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What's best for those long Maritime drives?

2012 Subaru Impreza

Dan Proudfoto for The Globe and Mail/dan proudfoto The Globe and Mail

I am in the market for a vehicle to replace a Subaru Legacy Brighton Wagon that I bought new in October, 1999 (a 2000 edition), and drove until it almost expired recently with 350,000 kilometres on the odometer. They apparently no longer make this vehicle. I am located in rural Pictou County, N.S., and frequently travel to Sackville, N.B., to deal with aging parents. I have been reading Consumer Reports and car magazines and am more confused than ever. I would appreciate comments from you people who are likely familiar with all of these vehicles (AWD Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, the hybrid Prius v and the Volkswagen Jetta Sports Wagon, maybe Subaru Impreza wagon). Can you help with the diesel versus gas versus hybrid? With AWD or not? – Jean

Vaughan: Give a canny answer here, Cato. Pictou is where the first wave of Scottish immigrants arrived in 1773 on the Hector. They are a wise and frugal people.

Cato: Of course they are money-wise. Just like you. Surely one of these times you'll remember to bring your wallet to the pub. Now Jean, you asked about the Brighton. It was last sold for the 2002 model year for $24,995. No profit in that for Subaru, not for an all-wheel-drive wagon.

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But, Jean, you don't need all-wheel-drive, not if you get a good set of winter tires. Being a frugal sort, you'll be happier with the fuel economy of a wagon without the extra mechanical drag of all-wheel-drive.

Vaughan: Jean says she often does the drive from Pictou to Sackville. I know that territory. It's a couple of hundred kilometres on the Trans-Canada, but as Jean knows, the better way to go is Highway 6 up through Tatamagouche and Pugwash to Amherst. Great road along Northumberland Strait.

But whichever way she goes, diesel is a better choice than hybrid. Diesel is perfect for highway driving – smooth, quiet and economical. Hybrids are for stop-and-go in cities.

Cato: Lovely travelogue, Vaughan. That time you spent writing auto club brochures has paid off.

To the cars. Obviously the RAV4 and CR-V are solid choices. You'll want the four-cylinder version of the RAV, Jeannie; Honda only sells a four-cylinder with the CR-V. The RAV is a little dated now, and is due for a big makeover. Honda just reinvented the CR-V and it's very nice, though a little dull.

Jeannie, I want you to hold off your decision until you test drive a 2013 Ford Escape ($21,499 base). It's fuel-efficient, stylish and you'll love driving it along the Northumberland Strait. After the Escape, you might want to drop into a Mazda dealer and have a look at the 2013 CX-5 ($22,995 base). Another slick-looking ride, one with excellent fuel economy.

Vaughan: Jean, you asked about the Prius v ($27,200 base). Cato's a fan and so am I. It's the Prius hybrid that Toyota should have launched in the first place. It's a roomy, new station wagon version of the original Prius that started the hybrid movement.

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The Prius v is a five-passenger, four-door hatchback with a little 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine and two electric motors. Power? Not so much. The engine sounds like it's going to throw a piston if you try to accelerate going up steep hills, but you won't face too many unless you go to Cape Breton. All in, Toyota says it'll give you 4.6 litres/100 km combined once government tests are done.

Cato: Jeannie, if you must have all-wheel-drive, the Impreza is a perfectly good replacement for your Brighton. You're gonna like the base price, $20,895, which is several thousand less than you paid in 1999 for your Brighton.

The Impreza has a prettier interior than your old Subie – prettier by far – and has about the same horsepower, too (148 for the 2012 Impreza versus 165 for the Brighton). Here's what you'll really like: vastly better fuel economy in a car with about the same cabin room. A lot has changed in the 13 years since you last went shopping for a new car, Jeannie.

Vaughan: The diesel choice, and that's my choice Jean, is the Volkswagen Golf Wagon TDI ($27,025). That Jetta Sportwagon isn't in the Jetta lineup anymore. A Golf costs more that a Jetta these days, but it's a very solid, comfortable ride. You'll love the 2.0-litre turbocharged TDI engine with 140 horsepower that drives the front wheels through a six-speed DSG automatic transmission. Cruising through Westerly and Malagash will be perfection itself.

Cato: Jeannie, we've thrown out a lot of suggestions. Vaughan wants you to go diesel. I like the Mazda5 with SkyActiv, but I want you to test the 2013 Escape. Your fallback is the Impreza. Whichever you buy, you will love what you get for your money here in 2012.


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2012 Volkswagen Golf Wagon TDI Comfortline

2013 Ford Escape FWD

2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i

Wheelbase (mm)




Length (mm)




Width (mm)




Track, front (mm)





2.0-litre four-cyliner, diesel, turbocharged

2.5-litre four-cylinder

2.0-litre four-cylinder

Output (horsepower/torque)

140/236 lb-ft

168/170 lb-ft

148/145 lb-ft

Drive system

Front-wheel drive

Front-wheel drive

All-wheel drive


Six-speed manual

Six-speed manual

Five-speed manual

Curb weight (kg)




Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

6.7 city/4.6 highway

9.5 city/6.3 highway

8.3 city/5.9 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.

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About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More

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