This week, I have to decide on the purchase of a new vehicle that will be shared by my wife and two children (20 and 17).
Requirements: 1) price; 2) safety; 3) reliability; 4) can accommodate four comfortably with room for five in a pinch. Options required: air conditioning.
I have narrowed it down to five choices:
Ford Fusion SE : Pros: winter package included, nicely appointed. Cons: limited warranty.
Dodge Journey (Canada package): Pros: largest car for the money, lots of storage, good safety features. Cons: limited warranty, [limited] view when backing up, will Chrysler exist in a few years, Chrysler "build" problems, only four headrests.
Kia Rondo EX five-seater : Pros: All the safety features, driver's view and position, five-year warranty. Cons: Resale [value] Kia reputation, questions about structural soundness.
Pontiac Vibe: Pros: Toyota quality and GM warranty, fuel consumption. Cons: The side doors and dashboard are so high that my wife and daughter have trouble seeing over them.
Chevrolet Malibu : Pros: Mileage, GM warranty. Cons: Really no room for five.
My father-in-law says I should forget about all of the above and just get a base Corolla.
Cato: John, is your father-in-law also your boss? Do you work for him? If so, do as he says. If not, ignore his advice - like I ignore Vaughan.
Vaughan: Cato, the first thing you should do is make sure your editor never gets John's full name and address. He has just succinctly reviewed five cars and, unlike you, he didn't need 14,000 words on each. Oh, by the way, he should add the Hyundai Elantra Touring to his list.
Cato: You want succinct? You'll get it. John, your three choices should be the Elantra Touring, the Rondo and the Fusion.
Vaughan: Very decisive, Cato. Have they stopped paying you by the word?
Cato: All right, comedian, just take a close look at John's requirements. Let's start with price. The 2010 Fusion has a list price of $22,799, but we consulted www.carcostcanada.com and know that John can do better.
Ford has a $300 incentive in Ontario (and Atlantic Canada) for something called the Winter Safety Package Program. Add in $1,000 for Ford's Costco promotion (for Costco members only, but John can join for $50) and another $1,000 from Ford for the Recycle Your Ride program. It adds up to a $2,300 price cut on the restyled and updated Fusion. Oh, and Ford is also offering zero-per-cent financing for four years.
Vaughan: Now I see why the Fusion made it into the top 10 best-selling cars in Canada last month. Deals. There's nothing better than free money when it's legal.
Now for the other two cars on Cato's list. The Elantra Touring GLS model at $19,299 has loads of equipment and is still cheaper than the Fusion and the Rondo ($22,595 for the EX). And it's cheaper still because, according to carcostcanada.com, Hyundai Canada will throw another $500 your way, John, plus give you zero-per-cent financing for three years.
You listed price as your No. 1 requirement, so you've got to like the Elantra Touring, which seats five, has loads of cargo room and has a five-star frontal crash test rating from the U.S. government. Hyundai's reliability is very good over all, too. I'm for this car.
Cato: The Rondo is an interesting choice, too. It's big, roomy and certainly has room for five and their stuff.
Vaughan: Kia isn't offering any great deals, Cato, and the Rondo, like you, is a little homely.
Cato: Vaughan, who considers bin bargains from Filene's Basement high fashion, is not to be trusted on questions of style and beauty. But you can trust the Rondo's five-star frontal crash test rating.
And Kia's quality is about average now. Besides, the Rondo does come with a five-year/100,000-kilometre warranty.
Vaughan: So does the Elantra Touring.
By the way, if you're thinking about a Pontiac Vibe, John, you do know that Pontiac will be extinct any minute now. As for the Malibu, I've recommended it many times but you seem to have ruled it out as too small.
Cato: As you can see, John, Vaughan is a sensitive sort. At the risk of hurting his feelings, however, my recommendation to you, John, is the Fusion. Very slick styling, good value with those sweeteners thrown in and acceptable three-year/60,000-km warranty.
But what puts the Fusion over the top for me are 1) the ride and handling; 2) quality; 3) safety.
On quality, Ford has clearly separated itself from the Detroit pack and the research shows Ford is just about right there with the best from Japan - Toyota and Honda.
This sedan, with room for five and a big trunk, is by far the most entertaining to drive. And the tough-testing people at the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety say the Fusion is a Top Safety Pick - a big accolade.
Vaughan: While Cato is out there spending your money, John, let me just point out that the Elantra Touring is cheaper than the Fusion. Being a hatchback, it's more versatile, too. It should be your choice.
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 2 p.m. on CTV.
How they compare
2010 Ford Fusion SE 2.5
2010 Hyundai Elantra Touring GLS
2010 Kia Rondo EX
2.5-litre, inline-four, DOHC
2.0-litre, inline-four, DOHC
2.4-litre, inline-four, DOHC
Output (hp) (torque)
Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic ($1,200)
Five-speed manual or four-speed automatic ($1,200)
Fuel economy (litres/100 km)
9.4 city 6.9 highway
8.9 city 6.4 highway
10.6 city 7.5 highway
SOURCE: CAR MANUFACTURERS