Friday, August 9, 2013

Cars for Kids

There is a strange point in the life of an auto enthusiast when practicality and safety suddenly overrule power and design... When you have to find cars for your kids. And there has been a sea change in this field of endeavor with Gens X and Y. They don't care nearly as much about cars as I did when their age, and when they do their values seem sadly twisted. I shudder to hear a 17 year old who cares more about the environment than about looking cool or going fast. Kids today!

A few years back when it came time to expand the Moore motoring fleet to account for teen drivers I found myself in a strange positionbuying cars I did not necessarily want, and was not going to drive much. My first choice (or should I say our first choice, as my wife had an important say in all these decisions) was a Mazda Protege. That was tough as we traded in our beloved Miata M-Edition to buy the Protege. For the first, and perhaps only time in my life, I did not have a performance car of any type (that didn't last long and was actually how I got back into Porscheanother story sometime).

The Protege was a very good car. It had the classic three box shape of a BMW 2002 and the 1.8 liter engine from the Miata. As it was for our daughter I went with automatic transmission. And there was my big mistake, making assumptions

Anna Lea was different than most of her peers. Not only did she want her license the day she was eligible, soon afterward she announced that she wanted to learn to drive a stick shift. Hallelujah! There was an enthusiast in the family!

Of course we already had the Mazda. So we waited a year or two. But just as Anna was about to head off to college she somehow conned me into trading in the Mazda on a Jetta GLS with the 1.8 turbo, sport suspension, and a five speed manual. She named the car JJ and the rest was history (I'm not sure I have actually ever said no to her, come to think of it).

JJ the Jetta
Brother Rob also got his license and his grandparents kindly gave him their 2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT. It seemed like a nice car, at first. But eventually the Cruiser showed its dark side, going through ball joints, tires, wheels, and other parts with a reckless abandon. While it served Rob fairly well and really never left him stranded, it was a poorly designed and badly built car.

A Chrysler manufactured in Mexico. Say no more.

This last week, with only 72,000 on the odometer, the Cruiser was done. Facing thousands of dollars in computer and suspension repairs it was dumped at Carmax in the middle of a horrible rain storm. The appraisers missed a lot, dodging the deluge, and offered us far more than hoped. I think they were sort of surprised we took the offer, and then they were startled to see the car up close in the delivery lane. I suspect some other poor customer got low-balled later that evening to make up the difference.

And so I was off on the inexpensive, used car hunt. At first I looked at a 2006 Saab 9-5, then a 2004 BMW 2004. If it had been for me I think either would have worked. But it wasn't for me, and that shopping is actually harder. An inexpensive Camry was also considered, but it had too many miles.

After much thought - and discussion with Rob about his priorities - today we helped him purchase a 2008 Honda Fit Sport. I already like the little thing... Even with only 109 horsepower and automatic transmission. The 1.5 liter VTEC spins willingly and the paddle shifters (!) help keep the engine in the torque band. The cargo area is cavernous, with origami rear seats that fold into the floor. Rob liked that it gets 35 mpgand has an easily accessible AUX jack.

I guess he sort of cares about cars after all, his parameters are just different than mine.

What cars have you bought for your childrenand have you managed to raise car enthusiasts?

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