Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cars are evil. Which one should I buy?

I need a car, yet I hate the very thought of them. Cars are responsible for the sprawling suburbs that have alienated us from one another. I see those long lines of commuters sitting on the 401, day after day, and I can only conclude cars are evil.

But I'm going to buy one and I want something cheap, reliable and I don't care about image. Fuel economy? Of course. A good warranty from a company that will back it up – I want that too.

So sharpen your pencils and get to work. What do I want?


Cato: You've come to the right country, Amelia. Canada may be a big place, but it's a small-car country, an entry-level nation, the land of frugal, affordable transportation. More than half the cars sold here are entry-level runabouts. You have choices.

Vaughan: Choices? Amelia has issues. If cars are evil and ripping the fabric of society then what has possessed her to suddenly abandon her principles and cross over to the dark side. She should either go straight to Honest Faustus Used Cars or, better still, just get a transit pass.

Cato: What are you doing Vaughan? This isn't the Life section. Just answer the question, suggest some cars and leave the amateur psychiatry to the amateur psychiatrists. Perhaps Amelia has seen the light – recognized the need and is going to fill it. With a subcompact or so-called B-sized car, I think.

2009 Toyota Yaris


2009 Toyota Yaris

Vaughan: Accepting that even B cars clog the 401 and alienate us from one another, here's a list for Amelia: Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Chevrolet Aveo, Nissan Versa, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio and Suzuki Swift.

Cato: To be honest, they all are completely functional, reliable, fuel-efficient runabouts. More like them, but even better cars, are coming next year.

Ford Canada in the summer will start selling the made-in-Mexico Fiesta subcompact – currently the second-best-selling car in Europe, and then toward the end of the year, Mazda has its Mazda2.

Vaughan: I see your strategy Cato. Delay her decision until she comes to her senses and gets that transit pass. Very good. Maybe you can join me in the Life section some day.

Cato: Amelia, ignore Vaughan's sad attempt at career advancement and put the Toyota Yaris on your list. Toyota sells not only a sedan version, but also a four-door hatchback and a two-door hatch.

All three versions share a 106-horsepower, four-cylinder engine. It's fuel-efficient and adequately powerful. This little runabout is an acceptable city car, but for long highway stretches the cabin is noisy and the seats are thinly padded.

Vaughan: You have plenty of padding so that's shouldn't be a problem for you, Cato.

Cato: Seen your profile lately? In any case, Amelia, the Yaris is solidly reliable and the U.S. Government gives it a good, but not great, four-star crash test rating right across the board.

Vaughan: I'm recommending the Hyundai Accent. We were just on a Hyundai dealer lot and it was advertising a new Accent for $9,995 – all in, with the incentives.

Cato: Yes, and Hyundai makes sedan and hatchback versions of the little Accent and both are powered by a 110-hp four-banger. The Accent does its chores nicely, with a pleasant interior and an airy cabin.

Vaughan: Reliability is not a worry, either. Plus safety. In frontal impacts, the Accent earned a five-star rating for driver and passenger.

Cato: And then there is the Nissan Versa. The Accent is loaded up with more sales sweeteners – incentives – but Nissan has a pretty attractive sticker, too.

Vaughan: I think the Versa is a real bargain here. The conscience-stricken Amelia has two body styles to choose from: a four-door sedan with a 107-hp, four-cylinder engine and a four-door hatchback with a 122-hp, four-banger. The sedan is cheaper and the smaller engine is more fuel-efficient.

2009 Nissan Versa

2009 Nissan Versa

Cato: The Versa is a big car for a subcompact. The cabin is very spacious and there is decent cargo room, too. Plus it has a four-star crash test rating for both driver and passenger.

Vaughan: I'd also suggest a test drive of the Honda Fit. It's pricey because it's imported from Japan, but is the most versatile and functional small car, period.

Cato: Great design. Seats flip and fold every which way and fuel economy is excellent, as are the safety scores. If you are willing to spend a bit extra, the Fit is an excellent buy. If not, I'd suggest the Versa.

Vaughan: I'd recommend the Accent and maybe a guilt donation to Friends of the Earth.

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