CAR CLINIC: Station wagon anyone? - Daily Nation

Fielder, Wish, Stream and Outback: Which is the finest?

Wednesday May 9 2018

The Subaru Outback. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

The Subaru Outback. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP  

By BARAZA JM
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Hi Baraza,

I am preparing to buy my first car (a station wagon) and I am thinking about Honda (Stream) Fielder, Wish and Outback although the latter seems expensive to acquire and maintain. I prefer a foreign used car to a local one. I am looking for the following features:

1. Acceleration and fast speed.

2. Spacious

3. Braking and stability

4. Cheap, easy to maintain/economical.

5. Reliability

6. Fuel consumption and resale value.

My budget is Sh1 million.

Kindly advise me on the best model that will suit my needs and serve me well.

Thanks. Ken

 

Hello Ken,

 

1. Acceleration and speed: the expensive-to-buy-and-run Subaru Outback, which is really not that expensive to buy if you consider what used Toyota imports cost nowadays, and isn’t that expensive to run if you stay on top of things and not allow maintenance schedules to run away from you.

The Fielder.

The Fielder.PHOTO | COURTESY

2. Spacious: the Subaru Outback. Some years ago I visited Subaru Kenya to test drive the little-loved Tribeca crossover and I was quite surprised at what I observed.

The BR-type Outback is as tall as the Tribeca, but nearly a foot longer, which made it Subaru’s largest offering  - which many, like myself, assumed the Tribeca to be. It may sound difficult to believe but make the observation if and when you can: park a BR Outback next to a Tribeca and tell me what you see.

The Outback is also available with the Tribeca’s 3.6 litre horizontally opposed six-cylinder, along with a few other more pocket-friendly options in the 2.5 to 3.0 litre range, but if you are really keen on point 1 above, then the 3.6 is the car you want. It will not be cheap to buy and run, though.

Of course this means stuff like the Fielder, Wish and Stream pale into insignificance and suddenly look like hatchbacks in the Outback’s overbearing presence, irrespective of engine size...

 

3. Braking and stability: yeah, you would not expect anyone to stuff a 3.6 into a big estate and not provide the wherewithal to hold the road properly or bring you to an urgent stop; more so if that someone has a rather successful motorsport history, would you?

The Fielder and the Wish come with drum brakes at the rear and puny discs at the front, while the Stream at least gets all discs in the RSZ spec (Toyophiles, I know about the Fielder Z, so unhand the keyboard and finish reading this first).

This tells you everything you need to know about the driving dynamics of the lesser motors compared to the Subaru.

 

4. Cheap: the Stream, especially one with high mileage. Ex-Japan wheels really are getting up there on price considering what you are getting - more so the highly popular “economical Toyotas”, so the Stream should be cheaper both relatively and outright.

Easy to maintain: probably the Fielder but there have been recent complaints of deteriorating trim, particularly the dashboards.

Subarus are bullet-proof for the most part, but again, only if you stay on top of things. Fail to replace the timing kit on time and experience the trauma of replacing a big engine. Economical?

This is a two-way tie between the Fielder and the Stream, but only the cooler versions without “Z” in their names, and of course a tame and circumspect right foot.

 

5. Reliability: all three will hold strong, but for the umpteenth time: only if you maintain them as you are supposed to. Steer clear of extreme mileage examples: very low mileage cars will either have the odometer tampered with - which is a sign that there could be other hidden things wrong with the car - or a rarely driven car which is not good for rubber components such as hoses and bushings which actually need a workout to stay in shape. Disuse causes rubber to harden and become brittle so cracks will soon appear.

Extremely high mileage examples are exactly that: overused cars which means they will most likely have components approaching the tail end of their useful shelf lives.

 

6. Fuel consumption has been covered under “Economical” in 4 above. Resale value? Forget about this unless you are in the business of flipping cars in which case your general knowledge is a far cry from the industry standard for those who intend to follow this line of business. Get the car that best suits you and your needs (post-use cash recovery is not a need; it is not even a preference) For Sh1 million Outback, unless you change your purchase crosshairs from overseas to locally used.

Even then, an Outback at a million or below is going to be a well-used car, as will the Fielder, probably an ex-taxi in need of a bit of work. Same thing with the Wish. The Stream’s lack of popularity means demand is a bit low so the prices are friendly.

(*Update: I was pretty sure the Fielder would hold a substantial amount of its resale figure until a recent chat with one of my contacts in the used car industry revealed that there are so many Fielders all over the place it is possible to get hold of a fairly functional unit at three-quarters of a million. Market dynamics... very interesting.)

 

Remember the Subaru won?

Hello JM,

I am an avid reader of your column on the Daily Nation.

After using Toyota for couple years, I need to get a Subaru Forester or a Mitsubishi Airtrek. Would you kindly do a review on a comparison for these two vehicles please? Gachamba

 

I have done this before and the Subaru won. See you next week

 

They say old is gold...

Hi Baraza,

I recently sold a Datsun B310 wagon A12. I had plans to raise it from the dead, only to find life was too costly for my Dat.

Now I have my eyes set on a “good deal”: a Subaru Leone WAGON 1.6L (boxer) KAE , the sleeper has been sleeping for seven years. It has no issue. The owner just doesn’t want manual. It has two gear shifts: a 5 speed and a 4WD..

It’s very clean and intact despite her age, very clean engine. Is it advisable to buy this car? How is the consumption? Is it practical for 200 Gs, or is there another better option?

It has done over 210 kilometres. I took it for a ride and she rumbles very nicely. I’ve really made some bad calls on cars, please advise.

A Subaru Leone Wagon. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

A Subaru Leone Wagon. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

Hello Fred,

I see you are into the old stuff, what people call “classics”. If the Leone is clean, then go for it. 200 large seems fair enough for a well-kept “classic”. However, disregarding your liberal use of the term “sleeper*”, I will remind you of what I have just told someone else: a car that has fallen into disuse will need a lot of rubber components updated or risk failure in the near future when it is put back in use.

Is it advisable to buy? Yes, sure. The Leone was the original farmer’s friend, a tag I have attached to Subarus in general ever since I started reviewing cars owing to their rugged reliability, go-anywhere tractability and straightforward, robust construction.

The Leone was the perfect embodiment of all this, with its clearance and selectable 4WD and strong carb-fed block. I know the Leone also had some quirks that had us questioning the intelligence of Subaru engineers, such as a spare wheel nestled atop the engine inside the bonnet and a parking brake hooked to the front wheels, but while these flaws are interesting, they are not exactly fatal, until you try to do handbrake turn and fail spectacularly.

Do not try a handbrake turn in a Leone.

(Fun fact: later models of the Leone had the 4WD activated via a red button crowning the shift lever, like the Destroy function on the joystick of a fighter aircraft)

Don’t hold high hopes for good economy figures because this is an engine that runs by carburettor in a slightly heavier-than-usual car; but then again it is not all doom and gloom. Drive with discretion and you will not suffer.

Is it practical? Very. It is, after all, a five-door, five-seat wagon with 4WD and no frippery, and the spare tyre has been stashed away on top of the engine occupying space that would otherwise have gone to waste and thus liberating more space elsewhere (the boot). Those engineers were innovative but I still find the handbrake unforgivable.

I know not of better options because I have seen a pair of Toyotas on sale for 200 large - a Camry and a Corolla 90 -and they do not look very promising. There is a lot going on with gaudy paintwork, flashy baubles and a pile of stickers, plus the body work looks wonky. Your clean, well-kept, Sleeping Beauty sounds like a safer bet.

(*A “sleeper” in the motoring world refers to a vehicle whose simplistic, humdrum exterior appearance belies the volcanic power it packs under the bonnet; a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If the Leone you talk about had an STi engine retrofitted in the aftermarket with no accompanying exterior modifications to betray the performance enhancement therein, then we’d call it a sleeper.

A car that has been sleeping for a number of years before being discovered by a pundit is called a “barn find”, irrespective of whether or not you found it in an actual barn)

 

My car has started to lose power

Dear Baraza,

I really admire your knowledge of motor vehicles. I don’t know much about cars so I’ll not use heavy terminology. I own a Toyota BB 2009, which I can say is a nice car, though:

1)Lately, I have noticed it loses  power when accelerating. What could be the problem, and what is the best solution?

2) My mechanic suggested we remove muffler from the exhaust pipe to arrest the problem but I have not seen any changes. How safe is the car without the muffler?

3) He also suggested we get rid of the thermostat, which I accepted half-heartedly, and he proceeded with the operation. Is the operation advisable?

4) How often should I change ATF?

J. Musela

 

Greetings BB Owner,

1. Loss of power could be occasioned by any of a million different things. The problem is the car has lost power as you so succinctly put it; what you are asking about is the cause of the problem, which I cannot tell from so concise a diagnostic.

It therefore follows that a solution is not forthcoming either without more detail and I don’t have the liberty in word count limits to dabble in wild speculation of all the possibilities behind your woes.

 

2.  The car will not fail with the proposed ‘muffler-plasty’, but this is what we call an unnecessary manoeuvre. It will yield exactly nothing towards improving your car’s flagging performance and in some cases may actually make things worse.

I recently described how exhaust system design is an exact science; and a muffler delete sounds like a clever but misguided and patently false response to what will most likely be an engine-bound issue.

The cause could even be electric (weak spark) or electronic (failing sensors), let alone mechanical (transmission or fuel pump problems, clogged filters, among others) or exhaust-related.  Removing the muffler will also just make your car annoyingly loud.

3. Not very advisable. Was your car overheating? If not, then why remove the thermostat? If yes, then why not replace the thermostat instead of just removing it completely? Let me put things this way: Toyota spent a tidy sum engineering that vehicle. What would the end game behind their investment be if a backstreet mechanic can simply take parts off the vehicle as a cure to nonspecific problems some time down the line?

 

4. RTFM: or “Read The (Expletive) Manual”. However! It is not that simple, especially for used cars unable to get it up (pun intended...”to speed”, I should add). Random physical checks of the ATF should let you know if and when it is due for change. Use the transmission dipstick to check the oil just as you would for the engine dipstick for the engine oil; and any of these signs will tell you that your ATF needs draining and replacing in short order:

- Smell of toasted bread (don’t ask, organic chemistry is a strange mistress)

- Metal flakes or filings in the oil (noticeable if you rub it between your fingers but watch out for nasty, painful gashes should the flakes dig into your skin)

- Discoloration. ATF should be some shade of red, not dark brown or black. Even dark splotches in the sea of crimson are a sign of trouble

-Check the ATF level as well. Low lube levels cause trannies to act up.

 

When driving, noises from the transmission or clunking when selecting any of the drive modes are also indicative of trouble ahead unless a flush or top up is done soon. Lack of responsiveness or jerky, slippy, abnormal gear shifts are symptoms as well.

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