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Help Me Choose!



  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    Yeah, we all know how much those Bimmers and Benzes suck! Who'd want to drive one of those piles of crap! We'd all rather drive a Renault-inspired econobox that starts falling apart after a couple of years. :P

    Actually the Golf (and Rabbit before it) has an excellent predicted reliability record, per CR. The Impreza is a new design, but earlier Imprezas had an excellent record. Significant difference there? I don't see it.
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    The trick with BMW and Mercedes is to only get manual and to get specific base models with no options (like sunroofs and nav systems) to break. Volvo is kind of the same as well. Keep it simple and it's fine.

    The issue is that you can hardly get the base trim and manual any more in most European brands. VW is one of them, though, and they are fine if you get a basic car with the basic engine.

    But for a first time buyer, sporty and fun and all the things a young driver lusts after are not going to happen for $3K. Not unless you go into a classic car and start restoring it.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    No... but that is a different thread. This thread is re choosing between a new Golf and a new Impreza.
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    Between the Golf and the Impreza, go with the Impreza if you want reliability. The Golf is a nice car and all, but Subaru makes a better vehicle. There are also a TON of aftermarket mods and upgrades for the Subaru as well.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    As if there aren't a ton of aftermarket mods/upgrades for the Golf???
  • Thanks, Backy. I actually spoke with my mechanic this morning and he suggested the Subaru (based on repair costs--he said the Golf is super-expensive to repair and the Subaru is more reliable.) But, given that, I'm now starting to look at one of your original recommendations--the Mazda3 hatch. I was originally concerned about the Mazda's visibility, but think I'll take it for a spin to see. Only reason I'm not 100% sold on the Subaru is the hp/torque. I do most of my driving on the highway and then hills. I've found a lot of the rentals I've been trying really struggle on hills if they have lower hp/torque. I guess I just have to test drive the Subie (luckily, there's a rental car place around here that has the Golf & Mazda--and they rent by the hour--so I can try those on hills & highway.) BTW--I don't drive a stick, so have to stick with an automatic.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    VWs might be expensive to repair, but consider... how many repairs will a Golf that is driven 30k miles in 10 years and is maintained exceptionally well need? Not many I'd wager.

    For your driving habits, I strongly recommend you get the car you like driving best, first and foremost. All other factors, including FE and reliability, are of lesser importance for the few miles you drive. That being said, I think you'll like how the Mazda3 drives.
  • igozoomzoomigozoomzoom Waleska, GeorgiaPosts: 801
    I hate CVTs with a passion and the Impreza is no exception! I also drove one with manual and I liked it much better. But the Golf 5-door is better in the areas that are most important to me!

    The Golf has significantly more hp and torque and it is obvious, especially under light to modereate throttle. The Golf's standard 6AT is one of the best I've sampled in a while. It is usually in the gear that it needs to be in and doesn't balk at part-throttle kick-downs for instant power when you need it.

    The inteiror materials look and feel very high quality and they are assembled perfectly. They would not look out of place in an Audi A3.

    The car feels as solid as a bank vault on the road. It feels like it will stay tight for many miles into the future.

    The only issue I have with the Golf is that it comes with 15" steel wheels and fugly plastic wheel covers! But that can corrected in a few ways- VW will sell you a slick set of 17" wheels for $1500 or so. Or you can go aftermarket and spend well under $1k, but still change the whole look of the car!

    One more quick detail about the Golf- it is available in six colors, most of them are nothing special but one really stood out and looked awesome- Blue Graphite! With a sharp set of silver alloys, it would look more like a $30k car.

    Final note- I'm being totally serious- this is the first time I've recommened a VW in over 10 years on this and other auto sites. I would normally give the top nod to the Mazda3, but it's not quite as special as it used to be....btw, the Golf has very good reliability ratings on CR!
    2015.5 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E Platinum, 2012 Mazda CX-9 GT
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    edited August 2012
    Well, you obviously get a manual with either of these cars.

    Another car to consider would be the Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S (joint venture between the two companies) I like the FR-S a bit better as it has a much lower actual/street price and is a little quicker with the manual. But 25K might be out of your budget.

    Lastly, there is my personal budget economy car. But you're going to probably think I'm joking...

    Wait a month. Get a 2012 Mustang with the V6 engine. It gets 30mpg (real world) highway and has no issues at all with power. The insane part of it is the price - $20K. And that's now. Not in a month when they add another 2K in incentives, most likely, you'll be able to haggle 18K for a base model. The upgraded looks of the 2013 are better, but they also make the 2012 less desirable. In a month, dealers will be begging you to take one, especially if it's manual.

    The price of it has hardly changed while the imports are charging huge amounts for their economy cars. You can hit 25K on a Golf without blinking.
    (all manual here - there's ZERO reason to buy automatics that make it slower than a slug) 0-60 in 10+ seconds (real-world driving without dropping it into gear at full throttle) isn't sporty or fun. Having to flog it to get up a mountain pass isn't either. I remember trying to get onto a freeway uphill with a little 4 cylinder with the power to weight ratio of the Impreza and I almost wet myself every time I tried to do it. 60mph uphill was closer to 20 seconds due to there being so little torque for the huge weight (these all weigh way over 3000lbs). Add a passenger and you pretty much were looking for a 200ft+ gap.

    VW Golf 23/33 (26 combined) 170HP/177 Torque
    Mustang V6 19/29 (23 combined) 305 HP/280 Torque (0-60 5.8)
    Mazda 3 20/28 (23 combined) 150 HP/134 Torque
    Impreza 25/34 (28 combined) 148 HP/145 Torque
    BRZ/FR-S 22/30 (25 combined) ~200 HP/~150 Torque

    To me, the Mustang stands out as a fun, fast, and inexpensive option. And it looks great as well. You can also somewhat stomach the automatic, IMO, if you have to, as it has more than enough power to deal with the losses and lag. Fords are also cheap to repair.
  • igozoomzoomigozoomzoom Waleska, GeorgiaPosts: 801
    "Well, you obviously get a manual with either of these cars."

    The 2012 VW Golf 2.5L 4-door is only available with a 6-speed automatic transmission, manual not available. The 2-door 2.5L has a standard 5MT and the 6AT is optional. The only 4-door Golf with a manual is the TDI with a standard 6MT.

    I was surprised that to see that the 2012 Impreza only has a 5-speed manual when almost every competitor offers a 6-speed manual instead. I would think that extra ratio would be very useful in offsetting the new car's less powerful 2.0L engine, but I guess the 5MT won't run off the Subaru faithful.
    2015.5 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E Platinum, 2012 Mazda CX-9 GT
  • THank you both for chiming in! I really like hatchbacks, so the Mustang's out-and I know Mustangs are fun to drive--my ex used to have one.

    Re: the Golf--this was my first choice initially--everyone I know who's driven one says they walk away with a smile on their face. It's just a fun solid drive. The only thing that made me even think about a different car was the repair/maintenance costs on the Golf. I've heard from 2 mechanics and a friend who said the parts AND labor are typically waaaayyy more pricey than they are for Subarus--both mechanics advised me to go with the Subaru.

    I take really good care of cars, but learned the hard way with my old one that even if you keep up with maintenance and garage a car, age can creep up--especially if you don't drive it all the time (which I don't--it's better to drive a car on a regular basis vs once a week--or less in winter.) So I'm concerned about having to spend a bundle down the line (I live in NYC so everything here is really expensive to begin with!)

    I sat in my neighbor's Outback and thought the seats felt cheap and I know that's an issue with the Impreza and just like you said, I have heard the Golf feels like a real premium ride on the inside.

    BTW, I don't drive a stick so automatics are my only option.

    If anyone here has experience to the contrary re: maintainence/repair for the Golf, I'd love to hear it cause that will definitely impact on my decision.

    Thanks again!
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    Normally I'd agree, get a manual with either car, but after driving the 5-speed and CVT on the Impreza, I know I would not be happy with the 5-speed. I found it to be considerably noisier than the CVT, higher revving, and that will translate to lower mpg. They seemed like two different cars. The CVT seemed more refined, the 5-speed like an econobox. This is one reason the Impreza is relatively low on my shopping list for next year, vs. cars with sweet manual trannies e.g. Golf and Mazda3.
  • bpizzutibpizzuti Posts: 2,743
    Mazda 3 20/28 (23 combined) 150 HP/134 Torque

    Uhh, you are aware that the Mazda3 gets 155 HP and 148 Torque? And is rated at 27/39 (31 combined) with a (really nice shifting) 6 speed manual? Unless you're talking about the outdated MZR engine that is only available on the stripper sedan now, and no one actually buys anyway? Oh, and is going to be a lot more fun than most Mustangs if you prioritize handling over horsepower? :shades:
  • bpizzutibpizzuti Posts: 2,743
    Have you test-driven a Mazda3 SkyaActiv hatch? Sorry I lost track of some of the thread, don't know if you mentioned this or not. As I mentioned above, great fuel economy, it also has a very nice 6 speed automatic with an actual manual mode, where the tranny doesn't do anything unless you tell it to do so.
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    The handling package on the Mustang transforms the car into close to a CTS competitor.

    But truthfully, if you DO get a Golf/GTI, you're missing out on possibly one of the best cars *to* learn manual on. The automatic makes the car frankly feel like a basic econobox with slightly better handling - it just kills the feel and direct connection to the road that you get in a VW. And VW's automatics aren't exactly known for their reliability. Their manuals are fine, though. And a LOT cheaper to fix if they do break. ( 6-800 vs 3-4K)

    A Impreza, though, is terrible with the CVT. Just simply appalling. views
    "Trading performance for EPA-rated efficiency"

    Absolutely get the manual. Subarus with manuals are also fantastic. Well, the 2012 was. Don't touch the 2013, which is 9 seconds 0-60 with the CVT - and that's dropping it into drive with the engine at redline. Expect 12 with a normal mash the pedal from a stop and letting it do what it wants.
  • bpizzutibpizzuti Posts: 2,743
    You did catch the part where newcargirl said she doesn't drive a stick and automatics are the only option, right?
  • mr_gonemr_gone Posts: 50
    As my kids would say--awkward.
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    edited August 2012
    She can learn manual in a couple of hours (any old car or truck will do). It amazes me how people wanting sports and performance on a budget are unwilling to actually learn how to drive a manual these days. It's just criminal to take cars like these, which keep getting heavier and heavier, and that have small engines, and then hamstringing them even further with a CVT or automatic.

    Quite honestly, the CVT in the new de-powered Impreza feels like driving a 1990s Volvo 240. It has this spongy "I'll get to it when I want to" feel in the drive-train. Handling is great, but it's slow and lacks the power to actually push the limits given its bulk. As a result, it trundles down the road and you feel that excitement is always just out of reach. 148HP and ~2900lbs. That's worse than a early 90s Buick in terms of power to weight ratio. We're actually going backwards as of late in order to make MPG freaks happy.

    Now, the Mazda is quite a nice car, but with the automatic, it might as well be a Corolla or Civic. A basic box and not much else. Not that there's anything wrong with that, if that sort of vanilla experience is what you are looking for. FYI, if I was to buy a basic commuter box like that, Mazda does, IMO, make a better "Civic" than Honda does.

    To get the same sporty experience that you typically get with a manual in a small car, you need to typically get a 6 cylinder engine with the automatic. But that adds a lot of cost and weight, and very few small cars have larger engines in them these days aside from maybe a used BMW. If anything, there's a move towards smaller engines as of late.
  • bpizzutibpizzuti Posts: 2,743
    Now, the Mazda is quite a nice car, but with the automatic, it might as well be a Corolla or Civic. A basic box and not much else.

    Spoken like someone who has never driven a Mazda3 with an automatic transmission. They're a ton of fun.

    She can learn manual in a couple of hours (any old car or truck will do). It amazes me how people wanting sports and performance on a budget are unwilling to actually learn how to drive a manual these days.

    You don't know her or her situation, whatever reason she has for wanting the car to be an automatic is valid for her and therefore valid. I'm guessing you would take exception to someone suggesting a string of slushboxes to you when you state you desire a manual car, am I right? I know I'm right. :shades:

    Anyway, back to topic, of the automatic equipped hatch options out there, the Mazda3 should be at the top of the list. The Ford Focus is also worth a look, got a lot more techie-stuff in it than the Mazda, in exchange for slightly lower FE, and a less sporty "automatic" option (it's actually a DCT, but in manual mode it still retains a mind of it's own, unlike the Mazda automatic transmission).

    One could also check out the Kia Soul or Hyundai Elantra GT, but I don't particularly care for either one, on a scale from Buick to BMW they definitely lean Buick. The Veloster Turbo might be worth a look, lots of power, 6 speed automatic, fairly decent FE for the power, but the automatic retains a mind of its own in manual mode, and I hear the steering and suspension are a bit lifeless.
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    The Mazda 3 is.. well, let's just say it is nothing in the world like the RX8 was. It's a very *nice* car, but it's honestly a box to get around in. Nothing more. The automatic is just there (neither good or bad), much like now it is in a Honda, a Chevy, or any other number of basic cars.

    But having a manual does without a doubt make for a better experience in mountain roads and zipping in and out of traffic. Absolutely no question about it. And they are much less money to fix.

    I personally don't like most automatics, but some cars like a Cadillac CTS and the G37 (as examples) drive just fine with them. But certainly nothing with less than about 200lb-ft of torque. With cars approaching 3500lbs as a "normal" weight, and virtually nothing aside from a Yaris that's under 2900-3000, there's just too much dead weight to move around for a small engine to be enjoyable or remotely approach anything that would be considered fun or sporty. It's like we're in 1983 again with cars that are just simply too heavy for their engines.

    IMO, the magic car for her might be a 2011 RX8. Driving it in manu-matic mode with the paddles actually is quite fun. The car is quick and handles great. In fact, it's within a couple of percent in testing versus a base Porsche Boxster. (0.1 second 0-60, a fraction of a mph in the slalom, and so on). It's about the least expensive sports car out there that I know of.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
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  • bpizzutibpizzuti Posts: 2,743
    And you did catch the part where the vehicle had to be a hatchback, right? :shades:

    I'm not going to fight the manual/automatic war here. You love manuals, fine, whatever, glad you enojoy them. That's not the point. The poster wants a fun-to-drive automatic. Get over it. :)

    My recommendations stand. Mazda3 SkyActiv, Ford Focus. I suppose the Impreza CAN be fun if you push it hard and use the shift paddles, but it's a bit blah otherwise, Subaru is slowly being Toyotafied. Maybe not so slowly. Might want to give the Veloster Turbo a look, but the Mazda3 and Ford Focus are the two best options right now.
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    Well, I don't know what to say, then, as there are simply no decent and affordable hatchbacks that make their way to the U.S. as of late. I can think of the BMW 1 and the Mini and the WRX, but those are absurdly expensive.

    It's not that I like manuals so much as it's that a 3000+lb car with a engine that is putting out 140-160lb-ft of torque on a good day is simply going to have its soul sucked dry by adding an automatic to the already tenuous mix.
  • Thanks, all. I'll definitely give the Mazda 3 another look--actually saw one in the street yesterday and questioned the driver who said it handled REALLY well, but the visibility was a bit dicey from the sides--he said there were blind spots... I can, at least, rent a Mazda 3 and give it a whirl--an idea I like way better than doing a test drive. When you rent, you can take the car on highways, hills, etc and spend some time getting a real feel for the drive. BTW, visibility is also an issue for me so not so crazy about the Veloster which has a tiny back window...

    Thanks again.
  • bpizzutibpizzuti Posts: 2,743
    "Fun" is much MUCH more than mere horsepower. Fun is steering, and chassis, and suspension tuning. Horsepower is for people who frankly don't know how to drive and need to cover said deficiency. ;)
  • mr_gonemr_gone Posts: 50
    Well, I don't know what to say, then, as there are simply no decent and affordable hatchbacks that make their way to the U.S. as of late. I can think of the BMW 1 and the Mini and the WRX, but those are absurdly expensive.

    It's not that I like manuals so much as it's that a 3000+lb car with a engine that is putting out 140-160lb-ft of torque on a good day is simply going to have its soul sucked dry by adding an automatic to the already tenuous mix.

    I'm sure you mean well, but your comments are a reflection of what you like and what you would buy to meet your needs -- they're not helpful advice for the OP. No "decent and affordable hatchbacks" other than the BMW 1, Mini and WRX? That's a pretty extreme position to take, considering all the favorable reviews for the Honda Fit, Mazda 2 and 3, Ford Focus and Fiesta, Chevrolet Sonic, and Dodge Dart (mixed reviews, admittedly, for this last one.) You love 6 cylinders and manuals? Fine. But only advocating for cars that have those combinations rather than what the person seeking advice established as her priorities is like saying to someone looking for a nice suit, "I really like my Levi's 501s paired with a Woolrich plaid shirt."
  • maxx4memaxx4me Posts: 1,340
    don't forget the Nissan Versa hatchback. There's only a million of them on the road, and a new version is coming out in the next month or so. It is down to the Fit or Versa for me. Great room and visibility in both. The Fit is apparantly fun to drive, and I found the Versa's drive excellent, especially with the CVT.
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 11,025
    If you can't think of any recommendations that fit the member's desires and price range, then the best thing to do is remain silent. It's somewhat insulting to tell a shopper that the vehicles they're considering aren't "decent," and that they basically have to exceed the budget that they have available or have consciously decided to spend on a vehicle, in order to get a vehicle that meets YOUR desires, not theirs.


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  • THanks all! I wasn't insulted by it, btw. It just wasn't very useful info.

    Re: the Versa. I actually rented one a couple of weeks ago and LOVED LOVED LOVED the steering (and visibility.) What I didn't like was, the power. It felt like it was really *pushing* just to go up small inclines. But aside from that, it was a pleasure to drive. Truthfully, if I can find a car that has that type of steering and visibility with a bit more power, I'm good (aside from safety, etc.) I'm interested to see how they update the Versa. And not for nothing, a good friend owns one (just bought it a year ago) and she and her hubby love it.
  • bpizzutibpizzuti Posts: 2,743
    Nissans are pretty nice, I just can't forgive them for not making a Sentra hatch. :shades:

    You know, I don't know if premium gasoline turns you off, but the Juke might be worth checking out also. AWD, turbo engine, it's on the heavy side for such a small vehicle but it's very peppy and can be lots of fun, particularly when using the manual shift mode to keep the engine on boil. And AWD gives tons of grip (they never send us non-AWD versions up here in the Northeast).

    Hey, if you'll be at a Nissan dealer anyway, worth looking, right?
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