Transposing the Matrix: Update 3 – Subaru with a Vengence

Subaru Userpicuserpic=matrixPreviously, on Transposing the Matrix: If you recall, just over two weeks ago I had an auto accident resulting in my 2006 Toyota Matrix being totaled. Friday, we began the search for a new car. That post detailed some of the requirements for any replacement vehicle: cargo capacity, not too big, being able to work with my iPod Transpod, convenient Aux jack, backup camera, decent gas mileage. In Update 1, we had narrowed the field to three contenders: : the 2016 Scion iM [brochure], the 2016 Honda Fit, and the the 2016 Subaru Impreza 5-Door. In our most recent update, we had narrowed the field even further, to the the 2016 Scion iM [brochure] and the 2016 Subaru Impreza 5-Door. The two cars were very closely matched on specifications, often matched to within inches of each other. The prices were also very close to each other, especially when the Costco Buying Service came into play.

By the end of the last week, we had made the decision between the two cars, but to the dealers we were each telling them the other candidate was better. The decision? The 2016 Subaru Impreza 5-Door. Some of the key factors that pushed us in the direction of the Subaru were:

  • Slightly more rear passenger room
  • Slightly more storage room
  • Slightly more horsepower and get-up-and-go
  • Better resale value
  • Better retention of value
  • Quieter interior
  • Design-wise, it was a tad more sedate — which hopefully translates into being less of a theft magnet for those looking to race

Of course, none of those trumped the most important factor — very important for the San Fernando Valley in the summer:

  • It had the option of a tan interior

If you’ve ever had a black interior in the summer in the valley, you know the problem with that.

So, last Sunday (between the MoTAS meeting and Fringing) we went over to Subaru of Sherman Oaks, and working with our salesman Daniel Robson, purchased the Matrix replacement:

2016 Subaru Impreza

(image generated via “Build Your Own Subaru“)

I was tired of all the silver, grey, and white cars out there, and would not go for black or red, and so I chose a lovely green. Hence, it has been named the “Big Green Subaru” (although really it is a baby Subaru) — the car for a Road Scholar. Financing has been straightened out, insurance has been updated, and there is just some final DMV paperwork to do.

I’ve been asked how does it drive. Repeatedly. By Michael, who is living through this purchase because Target was out of lives :-). The answer is: I don’t really know yet. I’m on a vanpool, and have only driven it home and around the block to vote yesterday. I’ll do some more driving this weekend. From what I have driven, it is very smooth and quiet. I’ve acquired a CD-mount cell phone holder and a 30-pin line out cable, and have mounted the iPod off the CD holder. The only problem is that it slightly blocks the backup camera, so I take it off when backing up. Most of the other electronics are working well — I’ve already paired my phone with the car, but haven’t tested it for calls. I still need to get the Homelink buttons on the mirror to work with the garage door opener, but I’ll figure that out.  It could just be that our garage door opener is too old.

userpic=cahwys-licenseSo, our Matrix has been transposed into an Impreza. All that remains is transferring my license plate. So, if you see a Green Impreza with the license plate shown to the right, give a wave. It is your friendly highway guy, probably on the way to see some theatre.


Transposing the Matrix: Update 2 – Downselect Harder

userpic=matrixPreviously, on Transposing the Matrix: If you recall, Tuesday I had an auto accident resulting in my 2006 Toyota Matrix being totaled. Friday, we began the search for a new car. That post detailed some of the requirements for any replacement vehicle: cargo capacity, not too big, being able to work with my iPod Transpod, convenient Aux jack, backup camera, decent gas mileage. In the last episode (Update 1), we had narrowed the field to three contenders: : the 2016 Scion iM [brochure], the 2016 Honda Fit, and the the 2016 Subaru Impreza 5-Door.

Today we visited the dealers again to reexamine the cars, to test drive the Fit, and to re-test drive the Impreza without a migraine and with my iPod Classic. This was extremely useful: the Fit knocked itself out of the running. Why? The seats were extremely uncomfortable, the cup holders would not fit our typical drink cups due to a bad bad design, and the TransPod blocked one of the drink holders. The engine also seemed to be noisier.

On the other hand, the Impreza Imprezzed. Through some re-adjustment, I was able to get the TransPod to work, although I may still go with a vent mount cell phone holder. I was able to drive the car, and was impressed by both its handling and the fact the cabin is quieter. In fact, the only major drawback with the Impreza is that my wife likes it as well, and so she’ll keep wanting to borrow it… at least until we pay it off and can get her an Outback. Further, the Impreza is the only one that can come with a non-black interior — important in the San Fernando Valley.

This pushes the Scion iM into second place, which is fine. Both are excellent cars, and we really couldn’t go wrong with either. The prices are similiar: the MSRP on the Scion is 19,995; we’ve dealers verbally offer below that if we sign on the dotted line. MSRP on the Impreza is $20,768, with an estimated dealer invoice of $19,758 — meaning we can talk them down to the Scion’s range. Right now, we think we’ll try for the Impreza first, with the Costco pricing or better. If not, we know we can safely walk across the street to the Toyota dealer.

The one remaining question to investigate is: Which has the lower cost of insurance? We’re guessing the Subaru, as a less popular theft car.

What’s next? Tomorrow I’ll go over to the body shop and clean out the Matrix (I’ll probably grab the cargo netting; it should work in the Subaru). I’ll pull off the personalized license plates for use on the new car. Then it is just waiting to hear from the adjuster with their valuation of the Matrix, which we’ll probably argue with a bit. Charlie Kline provided a pointer to an article with some good tips on how to get max value. I certainly want them to pay for the full tank of gas I had just put in. I’m also going to contact the credit union and get the pre-approved loan updated to a new car loan and for the correct estimated amount.

Once we get the check from AAA, we’ll talk to the dealer. If they can best the credit union rate, we’ll go with them. We’ll sign over the down, and then do the paperwork game.



Transposing the Matrix: Update 1

userpic=matrixYesterday, I wrote about how a recent auto accident resulting in my 2006 Toyota Matrix being totaled,  and about beginning the search for a new car. That post detailed some of the requirements for any replacement vehicle: cargo capacity, not too big, being able to work with my iPod Transpod, convenient Aux jack, backup camera, decent gas milage. We have already visited Northridge Toyota:  that visit eliminated the 2013 Toyota Prius V and 2013 Toyota Prius from competition, confirmed limited availability of any used 2013 Toyota Matrix, and added the 2012 Toyota Venza and added the 2016 Scion iM [brochure] to the list.  Our goal is to keep the price below $24K before we subtract what we get from AAA for the Matrix.

Today, in and around our scheduled theatre, we hit three more dealerships to look at cars and/or test drive: Galpin Mazda, Robertson Honda, and Sherman Oaks Subaru. We had been planning looking at the 2013 Honda Fit, 2013 Subaru Impreza Hatchback,  and the 2014 Mazda5 Grand Touring and the 2014 Mazda3 5 Door Grand Touring. Things took a slightly different turn due to the availability of the used product, and we focused instead on new products: the 2016 Mazda3 5-Door, the 2016 Mazda5 5-Door, the 2016 Subaru Impreza 5-Door, and the 2016 Honda Fit. These visits did one clear thing: they eliminated the Mazda from contention. For the Mazda3, we simply didn’t like the storage in the vehicle or the layout of the power outlets and such. It wasn’t comfortable. We took a drive in the Mazda5: we liked the engine, but it had the same layout problems, and the Mazda5 was  at the upper end of our price range.

At this point, we have three top contenders: the 2016 Scion iM [brochure], the 2016 Honda Fit, and the the 2016 Subaru Impreza 5-Door. This is essentially the same choice we had when we replaced the 1999 Honda Civic. Yes, the universe is pushing us towards a new car. Here are some comparison statistics to help us decide:

  Scion iM Honda Fit Subaru Impreza
MSRP (Approx) $19,995 MSRP
$19,046 Dealer Cost
$17,525 MSRP
$17,246 Dealer Cost
$20,756 MSRP
$19,758 Dealer Cost
Image  2016 Scion iM  2016 Fit  2016 Impreza
Console Layout
Scion Console Honda Console Subaru Console
Trim Level LX 2.0i 5-Door
MPG 28/37 33/41 28/37
Engine Type DOHC 4-Cyl DOHC 4-Cyl DOHC 4-Cyl
Engine Size 1.8l 1.5l 2.0l
Horsepower 137@6100 130@6600 148@6200
Torque 126@4000 114@4600 145@4200
Weight 3031 2544 3076
Turning Circle 17.7 ft 17.55 ft 17.4 ft
Dimensions 170.5″ L x 69.3″ W x 55.3″ H 160″ L x 67″ W x 60″ H 174″ L x 69″ W x 58″ H
Cargo Space 20.8 ft³, 42.37 est ft³ with seat area 16.6 ft³, 52.7 ft³ with seat area 22.5 ft³, 52.4 ft³ with seat area
Fuel Capacity 14g 10.6g 14.5g
Passenger Space 90.4 ft³ 93.8 ft³ 97.5 ft³
Wheelbase 102.4″ 99.6″ 104.1″
Suspension F: MacPherson Strut
R: Double Wishbone
F: MacPherson Strut
R: Torsion-Beam
F: Strut w/lower L arm, stabilizer bar
R: double wishbone
Coefficient of Drag 0.3 0.28 0.32
Brakes Ventilated Disc / Solid Disc Ventilated Front Disc / Rear Drum Ventilated Disc / Solid Disc
Aux Jack Yes EX: No Aux Jack Yes
Special Offers 0.0% APR for 60 MOS. None 1.49% APR Financing on all new 2016 Impreza Models
Exterior Colors Blizzard Pearl, Classic Silver Metallic, Black Sand Pearl, Barcelona Red Metallic, Electric Storm Blue and Spring Green Metallic. Aegean Blue Metallic. Alabaster Silver Metallic. Crystal Black Pearl. Milano Red. Modern Steel Metallic. Mystic Yellow Pearl. Passion Berry Pearl. White Orchid Pearl. Crystal Black Silica. Crystal White Pearl. Dark Blue Metallic. Dark Gray Metallic. Ice Silver Metallic. Jasmine Green Metallic. Quartz Blue Pearl. Venetian Red Pearl.
Interior Colors Black Black Black Tricot, Ivory Tricot, Black Striped Cloth, Ivory Striped Cloth
Interior Cabin Noise
64.0 dB @ 55mph
“noise is still a constant presence, if not always loud” – The Car Connection
66.1 dB @ 55mph
“Road Noise is Significant” – Edmonds
63.6 dB @ 55mph

In terms of decisions, I think that right now I need to analyze the stats.  My wife likes the Impreza. I like the Scion iM, but I want to test drive the Fit and compare it again to the Scion. I don’t like how the Transpod fits into the Impreza.

ETA: Looking at the stats a bit more, I’m growing to like the Impreza. I want to test drive all three again, and see better how the Transpod might fit and how they sound at the trim level we are considering.


Transposing the Matrix

userpic=matrixOn Tuesday, driving home from the North Hollywood Red Line station after spending the day judging projects at the California State Science Fair, I was rear-ended. To be specific, a 1996 Honda hit the drivers side rear of my 2006 Toyota Matrix in the far right lane of I-5 just S of Osborne, near the end of the Route 170/I-5 merge. We drove off the freeway, exchanged information, and I called for a tow because I was unsure about long-term drivability of my car. The end of the day saw me at home (pissed), and my car over at Schiros Collision in Chatsworth. Here are some photos:

Matrix Rear End DamageAs before (i.e., when my previous Honda Civic was tipped on its side), I thought the car was repairable. As before, the impact of putting low miles on a car does not offset its age, and the car was totalled. To be specific, the repair estimate on the car totals out at $6,263.17 for parts and labor (PDF),  and the KBB trade-in value maxed at $5,300 and the KBB purchase value was between $5,800 and $6,400, depending on how the condition was judged.

As before, I’ve been pissed at the inequality of it all: The person who inflicted the damage gets off with some minor repairs (his car was drivable). The innocent victim gets to replace a vehicle that was paid off with something newer, meaning the insurance proceeds won’t cover the replacement 100%. This means having car loans again, plus having higher registration costs and higher insurance due to a newer vehicle, none of which was planned for.

I have the fellow’s email, and I have the urge to vent at him, but I know it will do little good. This is the fault of the profit-driven nature of our insurance system, which seeks to minimize payouts to insureds.

As a result of all of this, we get to go car shopping. What I’m looking for is a car priced less than $24K, 2013 model year or later (ideally), certified pre-owned if used. I want a wagon or hatchback (because I haul boardgames), but I do not want an SUV. The 2006 Matrix, which this was replacing, was essentially a Toyota Carolla Hatchback. I’m used to smaller cars: the Matrix replaced the 1996 Civic Hatchback, which replaced a 1981 Nissan Stanza Hatchback.

I also wanted to ensure it would work with my iPod Classic, could support an AUX (3.5mm) input, had a rear backup camera, got gas milage equal to or better than the Matrix, and had sufficient cargo hauling capability.

The initial short list was based on recommendations from Consumers Reports, and consisted of the 2013 Toyota Prius V, 2013 Toyota Prius, 2013 Toyota Matrix, 2013 Honda Fit, and 2013 Subaru Impreza Hatchback. Second tier possibilities were the 2013 Scion xB or the 2012 Toyota Venza.

Last night, we went to the local Toyota dealer to do some test drives. Despite the Prius/Prius V being at the top of the list, a test drive eliminated them. The Prius didn’t have enough space. The Prius V did. However, the “get up and go” had gotten up and went, and the car had no pickup. We also did not like the display and control layout. We also drove a 2013 Venza, and that was a “yes”: it is essentially a Camry Wagon. Very comfortable, very nice drive, and loads of storage. However, it lacks a backup camera (until 2015, it wasn’t standard) and has worse gas milage than the Matrix. That’s not a surprise, it has a V6 engine.

Visiting the dealer also led to one unexpected find: the 2016 Scion iM [brochure] (which will become the Toyota Corolla iB in 2017). This is the current version of the Toyota Carollla Hatchback (Aurus in Europe), which means it is a sportier Matrix equivalent. It is new, which likely means a 0% financing deal (which beats the credit union), is priced under $20K before taxes, and gets service covered for two years. It also drives like or better than the Matrix, has similar space and storage, has an Aux port, has a backup camera. In short, it is an updated Matrix. Drawbacks? Being new, there will be the new car depreciation, plus higher registration fees and insurance fees.

Over the weekend, we’ll be test driving the 2013 Subaru Impreza Hatchback. We probably won’t drive the Honda Fit — we’re familiar with the car, but it is hard to find used, and doesn’t have the storage of the Matrix Scion iB. We may also test drive the 2014 Mazda5 Grand Touring and the 2014 Mazda3 5 Door Grand Touring. One last possibility is the Kia Soul, either new or used. For new, we’ll need to see the incentives.

I’ll be glad when this process is over. I’m still pissed; my wife’s car (2002 Honda CR-V) was the next one to be replaced — and now that’s going to be pushed back until the cash flow can support additional payments and a down payment is rebuilt.



Lunchtime Observations: Hidden Profit Centers, Automotive Division

Recently, David Pogue wrote a piece in the New York Times where he bemoaned how wireless carriers create loads of profits through voicemail instructions that we cannot escape (although if you know how, you can disable the instructions). I mention this because I’ve run into another profit center that has raised my hackles–this time from Toyota.

Two days ago we took my car in for service (it is a 2006 Toyota Matrix, with under 23K miles). The bill amounted to around $1,300! Two of the items on the bill, to me, are examples of how Toyota milks the service profit (and I believe this is at the corporate level, not the dealer)… and I don’t think just Toyota does this — I know others do as well. It is also not a comment on the quality of their vehicles.

First, my tires had worn out, and were riding rough. I had my wife ask about this when she brought the car in, for I felt tires should last over 22K miles. According to the dealer, the tires delivered with the car by the manufacter are poor-quality tires and don’t last long. I have no way of verifying this — I just know the tires had to be replaced sooner than I thought. This was the bulk of the bill, because we ended up putting on higher quality tires so they will last long. I’m happy with the new tires, and the car rides smoother — I just wish I had been able to go longer on the old ones.

Secondly, my wife lost her car key. Now, in the old days, you could go to the hardware store — a replacement key was perhaps $5, at most. Today? Over $350 to replace the key and the fob. The key has a transponder (RFID) that has to be programmed to match the car, and the key fob for the alarm has to be programmed for the alarm system. The electronics and the metal are probably perhaps $30, plus the programming labor. But they charge $350. I guess this is because they can, but it is a major problem (especially if you lose your keys). There are other impacts of this: for example, if you lock your keys in your car or lose your keys, AAA can’t help you. You have to go to the dealer, and pony up quite a bit.

I’d say this is nickle-and-diming, but it is much more than nickles and dimes.