"good dealer, good experience with purchasing iM"
Car: 2018 Toyota iM (also known as the Corolla hatchback). This car comes in only one configuration, with a multi-speed CVT transmission. Lots of electronics and safety features, good interior room, good hatch space, quiet, feels powerful. Basically, what I was looking for: a sub-compact/compact hatchback around or under $20,000, with modern electronics and safety features for me and my teenagers.
Dealer: A1 Toyota, Woodbridge, CT. Generally a good experience. Pleasant environment, nice helpful salesperson (Quincy Smith). Mostly went smoothly. This is a no-haggle, fixed-price dealership. I had two test-drives, trying two different cars, made an offer, picked up car after the weekend. Total number of visits: 3. Total hours there: perhaps 4, including the pick-up taking about 1.5. Would purchase from them again, especially to replace a 2010 Toyota Corolla sedan also purchased there.
Downsides of dealer experience:
Attentive sales-guy would occasionally vanish for a while. Not sure what was happening; perhaps he was taking other calls, or wisely giving us space to wrangle over the decision. We had a very long break at pick-up before signing papers with financial guy. For the pick-up, I had made an appointment in advance. That part took way too long.
Low-level sales pressure for Toyota’s super-duper waxing/protectant. Only catch was that I had been given a sheet with the two options: the “regular” and the “super-duper”. Neither had prices. It turned out that it was only the “regular” that was the free wash/wax that was mentioned on a sheet of perks provided by the dealership; the “super-duper” was something like $599! Also some low-level pressure for under-carriage coating and rust-proofing, at $699.
The sales-guy mentioned a financing special but did not mention that there was a large rebate incentive, too. Fortunately, I was able to take advantage of a $1500 Memorial-Day sale. But I had to specifically ask about the lower prices at a different Toyota dealership for this discount to be mentioned. (It was on a piece of paper that I had seen, but the paper was shown to me in the context of a discussion on financing.) The rebate covered the loss of my dead car, for which the Fahrvergnugen was kaput.
Flim-flammery about “VIN etching”. Sales-guy had mentioned that having this service done was a possibility. I wasn’t interested. Later, after I made an offer on the car, and we were going over the numbers, there was a $399 charge, that was explained as though it were extra insurance, but it turned out to be this “VIN etching”. I had to cross it off, recalculate price and tax, etc. When we went to pick up the car, there were smudges of powder, in a different color, in several spots on the car, where the VIN numbers had been removed. Presumably, the dealer (?) had already done the VIN etching, which can be done with kits for $30, and tried to charge ten times that. And then, finally, the financial guy quoted a higher amount that I owed than we had agreed, and it turned out, of course, that the VIN etching had wound up back in the sale price.
Probably not the dealer’s fault, but an issue with how Connecticut manages paperwork. I signed a bunch of forms, some of which mentioned the price of the car, but it kept changing. It was explained that some forms use the original price, some the dealer price, some with a rebate, some without a rebate, some with tax. All very confusing, especially when I was trying to make sure I wasn’t being charged for unwanted extras.
Also not the dealer’s fault, but irritating: I can buy things late at night on eBay or Amazon with a single click. It seems so dated that car-purchasing has to be done in person, with multiple round-trips to the dealer, plus an in-person visit to a bank to get a certified check, all at a time of day that my insurance agency bothers to be open. Why, it’s enough to make a person opt for the relative convenience of financing. (Yes, I looked at the Carvana site. The delivery times were 4 weeks.)
More on the car (note: I bought the car despite being aware of some of these shortcomings, especially compared to other cars that I test-drove. There appears not to be a car on the market that is perfect for me. The iM represents the best compromise. Ideally, Toyota would make a VW Golf a the price of the Honda Fit.):
Large A pillar cuts down visibility in forward corners
Longer than some comparators (see below), at 171”. I often park on-street, so this was a concern. Backup camera helps with parking.
Large box on front windshield behind rear-view mirror (for lane-detection camera) cuts down visibility in forward center .
No sunroof; no option to get sunroof.
No CD player or tape deck (but I probably won’t miss them after all); there is an AUX connector, in addition to Bluetooth connection.
Rear trunk has one handle to pull hatch door down, on the right side. But as a right-handed person, my keys are in my right hand. Would be better to have two handles.
Strangely oversized gas tank; I would prefer more trunk space, if possible.
Strange multi-level trunk: lots of space at the lowest level, around spare tire. Then there’s a plastic tray that slots in above, with grooves and partitions for packing things in. A cover goes on top of that. I put some flat things down (extra canvas grocery bags) before putting the top carpet back on. All told, it seems like that part of the car is not as well designed as it should be for utilizing what is a good amount of space.
Less exterior visibility: smaller mirrors, smaller rear hatch window.
The voice control for the audio/panel/phone system is not very good.
Comparators: I also looked at:
Prius C: nice interior, but huge dashboard, and felt underpowered and balky.
Honda Fit: wanted to love it. Great design, super use of interior space. Plenty of headroom (more than Honda’s own HR-V compact SUV, which feels very cramped inside). Not as narrow as it appears from the outside. Great sight-lines out of car. The EX package has all the electronic safety features. Unfortunately, comes with only a single engine option (unchanged for 2019), which whined as we drove, with lots of exterior noise.
Nissan Versa Note SV: Lots of interior space, clever design. A bit narrow. No view of the hood. Somehow, though, uninspiring compared to Honda Fit. I’m sure it would be a perfectly fine car to have for the next 10 years. We’ll never know, though, because the salesperson abandoned us to help a couple looking at a high-margin Nissan Aircraft Carrier SUV.
VW Golf: I had been driving an older Golf. The new models have the electronic goodies, but pricing is higher than for some of these other cars. I drove a 2015 without “modern” safety features, which would have been perfectly fine and comfortably familiar. (I also tried a used GTI Autobahn, also solid and powerful, but I need to have the automatic.) Ultimately, though, my feelings were colored by having been burned by some reliability issues with my older Golf. And the clever sales-guy at Toyota pulled out Consumer Reports to show us that the expected reliability of the Toyota was so much higher! Yes, he had me pegged, right down to having the radio tuned to NPR when he fetched the iM for our test-drive.
Hyundai Elantra GT: terrific. New model looks great (like the Scion xD), but came in at highest price of these cars. I drove a used model (2012 or so), which was very nice, but the cockpit felt too cramped.
Briefly considered but never looked at seriously: Ford Focus (too long); Ford Fiesta (drove as a rental; nice, but predicted reliability problems); Mazda 3 hatchback (too long); Cruze hatchback (too long); Kia Soul (drove as a rental; nice; used dealer had no automatics); Hyundai Accent (forgot to look at it ); Kia Rio and Forte (I wanted a car sized as the average of these two); various other electric cars and hybrids, including Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf (too expensive).