A tale of two cars

Dear Car Talk:

I am retiring to Mexico this year. I need to buy a new car there. Since I’ve always driven a small, compact car here in the United States, I’d like to try something different, with more power, comfort, speed and that “je ne sais quoi.” My new-car options are either a red Honda Civic Coupe Si EXL or a silver Honda Pilot Touring with all-wheel drive. In your vast knowledge of cars, which one would you recommend for an old girl not ready to retire from having fun? — Rebecca

Dear Rebecca:

I lean toward the Pilot, for two reasons: (1) The unknown quality of the roads, and (2) it’s not red.

While there are plenty of good roads in Mexico, you don’t say precisely where you’re moving. If the roads aren’t in great condition and are full of potholes where you live (like they are in our fair city), that Civic Si, with its sportier tuning, is going to clatter your teeth all day long. So if you ignore our advice, make sure you also get an excellent Mexican dental plan.

And the Civic Si’s low ground clearance probably will cost you a couple of exhaust systems along the way. So get a plan for those, too.

The Civic Si is best on smoothly paved roads. It handles really well, but to get that “planted to the road” feeling, you give up some ride comfort. And you may want all the ride comfort you can get.

The other issue I have with it is that it’s bright red. And I think when you’re living in a foreign country — and especially if you may be perceived as “well off” by the locals — you want to blend in as much as possible so as not to make yourself a target. Driving a brand-new, sporty red car is likely to attract attention, and perhaps not the kind of attention you want.

Again, I don’t know exactly where you’re going. You may end up living in a neighborhood full of Range Rovers and Escalades. Your neighbors may feel sorry for you in your little, red Civic. But to be safe, I’d lean toward something a little less attention-grabbing.

I think the Pilot will be more comfortable if you have to navigate poorer roads. It’s also reliable and practical, with its cargo space and all-wheel drive. And silver is a color that doesn’t scream “Look at me” as much as red does.

The Pilot isn’t invisible, either, since it’s a late-model SUV. But it’s not a particularly flashy one. In fact, I don’t think of the Pilot as having very much “je ne sais quoi”; I think of it as having more “grand derriere.” Enjoy your retirement.

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