I'm new car shopping at the moment. My current beast is a 95 Integra sedan. It's still a solid little car but at 340,000km it's already cost me some money and with an intermittent squeal from the water pump lately it's scaring me a bit. I don't want it to turn into a money pit.
I'm a small car guy through and through. If only I lived across the pond where the compact/sub-compact segments are a lively market. My wife drives a Nissan Murano, and while it's a nice comfy SUV, it's far too big and bouncy for my tastes - nevermind the gas mileage and running costs (ever price out a set of 4 SUV tires?)
I've looked at the smaller cars from BMW/Mini, Hyundai, Kia, Honda, Toyota, Mazda, GM(Saturn), VW and even Ford (Chrysler is just not a consideration to me), and I have to say I'm favouring the Kia Rio5 Ex Sport model at the moment:
I really like the euro-hatch clean look of the Kia. And for a very reasonable list price of $20,700 CAD (18,250 USD) it comes fully loaded with things like:
4-wheel discs w/ ABS
6-airbags (2 front, 2 side, 2 full side-curtain)
heated front seats (it gets cold up here dontcha know)
heated side mirrors
6 speaker CD stereo with MP3/WMA, Aux and USB inputs
a kick ass 10yr/100,000km (or 160,000km extended) comprehensive warranty including roadside assistance
The list goes on and on and is actually pretty damn complete. The gas mileage is pretty darn good as well considering gas here has been teetering around $1.03 a litre lately (about $3.50 USD per gallon for you Yankees).
A quick first test drive also showed that Kia has really stepped up the quality game. The car felt and sounded very very solid. No squeaks, rattles or shimmies over various bumps and around corners. It handles very nicely. And while it doesn't have the street cred of a Mini Cooper, it's only shy by about 8 less horsepower. The interior looked and felt very solid as well. The back seat had significantly more room than my Integra 4 door too - although I think I've had only one adult passenger back there in the last two years anyway.
I chuckled the other day when I read a Motor Trend article that said that the Rio5 was faster through it's slalom course than both the Audi A3 (which a co-worker just bought at more than $40k) and the Mitsubishi Eclipse.
I also liked the fact that they didn't bother giving me a price where I had to add on things like floor mats, electric windows and mud guards to get a final price. They offer preselected no-fuss model selections which made calculating a price literally a 90sec affair.
If you're familiar with the 06 or 07 Kia Rio5 and have info to give me or if you want to dissuade me, please leave me a comment. I'd love to hear some opinions before I buy.