Job: Maintenance operations support planner, American Airlines
Commute: About 40 miles a day
What he wants: A fuel efficient car he can fall in love with
Otto Mayo is a guy who is passionate about cars. When he owns a car, he wants to be in love with it.
So even though he's only had his current set of wheels for two years, he's feeling a bit restless. It's the second Honda Civic he's owned – the first was a 2006 model that he bought just after graduating college.
"On paper, it make sense," he said. It's fuel efficient, and it's not too dissimilar from the 2006 he owned. But he loved the first Civic. The 2011 version one is a pale imitation. It's almost like he picked a new girlfriend because she looks like his first love. This one just isn't striking the same passionate chords. "There's just something about it. It feels distant."
Mayo has owned a couple of cars that he still yearns for. His first car, a 1992 Ford Taurus GL with a 3.8-liter engine, was one of his favorites. His parents purchased it new from the dealer, and he remembers going to pick the car up, driving the car out of the showroom. He was wowed, and simply loved that car.
He also owned a restore 1966 Lincoln Contintental with suicide doors. In a moment of maturity, he decided he just couldn't hang onto that car because he was moving and needed the cash. He sold it to a friend who still posts pictures of the car on Facebook, and he tries not to feel pangs of jealousy when pictures of the car shows up on his Facebook feed.
In his next vehicle, he's looking for great fuel efficiency – he's considering a hybrid. He's got a lot of freedom on car size and styling, since he doesn't have kids or even a dog. Sometimes he likes to drive friends around, so the car should ideally carry four people – no two-seaters here.
But it sounds like that X factor for Mayo is that feel-good sensation you get when you're behind the wheel of a car that makes you feel like you're home. For a car guy like Mayo, it can be hard to decide what you really want to buy, since there are so many options out there.
I really want Mayo to feel excited when he gets into his car. So with that in mind, here are a couple of options:
Possible no-brainer: 2013 Ford Focus Titanium hatchback
Base sticker price: $24,200
Invoice price: $21,634
MPG: 27 city/38 highway
Why it's a good choice for Mayo: Hatchback cars aren't as popular in the U.S. as they are elsewhere in the world, but car guys who've got oil in their veins know that hatchbacks are cool. And I'm pretty sure Mayo is car guy enough to at least give this one a shot.
One of our earlier reviews of this car at AOL Autos called the Focus "the single best compact in the world." And for good reason: The Focus is fun to drive, but big enough to be a grown-up car. The Titanium trim package adds a ton of tech features, like the standard MyFordTouch flat screen controls, voice-activated Sync system, satellite radio and a 10-speaker audio system.
The car comes equipped with Ford's 2.0 liter I4 Ecoboost engine, giving it pretty solid fuel economy for a car that's not a hybrid. Essentially, the Ecoboost uses direct injection, turbo charging and variable valve timing to give a four-cylinder engine the same power as a six-cylinder, improving fuel economy by about 20%.
It's like the perfect little luxury car that could meet every single one of Mayo's desires in a new car. Plus, it's a Ford, which could put him back in good graces with his family, who have been Ford folks for years.
Another solid option: 2009 Audi A4 wagon
KBB estimated used value: $25,937
MPG: 21 city/27 highway
Why it's a good choice: Here's another secret about car guys -- many of them love wagons. Seriously. Especially high performance ones. Wagons scratch some primal need men have to spend the day driving like they're an Indy car racer, and then pick up some lumber on the way home.
Mayo says he, too, is a fan of the wagon. And the A4 wagon would be a good choice. Although used ones are a little hard to find, it's worth the hunt.
The A4 wagon is a spacious driver's car, one that manages to pack 211 horsepower while giving out pretty good fuel economy. The 2-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder averages about 25 mpg with combined highway and city driving. That's a lot less MPGs than Mayo was hoping for, but I'm guessing he'll have so much fun behind the wheel of this car, he might be willing to relax some of his fuel economy concerns. Some of the A4 wagons come with a V6 engine, but the V4 is almost as fun and gets much better mileage.
The A4 comes with the standard Audi luxury touches – leather seats, an easy to use entertainment system, and a 6.5-inch color screen that shows heat and radio controls.
Safest bet: 2013 Nissan Altima
Base sticker price: $21,500
Invoice price: $20,114
MPG: 27 city, 38 highway
Why this car: This was a tough choice. I wanted to keep picking really super fun driving choices for Mayo, but felt like we needed to have at least one mature, sensible car on the list. And the Altima certainly isn't a driving dud, plus it offers some really great fuel economy figures.
And the Altima has the driving feel of a more luxury car, given its engineers tried to make it drive like a more upscale Mercedes or Audi. And one of its coolest interior features is, oddly enough, the seats: The Altima comes with NASA-inspired "zero gravity" seats. The chairs are designed to put their occupants into neutral spine positions. And who doesn't want to be like a big ball of relaxed goo while driving?
The Altima also comes with the new tire pressure monitoring system, a nifty feature that was a finalist for AOL's Tech of the Year award. The car beeps when the tires are on the verge of being overfilled, which helps drivers feel more confident about filling their tires with air. Air pressure helps improve fuel economy as well.
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Since Mayo is a lover of cars, just like us here at AOL Autos, narrowing down his choices was a little hard. I could've also added in the Chevy Volt, which has sticker price of $38,000 and would seem to be out of Mayo's budget, but with all the lease deals flying around now it might work for him. Or the Ford C-Max hybrid, which is just starting to roll out into dealer showrooms, but I ultimately decided the Focus Titanium would fit his lifestyle better. I also considered the VW GTI, but after comparing it with a used Audi A4, decided the A4 would be more fun.
We chatted with Mayo last week, and he's decided to put his car shopping process on hold while his employer sorts out some financial issues (namely, bankruptcy.) We hope to hear back from Mayo when he ultimately decides on a car. Have any thoughts on our suggestions, or any of your own to add?
If you'd like some help narrowing down your car shopping list, email Sharon Carty at firstname.lastname@example.org.