What Will Car Boy Buy? Help Me Choose My Ride. Part One

Buying a new car can be exciting, as in “I’m so glad to unload my clunker, and smell that ‘new car’ smell again. Or it can be a drag, as in, “I’d rather go to the dentist for root canal on my way to a tax audit than go to the local dealership.”

If you are an auto industry journalist, like me, the process is unique. First, the “new car” smell is not exactly something I covet. I drive new cars all the time as pat of the job. That means I don’t have to go for a lot of test drives at dealerships. Thank Goodness! Nothing against dealers, but if I didn’t have the advantage of driving new cars all the time, I’d have to engage with a whole slew of hungry salespeople just to test drive a half-dozen cars, and the endure all the follow-up e-mails.

No, my problem is a different one. I know too much. Not only have I had a lot of seat-time in all the cars I am considering for my next purchase, but I know very well the cars that are around the corner, arriving next year. I don’t know if I can hold out. I need a car to use in between press cars, and I don’t fancy renting. I had a paid-for 1998 Subaru Outback until recently. I could have driven it another five or six years, I imagine. Grrrr. Maybe I should have. It had about 135,000 miles on it. But I decided to gift it to someone in need of a reliable, inexpensive ride.

I am going to share my shopping journey with our readers, step by painful step, until I decide on what I am going to buy. And then I’ll share what happens when I finally sign on the dotted line.

By the way…feel free to offer me suggestions.

First: what am I looking for? Here are the parameters. I want something that is fun to drive, a car that gives me some feedback. I want a vehicle that gets terrific gas mileage. Gas prices are going to hover above $3.00 a gallon where I live for some time to come. And, I predict, we will see $4.00 per gallon in the next 24 months. I prefer a hatch-back, though I haven’t shut out the possibility of a sedan. I prefer an all-wheel-drive option, but it might not be a deal breaker. I want factory installed satellite radio and heated seats. And I prefer a manual transmission. I also prefer not to spend more than $25,000. As far as I am concerned the cheaper the better. And I’m not totally sold on a new car. I considered a used car this week too.

For now, here are the choices I have narrowed down to (the range may surprise some): Ford Focus (2008); Nissan Versa, Honda Fit, Saturn Astra, Saturn Vue Green Line, Honda Civic Hybrid, VW GTI, VW Rabbit, BMW 325ix (2005 used), Ford Fusion (manual transmission), Chevy HHR, Mazda3, MazdaSpeed3, Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla, Volvo C30, Scion xD, Scion xB. The cars coming next year that I am anxious to consider are the 2008 VW Jetta TDI, BMW 1 Series and MINI Clubman.

Well…Let the games begin.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.