Hi: We own two Volkswagens – love one, hate the other. The 2000 Jetta (stick) we love – but it's showing its age and repairs are on the rise. The 2007 Passat wagon – don't get me started. There is nothing we like about it besides the cargo space. Wish we'd leased it.
We have a largish dog, two teens, live in the city, (read: congested street parking – making the short Jetta a charm), one of us drives a lot for work (comfort is huge) and we have a cottage (need a hauler). We want to replace both cars.
One must be a people/dog/stuff mover, and one a small, well-appointed car with some guts. VW has scared us off with its service issues and constant problems with the Passat when the "money lights" go on. We like the firmer handling of European vehicles (but hear great things about Infiniti G also). We are done with our minivan and wagon years. What two vehicles would you suggest? – Sophie in Markham, Ont.
Vaughan: Let me speak first because I have an excellent suggestion for the Jetta replacement. I think Cato will agree with this and I'm sure he will try to take credit for the idea if I don't get it in first. Sophie, you should try the new ...
Cato: Mercedes B-Class.
Vaughan: See. I told you.
Cato: You are an I-told-you-so kind of guy. If only the world took your sagacity seriously. A pity and a great tragedy for the universe.
What isn't a pity is this 2013 B-Class. Vaughan and I tested this one together at the launch and drove away in agreement – in fact, I called it a "wow" car in my preview. At a starting price of $29,900, the 2013 B is better than the old car in every way. I mean, the 2011 B200 – the last version we had in Canada – had a wimpy 134-hp four-banger and yet listed for exactly $29,900!
Vaughan: Precisely. What you get in this B-Class is a super-efficient, 208-hp, turbocharged, 16-valve, direct gas injection, four-cylinder engine. It's coupled with a brilliant, double-clutch, seven-speed automatic tranny. A dramatic power upgrade.
Plus you get virtually all the same safety technology as the far more expensive Mercedes models. They pack in nine airbags plus electronic stability and traction control along with a couple of new ones: Collision Attention Assist and Attention Assist.
The former is a radar system that scans the road ahead for anything you're about to crash into, sounds a warning and then hits the brakes. Attention Assist is a driver surveillance system that watches to see if you're driving in a way that suggests you're falling asleep (as you would by reading one of Cato's car reviews) and then sounds the alarm. Plus there's room for the dog in back.
Cato: The dog, or Vaughan. Anyway, we like the B for you, Sophie, because it's the size of your easy-to-park Jetta, yet it will double-up as a cottage-going wagon, if need be. I know, you said you're done with wagons and minivans, but then you also said you need a "people/stuff/mover."
The B should be your next city car, and your cottaging rig – the replacement for the larger Passat wagon – might be Honda's Accord Crosstour. That Passat wagon may be a bucket of jangling bolts, but the Crosstour is anything but. Dead reliable, all-wheel-drive and you'll find that Honda has lots of deals out there.
Vaughan: The Crosstour is too ugly for words. No, I think if you're looking for a large station wagon, you should try the Toyota Venza. Toyota engineers dipped into the parts bin and put together a mix of Camry and Highlander components – and came up with "a new kind of vehicle – a crossover sedan." I call it a comfortable, convenient station wagon available with all-wheel-drive. It has enough room for four people, the dog and some luggage.
Cato: The Venza is Toyota Canada's sleeper hit. I mean a big hit. Toyota sells 12,000, 13,000, 14,000 of them every year. Dependable? Of course. All-wheel-drive for winter cottage runs? Yes, available. Handsome? Just like Mr. Vaughan over there. In fact, you should see what a dashing devil he is without the hat. But I'll pass on the automotive equivalent of Michael Vaughan.
Vaughan: On the B-Class we agree, but I'm taking Venza.
Cato: Of course you are. I'm giving the B-Class an "A." Any small wagon that will do 0-100 km/h in 6.8 seconds yet get better fuel economy than a Mazda3 hatch, Nissan's Versa hatch, Toyota's Matrix hatch, the Chevrolet Sonic hatch and Ford's Focus hatch – well, that's what you want, Sophie.
HOW THEY COMPARE
|Mercedes-Benz B250 Sports Tourer||2013 Honda Accord Crosstour EX-L||2013 Toyota Venza AWD V-6|
Track, front (mm)
|2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbo||3.5-litre V-6||3.5-litre V-6|
|208/258 lb-ft||278/252 lb-ft||268/246 lb-ft|
|Front-wheel drive||All-wheel drive||All-wheel drive|
|Seven-speed automatic||Six-speed automatic||Six-speed automatic|
Curb weight (kg)
Fuel economy (litres/100 km)
|7.9 city/5.5 highway||12.4 city/8.4 highway||11.4 city/7.9 highway|
Base price (MSRP)
Source: car manufacturers
Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.
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