This is a love letter to an automotive review, which turns out to be one of the best applications of blogging I’ve ever seen. Specifically, the “Long-Term Road Test” format over at Edmunds.com.

What’s happening is, the 2003 Audi A4 — my write-up on it was one of this blog’s launch features — is, well, as old as this blog. It’s still a pretty nice car but has to visit the Audi doctor too often. So, we’re idly thinking of new wheels.

Specifically, a run-about-town thingie: Smaller is better, and large fossil-fuel engines are inappropriate.

BMW i3

Teslas are overpriced, which sort of leaves the Nissan Leaf and the BMW i3. And, while nobody would call the i3 a beauty, it looks like a pretty compelling package.

So I was poking around looking for useful reviews, and found the 2014 BMW i3 Long-Term Road Test. It’s a months-long mini-blog with (as of now) 81 entries, covering everything from child-seat stowage to climate controls to parking issues.

I now think that all other big-ticket-item review formats are obsolete. I am really quite 100% confident that I know pretty exactly what the trade-offs in owning this car are; what will please and what will aggravate.

Last time I was car-shopping, if you wanted an unbiased write-up in any detail, Consumer Reports was about all there was. Some things do get better.

Also, it’s axiomatic that automotive writing should be amusing, and the Edmunds-ites are. Even more so in their fairly-brutal long-term Viper review. And for serious fun, they’re also long-terming a 1989 Yugo.

As for the i3? So far, the family is dubious; my daughter, who remembers no other car, is tearful at the thought of retiring the Audi. And we’d have to run a power line out to where we park. So we might not get one, but it’s a pretty cool piece of work.



Contributions

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From: Robert W. Anderson (Nov 19 2015, at 21:48)

Your daughter's attachment to your A4 reminds me of a story about our A4. We had a 2001 Blue A4 that was totaled after a hit and run in 2007 (or 8). My son was the same age as that car and loved it. When we got word that the insurance company was totaling it, my wife and son went to the garage to collect whatever was left in the car. My son threw himself on the hood and hugged it, saying goodbye. We actually have a photo of a sort of "dust" angel on the hood. He kept one of the keys and the lighter (of all things) to remember it. I imagine your daughter is older . . . sounds like the i3 is a good choice.

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From: Fazal Majid (Nov 19 2015, at 22:30)

Consider also the electric Fiat 500E. In California, it is essentially free:

http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/philg/2015/11/19/how-to-get-a-free-car-lease-an-electric-car-but-sadly-not-a-tesla/

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From: Jarek (Nov 20 2015, at 01:30)

For a run-about-town thingie, would a carshare not be sufficient? You could sign up for Modo or Evo or Car2go and see if they work for you for a few months. Evo has hybrids, Modo has some hybrids and a few electrics, and you get to avoid owning a tonne of metal.

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From: Tony Fisk (Nov 20 2015, at 03:12)

By sheer chance, there was a Tesla on display at the nearby shopping centre. I sat in it, out of curiosity. Alas, I decided that, despite all the whizzbang gizmodery, a non-adjustable headrest was not for me.

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From: Nick Adams (Nov 20 2015, at 05:52)

Might be worth waiting for the new Tesla and GM models that are coming out in early 2016. Triple digit ranges and sub-$35k price tags. If you really want to go frugal, a used Nissan leaf can be had with <30k miles for 1/3 of the new price, or around $10k USD.

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From: Toxic (Nov 20 2015, at 08:30)

My family absolutely loves our Fiat 500e. If the Leaf is on your radar, you should also take the Fiat for a spin.

Yes, it's a small two-door, and I'm not sure I'd put adults in the back seat for any length of time... but it's accommodated my kid's car seats just fine, and he has no trouble getting in and out. If your backseat passengers are going to be under 5' tall for another few years, it's just fine.

Electric cars are absolutely ready for the mainstream, though it's a good idea to lease them right now -- in 3 years when it's time to turn it in, the battery/charging/motor technology should be far better than today, so a planned upgrade in 2019 isn't a bad thing.

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From: Paul (Nov 20 2015, at 20:48)

I'm surprised the e-Golf isn't on the list. It's a good compromise between the i3 and the Leaf. I love the i3 from a design and handling perspective but the ride is really harsh on DC roads. The e-Golf felt like driving a normal golf comfort wise and you can rig the brakes to make it work like the i3.

There's also the new A3 electron but I haven't tried that yet.

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From: Tim (Nov 21 2015, at 20:24)

If you do end up going with non-large fossil-fueled engine, for a small commuter car I can recommend the Toyota Yaris. Mine, a 2009, has the standard 1.5L (1500 cc) four-cylinder with automatic, and is plenty peppy for commuting. I drive it the same way I used to drive my 1300cc VW Bug - accelerate briskly to cruising gear, and then drive at a steady pace - and I get excellent gas mileage in the city and on the highway. The speedometer in the center of the dash takes some getting used to at first but after a bit you wonder why they aren't all like that since nothing is blocked by the steering wheel. The four-door hatchback (they call it five doors, but really!) can seat four adults for going to lunch, etc. but might be uncomfortable for a long trip; longish trips with just two are perfectly OK.

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November 19, 2015
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