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Looking for a compact sedan (Mazda3, Civic, Elantra, Impreza, Focus)

I have been test driving many cars in the last month or so, but need some feedback. The cars in comparison are: Hyundai Elantra Limited, Mazda3 Grand Touring Sedan, Subaru Impreza Limited Sedan, Ford Focus Titanium Sedan and the Honda Civic EX-L. I drove them all and thought they were decent driving cars. The Subaru Impreza is AWD which is probably not needed and dealer was not willing to move much at all from sticker so that one is probably out. The Hyundai Elantra seemed good but noticed blind spots while driving. Ford Focus I have heard has some possible transmission problems (is this true?), plus I have had Fords in the past and they have always been iffy cars. The Honda Civic and Mazda 3 both seemed like great candidates but now I hear the the Civic has many reliability and performance concerns for 2012 (which I was surprised for a Honda). Safecar.gov shows the Civic with 2 recalls, numerous technical service bulletins and many customer complaints. The Mazda 3 has no tsb, no recalls and few customer complaints, but now I've seen across the web that there may be transmission issues with the skyactiv auto tranny. Is this true also? Which car do you all recommend from this list or is there another I should consider? Thanks.

Comments

  • autonomousautonomous Posts: 1,769
    that there may be transmission issues with the skyactiv auto tranny
    I thought there were issues were with the Skyactiv manual tranny, specifically transmission surges. I have not seen any issues related to the Skyactiv automatic.

    By the way, the general recommendation from Consumer Reports is to avoid buying the first year of any new model of any car. This includes all of the manufacturers, including such trusted nameplates as Honda. The reason is quite obvious: to enable the manufacturer to work out the kinks found in the real world.
  • I guess that would mean staying away from the Mazda 3 due to the new technology of the Skyactiv
  • autonomousautonomous Posts: 1,769
    edited September 2012
    I guess that would mean staying away from the Mazda 3 due to the new technology of the Skyactiv
    Yes, for the initial year.

    As you know the Skyactiv technology has now been around for a year, and it appears to have proven itself in the automatic transmissions. Skyactiv manual transmissions are another story as they seem to be under a cloud at this point; I would investigate to see if their problems have been solved. Personally, I'd choose the next crop of Skyactiv automatics coming next month.

    The Honda Civic was redesigned last year also. So, it would be worth looking at the commentary about the upcoming year to see if problem areas identified in TSBs, etc. persist.

    Some auto manufacturers move very quickly to solve issues in the first year. For example, Toyota had an issue with its Camry automatics several years ago, and addressed this within the first few months.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,738
    FWIW the Impreza was newly redesigned for 2012, and the Focus is pretty new also and there have been many complaints about the automatic transmission. The Elantra is the "oldest" of these designs, but not by much, and if you like how the Mazda3 handles you might not like the Elantra so much--it has a smooth ride but handling is not sharp.

    IMO the Jetta is worth checking out also. Although in a Jetta I favor a slightly used CPO pre-2011 Jetta vs the new one. But at least you wouldn't have the "new design" problem! :)
  • With the mazda 3 it isn't really a new model it is an existing model with a new powertrain isn't it? Or does that still count as a new model? Plus, if I hold off till october (need a release date) then I loose the incentives mazda is giving on the 2012s. What to do? And still no word on hondas chages or release date.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,738
    Yes, you'll pay more for a 2013 Mazda3 right off the bat compared to the close-out 2012s.

    What is your timeframe? Is there some compelling event that is forcing you to buy a car soon? If not, you could wait awhile to learn about the 2013 Civic and see what happens on the Mazda3 prices.
  • I either need to purchase a new car or put money into my current car. If I put money into my current car I won't be buying a new one any time soon. I think I would rather takerhat money and put it toward a new car. So I need to make a decision soon plus mazda incentives are over at the end of sept...if I go in the mazda direction.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,738
    I can't tell you what you should do, but here's what I would do if I were in your position (assumes the money needed for the old car is substantial, not just a few hundred bucks):

    1) Determine my budget.
    2) Create a short list of cars I have some interest in that fit my budget (looks like you did that already).
    3) Test-drive those cars (looks like you did that), and narrow down the list to only those I would want to drive on a daily basis.
    4) Put those cars in order of preference and start serious buying with dealers near me. If I get a great deal on car #1 from someone (and get offers from multiple dealers if possible), get that one. If not, move to car #2, etc.

    One thing I would NOT worry a lot about is relative reliability. All new cars today are pretty reliable. There's something to be said with not buying a brand-new design the first year out of the gate, but I have done that several times in my life and regretted it only with a 1995 Mercury Mystique, which spent several days in its first few months at the dealer for various small problems. One advantage there of the Elantra is its long warranty, if there are problems.

    Frankly, if I were buying a car now vs. next summer I'd be sorely tempted by the incentives on the 2012 Mazda3i Touring. I've seen those advertised for just over $16k in my area with current incentives. But I'd also look at the Focus, Elantra GT (I like hatches), and Golf (but there likely go for a slightly used CPO car and save some money). Impreza is nice also, but like you I don't know that I need AWD and I'd like to get a stick if possible--and the Impreza has a 5-speed MT that makes the car much noisier with lower fuel economy than with the CVT.
  • I just had to trade in my 2008 Mazda3 GT not because I wanted to, but I had to due to health reasons. I can no longer safely operate a manual transmission safely due to back/left leg problems. The car has under 45k miles on it and I swear it was my favorite automobile I've ever owned/rented/driven, etc. For the money, there is no better vehicle on the road.

    I do remember back in 2008 that finding a GT loaded out with a manual transmission was difficult, so if you are interested in such a car, it's for sale right now in East Tennessee and if you want details, respond to this post. I don't think it will last long, as it is copper red mica and everyone seems to love the car. I know I did, and I'll miss it. Getting used to my new 2012 Mazda 3 I Touring with SkyActiv engine and 6A. So far, it's very good, but it's a sad day for me to have to give up that slick manual for a slush box. Respond if interested in exact location of the car. Zoom zoom!
  • autonomousautonomous Posts: 1,769
    Another great post by backy!

    A few side notes:
    - A new powertrain (like the Skyactiv) would be considered a substantial change. In the case of the current Mazda3 the non-Skyactiv versions have been around for a while and have a stellar reliability record, so if you have any lingering doubts about the Skyactiv, just choose a non-Skyactiv version. That's what I did last year (i.e. 2011 Mazda3 hatchback with 2.0 engine and automatic transmission) and I have had no regrets.

    - The point of the Consumer Report article was that many auto manufacturers have not worked out all the kinks in a new model when it rolls off the production line initially. Eventually, they are addressed but most consumers would prefer not to be the guinea pigs in the meantime.

    All the best and let us know what you've finally chosen!
  • scwmcanscwmcan Niagara, CanadaPosts: 394
    I think it should be mentioned that besides equipment changes ( ie USB for the stereo or whatever) that there will very likely be little difference in the reliability of a car built at the end of the 2012 model year and the beginning of the 2013 model year. The changes to fix the bug are generally applied as they are found, so except for possibly some minor issues the cars should be identical as far as reliability goes, I would go for the 2012 model and enjoy the savings if it were me, unless the equipment changes for 2013 as must haves for you. Just MHO
    Scott
  • autonomousautonomous Posts: 1,769
    car built at the end of the 2012 model year and the beginning of the 2013 model year
    Raises a good point about production date of vehicles. A car sitting on the lot could be months old. My 2011 Mazda3 was built in Japan in September 2010 and purchased in March 2011 (roughly 6 months difference). The easy way of finding the production date is to check the plate affixed to the interior of the driver's door.
  • scwmcanscwmcan Niagara, CanadaPosts: 394
    I do agree if you are going to buy the 2012, make sure it is a later build by checking the date on the door plate. As long is it is pretty recent there should be no extra woories over a 2013. I've had good luck with Mazdas, ours have needed nothing but oil changes, tires and brakes, besides that they have been very reliable, despite the postings you see here about transmissions etc. I think if you let the Internet overrule your decision you will be sorry, if you like both the cars equally ( Honda and Mazda) then get the one you can get the best deal on, the reliability on either should be very good ( there are very few bad cars nowadays), if not get the car you prefer, no the one the Internet says you should get because there is a chance that you will have .2 problems less with it in a year. Again MHO
  • I just found this article that compares 6 cars in the compact car class, and since I just purchased the 2012 Mazda 3 i Touring with the SkyActiv engine and 6-speed Automatic, it certainly reinforced my own thoughts about the Mazda. It's the best car in it's class, period. IMHO, it's the best car for the money in any class. Copy and past this address into your browser to see why many other people agree with that assessment. Zoom zoom indeed, with exceptional fuel mileage to boot!

    http://www.automobilemag.com/reviews/driven/1208_2012_2013_compact_sedan_compari- son/fuel_economy.html
  • Just bought a mazda grand touring. Test drove it 2 times. Love the car. Just love it. It does seem to be the best in class...hands down. The only thing I don't like and this may be very minor is that when playing music via Bluetooth from my phone it plays but the volume is very low and fades out. Anyone know why?
  • gr8mazda3gr8mazda3 Posts: 4
    edited October 2012
    I have not had that issue, but a couple of phone calls have been dropped by the car while remaining on my phone. I have not even read that part of the manual and never paired my phone, so that's probably on me.

    After looking at the Grand Touring Models, which were not available for me locally, I wish I would have gotten the "i" GT, as it would only have been about $2000 more and I might have gotten a little more discounted. My old Mazda3 is now for sale here, and while I loved that car, I'm pleasantly surprised by how fun the manual transmission mode on the automatic operates. Best one I have experienced. But the real deal is at this link, and that price is just $1000 over what they gave me for it on trade in. Original MSRP was $25K, so what a deal it will be for some lucky buyer.

    http://www.gatewayfordmazda.com/used/details/JM1BK323681150129/2008_mazda_mazda3- - s_s_grand_touring
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    edited October 2012
    The only thing I don't like and this may be very minor is that when playing music via Bluetooth from my phone it plays but the volume is very low and fades out. Anyone know why?

    Did you try turning up the volume on your audio device? If the volume is not 75% or higher, the sound tends to be weak even when turning up the volume on the car.

    Congrats on your purchase. The Mazda3 is a great car. I'm sure you will enjoy it!
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