1 2
MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt PowerDork
7/3/19 9:53 a.m.

So, the cooling system gremlins in my '98 Buick Regal are at it again. If I can kill the gremlins, or at least drive them back into their lair for another year or so, well and good. But if they cause any engine damage, I'll need to be looking for a new daily driver on a $5000-6000 budget. I've sometimes half-seriously thought about an air cooled VW - no radiators springing a leak one year after replacing them, no wondering if that weird stuff in the coolant could really be Georgia red clay, no water pumps with an impeller worn to the point it looks like a Chinese throwing star... But I'd probably get something a bit more practical. My commute is about 30 miles round-trip, with a fair amount of highway driving.

So, the requirements:

  • I'm about 6'2" tall, 210 lbs. It needs plenty of leg and head room.
  • It needs to tote around the family on occasion, so it needs a real back seat that is even useful with the driver's seat all the way back.
  • Decent air conditioning; this is in Georgia.
  • Good highway stability. I don't like how a lot of newer small cars seem to get blown around on the highway.
  • Good mileage is a plus, but if it gets 25 mpg, I'm OK with that.
  • Manual transmission preferred but not required.
  • It needs to be, well, not boring. I know, hard to define. This could be from decent handling and acceleration, or more intangible factors. (An air cooled VW may be slow and ill-handling, but it's not boring.)
  • Decent reliability.
  • Cloth interior preferred. Leather or vinyl doesn't hold up as well, and is less comfortable on hot days.

The rest is unrestricted - age, which end drives the wheels, country of origin, body style (although those parameters pretty much seem to fit a sedan or wagon).

Some notes on cars being considered and cars being rejected.

No 2003-2006 Accords. They check the right boxes on paper, but I find the seats uncomfortable.

More serious cars I've considered include the Honda Civic, Chevy Cruze, the larger Acuras, maybe a VW CC (not sure how reliable they are, but I can find them with stick shifts and relatively low mileage in my price range with a little digging) or Cadillac CTS if I can find a stick shift example. Or for something related to my current Buick, a Pontiac G6 GXP if I find one with a stick shift. Maybe a Subaru Legacy or Forester, although I'm a bit worried about the head gaskets.

Less serious ideas that have crossed my mind include an '80s Mercedes Diesel, the previously mentioned air cooled VW, or a hotter modular motor with a manual transmission in an older Crown Victoria. Not sure any of these are exactly a good idea as daily transportation.

Thoughts on how well any cars under consideration measure up? Any cars I should be looking at that I'm not? Or enabling on the more ridiculous choices?

NickD
NickD PowerDork
7/3/19 9:56 a.m.

Infiniti G35. You can get them in a roomy sedan, RWD or AWD, with or without a manual, punchy VQ35, supposedly pretty reliable and pretty quick. Mileage is a little eh, and I think they were all leather interior though.

Duke
Duke MegaDork
7/3/19 10:03 a.m.

Hrm, I was about to say that I will have a low-miles 2004 TSX available in that range, but it has leather Honda seats (light grey).  At 5'-10" and 275, I find them pretty comfortable.  It's also an automatic.

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise HalfDork
7/3/19 10:11 a.m.

Honda Fit 

clutchsmoke
clutchsmoke SuperDork
7/3/19 12:50 p.m.
mr2s2000elise said:

Honda Fit 

Gets blown around quite a bit on the highway. I had a 2013. It would meet most of the other requirements. The A/C is pretty average.

My vote is for an Infiniti or a Toyota Avalon. Avalon will be like the Buick except reliable.

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt PowerDork
7/3/19 12:56 p.m.

Thanks for the responses so far. How are Fits on the highway? I was concerned something of that size and shape would get blown around.

It seems a bit challenging to find good Q35s here, so those had kind of been off my radar.

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise HalfDork
7/3/19 12:59 p.m.
clutchsmoke said:

My vote is for Toyota Avalon. Avalon will be like the Buick except reliable.

The definition of boring, which OP doesnt want 

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt PowerDork
7/3/19 1:11 p.m.
mr2s2000elise said:

The definition of boring, which OP doesnt want 

The Regal I have is one of the supercharged versions, which is more like a Grand Prix GTP without the body strakes. GM at least made some pretense at equipping it with a sport suspension to go with the engine upgrades - the Buick doesn't roll and push as much as a Camry from the same time period. I had been under the impression that the Avalon suspension was intended to be even plusher than the Camry.

spacecadet
spacecadet HalfDork
7/3/19 1:16 p.m.

I'd look for a 8th gen civic sedan to go sit in. will hit your MPG requirements although requires premium fuel. 

an Acura TL 04-06 manual will also fit into your requirements and have much comfier seats than the accords. 

 

 

 

OldGray320i
OldGray320i Dork
7/3/19 1:34 p.m.

 Don't shy away from the '12 and up Focus manuals. 

Bullet proof (only autotragics had issues).  I had 88k of gas and oil, others have gone a buck and a quarter, same thing. 

30ish around town, mid to high 30s hwy

Seats are the reason I bought it as I had a 200mi a day commute at the time, but I'm about 75% of your stature (5.9 - 160).  My dad, closer to you in size found them comfy as well.

I ran lowering springs and Ford's handing pack struts with a Steeda rear bar,  17x7.5s with 235/45 (I think - whatever gets OE diameter), and the thing was just fun to drive. 

Did not react much at all to cross winds, very stable. 

I regret selling that car, now, probably should have kept it.   That said, I daily a Miata, so as soon as I jump in, the regret goes away. 

Edit: AC is pretty good - I'm in Tucson, as a point of reference...

LifeIsStout
LifeIsStout Reader
7/3/19 1:50 p.m.

Kia Soul

Subaru Legacy (bonus points for the wagon version)

Scion xB

Saab 9-3

Infinity M45

Dusterbd13-michael
Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
7/3/19 1:58 p.m.

Same requirement set, 3-5x mileage per day.

I bought at 2012 mazda6 touring. 5500, 108k on it, clean title, etc.

4k in, and i haven't regretted for a second.

Consistently 27-29mpg mixed city/rural/interstate 

Incredibly comfortable seats

Decen ac for the middle of north Carolina 

Good stereo

Harvey
Harvey SuperDork
7/3/19 2:19 p.m.

Subaru Outback with the H6. Smooth power delivery, very large amount of cargo room, good highway cruiser. Fun to drive in the snow.

buzzboy
buzzboy HalfDork
7/3/19 2:53 p.m.

While there are AC kits for ACVWs they do get blown around quite a lot on the highway. Mine was surprisingly happy going 75 down the interstate but it wasn't the most comfortable vehicle to make that trip.

clutchsmoke
clutchsmoke SuperDork
7/3/19 3:12 p.m.
MadScientistMatt said:

Thanks for the responses so far. How are Fits on the highway? I was concerned something of that size and shape would get blown around.

It seems a bit challenging to find good Q35s here, so those had kind of been off my radar.

The Fit, in addition to getting blown around on the highway has pretty quick steering which makes it fun for tossing it around on surface streets and pretty busy on the highway. Also it's turning darn near 4k rpm at 80mph which combined with the wind noise gets tiresome after a while. It's a fun car in it's segment with tons of room inside. It would be very low on my list for a highway commuter.

Kingkong
Kingkong New Reader
7/3/19 3:22 p.m.
LifeIsStout said:

Kia Soul

Subaru Legacy (bonus points for the wagon version)

Scion xB

Saab 9-3

Infinity M45

Oooh 9-3 aero with V-6 is perfectly not boring

EDT
EDT Reader
7/3/19 4:10 p.m.

Volvo C30?

CyberEric
CyberEric HalfDork
7/3/19 4:50 p.m.

I’d be looking for a Mazda 6 or Acura TL.

The mk 3 Focus isn’t in that price range in my area but those are fantastic with the manual trans, especially in Titanium sport trim. You get beautiful 8 inch wide wheels and it just drives great. It’s pretty small inside though for 4 adults.

dxman92
dxman92 Reader
7/4/19 1:11 a.m.

2014-16 Nissan Versa Note. I commute a hair under 70 miles round trip per day in a 2015. Comfortable car on the highway. I've had a Fit as well and Note gets my nod for the highway between the two. Mrs. Dx and myself did PA to Mass back in April with no issues. Available with stick shift, ample rear seat room/cargo space for size of car. Its fun to drive in the slow car fast way, doesn't weigh too much and not much to go wrong (mine has manual windows/locks and an actual key). 35-40 mpg all day long. You can get the sedan version if you want a trunk. Also, you can get the 07-12 Versa hatch with a 6 speed manual.

barefootskater
barefootskater Dork
7/4/19 2:21 a.m.

Owning a Fit I’d say it’s probably not what you’re looking for. I (5’9” 170) like the seats, though the Mrs is less fond. I’d say it’s more entertaining than comfortable on the freeway. 

Btdt with acvw’s too. Not boring, ever. Most are not as efficient as you’d think, unless you live above 60mph and have a “freeway” trans with the overdriven 4th gear. Ac kits are spendy too, and as we’re still in the middle of installing one into my mom’s ‘59 I can’t comment on how well they work anyway. 

What about a convertible SN95? Should be able to find a very good GT manual in that budget.  Or one of the panthers you mentioned. Throw a mustang tuner on and some 3.73 gears in and they are quite fun. Bonus points for installing a cop-spec grille and tint. (Buddy of mine did that, I went for a ride with him and when we blew past a cop doing 90 in a 65 the guy just waved at us)

MazdaFace
MazdaFace Dork
7/4/19 2:30 a.m.

5k will get you a nice Mazdaspeed 6 lol

Strizzo
Strizzo PowerDork
7/4/19 6:24 a.m.

In reply to MazdaFace : 

 Or a pretty good condition first gen speed3 

 

Vigo
Vigo MegaDork
7/4/19 11:06 a.m.

You could get a good Corvair sedan for that. Air cooled laugh

 

Cadillac CTS if I can find a stick shift example

I've driven a 3.6/manual CTS and didn't like it. Mostly for groaning NVH reasons  but shifter is also rubbery and needs rubber bushing repair frequently or to be modded with metal bushings. Engine is decently powerful but also uninspiring and the noises it makes are incongruous with 'luxury'. IMO if you're not going to use it's RWD-ness for anything you'd be way better off in terms of driving enjoyment in a manual Acura TL, although maybe those share whatever you don't like about Accord seats. At least you know those seats you put in the Regal are decent. cheeky

I own a Mazdaspeed 6 and those would also fit your requirements. Might need more info on back seat requirements.

I also like: 3.5L Avalon With Coilovers.

Mndsm
Mndsm MegaDork
7/4/19 1:05 p.m.
dxman92 said:

2014-16 Nissan Versa Note. I commute a hair under 70 miles round trip per day in a 2015. Comfortable car on the highway. I've had a Fit as well and Note gets my nod for the highway between the two. Mrs. Dx and myself did PA to Mass back in April with no issues. Available with stick shift, ample rear seat room/cargo space for size of car. Its fun to drive in the slow car fast way, doesn't weigh too much and not much to go wrong (mine has manual windows/locks and an actual key). 35-40 mpg all day long. You can get the sedan version if you want a trunk. Also, you can get the 07-12 Versa hatch with a 6 speed manual.

2014 versa note here. Still a manual. Gets good mileage, was dirt cheap to buy. Kind of a pain in the ass to work on (the battery is shockingly difficult to replace) but it is a cheap effective way to go places- and damned if it wont swallow a E36 M3load of carg . 

dxman92
dxman92 Reader
7/4/19 3:05 p.m.
Mndsm said:
dxman92 said:

2014-16 Nissan Versa Note. I commute a hair under 70 miles round trip per day in a 2015. Comfortable car on the highway. I've had a Fit as well and Note gets my nod for the highway between the two. Mrs. Dx and myself did PA to Mass back in April with no issues. Available with stick shift, ample rear seat room/cargo space for size of car. Its fun to drive in the slow car fast way, doesn't weigh too much and not much to go wrong (mine has manual windows/locks and an actual key). 35-40 mpg all day long. You can get the sedan version if you want a trunk. Also, you can get the 07-12 Versa hatch with a 6 speed manual.

2014 versa note here. Still a manual. Gets good mileage, was dirt cheap to buy. Kind of a pain in the ass to work on (the battery is shockingly difficult to replace) but it is a cheap effective way to go places- and damned if it wont swallow a E36 M3load of carg . 

I can haul my bicycle with the front wheel on with the back seats down. Also, two huge contractor bags full of trash in the back w/the seats up. Also, 8 bags of mulch, 6 bags of rocks, some lumber with the back seats down. 

1 2
Our Preferred Partners
46OBcyybBpe2BB0VjHfQqStsLNGALsyezpzrtP3uWsNPb2SSFhSEVLP4uRvETQZg