Sunday, August 16, 2009

Call Me Old School

My wife and I went shopping for a new car recently. We'd narrowed our choices to the Honda Fit, and the hybrids Honda Insight, and Toyota Prius. The hybrids interested us, but the Fit was very highly rated, affordable and gets good mileage. We really wanted to like the Insight, even though it was more expensive than the Fit. It's bigger and scores off the charts on the environmental friendliness scale. But we both liked the Fit much better. The seats were more comfortable and the Insight has a weird divided back window we didn't care for. Our Jetta has a huge window and maybe we're spoiled. Also, the engine in the Insight turns off when you're stopped and there's a lag between the time you push down on the pedal and when the car starts to move. This was a deal-breaker for me. I've been driving VWs for years and like the way that, when you step on the gas, something happens immediately. (Cheap rental cars have always disappointed me in this area.) The Fit was spunky and moved right out. We like the roominess inside, too. This car was an automatic but also has paddle shifters, a new feature to me. These are levers, attached to each side of the steering wheel, that let you shift up and down through the gears without a clutch. Racing cars often use these because the driver can shift without taking his hand off the wheel.

I tried them during our test drive, working my way up, taching each gear higher than the automatic would have and moving back down on the exit ramps with no problem. But I'm not sold. Call me old school, but shifting requires a stick and clutch. It's just not the same. If you want to shift, then pony up the $800 to put a standard in the Fit.

Anyway, we're going with the Fit. We decided not to even test drive the Prius because it was the most expensive of the three and we really liked the Fit. My beloved VW didn't make the cut either. We were disappointed by the gas mileage of the Jetta and the Rabbit. So we're saving up to pay cash on the barrelhead for this car and figure we can do the deal in late fall. Although it may be sooner, depending on what caused the check engine light to come on in the Jetta today. Honda says no problem doing the custom paint job I want.


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