Five to Drive: Vehicles worth Buying

Deciding which new vehicle to buy shouldn't be a daunting task, but with more than three hundred different models to choose from, it takes some time and effort just to sift through the options and find the right vehicle for you. With the average transaction price hovering around $25,000, a new vehicle purchase is an important decision. In my work, I have the luxury of evaluating and writing about all kinds of vehicles, so I've tested everything out there. If you're in the market for some new wheels, here are five vehicles that I believe are worthy of your consideration. h3. Nissan Versa - Subcompact The Versa is a new model in the recent wave of small cars with big interiors. Though this class of vehicle has been in play for some time in other parts of the world, auto manufacturers have been reluctant to try selling them here. Their studies have shown that they were too small for American tastes, but, apparently, the high cost of gasoline has altered our taste buds and these have become very popular. The Versa possesses a squared techno-modern shape that is interesting to look at and cleverly allows for an abundance of interior room. The high roof and the elevated seating position are impressive in this vehicle. It is comfortable and spacious inside and has a flexible interior. The reliable Versa is powered by a 1.8 liter four-cylinder engine that has good power and gets great fuel economy, all for about $12,500. h3. Kia Sedona - Minivan Stop the groaning. It's time to separate perception from reality. I hear too many people say that they absolutely won't have a minivan either because of some childhood memories or fear of being seen driving one. But when you get past the superficial reasoning, you'll realize that minivans are probably the most useful and versatile vehicles on the planet for a large part of the driving public. They have cavernous interiors, low floors, high roofs, many access doors, great seating positions, and comfortable interiors. Minivans are very safe, have reasonably good performance, good fuel economy for their size, and are pleasant to drive. Of them all, I have been very impressed with the Kia Sedona, especially the basic short wheelbase model. The value proposition in this vehicle is startling. Here's what you get for the $20,100 base price, before dealer haggling: a modern powerful 3.8 liter V6, five-speed automatic transmission, power windows, power door locks, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, three-zone air conditioning, a good audio system, four captain's chairs with third-row split seats, projection beam headlights, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, stability control, traction control, electronic brake force distribution, front, side and head curtain airbags on all three rows, plus a ten year / 100,000 mile warranty! According to Consumer Reports, the Sedona now has the same reliability rating as the Honda Odyssey. Some people will spend much more than this on a stylish sedan or SUV that is too small for their needs, so, yes, I'm impressed with this vehicle. h3. Ford Superduty - Large Pickup Truck There are many good pickups in the market today and the competition grows ever fiercer. In the heavy duty segment (three-quarters to one ton rating), the Ford Superduty continues to distinguish itself. Though there are many trucks that can pull a 10,000-pound load, the way that the Superduty does it is impressive. I did a tow test a year ago and drove an F-250 diesel from Houston to Detroit empty and then back on the same route pulling a fully loaded double-axle trailer. The truck was surprisingly easy and comfortable to drive and pulled the load effortlessly. Though gasoline V8 and V10 engines are available, the diesel is best suited for the truck, and the new 6.4 liter twin-turbocharged diesel engine in the upgraded 2008 model promises to be an improvement over the previous 6.0 liter. The diesel is a very expensive option, but the towing capacity is greater, the fuel economy is about sixty percent better, and the resale value is much higher. h3. BMW 3 Series Convertible/Hardtop - Compact Premium Sporty Car Okay, normally a BMW doesn't fit "practical" criteria. You buy a vehicle like this based on emotion and then you hopelessly try to justify it logically. This is a gorgeous vehicle that is fun to drive. There, I said it, and now I feel liberated. Here's why I like this model in particular. Usually it takes two vehicles, a convertible and a hardtop, to give you what this one does. With the top down, you have a beautiful, cleanly styled and elegant four-seat convertible. With the top up, you have a highly styled coupe with an all-weather steel roof. This BMW, like all the rest of the family, performs and handles well and offers all the safety engineering that the brand is known for. This 3 Series Convertible is offered as a 328i model or the new 335i, which has a twin-turbocharged 3.0 liter engine. Personally, I like the base 328i with the wonderful six-speed automatic transmission. The 328i is about $7,000 less than the 335i, and unless you want to drive "really fast" as opposed to just merely "fast," the 328i will do the job very well. I've heard President McKay enjoyed driving fast. I think he would have loved this car! h3. Scion xB - Not sure? You have to admire the forward thinking product planners at Toyota. Several years ago, they discovered that their customers were brand loyal, and as they age they tend to buy different models within the same brand. To cater to the up-and-coming Gen X and Y future buyers, they created a brand just for them: Scion. The vehicles are smaller and more basic, which keeps them affordable, and they have Toyota quality--very clever. After just three short years, Scion is introducing their second generation xB. The original was very innovative and spoke directly to the desired audience. Interestingly, others outside that demographic also heard the "speaking." My retired brother-in-law recently bought one because it was reliable, inexpensive to buy and operate, was easy to get in and out of, and had a very useful interior. The new xB has grown up some, and though it looks the same in its general shape and style, it's completely redesigned. This new model now has a larger engine, is about twelve inches longer, about three inches wider, and has four-wheel disc brakes. It also has stability control, traction control, and electronic brake force distribution, as well as front, side, and side-curtain airbags. The interior is totally redesigned with a modified center gauge stack, audio controls on the steering wheel, and even cruise control. Scions are sold as mono-spec vehicles, meaning all are equipped about the same--with the exception of transmission, audio and color choices--and then the buyer personalizes his/her vehicle with hundreds of accessories and after-market add-ons. Even with all the upgrades to this totally new-and-improved vehicle, the base price has barely budged and is still just over $15,000. ***** Kelly Foss has been a car person all his life and owns an automotive news service called Car Data Co. He and his lovely wife Connie met at BYU 48th branch and have been married more than thirty years. They reside in Richmond Texas, a suburb of Houston.
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