Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Putting the lie to the Big Three

Yesterday I went to my local Toyota dealership to test drive a Prius hybrid. But I wasn't able to because there's a five month long waiting list to get one.

This seems to indicate that the Big Three auto makers' claims that Americans just don't buy small fuel-efficient cars is hogwash. Maybe we just don't buy bad fuel efficient cars, but if you give us half a chance to buy a fuel efficient car that's reliable, performs reasonably well, and doesn't look too goofy we'll beat a path to your door.

I'm now leaning towards the new Mazda3. It's an economy car that doesn't look or feel like an economy car. I need to replace my ten year old G20, which was also an economy car (I bought it because it cost less than a Honda Accord) that didn't look or feel like an economy car. It's a shame Infiniti doesn't make a small car any more or I'd buy another one in a heartbeat. It's kind of nice to have the cachet of a luxury nameplate without the luxury price tag. The G20 was also rock-solid reliable. In ten years I've never had a single problem with it. (Actually, that's not quite true. I did have the brake light switch fail on me. The replacement part cost me $10 and it took me about ten minutes to swap it out.)

The only thing even remotely comparable to the G20 nowadays are the BMW 3-series and the Lexus IS300. Yes, these are both nicer than the G20, but are they $10,000+ nicer? Not to me. Besides, it's really hard to justify shelling out $32k for an IS300 or a Beemer when you can get a G35 for $5k less. Trick is, I need a car that I can park in a compact space, and the G35 is just too damn big. Other than that it's a great car. I got to drive one as a loaner when my G20 was having an oil change (that's one of the nice perks of owning an Infiniti) and it was just a dream to drive. I took it up a windy mountain road and I was able to go around the curves so fast that I was making myself seasick without even approaching the car's handling limits.

Oh well, gotta leave something to aspire too. Of course, there's always the Acura NSX...

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