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Protege5 vs. Matrix XRS vs. 2.5TS Impreza vs. PT Cruiser (hatch/wagon)

hi everyone!

my fiancee is looking for a car in the near future, probably a hatchback like the ones above. i own a se-r spec v now, and we want something with a little more utility (not an SUV!) that has some fun, decent gas mileage, and a little extra space. what is everyone's experience with the hatches listed above, and what are your recommendations?

thanks for your help, and happy motoring!

-thene
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Comments

  • the 2.5TS is the subaru impreza wagon! sorry!
  • revkarevka Posts: 1,750
    Hi thenebean9 - To make things a little clearer, I just edited the title. Hope this is helpful. Good luck with your decision. ;-)

    Revka
    Host
    Hatchbacks & Wagons Boards
  • capitanocapitano Posts: 509
    I want something practical and fun. The leading contenders for me are the protege5 and the matrix XRS.

    If I hadn't killed my pathfinder 2 years ago, I would just go out and get an acura RSX type s as my daily driver and runabout. Now I am trying to get the fun, economical daily driver and some versatility too.

    I have test driven the XRS, but not the protege5 yet. The XRS is not available here in my town, but is about 100 miles away. I was on a business trip and found one on a dealer lot. So I drove it because I had the opportunity.

    I was interested in the XRS first and developed an interest in the p5 later. The reviews of the matrix I have read comment on poor driver position and the buzzy engine. That's what I paid attention to when I test drove.

    The engine was a little loud, but not more than my wife's civic. The seat was just right for me (5'11"). Perhaps that was fixed in the 2004.

    Here in about a month I will go and test drive the 5 before figuring out what I'll get.

    The P5 will be much cheaper because it is already out of production and they want to clear them out before the arrival of the Mazda3.

    The 3 looks very interesting, but I don't want to wait that long for a new car.

    I haven't really considered the 2.5TS, though I had considered the WRX.

    I never liked the PT Cruiser, but I had one as a rental for 2 days 2 weeks ago, and it was ok.
  • revka,

    yeah, thanks for clarifying the title! i was still trying to get the morning sleepies out of my head when typing that out!

    capitano,

    my fiance test drove the p5 this past weekend, he said it was fun, but the powerband through 2nd and 3rd gear was lacking. we want utility, but since this will be mainly his car, he wants some power too. i think the p5 is much better looking than the matrix, but the matrix xrs has 180 hp, but only 130 of torque, which isnt all that great. we looked at the 2.5TS and not the WRX wagon due to $$ issues, but the 2.5TS has 165hp, and 166lb/ft torque, so its better than the p5, which is 130 and 130, and better balanced than the XRS at 180/130. he likes the pt cruiser because a family friend has one, and he thinks its a pretty cool ride, plus he'd want to put cool flames on the side...silly boys! (though it might be quite nifty to have a big flaming mobster-mobile!)

    anyways hopefully this board can help everyone looking at these hatches...i'd like to get some good info from people who own them, instead of surfing through 4 different forums for each vehicle.

    thanks for your input capitano!

    happy motoring

    -thene
  • bluong1bluong1 Posts: 1,927
    P5 torque is 135 lb.ft (why so many people put lb/ft as torque unit?). Fun car, and not at all underpowered (in a manual transmission) when the engine finally broken in. If you are hesitating for two more months, your selection will reduce to three cars.
  • feijaifeijai Posts: 17
    thenebean9, last year I went through exactly the same conundrum. I had whittled the collection of posssible cars down to the Matrix/Vibe, P5, and Impreza TS wagon. I was looking for a wagon that was a LOT of fun to drive but still highly functional. I had also looked at, and ruled out: Civic SI [too small], Passat wagon [too big], Volvo wagons [too big, handle like boats], Mini [wow, what a fun car. But too small], and PT Cruiser [a cool car! But too stylized for my taste; and it's certain to drop rapidly in value due to it: and only medium reliability]. I'd also been looking at a number of high-end cars, a-la 325xi wagons etc.

    Once you drop the PT Cruiser, it's a hard choice between the other three in terms of reliability. Functionally, the Matrix/Vibe is the best bet. Large cargo space, all sorts of cool pockets and nooks, and the seats fold down in a clever way [the P5's seat-folding approach is poor; the Impreza's is abysmal]. It has that cute built-in electrical plug, though this can be remedied in any car for $50 at CompUSA. The Matrix/Vibe also gets the best gas mileage, at least for the lesser engine. For the bigger engine it's not as impressive. If you were to pick between the Matrix and the Vibe, I'd definitely go with the Vibe, it's better styled and more cleanly thought out.

    But the Matrix has some major problems. First, the back window is tiny, and only for stupid stylistic reasons (stylistic reasons which make the car look UGLIER no less). Frankly this is a safety hazard. Second, you do get the feeling that you're riding high up, Echo-style. And though others have thought the Matrix handled well, I think it's a DISTANT third to the P5 and Impreza in handling. I've said it before and will say it again: the Matrix feels like its steering wheel is connected to the wheels via a giant rubber band. It could be the effect of being so high up, I dunno. But one thing is clear: you don't buy the Matrix to be fun to drive.

    The Impreza's handling is very good from the all-wheel drive, and it accelerates well. It's got a lot of ground clearance a-la Subarus. But it too has some downsides. The #1 downside is gas mileage due to the AWD. It's awful. We're talking BMW and SUV range here. It's also an ugly car, inside and out, though that shouldn't matter much. And like the P5, it can't hold a lot. The gas mileage alone warned me away from it.

    The P5 [which I bought] is the most "car like" of the three. It's low and it definitely handles better than the rest [that's its claim to fame in fact], and its taught handling comes at a price in bruising suspension. It gets gas mileage almost as good as the smaller-engine version of the Matrix. Its internals and externals (leather or cloth) are better looking than the other two by far. It does not accelerate as well as the others do, due to its smaller engine. I think it has a louder engine than the others do as well. The roof racks whistle loudly too (though they can be removed -- saves 1MPG too). But it is a FUN car to drive [the Impreza is as well]. Both grip the road tenaciously [easily as well as a 325 in my experience], and are a blast on twisty roads. And it has better reliability than the others.

    Incredibly, Consumer Reports panned the P5 for *exactly* the reasons I *liked* it. Basically CR admitted that it has good gas mileage and great reliability, that it looks great and handles wonderfully, but they oddly knocked it for having a sports-car suspension and being low to the ground. Basically, out of the sport wagons, CR preferred the ones which were the most like SUVs: high up and cushy. This magazine needs to reconsider its priorities!

    But you do have one problem with the P5: it's going away in just a little while. If you want one, you need to act fast. Mazda is replacing it with the 3, a co-built car with Ford, which, I worry, probably means worse reliability.

    Summary: if you need cargo and flexibility, go with the Vibe. If you want AWD, the Impreza's the best here. If you want good handling, the P5 and Impreza are best: of the two I'd pick the P5 for its gas mileage and reliability.
  • boggseboggse Posts: 1,048
    One thing to consider is maintenance costs. With the Subrarus you will have twice as much drivetrain to maintain which will increase the cost of ownership over the life of the vehicle. Other than that, I think the 2.5TS is a good option.

    I drove the Matrix and the Corolla when I was shopping for my Protege5. I found neither seating position to be comfortable. The pedals were too close, so I had to stretch out my arms to reach the the steering wheel.

    I have not driven the PT, but I understand it is a nice vehicle, especially in GT trim.

    I have a 2003 Protege5 which is my wife's daily driver. We take this car on trips, and have found it to be comfortable and economical. At the same time the Zoom-Zoom of the low end torque and excellent steering and suspension make it an excellent choice for around town. My 2 complaints with the P5 are the stereo (mediocre) and the stock tires (expect 15-20k miles), and both of those are easily remedied.
  • capitanocapitano Posts: 509
    I find that the numbers can be deceiving.

    My wife's civic only has 106HP and it seems adequate. I think the thing could be downright sporty if it had a manual transmission. Similarly I once had great fun zipping around in a beat up VW scirocco that only had 90hp.

    The XRS is still attractive to me because it has more cargo room and I have had this strange desire for a 6 speed manual tranny. According to Motor Trend it can out handle the P5, but other sources indicate that the XRS is not all that great.

    The P5 popped up on my radar because some of the reviews for the XRS were a little negative.

    I think the P5 has a nicer interior and it may sway me if it is as nice to drive as the owners, like bluong1 here, say. I also find myself swayed by the fact that it is being replaced by a new car and while illogical, owning the "old" car bothers me. Of course a test drive may change all of that.

    Also, the 2.5TS seems like a nice enough car, but that fact that there is a souped-up version, the WRX, makes me tend to discount it.

    Anyway, I am all over the map on this. A month ago I felt destined to get a P5, now I think I might get the XRS. I might like the XRS, but the P5 will be available at incredible prices.
  • jontyreesjontyrees Posts: 159
    I just think the world of my Aerio SX. It's a hoot to drive, (2WD, 5speed), decently fast with 145hp 135lbft and only 2600-2700lbs, very roomy w/63.7 ft3 of cargo space, (I used mine to pick up a large washing machine in it's packing case), it comes with a 6 disc in-dash CD changer, great standard features, and you can get brand new ones for around $12,500 with all the rebates they offer. C&D didn't like it largely because of the styling, but you really should take one for a test drive.

    I recently had to replace mine, (umm, bit of an incident at an intersection), and I went through the process of considering other cars, but went right back to the Suzuki. I took a couple of Volvos for test drives, ('98 V70 T5 and '99 XC), and I was really underwhelmed. They may be fast to 60mph if you sit at a light with the brake and gas both mashed down, then release the brake, but if they're at idle, you can hit the gas and wait several seconds for anything to happen. Disappointingly, the rented Buick Century I was driving felt like a BMW when I pulled away from the dealer. Maybe the new ones are better.

    If they were available, I would have taken a serious look at a Mazda 6 wagon, but I couldn't wait that long. P5 and small Subarus were a bit too small inside, but they seem nice. Forester seemed overpriced. Matrix seats weren't comfortable for me, and I couldn't read the gauges at all. PT cruiser styling might get old, and they're a bit overpriced and slow for my liking. I like the VW's and Saabs, but reliability seems to be an issue, ($ too).

    Whichever way you cut it, there are a lot of good options out there.
  • icvciicvci Posts: 1,031
    That's how long we could go around and around on these vehicles. You need to test drive the P5.

    Here's a nice Edmunds small wagon comparo for you to read before you drive.

    http://www.edmunds.com/reviews/comparison/articles/92555/article.- - html?tid=edmunds.e.comparison.content...Mazda*

    It contains my favorite paragraph from any P5 review -

    While conducting this comparison test, one of our editors was driving the Protegé on a curvy road. Behind him was a Subaru WRX. Despite the WRX's power advantage, the Mazda stayed well ahead. When the two cars finally came alongside at a stoplight, the driver of the WRX said, "Wow, that thing's fast. What's a 'Protegé S'?"
  • stoner420stoner420 Posts: 165
    (Since this happened to show up in my threads list...)
    I agree the MP5 is sporty, I have some respect for them seeing them handle around the roads. I don't believe it's AWD though? The 2.5TS will not be exactly the same as the WRX, but has nice low-end torque and they can certainly out-handle most anything out there. It is standard AWD, this is a *big* plus for inclement weather handling, although slightly less fuel efficient than 2WD (well worth the trade off once you drive through your first rain or snow storm). You can fit tons of stuff in there too, especially when you put the back seats down. I would encourage you to stretch a little for the WRX if you are really interested (WRX wagons should be around $23k), but you wouldn't go wrong with the base model either.

    I haven't much positive opinion on the Matrix or PT Cruiser; I would not really want to drive either one. I don't believe either one could hold a candle to the MP5 or Impreza in terms of handling, and they're both slow.
  • capitanocapitano Posts: 509
    The Matrix XRS beat out the WRX and the P5 in a comparo that motortrend did last year.

    The XRS matrix has a better suspension setup than the base and XR versions so it handles much better. Motortrend called it "an amazing handler."

    I was considering the WRX but the 23k is just too much of a stretch when I can get a better handler in a XRS for around 18k or in a P5 for around 15-16k with rebates.

    The WRX is a nice car, but the price difference and lower mileage numbers pretty much rule it out for me. If the market was a little different and I could get a great deal on a leftover 03 model I would reconsider.
  • i personally like the styling of the p5 the best of the group...my fiance liked it too, and the only thing he griped about was that the power seemed to be lacking when in 2nd or 3rd gear...i tried to explain to him that its different going from a spec-v to a protege 5, or any other compact type vehicle...

    but we want something small with good gas mileage, its only the two of us, so as long as the seats fold down (wasnt too thrilled with how clunky the seats were when folded in the p5) and he stresses it has to be fun to drive.

    if the engine breaks in for the p5 and the power becomes much more readily available, i think that would personally be our best choice (i agree, the matrix looks kind of funky with its small rear windshield) and i like the idea of a low to the ground, sporty suspension car...lets me feel the road! (see spec V)

    anyways we'll have to test drive the other ones too...matrix and subaru...see what we think of those...

    when exactly is the mazda3 coming out, and how much of it will contain ford components? i think it looks really nice! and if there isnt much ford presence, might consider it! but thats only if i get some more info on it

    thanks everyone!

    -thene
  • capitanocapitano Posts: 509
    In June of 2002 C&D did a similar comparo in which the P5 was the winner. They didn't include the WRX. They tested the XRS, P5, AerioSX, PT Cruiser, Vibe, and Focus Zx5.

    http://www.caranddriver.com/article.asp?section_id=15&article- _id=2338
  • icvciicvci Posts: 1,031
    The WRX doesn't seem to belong with the P5. That's why I really like the quote from the Edmunds comparo.

    The 3 is due in January. It will have a more fuel efficient engine in it. However, it will also cost more. I test drove the Matrix and really like the utility it offered. It was really noisy though. I would have bought a Vibe but, there wasn't a muanual to be found in Metro Detroit. Looking back, I'm glad there wasn't cause the P5 has been and continues to be one fun car. It looks a lot better IMO and there isn't one on every street corner.

    I don't think the engine really gets stronger, maybe a little smoother.

    The Mazda warranty is also better than that of Toyota or Pontiac. In some areas they offer a 7/70 powertrain warranty to compete with the likes of DCX and Hyundai.
  • capitanocapitano Posts: 509
    Mazda does have a better warranty with roadside assistance. That is a factor.

    See, part of my problem is that I will probably be just fine with whatever I end up getting. But since I am a buyer and keeper I am trying to find the perfect car.

    Motortrend included the WRX because they couldn't get a hold of a PT Cruiser GT for their comparo.
  • bluong1bluong1 Posts: 1,927
    From what I have heard, Mazda NA will launch the Mz3 in December, but they will heavily advertised only from Q1 2004.

    The plateform is commonly developed with Ford (Focus II) and Volvo (S40), however the Mazda remains more than 90% japanese (no Ford part). It's manufactured in Japan (from June 2003) unlike the Mazda6.
  • smashersmasher Posts: 31
    I bought a P5 last month, so I don't have much to say about it yet, though the more I drive it the more I like it. (Steering and handling are GREAT, and the engine feels powerful enough to me, especially after initial break-in.) The rear seat/folding configuration is fine for my needs. (I went from 4-door '87 Integra to the P5; this is very close in spirit, though a little roomier and incrementally better in every way.) It holds a lot of stuff if you're creative about how you pack it. It was great during a friend's move last weekend. Even with the rear seats up, the trunk is a lot bigger than it seems at first glance--much taller and deeper than it looks.

    My mom has a PT Cruiser. It's a totally different vehicle, kind of a cross between a tall wagon and a minivan. She needed a taller, roomier vehicle to transport my dad and his wheelchair, and she fell in love with the PT. (Once you take out the small rear seat, the wheelchair fits in vertically and can be buckled in with the seatbelt, and you still have room for two more passengers in back. It works great.) I'm really impressed with the PT's versatility; seating configurations are very well thought out, and it's easy to reconfigure for different loads. Ingress/egress are very easy (another consideration with my dad); doors open very wide, and seats are tall and easy to reach.

    The PT is a little ponderous around town: very wide turning radius and underpowered. (She has the Touring Edition with the base motor and automatic; performance is probably better with a stick.) Handling is better than you'd think, though. Gas mileage sucks.

    When I went to buy my P5, I looked at the Civic Si (too much of a boy-racer, and I wasn't impressed with fit/finish) (plus it looks like a Ford Festiva), VW Golf (very nice design and very good interior layout, fun to drive, etc., but scary reliability record), and Impreza TS. The Impreza had great pull (you really feel the AWD), but it felt tinny and unrefined, and the interior layout wasn't as good as the P5. In a lot of ways, it felt like I was driving my old '83 Subaru GL.

    I DIDN'T look at the Focus or the Matrix/Vibe. Focus has reliability problems, and I thought the Matrix/Vibe were ugly.

    The PT Cruiser is more like a small minivan than a tall wagon, especially with its foldable/removable seats. P5 and Golf are closer in feel. The P5 is a little flashier and more, er, zoomy; Golf is a little more understated. Bummer they don't still make the 4-door 1.8t; that was a great car. If VW sold a _reliable_ 4-door 1.8t Golf, it'd be a no-brainer. But the P5 is really growing on me.
  • irnmdnirnmdn Posts: 240
    For a gut less engine it doesn't give exceptional fuel economy unlike a civic.

    Base Forester X can be had around 18K now. For just 3K more than a P5, IMO the former is a better deal.
    3K gets you:
    +AWD
    +better wet/snow handling
    +35HP+35lbft (performance is nearly identical though)
    +double cargo capacity
    +(way) better resale
    +full size spare
    -poor dry handling
    -5 MPG
    -2 inch rear leg room
    =crappy stereo on both
  • dont know if he likes the looks as much...he wants something that looks and feels somewhat sporty, but has some cargo space as well...

    now he indicated he really likes the mazda6 or other midsize sedan instead of a hatchback...men! cant make up their minds! ;-)

    we'll see though, out of the hatchbacks listed, i like the protege5 looks wise the best...we have yet to testdrive anything else so we'll have to do that in the coming weeks.
  • dinu01dinu01 Posts: 2,586
    Why would someone pay $3000 for one?

    To get AWD? Not worth $1000 IMO - put 4 winter tires on a car and save $500. Too much weight on the chunky Forester.

    Handles worse than a P5 and is a wagon/minivan. not a car.

    Dinu
    Weight is the enemy :)
  • icvciicvci Posts: 1,031
    No zoom zoom there. The P5 will leave it in the dust in the twisties.
  • irnmdnirnmdn Posts: 240
    "No zoom zoom there."
    Think again, forrester out acclerates P5.
    ". The P5 will leave it in the dust in the twisties." and stranded when it snows thanks to low ground clearance and 2WD.
  • irnmdnirnmdn Posts: 240
    "Why would someone pay $3000 for one?
    To get AWD? Not worth $1000 IMO - put 4 winter tires on a car and save $500. Too much weight on the chunky Forester."

    True Cost to Own for 5 years
    P5 $27,060
    Forester $27,685

    for $125/YEAR you get all the advantages over P5 I mentioned in post #21

    "Weight is the enemy :)"
    Depreciation is Mazda's worst enemy:))
  • ashutoshsmashutoshsm Posts: 1,007
    Depreciation is Mazda's worst enemy:))

    ... for that nugget of wisdom. However, if you own your car for a non-financially-stupid period of time, depreciation is moot. Lower purchase costs win out or at least even things out.

    Also, shame on you for recommending a hunking SUV to someone sensibly considering a wagon instead :)
  • i'd hardly call the forester a hunkering SUV...

    recommend an H2 and i'd have to smack ya for it!

    but all of that aside, i dont think the forester has the "sportiness" that my fiance is looking for...he's used to driving my spec V, and now thinks that every car we own has to perform like that...while it would be nice, its hard to find a compact wagon that performs like a spec V...at least in our price range (under $20K preferrably)

    if only the P5 had a little more HP and torque, he'd be completely sold!

    -thene
  • icvciicvci Posts: 1,031
    Think again, forrester out acclerates P5.

    Yea...get to 60 then what? When we get into the twisties, I'll leave the Forester looking for an off-road short cut to catch up.

    Here is another comparo for ya -

    http://www.caranddriver.com/article.asp?section_id=15&article- _id=2338&page_number=1
  • irnmdnirnmdn Posts: 240
    I was recommending Forester not as SUV but as (slightly tall) wagon since most people find Impreza TS (and P5) too small for any utility.
  • dinu01dinu01 Posts: 2,586
    "I was recommending Forester not as SUV but as (slightly tall) wagon since most people find Impreza TS (and P5) too small for any utility."

    And we thought you were recommending a truck over a car...

    Dinu
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