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I might be in the market for a new (to me) car this spring. I'm guessing a price in the low to mid teens will be our target. I don't know a whole lot about all the models out these days, but I'm hoping that for that amount I can find a car that meets both of the following criteria:

30+ mpg
AWD or 4WD
Comfortable seating for 4+ (7 would be nice, but I'm not sure a vehicle exists that would meet the other two criteria and carry 7 people)

I started out wanting something with a truck bed, but found only the Subaru Baja (discontinued after the 2006 model, I hear) and the Ford Explorer SportTrac, both of which fail the fuel economy test (Ford miserably). Most "crew cab" trucks are behemoths that would appear to get single-digit mpg.

Also, because I intend to keep it garaged, the shorter the better. Oh, and manual transmission would be nice. That's still an option on most cars, right?

I've hung out at Edmunds.com learning about these specific models, but I haven't found (because I haven't sought) a resource that would let me find a model by features. Given these criteria, does the group have any suggestions for specific models or screening resources?

-n8 (btw, the '89 accord stalls-when-warm problem wasn't 'old gas'. calling the dealer today.)
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Subaru sedan?

Is the VW Passat 4motion available in diesel/manual transmission?

Some of the more efficient compact SUV (crv, rav4, escape) might come close to the fuel economy requirement.

AWD/4WD costs money to buy, to operate, to insure, repair, and maintain. If you skip that, there are lots of comfortable cars that can achieve 30 mpg on the highway.
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30+ mpg
AWD or 4WD


Pontiac Vibe or its twin the Toyota Matrix.

The Pontiac version would meet your equipment and price requirements in its base form. You'll pay more for the Toyota out of the starting blocks but get better resale value (so do you want it on the front end or the back end). I have yet to see a post or talk to one person unhappy with the Vibe/Matrix.

They seat four with ease, have a useful cargo area, short, can be equipped with roof rails for extra cargo carrying ability, Toyota engine and tranny - the GM version is built at a different plant to the Toyota version. Materials, quality, etc. etc. are equal. Toyota has slightly different styling. Down side is the trade off for mileage -- I don't think you'll break 30 MPG in a 4WD version and it is slightly under powered.

I know we have some Vibe owners here -- they could speak up.

However with that said given the requirements of seats four ADULTS, has 4WD or AWD, gets 30 MPG, and no more than the mid-teens -- you're list of candidates is VERY short (as you've probably figured out). Given that set of requirements that is about the only thing that comes to mind.

Don't even think of getting a Baja, Subaru is killing it for a good reason. Namely you can get an identically equipped Outback wagon for LESS money - so why have the chopped off useless cargo area when you can have the utlity of the wagon configuration.
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I did a TMV for the AWD Pontiac Vibe on Edmunds. I selected an optionless base model and used a zip code in my region (have no idea where you live). I have to say, if this is a trend for other GM models, things are looking up for the General. The Vibe is selling for pretty darn close to MSRP (at least around here the Vibe is getting on average $24 more than other regions in the country).

http://www.edmunds.com/new/2006/pontiac/vibe/100536818/optionsresults.html?action=2&tid=edmunds.n.options.ntmv.1.1.Pontiac*

$19.5K drive out for a 2006 AWD Vibe - no options. Mileage is actually - INCREDIBLE. 26 MPG city, 31 MPG highway and that is achieved even with a 4-speed automatic (no manual for the AWD Vibe). I'd have never thunk it in an AWD model. By the way, despite Edmund's claim that they are built at the same factory as the Toyota Matrix that is incorrect. The Toyota Matrix is built in Ontario, Canada at a Toyota plant. The Pontiac Vibe is build in California at a joint GM/Toyota plant. My understanding is the Matrix is built for export in Ontario - capacity they don't have in California (I loathe when trusted resources give out bad information - and Edmunds has been in a major decline IMHO with their site riddled with inaccuracies and wrong info on a number of models).

http://www.edmunds.com/new/2006/pontiac/vibe/100536818/researchlanding.html

You know - I was curious as I wrote this and for giggles I checked out the Toyota Matrix.

OK Fools - sit down because this is going to be hard to believe.

The Toyota Matrix has a deeper discount on it using TMV than a Pontiac Vibe (cough, cough, gasp, gasp, cough). I know, I know hard to believe. There is a "base" Toyota Matrix, which is a lot more base than a "base" Pontiac Vibe - but this one hits the mark even better. You still get AWD, the 4-speed automatic, the 26/31 MPG, seating for four adults, comfortable, and your short size for your garage.

http://www.edmunds.com/new/2006/toyota/matrix/100579326/optionsresults.html?action=2&tid=edmunds.n.options.ntmv.1.1.Toyota*

$17.5K drive out (in this region). Where the Vibe actually commands a premium the Matrix is sold for less.

Soooooooooooo...

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! THOSE WITH HEART CONDITIONS, PREGNANT WOMEN, OR THOSE WHO HAVE A MEDICAL CONDITION THAT CAN RESULT IN SIEZURES SHOULD READ NO FURTHER!

Given all this data and your specific requirements - this car fits all your requirements, and only requires you to compromise on price by $1.5K. I don't think putting another $1.5K on the table (I consider mid-teens to be $13K to $16K) is that big of a stretch given your list of requirements

Milligram46
Yes, I tried to warn you - I just recommended buying a Toyota...
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Maybe a Subaru Impreza or Legacy? A 3 YO one would probably meet your requirements (except that the legacy gets ~28 MPG).
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When I saw that subject line my first thought was, "It's hard to go wrong with Heidi Klum."

GeeB, not even caring if it's off topic.
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Thanks for those thoughtful responses (though I think Heidi Klum is out of my price range)...

AWD/4WD costs money to buy, to operate, to insure, repair, and maintain. If you skip that, there are lots of comfortable cars that can achieve 30 mpg on the highway.

well, I'm considering the 4/AWD a fairly serious requirement because I live in Colorado and expect to do more driving as I age, due to advancement in my profession (more local business travel).

Don't even think of getting a Baja, Subaru is killing it for a good reason. ... why have the chopped off useless cargo area when you can have the utlity of the wagon configuration.

Our attractiveness to them was (is) based on the fact that we find ourselves in need of a truck from time to time to carry trees or a large appliance (we have a rental and might be getting another) that don't fit or load well into our minivan. Of course, my wife wants a truck, or truck-like thing, so we can pull a horse trailer. I was hoping if I get a Baja I could put off the horse discussion, since a Baja couldn't pull one. Ability to carry lumber wasn't a huge consideration, since the minivan can hold 4x8 sheets with the hatch closed if the seats are taken out.

Both of the subaru dealers I've talked to have said they're discontinuing the Baja because of surprisingly poor sales, not because of any particular defect. Of course, that's the reason you talked about... truck bed is too limiting for most people to pay extra for it.

Maybe a Subaru Impreza or Legacy? A 3 YO one would probably meet your requirements (except that the legacy gets ~28 MPG).

Yeah, I didn't see any Subarus over 30. Not that that's a magic number--I won't say 29 is no good--but AWD is a natural ding against mileage. That's why I was hoping I could find a 4WD something.

Pontiac Vibe or its twin the Toyota Matrix.

I'd much rather have the Toyota, I think. I hadn't thought of that, either. And maybe I can even find a used one later this year. Never bought a new car, I hain't.

-n8 ('89 Accord needs new/rebuit carb before I can sell it. crap. making me re-think my stance on new cars.)
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