My Civic needs replacing and I am looking for a new car. The Honda has been very reliable but the lack of 4WD has been a concern.
The Subaru Baja had caught my attention, but is no longer being made.
Does anyone have for or against opinions about the cars available today? If you do, please tell me a story or reason. It’s not about name brand loyalty, but real world performance. Also, I am really only interested in cars.
I am not sure what you consider the
Ford Escape to be, but mine is the best four wheel drive that I have ever owned, as well as being a great vehicle to carry boats. (where I live, a 4x4 is a necissity)
Many time I carry two kayaks and one canoe at the same time.
It might not fit your criteria as a “car” only though
If you can find a well-maintained used one (usually not so hard since many owners tend to be anal about taking care of them) I’m partial to older Volvo wagons. I haul from two to 4 sea kayaks and the Volvos are not only long, they are low enough that I (at 5’ 5") don’t have trouble loading them. Also, the back is big enough for two people to sleep in for commando camping and they haul a lot of gear, including 7’ one piece Greenland paddles without having them poke into the driver’s area. But then I stick to older models (newest one yet is 1995) so I can’t speak for the reliability of the newer and 4 wheel drive models.
I’ve owned and loved Subaru wagons (DL and Outback) and may replace the current car with one when the time comes for a bit better gas mileage. Both Volvo and Subaru are known for lasting through a lot of miles and having good resale value – that has been my experience. I had 190K on my last Volvo and was still able to sell it for $1500.
Before you buy any 4WD, be sure you check how it feels to load the boats. Unless you are well over 6’ tall, that can be a struggle with many SUVs. I have a number of kayaking friends with SUV’s who have had to spend small fortunes to get fancy roof rack apparatus and still have great difficulty loading and unloading the kayaks.
Subaru Imprezza wagon…
Similar size to a civic, very good AWD system, boat friendly…
Honda Element and Ford Escape
I had a Ford Escape and it was an excellent boat hauler as jackl says. But 5 years ago I traded the Escape in for the best vehicle I've ever owned. I too live in a place where at least one 4WD vehicle in the family is a need, not a want.
The Element takes us all over the farm, over creeks, through the woods, and maneuvers very well. I've carried up to 2 canoes and a kayak on it, although; the rack spread could be longer. I've carried 17' boats without problem. The Thule Tracker II rack is the one I'd choose for the Element and it goes on and off in LITERALLY less than 30 seconds. I've carried 2 canoes and a kayak up there and used to carry a Mohawk Solo 14 in the back till the wife nixed that.
The seats are very comfortable, IMHO more comfortable than any I've sat in, including leather seats. Plus, if you spill something on them, you wipe it off with a wet washcloth and you're done. Same for the floor. Makes it a darn good hauler for wet gear and for dogs.
You can camp out of it. I'm 6'2" and can sleep in it either on the floor or with the seats folded down. A bit tight for two if one person is XL like me, but we do it all the time.
The only drawback to the Element is the gas mileage. Only about 22-23 mpg, but it's a fair trade-off for the versatility of the vehicle. Even living at the end of a dead end gravel road, I'd consider getting the front wheel drive model if I had it to do over again to get a few more mpg, since it rarely kicks into 4wd (and, contrary to previous comments, the wife and I CAN notice when it kicks in).
Here's a few pics. WW
Where I Live and Drive…
4WD is overkill. I recently bought the Hyundai Elantra Touring with front wheel drive. Great little kayak carrier. 31 mpg on the interstate. 35 mpg on the secondary highways. I haven’t had it long enough to make reliability claims but Consumer Reports liked it a lot.
Why not another
Civic? I get 32mpg. Low enough so loading and unloading not a problem. Throw all my gear into a plastic storage box and stick it in the trunk. Yakima mako saddles, front and rear tie downs. Drive all the way to Fla. Keys with a 16ft. kayak, no issues.
about a Mazda or Volvo wagon…both have long and low roof lines and excellent factory racks. My dislike of anything SUV style is the high roofs…if a solo trip, a 15-17’ kayak is a potential chiropractic visit. And 4WD is so overrated as kknowing how to drive in snow, sand, ice, is more important…but one does not get that “4WD outdoorsey look”. Here in California, I swear 99% of all SUV’s have NEVER been on a dirt/gravel road and likely not even snow…it’s all image.rant over.
Back to station wagons: much better handling when windy too.
I drive an Elantra Touring, also. Same mileage as Kudzu mentions. Lot’s of interior load space, really strong factory roof rails. Drives great. Carries two boats well.
And the Price Was so Right
I got the manual transmission and the ‘all the goodies’ package for thousands less than the Jetta.
4WD or No 4WD
My driving experiences include years in Upstate New York, Alaskan tundra, the high desert of Arizona, and two winters in South Korea. I know how to drive on the snow, but have seen the advantage of 4WD.
My opinion on 4WD vs. front wheel drive was radically changed a couple winters ago when driving the Honda at less than 5 MPH and down a winding parking lot exit ramp over ice.
I had no control and the low clearance of the road car did not allow it to ride over the curb that I slide/crashed into.
My pals with 4WD were able to clear that same curb and continue on their drive. At the same time I was figuring out how to pull my bumper off my front tire so that my car could be drivable. Ever since that experience my opinion has changed.
Low to the ground
I prefer vehicles that are low to the ground for easy loading and I look for a good roof rail system. I recently purchased a 2010 Jetta wagon Diesel for economy and performance but it is a pricey car. My friend just bought a Suzuki SX4 crossover which has nice rails for carrying kayaks. I saw a Hyundai Elantra touring yesterday which looked very kayak friendly although it had a much higher roof line than my Jetta.
Hyundai Elantra Touring
I had been looking to replace a 99 Subaru Outback and my criteria included 1. less than 5 ft high, 2.good storage, 3. usable factory rack, 4. combined mileage over 30 mpg and price under $20,000. Sadly, I was strongly advised by those who love me that I had “graduated” from a manual to an automatic transmission…which added pressure to my price cap. Anyway, I found that the Elantra Touring fit my needs. it comes in two models, the higher end SE which comes with a roof rack and the lower end GLS. The GLS has an option package which included amongst other useful features, the roof rack.
So in July, I bought one. We have secured our 66" Thule bars with a 36" spread between them on the roof rack and I have carried carried three short boats in the Adirondacks on dirt roads and two 16-17 ft kayaks on high speed roads.
and it is a pleasure to drive.
Honda CRV is worth consideration
Reliable all wheel drive. Bulletproof quality. Avoid factory crossbars and replace with Thule or Yakima set up. I also highly recommend Volvo and Saab wagons (V70, 95). Low to the ground, tons of room, creature comforts, long lifespan with regular maintenance. I’ve had both. 160K+ on my Saab. 27MPG with boats on top. Sleeps two. Leather, heated front and rear seats, cargo options. Four snows and front wheel drive in the winter have never stranded me anywhere in New England.
we have a CRV and I can’t recommend it
The gas mileage isn’t anything to brag about for a four cylinder, don’t believe the advertised figures, and it eats a set of tires every 15,000 miles. The rear differential fluid needs change like every 10,000 miles.
Other than that, it’s a car.
The Jetta is so Damn…
good lookin’. My God, that’s a pretty car.
…much of the same criteria I was working with.
I didn’t care much about rack height but required something no higher than my Toyota 4X4 canopy. Not a deal breaker.
Longer rack separation than what I was seeing on most new vehicles.
If a strong and sensible factory rack was available that was good, right? (175 pounds).
Once you throw the combined 30 mpg and $20k cap on it your choices become so much more clear.
I love the looks of that car. It smells good inside and drives really well. It exceeds a couple of my critical car considerations, though.
OTD cost exceeds $20k.
Combined MPG (less than 30 combined)
Graduated to an automatic???
Heck, I'm 61 and still haven't graduated to an automatic! Those that loved me learned to drive stick.