Try these cars on for size

Dear Car Talk:

My ’06 Scion xA has 87,000 miles on it, and I’m thinking of updating.

I love my Scion because I sit up higher than in a sedan (I'm 79 so I'm getting shorter), and I can see who's out to get me on the road. Any hatchback out there these days that's not an SUV but will let me see better? Thanks for your help. – Lynne

RAY: Plenty of them, Lynne. You're in luck. Over the past decade, the rest of the car-buying public has caught up with you.

A lot of people now prefer to sit up a little higher when they drive. Why? Well, as you say, it’s easier to see over the car in front of you. That advantage will diminish as more sedans are replaced by tall hatchbacks and crossovers. But hopefully you’ll have a few good years of visibility before you get overtaken.

The second reason people prefer to be a little higher is because it’s easier to get in and out of the car. We’re not talking about the huge SUVs, where you have to get a running start to clamber up into the driver’s seat. But cars that are a little higher off the ground put the seat bottom closer to human hip level. That means you don’t have to “fall” into the car, or “climb” out of it.

So, you have a lot of choices these days. You’ll have to go out and sit in some new cars, and decide which fit you well, and which you’re comfortable driving. But we’ll give you a few suggestions to get you started.

We’re going to assume that you want a basic hatchback, like the Scion. Nothing fancy. And while we don’t know the exact seat height of your current Scion, we know the car’s overall height is 60.2 inches – unless, like you, Lynne, the Scion’s getting shorter as it gets older.

Here are a few cars with similar heights that we like:

• The Hyundai Kona is 61 inches tall, about an inch taller than your Scion. We drove it recently and really liked it.

• Kia makes an unusual car called the Soul, which is a bit boxier than your Scion, and a couple of inches taller. But it has very good visibility and a lot of room inside.

• If you ever drive in the snow, and want all-wheel drive, we like the Subaru Crosstrek, which is 63.6 inches tall. That’s a few inches taller than your Scion, so you’ll have to make sure it’s easy to get into and out of, but it’s very comfortable for a small car.

• And if you want to impress all the kids, you can go electric with the Chevy Bolt, a battery-powered hatchback that’s 62.8 inches tall. You’d plug it in at night, and you can go 250 miles before having to recharge it. And you’ll never have to set foot in a gas station again, Lynne. Unless you need some Gatorade and a bag of Bugles.

There are others, but that should give you a good start. Let us know what you end up with.

Always get a second opinion

Dear Car Talk:

I am the original owner of my 2015 Mazda 3 with just under 28,000 miles.

During my recent routine service appointment, the following actions were recommended: replace all four tires ($460, not counting labor), throttle body service ($65) and fuel injector service ($130). I've had 10- to 14-year-old cars and never had one needing the last two services mentioned above. What do you think is going on? – Linda

RAY: Well, it sounds like someone has a small boat with a payment due. If he had a 38-foot cabin cruiser, he'd be recommending shocks and an exhaust system, too, Linda.

Let’s start with the good news.

Your dealer’s prices are not out of line. What he’s proposing to charge you for each of those services is pretty reasonable, assuming he’s selling good quality tires.

The bad news is that you may not need any of those things.

We have a machine in the shop that does the throttle body and fuel injector cleaning. It’s called the Motor Vac, but we call it the Wallet Vac. We used to use it a couple of times a week. It would make a big difference for cars that were stumbling and hesitating. But gasolines are so clean these days that I’m not sure I can remember the last time we used the machine.

So, those services shouldn’t be needed unless your car is showing symptoms of dirty fuel injectors. The primary symptoms are hesitation on acceleration, or a check engine light that’s on and storing a code for a fuel system problem. Otherwise, the cleaning is completely unnecessary.

You may need tires. Original equipment tires on modestly priced cars are often not great quality and do wear out by 30,000 miles.

You might ask around (or check for a recommendation of a good, independent mechanic in your area, and get a second opinion on all three of these services.

If a second shop confirms that you need these things, then you’ll know your dealer is on the up and up, and you can go back to him with confidence.

If the shop says you can get another 10,000 miles out of these tires, and they have no idea why the dealer is recommending a fuel injector cleaning, you can factor that into your future car repair plans, too.

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