2012 Philadelphia International Auto Show: A Budget-Conscious Consumer’s Comparison

The 2012 Philadelphia International Auto Show took place from Jan. 28 through Feb. 5. All major auto manufacturers were represented at the event. Like many consumers, I attended the event to get an idea about what type of car to purchase in the future. I compared the current models displayed at the auto show with models I’ve previously owned.

I’m looking for car models that are:

Easy to park and navigate on both city and highway
Affordable – under $25,000 MSRP
Fuel efficient
Inclusive of storage space

Volkswagen: New Beetle

I originally owned the 2000 New Beetle in the special edition vapor blue. I experienced multiple problems with this car. While it was cute, reliable and surprisingly steady in the snow, the car had many manufacturer recalls. Non-dealership mechanics disliked working on the car — even for a basic oil change. This wasn’t very practical for a student on the go. Despite this, I’ve always appreciated the iconic VW Beetle aesthetic.

I saw my first New Beetle at a previous Philadelphia Auto Show. As tradition demanded, this was my first stop upon arrival.

I was disappointed to find that the New Beetle aesthetic had changed. Like the original Beetle, the model evolved over time. However, the current model looks more like a Jetta or a Passat. While I would enjoy owning a VW more now that the company offers “carefree maintenance,” the change in the car’s aesthetic is extremely unappealing, particular the raised rear quarter of the vehicle. Furthermore, my mechanically inclined friend confirmed that many mechanics still dislike working on VWs.

Mistubishi: Eclipse and Lancer

Following the New Beetle, I purchased a 2004 Mitsubishi Eclipse RS. Although I purchased this car due to its sporty look and affordability, this two-door coupe was surprisingly efficient on gas mileage. I ran into financial trouble after I lost my job while owning this car; as a result, I poorly maintained it. This stylish sports car was extremely inexpensive to maintain when I was able to afford it, and it lasted over 100,000 miles with minimal maintenance.

There were no 2012 Eclipses or Eclipse Spyders at the event, but after scoping them out online, I dislike the change in aesthetic. The Eclipse’s gills have been removed and its back end rounded, making it look trendy, banal and overall less sporty.

For comparison, I checked out the 2012 Lancer instead. This cute and affordable car is smaller than the Eclipse (making it easier to park). I imagine the turning radius is a bit easier to handle as well-something that also made the Eclipse a little rough to drive.

Scion: XD and iQ

My present vehicle is a 2009 Scion XD. This reliable vehicle was attractive because many of its base features were only available as options on other models in the price range. After checking in at the Scion counter, I learned that the only real change in XDs since my model was a standard Bluetooth feature.

While I love my ’09 XD, I’ve always lamented that the vehicle only came in a few colors. I was pleased to learn that the current model year has twice as many color options.

Scion also introduced the iQ, which looks suspiciously akin to the Smart Car.

Other Models I’d Consider

Before I purchased my XD, I was actually at the Toyota/Scion dealership in search of a Prius. Though it had a higher price point than the Scion, I was mindful of the environment (and my gas budget). I tested a Prius at the indoor Ride and Drive event. While I enjoyed the quiet nature of the ride, I didn’t like the expansive dashboard, reminiscent of what a 1950s engineer might have designed as ‘futuristic’-or maybe something resembling the bridge of the USS Enterprise.

The 2012 Philadelphia International Auto Show offered an incredible opportunity to check out cars in a low-pressure environment. After checking out the recent models, I can confidently say that I’d express interest in a Mitsubishi, Scion or Toyota in the future.

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