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car review

2012 Toyota Prius v.

I drive a 2007 Ford Focus station wagon but I am looking for a car that meets the needs of my family (I have a wife and three daughters: 16, 12 and 9), is fun to drive and is fuel-efficient. 1. Not a minivan or SUV; 2. Room for five; 3. Excellent fuel economy; 4. Environmentally friendly (hybrid perhaps); 5. Manual transmission; 6. More comfort, but not silly; 7. Primarily functional, with some concern for form; 8. "European" handling; 9. Price range around $25,000, definitely not over $30,000.

I am considering: 1. The 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid (which got great reviews); 2. A Prius (not sure it is big enough); 3. Subaru Legacy/Outback; 4. Mercedes B Series (too small?); 5. The 2013 Ford C-Max hybrid; 6. A VW Golf wagon or Passat wagon (possibly diesel?) – Charles

Vaughan: Cato, I've trimmed Chuck's letter by half and it still weighs 232 words. He's as long-winded as you. We've got about 700 words for the whole column, so I'll just throw it to you, have a short nap and then add the 20 words or so after you've pontificated. G'night, Chuck. G'night, Cato.

Cato: I've slashed 73 more words [and then our editors took out some more] And by the way, I will be respectful of Charles and not refer to him as "Chuck" or "Chuckles" or "Charlie" or "C" or anything more familiar. One reader just chastised us for this sort of thing. Apparently it's demeaning.

The thing is, you lazy fellow, our editors generously allot 850 words for this space, not 700. The good news for Charles is this: I now have the space and he has provided the detail to address each of the six options, without you, MV, acting as Mister Butt-insky. The choices:

2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid: Forget about the Hybrid. At $34,999, it is absurdly overpriced. Ford of Canada clearly is not serious about selling this mid-size hybrid four-door. Charles, you can get a four-cylinder Fusion for $19,999 and if you're a Costco member take another $1,000 off that. You will never save enough on gas to recover the $16,000 hybrid premium. Never.

If you must have a hybrid, get the Toyota Camry Hybrid. It starts at $25,990. Very well-equipped, reliable, safe and better-looking than the outgoing Fusion. Yes, there is a reinvented Fusion on the way for 2013, but if Ford stays true to recent form, it will be pricier than the current car.

Oh, and the Camry has more cabin room than the Fusion and a lot more than the Focus Wagon. If you must have a manual, you must get the Fusion. But why would you want a manual? A base Camry has a solid six-speed automatic, is fuel-efficient and starts at $23,700.

2012 Prius: The Prius v, the station wagon Prius, is most certainly big enough and fuel-efficient enough and you might even think it's pretty enough. At $27,200, it's in your budget. European handling? Ah, no. The CVT or continuously variable transmission means it feels like you're driving a lawn mower. But the Prius is excruciatingly reliable. This is the hybrid I'd buy.

2012 Subaru Legacy/Outback: At $28,995, the Outback is at the far reaches of your budget, Charles. But it best hits all the notes on your song sheet. Best handling of this lot, by far, and with all-wheel-drive standard, it is a true winter warrior. It's a station wagon, not an SUV, and has more cabin room than either the Camry or the Fusion. Looks good and imagine that – it comes standard with a manual gearbox.

The Outback isn't as environmentally friendly as you might want, but it's incredibly reliable and astonishingly safe – a Top Safety Pick of the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. I like the looks, a lot; if you think that Focus Wagon of yours is cute – I cut that part from your letter – then you will fall in love with the Outback. Get the Subie, Charles.

2011 Mercedes-Benz B200: If you can find a leftover B-Class, take a look at it and then scratch it off your list. I know it has a three-pointed star on the hood, but that doesn't change the fact this is a small minivan with hinged doors. Too small for your needs and compared to the Outback, the B is just not enough car. Period. Not for you and the family.

2013 Ford C-Max hybrid: Why would you want a hybrid nobody has yet bought in Canada?

2012 VW Golf Wagon or Passat Wagon: We've written about these two enough lately; go back and read the old columns.

Vaughan: Ah, uh, cough – I've been dreaming about a Prius v for Chuck. It turned into a nightmare when I saw you behind the wheel, Cato.

Cato: Go back to sawing logs; that's where you're most useful to me.

Charles, get the Outback.


2012 Ford Fusion S

2012 Prius v

2012 Subaru Outback 2.5i

Wheelbase (mm)




Length (mm)




Width (mm)




Track, front (mm)





2.5-litre four-cylinder

1.8-litre four-cylinder gas engine; hybrid electric drive

2.5-litre four-cylinder

Output (horsepower/torque)

175/172 lb-ft

134 hp combined output

170/170 lb-ft

Drive system

Front-wheel drive

Front-wheel drive

All-wheel drive


Six-speed manual


Six-speed manual

Curb weight (kg)




Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

9.5 city/6.2 highway

4.3 city/4.8 highway

10.6 city/7.4 highway

Base price (MSRP)




Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.