Hi, Guys: I'm looking at replacing my beloved 2003 VW Jetta turbo wagon. I would like to get a car that is more comfortable, just as efficient fuel economy wise, will suit the needs of a family with two growing boys aged two and five, and will fit down my narrow mutual lane driveway to get to my garage in the back yard. The Jetta is 79 inches mirror to mirror so anything wider than 81 inches is out. I would like to spend no more than $25,000. We also would prefer a stick-shift if at all possible, but we can be flexible on this. Having owned nothing but VWs in my adult life, I would ideally like something German in lineage. Alas, they do not make what I want to buy: a smallish four-wheel-drive SUV, with a diesel or hybrid powerplant. – Kirk in Toronto
Cato: Your budget is the problem, Kirk. German cars aren't cheap because the costs of making cars in Germany are high – high enough to pay for a generous welfare state, a short work week and bailouts for Portugal, Ireland and the rest. I can tell you that Audi is bringing a diesel version of the Q5 to Canada – a vehicle that perfectly fits the bill for you – but the expected $40,000-plus price tag torpedoes your bank account.
Vaughan: Kirkie, keep the old car and buy a new house. Mutual driveways are a curse. First of all, they were built to accommodate a Model T, not a modern car, plus they come attached with neighbours. I had one who was such a jerk.
Cato: Baggage, you're got baggage, Vaughan. You need to get over these slights. Move on. Find some inner peace. And give Kirk his due.
Vaughan: Ah, alright. Eighty-one inches translates to 2,057 mm so we'll keep that in mind so you don't scrape your mirrors off. Closest thing to what you've got now would be a new VW Golf wagon ($22,975 base).
Cato: Excellent choice. Better still, VW Canada has at least a grand if not two tucked into the glove box – incentive money. This one is well within your budge, Kirk. I'd suggest the starter diesel model at $26,875 because it's in the ballpark price-wise and VW Canada has at least $500 in incentive money in play.
Vaughan: Kirk, this one is close to your price range, has a standard transmission and it has a diesel engine. That's the safe, obvious choice and I'm surprised you didn't think of it yourself.
Cato: It fits in the driveway and garage, too. So does the Subaru Forester. I think Subarus are a little pricey in Canada compared to the United States, but I remain a big fan for obvious reasons: excellent quality, top-notch crash test scores, nice handling, standard all-wheel drive. Kirk, the starter Forester goes for $25,995.
Vaughan: Well, that would be a stripped-down Forester and its rough ride would not make you think you're in a German car, but its roominess and functionality would make it a convenient kiddy-mover. But definitely go out to test drive one and then drop into the Ford dealer.
Cato: Kirk, Vaughan is alluding to what Ford is doing with the Escape. Talk about fire-sale prices. The most rudimentary Escape lists for $19,999 and it even comes with a five-speed manual.
With all the discounting Ford of Canada is doing on the Escape, you'll pays thousands less – Employee Pricing or whatever.
I know, the Escape is not a German car, but you've got two young boys and they are going to cost you a fortune going forward. Plus Vaughan wants you to buy a new house. Take the deal on the Escape.
Vaughan: No argument from me there. There's going to be a new Escape in the not-too-distant future based on the European Ford Kuga, so dealers are going to want to unload the current version and will throw money at you to take one off their hands.
Cato: So we're agreed: the manual Escape?
Vaughan: No, Kirkie is a Vee-Dub guy. Go get the Golf Wagon.
Cato: What? Scatter-brained as usual.
HOW THEY COMPARE
2011 Subaru Forester 2.5 X
2011 Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI Comfortline
2011 Ford Escape XLT 2.5L Manual
2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel, turbocharged
Curb weight (kg)
Fuel economy (litres/100 km)
9.9 city/7.4 highway
6.7 city/4.6 highway
9.1 city/7.1 highway
Base price (MSRP)
Source: car manufacturers
Are you trying to choose a new car to buy? Send your questions to Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.