15 Cars You Can Drive Forever

  • By Website Team Technicians
  • 20 Mar, 2017
By David Muhlbaum

Cars in general have become more reliable over the years. Yet there are some models that just seem to keep rolling along, whistling past the junkyard. We bet you’ve seen one of these still cruising the highway recently. We've identified 15 cars with exceptional—sometimes surprising—endurance and value.

Honda Accord Model years: 1976-Present
Here’s a wager: Next time you’re out for a spin, watch for a nondescript, tan or silver four-door. Good chance it’s a Honda Accord. Combine reliability and best-selling status—a true virtuous cycle—and you get ubiquity.

 Exactly what it is about Honda that provides such durability is the subject of much debate (and much corporate envy/espionage involving Honda’s design and manufacturing processes). But surely some of it has to do with the fact that Honda Motor Company puts its engines and engineering first.

Buick Roadmaster Estate Model years: 1991–1996
Behold the last of the big American station wagons. This General Motors behemoth offers an appealing combination of reliable, modern(ish) technology and retro looks. In the later years of its production, the Roadmaster was armed with a honking 5.7-liter V8 closely related to the Chevy Corvette’s to move all that mass.

Rear-facing third-row seats, wood paneling on the sides, shifter on the steering column—all the elements of the Great American Wagon are there. You can even squeeze a third passenger up front if the ruckus in back gets too loud.

Geo Prizm Model years: 1984-2010
The Geo Prizm is one of a number of vehicles that have at their core one of the most reliable cars ever: the Toyota Corolla. But while the Corolla’s longevity goes unremarked, the Prizm and its stable-mates cause head-scratching as they soldier on into their second or even third decade: What is that thing? How is it still running?

This Corolla clone (marketed as a Chevrolet at one point) also appeared as the Chevy Nova (1984-1988) and the Pontiac Vibe (2002-2010). All of these cars were the product of a Toyota-GM joint venture called NUMMI, a Fremont, Calif. factory that built nearly 8 million vehicles of Toyota’s basic design before it closed down in 2010. These were the first Toyotas assembled in the U.S., and the story of how this location’s jaded United Auto Workers workforce learned the “Toyota Way” and turned out cars just as good as the ones built in Japan is a fascinating one.

 VW Van Model years: 1950-1992
The VW van, which creates instant counterculture nostalgia for baby boomers, keeps finding new generations of fans. Just look at the comic strip Zits, whose 16-year-old protagonist drives one.

A combination of sheer devotion from its fans and a deep reserve of used parts (thanks in part to its sharing many components with VW Beetles) keeps the VW Vangoing and going. Many are sun-faded and seem to rely on bumper stickers and duct tape to hold them together, but some VW Vans actually attract serious collector money: The 23-window models of the 1950s can fetch more than $50,000. And the handful of later-model Vans that were equipped with all-wheel-drive have a committed following in the mountain west's ski towns.

Volvos (Rear-Wheel-Drive Ones) Model years: Dawn of Man-1996
Volvo's secret? It basically built one car for decades under a variety of model names. In its staid Swedish way, the carmaker eschewed fashion and focused instead on quality (and safety). About the only thing that will kill off a Volvo is rust, says Mark Bredesen, the owner of Herndon, Va., import-repair-shop Autoscandia, who’s been working on Volvos since 1978—and the later models largely conquered that problem with galvanized steel. After a first round as the family truckster, these cars often devolve to being the kids' college vehicles—and sleeping quarters at jam-band shows.

Saab 900 Model years: 1979-1993
Let’s just get this out of the way: The Saab 900 is no Swedish cousin to the Volvo 240, at least not in terms of inherent reliability or simplicity of design. Weak transmissions are among their problems, says import expert Bredesen.

That said, this “other” Scandinavian has its own cult-like following that keeps a good number on the road, particularly in New England and Colorado, where the front-wheel-drive Saabs were popular for their great handling in snow, back before all-wheel-drive became a common option.

Subaru Wagons Model years: 1990-Present
The toughness of Subarus (with their standard all-wheel-drive) sometimes gets conflated with reliability, but they’re not the same thing: Just ask the many owners who had cylinder-head-gasket failures.

Nonetheless, many keep on trucking, particularly for owners involved in higher education. Have a look in the parking lots of colleges and universities in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest, where they serve as the transportation of both professors and students. The only way to tell whose is whose is by the bumper and window stickers.

 Mercedes 240D/300D/300TD Model years: 1975 and beyond
If you wanted a Mercedes in the 1980s that got reasonable mileage—that is, above 20 mpg—you got a diesel. That the company sold as many as it did was largely a fluke of federal regulations; the thrifty diesels allowed Mercedes to meet fleet fuel economy standards. They also were built to run forever, with not a single bit of electronics needed under the hood.

Toyota Camry Model years: 1992-forward
The 1992 model year marked the point where the Camry really hit its stride and went on to become a sales and endurance leader.

Two reasons: The styling, which evoked Toyota’s then-new Lexus luxury line, and roominess. Camrys that Toyota had imported to the states up until then had hewed to a Japanese market restriction of being no more than 67 inches wide. For 1992, Toyota decided to build a separate model just for the North American and Australian markets that was 70 inches wide. In so doing, it created a competitor to the 71-inch-wide Ford Taurus, which it would go on to dethrone as the most popular sedan in the U.S. in 1997. It’s held that honor for all but one year since.

 Ford Escort Model years: 1991-2002
Transportation, nothing more. Reasonable reliability. Way cheaper on the used market than a Toyota of the same era.

Virtually nobody gets excited about a Ford Escort, but for people who need a way to get to work for not a lot of dough, this is a prime mover. The 1991 Escort represented one of Ford’s more successful collaborations with Mazda, and it owes much of its design to the Mazda Protégé. The shared DNA can also be found in the Mercury Tracer and Ford ZX2.

Chevy Camaro/Pontiac Firebird Model years: 1982-2002
These cars' refusal to die is not necessarily a function of inherent reliability. It’s the sheer bullheadness of their owners, aging children of the ‘60s and ‘70s, who still want to drive a two-door American sport coupe with a V-8 and rear-wheel-drive and no way is it going be a Mustang (because that would be a Ford.) They can’t afford a new Camaro (or other new, hot sport-coupe offerings, such as the Dodge Challenger). And they can’t afford pony cars from the actual muscle-car era of the late 1960s and early 1970s, which are now only for well-heeled collectors. So that leaves the F-Body cars, in conditions ranging from impeccably polished to primer gray.

Ford Crown Victoria/Mercury Marquis Model years: 1992-2011
These road tanks have been doing a great job taking Granny and Grandpa to church every Sunday for decades. Even though the civilian versions lack the endurance-building parts installed in police cruisers and taxi fleets, such as oil coolers and stronger suspensions, the core components of the American sedan are all there: V-8 engine, solid rear axle, body-on-frame construction. The Chevy Caprice held this niche as well until the mid-1990s, when GM decided to turn its production facility over to big SUVs.

Buick LeSabre Model years: 1989-2005
Despite the best efforts of GM marketing departments to persuade car buyers otherwise, most people realized by the 1990s and 2000s that Buicks, Chevrolets, Pontiacs and Oldsmobiles were all very similar under the skin.

 And yet, it’s the Buicks that got the love in this era, as reflected in the many, many awards the brand won from quality-rankers J.D. Power and Associates. The LeSabre won “most trouble-free domestic” in 1990, and the brand as a whole was the top among domestics for initial quality. Fifteen years later, the LeSabre won “most dependable full-size car.” There were more honors in between those years, and Buick continues to do well in these surveys.

Jeep Cherokee Model years: 1987-2001*
We're going to make an exception to our “no-trucks” rule for the Jeep Cherokee. For one thing, it's not really a truck. As the first small crossover in the U.S., it did not have traditional body-on-frame construction of a traditional SUV.

Despite that, and despite being the last gasp of the dying American Motors Corporation, it did have Jeep toughness in its DNA, excellent off-road abilities and a well-proven, durable, straight-6 engine. Many Cherokees are still roaming America's secondary roads—and Europe as well, in a turbodiesel variant. That comes with a caveat, notes Edmunds’ Drury. “It will drive,” he says, “but is everything working? Probably not. A window might not go down, or a speaker might be out.”

For owners willing to put up with those sorts of niggling problems (or fix them themselves), the Jeep Cherokee can be an interesting combination of a vehicle that will go just about anywhere—and keep doing so for a long time.

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By Website Team Technicians 03 Aug, 2017

As it becomes clear they're swimming in a shrinking pool, fish instinctively take up the struggle for available space and oxygen. Suddenly, all bets are off and only the strongest and most competitive manage to rise above an increasingly agitated pack to fight another day.

 

And so it goes in the Australian new car ecosystem. The 'light' category is still one of the largest in market, where the likes of Hyundai's Accent, the Mazda2, and Toyota's evergreen Yaris live. But the line on the sales chart is ever so consistently heading south.

Year-to-date sales for light cars under $25k are down no less than 20 per cent, and that's on the back of 16 per cent drop over the course of 2016. Meanwhile, medium SUVs are up close to 10 per cent.

Enter Kia's Rio hatch, the brand's global best-seller, with claimed annual sales "approaching 500,000", which is undoubtedly a big number. But in Australia, the Rio is a middle order player in a light car field of around 15 determined competitors.

Which means the new fourth generation Rio, launched here in January this year, is critical to Kia's chances of grabbing a larger slice of the rapidly diminishing light car pie.

Not surprising then, that the entry-level S model boasts upgraded multimedia connectivity and enhanced safety tech, not to mention improved dynamics and more space. Sounds good, but is it enough to get a jump on the light car big guns?

 

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The architect of Kia's recent styling revolution is Peter Schreyer, a gifted designer that raised automotive eyebrows around the world when he upped stumps at Volkswagen Group in 2006 to join the Korean carmaker.

Under his watch, the Kia design team has internationalised and unified the look of the entire range, from the tiny Picanto to the jumbo-size Carnival people mover.

A signature element across the line-up is the tabbed 'Tiger Nose' grille, and the new Rio proudly wears a sleek and neatly refined version of it, with distinctive, raked headlights sitting either side.

From there though, the overall look is pretty much hatch by-the-numbers. Inoffensive but uninspiring, with a generic approach to the profile and rear treatment.

An odd touch is a pronounced handle on the rear hatch door. Flying in the face of the current trend towards low-key integration of this type of function, it looks like a clumsy throwback to the 1980s.

Inside, the dash is cool and clean, with the central 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen standing proud of the main fascia. Key controls are clear and simple, while the soft-form instrument binnacle houses a large speedo and tachometer, with a multi-function LCD display (including a digital speed read-out) between them.

The Rio S interior colour palette ranges all the way from grey to dark grey, with tightly woven and subtly textured cloth trim on the seats.

One small whinge relates to the four button blanks in the console. Yes, the S is the base model, but blanks in place of controls for 'stuff' fitted to higher variants really rams the fact home.

How practical is the space inside?

Measuring just over 4.0m long, 1.7m wide, and 1.45m high, the Rio fits the light car template to a tee. Its 2.6m wheelbase plants the wheels close to each corner to maximise interior space, and the result is surprisingly generous accommodation.

Plenty of space up front, with two cupholders (of different sizes) in the centre console and bottle bins (big enough for 1.5-litre bottles) in the doors. There's also a storage box between the front seats and a decent glovebox.

For powering and connecting purposes you'll find a 12 volt outlet, an auxiliary line-in socket, a USB port, as well as a drop-down sunglasses box in the roof. And if you're on the gaspers, there's even a cigarette lighter (the ashtray is removable).

Swings and roundabouts in the back, with a handy amount of head and legroom (for this 183cm tester) offset by the lack of controllable air vents, central armrest or cupholders.

Three adults across the back will be uncomfortably tight for anything other than short journeys, but there's a 12 volt power socket, USB port, a map pocket on the back of the front passenger seat (only), and (500ml) bottle bins in the doors.

Open the rear hatch and you're greeted with 325 litres of cargo space with the 60/40 split fold rear seat upright. That's enough to hold our three piece suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres), or the CarsGuide pram, albeit in an awkwardly side-on position.

Fold the rear seats down (flat) and the load space increases to a substantial 980 litres. As well as the main cargo area, there's a handy storage bin on the passenger side, a light, parcel hooks, and four tie down anchor points. The spare is a space saver.

Towing capacity is understandably limited, with 450kg allowed for an unbraked trailer and 1000kg for a braked trailer.


Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

 

The Rio S manual wears a $16,990 price tag (before on-road costs) which positions it more than 10 per cent above entry-level offerings from key segment players like the Hyundai Accent Active, Mazda2 Neo, and Toyota Yaris Ascent.

For that money you'll be on the receiving end of standard features including remote central locking (with keyless entry), the 7.0-inch multimedia screen managing a six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth connectivity as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, (manual) air conditioning, auto headlights, and reverse parking sensors.

Not bad for a five-door hatch at the budget end of the spectrum, but forget cruise control, sat nav or alloy wheels. For those you'll need to step up to the Si at $21,490, and if your heart's set on rain-sensing wipers, climate control air and a sunroof, the top-spec SLi is your only choice at $22,990.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The single Rio engine option is the 'Kappa' 1.4-litre, naturally aspirated petrol four cylinder, producing a modest 74kW at a peaky 6000rpm, and 133Nm at a relatively high 4000rpm.

It's an all-alloy, overhead cam, 16-valve design, featuring variable valve timing (inlet and exhaust). It drives the front wheels through a six-speed manual (as tested here) or four speed automatic transmission.

How much fuel does it consume?

Kia quotes combined (urban/extra urban) fuel economy of 5.6L/100km for the six-speed manual Rio S, emitting 129g/km of CO2 in the process.

That's a pretty handy number, and the other good news is the engine is tuned to run on regular 91 unleaded. At that rate, the tank's 45-litre capacity equates to a theoretical range of around 800km.

Over roughly 350km of city, suburban and freeway running, we recorded 8.4L/100km (courtesy of the on-board computer), which still converts to a handy 535 kays between fills.

What's it like to drive?

Kia claims the new Rio's bodyshell is stiffer than the outgoing model's, which has allowed a more compliant (strut front, torsion beam rear) suspension set-up, and like every other Kia model offered in Australia, the Rio's underpinnings have been comprehensively revised and tweaked by local tuning guru Graeme Gambold.

The results are impressive, with a balance between ride comfort, body control and dynamic response cars costing at least twice as much would be proud to call their own.

With just 74kW on hand to shift 1.1 tonnes of hatchback, and that peak number arriving at a lofty 6000rpm, you'd hope for some low down torque to help with step-off acceleration and mid-range kick.

But no such luck. Torque is less than mega, and with the peak arriving way up at 4000rpm, when you need some extra urge for a snappy lane change or overtaking there's simply nobody home.

In terms of the driving environment, while the interior looks good, the feel bit doesn't exactly measure up. The plastics used around the dash, doors and console are so hard, it's like driving a Tuppaware container on wheels. In fact, those trusty, air-tight receptacles are probably more forgiving than the Rio's main cabin surfaces.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Warranty

Basic warranty

7 years / unlimited km warranty

The oversize ace up the Rio's sleeve is Kia's industry-leading seven year/unlimited km warranty, which includes seven years roadside assist and seven years capped price servicing. Whoa.

Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 15,000km (whichever comes first), and the cost of each of those services is detailed on Kia Australia's website, including detail on everything that's replaced, inspected or otherwise checked each time. Cue applause...

For the record, (guide) costs over those seven years are - $226, $382, $277, $561, $255, $470, and $270.

By Website Team Technicians 03 Aug, 2017

The 2017 Hyundai i30 SR Premium gives you 150kW of power and a load of standard features that belie its modest $34k price. It begs the question: how much hot hatch do you really need?

You are looking at the flagship of Hyundai's hyped third-generation i30 range. It's called the SR Premium, and it's designed to make prospective Volkswagen Golf GTI buyers pause.

On paper the Korean contender looks the goods. It's quick, has thoroughly reworked suspension and standard features that belie its $33,950 before on-road costs list price.

The argument: It's not quite as fast or potent as the German, but it is about 10 grand cheaper and not a million miles removed. So how much hot hatch do you really need?

Rivals trying to do exactly the same thing include the Ford Focus Titanium, Holden Astra RS-V, Honda Civic RS, Mazda 3 SP25 Astina and Renault Megane GT-Line.

Let's break this down. Under the bonnet is the same 1.6-litre GDi turbocharged petrol engine used in the Elantra SR, making 150kW of power and 265Nm of torque, the latter from 1500rpm.

This engine sends its power to the front wheels via a standard DCT seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox with paddles - only the base $25,950 i30 SR with less equipment gets a six-speed manual option.

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By Craig Jamieson

Ah, the Skyline. Against a skyline. Nice.

The Skyline, in our opinion, is the car that made Nissan.

 

Never mind that it was actually invented by Prince – no, not the ‘Purple Rain’ one, the Japanese car manufacturer, which merged with Nissan in the 1960s. Nissan kept the excellent ‘Skyline’ name – and the somewhat suspect ‘Gloria’, but we digress.

 

The Skyline nameplate dates all the way back to the late 1950s, but it’s the 1989 R32 Skyline GTR that really put Nissan on the map. Even though there had been quite a few highlights in the range over the years – the original 1969 GTR, for instance, and the R31 GTS-R – the R32 left an indelible mark, both on the road and in motorsport.

By Website Team Technicians 28 Mar, 2017

By KBB.com

Families have moved on from the family sedan.

Looking at sales trends, soccer fields and school drop-off lines it’s clear that today’s family car is actually an SUV. And the family-friendliest vehicle of them all, the minivan, continues to appeal with its purpose-built practicality.

As SUVs have grown more comfortable and more efficient over the years, families and car shoppers in general have demonstrated an increasing preference for the elevated driving position, superior cargo versatility and higher profile of SUVs. Whether it’s the sliding doors and cavernous interior of a minivan or the high-riding nature and available all-wheel drive of an SUV, each of these vehicles is simply more functional as a family car than a traditional sedan.

~ Best 2-Row SUVs for Families

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The Internet is a great tool to research and shop for used cars. Here's how to use online resources to your greatest advantage as a used car buyer.

By Website Team Technicians 20 Mar, 2017
By David Muhlbaum

Cars in general have become more reliable over the years. Yet there are some models that just seem to keep rolling along, whistling past the junkyard. We bet you’ve seen one of these still cruising the highway recently. We've identified 15 cars with exceptional—sometimes surprising—endurance and value.

Honda Accord Model years: 1976-Present
By Website Team Technicians 10 Mar, 2017

The all-new 2018 Range Rover Velar has been revealed, filling the space between the smaller Evoque and larger Sport in the British marque’s line-up, and will land in Australia later this year, in the Summer. Pitched as the “avant garde Range Rover“, the Velar is claimed to offer new levels of refinement and technology for the brand, and is set to go on sale in Europe later this year.

When the Velar goes on sale in Australia, pricing will range from $70,300 to $135,400 before on-road costs. A special ‘First Edition’ variant will also be offered at launch, priced from $167,600 – again before on-road costs are applied.

Although full Australian details are still to be revealed, headline features in the Velar include the debut of the new Touch Pro Duo infotainment system with two high-definition 10-inch touchscreens, along with Matrix Laser-LED headlights, Jaguar and Aston Martin-esque flush deployable door handles, and a minimalistic design approach.

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