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2011 Chevrolet Malibu (General Motors)
2011 Chevrolet Malibu (General Motors)

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Teaching old dogs new buying tricks Add to ...

Gentlemen: We are a couple of (short) seniors who would really value your advice. We read your column regularly and are sure you can help us. We are currently driving a 2008 Honda Accord that suits our needs, but the "sport" ride is too uncomfortable for our aging bones. Do you have any recommendations for a more comfortable car in the same price range? Also, we hate, hate, hate the selling and buying process. Could you suggest a broker or other means of making this easier? - Rhea and Phil in Hamilton, Ont.

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Cato: Rhea and Phil, you two are the real Canadian new-car buyers. You're not crazy for horsepower and you're not nuts for lightning-fast 0-100 km/h times.

It goes without saying you want decent fuel economy and good reliability - you bought a Honda Accord, right? - and you don't want to haggle over a purchase like you're buying sandals in a third world bazaar.

Vaughan: Hello, all you product planners and marketing geniuses out there. Have you noticed a trend in the inquiries we're receiving?

Instead of devoting every engineering resource and marketing dollar to get Gen Y to buy some over-powered mini-car that rides like a skateboard, perhaps you'd like to consider the greatest generation ever - the Baby Boomers - many of whom still purchase cars.

Cato: There is a kind of overgrown adolescent quality to almost everyone we meet in the car business - and that includes the dealers. I have theories about why.

First, making and selling cars is a big-bucks game; car companies can spend $500-million or more developing one new model. There's a lot on the line with each product decision.

Meanwhile, the marketing types are, well, marketing types, which by definition means if they're any good they are always infected with the overgrown adolescent bug.

As for the dealers, aside from the Internet now in play, giving consumers access to loads of information, not a lot has changed about buying cars at a retailer. The Internet, though, has given savvy customers more insight into the whole "deal" but it hasn't changed the actual process - a process loathed by not just the Rheas and Phils of the world.

Vaughan: You done?

I have one word for these two: Malibu. Rhea and Phil should try a Chevy Malibu.

Cato: That's two words, actually. But you've never been one for details.

Vaughan: The current Malibu has been around for a few years now, so they should be able to get a terrific price.

Cato: You'd never go to the trouble, but I've dug up some details about the current sales incentives on the Malibu. Depending on Rhea and Phil's situation, they could be eligible for $4,000 or more in cash-back goodies, plus whatever dealer discount they can negotiate.

Say they go for a really nicely loaded 2011 Malibu LT Platinum Edition with a sticker price of $27,995. The final price after discounts and before taxes should likely be in the $23,000-$24,000 range, at most. That for a reliable sedan with a Top Safety Pick rating, which, by the way, the Accord does not have.

2011 Ford Fusion

Vaughan: Somewhere between Cato's sermons we'll find space to say something about the buying process you hate so much, Rhea and Phil. But when you get your list of choices you must go and drive them all.

Tell the salespeople you are test driving only and won't discuss price or anything else until you've driven the cars. When you do, you'll find the Chevy rides like a dream and is one of the quietest cars I've ever known. Get the four-cylinder engine and you'll find performance is fine and fuel economy decent.

Cato: The Malibu, of course, appeals to Vaughan because it's not unlike him - the Malibu is a kind of Vaughan metaphor: pretty reliable, cheap and not terribly interesting. Nothing wrong with this Chevy and it does have a softer ride than the Accord. But the new Malibu we just saw at the New York auto show is much sexier.

For me, I'd suggest the Ford Fusion. Again, another killer deal with thousands in sales incentives out there. A Top Safety Pick and very reliable.

Vaughan: I'd like you two to drive the Hyundai Elantra, too. You might think I'd suggest the Hyundai Sonata because it competes with Accord, but the smaller Elantra's styling is better, you'll find it large enough and its four-cylinder engine has great, great fuel economy.

Cato: As for actually buying the car, use the Internet for the product details and get pricing from GlobeDrive.com and carcostcanada.com.

Vaughan: With facts in hand, use your e-mail like I did. Ask for quotes from five regional dealers and like me, re-send the results without naming dealerships to all the competitors. You'll end up with a great price in a few days, guaranteed.

Cato: And only set foot in the new-car bazaar on the day you pick up your new ride.

2011 Hyundai Elantra

*****

HOW THEY COMPARE



2011 Chevrolet Malibu LT Platinum Edition

2011 Ford Fusion SEL

2011 Hyundai Elantra Limited

Wheelbase (mm)

2852

2728

2700

Length (mm)

4872

4841

4530

Width (mm)

1786

1834

1775

Height (mm)

1450

1445

1435

Engine

2.5-litre four-cylinder

2.5-litre four-cylinder

1.8-litre four-cylinder

Output (horsepower/torque)

170/158 lb-ft

175/172 lb-ft

148/131 lb-ft

Drive system

front-wheel drive

front-wheel drive

front-wheel drive

Transmission

five-speed automaticsix-speed automatic

six-speed automatic

six-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

1561

1440

1305

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

9.4 city/5.9 highway

9.0 city/6.0 highway

6.9 city/4.9 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$27,995

$26,199

$22,699

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.

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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