. . . Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune and misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm . . .—Robert Louis Stevenson

23 October 2016


America is said to be in a love affair with cars. After all, we have "253 million cars and trucks on U.S. roads; average age is 11.4 years," according the the LA Times. That is fewer cars than people, but then most 4-year-olds do not have their own cars and many city-dwellers never drive. 

I drive or my husband drives most days. We do not live within easy walking distance of anything. There are grocery stores a few miles away, but nothing close enough to walk to and return with bags of milk and cheese, eggs and apples. We drive.

I have made the mistake of loving my car. (They do not love you back.) They are transportation. Necessary but not something we rely on for status or companionship. Nevertheless, My husband and I are looking at new cars. Our dear 2004 TDI Jetta wagon still gets 45mpg, but it also has 211K miles on it, and we are beginning to scope out our next car. We have only the Jetta between us, so we kind of need to know what we want before it stops. 

Mostly, we have had two cars for the past 38 years and at least one of them, for most of those years, was a Honda. When we bought the Jetta we were looking for a wagon and Honda had stopped making them. It looked like an opportunity to add air conditioning, a quieter ride, and better mileage. We are spoiled by this car.

Now we are looking for approximately the same thing again. The TDI is not available, so we are currently considering four make/models: the Mini Cooper 4-door hard top, the Subaru Forester, The VW Golf SportWagon, and the Mazda CX-5. (We have already test-driven and eliminated another model that neither of us took to. That is probably the one you want to recommend.) These four are kind of all over the place, but they appeal to us anyway. Other promising cars have worse ratings, worse mileage, or they are too big for us, too much car. 

We prefer a pale neutral exterior such as silver or gray or a light color such as the celadon green Forester, though the orange Cooper caught my attention. We hate having a black interior, but some of these vehicles only come with black. We are completely uninterested in all the bells and whistles our family and friends enjoy. If we lived in Alaska we might want heated seats, but we are never cold without them. The new fancy cameras and so forth just look like equipment waiting to break down. Moon roof? No, thank you. More power? What for? (Remember, we had Hondas.) 

We want a quiet car and we want safety and we want terrific mileage because we have averaged between 45 and 50 mpg for many years. We want a wagon because it works well for us when we buy food. We want a manual transmission. 

I sent emails to local dealers that say this:

We want a manual and we live more than 80 miles away so we plan to stop by when you have a model interesting to us and we are already coming into town for other reasons.

We are looking at four make/models.

We have a 2004 TDI Jetta wagon with over 211k miles and we have been very happy with it. We are looking for something to replace that wagon when it folds. Probably sooner.

No point sending me information about automatic models. I am not interested.

Thank you,

Yesterday, a dealer responded with links to two vehicles on her lot that were both automatics, one of them used. No, thank you, I responded. They can get me exactly what I want, Vanessa had assured me. Yes, they can and they might even do it. Let me know when they do.

Dealers have always believed they can talk me into an automatic or that my choice will be influenced by horsepower or color or bells and whistles. But no. My previous car when I was still hauling kids around was a manual Dodge Caravan—the only manual transmission I ever found in the PNW. (I regularly got 30 mpg in my Caravan, though it did not last long enough.) I looked hard for that vehicle and test drove the same one at two dealerships before buying it.

This morning I received a very pleasant response from another dealership offering links to two vehicles on his lot. Both were listed as automatics. I pointed that out. This dealer emailed right back that the two he linked to are mislabeled. They are manual transmissions. Really. He double-checked. He loves manuals, he assures me. 

We had a Ford Econoline this color when we were showing dogs.
Still, that is kind of sad all around to learn that what I find online might be inaccurate. I have checked dealerships in Washington and California, searching for a manual and have been completely unable to find exactly the car I want. One 
that is a manual.