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  1. #1
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    Saving Gas, Commuting, and Hauling Bikes

    80% of my driving is a 10-15 minute commute but for 6 or 7 months out of the year I'm making at least one trip/week from snowy Flagstaff to ride in Sedona (~70-100 miles round trip depending on twisty, switchbacking Oak Creek or the interstate). I don't want to keep putting the miles on my nice condition 89 Landcruiser or continue to sink the dough into 12 mpg city. Wifey's Toyota Highlander does the trick as a bike/cargo/dog hauler on longer trips but that's her daily driver. I'm not much of a car aficionado so I haven't been keeping up with the latest and greatest. Any advice and/or heckling appreciated

    Main needs/wants:
    - ability to run a hitch rack to carry 2 bikes. Class II hitch option preferred.
    - fit 2 adults in the front and two kids in the back with relative comfort. 4 doors preferred.
    - gas or diesel mileage better than 30 mpg hwy
    - don't need off road capability
    - don't need 4wd or AWD
    - price range in the mid to upper 20s
    - reliability

    I'm not sold on the hybrids just yet. From what little research I've done and reading through the threads in this forum, I'm thinking VW Golf tdi might be the ticket. I'm not sure with the newer diesels if the short driving distance on the daily commute is still an issue (ie., the need for extended warmup, etc.)? The Toy Matrix or Mazda3speed are interesting and sporty but the gas mileage isn't that impressive.

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    The Subaru Outback will do everything you want, and the AWD is an added bonus. My brother's 09 gets ~32 hwy and mid to high 20's city if he doesn't mash the gas. A class II hitch is about $110-$130. It will be more roomy than the tdi as well

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nos482
    The Subaru Outback will do everything you want, and the AWD is an added bonus. My brother's 09 gets ~32 hwy and mid to high 20's city if he doesn't mash the gas. A class II hitch is about $110-$130. It will be more roomy than the tdi as well
    I had a 4 cyl. 99 Outback for a couple of years. And while it was very dependable I also found it to be gutless when passing on the highway and it felt tinnny. A lot of road noise was transferred to the cabin. And it got closer to 22 mpg than 32. Maybe they're better now. Besides the Highlander fills pretty much the same role. I'm looking for something smaller that gets closer to 40 mpg than 30.

  4. #4
    Kaishingo
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    If looking at the Golf TDI, also check out the Jetta TDI Wagon. Price is not that much greater, and you get quite a bit of extra cargo room. Golf TDI's tend to carry a premium since they're harder to find.

    Pretty sure you still need to let the diesel warm up (I know the last gen of VW you did.) But it's pretty quick in comparison with the old days. The car really excels on highway trips, but local economy is still 30+.

    Even harder to find are Passat Wagons - they're ending the model, so you may even find great deals on them. With the Turbo motor, you'll pull 30+ on the highway and high twenties around town. They're also cavernous inside - I easily can fit my bike in the back without taking off the front wheel.

    That said, the following 9 posts are going to discuss the horrible reliability of VW/Audi/BMW/Mercedes/Porsche/Ferrari/Bugatti/Jaguar/Volvo/Saab/MG/Fiat products. Honestly, if you take care of the car, it will be fine. If you'd rather have a car that you can thrash and change the oil once a decade, get one of those jacked-up Accord crossover things and install a hitch rack.

  5. #5
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    VW/Audi/BMW/Mercedes/Porsche/Ferrari/Bugatti/Jaguar/Volvo/Saab/MG/Fiat 's are all horribly unreliable.

    So I was told by a female acquaintance who beat the living [email protected] out of her Jetta. I'm sure all other European cars are the same.

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    Honda CR-V ...might just be class1 hitch though. Ours just rolled 100k. 2002. Only had to replace an o2 sensor. 24 mpg avg

    Ours is ex so it has honda's active awd...crap compared to subaru but it's better than nothing and maintains fwd mpg for a midsize.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by thrasher_s
    VW/Audi/BMW/Mercedes/Porsche/Ferrari/Bugatti/Jaguar/Volvo/Saab/MG/Fiat 's are all horribly unreliable.

    So I was told by a female acquaintance who beat the living [email protected] out of her Jetta. I'm sure all other European cars are the same.
    They aren't necessarily "unreliable" they don't just fail unexpectedly with out warning. I have seen many fords not live much past 100k and suddenly fail catastrophically without warning. Above mentioned European cars can be finicky if you neglect them, but it is not as if they will just always suddenly quit at a rather low mileage on the odo. tdi's are very nice; no fancy hybrid technology, just plain old good olschool technology, that works and gets great mpgs, all day long. They tend to run into problems when people run biodiesel and often get a bad PR for that, or if they are neglected. I have owned a dozen vw's and audi's all were great and never left me stranded, I currently own a vw truck, that i neglect and beat the piss out of and it just takes it. My s4 is also quite reliable.

    Hybrids are nice if you don't have access to many service stations with diesel, you might want to look into a highlander hybrid, still SUV but 30ish mpgs and some HP when you need it isn't bad at all.

  8. #8
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    Hey, thanks for the info and opinions. Keep it coming. I kill plenty of time on mtbr but looks like I'll be lurking in here awhile http://vwvortex.com/

  9. #9
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    I had a 2002 Jetta TDI and it was a fantastic car when it was working properly. Would definitely fulfill your requirements. I just grew tired of the constant problems, mostly electrical.
    However, people say VW has gotten better lately...


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    Quote Originally Posted by Moustache rider
    I just grew tired of the constant problems, mostly electrical.
    That is an accurate account, vw and the notorious elec. probs. I have owned a corrado in the past, if you know much about vw's, you know that they are perhaps the quintessential electrical nightmare car. Mine personally wasn't a complete nightmare, but I have seen some catastrophes, ish gets real once someone starts medaling with wiring trying to hack in aftermarket stereos and the such.

    Specifically speaking about the cars your looking at (tdi's) your just not going to find the same build quality and mpgs without going hybrid. I rented a Kia Rio a few months back, it got pretty good gas mileage (combined 34ish mpg) but was a epic pile of crap and handled as such. I bet if you drove it anything other than granny style that thing would implode in very very short order.

    If your uncomfortable with some trouble shooting and mild fixes here and there and everywhere, then european cars in general might not be something you will be comfortable with. Japanese cars tend to be a lot nicer in the plug and play arena, but some feel they lack style and soul. I've never been a fan of most American cars, They may start out nice but just fall apart [generalization] in less than a 100k.

  11. #11
    Kaishingo
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    A friend called his 2008 Jetta a total piece of crap - in his opinion, the most unreliable car out there. Why? It burned through something like 5 tail-light bulbs in its first 20k miles. A perfect example of German electrical engineering VS the quick to frustrate, zero patience, American car owner.

    In my opinion, unreliable equals stranded on the side of the road, won't start in the morning, wheel randomly falling off, leaking fluids from every orifice, etc. I've personally owned nothing but European cars (4 VW's, 2 Volvos, 1 Saab, and my current BMW). They all had their quirks, and aside from the 300k mile + 86 Saab 900 turbo that was rusting from the inside out, and could never pass the state safety inspection, none of them ever failed to start in the morning or leave me stranded on the side of the road (oh, the stories that go with that Saab - I loved that car!)

    Maybe that's it - you have to be a bit of a sadist to enjoy European cars (every fixed-gear mtb-er should own one by default). Personally, I like to be pampered with classy interior designs and solid construction - something most japanese cars failed to offer until only recently.

  12. #12
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    I'd buy another bike and commute on that. But maybe that's not the option you're looking for.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by s0ckeyeus
    I'd buy another bike and commute on that. But maybe that's not the option you're looking for.
    I've got lots of bikes and sometimes I ride to work. But most days I drop my 2 kids off at school in the am and pick them up from swimming, ballet, volleyball, blah blah. If I was really green I'd have us all commuting but the book bags and other paraphanelia is astounding in weight and volume. Mtn biking in my hometown is shut down by mid-Nov because of snow but great riding is only 45 minutes away. What I need at this point is a vehicle that gets good mileage and can carry two bikes (preferrably on a hitch rack) for a once or twice/week commute to red dirt goodness all winter long.

    Sounds like an extended warranty is worth paying up for with a european car.

  14. #14
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    Loving the Mazda5 so far. Yea it's not the most stylish rig in the world BUT....

    It fits two bikes, cooler, and gear inside easy.
    It's a manual five speed
    Great mpg
    Very fun to drive

    I think what ever you get has to be fun to drive. This is the first car in a long time that I look forward to driving in the morning to work.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockman
    I've got lots of bikes and sometimes I ride to work. But most days I drop my 2 kids off at school in the am and pick them up from swimming, ballet, volleyball, blah blah. If I was really green I'd have us all commuting but the book bags and other paraphanelia is astounding in weight and volume. Mtn biking in my hometown is shut down by mid-Nov because of snow but great riding is only 45 minutes away. What I need at this point is a vehicle that gets good mileage and can carry two bikes (preferrably on a hitch rack) for a once or twice/week commute to red dirt goodness all winter long.
    Kids? Pfff...get your priorities straight, man.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by s0ckeyeus
    Kids? Pfff...get your priorities straight, man.
    My priorities are often open for debate with mrs. rockman where it concerns bikes

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nos482
    The Subaru Outback will do everything you want, and the AWD is an added bonus. My brother's 09 gets ~32 hwy and mid to high 20's city if he doesn't mash the gas. A class II hitch is about $110-$130. It will be more roomy than the tdi as well
    I call BS.

  18. #18
    RIS
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    It's pretty closed to impossible to save money by spending $25,000-$30,000 on a car- plus insurance (full coverage if it's financed or nearly new), interest on the loan, depreciation, and upkeep.

    Your commuting 10-15 minutes a day. I'm guessing it would take you until you were 100 years old to save $30,000 on gas on the difference between 12 mpg and 30 mpg.

    And keep in mind that anything that gets 30 mpg probably isn't going to have room for bikes inside, and if you put bikes on the roof, you ain't gonna be getting anything even close to that 30 mpg.

    Your current vehicle meets all of your needs, you're not paying interest on a loan for it, your not losing any money on depreciation with it, it's fairly simple, parts are fairly cheap, and insurance is cheap.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeakBagger
    I call BS.
    His results are very much dependent on driving style. I have in the past gotten over 33mpg highway and 26 city in my Audi S4, which too is AWD, 315hp/365tq and around 2 tons wet, this was replicated over several tanks. It's EPA rated at around 18 city and 22 highway. Ive seen over half that when my foot decides it's made out of lead.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by markj2k4
    His results are very much dependent on driving style. I have in the past gotten over 33mpg highway and 26 city in my Audi S4, which too is AWD, 315hp/365tq and around 2 tons wet, this was replicated over several tanks. It's EPA rated at around 18 city and 22 highway. Ive seen over half that when my foot decides it's made out of lead.

    That's just not realistic. If you had 60 pounds of air in the tires, folded your rear view mirrors back, removed the radio antenna and wiper arms, put duct tape over all of the body seams, and drove downhill at 40 mph in high gear in a strong tailwind, with an egg between your foot and the gas pedal, MAYBE.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by RIS
    That's just not realistic. If you had 60 pounds of air in the tires, folded your rear view mirrors back, removed the radio antenna and wiper arms, put duct tape over all of the body seams, and drove downhill at 40 mph in high gear in a strong tailwind, with an egg between your foot and the gas pedal, MAYBE.



    was traveling at 75mph, in 104* heat down highway 101 from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo in California.

    Manual computation verified same exact figure computer provided.

  22. #22
    RIS
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    Using the OP's numbers, 6-7 months of one a week 70-100 mile round trips is less than 2500 miles. At 12 mpg, that's about 200 gallons of gas. At $4 a gallon, that's $800...A YEAR.

    How much of that $800 is he going to have to save in order to pay for a $25,000-$30,000 car, plus the interest on the loan, plus full coverage insurance, plus the depreciation losses, plus the upkeep.

    That would be the textbook definition of going from the frying pan into the fire.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by markj2k4


    was traveling at 75mph, in 104* heat down highway 101 from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo in California.

    Manual computation verified same exact figure computer provided.
    My 2000 Audi A6 with a biturbo v6 got about the same.

  24. #24
    RIS
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    And I'm going to have to kind of spit-ball his commute numbers, but I'm guessing that a 10-15 minute commute probably involves no highway, and probably about 5 miles (each way) on surface streets. That's about 500 miles a year. At 12 mpg, that's about 40 gallons of gas a year. At $4 a gallon, that's about $160 in gas...A YEAR.

    At that rate, who cares if it gets 6 mpg or 30?

    Edited to add:

    Even if you bought a bicycle to commute by, what kind of a bike could you get for $160?

  25. #25
    RIS
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    So it appears that he's spending less than $1,000 a year in gas. He's not going to be able to save enough of that to pay for ANY car.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PeakBagger
    I call BS.
    Well its what it gets, my old '07 2.5i Impreza got 34 hwy, my WRX gets 27

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by RIS
    So it appears that he's spending less than $1,000 a year in gas. He's not going to be able to save enough of that to pay for ANY car.
    Good discussion and thanks for the input! I'll add that I'll be making one or two round trip commutes to mtn bike each week and the occasional trip to Phoenix. I hadn't thought it through so clearly as this but I'll play...

    50 miles/week daily commute
    100 miles/week round trip to red dirt
    =600/month or 7200 miles/year

    The Landcruiser burns 600/yr gal of gas at a rate of 12 miles/gal
    The VW TDI burns 206 gal of gas at a rate of 35 miles/gal

    At $4/gal the difference is $2400 vs $824 or a savings of nearly $16,000 in 10 years.
    I also need to factor in that those are not miles I'm putting on an excellent condition 1989 Landcruiser (72,000 miles) with the added maintenance that goes along with a 20+ yr old vehicle. If I keep it clean for another 10 yrs it will be worth quite a bit more than the gas savings. And a smaller car with more zip will clearly be more fun to drive and I can save the LC for winter driving conditions and off roading.

  28. #28
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    ford escape
    Ride & Smile

  29. #29
    RIS
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    Okay, so now you're driving 100 miles every weekend, not 70-100 miles a weekend 6-7 months a year like in your original post.

    Quote Originally Posted by rockman
    The Landcruiser burns 600/yr gal of gas at a rate of 12 miles/gal
    The VW TDI burns 206 gal of gas at a rate of 35 miles/gal

    At $4/gal the difference is $2400 vs $824 or a savings of nearly $16,000 in 10 years.
    There are three significant problems with that:

    A VW TDI ain't getting any 35 mpg with bikes on the roof.

    It costs a whole heck of a lot more than $16,000 to buy a VW TDI.

    The VW TDI runs on diesel, not gas.

    I also need to factor in that those are not miles I'm putting on an excellent condition 1989 Landcruiser (72,000 miles) with the added maintenance that goes along with a 20+ yr old vehicle.
    It's going to cost more to keep a 2011 VW turbo diesel on the road than it will a 20+ year old Toyota. And it also costs more to maintain two cars than it does to maintain one. And it costs more to insure two cars- especially a financed one. And it costs more to make payments on a second car than it does to not make payments on a second car. And the interest on the loan is going to add to your expenses significantly. Plus you're going to take it in the shorts on depreciation, and not in a small way.

    If I keep it clean for another 10 yrs it will be worth quite a bit more than the gas savings.
    Get back to us when you find a buyer for a 30+ year old Toyota for "quite a bit more than" $16,000.

    And a smaller car with more zip will clearly be more fun to drive and I can save the LC for winter driving conditions and off roading.
    It's a 140 horsepower 4-cylinder diesel engine in a car that weighs more than 3,000 pounds. On the "zip-meter", it registers somewhere between watching paint dry and watching dew form.

    It sounds like you have an emotional attachment to the idea of buying another vehicle to "save" your Landcrusher. That's fine if you want to do that. But the arithmatic doesn't support your "want". Probably better to just come out and admit that what you want to do will cost you more money, but you still WANT to do it.
    Last edited by RIS; 11-06-2010 at 01:26 AM.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by RIS
    Probably better to just come out and admit that what you want to do will cost you more money, but you still WANT to do it.
    Yes, you have sliced me up like a surgeon. But you're wrong about the Landcruiser. An excellent condition FJ60 or 62 will fetch 10-20k. To the right buyer of course.

    Thanks for shedding the light on the financial end of the equation. From a strictly monetary point of view I guess it doesn't make sense. I also ride a $6000 Turner 5 spot when a $3000 Giant would serve the same purpose.

  31. #31
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    No slicing intended. Just a little illumination.

  32. #32
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    Id say

    sell the LC and buy a clean 3rd gen 4runner and pocket the rest.

  33. #33
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    We have a 3rd gen 4runner and a 2010 Golf TDI...love them both but for different reasons. We have had some bad VW experiences in the past and were leery about getting another but we got a smoking deal on the Golf here in Phoenix last Thanksgiving and could not justify spending the extra $10k for the Audi A3. So far it's been a great car with no issues.

    With that said I think the TDI is probably your best bet. Although I love the 4runner it is a purpose built truck (lift, roof rack, etc) so the gas mileage isn't super wonderful, but not horrible (18 highway). I think you are strictly looking for a people mover to take you and the fam to your adventure with the best gas mileage possible. I echo the sentiment on a Jetta TDI wagon however over the Golf. With hauling bikes, stuff, 2 adults and 2 kids who aren't getting any smaller you will want the extra room to grow into if you plan on keeping this for a while. The golf is fun but I dont think it would be enough room for a family of 4.
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  34. #34
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    It sounds like you have an emotional attachment to the idea of buying another vehicle to "save" your Landcrusher. That's fine if you want to do that. But the arithmatic doesn't support your "want". Probably better to just come out and admit that what you want to do will cost you more money, but you still WANT to do it.
    So the man wants to buy another car - let the man buy another car. I spent 3 recent years driving around in a 1990 Volvo 240 wagon. Lowered, 5-speed - the thing was the envy of some circles. And it did everything I needed - 25ish mpg, tons of cargo room. BUT, it was a 20 year old car, and eventually, I got sick of sitting in and driving a 20 year old car. So I sold that and my track car and traded up.

    It's a 140 horsepower 4-cylinder diesel engine in a car that weighs more than 3,000 pounds. On the "zip-meter", it registers somewhere between watching paint dry and watching dew form.
    Really? Have you ever driven one? It's not the fastest thing in the world, but it's far from boring. With the DSG tranny, and VW platform, a newer TDI is tons more fun to drive then, say a V6 Camry (which, on paper, should excel in your "zip-meter" with 268 hp going straight to the front wheels). An entire US racing series is build off of these cars - and no, they aren't heavily modified aside from suspension and safety stuffs. Same tranny, slightly built up motor. I've spoken with many of these series drivers - trust me, none of them are "suffering" out there out of sheer boredom out there. 236 lb/ft of torque goes a long way in making a car fun to drive around town.

    It's going to cost more to keep a 2011 VW turbo diesel on the road than it will a 20+ year old Toyota. And it also costs more to maintain two cars than it does to maintain one. And it costs more to insure two cars- especially a financed one. And it costs more to make payments on a second car than it does to not make payments on a second car. And the interest on the loan is going to add to your expenses significantly. Plus you're going to take it in the shorts on depreciation, and not in a small way.
    Yes to insurance, taxes, and car payments. Any new car will do that. But VW does offer free basic service (oil changes, etc.) for new cars, and the warranty will take care of any other maintenence issues.

    I see your point that buying a new car is the most financially backwards thing an individual can do. Luckily, the whole country doesn't think like that or we'd really be in an economic slump!

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by thrasher_s
    VW/Audi/BMW/Mercedes/Porsche/Ferrari/Bugatti/Jaguar/Volvo/Saab/MG/Fiat 's are all horribly unreliable.

    So I was told by a female acquaintance who beat the living [email protected] out of her Jetta. I'm sure all other European cars are the same.
    A rather ignorant statement. You base your opinion second hand info? How many people does she know that drive Ferrari or Bugatti? Some of the cars you list are above average and some below are American owned....what was your point?

    Wusilla, most people are ignorant and think that HP equals acceleration. I know, and you know that torque is acceleration. But people hear diesel numbers and think gutless.

    I owned an 1991 Bentley Turbo R a few years ago. The torque meant that the car could outrace a similar era vette, even though it weighed 5300 lbs. I've owned diesels and they aren't the anemic car their are made out to be, but you need a stick.

    Buying a 15 year old Bentley is about as expensive as buying a new BMW 3. But you're on the hook for maintenance ($$$$). The trade off is that you can park infront of any club or restaurant and get in immediately. For less than 50 grand you look like your worth millions, something a 328 can't do no matter how well you dress. Instead of paying for parking, I would just leave it infront of a hotel for free (and have a doorman to watch it). And a mountain bike fits in the trunk if you remove the wheel.
    Life is too short to race through it. When life is a blur, you'll miss the magic.

  36. #36
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    I love my 06 Civic 4 door. I have a 2 bike hitch rack. A friend and I went to a ton of trails this summer with enough space for gear and I get 35mpg with the bikes on the back. The worst I had gotten was 31 up hill one way in 90 degree heat with the air blasting.

  37. #37
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    Why exactly do you want to buy an new car?? If you're looking at TDIs, the most reliable (arguably) are the 99.5 - 03 with the ALH motor and manual transmission. That being said, I have an 04 Jetta Wagon TDI with the PD motor and a manual tranny. The last two tanks of fuel have been mixed driving with 2 bikes on the roof for 85% of the time and I averaged 39.2 mpg. Oh yeah, the car has 209k miles, and runs like a champ. Check out this side for the best TDI info... www.tdiclub.com Don't be afraid of a used tdi, just know what to look for when buying. Good Luck!!

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