Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mama Needs a New Set of Wheels: Best Cars for Recreational Athletes

I’m always paralyzed by decision making, especially when it comes to large, costly purchases.

Never mind, who am I kidding? I’m paralyzed by every decision from what to order at Chipotle (Black or pinto? Mild or medium? Brown or white rice? Just shoot me now) to what underwear to wear (leopard print? cotton hipsters? granny panties?) to purchasing a new home. Luckily I haven’t had to purchase a new home in 10 years and I will probably never move again just to avoid making a decision. Unless I go bankrupt, in which case I will debate over which cardboard box to live in and under what bridge to put it.

You can imagine that when it comes to car buying, I am ridiculous. I have had my current car, a 2003 Ford Explorer, for almost 10 years. It’s got about 150,000 miles on it. There are more vomit, sweat, and anonymous stains in there to count. Yes, I could do some repairs and keep it for longer, but the gas mileage is killing me (I drive a lot for my job. Yes, blogging hasn’t made me rich…yet). So, I’m thinking it’s time for a change - for a new set of wheels.

My son Sam is a car nerd. He knows everything about every car. And, I mean everything. When I first started looking, he said he found the perfect car for me. Good gas mileage, sleek, roomy, powerful. What was it?

Yes, the Dodge Charger. Does he know me at all? I mean, from what you know of me, can you see me driving that thing? I feel like I would need to first get a boob job and acrylic nails. Cougar city! (No offense if you drive one. It’s just not my style).

Recently, I posted a question on my Shut Up and Run Facebook page about which car is the best for recreational athletes in terms of hauling stuff, being family friendly, good gas mileage, affordability and all wheel drive capability. I said I was open to pre-owned options. 150 comments later, I was more confused than ever. 

From your comments and the research I’ve done, here are what appear to be the top 10 cars for athletes like us (in no particular order, although the Subaru was the most popular choice). Compact/smaller SUVs seemed to be the favorites!:

1. Subaru Outback – Deemed the “Official Car of Colorado,” this auto is affordable, has good gas mileage (21/28),  sports good safety ratings and has decent off road capability. The only reason I don’t like it (and it’s stupid) is that everyone else has it. Lame on my part.

2013 Subaru Outback 2.5i Wagon F3-4 Normal

2. Honda Element- This unique looking SUV has removable rear seats, a roomy cabin and a “dog friendly” package (must include poop bags and privacy glass for licking oneself ). Gas mileage is not great at 20/25. I love the design, but HATE the rear half doors. Ken has those in his Chevy truck and it  makes getting kids in and out of the car a pain. They stopped making these in 2011.

2011 Honda Element EX SUV

 

3. Nissan Rogue – With it’s good gas mileage (23/28), sleek look and decent price, I could find very little wrong with this choice. Until my car-nerd son convinced me I would hate not having a V6 (not available in the Rogue) especially for mountain driving. I have not ruled this car out, however.

2012 Nissan Rogue SV SUV

4. Jeep Patriot – For some reason, I’ve never been a Jeep person. Not sure why. I know people love these cars. Pros include good off road capability and a low base price. Fuel economy is good  (23/29). Acceleration is not supposed to be good and the car has limited cargo space.

2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude SUV

5. Toyota RAV4 – This one could be a winner with a good amount of cargo space, decent fuel economy (22/28) and responsive handling. I don’t like the right side hinge for the tailgate (makes it hard to curb-load and the spare tire on the back would make it tough to attach a trailer hitch for bike rack, etc).

2012 Toyota RAV4 4dr SUV Exterior

6. Nissan XterraAt first I thought this was the car I would get. I love the look of it – very sporty and outdoorsy. But, I was very bummed about the gas mileage (16/22). I just don’t want to go that low.

2011 Nissan Xterra X SUV Shown

7. Ford Edge – This one is  real contender. With lots of features and a comfortable cabin, I like the appearance of this car. Keeping the kids in mind, I like that it has a roomy backseat (reportedly more so than the Explorer) with reclining rear seats (the less complaining, the better). The gas mileage could be better (19/27) and it is kind of pricey. But, I think I might be able to get a good deal on a used one.

2013 Ford Edge 4dr SUV Limited Exterior

8. Mazda CX-5 – I was really excited when I heard about this car because it has everything I want: 26/35 gas mileage, stylish design, cargo space. But I do have two concerns. First, no V6 option. Second, 2013 will be the first model year for this car. In the past when I have bought cars making their debut, I’ve ended up taking them in numerous times for recalls, etc. PITA.

2013 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring 4dr SUV Exterior

9. Honda CRV – Hondas are such reliable cars, and this seems to be no exception. It’s definitely a winner with great fuel economy (23/31), lots of room for passengers and cargo and good handling. Bummer is there is no V6 available. Still a great pick!

2012 Honda CR-V 4dr SUV

10. Hyundai Sonata – Hyundai has put out some great cars in the past few years. The Sonata has a sleek design and is economical (24/35). It’s said to have limited headroom in the backseat, and have a rougher ride depending on the trim selected.

2012 Hyundai Sonata Limited Sedan

People also like the Toyota 4-Runner, the Subaru Forester, the Honda Fit and the Honda Pilot.

Bottom line: Yes, I’m being picky. But, if this car and I are going to have a relationship for the next ten years or so, I want to love it and not cheat on it after three months (not that I would do that). So, what do I get??

Do you drive any of the above? Pros/cons?

What do you drive? Would you buy it again if you could?

Any tips on cars to completely avoid?

SUAR

 

WINNERS!!

The winners of the Everyday Endurance giveaway are:

Jen. T.
Swyers (wyers@hotmail.com)
Caroline
Running for the Reason
Kristin from Cooking in the Moment 

Email me at beth@shutupandrun.net and I’ll tell you how to claim your prize. A special bonus: the 15% off sale will go until Friday. Enter “shutup15” at checkout.

114 comments:

  1. We have a Nissan Exterra and it's not comfortable imo. Plenty of room for my husband mountain bike but not much else.

    I had a Jeep Liberty and it was ok. I loved, loved my Ford Escape I had before that.

    One of my friends drives a Ford Edge and we were surprised it has the towing ability to tow a pontoon boat! It was pretty nice and roomy to!

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  2. U missed a Honda CRV. I LOVE ours. We have been able to haul just about everything in that car. I would buy it again in a heartbeat! Ours is a 2007.

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    1. Oh shoot, yes I did!! I think a lot of people mentioned that one as well. Will have to add it in.

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  3. I traded in my 2004 Element for a 2011 Rav 4 a couple months ago. I do have the V6 and 4WD on the Rav and the Sport edition so there's no spare tire on the back door. I drove the Element for 8 years and found the 4-cyl to be waaaay underpowered for a compact SUV that's supposed to be able to tow and carry things. But....those clamshell doors were the death of it. Getting anyone or anything out of the back seat was a production and if you park on a hill, the doors tend to swing shut and amputate your leg. So far, I'm enjoying the Rav. I was also interested in the new CX5, but I don't want to be their guinea pig, so I'll give it a couple model years and see what happens.

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  4. I've been thinking about this same stuff off/on lately. My 2002 Impala is actually a pretty great car even with 170k miles. I can get my road bike in the back seat (without disassembly) and I don't fret about the chain grease on the car with many existing stains. But at some point I think I want to get some kind of crossover (like many you've mentioned here) with decent-ish gas mileage, but still some power and room. Thanks for the info. Will be interested to see which direction you go. In general, I tend to buy domestic, but this time I might not.

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  5. I have a Toyota 4 Runner and I am obsessed with it. It fits my bike perfectly and it drives nice. I have the Limited edition so it's a V6 which is nice. Highly recommend it. I have a 2000 with 190k miles but it's still going strong.

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  6. you missed Honda CRV!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Feel free to outsource the research to your son!

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    1. I KNOW!! Can't beleive I did that. Hanging my head in shame. Just added it.

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  7. I would go for a Jeep Liberty before a Patriot... the CVT (constant velocity transmission) is chok full of suck... I can occasionally overheat if it is over 90 degrees and you are on the interstate. So basically, you have to pull over and wait 30 minutes to keep driving in what is pretty normal summer conditions.

    Lots of people I know are super happy with the Subarus, and just think how well you'll fit in in Boulder!

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  8. I have a 2011 Forester. I love my lil blue bah roo. I tried a few other cars like the CRV (which felt like sitting on cardboard), before I went with Subaru.

    It is so much better than my old car, an 84 Oldsmobile. He didn't have air conditioning, when its 105 out in traffic it really sucks.

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  9. Looks like you're narrowing it down to small SUVs. Seems like the Edge wins out based on all the comments. I know several people who have an Edge and they love it. What about the VW Tiguan or a used VW Passat wagon. The wagon has a ton of cargo space. I love my Passat (sedan) and am on my second one. And yes, I would buy one a third time.
    If the CX-5 is based on an existing model, I would suggest taking it for a spin. Plus the 4 cyl probably has a turbo option and you'd get some good pick up and speed from it.

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  10. Take a look at Honda Pilot. What about Acura MDX?? I loved my 4runner. Had to trade it in when I started having kids. Hello minivan. Goodbye. Coolness.

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    1. Don't think I want something quite as big as the Honda Pilot and the MDX is probably out of my price range, even for a used one. But thanks, great suggestions!

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  11. Go for the Rogue! We have a 2012 Rogue and love it!

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  12. Oh and if you don't want a car with a 4 cyl, just cross it off your list reducing your choices as that's how it seems from your comments. Although if a turbo option is available, drive it before crossing it off.

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  13. I love love love my 2005 4Runner. We bought it used 3 years ago and I would buy it again in a heartbeat. It has a V6 so there's plenty of power to go anywhere in the mountains or in the snow. I feel super safe in it. It gets 18-20 miles per gallon so it's not too bad especially for the engine size. Ours has a removable 3rd row for hauling extra kids. My husband and I took it on a fishing trip and we took out the 3rd row & folded down the 2nd row and slept in it. My only complaint is I wish the 3rd row folded down into the floor like the newer models do.

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  14. I LOVE my Nissan Rogue! I get around 27 miles per gallon, and it does very well in the mountains for a 4 cylinder. I have been to the mountains twice and have no problems keeping up, no need to stay with the semis in the right lane. Also, I have a backup camera. It really comes in handy with bikes on the back, I have yet to run anything over while backing up. I have had several Nissans and have found them to be very dependable every time.

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  15. Love my Toyota 4runner, limited with a v8....which gets 20mpg almost all the time! Mine is an 03 with 140k miles, still going strong. I can't imagine getting a different SUV. Maybe a v6 gets even better mileage?!

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  16. I have a Nissan Armada and I love it.
    thank you for the giveaway! I will email you!

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  17. I love my Rav4! The only thing I would change is the rear door. The spare does not get in the way of a trail hitch bike rack. I don't have one on mine yet, but I have seen one with the bike rack. It's got great get up and go. My husband peels out whenever I let him drive it, which isn't often :) Very roomy in the passenger areas. Storage under the floorboard in the cargo area.

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  18. I have an Xterra that I absolutely love! But...the gas mileage does suck and so do the repair bills when something acts up! Would love something more economical but just cant part with it!

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  19. If you buy a Subaru, it's a guarantee that you will be taking it in for repairs, specifically for the head gasket. They always fail. Also, the reason Subaru gas mileage is low is because all-wheel drive is on all the time. I also live in mountains and I'd prefer to have 4-wheel drive which you can turn on and off as needed.

    Have you checked out the Ford Escape/Ford Escape Hybrid?

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  20. I LOVE my new 2011 Explorer! Pleanty of room tons of go, gas mileage is good for a 4-4, COMFORTABLE (even on a 17 hour drive). Love it!

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  21. I have a 2004 Honda with 170K miles on it and I just sunk 5K in it to make it last another year. Get that Charger. I rented one for a while and LOVED it. I still contend Dodge Cars for sedans are the nicest looking ones out there. Every time one passes me, I get a little giddy.
    If you drive a lot, get a car that you LOVE and feel comfortable in. Who wants to drive a car all day for better gas mileage? I used to live in my car commuting and when you think about how much time you drive, don't you deserve what you want (within reason).

    Maybe you should test drive the Charger (or, if you can swing it...and your son will love me for saying this...get the Challenger...that one is even sweeter

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  22. Oh my gosh, I perseverated over a new vehicle for 3-4 years. I kept putting it off because I was only driving 4000 miles a year. I had it down to a Subaru Outback and the Hyundai Santa Fe. I finally gave in back in April and bought used 2010 Outback. Love it, love it, love it! Even with the H6, the gas mileage has been about 27 mpg highway. I have already played in the mud with it, car camped in it, and carted the bicycle in the back of it. Subaru is also the car of New England, so I see them everywhere, but I don't worry about it. "Juno" is mine and I am thrilled!

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  23. I have a 2011 Subaru - but it is a Legacy. I couldn't full on embrace my inner tree hugger - plus I have fake boobs. Nails are real. teehee.

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  24. We love our Toyota Highlander and will buy another when it's time. It's a 2001 and still looks/runs like brand new. Handles very well and plenty of room for kid/dogs. :)

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  25. LOVE my 2004 CRV! Very reliable and lots of cargo room. The new models appear to be larger (and way cooler looking!) Would definitely buy another Honda!!

    Owned a Mazda 323 or something; bought it the first year out (1990 model) I think. It was a HORRIBLE car!! Had to replace the transmission 2 or 3 times by 150,000 miles (we keep cars forever.) I would NEVER buy another Mazda.

    My sister has a Ford Edge. Roomy and comfortable. She's an interior designer and hauls around drapery rods, etc. so she loves the cargo space.

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  26. My brother has a Kia Sorento and he really likes it. Good luck with your decision!

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  27. I did research before I bought our 2010 Subaru Outback, state car of Montana as well, and it has the most cargo room compaired to similar sized vehicles, i.e. Chevy Equinox, Honda CRV, etc. I also had a hitch reciever put on so I could use our 4-bike hitch rack. Love, Love, Love it! Have fun car shopping!

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  28. I know you are looking at much smaller cars but I LOVE my 2001 Suburban. It has made it through 2 teens learning how to drive, (teen number 3 just got her permit :/) It can withstand direct hits from trees (the tree lost), giant full sized trucks and other obstacles the teens seem to find ;D It will fit bikes inside, on top and all the runner friends I can find ;) I would marry it if I could ;D

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    1. Yes, it's got all those advantages, but just can't stomach the gas mileage!

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  29. I absolutely love my Subaru Forester XT (would not get XT version again tho - great turbo, but premium ga$, regular s/b fine) - have had it since Dec 2003. Got it b/c when I interviewed in the mountainous sometimes snowy/icy state I wound up moving to (hi, I'm from the flat Midwest and flatter Houston) literally every 3rd car I saw was some type of Subaru. Consumer Reports loved them, the Car Talk guys loved them. (realized later people in Northeast had known about Subaru for years, and kept their cars forever) Friend (originally from South) in this new state bought Outback for her big dogs and the handling. I had no experience in mountain driving and had never had an AWD before. My Suby never let me down through the worst weather and being very nervous on mountain roads, often unplowed. I love the little bit of extra height on the road - very spoiled by that, just enough to see better not so much it's hard to handle, the great drivability and handling, and the extra cargo space (which I don't need as much these days). I would get a Forester or an Outback for your needs. (for myself I'd probably get one of their sedans) I think my next vehicle will be a Subaru (or a hybrid - boy I'd love a Suby hybrid!).

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  31. My Mazda CX-5 is awesome! It's getting 28 MPG combined city/highway, actually more city that highway with my commute to work. I have an older Honda Fit so of course I considered the Honda CRV but the Mazda won me over.

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  32. Wow, the Xterra mileage is really disappointing. I don't have any of these cars; I don't have any car! Love this list though, very informative. I definitely think I'd go for one that has lots of room for gear but great gas mileage. So important now.

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  33. I had the RAV4 from '04 to '10 - so six years. Put 140K miles on it. No problems. Really good vehicle. I would have gotten it again if they still made it in stick shift. I am not a fan of automatic and probably would only get an automatic car if it got crazy good gas mileage (like a good hybrid, not a hybrid that gets 30 or something).

    I have a 2011 Mazda 3 hatchback right now (6 speed!). It has some things I'd change, but overall, it's a very good buy for the money.

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  34. My neighbor has a Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and he absolutely loves it. I see him chucking anything and everything in there and taking off.

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  35. The Charger is actually a really reasonable choice. If you opt for the V6 and AWD you will get an average of 21 mpg, but you will NEVER get stuck in the snow. The Charger's V6 produces 292 horsepower which will freaking rock your world, Beth. And you can get all this for under 30k NEW!! Sounds like your son Sam is a super intelligent and cool young man. The hummer H3 with an inline 5 cylinder engine is also an excellent choice.

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    1. Hmmmm...quite possible my anonymous friend is my son? Isn't it your bedtime?

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  36. I had a 1992 Explorer (that I got from my parents in 2002) until last Thanksgiving, when it was towed away from where I work. I actually got it fixed for a couple hundred dollars, but I finally caved and got a new car. I got a Subaru Forrester and it's great. I think it's a lot like the Outback but not as expensive. I'm very happy with it. (Plus it's white and my 26.2 magnet looks great. Yes, I am a cliche.)

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  37. I had an Element and hated it. Those doors got annoying fast! I have a Dodge Journey now and it works pretty well for us but could have more cargo room... Other than that, if I could have anything, I think something like a Jetta TDI Wagon or the Subaru Outback. We had a Jetta TDI and it worked great for everything until it got wrecked. :( Hubby's been looking at the Outback a lot lately.

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  38. My trail running coworker has a Mazda 3. I think it is really cute with the hatchback. I have a 1996 Nissan Sentra with less then 158,000 miles on it, and yes, I would get a Nissan again. Yes, I don't drive much and yes, I have had my car for a super long time. I am saving my pennies for a new Fiat or Mini in the next year or so. Or a used Porsche.

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  39. We have a Subaru Outback which we love. The things goes practically anywhere, at least anywhere we need it too. Good gas mileage and reasonably priced. To avoid looking like everyone else have it done up as a SUAR logo car! The only issue may be family travel. It can be a little cramped for long trips.

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    1. Ditto on all of this. :) I've really enjoyed my Outback... but taking a family of 5 on a 14 hour trip was a little crowded. We could, however, fit all of our stuff for an entire week in the cargo space, and it got good gas mileage. I've taken it off road and it's done great. Fortunately not many people drive one where I live... we've got a lot of trucks and SUVs...so I get to be "different".

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  40. As you know the Team Baha mobile is an Xterra and I absolutely love it. It is perfect for endurance athletes.

    I do know that we are looking at the Element after the Xterra or the Maxima dies because you can get your bikes in the back without removing the front wheel.

    Getting your kids in and out of the car? Are Sam and Emma still in car seats?

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    1. Yes, boosters until they're 21. Then they can celebrate being out of car seats with shots.

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  41. Nissan Murano --- we have a 2007 and it has been reliable and sturdy car. Mileage isn't as good as the Rogue but love the V6.

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  42. I drive a Hyundai Elantra and absolutely love it (although it is not as spacious as a Sonata) and would definitely purchase it again. It gets great gas mileage and is just fun to drive. My husband drives a Toyota Rav4 and we love it for hauling stuff and it drives well in our bad winter weather. The only drawback, which you mentioned is the extra space needed to open the trunk since the door swings out. But we would definitely buy it again, its a great car!

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  43. I have a Honda Pilot and absolutely LOVE it. I can fit a ton of stuff or a ton of kids. It's V-6 with AWD when needed. I have actually put two adult bikes and two kids inside the back, but that requires both back rows being down. It's hard to park in my very urban area, but just about any of the bigger SUVs have that problem.

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  44. Has anyone recommended a Hyundai Santa Fe? I own a 2004 and I LOVE it. The 2012 gets 20/26 gas mileage. Easy to attach a bike rack, decent rear seat room, nice cargo space. And it comes in a V6. Haven't had any problems with it, either!

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  45. I need a car that will hide my golf clubs and other important gear. Don't want anyone looking in the window at my stuff so I like a box or a real trunk.

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  46. i drive a Toyota Camry and my husband has my old car, a Honda Accord. I think they're both great! =)

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  47. I drive a Toyota Rav4. I have a trailer hitch and use it for both a Yakima bike trailer and to pull two jet skies - it works great! I have absolutely no complaints about my Rav4. Decent gas mileage - 6 cylinder has Tons of pick up! It has a reasonably comfy ride - much better than our Chevy trailblazer.

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  48. We have an Element. We love the removable back seats that allow for two assembled bikes, surf boards, ridiculous amounts of gear, wet dogs... and that it creates a completely flat sleeping surface about the size of a queen bed for car camping. It's got a ton of room - I can even stand up in the back (hunched over) and change post-race if I need to. I don't like that the doors don't stay open if you park on a hill, and I don't really like how it handles on seriously curvy roads, which is all we drive on. I would recommend it, but I'd say go with whatever gets the best gas mileage.

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  49. I would advise against the Hyundai. I had one for just one week as a rental, and the road noise was horrendous. I googled the topic, and found that it was a very common problem. My head would be pounding after my 30 min drive home from work daily.... I couldn't wait to get rid of it!!

    I'm a Honda loyalist, I think you can't go wront with a Honda. Maybe check out a used Pilot? Pricey, but they will last you forever, and the functional annoyances and maintenance will be at a minimum compared to other brands. I have owned an Accord, a Pilot, and have now joined the soccer mom ranks with a shiny new Odyssey and I wouldn't buy anything else!!

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  50. I love, love, love my Honda Odyssey. :)

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  51. It's always so funny to read your stuff - our parallel lives continue.
    I had to purchase for all the same reasons last summer - only I beat you by 10,000 miles.
    I have dreamed of a Subaru Outback for 2 years - I still want one. But my 'car nerd' son - opinionated daughter - and very tall husband all 'helped' me and I ended up with a used Jeep Commander . . . I LOVE IT! The gas mileage isn't any better than what I had in my Tahoe, but it hauls all of us and my stuff. The newer Liberty is just as roomy so I'd be pleased with that too.
    It's total utilitarian and makes sense.
    PS - as soon as the girl starts driving I'm getting my Outback!!

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  52. I'm partial to Honda (and if I go American it's gotta be Ford). But honestly, you need to actually test drive these.

    Having said that, a lady at work got a Honda Fit and I was shocked at how much room it had inside (specially when you lay down the rear seats). From the outside it seems so small! And the gas mileage is great.

    If you want AWD and even more room, then step up to the CRV (the new ones were revamped to get better gas mileage, so skip the used ones). Again though, you have to test drive them, that will help a lot in your decision making.

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  53. We have a Toyota FJ Cruiser as our sport mobile. It's very cool looking, spacious, rugged, fun to drive and did I mention very cool looking? :) We love it and highly recommend it.
    -Amy

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  54. Get a Volkswagen Tiguan or Touareg! Reasonably priced, gorgeous, and roomy enough for kids and bikes! We've had ours for 4 and 7 years and we've never had a problem. And! gets the same gas mileage as the Asian cars :)

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  55. I have a 1998 land rover disco. and it still rocks, 100,000 miles later!! <3

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  56. I drove a Honda CR-V for 7 years and loved it, best car ever. I am not as crazy about the 12 version so went for the Suburu Forester last month, now I love that. My husband drives the Honda Element and it stows our bikes and all our stuff very well. A few of our cyclist buds have that car as well. Another crazy fitness frind of our (his life revolves around triathlons) has a Honda Fit and it is very roomy inside. He bought a little tow behind trailer and totes up to 4 bikes with that.

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  57. I currently drive a Ford Escape & prior to that had an Explorer. I am sold on the Fords & have my sights set on the Edge for my next vehicle.

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  58. We have a Rav4 and it fits the bill. Its my wife's car. As for the right side hinge -- not a big issue. Bike rack - we have one that swings down out of the way or we just reach through the back seat. As you know, the back seats lay flat.

    I drive a Ford. The best decision I have ever made for me. YOu might want to look at the reliability ratings for all of those that you are considering. Ford will surprise you.

    Good luck!

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  59. I drive a 2006 Xterra (we also have a 2010 Nissan Frontier). I love my Xterra! It's a great vehicle. I feel like it gets a little better mileage than 16/22, I would say closer to 18/25, but I don't feel like I'm breaking the bank every time I fill. The only complaint I would have is getting my bike on the top rack. If it's just my bike I can throw it in the back but if we have both bikes up top, my husband has to lift them up and off. Plus the customer service has always been so great with Nissan. I would definitely buy another Xterra plus I think the new ones look so bad @ss!

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  60. Rude! My browser freaked out and deleted my lengthy comment...anyway, a few random thoughts:

    - We had a Ford Edge Sport and it looked nice but had terrible mileage (worse than it was supposed to offer) and had a weird high pitched sound that the mechanic basically passed off as "not a big deal." The car has a smooth ride, but ultimately just didn't fit us so we traded it in and got a Mini Cooper Countryman (we LOVE)
    - My mom and BFF have RAV4's and love them.
    - Another BFF of mine had the Honda Element for a few months - while it does haul a lot, and have comfortable front seats, the back seats are like rocks.

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  61. It's not on your list, and I've actually heard they aren't making it after this year, but we have a Ford Escape Hybrid and absolutely LOVE it. Great gas mileage, usually 30-35 miles per gallon. It's a bit smaller than the Edge, but for the gas mileage difference, we didn't care. We have two different bike racks. one that can go on the back and a Thule one that attaches to the existing rack on the roof.

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  62. I just drove my Ford Edge from Michigan to Boulder, Co and back last week for my Sisters wedding. It did GREAT on Canyon Blvd despite the rock slide when we were there :(. You are right...everyone there has a Subaru. We joked about this. Lol! LOVE my Edge but I love the Explorer too. I think the gas mileage is a little better now. Good luck with your decision.

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  63. I am a HUGE Honda fan. I have a 2006 Civic with 137,000 miles on it (yes, I drive a lot) and our extra car is a 1998 Acura Integra (Acura is made by Honda) with over 200,000 miles on it. We've never had a problem with either car and Hondas typically get great gas mileage. My mom has a 2009 CR-V and loves it. She let us borrow it twice when we drove from CT to DC (we were driving in the winter and wanted the AWD, which we don't have). It handles great and my husband and I both loved driving it. I don't know if this is a concern for you but once really nice thing about the CR-V is that it was comfy for both of us to drive - I am 5'2 and he is 6' so it can be challenging to find a car that is comfortable for shorter and taller people. I really don't think you can go wrong with Honda!

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  64. I drive and highly recommend the Kia Rondo. It has an optional 3rd row, half way decent gas milleage, and it is affordable. The only problem is they no longer make them but perhaps a used one?...

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  65. I will vote against Dodge Chargers. State troopers here have them. So I always think cop when I see one.

    I have a 4 cylinder Honda and I have absolutely no problems accelerating. As my driving record shows. Might have something to do with why I like to avoid Chargers.

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  66. I miss my CR-V, but got a Mazda 5 last year. Love it. No 4WD, but it's zippy and has decent cargo room for it's size. Also seats 6...though for people w/ short legs in the back.

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  67. I have driven a couple of these a couple of times. My roommate has an Element. I personally hate it. I've ridden it and even driven it and its just not my favorite (and I HATE the doors). My other roommate has an Edge which I really like. It has a nice ride and can hold a lot of stuff. I would definitely choose it over the element. I had personally been looking at a Rav 4 for me and for some reason it has stood out to me, but I can't afford it right now.

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  68. I have a Rogue and I love it! The only downside to the Rogue is the navigation kinda sucks (not the navigating, but the finding places) and the warranty is only 3 years/36,000. Cant say I drove it through the rough mountains (we only have foothills here in GA), but I did go up a steep dirt hill and it did well. haha

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  69. We ended up with a dorky Kia Rondo because it is the only car beside the Honda Element that had a lot of interior cargo space. Overall I would say it's comfortable for me (I'm 5'1) and my husband (he's 6'1)...and we can fit bikes in the back no problem when the seats are down. It's a cheap car so we don't think twice about driving on gravel roads or trashing the inside with our bikes. I will say that it's kind of loud on the highway...but reasonable around town. Hyundai bought Kia and the seats, etc are similar in design (so comfortable for smaller, shorter people)...and they are an affordable way to get a car with some higher end perks. My parents have had a few Nissans and the seats really hurt anyone's back that is not taller than about 5'8. They are just designed for bigger people. Good luck. The only thing worse than actually buying a car is dealing with the sales people :/

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  70. We ended up with a dorky Kia Rondo because it is the only car beside the Honda Element that had a lot of interior cargo space. Overall I would say it's comfortable for me (I'm 5'1) and my husband (he's 6'1)...and we can fit bikes in the back no problem when the seats are down. It's a cheap car so we don't think twice about driving on gravel roads or trashing the inside with our bikes. I will say that it's kind of loud on the highway...but reasonable around town. Hyundai bought Kia and the seats, etc are similar in design (so comfortable for smaller, shorter people)...and they are an affordable way to get a car with some higher end perks. My parents have had a few Nissans and the seats really hurt anyone's back that is not taller than about 5'8. They are just designed for bigger people. Good luck. The only thing worse than actually buying a car is dealing with the sales people :/

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  71. My sister had a 2007 Sonata. It was a nice car and pretty zippy for the 4 cylinder. Decent backseat room, too. Overall a good car, gas mileage was lower than we originally expected, but that could be her driving style. No experience with mountain driving in it, though. She recently traded in for the 2012 Ford Fusion, but I would NOT recommend the 4 cylinder model in that...no "get up and go."

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  72. Choose American - Ford or Jeep

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  73. I have a Honda Fit and I LOVE it! Incredible gas mileage, love the hatch back. A medium sized dog easily and comfortably fits in the very back (behind the back seats). The back seats lay down flat to the floor and my 6' 1" tall boyfriend can fit his bike in without having to even take off the front wheel. Simple, nice looking, and seriously- you cannot beat the gas mileage.

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  74. Have you considered a VW Touareg TDI? You really can't beat the PZEV and MPG combo TDIs offer. I drive a Passat TDI and love it. I searched for about a year before purchasing (also commitment phobic/indecisive) and found almost everything I was looking for in the Passat. Tons of interior and cargo room, Turbo, great fuel economy, great extras to choose from with the different trim levels etc etc.

    Good Luck in your search!

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  75. I've got a 2010 CRV and I love it, which is saying a lot because I've never loved any of my previous cars.

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  76. I can't believe my mini-van gets better gas-mileage than most of these SUVs! Must be the super-sleek aerodynamic - no wait, that can't be it! Maybe it's the extra-cool engine that - aw, heck. I have no idea. I say buy a Honday Odyssey - plenty of room for everything (including the kids) and be done with it. My 8-year-old one gets 24-25mpg.

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  77. Why not a Prius? I can get two road bikes in the back (which is roomier than you might imagine) with a blanket in between, plus luggage and two corgis, for weekend trips. Gas mileage is awesome so you can take off for races in other states with no guilt. And now they have the plug-in one!

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  78. I drive a Pilot... and I love it. I'm a field hockey and basketball coach, hiker, and runner, my husband is a fisherman, we own 3 dogs + have my teenage brother & his crew and/or gear, and we frequently road trip. We're active and always going 100 places at once, lol! My Pilot fits everything, is reliable, comfortable, gets decent gas mileage, handles excellent in New England weather, and- IMO- looks sharp, and not so "granola".

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    1. Oh! Forgot to add, I've had nothing but horrible experiences with Chevy/GMC and Doge. I'd avoid them at all costs!

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  79. I have a 2001 Xterra with just over 150,000 miles. I love that thing and I plan on running it into the ground. Sure, I wish the mileage was better, but there's no way that fuel efficinecy savings would equal a monthly car payment.

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  80. I have a 2005 RAV4 with Yakima roof racks on it for my bikes and I absolutely love this car. It's got enough room for gear, has decent enough gas mileage (22-25), and I can fit my bike into it without taking off the front wheel if I'm too lazy to put it on top of the car. It's comfortable, drives smooth, can take a bit of a beating if I take it on a hiking/camping trip, and is just an all around great car for the outdoorsy type. Not sure how it would be to fit a family full of gear but it definitely works for two people.

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    1. Oh - forgot to add. Yes the side opening trunk door is a pain but it is possible to put a hitch bike rack on the back. I had one before I got the roof racks and the issue I had was forgetting that I couldn't open the trunk while it was on there and accidentally smashing my door on the rack. It's annoying but possible.

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  81. I have a Rogue and love it. I also live in Longmont and we've driven it through the mountains a ton and it drives as well as any 6-cylinder I've driven. The continuously variable transmission is something that is completely underrated. I can't believe I ever drove without one. It also handles pretty well in snow - even though I opted for the 2wd option.

    We also recently bought a used 4-cyl Outback. The car is great in the city and perfect with the dogs, but the get-up on a mountain pass leaves something to be desired. We did get the sport transmission, though, so it helps a bit. If I had to choose between the two, though, I'd definitely opt for the Rogue.

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  82. I drive an Odyssey. I love me my minivan. I resisted for years and years. Once I caved, I became a total convert. If I didn't have 4 kids, I would not drive a minivan though :) I kind of fancy a convertible Mini or a BMW Z4. My auto fantasies do not approach the practical.

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  83. I have had 2 subarus in the past and loved them both. I have a Ford Escape now and love it to. It's a 2005 with 140,000 miles on it and still going strong. Smaller SUV, but lots of room and decent gas mileage. My aunt has a 2004 with 220,000 miles on it. I got this because I wanted something different from the Subaru, but to be honest, I will probably get another Outback next only because they hold their value so incredibly well-even with crazy amounts of miles onit. My only complaint with the Escape is that it has not held it's value as well. BTW-Thanks for doing my car shopping for me and making a fabulous list of pros and cons on all the vehicles I am looking at.

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  84. We have a 2011 Honda CRV. We were also concerned about it not being a V6, but it has not been a big deal. It has a good engine and we haven't had issues with pick-up on hills. We love it and have no regrets whatsoever!!! Give the CRV a go!

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  85. Have you considered a Chevy Equinox? My Dad has one and his skis and bikes get thrown in all the time without a problem. His is a 2004, has high mileage (like over 150,000, he drives a lot) and so far as I know he hasn't had any major issues with it.

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  86. I'm a huge Honda minivan fan. Got to get over the minivan stigma, but great for hauling kids and bikes and anything else.

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  87. I'm sure this has been said 100 times (I wasn't patient enough to read the millions of comments :). I have a 2003 CRV, and I love it! I would recommend a CRV to anyone, but I have seen the newest model in the dealership and it is fancy, not sporty! I would go for a slightly older model CRV if you want that outdoorsy feeling. Everyone in ORegon drives either Subarus or Volvos.

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  88. I drive a Honda Fit and I LOVE it. LOVE. It's blue. It's cute. The rear seats fold completely flat and you can fit a ton of stuff in it (seriously. My husband and I spent a month camping/road tripping with luggage, camping gear, sleeping bags, cooler, and our dog's kennel in the back, and could still see out all the windows). It's teeny and can fit into any parking space ever (this is a bonus as I used to live in Chicago and now live in LA). Awesome gas mileage. Reliable. Did I mention it's blue and cute?

    However, with it's tiny little golf-cart engine, it didn't handle those Colorado/Utah mountains very well, and it's not the best in the snow, so it's probably not the car for you.

    Still. I love this car.

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  89. I'm on my second Honda CR-V and I really do love it. They made a bunch of improvements between 2005 and 2009 (digital heating/air conditioning control, iPod plug in, etc.). Yes, it's only a 4 cylinder and so it doesn't zoom up the hills as fast as my friends' X5's. But it only costs half as much, it gets better mileage, and it doesn't require premium gas. The one other con is that it's not as quiet inside as a BMW or Jeep Grand Cherokee. But definitely be open to it, and go test drive one!

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  90. We have a 2007 Chevy Equinox. I love it. It gets 22/26, is all wheel drive, seats five, has a sliding back seat and a good amount of room for stuff in the back. oh, and it has a six cylinder option, mine is. I can't speak for the newer version, but I LOVE my car. We are going on 100,000 miles.

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  91. I like my Honda Pilot (my brother is the GM at Ralph Schomp so we are a Honda family)...but I'd buy a Toyota 4Runner if I could buy a car (which I can't...right now).

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  92. It's a bummer that your choices are limited with the V6 option. My car is a V6 and when I am using my husbands which isn't you can really tell the difference. I don't think I could go back to not having one. With that said, I have a 2005 Acura MDX and I love it! I have over 115k miles and hope to get another 100k+ on it. A little more pricey but worht it in the long run.

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  93. KIA Sportage all the way!!! We love KIA, in fact, we own two of them!!!! Great warranty, AMAZING CARS!!!

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  94. I live in montana, so do get winter and mountain driving. I drive a honda accord with snow tires. It gets great gas mileage. IT also is a 4 cylinder and has plenty of power. I get around fine in snow dirt roads whatever in my car. Out of all of these I would get the honda crv or possibly a volvo. But really you need to test drive them ,see if you can live without v6. That really gobbles up gas.

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  95. We just bought a Hyundai Elantra and love it! A friend of mine has the Hyundai Tuscon and loves it as well!

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  96. I have a 5-door Focus hatchback (the cheap version of the Mazda 5) and LOVE it for sports (and general) storage and travel. Great gas mileage, room for 2 bikes (front tires removed) when the seats are down. Golf clubs and skis fit in the back (again, putting a seat down). Plenty of headroom, surprisingly. If you want all 4 of you to fit plus all your clubs, I'd go bigger though. PS, 4 cylinder in a car that size is not a problem. :)

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  97. We bought a 2010 Toyota Rav4 brand new and really did not like it. It got decent gas mileage, but that's the only thing good I can say about. We did not like the way the back opened like you mentioned, and the thing rattled all the time! Not just on dirt roads etc. It rattled and made tons on noise on smooth highways. We took it back several times and eventually Toyota told us there was nothing else they could do for us. :( So we took it to Honda and traded it in on a 2011 CRV. LOVE the CRV. Good mileage, very nice ride, all wheel drive works great for nasty lake effect snowy weather in northwest PA. The only thing is that it does have to downshift once or twice going up a hill, like you mentioned, a V6 would be better for hilly driving. But still I would take a CRV anyday!

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  98. The Outback is a great car (particularly the older ones that were a little smaller and got better mileage). I am loving my 2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sportwagen. Plenty of room, decent power and I am getting 41MPG average over the first 30K miles I have put on it.

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  99. We have a Sonata, I love it, it gets great gas mileage. I've sat in the back seat a few times and never had any issues with head room (I'm 5'10"). There is also tons of trunk space, I joked with the salesman that you could fit at least 2 dead bodies back there...he just gave me a nervous smile.

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  100. You wrote this a while ago, but I'll respond anyway. I have a 2003 CR-V and I LOVE IT. When it finally dies (no problems at all in the last 10 years), I will buy another CR-V. There have been no issues at all with it not having a V6 engine.

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  101. I am 59 and have owned many cars and as I raced cars for years, people always asked me what to buy as a "car guy". I've owned Chevys, Volswagens, Mazda, Dodge, Ford, Hondas, Subaru, Porsche, Infiniti, Mercedes, Toyota, & BMW (and Yamaha, Honda, & BMW motorcycles).
    Here's my purchase list based on quality:
    Honda
    Toyota
    Nissan
    The end.

    For you and your needs, I would recommend a Honda CRV; handles well, parks well, comfortable, good mileage, all-wheel-drive, LE & SE models have premium upgrades, very reliable with great resale, 3rd & 4th generation (current) have hatchback rear door, hitch can be fitted easily for bike rack.

    Don't get hung up on the V6; a good 4 cylinder like the Honda VTEC will out perform a lot of V6s. The Honda produces a lot of torque which is more important than horsepower in daily driving. The 2013 model has more power than last year and gets even better mileage.

    Don't get excited over long warranties; My 1986 Subaru and 1995 Ford were in the shop constantly with everything covered by warranty. Many new cars of mediocre quality are sold with long warranties to cover the bitterness of purchase in saving a few bucks.

    And don't get pushed into "Buy American"; Ford & GM build most of their cars outside the USA and Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, BMW, & Mercedes all have plants in the US. BTW, Honda builds more Accords in Ohio than FIAT/Chrysler builds cars total. My 2006 Honda CRV (89K miles; no repairs) was built in England, the Fiat 500 is built in Mexico, the Ford Focus is built in Brazil, the Ford Transit is built in Turkey (yes, Turkey). The sticker on the inside of the driver's door will show country of orgin.

    I enjoy your blog; it'll be fun to see your final choice.

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  102. I drive a Jeep Patriot and while it's great at getting through the snow and can carry a lot of stuff, the gas mileage isn't that great. My hubby has a Chevy Malibu that gets better gas mileage. I do love the Jeep and I don't really mind the poor acceleration.

    P.S.--Sam wants you to get a Charger because he'll probably get to learn how to drive in that car:)

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