I've only had her for 10 months, don't drive her through the winter and have put 5,000 km on her, but in that time, I'd have to say it's been my favourite car.
It has 209,000 km on the odometer and it rides like new - and that is to say very smooth. I get an honest 30 mpg from the diesel engine. You can't help but be in a good mood driving this car. Handling is surprisingly good for a 3800 lb vehicle and braking is amazing.
In terms of cost of ownership, The insurance (public liability only)is a bit less than our other cars. While it doesn't get as good mileage as my Saturn, the difference in price between diesel and gas in my region, makes it as economical to drive. If you can do basic maintenance yourself, you're laughing - I've set the valves and I'll be doing an oil change soon - typically, there isn't much more involved maintenance than that. If you've got a good independent mechanic, you're probably in good shape - these are quite basic cars, just ruggedly built. If you have to resort to having the dealer do your maintenance they do a good job, but it isn't cheap (lube, oil, filter and an inspection = $189) - in at 1:00 pm out at 3:50 pm. They did a great job washing the car, but it was a bit much for me (government worker, not a rich guy).
Realistically, I don't think you can expect a 20 year old car to be as dependable as a new one, but if you are looking for an occasional vehicle or a first car for a young person, one of these cars is worth a look. If you're mechanically handy, eBay has made finding spare parts easy and pretty much as cheap as anything else (fix up your Benz or fix up your K-car for about the same money).
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