new ride: best mix of MPG and Cargo space? (also price)

Hey everyone,
Lately i have been on this kick of looking for a cheaper more utilitarian secondary vehicle, it needs to solve 2 problems for me:

  1. Get noticeably better gas mileage than the 2 cars my gf and i have now (me - saturn aura: combined 23-24mpg-ish, her - cadillac catera: combined 18mpg :open_mouth: ), the fuel savings will help balance the cost of a 2nd vehicle.
  2. have lots of cargo space as im realizing that i have some large items that i am often hauling, namely my pro audio speakers. hatch opening needs to be at least 26" height.

from what i have been researching the first gen scion xB (04-08?) is the best mix, the auto gets 29 combined mpg and its boxy shape and fold down rear seats give great cargo space. used ones with 80-90k miles are in the $8-9000 range.

kind of ridiculous how less useful the newer xB’s are… only about 24 combined mpg and looks like not as much room, also worse design imo.

other thoughts were some compact wagons, although not many available, and the wagon roof/hatch opening wouldn’t be nearly as high as the scion, (35" hatch height).

some small suv’s may match the roof height but suffer in MPG? also higher insurance cost? (costs that add up over time.)
latest gen chevy equinox can get 26 combined mpg but since its a much newer vehicle it would be much bigger investment.
past gen rav4 mpg is only 23 combined

*note- all fuel numbers are from, and their formula for calculating combined mpg closely matches my driving habits.

im finding this to be a pretty interesting problem to try to solve and so far the quirky first gen xB is starting to grow on me for its undisputed value in these 2 key areas.

appreciate any thoughts you all might have.

My wife has a 2nd gen XB, and while it does get poorer MPG than the previous XB, it is quite huge inside. Plus its a stick, so you can stretch the fuel economy a bit if you take advantage of that. But thats not why I’m posting.

I want to nominate my car, a 1st gen Matrix. I get great gas mileage and much more cargo capacity than you might think. The rear and front passenger seats fold flat, and both the rear hatch and the hatch glass open. Plus it has been practically bulletproof for the 7 years I’ve owned it. Some of the trims had AWD, if thats helpful. Highly recommended.

Oh, and the hatch opening is 30" tall.

What about an older small truck? If you need it to be water proof you can get it with a covered bed?

Used Diesel Sprinter Van?
Diesel Passat?

Diesel Jetta sport wagon.

Most owners routinely see 40-50mpg in the previous generation and Diesels are built - quite literally, like a Truck. VW’s tend to have crap for wiring but once you fix any of the gremlins you should be OK. Plus decently sportly to drive with tons of low end torque.


the diesel passat wagons may very well be the other vehicle that beats the xB, but they are damn near impossible to find :angry: for instance, only one within 300 miles of my location, and its a couple grand more than the scion, and has 160,000 miles. not saying that it isnt a good alternative, but at that price i dont want something with that many miles. people that have those vehicles aret looking to get rid of them.

the jetta sportwagon atually was a car i saw on the road a few months ago that started this whole search of mine, but can only get the jetta wagon TDI in the latest generation (that i know of), and then some early 2000’s models?
the new ones are obviously too expensive. the older ones would be a good option though… but as im browsing autotrader and ebay there are not many in general, then even fewer without a ton of miles! best one is a few hundred miles away with 90k miles for $11,800. definitely gotta look for them, not one i can go down the street and take for a drive :frowning:

the jetta TDI wagon is definitely on the list with the xb though a little more money, but better gas mileage. will have to look off the beaten path to try and find one.

the trucks dont get good enough mpg, plus i like the versatility of the wagons better being able to comfortably seat 4 if necessary. and the dry storage issue.

Is $9k your limit - cash? Not sure how much you drive if the diesel is warranted, I drive ~25k a year so the mileage becomes a big year over year savings and might be worth paying more, or taking out a small loan if that’s an option.

My immediate thought: Honda Element. Far better car than an xB, although worse exterior design. Great car as a work horse.

BTW: check for some good fuel economy data. I think you might be too optimistic with 29mpg. EPA is 24 and 16 people have reported 24.8 as an average. The Element is 22 combined. Neither is good on the highway (they are brick shaped).

Fuel economy is also heavily based on your driving. If you have to wring out a little engine to constantly get any power out of it you may wind up using a lot more gas than you’d think, but it depends on how heavy your foot is. I can pull 32mpg out of my TL pretty easily on highway trips and it’s only rated at 27.

The difference between low 20’s and high 20’s really isn’t going to translate into a much of savings though, even if you drive a lot.

My fiance has a Nissan Rogue with the CVT that seems to do ~24mpg pretty comfortably and has a lot of room, also super common so you could probably find one pretty cheap. It’s pretty awful to drive though (though I tend to think that about any car that has less than 200hp) /spoiled.

that is the site where i got my numbers. i thnk you were looking at the newer scions, they are much worse mileage, the 05 with auto trans gets the 27/32 for 29 combined.

I would say the ballpark of 8-10k would be the limit, based on cash down, trade in value and personal budget.

i try to be pretty good on my fuel consumption, i can get 30mpg in the Aura on highway trips, city driving to work im only getting about 21mpg though.
Im mostly comparing the new car to my gf’s car, since it would be replacing hers mostly. so going form her 17-19 mpg to 28 or so on a xB for instance saves us about $75 a month in fuel costs based on the amount of driving we do (about 1000-1200mi/month).
So to that point im looking for something that gets a solid 10mpg better than her car. something that only gets 5mpg better isnt really worth the investment to me. Cars like the rogue, element, rav4, CRV, etc mostly all fall into that category.

I guess I would just be careful about spending $10k to save $75 a month. That cost savings will quickly be erased if you buy a used car and wind up needing to spend $1000 on a timing belt in 10K (which you probably will for anything in the 90k mileage range).

What about something like the Honda Fit or Yaris? The Fit is surprisingly big inside with the seats down.

haha, Im definitely not buying a car solely to save money :slight_smile:
but was looking to get something more utilitarian than our current second car.

what you have mentioned is true for any higher mileage used car right? already having repair bills starting to add up on the gf’s catera, so thats a wash as far as im concerned. looking to gain cargo capacity and fuel savings.

fit or yaris is definitely too small for the things im looking to haul/move. my friend has a caliber hatch and i can haul more stuff in my aura due to its larger trunk and extended wheelbase.