I’m agonizing over the purchase of a new vehicle. My fifteen year old Impreza still runs very well but it’s getting a bit long in the tooth and the transmission has been exhibiting signs of synchro-wear (gear clash) when shifting down to first or up into fifth. I always have the option of pulling the transmission and having it rebuilt but, experience has taught me that once the case has to be cracked open the long term reliability of the unit will always be in question. (Failure probability shifts from ‘distant and uncertain’ to ‘near and uncertain’ or ‘near and likely’.)
Faced with an unreliable horse or buggy, what would the traveler of yesteryear do? For that matter, how did the Gladiators go about selecting their next chariot? You think maybe they drew up a list of pros & cons, or needs, wants, and nice-to-haves before going off to interrogate the local chariot builders? Perhaps I should read up on that.
My list of needs are pretty simple I think. I need comfortable, reliable transportation with high-output air conditioning and a decent amount of power and torque for those rural passing lanes. On this vehicle I prefer four doors, manual transmission, and either rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive. I would also really like the price to be under $35,000 out the door. Much to my dismay I’ve come to realize that manual transmission and rear-wheel-drive are pretty much impossible to get in this class and price range so I’m going to have to find a compromise.
The top contenders for my money are:
1. Subaru Legacy Premium
2. Mazda Six Touring
3. Honda Accord EX
4. Kia Optima SX
The bottom three are all front-wheel-drive and only Mazda gives me a manual transmission option. It annoys me greatly that Honda won’t sell me an Accord EX with a manual transmission in blue paint. It makes me far less likely to purchase a Honda. I can forgive Subaru and Kia for this because a manual transmission is not even an option anywhere in the model lineup, and only Honda restricts my color choice based up on my transmission choice. How about just letting me have whatever color I want?
My biggest concerns for both the Legacy and Six is lack of power. Both of these cars have a ~2.5l engine and they’re both fairly heavy vehicles. Summertime in Phoenix where the AC is running at full blast any time the engine is on can really sap the power from a small engine, particularly when climbing mountain roads. In Arizona everywhere outside of the Phoenix metro area is mountain country, so I worry that any time I need to leave the valley I’m going to want for power.
When it comes to the Kia the issue is primarily around package selection. The price starts out very reasonably in the $26K range but adding the Premium tech package (just to get heated seats), rockets the price to over $31K before adding any other options at all. The Subaru costs thousands less even with the addition of Moonroof, Navigation, EyeSight, Blind Spot, Cross-traffic alert, floor mats, etc, and it comes with AWD as standard equipment.
I guess I’m really leaning toward the Legacy, but when I bought my Impreza 15 years ago I was able to get everything I wanted that I could afford to buy. I’m not exactly sold on CVT technology in general and I’m unhappy that the Legacy sport model and GT/2.5l turbo options are discontinued for model year 2015. The last thing I want now is three or four years of car payments for a vehicle I’m not 100% happy about.
Looks as if I’ll be sitting on this fence a while longer.