Hi Michael and Jeremy: I drive a Mexican-made 1999 Volkswagen Beetle, have had endless repair bills over the years, and don’t want spend a cent more on this car. I don’t drive that much (only 72,000 km racked up) and it’s all city driving. I need a car that has easy access for my elderly relatives (the Beetle doors are very heavy). I’m on a tight budget as a yoga teacher. Your suggestions would be most appreciated. Namaste. – Cindy in Toronto
Vaughan: Namaste to you, too, Cindy. Paying the repair bills on the old Beetle will get your chakras out of whack for sure. I’m meditating on it now. But look out for Swami Cato over there. His idea of an arm balance is bench-pressing a large anvil.
Cato: And downward dog to you, too. Be serious, Vaughan. Cindy is looking for us to be the Rodney Yee of automobile advice, so no wisecracks.
I will tell you that during the period when Cindy’s Beetle was built, VW was having endless labour problems at its Mexican operations. I mean endless. Seems to me the union was decertified eventually. For the last few years, the labour situation down there has been as peaceful as a Yin yoga session. But those quality problems have their roots in shoddy design and lousy labour relations.
Vaughan: Well, first I think Cindy needs to move along and take a look at the new Hyundai Accent. The old two-door-plus-hatch Accent (like your Beetle, Cindy) was a dirt-cheap $9,999 runabout with barely enough room for a yoga mat. The new one is a four-door (which will be appreciated by elderly relatives) with antilock brakes, stability control, four-wheel disc brakes, six airbags and great fuel economy.
It’s a pleasure to drive with its 1.6-litre, direct-injection, four-cylinder engine. Yes, they jacked the price up, but it is a lot more car. Anyone with your flexibility can certainly handle a standard transmission. If so, there’s an Accent for 13 grand that I’m sure will delight you.
Cato: The base price here, Cindy, is $13,599 with a six-speed manual gearbox; the six-speed automatic is another $1,200. Fuel economy is outstanding, the design is slick and quality looks good – vastly better than your old Beetle.
But if you want the most entertaining drive, the Ford Fiesta should be at the top of your list. The base hatch, also a four-door, lists for $15,999, but I think you’re getting more car – a tighter-handling package with a design that will have you popping out of tree pose. And Ford has a few incentive programs in place that will push that price down into Accent territory.
Vaughan: The old Swami is right on this one. I rented a Fiesta in the U.K. this past summer and it was just terrific. Quiet, comfortable, sporty. I had no complaints with its fuel economy even though I was burning “petrol” that costs twice as much as over here.
Cato failed to mention that the four-door sedan Fiesta comes as a starter model at $12,999. The hatch is an outrageous additional 3,000 bucks. You’re after four doors, therefore go for the base sedan.
Cato: Cindy, you mentioned the elderly relatives, so I’d like you to have a look at the Chevrolet Cruze. It’s a slightly bigger car than these other two, a compact sedan.
The starting price is $15,495 for the 2012 model, but you should bargain for at least a $1,000 factory discount and another $500 in GM’s Cash for Clunkers program. The point is, you should be able to get a Cruze for a stellar price.
Vaughan: Everybody take note. The Old Swami has just recommended a GM car. Government Motors over-promised and under-delivered for so many years I wasn’t expecting much from the Cruze, which replaced the utterly boring and uncompetitive Cobalt.
But I took a Cruze for a good long test drive – and loved it. I like this car on the highway particularly, although I notice Cindy that you’re an in-town driver.
This car is smooth and oh so quiet. And as Cato said, being a bigger car, it’s comfortable for elderly passengers. If that’s your top priority, this could be your car.
Cato: Cindy, the Fiesta sedan is my first choice for you. But honestly, you can hardly go wrong with any of these.
Vaughan: Take the time to test drive each one carefully, Cindy, without a distracting salesman yammering in your ear. When your mind, body and spirit come together, you will have found the right ride.
HOW THEY COMPARE
2012 Chevrolet Cruze LS
2012 Hyundai Accent L
2012 Ford Fiesta S
Curb weight (kg)
Fuel economy (litres/100 km)
8.2 city/5.4 highway
6.7 city/4.9 highway
6.9 city/5.1 highway
Base price (MSRP)
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.