Hooniverse Asks – What Car Surprised You with How Good it Was?

Yesterday we asked what was the crappiest rental car that you ever had the misfortune of planting your ass in, and man, there was no love for many an airport staple. Today, we’re doing a Rockford move and going the other way -we want to know what car or truck turned out to be far better than you initially gave credit.
You know the drill – you read in a magazine, or on a blog, about how terrible this car is, or how that car smells of poo, and you start to form an opinion of the car based only on third party references. Eventually, through happenstance or some kind of mystic kismet, you end up behind the wheel of said car and it’s. . . it’s, well not transcendent exactly, but a damn sight better than you had expected.
Maybe your opinion had been clouded by a reference to a transmission that the hemorrhoid-suffering tester had complained shifted too hard, or perhaps it was that the window switches on the center console rather than the doors had caused unnecessary confusion. That kind of critique can surely send you into a paroxysm of misguided animosity over any car, but upon actually getting behind the wheel, you might find the transmission’s gear changes more assertive than harsh, and those window switches fall readily to hand, only the right on instead of the left, and suddenly all other placements seem folly.
Or maybe not, maybe you just don’t like it because you once saw somebody you loathe drive one and vowed never to set check to seat in a similar model. Whatever the cause, you used to hate it until you ate it. What car was that?
Image source: [DogBlessUsOneAndAll]

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71 responses to “Hooniverse Asks – What Car Surprised You with How Good it Was?”

  1. FЯeeMan Avatar
    FЯeeMan

    Are we talking actual car here, or just advertisements?

  2. tonyola Avatar
    tonyola

    I had to spend a few months in northern New Jersey on a project in 1986, so I rented a new Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport wagon. It had quite a few options, but was equipped with the Four and automatic. I was expecting a blandmobile appliance at best but it ended up surprising me. While it wasn't a jackrabbit off the line, the Four gave adequate grunt, but it was the very capable handling and ride combination that left me truly impressed. The car cruised comfortably and quietly, but push it in the twisties and it got quite entertaining. In the three months I had it (hard service, including a lot of day trips, heavy hauling, and bashing around hazmat sites), nothing broke or fell off. The car was even fairly good-looking – black with red trim, alloys, and dark red cloth interior.

    1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar
      FuzzyPlushroom

      I had a similar experience with a '96 Ciera wagon – the 3.3 was reasonably quick, the suspension was passable, and it wasn't that difficult to drive…
      …until the brakes failed and the goddamn thing tried to kill me, but hey, that's not the point.

  3. RichardKopf Avatar
    RichardKopf

    My LHS. I think that most of the internet as a whole hates this car.

    1. Maymar Avatar
      Maymar

      I had a '95 Intrepid – it's easy to forget the LH cars were all pretty wonderful to drive through a fog of quality problems, beater status, and arbitrary internet Chrysler hate.

      1. patrick Avatar
        patrick

        An intrepid was my favorite ever rental car. However, it was hard to tell where it ended. And it was a horrible gold.

    2. Maxichamp Avatar

      I set a record driving between Lake Tahoe and Berkeley 15+ years ago in a rented LHS. Other than the too-soft suspension, it was pretty nice.

  4. acarr260 Avatar
    acarr260

    I got a brand new V6 Mustang as a rental in San Antonio once. It was a lot more fun that I expected – I had always referred to V6 Mustangs as Escorts, to the point of correcting owners of said cars when they would talk about their "Mustangs".

  5. Mechanically Inept Avatar
    Mechanically Inept

    The new Sonata rental with a slushbox that I drove. Quick and handled well, at least by my low standards. Also very nicely put together.
    I got a ride in a friend's Neon SRT-4, and my god was that thing fast. He dropped it into 1st or 2nd while moving, I was legitimately pinned back into the seat.

  6. muthalovin Avatar

    I have not driven that many cars that were labeled poorly. I do have standards.
    I think my aunts Chrysler 300M. It had decent pick-up, and would cruise at 90 all day. I only drove it to Dallas from southern NM and back, but it was okay in my book. I would not want one, ever, however.

  7. alex Avatar
    alex

    A few rentals for which I had low expectations but didn't totally suck: a couple of sonatas, a couple of fusions, an impala, nissan versa

  8. Alff Avatar
    Alff

    Of cars that I've owned, a 1980 Rabbit convertible. My "bitch basket" was economical, reliable, easy to work on and remarkably fun to drive – not a lot of power but very tossable. Despite the low marks that the automotive press gave its "rubbery" shift linkage, I loved the transmission and that huge golf ball shaped shift knob. As an added bonus, the girls loved it and I was young and handsome enough back then to capitalize.
    Also, any full size pickup. There's just something magical about the driving dynamics.
    Of rental cars, I'd have to say that the Pontiac G6 is remarkably decent. Intuitive controls, good outward visibility (sedans only, the coupes have huge rear blind spots) and reasonable handling and acceleration.

    1. SSurfer321 Avatar
      SSurfer321

      My 05 F150 rides/drives better than my old 03 Grand Am GT.

    2. SSurfer321 Avatar
      SSurfer321

      Apparently Nibbles ate my last reply…
      My 05 F150 rides/drives better than my old 03 Grand Am 2- door

    3. Hopman Avatar
      Hopman

      Yep. Agreed. It's amazing how tossable a 5,000 lb beast can be when you want it.
      Of course, I've also impressed and shocked a few friends by how well my '94 Ranger hustles arounds the twisties as well.

      1. JayP Avatar
        JayP

        I love to drive my 2001 2.3 XTL 5 speed. Head was off for a gasket replace and had it shaved… upped the compression to the point I can't use regular gas. With premium fuel, it's a peppy little thing. I can toe-heel pretty well with it. Live axle means I have to read the road for bumps.
        It reminds me of my old MGB- with my butt 2 feet higher in the air.

        1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar
          FuzzyPlushroom

          I'm used to live axles now, as the cars I've thrashed hardest have been my old Volvos. I've been trying properly hard not to consider a 4wd Ranger with a five-speed as my next vehicle – not sure I'll succeed, there.

          1. Hopman Avatar
            Hopman

            I've got one w/ a 4-banger. (You saw it @ Lemons last year) and It's a freakin' hoot to drive!!!!

          2. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar
            FuzzyPlushroom

            Seriously, your truck – preferably with an extended cab – would be perfect. Four-banger (for fuel economy and to keep me out of trouble), five-speed, 4wd, crank windows, passable stereo.

      2. ptschett Avatar
        ptschett

        I drove my dad's '95 Dakota for a few weeks when my T-bird needed a transmission, and I almost didn't want to give the pickup back. It just has the V6 and it's an extended cab 4×4 so it's one of the slower possible combinations, but the 5-speed made it fun and also it worked great for rural hooningcarrying a PA system around.

  9. Maymar Avatar
    Maymar

    I could easily defend the FWD Impala SS (decent roomy highway cruiser) or my old Escort (a Mazda Protege with more Ford bits).
    But I was really happy with my Cavalier. If I trusted the internet, it was uncomfortable poorly built garbage that wouldn't last and would give up at the first sign of a corner. But mine was a great econocar. I averaged about 33mpg, it never left me stranded, and it was cheap to run. More importantly, it was decent to drive. It'd absolutely understeer, but the limits were more defined by the cheap old tires. And yeah, the interior was cheap plastic, but it wasn't all that nasty, just hard and plain.

  10. Black Steelies Avatar

    My friend's Impala. Wasn't a total snooze but I would forgo some of it's better characteristics for something with style.

  11. 98horn Avatar
    98horn

    Jeep Liberty. Rented one in Dallas and drove to depositions and hearings all over east Texas. Decently solid, good pickup, and acceptable gas mileage.

  12. Syrax Avatar
    Syrax

    My current DD is a Fiat Stilo Abarth. Until that point everyone told me to stay away from Fiats, due to their well known "characteristics". I had a lot of other choices when I was searching and I went to test the Stilo just to see how it was, it wasn't even on the list. It was the last car I tested, and it completely changed my view on the entire brand. The interior was nice, it looks good and that engine! They could've gone with the 2.0 20v Turbo for the Abarth, but the 2.4 with 170HP is great. Plus, it never gave a single problem. I'm sure the Fiat Bravo T-Jet will be high on the list for a new car.

  13. BotchedKarma Avatar
    BotchedKarma

    In my youth I had an 83 chevette that I inherited. Now, it certainly had it's own special issues (loved how the drivers seat was crooked to match the crooked steering column!), but at the end of the day I had that car for years, got me through school, years of pizza delivery and a couple of cross country road trips.

  14. skitter Avatar
    skitter

    It's not that I had a bad impression of Subarus, it's that I never expect much from bargain-basement rentals. With a slushbox Impreza 2.5 on summer tires, it was love at manual seat-bottom tilt. It was a spectacular little car in need of some mild suspension upgrades. A non-hoon would sustain my opinion that current Elantras are really damn nice, and complain less about how, amazingly, it combines wallowing with snap under/oversteer.

  15. skitter Avatar
    skitter

    The Yugo: Built with the same technology that keeps this woman's clothing on. It's a victory that it works at all.

  16. LTDScott Avatar

    My fiancee's '06 Highlander hybrid. She was determined to buy another Soft-U-V to replace her old Escape, and was initially looking at RAV4 V6s. Those were hard to find, so the salesman at the Toyota used car lot told her to test drive the Highlander Hybrid.
    I thought, "Great, a hybrid-ized version of a lifted Camry. I might as well take a nap." Nope, the thing has some balls and rides very nicely. Even handles decently for its size and can tow 3500 lbs (it's pretty damn funny towing my LeMons car with a hybrid). She bought it and we have since taken several long road trips in it, where I have had nothing but praises for it.

  17. Armand4 Avatar
    Armand4

    I rented a Pontiac G6 a couple summers ago in Wisconsin, and I was shocked. I had heard someone mention it as being a symbol of GM's decline, so it was a pleasant surprise to see how competent it was– great for cruising on the freeway, passable when pushed through turns (I didn't do any serious hooning in it) and a comfortable, if not spectacular, interior. It even looked fairly nice in metallic gray. I'm sure a Camry will last longer and a Jetta has a better interior, but you could do a lot worse than a G6.

  18. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    <img src="http://www.houstoncars.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/01/WindowsLiveWriter/e9a8a1347b9c_D87D/2007-Jeep-Compass%5B2%5D.jpg&quot; width="480">
    I've mentioned this before, but yes, an '09 Jeep Compass rental surprised me with How Not So Terribly Bad It Was. Was it spectacular? No. But it certainly wasn't the "worst car in production," which is how it had been described to me. My complaints were pretty much limited to the harshness of the World Engine and the jerky CVT. I thought the interior (which was upgraded for '09, remember) while nowhere near luxurious, was pleasant enough. And I actually thought the driving dynamics were better than a number of other SUVs I've driven. Also, if you look at the CR reliability reports, it's above average there, too.
    Am I eager to run out and buy a Compass? No. But if I was in need of a car and somebody offered me a steal of a price on one with a 5-speed manual, I might consider it.

    1. Maymar Avatar
      Maymar

      My aunt has a Compass, and it's not bad. After about 5 minutes, I don't notice the CVT any more than a regular automatic. If it were my money, I'd probably end up in the Patriot though (the Compass's '11 restyle is rather nice, but I like my Jeeps blocky).

      1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
        Peter Tanshanomi

        My complaint with the CVT was only pulling away from a standstill. It took a bit too much throttle to get going, then it would jerk away from a stop too quickly. I spent some time in stop-and-go traffic and it got pretty old.

    2. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      I can accept that, as long as nobody tries to convince me that the Dodge Caliber is anything other than mobilised evilness. Well, maybe the 2.4 is some kind of heaven-sent revelation, but the 2.0 CVT compounded its Aborted-DIY-Project interior and mystery-bus handling with a throttle that you plant at 5000rpm, then you can read a book, go on vacation, paint a really nice landscape, put the kids to bed and then hit 60. Then run out of fuel.
      Hated it.

  19. volchonok Avatar
    volchonok

    My dad's '89 240. It was his dream car (he had it as a company car while working in a shop in Russia, while our family's daily driver was a Zhiguli 2101) , so once we immigrated to the US, he'd been looking for one. We found the '89 GL with the 4-banger and an automatic transmission at an insurance auction (before it was closed off to us peons). After I put my Accord in the garage for want of repair parts by accidentally jacking up the rear wheels of the GMC truck in front of me on the highway up into the air using my hood as a makeshift lift, I got my mitts on the 240, which had been standing idle slowly having bits and pieces repaired and replaced to bring it to perfection. It was winter (the original cause of my crash other than my 19 year old self), and I quickly found out that the brick was an absolute blast to drive. Again, probably due to 19 year old stupidity, I did a lot of things that should have crumpled both me and the car, but through sheer stupid teenager luck, we both survived that winter without any scratches. Sure, it didn't have much zip off the line…or anywhere else, but once you got it moving, the torquey engine, and sheer momentum, helped it do things it should not have done. It even helped me win a $100 bet with some friends that I couldn't drift it around a parking lot with its light posts.

    1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar
      FuzzyPlushroom

      Nobody's going to be surprised by this comment, I know. I don't care. My '89 244DL's seen 99 MPH – I won't tell you where – with a heavy passenger, a boot full of debris, mismatched rear tires, and fronts that were amazingly poorly balanced. In overdrive (yes, it's an automatic). It's also spent time on two wheels, run down reflector posts and countless traffic cones, and helped me do other things I can't legally mention, much less describe. It's battled snowbanks and won every time. For a first car that should have gotten me – and herself – killed, all Violet has is a few scratches.
      <img src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4075/5449779278_0cbe1fd605_b.jpg&quot; width="600/">
      I bought a 745 Turbo as a winter car because of it. I love 'em both, but the 240 more so.

      1. coupeZ600 Avatar
        coupeZ600

        I was completely blown away by how good my 145 was in the snow the first winter I owned it, and then I put the studded-snows (that came with it) on. Unstoppable!

  20. Jim7 Avatar
    Jim7

    I had an automatic Aveo, one of the most hated cars on the internet. I bought it used for $6,000. And while it wasn't a Honda Fit, it got 30 mpg and was adequate, reliable transportation. Were they a good deal new? No. But after someone else has taken the depreciation hit? I have to say yes.

  21. tiberiusẅisë Avatar
    tiberiusẅisë

    Tough question for this crowd. We tend to forgive a lot. Like a wife of 15 years, you either find something to love about a car or convince yourself you did. Not sure if the difference is all that important.

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      My '94 Escort wagon, which drove for 11 years and 104K, was economical, practical and reliable — but I was still never able to completely convince myself that I loved it… or even liked it very much.

  22. FЯeeMan Avatar
    FЯeeMan

    Dodge Grand Caravans.
    I've had a '99, an '01 and an '02. I picked up the '99 new, and it was totaled with 250k miles on it (sideswiped on the drivers side while parked). My son now has it with 276k miles. It had some tranny issues around 70k miles, but it's been trouble free ever since. The '01 was pushing 220k miles before a lady suddenly stopped in front of me. I didn't have a lick of trouble with it in the 100k miles I owned it. The '02 is still ticking along just fine at about 180k miles. They do seem to run through brake pads pretty quickly, but maybe that's because I replace 'em with the cheap Wearever Silvers.
    They're comfortable (ish… the seats got better with the newer designs), haul people easily, cruise up and down hills all day long, and get reasonable mileage considering how much crap you can stuff in them.

  23. vwminispeedster Avatar
    vwminispeedster

    My parents cars are awesome. Their latest Chrysler town and country with the 3.8L engine and 6speed is a hoot and hauls our LeMons mustang like there is nothing behind it. Dad's Citroen DS with turning headlights and awesome brakes were wonderful on late night speed sessions on winding roads above Oakland back in my youth. I am a more responsible driver and don't drive like that on public roads anymore, but dang it was good on Skyline. Acceleration was smooth just like the ride.

  24. mad_science Avatar
    mad_science

    Two-way tie:
    Kia Sorrento, circa 2003. Reminded me of the early 4Runners, light, boing-y and not particularly underpowered.
    Challenger V6, the Hooniverse Lost Review of 2010. Not fast, not particularly well engineered, but surprisingly fun, comfortable and generally likable.

    1. ptschett Avatar
      ptschett

      Ever since it was introduced I've viewed the Challenger SE as the new car market's most direct replacement for my '96 Thunderbird. My R/T is crazy fun with the stick and all the Hemi's torque, but I got by for 12 years with that T-bird, and even with its V8 my old car isn't as quick as the 3.5L Challenger.

  25. P161911 Avatar
    P161911

    Despite a fair amount of internet hate and less than stellar reviews, I have been extremely pleased with the 2004 Trailblazer that my wife drives. It is the standard (non-EXT) version with the Atlas I-6. Maybe my standards are low, but it rides comfortable, has a lot of room on the inside, especially with the seats folded down, gets good enough gas mileage, and while not an SS seems to have enough power. In 100k+ miles things have gone pretty well.
    While a bad car and horrible appliance in general, I have been surprised at how reliable the Dodge Caliber that my dad has for a company car has been. He has 125k+ miles on it, still has the original brake pads, nothing but oil changes and tires. It is just as horrible now as the day it was new. He drives 40k+ miles/year with his job, a fair amount of it the Smokey Mountains even. I was expecting Chrysler to loose money on the lifetime powertrain warranty his Caliber has, so far no problems. The Caliber is a very solid and well made piece of crap.

  26. Andrew Avatar
    Andrew

    Lamborghini Gallardo. I'd read how it was dynamically compromised in comparison to the 430; how the brakes were numb and grabby; how the steering was heavy and slightly stodgy; how the manual shifter was brittle and recalcitrant.
    All of the above were true, but somehow it still managed to be utterly brilliant. I was addicted in less than a mile.

  27. TurboBrick Avatar
    TurboBrick

    Toyota Sienna – I was genuinely surprised by how much pickup that thing had off the line. I expected it to have more of a conventional van feel to it, but it really drove like a giant Camry.

    1. SSurfer321 Avatar
      SSurfer321

      I drove my in-laws and barked the tires first time I rolled away from a stop.

  28. Jim-Bob Avatar
    Jim-Bob

    I'll answer it the way I answer a lot of awkward automotive questions- Geo Metro. Once you get used to the small size and sort the issues endemic to a 20 year old bottom feeder you find that it is really easy to live with and very reliable. The seats in my 91 are actually quite comfortable and it has plenty of cargo space and room for two people inside. Plus, compared to GM's own small car designs like the Crapalier, it actually has very good build quality. It's easy to service, the 3 cylinder has decent acceleration (due mostly to gearing) and you can't argue with a car that regularly tops 40 mpg in this economy. I now own two of them and am building the other one from the ground up for maximum fuel economy. (Like any other performance metric, chasing ever higher fuel economy numbers gets addictive!)

  29. Deartháir Avatar
    Deartháir

    Ford Festiva. It was an absolute shit car with shit driving dynamics and a shit interior… and it was insane amounts of fun to drive.
    <img src="http://pages.cs.wisc.edu/~bailen/blog/archives/FestivaHatchbackSpoiler.jpg"&gt;

    1. Deartháir Avatar
      Deartháir

      Nibbles appears to be om-nomming comments again…

    2. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      I bought an ex-rental '93 (last year in the States) LX with all the options (cloth seats! body-colored bumpers! alloy wheels!) and yes, an automatic. It was way the other side of gutless, but the interior was remarkably roomy and comfortable, and I frankly never tired of driving it. I loved it more than a lot of better cars I've owned.
      Perhaps the Festiva excelled mostly by comparison: my two previous vehicles were a '61 Chevy panel truck and a '66 GMC window van…both of which where horribly crude and perpetually unreliable.

    3. nitroracer Avatar
      nitroracer

      Another tiny econocar that was surprisingly fun to get around in is the 96+ Tercel. Twin cam four with 99 squirrel power, but it weighs in at 2000lbs in a world of 2 ton behemoths. The one I've driven has no sway bars, and a three speed auto but it never breaks and always gets over 30mpg no matter how hard you run it.
      <img src="http://i20.photobucket.com/albums/b238/nitroracer/Other%20Images/tercel.jpg&quot; width="600">

  30. ptschett Avatar
    ptschett

    -PT Cruiser. I test drove a midlevel, earlier-model wagon with a 5-speed a couple years ago and honestly liked the car.
    -Dodge Stratus (2nd generation). Like I mentioned in yesterday's thread I had a 4-cylinder/automatic dealer loaner while my Dakota was in for a scheduled service, and it was surprisingly nice.

    1. CJinSD Avatar
      CJinSD

      A friend of mine has a 5-speed PT-Cruiser that he uses as a parts runner on track days. He bought it used for a great price and it has actually wound up racking more miles in the past two years than either his S2000 or his wife's Sequoia. We took it out for a couple laps while the track car was down with an axle issue, and the PT acquitted itself remarkably well. It has 17 inch wheels, and my friend put on a decent set of BFG g-Force sports. When we came off the track, the tires had almost perfectly even heat patterns accross the tread. In all my years of BMWs, I'd never seen such tire optimization. Remarkable.

  31. facelvega Avatar
    facelvega

    I really like old full-size grandpa Buicks, which is what I now drive as my current beater. Two cars from which I expected nothing but actually enjoyed driving were both early-2000s Fords, an Escort ZX2 and a plain jane Taurus. I also really enjoyed driving a manual AWD SX4 hatch, more so than any other current Japanese small car I've tried, and that includes nearly everything but a Civic si, Lancer, Yaris, and the new Scion coupe.

  32. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    This actual car:-
    <img src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-XajlDQiZBWo/TVmJ91UZj1I/AAAAAAAAAWM/SeFkK9R_v6Y/s1600/s1.jpg&quot; width=350>
    Jaguar S-Type Diesel
    I don't know whether it's because I've grown up, have become enlightened, was in a good mood, I like to fanatically support the underdog, or I've just plain good old fashioned gone stark staring nuts. But out of nowhere, from being fifteen foot of wheeled "Meh," 48 hours behind the wheel of this four year old Jag seriously turned my head.
    Because I'm a total attention seeking "look at me!" whore, here's my review.

    1. Deartháir Avatar
      Deartháir

      As the S-Type is the very same car as my Lincoln LS, I wholeheartedly agree. It seriously and genuinely surprised me with how nice it was to drive, and just how much fun it could be. It is a much, much better car than it gets credit for. No, it is not a BMW killer, but it is a genuine threat to Mercedes. I think if Lincoln and Jaguar had made it clear that they were aiming for Mercedes, particularly the Mercedes of a couple years ago, it might have earned a whole lot more respect. And if they had taken it seriously, the next generation of the LS/S-Type — like the second-gen CTS — would have been one hell of a good car. Now we have to wait to see if the second-gen XF is as good as it could be.

      1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

        I concur. I usually decide about a car within an hour or so of sitting behind the wheel, but the S just gradually got under my skin and persuaded me to love it.
        I feel so used.

      2. tonyola Avatar
        tonyola

        To me, the Lincoln LS was far better looking than the Jag S-type. The Jag was a mess – it tried too hard to go retro and failed. It ended up looking blobby and pudgy with body creases that had nothing to do with the overall shape. Even the much-hated X-type was far better looking. It was small, but at least it had the right proportions.

    2. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      Yes, but if you're a satisfying whore, you deserve attention.
      In other words, nice review.
      But I've always had a soft spot for the S-type myself, so I'm fertile soil…

      1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

        You're very kind. Even though I just noticed that I uploaded the pre-proofreading uncorrected edition. I blame last nights Courage Directors Bitter.

        1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
          Peter Tanshanomi

          Oh, that's okay; I take forever to write my posts, even my comments, and still have to go back and tweak them a zillion times each. And no matter how many times I do, I am still chagrined to read what I've written.
          It's the curse of being unnecessarily pedantic, and yet exhibiting zero attention to detail.

        2. longrooffan Avatar

          Don't feel like the Lone Ranger…The blue bottle from the Skye is responsible for my indiscretions. Excellent review and we fellow "writers" know the "uncorrected edition". Seems all of us do it rather frequently regardless of multiple reviews. Nice review on the X type and blog post. I, too, have liked the X type and sure hope to someday acquire a longroof version of it. Keep up the great work!

  33. highmileage_v1 Avatar
    highmileage_v1

    '96 Geo Metro. Purchased as a throw away DD with the asthmatic 1.0 liter (litre?) and a 5 speed. It handled like a gopher on amphetamines and took a day or two to get up to highway velocities. If you ever got hit by anything larger than another Metro, you were going to look like a donair in a foil and glass wrapper. However, it was incredibly reliable and good on gas. Plus you could throw it around without worrying about the cost of replacement. Turned out to be a fun auto.

  34. CJinSD Avatar
    CJinSD

    I rented a couple of Toyotas last year. After reading all the bashing from people who don't want to admit they buy the wrong cars, and having spent the mid '90s driving third world Toyota rentals that really were flimsy appliances and a company Lexus SC400 that was a flacid personal luxury car, I expected the new Corolla and Camry to be Japanese GM. Instead, the 38,000 hard mile Corolla drove like a new 2002 while returning 30 mpg in city traffic on California's crummy gas, and the Camry was everything that German cars were in the '80s, when they were bought for their engineering.

  35. Tomsk Avatar

    Cadillac DeVille/DTS. Prior to the first time driving one (at one of GM's travelling them vs. the competition test drive things), my dad and I both assumed it was a floaty, numb, torquesteery, cheap-plastic-infested mausoleum-on-wheels aimed at people who would very soon be taking up permanent residence in a non-wheeled one.
    However, he decided to drive one on a bit of a lark, and couldn't believe how athletic it was. To make sure it hadn't been piping subliminal messages about the virtues of bingo night and having supper at 3:00 p.m. through the speakers, I drove it myself and was blown away with it's ability to chirp the tires off the line (much to a female course marshall's displeasure), near total absence of torquesteer, neutral handling and good (but not stellar) steering feel. And provided you don't go in expecting an interior that's a match for a furrin' luxury car in terms of fit and finish, it's really not that bad.
    A DTS would definitely be on my rental car shortlist. Purchase? That might be pushing it…

  36. Lou Hall Avatar
    Lou Hall

    The Chevette, it's reputation makes this car sound like garbage, but the truth of the matter is that they ran forever.
    The engine was underpowered and they had no brakes of floorboards after 5 years, but they handled nicely and sipped gas.

  37. ZomBee Racer Avatar

    '06-'08 Chevy Trailblazer.
    Got me over the top of Mt Rose (8,911 feet) due to a slight navigational error during the "Storm of-the Century" without any drama, and got over 22mpg after 6 hours in 4X4 low. Incredibly comfortable and capable truck, more surefooted than a mountain goat.
    Served me well through several work related emergencies, and single-handedly changed me from a proud Chevy hater to "I WILL have one of these someday".
    I used to reserve them whenever possible. If I ever move back up to snow country my wife WILL drive one.

  38. MattC Avatar
    MattC

    I will suggest my last daily driver; a 2001 Mirage ES. A quick look around the interwebs will suggest a poorly constructed car with lack luster appeal. I bought mine in 2003 w/20k on it (auto / a/c, power everthing, decent stock stereo/cd) at a firesale price. I preceeded to put 180k dead reliable miles on it. My requirements were quite simple; reliability, anonymity ( I was traveling daily to DC/Northern VA), and affordability. I had exactly 2 unscheduled maintenance items (1) A/C high pressure fitting broke at 140k and (2)valve cover gasket at 165k. That is it. Over the course of my ownership, the car remained rattle free, achieved 35-39mpg highway weekly, and served its purpose well. I finally sold it earlier this year for a newer car. I loved being able to buy a set of 4 tires for under $200, doing tune ups in less than 20 min/oil changes in 15 min. Seriously, I would recommend one in a heartbeat for practical transportation.

  39. dtargonski Avatar
    dtargonski

    only one minor reference to the babe in the opening pic…?!

    1. mr. mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
      mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      Lots of places to see ladies on the internet, not so many great places like here to discus cars.

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