My dream car is a Subaru, but I’m eying a Mazda Demio — what's your advice? - Beaking Kenya News

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Wednesday, 13 May 2020

My dream car is a Subaru, but I’m eying a Mazda Demio — what's your advice?

Hello Baraza,
I hope you are well. I love reading your column, and I’m a fan of your work. Forgive my long email. A 2012 Mazda Demio goes for between Sh680,000 and Sh750,000, with mileage of 64,000km to around 78,000km. With the same price range, you can get a locally used Subaru Impreza (DAB-GH2) 2009-2010 model with mileage of 100,000-plus kilometres.
Again, with the same price range, you can get a 2006 Subaru Legacy BP5 or B4 with some mileage on it as well. I love the Subaru brand, but when it comes to purchasing a car, I want value for money, that’s why the Mazda Demio is on my list.
I have the above two Subarus on my list because the 1.5l Impreza lacks AWD whereas in other markets they get AWD in their 1.5R model, which annoys me. The reason I am interested in the Legacy is that its price point is close to the Impreza but it is way better and more powerful than the Impreza.
Notice that I’m not talking about speed because what is speed if the Subaru is not turbocharged. I will get one later on in life, right now I’m content to take it a step at a time. Now tell me, what car would be the best purchase for a five-year period, putting in mind cost of maintenance, regular servicing, and spare parts availability? Should mileage be a point to consider or ignore?
Thank you.
Hello and welcome to a Subaru hand massage. I expect accusations of brand bias after this response, but by this point I have become desensitised to one-dimensional attempts at rational thought.
When you say “value for money” and then declare the Demio the champion against two Subarus of increasing size and vintage (in exact three-year increments, oddly enough), I begin to wonder whether or not you are one of those people who buy number plates disregarding whatever is bearing the plate.
The kind that say the car they are looking to buy “must be a KC-something”. This kind of approach limits your exposure and makes you susceptible to what the English refer to as “being had”.

A red Mazda 2 Hakone.
A red Mazda 2 Hakone.
In the formative years of this column, I wrote an article on how to buy a used car and a few points I raised directly dismiss this purchasing protocol of assuming that a newer vehicle is automatically better value for money if priced the same as a slightly older but different vehicle. Point 1 said “Open Your Mind”. Point 2 said “Open Your Eyes”.
Before we get into it, I must say it was a light-bulb moment when you wrote “ … The reason for the Legacy is that its price point is close to the Impreza but it is way better and more powerful than the Impreza …”. Bang on. So why not extrapolate this train of thought to include a comparison against the Mazda as well?
I am in the unique position of having owned two of the vehicles in question, but slightly older models. I once had a 2006 Mazda Demio, wonderful little car that never visited the garage except for servicing and that one time I busted its lip trying things best left to action films.
However, I let it go in exchange for a 2001 Subaru Legacy in a tale-worthy instance of leaving home in one blue car and returning later in another blue car.
I made no profit and I made no loss, what I sold the Demio for is exactly what I got the Legacy for. Here is the kicker: I owned the Mazda for two years.
The Subaru is pushing four years plus with no sign of letting up. There is a very good reason for this. The Subie is more powerful, naturally.
But it is also more practical — lower the rear seats and it acquires the carrying capacity of a half-tonne pickup. It is a lot roomier as well, so it will carry the same five passengers but in greater comfort, corona be damned.
It is more talented: it has the much vaunted symmetrical AWD that makes cornering a doddle and any shenanigans that result in oversteer are easily cured by a prod of the throttle which causes the front to paw its way out of any impending yaw moment.
Just to be clear, oversteer is what did the Demio in and split its chin in a flash of embarrassment and leaking coolant.
The Subaru is also a much harder vehicle. I have done a bit of solo “rally” driving in it back when I was still excited to finally own a turbocharged car with a rorty exhaust note, and it didn’t bend even in the slightest.

Mazda Demio.
Mazda Demio.
Speaking of bending, El Turbo has been the victim of two robberies as well as being the involuntary recipient of car-on-car violence from a variety of sources up to and including, but not limited to: a 33-seater Umoja matatu, a police Land Cruiser (yikes!), an army truck (YIKES!) and surprise, surprise, another Mazda Demio exactly like the one I sold to pay El Turbo’s dowry in the first place. You can’t make this stuff up, I tells ya.
The result? El Turbo cranks every morning and still drives like it did when I got it. It has taken all sorts of beatings without a single lament.
The point I am trying to drive at is El Turbo offers me more value for my money than the Mazdalago ever did, despite the fact that the little LP111-2 was five years newer, much smoother, bore half the mileage and had two radios (don’t ask).
If I put the Demio through even 30 percent of what my WRX-powered Legacy wagon has gone through in my hands, the little car from Hiroshima would have caved in long ago and I'd have had to part it out or scrap it.
I’ve driven El Tubro in off-road “situations” that left it with splashes of black cotton as high up as the roof and the tyres so caked in goo they had a Viagra moment and grew five inches in girth and lost all grip, making me slide all over the place the moment I hit tarmac.

A Subaru Impreza.
A Subaru Impreza.
Having sung the praises of my trusty workhorse, we can now go back to your treatise and look at the query critically: “Now tell me, what car would be the best purchase for a five-year period, putting in mind cost of maintenance, regular servicing, and spare parts availability? Should mileage be a point to consider or ignore?”
This raises an interesting point based on that partially unnecessary narrative I have just given: What do you need the car for? I just said my Mazda never broke down, ever.
Servicing costs never exceeded Sh4,000. It had low mileage (still below 100,000 by the time I sold it) and sharing parts with a Nissan Wingroad meant availability of spare parts was never a problem.
El Turbo, however, may have had a moment or two necessitating an expert look-see under the hood. Servicing costs twice that of the Mazda, and that is before buying original Subaru plugs, which cost the same as the service itself (but they last forever — I am still on the same set I bought way back when I acquired the car and there is no hint of power loss or misfire to date).
It lost its original engine when a simple head gasket replacement went awry. A perfect analogy for that snafu would be going to the doctor’s for a simple appendectomy only to discover the guy is not really a surgeon but a cobbler at the exact moment he punctures your lung with an awl, and you watch yourself dying slowly as he sweats over you trying to fix the oxygen leak in your chest with quick-drying glue. Enough with El Turbo’s colourful history …
What do you need the car for? If it will live a hard life, leave the Demio alone. It’s soft and delicate. Go for something older but tougher. If I lived on a farm, I’d ditch the Subaru and get an even older Suzuki Vitara JLX (the one with the 2.0 V6 to be specific; I am a discerning man) that would cost just about the same.
However, if your driving is easy and gentle then by all means go for the newer, daintier vehicle. The reasons are obvious, but keep in mind the other needs you have besides tractability.
No point buying a Demio when you are always four-deep in the car and your passengers have Yank-like frames or you are always ferrying stuff around. That is not its job.
I am not sure I need to explain why mileage is also a consideration.
That should be pretty straightforward. Subarus in particular require you to keep an eye on the odometer because of something called the timing belt.
It needs changing every 100,000km and if it goes, it does so in spectacular fashion that will result in the engine eating itself with a noise like the god of thunder sitting on a pin and the vehicle coming to a violent, shuddering, final stop. Subaru engines are not expensive if you stay away from anything labelled “STi”. Trust me, I know this …

Mitsubishi RVR.
Mitsubishi RVR.
What treatment do you recommend for my Mitsubishi RVR?
Hello JM,
I appreciate your vast knowledge on matters motoring. On to the point, I drive a newly acquired second-hand Mitsubishi RVR G, automatic transmission. The previous owner admitted that it had an issue with a slipping transmission before we closed the deal, but I thought it would just be a minor problem. A local mechanic advised that I refill gear fluid but the problem still persists. It has become so bad that I can’t shift gears without taking my eyes off the windscreen. Kindly advice me.
I don’t know what taking your eyes off the windscreen has to do with a gear change in an automatic car — or even a manual one for that matter, but it sounds like you need a new transmission.
If a manual will fit in there, even better. Since you didn’t specify the vintage and power unit of RVR you (try to) drive, it will be hard for me to be specific about the replacement parts in return.

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