Proudly purchased in 2002, in Hartford Connecticut
I learned to drive later than most Americans. There had been some kind of mix-up in my high-school drivers' ed class, and they (whoever they might have been) never delivered our cars. My instructor was a vile, sexist ghoul who filled our non-driving hours with gory car-crash movies, lengthy discussions about sports, and appalling anti-woman rants. I resolved never to repeat his class. My parents we not great driving teachers. My father seemed baffled my lack of instant proficiency, and gave up trying to teach me (see also: skiing and tennis). My volatile mother would throw me out of the car with empty pockets, and if I didn't make it home quickly enough, she'd report me to the police as a runaway. (This was a fairly regular practice of hers. I have all sorts of horror stories to tell about teenaged hitchhiking.)
Robb was the person who finally taught me to drive. We were moving to Dallas, a city that doesn't have sidewalks. Robb was unfailing kind, and remarkably calm, and thanks to him I'm a safe, reliable driver.
But alas, my very first (and much beloved) car is no longer safe or reliable. Robb and I knew this day was coming, and have been saving to buy a newer car.
Because I do a lot of hauling for work (and the garden) we're looking at smaller station wagons, or hatchbacks with larger cargo areas. I really want a car whose back hatch does not narrow at the bottom, like the Nissan Versa. We'll be buying a used car, of course.
Does anyone have any suggestions about what to buy, or avoid? There are several VW Passat wagons for sale locally. Are they junk? What about the Mazda 3S?