What Do You Replace a Pontiac Aztek With?

Here at Fantastical Andrew Fox.com, we do not shy away from asking the hard questions.

Today’s hard question: If one were faced with the necessity (or desire) of replacing a 2005 Burnt Orange Pontiak Aztek, what vehicle should one choose, given the offerings available in the marketplace?

A few caveats…

(1) This is NOT my personal vehicle I am replacing. The Pontiac in question belongs to my dad, Jerry Mellin, an 83 year-old retiree who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

(2) I have no idea when or if Dad will ever want to give up his Aztek. He hardly puts any mileage on it, and the vehicle is almost ridiculously well maintained. The only reasons the issue even occurred to me are (a) my sister Robyn’s Chrysler PT Cruiser, formerly my dad’s daily driver, now has a humongous amount of miles on it, so Dad may be thinking of having the Aztek shipped to Tampa to replace the Chrysler; (b) I’m bored and it’s fun to think about goofy cars; and (c) I’m always looking for something to blog about.

Okay, now that those important caveats are out of the way, we may proceed. My dad has rather, ahem, “distinctive” tastes when it comes to vehicles. He spent most of his career as a salesman of folding cardboard boxes, and one of his salesman’s stratagems was to always wear a hideous tie on sales calls. He used the offensive ties as ice-breakers with his potential customers and their secretaries. Since his retirement to New Mexico, he has used his cars in sort of the same way, only with his buddies and all the new acquaintances he meets on his noodlings around town. Nothing pleases him more than to invite a new friend out for a cup of coffee, pick him up with the Aztek, and watch the horrified look of distaste appear on his friend’s face, accompanied by the inevitable question, “You bought one of THOSE…?

Also, Dad has never relied entirely upon the manufacturer’s designers to supply the reverse of eye appeal. He is an avid customer of auto accessory shops and is the first in line whenever new models of bolt-on spoilers, fake hood scoops, and phony bullet hole decals are offered. He is very fond of utilizing enormous quantities of glue to affix various custom items to his interiors, which has made trading in his cars rather tricky at times; my dad is an artist of glue (oh, to have been a fly on the wall when his car salesman went to talk with his supervisor about the trade-in in private). He doesn’t go in for bling, mind you – it’s the opposite of bling he’s looking for. Or a kind of sideways bling. He’d probably call it “Retired Old Fart Bling.”

So, here are the stipulations with which I winnowed down the field:

(1) The vehicle must, in some way, echo the spirit of a 2005 Burnt Orange Pontiak Aztek with a glued-on fake hood scoop.

(2) Must not cost more than $25,000 out-the-door (closer to $20,000 would be preferable). This, unfortunately, rules out various Lincolns with their baleen whale snouts and that ridiculous looking Mercedes minivan/SUV thing, the R Class.

(3) Must seat at least four. Dad likes to take his buddies out for lunch and a movie. This rules out the Honda CRZ, which otherwise would be a strong contender.

(4) Must be available as a new vehicle. My dad has not bought a used car in all of his sixty years of purchasing vehicles. This rules out… well, loads of wonderful candidates, enough for me to spend days listing them.

So, without further ado, here are the candidates, listed in what, in my expert opinion, will likely be reverse order of preference.

8. Nissan Murano Cabriolet

This one is the dark-horse choice. I say that mainly because of its priceyness. Dad would have to find one of these as a heavily marked-down Demonstrator Special in order to keep the price below $25,000. Why not lease one, you ask? Dad had a bad experience with his last leased car, so I doubt he’d want to jump into that particular pool again. Plus, leasing would prohibit his customization efforts, unless he’d be willing to pay thousands to have the car reconditioned at the end of the lease.

Pluses:
–Athletic V-6 engine
–High uniqueness value (very, very few of them on the road)
–Worthy aesthetic successor to the late, lamented PT Cruiser Convertible
–The top goes down

Minuses:
–Pricey
–Would be hard to find a Demonstrator Special
–Only looks truly offensive with the convertible top up
–No room on the trunk lid for a tack-on spoiler

7. Fiat 500C

Pluses:
–Good gas mileage
–Would probably remind Dad of his old Morris Minor
–Closest thing to a Citroen CV2 on the market
–Pretty good uniqueness value (Fiat is selling in the U.S. only about a quarter of the numbers of 500s they’d projected)
–The top goes down (kinda-sorta)

Minuses:
–Kind of a chick car
–Not much room in that trunk
–Absence of any rear vision when the top is fully folded down
–With an auto transmission, might not have enough power to climb the hills between Albuquerque and Santa Fe
–Fix It Again Tony

6. Dodge Caliber

Pluses:
–About to be phased out by a new model, so dealers will be dumping them
–Spiritual descendant of the Chevy Citation hatchback and its X-car brethren (although the X-cars were arguably more attractive than the Caliber)
–Available in that becoming pea-soup-green color
–Fake hood scoop and spoiler are factory options

Minuses:
–Common as cockroaches
–The car you dread seeing waiting for you at the Budget Rent A Car lot
–Drives like a Chevy Citation hatchback (with the Iron Duke 4 cylinder motor)

5. Ford Transit Connect Wagon

Pluses:
–Has the oddest proportions this side of Sandra Bernhard’s face
–Lots of room for Dad’s tall friends, even if they wear hats
–He’ll never lose it in a crowded parking lot
–Able to transport Christmas trees home for his gentile friends

Minuses:
–Might be tempted to transport Christmas trees and throw out his back
–Could be mistaken for a taxi cab driver
–Might tip over in a strong cross wind
–Made in Turkey

4. Nissan Cube

Pluses:
–Great interior room for its size
–Looks like the box it came in; will remind Dad of his history selling cardboard boxes
–Available in a full line of garish colors
–Good gas mileage

Minuses:
–Not much in the way of get-up-and-go
–Funky styling makes for huge blind spots, likely collisions when backing up

3. Hyundai Veloster

Pluses:
–Looks like a jelly bean that’s been sucked on for a day or two
–Trick third door is a real conversation-starter
–Fun to drive
–Great warranty

Minuses:
–Limited head room for Dad’s buddies in the back seat
–May end up being a popular model
–Hyundai dealers not offering discounts on these (yet)

2. Kia Soul

Pluses:
–Especially fugly rear end
–Available with a wide variety of racing stripe packages
–Plenty of interior room for its size
–Good gas mileage
–More fun to drive than a Nissan Cube
–Cheap to buy
–Same great warranty as the Veloster

Minuses:
–May be too popular for its own good

And the winner, the worthiest successor to a 2005 Pontiac Aztek, is…

1. Nissan Juke

Pluses:
–A nose only a mother (or Jerry Mellin) could love
–So ugly it’s actually cute and interesting, sort of like a dung beetle
–More storage space than the Veloster
–Turbo comes standard, a definite conversation-starter
–Goes like a bat out of hell, even saddled with a Continuously Variable Transmission
–Most fun-to-drive vehicle on this list

Minuses:
–Nasty torque-steer if Dad floors it coming out of a turn

So, Dad, feel free to take my advice or disregard it. You may hold on to your Aztek until its plastic cladding falls off (and Robyn may refuse to accept it). But if you buy a Juke, just take it easy with that torque steer, okay?

4 comments

  1. Robyn says:

    Dad and I enjoyed reading ur post! 🙂

    • Andrew says:

      Super! I wasn’t sure whether or not you’d catch it while Dad was still in Tampa. Thanks for letting me know!

  2. Maury F. says:

    My compliments as always, Andy — you can blog with the best of ’em!

    My vote is to keep the Aztec, as it is one funky vehicle, and the runner up in your #1 — the Juke, my choice based on your sage descriptions of its highlights.

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks, Maury! I suspect Dad will hang onto it. I’d actually be interested in taking it myself, since the rear seat is spacious enough for all three boys, but I’m pretty happy with my Rondo (which only has 20,000 miles on it, so I should keep it for a long while, yet).

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