Tuesday, August 7, 2012


I'd been hoping to get a small, fun, fuel-efficient car to stand in as a daily driver for my BMW Convertible. Unfortunately, things seem to be conspiring to put the kaibosh on that.

My wife's Saturn has been showing its age, lately. Things coming loose (e.g., keep having to re-seat and re-tighten the hood's latch-bolt). The A/C has been a joke against this summer's heat (so, probably a leak in the coolant system) - and requires driving in a lower gear to keep the car a reasonable temperature. The car shudders under low-throttle conditions (e.g., when in going through an uphill 25MPH zone and trying to maintain a constant speed). In all, it means I've had to turn to thoughts of finding a suitable replacement for it.

We'd bought the Saturn when we were still hopeful of having children. At the time, we were hoping to need a vehicle the size of a VUE. Plus, it was one of the few SUVs in its class that had comfort features like heated front seats (this was 2004).

Since the prospect of children are no longer an issue, I'd really wanted to replace it with a smaller vehicle. I was thinking something more in sport wagon form-factor. Basically, a smaller, more fuel-sipping car, but still larger than my convertible. Since we've still got pets to haul and pack heavy when going on road trips (e.g., the holidays), this seemed like a good compromise.

One of the vehicles I'd been considering was the X1. Tonight, traffic was such that I had to take bailout routes (actually, bailouts from the bailouts). The GPS routed me past BMW of Alexandria. I figured, "I'm in the neighborhood...". I'd figured that, since the X1 was positioned similarly to the Audi A3 sport wagon, that it'd have similar efficiency specs. Not so much, though. Long story short, the X1 is pretty much off the table. While it's the right size, I'm just not gonna pony up $50K for a 3500lb+ (base weight) sport wagon that only gets 17/27.

My goal for any replacement for the SUV is a vehicle whose lowest MPG is 30MPG. In other words, I'm looking at hybrids, diesels and other fuel efficient gas vehicles to replace the Saturn. Given that I have the A3 and (had the) X1 in the list of considerations, I'm not looking for an econo-box, per se, I'm just looking for a nice ride that doesn't require weekly stops at the gas station.

To be honest, I don't understand BMW's direction, at this point. I have a 2002 e46 convertible. I bought it new (custom ordered, actually, when BMW still offered their "BMW Individual" program on the 3-series). I'd always considered it to be a bit heavy for it's class, but dealt with it. It also got respectable mileage (rated at 18/26 but I usually get closer to 30 on the highway). However, when I look at my e46's current siblings/cousins, I'm just lost. This years' 3-series vehicles are bigger than my model year's 5-series vehicles were. Granted, for their size, they get decent mileage, but that's about all I can say for them. I look at competing models from Audi and it's even more apalling (the most feature-fitted A3 still has a efficiency rating of 30/42).

I like small, sporty, efficient cars. BMW used to offer cars that were relatively efficient for being sporty. Now, their cars are all too freaking big, their rides have been softened and their efficiency is abyssmal. It's like, "WTF". It's no wonder Audi has been eating BMW's lunch, lately.