I’m in my 50s and I’d like to buy a new car that I actually want, not just what’s affordable on the used-car lot. I owned a Volkswagen Beetle after finishing school and have been thinking of the new Beetle, but somebody told me they’re going to stop making it. Is this true? I like that it has “character” so I am also considering a Mini Cooper or Fiat 500. Would you recommend any of these? - Sandra, Mississauga
Miranda Lightstone: Sadly, you’re not wrong about the Volkswagen Beetle, Sandra. 2019 is the last year it will be built – until they inevitably decide to bring the iconic car back, again. But this gives it a bit of an “exclusive” edge over the others, and shouldn’t make you shy from getting one. Just because production will stop doesn’t mean VW won’t be able to service it down the road.
Mark Richardson: Except you really don’t want one. It’s not that great a car.
Lightstone: Whoa – bah humbug!
Richardson: Well, it’s not. I liked it when it came out, but it feels a bit dated now. A dot-matrix display on the gauges? No real driver’s assistance to speak of? I couldn’t even get the Apple CarPlay to work properly.
Lightstone: Didn’t you say you were thinking of buying one?
Richardson: That’s my wife. She loved it. I think she and Sandra would get along. She really liked that it has just the right amount of power and road manners for her, and that it’s spacious inside for the front passengers, and that it’s kinda quirky. But for me, it’s run its course. Iconic nostalgia only goes so far. Give me a Mini any day.
Lightstone: Now we’re speaking the same, happier language. I definitely prefer the drive of the Mini and it’s about the same price, mid- to high-20s for a Cooper version. But is it comfortable enough for Sandra, you think?
Richardson: I’d suggest the Mini Clubman for a smooth, comfortable ride. It’s got lots of room in the rear – those classic barn-style doors really add space.
Lightstone: I’ve always liked the look of the Clubman rear doors, but they do cut into the visibility out the back.
Richardson: But Sandra did say she wanted character…
Lightstone: You know my favourite part? Every version comes with a turbo, even the three-cylinder base model.
Richardson: Which means every Mini needs Premium fuel. And they also have a so-so record for reliability. And they’re neither easy nor cheap to repair.
Lightstone: The Fiat isn’t much better.
Richardson: But it’s the least expensive and it does have “character.” This time, it’s Italian.
Lightstone: If by “character,” you mean it’s one of J.D. Power’s three worst-ranked brands in 2018 for vehicle dependability then yes, the Fiat most definitely has LOTS of it.
Richardson: Fiat is actually the most-improved brand from 2017 to 2018 in “durability points” in the same research.
Lightstone: But it’s still in the bottom three. And Mini and Volkswagen aren’t. If long-term ownership is in Sandra’s future with her new fun-to-drive car, that’s something she needs to consider.
Richardson: So there you go, Sandra. All three of these vehicles are below the industry average in JD Power’s latest Dependability Study for their first three years, but that’s part of the price you pay for “quirky”. This is the last year to buy a new Beetle, and at least my wife loves it. Maybe you will too.
What car should you buy? Write to Mark and Miranda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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