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Number Eight?

March 4, 2005

At the moment, this is more an unhinged musing than anything else, so please bear with me, because I really would value comments.  Saying so, of course, means that I will receive none.

Today’s news about the impending gasoline price hikes has me seriously considering the possibility of trading in the Xterra.

Why would I do such a thing?  I love the Xterra.  It is, hands down, the best vehicle I’ve ever owned (and I’ve owned a lot).  It’s spacious without being big.  It’s reliable, it’s tough.  The ride can be a bit firm, but I like it that way.  The steering provides good feedback and requires just the right amount of effort.  There’s nothing that turns me off more than effortless steering (cough…Toyota).  And…it’s slow and underpowered, something my right foot requires in a vehicle.

So what’s wrong with it?  Gas mileage.  Oh, sure, it’s rated at 16-19 miles per gallon, but I’ve never come close to that.  For the period between March 19, 2004 and January 31, 2005, I’ve averaged an awful 11.24 miles to the gallon.  Since I’ve stopped writing in it, things have improved, but I’m still hovering around 13 and a quarter. 

Based on my calculations, it costs me $5.51 per day to drive the Xterra.  If you rather, that’s just over $2,000 per year.  Add in the 25-cent hike in gas prices, and we’re talking more like $2,300. 

Yikes.  Maybe now you begin to see where the trade-in temptation comes from.  $2,300 is a lot of money, and, with the new house, finances will be tight for a little while.  But…supposing I could cut that number by $1,000…

Here’s my thinking.  Trade in the Xterra for a used compact car.  Something with a 4-cylinder that’s three or less years old.  With the exception of a Mini or a Volkswagen GTI, I could pull this off without paying a dime, and probably even walk away with a small profit.

Of course, being me, it couldn’t be just any old compact car.  The Mini and the GTI aren’t even worth considering.  Both drink premium fuel, and the added cost would pretty much render this whole exercise pointless.  The same holds true for an Impreza WRX wagon.  I won’t drive a Toyota, and I think very little of domestic compacts.

Actually, there’s pretty much only one vehicle I would consider – the much-esteemed and even more overlooked Mazda Protege5.


Why the Protege5?  Firstly, were I to go this route, I would want a hatchback/wagon of some sort.  Secondly, everyone from Edmunds to Forbes to Motor Trend has raved about this car.  Decent styling, bordering on sport.  A surprising amount of cargo space.  A high-quality interior.  Fabulous handling with taut steering and suspension in typical Mazda fashion.


Strangely enough, the MP5’s drawbacks happen to be things I prefer in a car.  The handling is tauted as being downright BMW-like, but the necessary compromise of that is that the ride is firm.  Which I happen to prefer. 

The other complaint centers around the engine – namely that it is gutless.  Great! 

One reason I bought the Xterra, and one reason I love it, is the gutlessness of its engine.  It makes about 170 horsepower (the ’05 model, by contrast, churns out 245) and saunters from 0 to 60 in 9.62 seconds. 

The Protege5 rates 130 horsepower, but weighs 1,000 lbs less.  As a result, it beats the Xterra to 60 MPH by, get this, four tenths of a second.

So how’s the mileage?  The EPA says it gets 25 to 31 miles to the gallon.  Factoring in reality, I’m guessing it’d be closer to 20 MPG.  And, at 20 miles to the gallon, I’d be saving $1,000 in gas a year over the Xterra.

And mom, since I know you’ll be reading this, the Protege5 has higher crash test ratings than the Xterra.

There you have it.  That is what I am considering.  Trading the Xterra for a Protege5 and saving $1,000 a year on gas.  Of course, this wouldn’t happen until after we’re in the new house.  Gas guzzler it may be, the Xterra is simply too useful at hauling lots of stuff, which makes it ideal for that whole moving thing.

Anyway, comments are requested and encouraged.  Does this make any sense at all, or am I loopy?  Or both?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 4, 2005 6:59 pm

    I’m feeling better and better about buying mynHonda CRV all the time. I’m averaging about 21 – 23 miles per gallon. Much better than th 8-12 from my Ford F150.

  2. March 5, 2005 3:07 am

    Is the $1000 worth the hard to quantify intangible of “driving pleasure”? For me it would be, but then again, I don’t have the same facination with cars as you do. As long as mine gets me from point A to point B I’m happy….but I’m not sure you share my disposition. For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve alwayshad a nice all terrain behicle (even when you ha the acura, you also had the defender) By the way, I always really liked that 3.2TL

    Did you ever consider investing some money in oil and gas stocks that wil appreciate with the price rise? If you make $1000 or more, you will have paid for the XTerra’s exorbiant gas cost while saving the vehicle you love.

  3. March 5, 2005 7:03 am

    Mark – I’m actually not discounting driving pleasure. That’s one of the reasons that, if I did this, I’d get a Protege5. I’ve driven both it and its replacement, the Mazda3. Both are a blast to drive, have great handling, tight steering, etc. And both have firm rides, which I prefer to a floatier feeling. Of the two, I like the Pro5 better because it’s still a little rough around the edges.

    With a Protege5, I might actually derive MORE driving pleasure, since the last third of my commute will be on the wide-open Southwest Parkway.

    Basically, in moving from the Xterra to a Pro5, I would be giving up the following: easy and convenient entry/exit height, visibility (seeing over other cars), road command (respect and space given in traffic situations), and cargo room. The question, I think, is whether or not those four things are worth $1000 a year.

    And I’ve been invested in petroleum and petroleum services since late 2003.

  4. March 7, 2005 1:17 am

    The gas is going up again here in Toronto, too. I don’t understand how that’s even possible, considering that right now, gas is CA$0.85/litre (which works out to about US$2.58/Gallon at current exchange rates). The gas stations around here are all converting their signs so that they can sell gas at $1.00/litre or more.

    I think my next car will be a Toyota Echo Hatchback. Surprisingly, it has more interior room than my Saturn SL1, and it’s a little easier on the eyes, too.

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