Monday, September 26, 2011

To xB Or Not To xB ... That Is The Question.

I've had four cars the past 23 years.  First up was a baby blue Pontiac T-1000 purchased by my parents for me while I was heading to college (THANKS!).  I'll admit that my first inhale of the prior owner's lingering cigarette smoke didn't immediately endear me to the little hatchback but ... when you're under 20 and needing to get up and go, it's really the "go" part of a car that snares you in the end. 

She was a good wee car.  She just couldn't withstand a cow.  Yep, a bovine flew into my windshield, up over the car, hit her again on the way down and sent my car airborne across the road, through a barbed wire fence, and into a corn field.  The corn was higher than the car so I guess it was good that Bessie took a bit getting back up in the road because THAT's what caught the oncoming car's attention.

I was cut out of the car with the jaws of life (Remember those S.A.D.D. demonstrations in high school? Yeeeah) and was lucky to come out of the experience with a broken wrist and new nose. [Side lesson - be careful what you pray for 'cause God might just answer that prayer with a Bob Hope scoop nose.]  Baby blue was not so lucky. 

Next up was a Plymouth Sundance, purchased primarily because I liked the cup holder. Yep.  With all of her electrical problems, the Sundance was more Sybil than sunshine but she lasted about six years regardless - until my mechanic was rear-ended while test driving her.

And thus we enter the Cavalier years from 1999 to the present.  I'm on my second Chevy.  The first was a 1995 sand colored beauty with around 65,000 miles.  She stuck around through thick and thin until 2005 when, with 225,000 miles and the beginning of a head gasket leak, she entered the beginning of the end.

I traded her in (Ha - $200) on a 2001 red Chevy Cavalier with just over 92,000 miles.  I've put nearly 108,000 miles on her during the past 6 1/2 years with minimal cost.  Red's nearing that 200,000 number.  Her cruise control has been gone for a couple years and her odometer is blinking.  It's time.

Given the amount of time I generally keep my vehicles, purchasing a new one tends to be a bit overly emotional and dramatic.  I grow attached.  And, this time, for the first time, I'm actually trading in a vehicle that is in good working order - no leaks, no noises - she rocks!

I started looking.  I knew this wouldn't be as easy as "where's my next Cavalier" since Chevy stopped making them in 2005.  I was never a Cobalt or newer fan.  My criteria has been gas mileage coupled with a desire to move up (literally) in the vehicle world, i.e., sit higher, and have the ability to transport my Schwinn Beach Comber (and her big ass seat and basket) among various other and not yet discovered items of all shapes and sizes.  I started looking at small SUV's but beyond the fact that I was nearing 100,000 miles on potential used vehicles before I was nearing my price range, I knew that the vehicles would get substantially worse gas mileage than my 27-32 m/p/g Cav.

I started looking at crossover type vehicles or wagons.  Enter the Scion xB.  The xB, made by Toyota, was introduced in 2004 and kept much the same shape through 2006.  Call it the toaster, xbox, or milk truck, the xB was definitely different yet it is in the xB's differences that you find its appeal.  [Yes, yes, if you find any appeal at all.]  The box shape allows for maximum room within the interior.  Sure, you'll snicker when you see one but go a bit further and sit inside and you'll soon discover why someone would consider buying the box.  I have never sat in a vehicle that gave driver and passengers so much room, including the back seat passengers. [Yes, Dad, this includes your Tahoe.]  Open up the full height hatchback, put down the 60/40 back seat, and an xB owner finds over 43 cubic feet of cargo space.  Also, the xB sits the driver/passengers higher than a regular car.  An xB driver will find herself level with that Equinox or Rav4 sitting next door at the red light.  It doesn't hurt that the xB comes with a six speaker Pioneer stereo/CD/mp3 system. All this comes with a 26-30 m/p/g estimate with many consumers reporting better mileage ~ 32 city and up to 38 highway.  Finally, the xB earned Consumer Reports' "Good Bet/Recommended" mark for all these reasons coupled with its reliability.

The downside appears to be the smaller engine, thus less power, which is one of the reasons the gas mileage is so good. This is also a reason that the xB is not a vehicle for the aggressive (Hello, my sisters!) driver.  Also, the interior could stand some better sound proofing and side airbags.  The xB was redone in 2008.  The newer version comes with a larger engine, bigger gas tank, standard side airbags, longer frame, and, sadly, accompanying SUV like gas mileage.

So, to xB or not to xB?

If you haven't guessed already, a used, low mileage, 2006 Scion xB won me over.  Multiple test drives followed hours of research.  My mechanic looked it over and gave his approval ("THAT's a pretty nice vehicle!") earlier today.  Tonight, I walked into the dealership armed with real market values from, similar values from the NADA Blue Book and Kelly Blue Book, information from my mechanic on what he found, and a post-workout look on my face designed to frighten any salesman.  [Len from Grand Buick  took it all in stride.]

They had their price, I gave my low price, and we met in the middle (albeit nearer MY end than theirs - "neener, neener, neener").  Seriously, though, I recommend Grand Buick.  Len helped another coworker several years ago and still remembered it.  He focused on my biggest requests and showed me any possible vehicle they had that might fill them.  He encouraged me to take the xB on an extended test drive, didn't blink at my request that my mechanic look it over, and managed to do all of this with minimal sales pressure.  [I'll of course revisit this recommendation if anything goes wrong but *fingers crossed* I'm optimistic.]  My biggest regret is that I'll miss Red's big day, her 200,000 mile milestone. Someone else will get to see that.  I hope they appreciate her.

Meanwhile, meet my Wonka Tonka:

She has just under 48,000 miles on her; let's see what we can do about adding a 2 in front of that, shall we?

1 comment:

  1. Wonka Tonka! :D
    I don't have a car, and still haven't learned how to drive. It's better if you walk if you want to stay alive, where I currently am.
    Plus, college is only 15 minutes away, so I survive :)