So it’s fortunate that I stumbled across this thread. Thanks to all who’ve posted their pov’s.
My son, Baz Jr. got hit from behind last week. He’s just fine, but our old car is a total loss. (All things considered, we’re fortunate. Got the call from Jr., not a hospital or Florida Highway Patrol officer.)
Now find myself in the market for just such a vehicle that this thread addresses. Spoke with our local mechanic, and he’s of the opinion that we’ll be just fine, (as regards reliability, and within our pricing capability,) with a Subaru Forester, Honda SR-V, or Toyota RAV 4.
4WD is not necessary for us now as we reside in Florida, but there is a very real possibility that we may relocate to another state, so we’ve decided on that capability. Big nod in the favor of the Subaru as our local Honda dealer has no 4WDs on hand, and the Toyota folks only have them in the fancy trim lines.
Another major draw of the Subaru is that it is hypothetically available with a 5 speed manual transmission. Supposedly the standard equipment, I’ve been to three local dealers and between them, they’ve sold 4 manuals in the past year. There is not a single one to be found at any dealership within 100 miles, and none of those dealers have any on order for the 2011 model year. Oh yeah, timing for our recent accident could not have been worse. The dealers are almost sold out of their 2010 stock, so we’ve lost some ground vis-a-vie bargaining leverage, and will have to try and swing a deal on a newer model.
As to the OP alexzn's query, I prefer a manual transmission 340 days a year. Only time when I would prefer an automatic is when I’m stuck on one of those seemingly endless traffic jams on the highway, that require you to engage/disengage the gears hundreds of times per mile.