Car shopping 2006

I keep re-visiting the same cars over and over, so I want to record my impressions and what I'm considering and what I've rejected.

All MPGs and prices are for 4-cyl automatic with cloth.

Model Type Price new/2YO EPA MPG Notes and picture
Toyota
Prius
Hybrid
Sedan
$20K plus 60/51 Well, it's a Prius.
Toyota
Corolla
Sedan $15K 30/38 Perfectly serviceable. Boring.
Toyota Scion xA Small Cheap 31/38 Lots of appointments like MP3 connector, iPod dock. No cruise option. (Dumb.) Car and Driver: yucky style, slow, and with a Yaris why bother? Quiet interior.
Toyota Scion tC Sporty $17K 23/30 Slightly zippier. Dual moonroofs?! Supercharger option included in warranty but not available in automatic. Usual 4-cyl automatic hesitation. Not good mileage - CGuide says 21-23.
Mitsub. Eclipse Sport $21 23/29

Real: 21

Car and Driver: cute, sporty, not a high-end performer but decent. Haven't driven one. CR says "lacks agility, quickness." Is cramped, uncomfortable. "A stiff and nervous ride." Wind & road noise, uncomfortable seating. Redesigned in 2006. Models are GS, GT, and GT-S. Not high mileage.
Acura RSX Sport $20 24/27 Stiff steering wheel, stiff ride. Peppy off the line. Automatic with manual shift. No MP3 plug. Moonroof not optional. Not sportily styled enough?
Honda Fit Sport Small $16,2 MSRP with my
choices
31/37 Popular, wins "fun to drive" competitions. Power accessories and ABS standard. Car and Driver like it, especially the Sport with paddle shifter. But CGuide says it's wimpy to accelerate to freeway speeds: 10.1 sec or worse, foot to the floor. Sport auto retail $15,970; invoice 15,297, dest chg 595. They also say it's loud.
Nissan Versa 1.8SL Small Cheap High Popular, more spacious than Fit and Yaris. Came in second for Car and Driver, for the commute-and-errand set. "Feels like a real car." CR says "Dull to drive, mid-pack." Wimpy A/C, one reviewer dinged cabin noise.
Toyota Yaris Small Cheap High Not winning the category. Cramped inside. Rough ride? Car & Driver panned it.
Toyota Celica Sporty 2005: $16,7 pvt party 23/32 Fast, fun, etc. Good mileage for its class. Don't bother with the GT-S, the lower spec engine is fine. Last year was 2005. CR loves it. No idea about automatic. Consumer Guide calls the interior quite noisy with tire roar etc.
Pontiac G5 Coupe Sporty      
Nissan Sentra 2007 only Compact $15-19 29/36 See below.
Civic LX        
         

Rejects:

Add to notes above:


2007 Nissan Versa and Sentra:

Discussion forum: http://forums.nicoclub.com/zeroforum?id=185

There are threads about lower-than-expected performance.

Drove a 2007 Nissan Sentra (new model this year) with the continuously-variable transmission (CVT). I really like the way it makes the 4cyl engine work - feels more like my 6-cyl Camry than the traditional 4cyl autos I've been driving.

But the new Sentra with reasonable features runs $18,265 MSRP, which is what the dealer wants to charge me - nothing less, and he hopes more. This is S series plus "comfort" package plus ABS. (You need to get $600 worth of cruise and $400 worth of alloy wheels in order to get $250 worth of ABS.) Another $750 gets you to the top trim model. Sucks.

Pricing for the Versa: only the top SL trim line comes with the CVT, and it has cruise already. MSRP is 15,450. Add $250 ABS to get $16,255. But is the $2K difference a good bargain? It's only 12%, but put it another way and it's half of an HDTV and a PS3.

Or I can spend $1,400 on my Miata now (hard top, cruise, other stuff) and stay with it until these models are available as used cars.