Smaller Hauler

Recent events have moved my search for a new kayak hauler into high gear. “Recent events” being I totaled my car (not hard to do when it’s valued at @ $2500! - It was drivable and looks better than most of the wrecks running the streets here - but just not worth fixing).

I don’t need anything big - so no SUV/Trucks. I also paddle alone a lot, am 5’9", and don’t want to need a step ladder to load kayaks.

I need a low flat roof, decent mileage, and something fun to drive (call me crazy, but I prefer manual trannies and a “sportier” ride). I’ve had all cheapo cars up to now, and want to go a little nicer - but a small Japanese car price range is more realistic.

I had similar requirements to ScupperFrank - and the notes from his search helped me confirm some I had interest in, and rule out several as he had (thanks again Frank).

My short list came down to:

Mini Cooper S


Mazda 3

Mazda 6s Wagon

Audi A3

Subaru WRX

OK - It should be obvious from that list that I want a pocket rocket - but one that’s not just a punk kid ride - since I’m a bit old for that (on the outside) now. What I found:

Mini - A blast (and my beloved Saris rack fits with same clips!), but short on space and the dash is weird and cheap. it handles like nothing else, but that alone isn’t enough. In the end, I like it a lot but it is pretty goofy and a bit too small.

GTI - Just simply a good car with decent features. Decent performance, proven design. Good storage space, good yak roof. A bit plain, but in a way I like. Decent resale value too. I found nothing to rule it out.

Mazda 3 - While certainly at the top of it’s class, it’s a class I’d like to graduate from. I’ve already had a few econoboxes. All served me well, but I tend to keep cars a while (7-8 year - or until death do us part) and would like to go up a notch or two this time. Besides, roof is a bit curvy for a rack (as with my Neon, which worked well though).

Mazda 6s Wagon - a bit nicer than the 3. Nice to drive, comfortable, but lowest mileage (and biggest car) on my list and only OK performance. I have always liked Mazdas, but with options added this one starts getting into the price range of some nicer brands…

Audi A3 - SWEEEEEEEET!!! But with options I want it’s $28,820. Doable, but not having bought a car since ‘98 the payment that works out to is HARD to swallow. Also, being a new model (in US) there is no rack solution yet. Might have to give up the open sky system to carry kayaks - and maybe it’s just nicer than what I’d be comfortable dripping that much saltwater on…

WRX - Certainly meets the fun/performance requirement, and has several rack options. Price here is also getting up there into teh crazy payment realm. It’s a younger market car that is just a little ugly too. Ticket magnet and high insurance I’ve heard.

Soooo, what to do? Get lucky and find a sweet deal on something off my list!


This wasn’t on my list as it’s basically a dressed up WRX for MORE $. But here’s where it gets interesting. SAAB has been raising incentives all year on these as they haven’t been selling. At peak of this fire sale, GM (SAAB’s part of the family) adds in their employee price deal. Bottom line?:

MSRP for the base AERO went from $27,645 to $19,425 - and options are at the GM employee discount!

When I add the sport package with 17" wheels and power moon roof I’m still around $21,000 (plus dest & other BS). At these prices I’d add the premium package too (leather and Xenons) if I can.

This looks like a no brainer to me, but finding one now is getting tough. Hard to even find AEROs) to test drive (I got to test an auto AERO - which is not a good match for the turbo, and was lucky to get to do that). Most are gone, dealers don’t have many coming. I got lucky and my local dealer has one with color and options I’m looking for (but no leather) coming in this week.

Upside? I can get basically everything I was looking for in a car and more at a great price. It’s a nicer version of the WRX, with SAAB tuned suspension, the tighter ratio steering rack from the WRX STi, and way more features included. Hopefully the legendary Subaru reliability is there too.

Downside? This is the red headed stepchild of the SAAB lineup and will likely be replaced by a 100% SAAB designed model. Maintenance at SAAB dealers could be an issue as it’s all Subaru under the skin - and resale values may be off after these great sale prices (but it’s still a nicer WRX - and those have good resale).

Anyone interested in this deal - act fast. Anyone with reason to avoid this deal, speak now!

Oh, my rack AND clips fit this too!!! It’s not on Saris’ fit list, but the doors are the same as WRX, with no rack. That means same as Impreza sport wagon with no rack - and that takes same bar and clip set as my '98 Neon. What are the odds?

Anyway, excuse the long post. I’m just venting after a week of rather grueling car shopping - after a a long a grueling European business trip and the accident.

Toyota Pickup
Not the sportiest but with a shell, you got a long roof line, a place to sleep and dependable transport with decent gas mileage ( I drove my 1990 Toy P/U from Reno to Wisconsin and back with no issues. Gas about 24mpg on the way out, 20-21 back with Barracudas Nomad on the roof. Not a high roof line for base model. The shell I purchased had bars so no rack required.

A friend…
Just bought a Toyoto Hibred… looks interesting and one step into the future… GH

I know you said…
No SUV’s but whay dont you have a look at the Honda Element? Tons of room and loads of fun to drive! I’ve had mine for a year now and I still dont know what to call it. It’s not a car,truck or SUV. It’s just the greatest vehicle I’ve ever owne and I’ve owned alot.

Subraru Wagon?

– Last Updated: Jun-14-05 7:04 PM EST –

The Subaru wagons are probably the most popular kayak haulers out here. And they have mucho power these days!

They are low and easy to load...

But they all come standard with All Wheel Drive. I don't guess you would need all wheel drive in Florida, and it adds a lot to the cost, and the weight.


– Last Updated: Jun-15-05 12:47 PM EST –

And I have no prob with performance -we got the 220HP V6, and when the lead foot hits, it goes. And just as importantly, it's flat & sticky on the turns. MPG is no biggie but OK at 25 +/-, and it doesn't require premium as many bigger 6 engines & turbos seem to casll for.

We got our complete package (automatic climate control, sport trim, power moonroof, leather, big 6-disc Bose sound system with subwoofer (yeah, subwoofer in the trunk for the two of US! LOL!), heated front seats (gets cold here in Miami, dunno about Ft. Lauderdale), 17" Al wheels, and a Very Happy Sally :) :) )for 22-7. So far, so great.

We looked at the Aero, but found it a tad small, and back before the GM employee lookalike buy-it discount, quite pricey. Indeed, the even regular Saab wagon looked a tad small (and not nearly as interesting a design) especially in light of the price. We immediately discounted the Imprezza Outback for the same reasons.

But for what you want, where you've come from, and your gear, it sounds like pretty good hauler, and a great deal! And don't sweat the moonroof -you'll learn quickly enough to judge when the boats are dry enough to open it...*L*. Except that if you get what you want, you'll STILL have to come to grips with leather post-paddle drips...

BTW, I don't know if you knew we went via the internet to get ours -did the same with the Jeep. Internet sales reps seem to have longer reaches and more patience than the 'flashy rings, pep-rally enthusiastic, what would it take to get you to buy one today' guys in the showrooms.

We got ours after putting out direct requests to several online sources, and got a gem in the person we ended up buying thru. Basically, she found what we were looking for, a good deal, in a shrinking pool of candidate cars. You might want to try the same -hey, you've got nothing to lose, and a nice Saab/SAABuru to gain. Ours came from Tampa via West Palm -maybe yours (the one with leather, the accessories you're looking for, in a good color) is out there over the next couple of county lines, maybe in Orlando or Jax or Tampa... I say give it a shot.

Good luck, may you have a real Saab story.

Can you say 'Yah, shoor, my hayer yoost to be long and blont, and dis here Saab is a verry goot car by yimminy!"? on your way to


-Frank in Miami

Second Sub Wagon

Subaru AWD in Florida…
It’s just great in the rain and we get a bit of that… but don’t really need it after all…


I drive a manual VW GTI, just ordered the roof rack from Gunther. I was promised it will arrive within a week.

Next time we paddle together you’ll have to try both the Nordkapp and the GTI.

The Nordkapp rolls better but the GTI is MUCH faster :wink:

You Subaru guys did not read my post

– Last Updated: Jun-14-05 10:06 PM EST –

SAAB 9-2x IS a Subaru WRX wagon!!!! Just better looking, with bettter features - and right now a LOT cheaper (like 1/3 off)! Oh yeah, SAAB also adds 2 year free scheduled maintenence, 4 year roadside assist, and a better warranty than Subaru.

On the tech side, the 9-2x AERO is nearly identical - but has a SAAB tuned suspension AND the tighter STi steering rack.

The AWD is more for traction and cornering than offroad action (like Audi Quattro) - so it's rather useful anywhere.

VW rack
VW rack looks pretty solid. GTI is a great car.

GTI was almost #1 choice (and the fallback if I couldn’t find the 9-2x which are going like popcorn at current prices) but when I can get 227 hp, all wheel, 17s, moonroof, power everything, 6 cd, free scheduled maintenence x 2, roadsie assist x 4, and a warranty as good as VW (and better than Subaru’s)and more all included for less than the GTI, well, it’s sort of hard to pass up…

9-2x = 7, which is more than 6s!
6s is just bigger than I need, and while it no doubt goes when you hit the gas - it’s nowhere near breaking under a 6 second 0-60, and doesn’t have AWD handling. It’s big and heavy enough it needs a V6. The SAABaru’s little 2 liter will make 227 HP. More importantly - cheaper!

What is “22-7” in normal dollar pricing? :slight_smile: If you mean $22,700 you got a really nice deal for that package!

I agree before the fire sale and added GM deal on top the AERO was too pricey. Enough that it was off my list completely (WRX just about that high too - and not much dealing on them due to demand/popularity).

I bought my last car online much as you describe. Found a very helpful guy 2 hours away who searched the whole Midwest to find what I wanted, found it in an hour (no other dealers even wanted to look), and gave me a great price. Did the financing online too.

There are no Internet deals on the SAAB 9-2X AERO though, or any wheeling and dealing of any sort. The price will be the price ($19,425 base and about $1400 for the sport package at GM employee price + dest, tax, etc,). Overall, with options and tax it will be @ 10K off. Huge discount and I’m OK paying that. Most of the other cars I was looking at have no incentives AND will make no deals. Try to buy a discount MINI or A3 L. Not the same as more mass market models from the US or Japanese.

SAAB dealers were not ordering these in as they did not sell at full price. The performance crowd bought WRXs for a little less, and SAAB shoppers didn’t want a re-badged Subaru. Consequently, stock levels were already low when they started raising the incentives. Once the deal sweetened enough they started to move. Now with the max incentive PLUS the GM deal what they had sold fast (actually, before the recent GM deal as AERO was already $6K off). What they have coming in now is sold before it arrives - and there is a list of people looking for them. Internet discussion boards say the ones on the road to dealers now is it from the port for 2005 models. Done. Not sure I buy that, but it makes sense as the deal ends first week of July and sales will slow to more normal rates with just the incentives and no GM deal. 2006s will ship soon after. Regardless of the rumors, they ARE scarce - as in ZERO AEROs with stick available in all of SE FL to even test drive. I am lucky to have found an Aero stick coming in that didn’t already have a deposit on it - and it’s near miraculous I found the color and option package I wanted.

I went to all 4 area dealers, from Coconut Grove to West Palm. None tried to sell me anything (makes sense since they had none). Not one even tried to get me to look at a 9-3, a natural move as they are not terribly more $ and are “real” SAABs (and all 4 dealers had VERY good weekends selling the other models - all seemed surprised by this - apparently the GM deal alone is bringing out the checkbooks). They all just took my info and said they’d call IF they got any in, as they had obviously done with many before me (I saw the names & numbers on their desks).

I found out about this deal rather late in the game. I had no idea they’d knocked off so much, and didn’t realize SAAB was included in the GM deal too. Saw a mention of it on an auto site listing 10 best current deals - otherwise I’d still probably be weighting GTI vs MINI.

I just happened into the Lighthouse point dealer on lunch break today to confirm they had some coming in, and it turned out their automatics showed up separately, and early (all of one AERO and one Linear). I tested the auto AERO. They should not even offer that tranny with the turbo! Ride and handling was good, as was all the little stuff. Then they rechecked what was coming in, and found what I wanted (well, all but the leather - which may be for the best). If I’d waited to be called after the sticks came in, I’d have been behind several others - and had little chance at it. Now no one will touch it until I test it.

Hopefully, it won’t suck! :slight_smile:

Anyone shopping for Subaru wagons?
In addition to the 9-2x AERO deal described above, anyone looking at non turbo/WRX Subaru Impreza wagons should check out the 9-2x Linear model. Easier to find them and base (while combined incentives and GM employee price deals last) is now $16,821! It has a bigger 2.5L and would be fine with auto or manual (AERO should ONLY come in manual - auto’s shifting can’t work the turbo right). No 227 hp on the Linears, but no dog and no turbo lag either. Nice car at a great price for those more sane than I!

Still miss my Skylines
The wagon was great for hauling the kayaks and gear but the 5 speed turbo was just too fun! ( and could carry two kayaks easily) Best $300 car I ever owned!

I’ve had two turbos…
They were great in the mountains but you had to break the law to play with them in the flatlands, especially with an automatic…

Sounds like a great deal and if needed a new one I would… GH

…buy a new car if you want, but keep the old one as a “Trail Head” car. (Take the body panels off, pound them out with a hammer, and replace them)…slide hammer the ones you can’t unbolt.

Two years ago, I bought a 1989 Le Baron for $500, strictly so I could use it to leave at putins and takeouts without worrying about leaving it…It has scaling paint, a few dents; looks like crap so it doesn’t get messed with, (Pop the hood and it shines beneath though) and when someone decides to trash it anyway, no super loss…


– Last Updated: Jun-16-05 10:30 PM EST –

Yeah, it was a good deal indeed. I probably could've pulled another $3-400 off, but we went with it because the salesperson was really working to find what we wanted (several others just gave up, said anything even close to what we were looking for was just N/A) and it WAS a good deal as is.

And when I hit the gas, under 6 doesn't particularly matter. 1) I want to be sure the kayaks still stay on the car & aren't left behind, and 2) I want to be sure Sally still stays in the car -and I'M not left behind... :)

My days of Being Dan Gurney are receding almost as fast as my hair... But they're still there, sometimes, which is why Sally absolutely REFUSES to go on test drives with me, LOL!

AWD just doesn't seem to have the facination for me as it does for many (most?) others. Heck, you can STILL stop shorter, granted usually not safer, sans ABS, but I got it for Sally. But around here, I don't think she really needs AWD. If I think we're headed for long-term driving in some rough terrain, we'll take the Jeep with its clearance & rear drive. But AWD? It just doesn't do it for me. Besides, my bros-in-law literally thump around really rural roads in really rural small-town farm country Illinois in FWD & RWD drive cars & trucks in all kinds of weather, and I have too, and we all do just fine, even in winter.

Is Saaburu AWD good? Or in that guise might it be one of those 'just something else to go wrong' things...?

About leather -we went for it because it's easier to keep clean, the way we -OK, me -spill things. Scotchguard the heII out of the cloth seats and mats, maybe cover with a breathable vinyl. That should go a long way to helping alleviate dirt guilt... LOL!

Let us know how the test drive goes, and how it -the car -goes, and tgfhen how it goes with yaks, when you Saaburu it to


-Frank in Miami

The auto I test drove was very annoying. Really a bad match for the turbo! Fortunatley, I like driving stick.

Not an option
Insurance company owns it now.

How did I know that…
I tell people that having a rudder is like driving an automatic, easier but no fun…