This being Seattle, "I replaced the old Subaru with a newer one" is about like saying "Of course I took out the recycling," except in frequency. Considered a fair range of cars, but the preferred characteristics of course don't all exist in one car:
- Hatchback / wagon
- Mileage like the Aptera, or barring that, the Prius
- Doesn't need premium gas
- Seats 4 if needed
- Fun to drive (though driving is fun, to me, anyhow)
- Smooth on the highway
- ABS, all disk brakes preferred
- regular-size wheels, not stylish big ones
- All-wheel drive (must be acceptable in snow, and able to ascend the rocky, muddy, rutted road to the camp where I go to an annual family reunion)
- Safe, at least considering the already chosen risk of leaving the house in a moving metal box
- Small (for parking)
- Big (for hauling)
- Inconspicuous (draw no unwanted attention)
- Personalized (provocative bumper stickers)
- Stick shift (84 percent non-negotiable)
- Reliable (to my mind, nearly synonymous with "Japanese")
- Cheap ... or at least reasonable ... or at least not going to make me trade in one of my livers
- Quality construction, so I can amortize over a nice long time
- Has a sunroof, for the joy of driving with it open
- Has no sunroof, for body/structure integrity
- Cheap, or free if possible
I've been considering a new(er) car for a while, but had hoped to stretch out my current Outback (a '98, in declining health) for a while longer, but a blinking CHECK ENGINE light, a few expensive repairs, and a throaty, demonic voice muttering "GET OUT! GET OUT!" every time I drive it, all led me to increase the pace of my search. Two days ago, found a Craiglist ad for a hatchback that's decent on gas, is a stick w/ AWD, in black, and is the same car (except trim) that my sister-in-law drives, and this morning I bought it.
It's a 2008 Subaru Impreza, "Sport" trim. (My old one has not turned me off to Subarus -- only to buying from shady private sellers who, it turns out, don't reveal previous accidents, remove --!!! -- the Check Engine indicator's bulb, etc.) So far, I've driven it only once (from the dealer in Bothell to Capital Hill), and have thus only been lost once. How does one get lost on a one-turn trip? If I knew, it wouldn't happen as often ...
Hoping it's the start of many years of good transport -- it better be, since I now have roughly enough money left in the bank to buy one coffee (drip). I considered several much-older, much cheaper cars, and was tempted mightily, but I like having at least a year's worth of remaining factory warranty. Being able to get to places like Camano Island State Park (north of Seattle, and a beautiful place for casual camping) is a valuable thing. I also typically cross the country at least once a year, like to snowboard, have friends more than 60 miles away, etc, so a car powered by AA batteries was not in the cards, and though I like the idea of Biodiesel, a) Subaru's diesels are not yet available in the U.S., and b) I am anyhow uncertain of the availability of diesel fuel when driving relatively isolated places. In most of the world, that situation is probably reversed (based on reading Jim Roger's account of driving around the world by car -- http://www.amazon.com/Adventure-Capi..._bxgy_b_text_b , though his earlier trip by motorcycle -- http://www.amazon.com/Investment-Bik.../dp/0812968719 -- used a gasoline engine).
The whole transaction took less than an hour, from getting there, filling out forms, nodding a lot, to driving away fairly happy. Was in a hurry; a coworker agreed to fill in for me for an hour or so, and I didn't want to abuse that courtesy. Ideally, I would have spent a lot more time poking through more dealerships, and perhaps a more thorough investigation of this car itself, but ... real life got in the way, and I am optimistic about it. The price also seems right -- and I'm more willing to gamble that this reflects some undisclosed flaw, since it is under the factory warranty for 20,000 more miles. This is also the car that I rather hope my mom decides one day to get (in automatic transmission form -- she has given up manuals). I hope that manual transmissions hang on enough years longer, and AWD spreads to ever more model lines, that the convergence will be greater. But the obvious, and fairly affordable, choice for someone who wants both has been Subaru for a while. (Any contradiction to this? I'd like to be wrong -- sort of.)
Btw: the runner up car (this has been a long narrowing-down process of researching and watching ads -- mostly on Craigslist) is the Toyota Matrix. Unfortunately, you can have either AWD *or* a stickshift in the Matrix (or the basically identical Pontiac Vibe), but you can't have both at the same time. Otherwise, I'd probably already have one of these -- they get better mileage, on paper at least, than does the Impreza. My sis-in-law, however, consistently outperforms the sticker's highway mpg, and I hope to as well.
So there's my story of the day.
p.s. And it's slated to cross the country in early August, will probably be loaded with a fair selection of the T.B. line