Saturday, July 31, 2010

Test Driving

Since finding out that #2 is on the way, we knew that eventually we would need to get a new vehicle.  Our second vehicle does not have the latch system at the base, so with two car seats, it would be difficult to keep the kids safe.  We decided in March that July would be a great time to look at vehicles because last year’s model would still be new, but the next year’s models would be released and perhaps available.  We decided that we were really interested in some type of hybrid car because of the gas mileage, so we are thinking that a newer vehicle is the way to go for us.  Although the Toyota Prius has great gas mileage, we ruled that one out because of the safety issues with Toyota in the last year.

On Wednesday, we went to test drive three vehicles – Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, and VW Jetta TDI.  Our qualifications for the vehicles we chose to test drive ranked in the following order: Safety, Available Space, Gas Mileage, Price, Overall Maintenance Cost, Features.  The Sonata and Altima were recently featured in Consumer Reports for best family sedans and we saw a TDI advertisement for 43 mpg, so we thought we would at least test drive it.  At this time, the Sonata Hybrid has not been released, but we thought if we decided on the Sonata, we would wait until this fall when the hybrid version is released.

We brought the infant car seat, toddler car seat, and BOB jogging stroller.

We wanted to be sure that we could fit our regular items with some room to spare (especially in the front seat for our knees).  The available space has the highest ranking on our list (of course, after safety) because if we are not able to comfortably drive the vehicle with our two kids in the back seat, it’s not the right vehicle for our life.

Here is what we determined:

Sonata - all around a great car for the price.  We were able to test drive a 2011 Sonata, not a hybrid, but the dealership indicated that these would likely arrive in Minnesota some time this winter.  We really liked the available features and it had lots of space in the trunk and back seat.  However, one of the cons was that the hybrid would have a smaller trunk, so that probably wouldn't work, but the Sonata has great gas mileage without the hybrid technology, so we really liked this vehicle.  In fact, my husband wanted to get it right away, but being the planner I am, I convinced him that we needed to test drive some more vehicles.

Altima - it has great features, but the regular Altima gas mileage doesn't cut it for our requirements, so we immediately had to look at 2009 used hybrids.  The first one had a funky smell, which I couldn't get over.  I will blame that on the pregnancy.  The second one was really nice, but then we looked in the trunk.  We could barely get our jogging stroller in and there would be no room for anything else, so that ruled out the Altima.

Jetta TDI - great vehicle, but you have to be willing to find diesel.  The Jetta TDI runs on diesel, so it has unbelievable gas mileage.  The advertised mileage is 31 city/40 highway, but the Jetta SportWagen TDI holds the world record at 58.8 mpg, which also has advertised mileage of 31/40.  Once we found out more about the new diesel regulations in the US, we examined the vehicle.  From the outside it is surprising compact, but in the interior, it has lots of space and a huge trunk.  The TDI version also has a lot of upgrades in the interior.
Our top ranked choice is the Jetta TDI. Here are the main reasons we decided on the Jetta TDI - the overall space, unbelievable gas mileage, solid construction, and amazing power.  There are a few small items that we had to give on – price is on our high end and the middle console is really small with the digital radio/navigation system.  However, we still have a few vehicles to test drive to be sure that we have made the right decision.

If you are in the market for a new vehicle, check out Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for the safety ratings for your potential vehicles.  You will need to look at past models, but it should give you a good indication of the manufacturer's quality of design.

Stayed tuned for our final decision.

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