We tend to get a lot of "What car should we buy?" questions at GreenCarReports, and we'll usually respond with a list of questions to narrow down the choices.
Recently, though, our high-school friend Sarah Sette in Baltimore sent the following note:
We are car shopping, seriously this time. The 1996 Subaru Legacy wagon is sadly aging and we need to replace it.
We're looking to get something a bit better on MPG since we don't need the roominess of a Subaru that often. Aside from one or two trips to Cape Cod a year, we'll mostly be hauling kids to school.
I'm not wild about the Forester--I don't think we could fit our dog back there, which is the point of a wagon for us.
2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon
Anyway, any opinions on the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sportwagen, Acura TSX wagon, or any other suggestions?
Here's an edited version of our response:
"The 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon is quite nice and sporty, and it's the same car that's sold in Europe as the Honda Accord wagon.
"Volkswagen Jetta TDI clean diesels have many fans--who frequently comment here--and they often get better fuel economy than their EPA ratings.
"But Volkswagen reliability hasn't always been top of the pack, so we recommend checking ratings carefully before you decide. In fact, 2009 and 2010 VW Jetta TDIs have been recalled for fuel-pump issues once already.
2010 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI
"A final note on diesels: They get their best mileage advantages on long high-speed trips. If your duty cycle is much more stop-and-go, city-oriented, a hybrid is a better bet.
"Japanese-made hybrids may be scarce for the next several months (due to the earthquake and tsunami), but you might consider the upcoming 2012 Toyota Prius V wagon, which is expected to get an EPA combined rating of 40 mpg.
"Or, perhaps even a standard 2011 Prius five-door hatchback, which is rated as a midsize car by interior volume.
"Note that the new midsize 2011 Subaru Outback gets far better mileage (22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, or 24 mpg combined) than your old model.
2012 Toyota Prius V launch press conference, 2011 Detroit Auto Show
"If you don't need a ton of space, consider hatchbacks versus wagons. They're more compact and can haul a ton of bulky stuff with the rear seat folded down. It's just that they can't do that at the same time that they're also hauling four people.
"Not every compact line offers a hatchback, but the Volkswagen Golf TDI was brand-new for 2010 and is quite a nice car.
"Subaru also has a compact hatchback, the 2012 Subaru Impreza (coming later this year). It will be rated at 36 mpg highway, which is the highest for any AWD car. (And you know Subaru will offer an optional luggage carrier for your kayak!)"
What other advice would you have for our friend Sarah?
GIve us your thoughts in the Comments below.