After coming to the realization this spring that both my wife’s car and my car were most likely on borrowed time, we played with the budget again, and I was able to convince my wife that we could squeeze a new car payment into the budget. Next came the fun part. What guy does not enjoy walking through the showrooms
and taking in that new car smell?
First I toyed with the idea of a small pickup. But with child #2 coming soon, we would have required the crew cab model, which greatly reduces the size of the bed. I test drove the Chevrolet Colorado, but I realized that after adding the bed cover and the crew cab along with a few non-standard features I would want, a truck was not worth the cost. Reality also began to set in that gas prices will not be going down to a reasonable price anytime soon, and fuel efficiency in a pickup–no matter the size–does not compete with sedans.
So after ruling out the truck, I was back to what I have always driven and, quite frankly, is probably much more practical for a city dweller with no true need for a pickup–the mid size sedan. Unfortunately, they can get awfully boring, but I figured that since it had been a number years since I had been in the market for a new car, the gadgets had gotten cooler and the designs had certainly changed as well.
I tried to stay loyal to General Motors brands (truthfully, I wanted to use the GM card money I had been saving up), but there were not many options that intrigued me. First, I tried the all new Chevy Malibu since it had won all kinds of awards and the new design was at least an improvement on the old, boring box style. The car was fun to drive but was not very child friendly. It was definitely designed for the driver in mind. Fitting a stroller, pack and play and other miscellaneous items into the oddly shaped trunk would have proven a challenge.
Not having been thrilled with the Malibu I decided to keep looking. I swung into the Volkswagen dealer, as I had always heard great things about the Jetta and really liked the new design they had come out with for 2008. I poked around, picked up information, and went home to do research online.
After some calm was restored to the house and #2 was about a month old, I started test driving again. This time I began with the Pontiac dealer to see if I would like the G6. I went in thinking it was smaller than I wanted and the back seat did look like it would be tight with two car seats. But the kicker was how much less the base model came with than what the Jetta offered. If you wanted cruise control or keyless remote entry you had to jump up to the next package level. After doing that, the G6, which I liked less, was more expensive than the Jetta. I quickly said, “No, thank you,” and headed to the VW dealer.
After asking more questions at the VW dealer, I took it out for a test drive. The base package has enough toys that the salesperson actually drove the first piece of the trip in order to show me the gadgets. Once I was behind the seat, I was quickly convinced this was a superior automobile. I got their offer and a few days later went to a different VW dealer to see if they could beat the offer (Translation: I just wanted to test drive again to make sure it was all I wanted). I was still convinced and surprised that such a cool foreign car with more options was actually cheaper than two GM automobiles in the same class with fewer gadgets.
The base model is great for everyday use and very kid friendly. There are plenty of storage compartments for our 3 year old to keep her books, coloring books, and whatever else is the toy of the day. The trunk is massive, and, if needed, the backseats would fold down (or split 60/40). It has all the standard safety features including side airbags.
We just survived our first trip with two children, and our newborn did better than expected for a four hour drive. Unfortunately, even a new car does not change diapers or feed the children, but there was ample room for my wife to sit between the two car seats and calm the newborn for a portion of the trip. My daughter loved the rear speakers that I was surprised she found on her own–which also meant she asked for “my CD” the whole ride. The sacrifices we fathers make for peaceful trips!
If you are in the market for a new vehicle I highly recommend the 2008 VW Jetta. It has proven to be quite fuel efficient and fun to drive while still being practical and useful as the family vehicle.
Link: VW Jetta official site
Ben Loux is father of two and husband of one (it works well that way). He makes his home in the Rochester, NY, area.