Gentlemen: I’ve always owned a Honda and love the brand. I keep my vehicles long-term and I am having great difficulty deciding on a new car: 2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6 Navigation or 2008 BMW 323i Sport Package. The Accord will be a perfect size for the family, economical and reliable. On the other hand, the BMW will put a smile on my face every time I drive it as I have always wanted one and feel that I have worked hard for one. Friends have advised against the iDrive as it makes the car heavier and takes away from the BMW driving experience. – Asad in Calgary
Cato: Work with me on this metaphor, Asad. The world is made up of two kinds of people: Hondas and BMWs.
That is, Hondas are practical people – sensible and reliable and hard-working and, sadly, a little dull.
BMWs? I am talking about people who are dynamic, aggressive, creative risk-takers. All this can be slightly off-putting – like that BMW driver who cut me off yesterday.
What are you, Asad? A Honda or a BMW?
Vaughan: Cato, you’re so full of Dr. Phil nonsense…
Cato: Look, Asad wants the BMW; you can feel it in his letter. He’s wanted that Bimmer all his life, just like he wishes he’d kissed Mary Lou at that high school dance. Mary Lou is long gone, but he’s hoping we’ll hit him with a stamp of approval for that German sedan he’s earned. Regardless of whether it’s perfect for the family, that’s what he wants.
Vaughan: You need therapy. If you weren’t so impressed with your own psycho-babble perhaps you would have thought of the Subaru Legacy.
Cato: Ah, ha. So you’ve found a middle ground, a place that straddles BMW and Honda – Subaru! I’ll buy that. The world has people we’ll call Subarus. They are those who perform and have substance, but who are also willing to break away from the pack, to shun the tried and true, the ordinary.
But let me say this. I don’t like recommending used cars. There are good and bad ones and you can’t tell by looking at them. It could be some patched-up accident wreck. Who knows? I’ve bought lots of used cars, but I’ve inspected them carefully. We can’t do that in a letter.
Cato: For once I agree, but let’s make an exception for Asad. The one caveat: he must get a professional inspection before he signs on the dotted line.
And if he’s shopping for a slightly used car, he should compare apples to apples at least in terms of equipment levels.
These three were all priced about the same in 2008: $34,990 for the Accord, $35,900 for the 323i and $35,395 for the Legacy 2.5i Limited.
But to get them equipped to the same level, the BMW back then required $3,250 in optional equipment – from an auto-dimming mirror, to carpeted floor mats, heated seats and a power sunroof.
Plus, both the Legacy and the Accord came with a standard automatic transmission – four-speed in the Subaru, five-speed in the Honda – while the BMW had a six-speed manual as standard.
Vaughan: Do your due dilly, Asad.
Cato: Quality-wise, the Accord should be bullet-proof and it’s very safe, too. The 268-horsepower V-8 is powerful and smooth, and the ride quality is solid and quiet. Asad, this is a front-drive car, which means the Accord is the weakest dynamically of these three – the Bimmer being rear-drive, the Legacy all-wheel drive.
Vaughan: The 323’s legendary inline-six has 200 hp and that manual gearbox is a gem. They call them drivers’ cars for a reason – a Bimmer has a feel all of its own.
Cato: Then there’s the Legacy. Asad, this car might be even more reliable than the Honda, if you believe the research, and the crash test scores are brilliant.
The AWD system is something you’ll value during Calgary winters, Chinooks or otherwise. The 170-horsepower boxer or horizontally opposed four-banger is a bit anemic, but what the car lacks in raw oomph it makes up for in agility.
The trick will be to find one. The used-car market is not bursting at the seams with old Subarus, or even nearly new ones.
Vaughan: Which means you’ll pay a price. Canadian Black Books says the average asking price for a 2008 323i in Canada is $17,900 and, in a shocker, the average asking price for the sort of Honda Accord you want is $20,250.
Cato: And look what lands between them – Legacy Limited at $18,075. I am surprised by the resale value of the BMW. BMW Canada has been discounting the 3-Series for years and this is what comes of that sort of thing.
Asad, my advice is to get the Bimmer. It has the most affordable price and this is the car with which you’ve wanted to dance for years.
Vaughan: Put that smile on your face, Asad. Get a Bimmer – but please, please get it inspected by a BMW mechanic who you can trust. If there’s no inspection, there’s no deal.
HOW THEY COMPARE
2008 Honda Accord EX-L V6
2008 BMW 323i
2008 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Limited
Curb weight (kg)
Fuel economy (litres/100 km)
11.0 city/6.7 highway
11.1 city/6.9 highway
10.4 city/7.5 highway
Cdn. Black Book average asking price
Source: car manufacturers
Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.