So after years of grousing and bitching about my existing car, I am determined to make a change this year FOR SURE. And since the Kossack community is brimming over with expertise, experience, and even just amusing anecdotes, I would like to seek your collective advice in hopes of narrowing down the field of candidates, so I can get a durable and efficient (and hopefully fairly green) car. Join me below the orange hood ornament for the parameters...
The current vehicle is a 2004 Sentra, which is actually a perfectly serviceable, if rather granny-ish, conveyance that has given me almost no trouble since I bought it in 2006. My main reason for ditching it now is that it's a 4-door sedan, and I am sick unto death of hauling my bass viol (gamba, not stand-up bass) in and out of the damn thing. Said viol is about the size and tonnage of a cello, in a blocky metal case; sometimes I have to haul multiple instruments, not to mention the usual music stands and other clutter. So the new car needs to accommodate this form of schlepping first and foremost.
With that in mind, what I want to get is a 5-door hatchback. A van or station wagon or SUV would be way more car than I need, and a 5-door would make it possible to haul things out from the side door if parking is tight.
Apart from gamba-loading ease, the parameters are:
1) Has to handle well in snow (I live in MN)
2) At least 30 mpg (hybrid is desirable but not essential, electric is not an option for me)
3) Manual transmission is perfectly fine
4) Preferably used/certified pre-owned--any input on specific model years back to, say, 2010 would be welcome.
5) Heated seats would be AWESOME (I used to think of them as highly frivolous...until this winter)
6) Good reliability/repair record
7) Not that hideous Kia thing with the disgusting hamster ads
I'm interested in identifying the best model(s) first and then seeing what I can find pricewise. I'll be working with a broker in the area, who is a goddess and will get me a good deal.
Mainly I've been looking at:
-Nissan Versa or Versa Note
-Prius C (or just regular Prius)
I thought about the Mazda 3, but have heard from more than one source that it's absolute crap for driving in snow.
So--would anyone care to weigh in on the relative merits/demerits of the recent generations of hatchback that are out there? Should I consider anything in the way of a Volvo, VW, Hyundai, or other less obvious model? I'm feeling a bit apprehensive about Toyota right now as they seem to have more and more quality issues these days, though the Prius is awfully attractive for multiple reasons.
Any input is greatly appreciated. I'm not in a huge hurry, incidentally, was thinking of making the purchase in April or early May (there will probably still be snow to drive around in, the way things are going). Thanks to all in advance!