Sunday, June 14, 2009

Suzie New-Beginnings

And the winner of the Northwest Ohio Hatchback Smackdown is:
The Suzuki SX4

Here is her report.

Those of you that have been following my recent posts have heard me whine about the tragic caricide of my beloved CRV, Maggie. After much advice from my car expert brother, Phillip (thank you so much) and lengthy internet research, Justin and I set out today to look at and drive some cars. The Chevy Cobalt rental I was driving was making some scary rattling noises and smelled like something might have died in it recently. So off we went to Toledo. We looked at the Honda Fit, Pontiac Vibe, a used CRV, a Suzuki SX4, and did a driveby of a Scion . Even though in my heart I an a Honda girl, I had to admit that the Suzuki was a better buy for the money. It's basic... but not basic with a built in navigation system and cruise control. After much haggling with John who insisted on calling me "Sweetie" over and over (almost a deal breaker) We reached a mutual agreement on a price. After a phone conversation with Phillip( while the vultures circled around the office door) John came back with an even lower interest rate and Yes Phillip they did throw in the floor mats. it is a comfortable ride good handling and we got 30 miles per gallon on the way home. My nephew who is a deputy sheriff in an adjoining county stopped by shortly after we got home to get his 1969 Dodge Charger that he has been storing in our pole barn. Jerry gave it a very close inspection a short spin and was impressed with it's performance. He said he particularly liked the "arrest me red" color. I still miss Maggie. But, since driving must go on I think Suzie will be a good addition to our family.

By the way, initially the salesman drew up a deal that came up with a payment of $269. After the phone call described above (during which he was pacing nervously, no doubt chanting the mantra "Please don't bail, Please don't bail.....) the payment came in at $245. Under budget. About the only trump card a buyer has is the ability to walk away from the deal. It never hurts to stick to your target price and be prepared to walk. In this market you will get a call back. Pam had also done enough research that the sale price didn't start out in the stratosphere and come back to merely shocking.

I have to say that the Suzuki was my favorite going in. I would have liked to get a report on the Saturn Astra but it's lack of AWD and the future of Saturn were probably deal breakers from the get go. I'm not surprised that Pam and many others remarked on the good looks of the car. The SX4 is a joint venture of Suzuki and Fiat. The styling was done in Italy with Suzuki providing the AWD drivetrain and engine in this case. It also appears as the Fiat Sedici and is available with a selection of Fiat's nice turbo diesel motors. It is one of the few examples of a joint venture that I hope to see more of in the future.

The one weak point of Japanese cars until recently has been the ergonomics for American sized people. Europeans on the other hand understand how to build a smaller car for a bigger person. They just have trouble building engines and transmissions that are as reliable and easily maintained as their Japanese counterparts. Anyone who has owned a newer Volkswagen is aware of this. The current chaos in the automotive market in the US is going to force more joint ventures of this type and I think that's a good thing.

Fiat is already a master of this type of collaboration. As I've mentioned before, the new owners of Chrysler also have current or historical joint ventures with Ford and General Motors. So what can we expect in the new Chrysler lineup? Most of the buzz is about this car.

The Fiat Nuevo Cinquecento (New 500), here in Abarth performance trim. This has been a very successful car in Europe where it is marketed against the more expensive BMW mini. I like this car a lot but it won't sell to a broad audience and certainly is too minimal for family use. However Fiat has other options available that meet these needs.

The Fiat Bravo
The Fiat Grande Punto

These are the cars most ready to go to market here. Fiat also owns Alfa Romeo and Ferrari but these won't add much to the balance sheet. They also have quite advanced diesel technology and a number of other small SUVs and people carriers. This will be a good lineup if gas prices rise to the $4/gal. level again but they lack the bigger platforms Americans have traditionally favor. What will arise in this segment is anyone's guess but the current collaborations make me hopeful.

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