Test drivin'

Manda's 1999 Suzuki Swift failed Nova Scotia's mandatory annual safety inspection, big-time. $900-$1400 worth of work required to make it street legal, apparently. Not quite the road equivalent of a Sea King helicopter, but the car was given ten days' driveability before the red stickers thereupon become a flag for police to pull it over and take it off the road. She needs a car for her job, and she needs the job to help pay the rent etc., so after much gnashing of teeth and fretting and such, the decision was made to look into leasing a new car. Extensive research on the Internet followed, and Manda hit up a few dealerships this week to get prelim figures. With the Car Death Clock ticking, today came the test drives.

Halifax has a stretch of road near the radio station loaded with car dealerships and food joints. O'Regan's and Steele dominate the car market, each handling several brands in multiple locations. Wendy's, Harvey's, McDonald's, Swiss Chalet and others feed the auto buyers. Kempt Road is the place. Expect to see lots of crappy cars and lots of brand new cars. Makes senses, yes?

First up: the Kia Rio 5 (Convenience model). Amanda's notes:

Any new car is going to feel like a Lexus compared to what I've been driving. I found this car handled very well, steering felt solid, good visability from the car, good pick-up for a car in its class, quiet engine and an overall pleasant, comfortable and enjoyable ride. The other thing I liked about this car is some little extras that come "standard", like 60/40 split rear seats, MP3 player, heated front seats, power windows/locks, keyless entry, large cargo area, nice interior and a 5yr, 100,000km warranty. Very roomy with plenty of leg room. We also checked out the back seat and found that to be plenty comfortable for an adult.

Then, lunch at Wendy's (I've switched from fries to baked potato with my combos -- I'm diggin' the change) and over to the Toyota dealership for a look at the new Toyota Yaris.

The Yaris (multimedia gallery) 5 door LE model (with "Package B"). Amanda's notes:

The first thing that turns me off about this car is those lovely little "extras" that come standard with the Rio5 are only available if you add on the "Package B" (like a/c, power locks/windows) or if you upgrade to the RS model (60/40
split rear seats) which adds on quite a bit of money to the price. The warranty included is for 3 years only and a fourth year is extra (which might be wise if you're leasing for 4 years). That being said, I wasn't quite as impressed with the quality of the ride in the Yaris. It didn't feel as smooth, it didn't have quite the pick-up, the engine made a lot more noise (on acceleration), and I had a hard time seeing out the rear window. I also noticed it moved quite a bit in the wind (to be fair, I don't think it was quite as windy when we were driving the Rio5). The cargo space is smaller, the model I can afford does not have 60/40 split rear seats or an MP3 player, and we found it overall to be less roomier for foot, head and shoulder room. The Yaris has tons of mini compartments to stash stuff, which is really cool, but the interior felt a bit "toyish" whereas the Rio5 felt more "expensive". The front end of the Yaris is also significantly shorter than the Rio5. Say what you will about safety in that regard, but I prefer the longer look to the Rio5. The Toyota salesman was a real pro: very helpful and knowledgable.

After two unsatisfying uninformative visits with the confused kid at the Kia place, I Blackberry-Google searched for more Kia options and found a dealer in Dartmouth, across the harbour. We zipped over and were impressed. The salesman knew his stuff. He entered us in a test-drive-and-win sweepstakes to go hang out with Doug Gilmour in Florida (as if I care, but, y'know), and gave me a free Sidney Crosby Reebok hockey hat (doesn't fit my head, and I don't want anyone thinking I'm at all affiliated with hockey, but I appreciate freebies at any time). [Amanda's notes: Plus, he's going to give me more money to take my current vehicle off my hands.]

Back home, and Manda's chatting with stepdad who's in the biz to get his take on things. Will letcha know how it develops.

Feedback from gearheads is welcome. Not that I know any.


  1. No one has written in with their wisdom!

    Oh well. I have decided (after long consideration, humming, hawing, and one short trip to the dealer to sign on the dotted line where I got cold feet and left) to go with the Kia Rio5. I liked the drive better, I like the bonus features for free better, I like the more extensive warranty, and I like the look of it better.

    My credit's been approved and I pick it up tomorrow night! Just in time too...the clock is ticking on the Suzuki...one more day of legal driving left.

  2. It's black! Scott wanted the "Solar Flare" (read: ORANGE) but we went something a little more conservative. I love it so far! It has 10 kms on it!

  3. How's that New Car Smell?


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