Random and RFP: Commuter car 2010

* After talking to Jeff, looks like there's a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) class just across the street from me. Don't know if it's something I'd like to do or not, but seems like a good way to learn. Bit pricey, though. Though, as my in-laws commented the other day, it's not so good to announce you're riding a 600cc motorcycle in a residential neighborhood w/o a license (or even a learner's permit). Have been researching, and sounds like most 250cc entry-touring bikes get like 66 mpg and don't have a problem cruising down the interstate. (Put the phone down, Mom...)

* * *

Yes, it's spring, and I've got car fever once again. Something about Craigslist's RSS feed capability is just...evil...

In that vein, I'm thinking requirements for a new commuter ride. Some are general, some are OCD-level specific.

- Fun to drive
- Manual Transmission
- Backseat suitable for for small humans
- Reasonable cargo capacity with said humans aboard.
- 30+ mpg hwy (the more the better, basically)
- Good highway gearing. I don't mind downshifting on hills, but I hate buzzing along at 3500rpm at 70
- Fits me AND my wife. (6'2" and 4'10" makes this difficult. Adjustable seats and tilt steering minimum, telescoping wheel and adjustable pedals preferred)
- 4 doors preferred.
- Hatchback/wagon preferred.
- Timing CHAIN, not belt.
- overall reliability
- NO FRAMELESS WINDOWS
- Doesn't leak.
- Can serve as backup family hauler when needed.

Basically, the above doesn't exist. Class-wise, you're looking at the subcompact through midsize classes, but though each has contenders, each has compromises:

Subcompact
-MINI or MINI Clubman: Frameless windows, too small, $$$, not stellar reliability.
-Saturn Astra: Geared too short. Coarse powertrain. No fun-to-drive factor.
-Honda Fit: Timing belt, short gearing. Supposedly, has a huge fun-to-drive factor and sips gas. Roomy inside, good cargo capacity.
-Hyundai Accent SE: Tiny, 2-door only. Mileage not THAT great.


Compact
-Chevy HHR/HHR SS: Real contender here. Availalbe in MT. No idea on fit and fun-to-drive. I hear the rear/outer visibility is horrid.
-Hyundai Elantra: Softly sprung. Elantra touring 5-door might be taughter (like Jeff's Elantra GT Saablet)
- Mazda 3 hatch: Supposedly, the gold standard for the class. Haven't driven one.
-VW Jetta TDI Sportswagen: New Engine for 2009, not out yet, prior crappy experience with VW. HOWEVER, the promise of a Manual transmission TDI Wagon makes me salivate...mmm....60mpg and room.

Midsize
Camry/Accord/Altima: Blech. I still lust after the Altima; no idea on fun-to-drive factor.
Malibu: I REALLY like this car. Real presence on the road. Roomy, efficient. No M/T option, no 6-speed Automatic with the 4cylinder unless you get the LTZ package ($$$).

Taken as a whole, I like *small* cars--zippy, maneuverable, efficient. I like comfort more each day, though--Driving Joey to Louisville in my roaring BMW at 75mph was painful 2 weeks ago. I'd like to get a feel for the HHR, Cobalt, Fit, and Jetta TDI. Hopefully, I'll just drive 'em and plop back into my E30 and go, "Baby, why did I ever doubt you?!" (Just like with the Astra)

(This entry voted most likely to make my wife think I'm INSANE.)

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