Where Your Author Seeks a Green Wagon Replacement

Image: 2012 Subaru Outback, image © Corey LewisTTAC’s a great place to share car search stories (particularly for used cars), and I’ve taken advantage of this soapbox on a couple of distinct occasions when looking to replace one of my close personal rides with something else. I’ve gathered you all here today because that time has come once again.

The Subaru Outback is going to glide off into the fall sunset, and soon.

This change of heart is not just boredom (partially), but rather because usage needs have changed. In June I started a new job and career, and the daily commute increased from 6.6 miles round-trip to 18.2 miles in its shortest iteration.

Smooth roads of suburbia were exchanged for the rougher ones of the urban landscape. It’s a place filled with two-lane roads and lots of stoplights. On the plus side, there’s no must be at the office always mandate any longer. In a more relaxed and modern fashion, working from home is allowed. That meant the necessity for something snow-capable and all-wheel drive went away. Now, my focus can go elsewhere — just like the Subaru’s fuel bill, which doubled in June.

Image: 2012 Subaru Outback, image © Corey LewisAdditionally, it was readily apparent that a Subaru CVT is less than ideal in stop-start traffic. The Outback loses more points with its somewhat agricultural suspension setup, which feels sloppy when the going gets rough. The sound insulation could be better as well — I’ve found an increasing reliance on the volume knob of the stereo.

Those things in mind, I set out on a basic search with a few priorities in mind:

  • Hatchback/wagon format
  • Real transmission
  • Comfort/refinement
  • Leather interior, not black
  • Fuel economy
  • Used
  • MY 2014+
  • <$24,000

2017 Kia Niro EX rear quarterI’d had my eye on a hatchback that seemingly fills these requirements: the Kia Niro. It’s efficient, has great reviews, a dual-clutch auto, and is available with lots of standard equipment and leather seats. However, availability of said mythical Niro is an issue. Seems almost nobody’s bought the Niro in the only trim where leather is commonly found — Touring (rarely selected option on EX). Further, of the 10 or so used Tourings available nationwide, none of them have stone leather. Dealers around here ask about $30,000 for a new Niro Touring with a light interior (which is only available on a couple of paint colors).

The Niro’s not old enough to be available in the trim and color I want as a used proposition, so we’ll open up the floor to other suggestions. The priorities above can be thought of more like rules, by the way. Surely there are several options out there on the used market.

[Images: Corey Lewis, Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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