Car Shopping Saga

by Natalie P.

January 13, 2007 | Filed Under Lifestyles of the Heartlessly Bitchy | No Comments

Maybe A Saturn could Satisfy…

So I went across the street to the Saturn dealer to see what they had. The VUE was out of my price range, but there was the Ion 3. Dent resistant panels – TWO cigarette-lighter style power jacks (I could charge my cellphone AND my Ipod at the same time!) and an auxiliary input jack. Though I didn’t REALLY want a sedan, it had 60-40 fold-flat rear seats and a fold flat front seat, so you could technically put your skis in the thing and still take a passenger or two. However, even simple features that I had taken for granted, like MAP LIGHTS were an add-on feature that you could only get if you bought the “Travel package” which included an integrated trip computer and a stupid/useless temperature gauge and compass in the rear-view mirror. That pushed the price out of the range if I wanted to get all the other features on my list.

To its credit, the Ion was the ONLY other vehicle, other than the Ford Focus, that had integrated traction control, and with a 2.4L engine and 170hp in the Ion 3, it hauled ass. It also handled like a sports car. The sport suspension ROCKS. So far, this one was the highest on my list… except it was a sedan, and some base features were still missing. I hit my head trying to get into the driver’s seat. I would have to get used to not sitting as high up as one does in the Focus, and ducking deeper when I got into the car.

Then it was on to the Nissan dealer, to look at the Versa SL hatchback. I’ll admit, the thought of a 6-speed manual transmission got me HOT, even if it was on a smallish 1.8L engine. It was still rush-hour on the freeway when I did the test drive so the sales rep pointed me to a beautifully windy back road for the test drive. It was impressive! At 122 HP @ 5200 rpm and 127 lb-ft of torque @ 4800 rpm, it was similar to the Matrix in terms of performance, but it’s suspension and handling seemed smoother. My decision was getting tougher. Unfortunately, I’d have to get the “Technology Package” upgrade at $1000, just to get my auxiliary input jack. Along with it came integrated bluetooth support for a cellphone, steering-while mounted audio controls, a 6-cd audio system and RDS (that tells you what station is playing by name/call letters, among other things). Sadly, it didn’t have bum-warmer seats, or heated mirrors. Of course, there was no traction control, and the rear seats don’t fold flat. It seemed like a horrible oversight given all the other nice design features. But the real killer for the Versa was a 6.5% lease finance rate. It pushed the payments up too high, and pushed me into a 48 month lease if I wanted to get my payments into a reasonable level.

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