At the start of August I mentioned my brother had been thrust into the arena of necessary car-buying due to a catastrophic engine failure (15 psi compression, woo!). I mentioned the initial contenders were the Civic, the Elantra GT, the Forte, the Mazda 3, the Impreza/Crosstrek, and variations of the Golf. Courtesy of Oppo suggestions the Corolla/iM hatch was also added to the list. Briefly.
Wordy recap ahead. If you want to go straight to me asking for advice again skip to the bottom.
The initial list of contenders was whittled down quickly. The Civic was axed as the only trim that comes with heated seats (mandatory) requires premium gas. The 3, Crosspreza, iMrolla, and Golf hatch were dropped for insufficient cargo space (the GTI was doubly eliminated due to the aforementioned premium gas). That left the Elantra, the Forte (which is stupidly rare), and the wagon versions of the Golf. So that’s where we started.
The first car my brother drove was an Elantra GT N-Line. He absolutely loved it, leaving the test drive giddy. The one he drove was a new 2020 model and well above what he wanted to spend, but he still nearly bought it on the spot. He told me it was a good thing we had somewhere else we needed to be that day (dropping off my Outback) or he might have done it.
Following this the hunt for a used N-Line began. This, by the way, is hard. The nearest one, and the only one for sale under 20 grand, was 800 miles away in Michigan. After some deliberating and pricing out auto transports my brother decided to send someone in the area to have a look, with a PPI and hopefully a sale to follow shortly after. Two days before our guy could go look at it the car sold. D’oh.
Sent back to square one my brother’s attention turned to the wagon variants of the Golf. The all wheel drive and additional cargo space of the Alltrack and 4Motion Sportwagen called to him, so we started focusing on those. The first one we went to was an Alltrack in New Jersey. My brother called the dearship and scheduled a time to go down and see the car. The main photo in the ad had me a bit concerned about just what kind of dealership we were going to, but I held my tongue and we headed down.
My suspicions ended up being right, the dealership and the lot attendant (can’t say sales person because he had zero interest in selling anything) felt like they were pulled from Jersey Shore. As for the car, when we started it up it immediately let us know the left rear tire was low on air. Further investigation showed that while three tires still had very good tread, the left front was at the wear bars. In addition to the tire issues, the rear windshield wiper was missing, as was the nut to hold the spare tire in place. Meanwhile, the person my brother had scheduled the visit with was offsite because it was his day off, and he’d taken the license plates needed for test driving the car. We were told we’d have to wait 45 minutes if we wanted to drive the car. We did not wait 45 minutes.
Despite this particluar Alltrack being a mess it did strengthen my brother’s interest in the Golfwagens. So the next day I found there was a 2018 a few miles from my house and went to check it out. I wanted to look at it myself before telling my brother because, despite being a certified pre-owned, the carfax showed it had been in an accident on the right rear.
It didn’t take long to figure out this was going to be a no-sale. There was overspray on the rubber window trim, there were multiple places where the window gasket wasn’t properly sealed, and the hatch was rusting along the seam on both sides of the plate. Who the hell did the CPO inspection on this?
Last week I compiled a list of Allwagens in the northeast that might be worth a look and sent it to my brother. The two standouts for him were a pair of Sportwagens, one in Hanover, MA, the other back in New Jersey (at a proper VW dealer this time). We made plans to visit the one in MA last Saturday, then a plot twist popped up.
An Elantra GT Sport arrived at a dealership in Mystic, CT. The Sport is the N-Line with a bit less refinement in the handling (though it’s still good), no short throw shifter, and a bit more red in the interior. A new contender in the ring. To complicate things further, while doing final research Friday evening I went to the dealer website for the Hanover Sportwagen because I was having trouble getting the carfax to load on the Auto Trader site. I couldn’t find the car listed in the inventory on the dealer’s site, and it was too late in the evening to be able to call and ask if it was still there. Uh oh.
Despite this we set off Saturday morning for Hanover to see the car. As a backup plan I’d found an Alltrack in nearby Brockton in case the one in Hanover was sold. The Brockton car had too many miles to be considered (just under 90k), but at least my brother would finally be able to test drive one.
At 9 am, when the Hanover dealership opened and we were about 20 miles out, we called. Sure enough the car had sold, so we diverted to Brockton. My brother drove the Alltrack, and while it wasn’t as engaging as the Hyundai he did like it a lot. After the test drive he had to go back home to have lunch with a friend, so I went to the Hyundai solo. The Hyundai had two tires with sidewall damage, and adjoining rash on the wheels from the previous owner getting in fights with curbs, but otherwise the car was pristine. I took it for a test drive (easiest test drive ever. I walked into the showroom and in less than a minute from meeting someone they’d put the keys in my hand and sent me off solo with a “go have a rip”) and the car felt fantastic. Sharp, competent, but still comfortable. Upon returning I told the salesperson I liked it but it had the issue with the tires. He immediately took it off the sale lot and put it into the service queue to have the tires addressed. (UPDATE: The salesperson I was working with called me and confirmed the car is getting four new tires.)
So now, barring one of the cars being sold during the week, it’s effectively down to the GT Sport in CT and the Sportwagen in New Jersey. We’re planning on going to see both of them this coming Saturday. The winner between the two will immediately be scheduled for a PPI, then purchased upon being given a clean bill of health.
Both cars have pros and cons. The Hyundai is a year younger with 12,000 fewer miles, it has 40,000 miles left on the full factory warranty and 80,000 left on the powertrain (EDIT: Powertrain warranty gets cut to 60k miles for second owner. Lame). It’s more enjoyable to drive, has leather seats, dual zone climate control, and a generally better button layout, both on the infotainment system and the steering wheel. Also, unlike the VW, things like the heated seats and the steering wheel volume controls work with the engine off. The main cons are a worse sound system and 5 fewer cubic feet of cargo space.
The Sportwagen just passed a CPO inspection on Friday, so it has a 24,000 mile CPO warranty, along with 5,000 miles left on the basic warranty and 29,000 on the powertrain. It has that extra cargo space, better sound, factory roof rails (my brother and his wife like to kayak), and all wheel drive. The biggest negatives/concerns are the shorter warranty length, reliability, and general VW weirdness which we have no experience with (lug bolts instead of nuts, the undertray with no cutouts for oil changes and a bazillion fasteners holding it in place, etc).
And this is where I come to Oppo for help. I know there are several here with various iterations of Golfs. How long have you had your car and how many miles? What problems have you run into, if any? What other design weirdness is he liable to be surprised by when working on the car (he has zero VW experience)? I don’t think there are any Elantra GT owners in here, but if so the same questions go to you as well. My brother has now been sans car for over six weeks, hopefully by this time next week we have a winner.