One of the drawbacks of living in Upper Cryogenica is the harshness of the winter environment, especially on vehicles that never see the inside of a garage. I just had to turn the Grand Marnier over to the local car vet for an extended stay. The road salt rusted out the emergency brake system, the spare wheel release mechanism under the floor was rusted shut, and the oil pan was leaking. It wouldn’t pass the NH state inspection with a faulty emergency brake, so it had to get fixed, and I had all the rest done as well while they had the thing up on the lift. $1,000 later, I have my sticker and state permission to drive the Grand Marnier on public roads for another year.
The Dodge is a 2005 model, with pretty low mileage for an 8-year-old car (about 110,000.) It is, however, sliding off into that territory where fixing the age-related boo-boos is getting pretty spendy. In addition, the side panels are starting to show corrosion (again, liberal use of salt up here), and I am starting to wonder about a suitable replacement.
Every time I do think about a new car, I am torn between just getting another minivan because ours is just so freaking versatile, not to mention the most comfortable vehicle for those once-a-year road trips to the family down South. But I also like the idea of a smallish, fuel-efficient car for puttering around town, since I don’t use the full cargo or passenger capacity of the Dodge 95% of the time. So right now I’m waffling between a new Grand Caravan, something from the Subaru line (an Impreza or Crosstrek), a VW with TDI engine, or maybe one of those Mazda 5 microvans. The kids are getting older and no longer require a huge supply train for trips, so I don’t need the space for strollers and high chairs anymore, but it sure is handy to be able to haul furniture or plywood sheets or six friends in a pinch.
What would be a good option for a dude like myself who drives about 1,000 miles a month, has to deal with snow and shifty roads in the winter, and occasionally takes the family on 2,000-mile round trip family visits to NC and TN? Bonus points for fuel efficiency and decent interior space. Sporty pep would be nice, but it’s a secondary concern, because let’s face it, I’m middle-aged and boring now, and getting the kids to various destinations cheaply and safely has to take precedence over being able to outrace teenagers in souped-up Civics at the stop light.
Throw your recommendations at me, Internets!