears, the interior looks a lot cheaper than the Volvo’s, and again, there’s just not as much wagonism going on due to the relatively diminutive size. So you should get the Volvo. But the Subaru is a good choice, too.

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Expert: Mercedes Streeter - Clown Shoe

Expert: Mercedes Streeter - Clown Shoe

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Photo: Bring A Trailer

Buyer Wanted: Fast, practical daily that isn’t a sports car

We Recommended: 2001 BMW M Coupé

(This is a sports car, and maybe not very practical. We should never recommend these. They’re bad; stop buying them. No one buy this car! Give it to me.)

It’s sad that two great cars were lost, but at least that means that you can get some new toys to play with. I see that you like fast cars that aren’t exactly normal, so let’s keep that trend going with a BMW M Coupe. It’s missing the AWD requirement, but hear me out.

This car is affectionately known as the clown shoe, and there are few cars on the road like it. To make the clown shoe, BMW basically welded a roof to the Z3 roadster, giving it some quirky looks. Under the hood resides the inline-six engine from an E36 M3, and it’s bolted to a five-speed manual transmission. These cars are quick. And just check out that wide rear end.

This model is getting rarer as time goes on, but you can still get one for well-within your price range. Plus, with the money you have left over you can get a second fun car to play with!

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Expert: José Rodríguez Jr. - A Word From A Fellow Texan

Expert: José Rodríguez Jr. - A Word From A Fellow Texan

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Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

Buyer Wanted: A performance car with a price tag to match

We Recommended: 1997 BMW 318ti

(No, José. Just no.)

Poor Decisions, you say? Well, my friend, you’ve come to the right expert, because I have got the poor decision for you. Indulge me as I recommend the BMW 318ti (but you can’t have my M-Sport.) You want good power-to-weight? Got it. Unique? Yup. Uncommon? Sure thing. And because these cars are not sought after, you can find one cheap and still have plenty of money left to capitalize on the strengths of the ’ti. That is, you can truly build this car into the ultimate driving machine.

Here are two decent platforms from which to start: I found this in Phoenix, Arizona, though it’s a little expensive for my taste. This is farther away in Kansas City, Missouri, but the price is better. Here’s a pro tip: look around on these forums for good deals. Conventional wisdom would say that you should get one of the rarer Club Sport models, but since your budget is generous, you don’t have to wait to find one.

Aficionados love the Club Sports because they have the “better” of the two engines that the 318ti was outfitted with during its brief run in the U.S. The M43 [M42] motor in the Club Sports is said to be more durable and respond better to modification than the later M44. But your budget can buy you the best motor swap for the ’ti. It’s not the S52, nor the M52, nor even the Chevy LS.

You want a motor from Metric Mechanic. The engine builders there will wring out as much as 205 horsepower using BMW’s own naturally aspirated engines, which can easily fit into the 318ti. Throw some individual throttle bodies on that MM engine and get a good exhaust system. Add a lightweight flywheel and a limited slip differential — if the hatch you find doesn’t already have one. Put some Momo wheels on a set of Michelin Pilot Sports and you’re finished.

When you’ve done all that, you’ll have built my dream car. A light, tail-happy, high-revving Bimmer with a knockout exhaust note and the best handling this side of an E30 M3. If you do build this machine, please, oh please, drive the hell out of it.

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Experts: Jalopnik Staff - We Need Mirrors To Drive, Y’all

Experts: Jalopnik Staff - We Need Mirrors To Drive, Y’all

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Photo: Craigslist

Buyer Wanted: A cheap, reliable winter car no wider than 73 in.

We Recommended: 2005 Honda Element, 2010 Subaru Forester, 2010 Nissan Rogue, 1984 AMC Eagle

We’ve got another group entry here.

Everyone talks about being technically right, but no one ever mentions being technically wrong. I think that applies here, because if the stated widths of these cars do not account for the mirrors (which the specs suggest) then none of these otherwise decent cars are going to have any mirrors after driving through the narrow gate opening in the reader’s driveway. The lot is disqualified! To be fair, under 73 inches accounting for mirrors is relatively small.

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