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Honda Fit, Nissan cube, others?
Old 03-07-2010, 11:39 AM   #1
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Honda Fit, Nissan cube, others?

Working through what I want and looking for input from other car owners.

I'm making glancing runs at car shopping. Been driving my chipped BMW 525it (station wagon) work truck for 5 years or so, it's at 211,500 miles, and it's getting to be time. While it did a 3500 mile 2 week trek without a hiccup it has some issues - a transient transmission fault that requires shutting down for 10 seconds to clear, defective heater valves and controls that are addressed with a clamp on the heater hose, ugly paint... Car has one of BMW's best engines, hauls anything, has a trailer hitch I built and averages 23.5mpg combined; I could drive it another 2-3 years, but do I need too? No.

Looking for something that we can do 350 miles/day in, that is polite at the pump, is of better (if not BMW) build quality, and that I don't need to wrench on. Back in September we did 1000 miles in a rental Hyundai Sonata - it was quite adequate, pretty comfortable, huge trunk - didn't really fill me with joy though. Recently test drove a Hyundai Elantra touring (station wagon), and it was pretty decent for the money but the steering was horrible - way too stiff on center and loose off center.

Drove a Honda Fit and was very impressed by the view and zippy performance. Inspired seat design allows for lots of cargo carrying choices, but it's not going to pull a trailer. Fuel economy is great. Didn't care for the tire noise. Didn't find the L footrest. Appearance didn't do anything for me.

Kia Soul was a surprise - good visibility, good looks, and Bluetooth connection with controls on the wheel for phone - unexpected in an econobox.

Drove a Nissan cube with Bluetooth, ipod hookup, backup alarm, and CVT transmission. Love the looks, really like the seating position - it feels like you are up in the air with the big cars, but when you rotate to get out of the car you don't drop down to the ground. Engine doessn't sound like it's thrashing, as the Hyundai, and to a lesser extent Kia, did. Cargo area is a joke - is Honda the only company that can create a level cargo floor when the seats fold down? The cube attracts me the way the Scion Xb did, or does. I guess I'm an attention seeker, looking for something that sets me apart from the crowd; driving something that is superior for my purposes. Some years ago it amused my sister that I drove a Chevy Sprint that cost me less than my Motorola brick cell phone - but both items worked for me.

I need to define the primary purpose of the car and balance my desires. The difference between 20mpg and 30mpg is maybe $5-600/year. $50 more or less/ month isn't going to break our budget. Green leanings and inherent cheapness make me want to minimize fuel use - chipping my BMW improved it's fuel economy but made it a premium fuel only car resulting in a zero fuel cost change that delivered more smiles/gallon.

At the age of 60 I've never bought a car from a dealer, my ex-service manager honey has disabused me of the notion that "new" means trouble free, but the idea of a warranty is intriguing...

Any of you out there with any of the above cars and positive and negative experiences? Suggestions?
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Old 03-07-2010, 12:03 PM   #2
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As you mentioned, narrowing down the car's mission would help you make a choice. As a start--decide if you need to tow stuff and how much weight you'd want to pull and how often you'd be doing it. That will narrow your choices somewhat. I pull up to 1200 lbs with a small Honda Odyssey (4 cyl) occasionally, and it works fine. I'd get another car if I were doing it every day, but this is working great.

Have you looked at a Mazda Five? Relatively sporty handling and styling--like a large Honda Fit. Not as "eye-catching" as a Cube or Soul, but less "gimicky" and likely to age better.


If you want slightly more interior space, a lower price, a longer warranty, and are willing to give up some driving refinement and looks, the Kia Rondo might be a contender--but I don't think this rather dull grocery-getter is going to meet your requirements. We're thinking about getting one--or a Subaru wagon.
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Old 03-07-2010, 12:14 PM   #3
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Have looked at but never driven any of your choices -- currently have a Honda Element (2007 EX AWD model) which I really like. Bought it new, mileage is acceptable (23-24 local, 28-29 hwy), way more cargo space than any of those you mention, seats don't fold down but flip up out of the way or can be removed easily (leave mine out to haul the mutt or whatever), has plenty of pep even though it is a 4 cyl. My new dryer (still in the box) fit in the cargo area with rear seats removed. So far has been a great rig with no issues at all. This vehicle replaced my Toyota truck that was 16 yrs old with over 250k miles -- I usually buy new and keep them for years.
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Old 03-07-2010, 12:50 PM   #4
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Have looked at but never driven any of your choices -- currently have a Honda Element (2007 EX AWD model) which I really like. Bought it new, mileage is acceptable (23-24 local, 28-29 hwy), way more cargo space than any of those you mention, seats don't fold down but flip up out of the way or can be removed easily (leave mine out to haul the mutt or whatever), has plenty of pep even though it is a 4 cyl. My new dryer (still in the box) fit in the cargo area with rear seats removed. So far has been a great rig with no issues at all. This vehicle replaced my Toyota truck that was 16 yrs old with over 250k miles -- I usually buy new and keep them for years.
MIL also has an Element - has 60k on it and has not been treated gently - it charges up and down the 1 mile desert track driveway and down to Palm Springs and back up often. I'd give it high marks for not falling apart and rear cargo area - it has split a front seat bolster seam with no heavyweights driving but that's about it. I don't care for the dashmounted shifter and loading/unloading people from the back seat is quirky - pulling the rear seats sounds smart if you never need them - haven't used the car enough to work out the fold up against the wall trick. Have hauled three full size 22" wheel truck tires in it to build a road drag - that's serious load capability!
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Old 03-07-2010, 12:55 PM   #5
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Do you need to tow? If so, how much weight are we talking about? How much weight does the car need to be able to take as payload? Many small cars have very low payload max.
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Old 03-07-2010, 01:11 PM   #6
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I currently own the UK version of the Fit (Jazz). Love the car, but it does have a couple of downsides like pretty well any car. Hopefully I will be retiring in 16 months and heading back to the Spokane area and the Fit is definitely on my list of possibilities. Downside? At least the one I have here is terrible in the snow. Like a lot of people I have had big, small, vans, pickups etc.....this is by far the worst for traction. Online I noticed several remarks about it possibly being the tires. We will see. Fair amount of road noise as well, but it IS a smallish car and that is what I expect from most small cars. Lack of traction won't be such a problem in retirement since I won't HAVE to go anywhere until the roads clear. Another option I am thinking about is just getting a vehicle that can do everything with a decent amount of gas mileage.....Honda CR-V, RAV4, Subaru Outback/Forester. Or....get the Fit and see if I can find a up 4X4 that I would only use once in a while and doesn't matter what gas mileage it gets. I will be back in WA this summer and I plan to test all of these vehicles. Key point for us....we don't drive much and we don't tow. An expensive car isn't worth it for us.
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Old 03-07-2010, 01:14 PM   #7
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"Have you looked at a Mazda Five"?
Yes - actually thought that would be a 3 or 5 would be a great choice - sat in one and it just didn't fit. 6'4" and the headroom wasn't there.

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Do you need to tow? If so, how much weight are we talking about? How much weight does the car need to be able to take as payload? Many small cars have very low payload max.
Don't need to tow - am just used to having that ability. Used to have a truck that sat for weeks at a time until the rentals needed a refrigerator or stove replacement. A trailer hitch and a lightweight 4x8 trailer was a great replacement - it's size fit my enthusiasm for hauling any appliances or yard debris perfectly, smaller footprint and way cheaper. Now that I'm tiptoeing away from active management I'm still loath to give up that ability.
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Old 03-07-2010, 01:28 PM   #8
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Consumer Reports just came out with its annual car issue. They like the Fit a lot more than the Cube.
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Old 03-07-2010, 01:34 PM   #9
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....Downside? At least the one I have here is terrible in the snow. Like a lot of people I have had big, small, vans, pickups etc.....this is by far the worst for traction. Online I noticed several remarks about it possibly being the tires. We will see. Fair amount of road noise as well, but it IS a smallish car and that is what I expect from most small cars. ......
Surprised by the poor snow performance - it has something like a 60/40 weight bias in favor of the drive/steering wheels. Tires are huge - put my first ever set of new siped snowflake/mountain emblem tires on the BMW before heading off on our last trip - they were remarkable on the snow I could find. Have also read that the Fit is deficient in braking performance - not bad if you are driving with that in mind, but maybe Akebono makes a ceramic pad for the Fit as an upgrade? Yes: Honda Fit Brake Pads | Free Shipping | 2007 - 2009, 2007 - 2008, EBC, Akebono Akebono is well regarded by BMW people - wonder if it would work well on the Fit.
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Old 03-07-2010, 01:34 PM   #10
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Dunno how high on your list safety ranks, but I would not be eager to drive something as small as the Fit, Cube, etc. Since you do not need to tow, I would have a look at your choice of Subaru, or possibly the new Accord hatchback (Crosstour?).
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Old 03-07-2010, 01:49 PM   #11
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Consumer Reports just came out with its annual car issue. They like the Fit a lot more than the Cube.
Yeah - Car and Driver waxes effusive as well and US News has Fit #1 and the cube #15. But it's so darn cute!

Don't I remember that you use a little trailer with your Pious? If so did you have a local build you a hitch?

Note: Contrary to rumor, this is not video of Al leapfrogging ahead of Lena on her bike as they were wending their way across the states.

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Old 03-07-2010, 01:50 PM   #12
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I agree with Brewer's suggestions. No personal experience of either, but the Subarus are well engineered and the Honda Crosstour should do well in winter weather. It's based on an Accord chassis but is higher.

When all the Toyota quality problems get sorted out, another possibility is the Matrix. Loads of cargo space, handles well if a little roughly, and cheap.
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Old 03-07-2010, 02:00 PM   #13
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How did you fit in a Fit and not the Five? I have the mazda 5 and my SO fits, but he is about 6'1.

Our 5 gets about 300 miles per tank, that's mostly residential/hills driving, tank holds about 13 gallons. I was worried about it being underpowered, but haven't really run into that problem. Driven it back and forth from here to Northern CA and it has been great. I use about 1.5 tanks up, 1 tank while in town and 1.5 down (400 miles each way, driving about 80mph), huge cost savings over my old pilot.

I'd def consider the matrix if you are looking at the Fit...I'd be concerned about the size, it's just so small! Lots of people have them around here, but they all seem much shorter on avg than you! (lots of asian families around here...)

Aren't nissan's and kia's etc less powered then honda's/toyota's? I've found that's usually a big difference...
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Old 03-07-2010, 02:07 PM   #14
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Don't I remember that you use a little trailer with your Pious?
No, not me. We're pious about our Echo with no trailer (which gets better mileage than almost all of the cars listed in Consumer Reports).

I think the Toyota problems are mostly some kind of media hype, mass hysteria phenomenon. Even if they are real, they are so rare that they are in the "more likely to be hit by lightning (or a drunk driver)" category. You may be able to use this to your advantage in getting a good deal.
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Old 03-07-2010, 02:57 PM   #15
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No, not me. We're pious about our Echo with no trailer (which gets better mileage than almost all of the cars listed in Consumer Reports).

I think the Toyota problems are mostly some kind of media hype, mass hysteria phenomenon. Even if they are real, they are so rare that they are in the "more likely to be hit by lightning (or a drunk driver)" category. You may be able to use this to your advantage in getting a good deal.
Ahh. My bad - elder confusion. Must be Nords who rigs for silent running and worships at the alter of the electric car..

Toyota's problems also strike me as minimal and a buying opportunity - will have to go by their dealership and see if there's any sign of starving salespeople..
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Old 03-07-2010, 05:37 PM   #16
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another +1 for the element. i have one and am very happy w/ it
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Old 03-07-2010, 07:26 PM   #17
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I've been considering a new car to replace my 1980 Toyota Corolla. For me, the top contenders are the Toyota Matrix (1.8L) and the Honda Fit. I'll get manual transmission.

My primary selection criteria are fuel economy (Fit slightly better, but the Matrix has a larger tank); cargo capacity (Matrix has the edge, although the fit isn't bad); driver visibility (unsure who wins, but I believe both are reasonable); turning radius (Fit somewhat better); and reliability (I think both are about the same). Secondary selection criteria are manual windows and door locks (can't get those with the Fit); ground clearance (I believe the Matrix has the edge); and other items I can't remember.

I believe the headlights on the Fit are not optimal (slight negative). I heard that there may be a hybrid version of the Fit coming out later this year. The Matrix costs a little more, although at carsdirect.com, Toyota is currently offering a $1000 rebate/incentive. In the end, I think the Matrix will cost about $500-$1000 more.
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Old 03-07-2010, 08:56 PM   #18
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Although CR does not like them much I have had really good service from Jeeps, have a 98 Cherokee & a 06 Liberty, son has a Grand Cherokee. If you are going to tow this will work very well. We put a lot of miles on ours 20K+ mi per year. I have a model only made (in the US) in 05 & 06, a diesel which has great MPG and towing capacity but the gas model is good and these models are comfortable and affordable. You can get 4X$ or 2wd.
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Old 03-08-2010, 07:55 AM   #19
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- Al -- Reviled, I wondered if I FIREd. Now, I deliver! !reviled I ,won .dERIF I fi derednow I ,deliveR!
Off Topic, but Al, I think you are close but no cigar...

How about "Reviled, I wonder if I FIREd. Now, I deliver! "?

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Old 03-09-2010, 01:01 AM   #20
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I'm a new owner of a RAV4 (2008) and I couldn't be happier. I went for the v6 with AWD, and it sure is fun to drive. I am certainly not light footed and it still got me 27+mpg on my second fillup. It has 76 cubic feet cargo capacity, and with the v6 would be good for towing, too. No one would call it a small car, it's not very sporty looking, but it does drive like a car not a truck, and has great acceleration both from standstill and for passing at highway speed.
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