Car suggestions? looking for a sporty sedan

Hi i’m new to the forum so i’m not really sure how this works but I need advice. I’m a 19 year old girl looking for a cheaper sporty awd sedan or hatch to drive back and forth from college in. I currently drive a 2015 equinox and let’s be real, it kinda sucks in the speed department.

I would like something under $15k and it MUST be awd (we get bad weather pretty often where i’m from). It needs to be newer than 2011 because my dad worries about reliability in older cars. I’d also like it to be kind of higher end and pretty fast, I don’t intend to race it or anything but it would definitely be more fun.

I’ve looked into the 2012-2014ish Audi a6 3.0T quattro and I really like it, would this be a good choice? Does anyone have any reccomendations? I’m just looking for advice, not offers.

**edit: would prefer something midsize with okay mpg. Not too picky on engine type, i’d just like something fast and reliable to get me through college

thank you!!

If you want reliability you don’t want a 7 year old Audi with a turbo in it . 15K isn’t much these days so choice is somewhat limited. You dont say what you want , small , something larger like Charger or what you want for an engine , 4 cylinder , 6 cylinder , 8 cylinder . You have to figure that out and then go on to sites like cars dot com and start searching around for stuff that might fit your interest . Myself i would stay with dealers as opposed to private buyers as you will usually get some kind of guarantee with the vehicle even if it’s only for 12 months . Good luck …

I think you need to re-think your cost requirements. :rofl:

Personally I would stay away from the European stuff. If it must be awd I’m thinking Subaru.


Euro-lux cars are never a good option, unless you can buy them new and get rid of them at the end of the warranty.
So you will not like my advice. Apparently you experience snow where you are. Keep the Equinox while at school. Set aside what would have been your car payment in a seperate account, then get what you want after to graduate.


19 years old and still in college this is a terrible idea. You have high insurance as it is and front wheel drive will work most of the time. As others point out European used luxury vehicles are costly to maintain .


I’ll echo pretty much what everyone else has said. The European bunch (the usual suspects, Audi, BMW, Mercedes) will burn a hole in your pocket in terms of maintenance.

This is an important point that I thought needs more emphasis. For most of your travels, front-wheel drive will be adequate. On snowy days where you truly need AWD, you would be better off not driving and using some other form of transit. AWD brings with it additional complexity in terms of maintenance as well as a dent in the gas mileage.

Now, for some armchair advice. To me, I think you do not like the Equinox because it is a giant vehicle/is cumbersome etc. You might be surprised by how much you like a mid-size sedan like an Accord Sport (and if you wish to pick up a rare skill of driving a manual/std. transmission, this might be the ticket) or a Mazda 6. If AWD is non-negotiable, @PvtPublic’s suggestion for a Subaru is good. And if your parents want you to have a luxury car, take a look at the Acura TLX AWD. Something like this one:

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It won’t be easy to find one, but if the OP can find a Legacy sedan equipped with the optional 3.6 liter six cylinder engine, I can tell you that its acceleration is in the same league as a BMW 5-series, but with altogether superior reliability. Yes, some older four cylinder Subarus have had head gasket problems, but Subaru’s six is problem-free.

Rather than AWD, you might consider winter tires if snow and ice are the problem. This will open up a lot more sedans and hatchbacks for consideration. You should get an extra 4 rims for the winter tires.


Look at something like a 2016 Honda HR-V. It came with either FWD or All Wheel drive. It’s not real fast but it will feel a lot more responsive and look more modern than what you have now. They should be available coming off leases now.

They do make a 300hp v6 equinox. I bet you have a 4 cyl?

Subaru WRX is a cool looking sports car, very popular here in the San Jose area, and either all of them are awd, or they have an awd option. Your Audi A6 idea is worth considering too. I think the Porsche Boxster is awd, so that’s another one. The Mazda CX5 isn’t really a sports car, but it is a lot more sporty than the NOX, and AWD is available. Give them all a test drive, see what Consumer Reports has to say about their reliability and expected repair costs, and make a choice. Make your offer contingent on your own mechanic’s pre-purchase inspection approval of course.

Now if you were to ask me what’s the best compromise used car for a young college student, the compromises being functionality, cost, reliability, and repair costs, I’d have to say Honda Fit, Civic, Toyota Yaris, Corolla, or Mazda 3. Any of those will likely leave you with w/a fatter pocketbook, extra money in your pocket you can spend on dates, going out to dinner, movies, clothes, shoes, beer, sports, concerts, gifts for friends and family. My recollection of what was fun in college was more about those things, than driving around in my car. Having a car vs not having a car is a big deal in college. But the make/model? Not so much

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@parcora Welcome to the forum! I have several questions for you as well as several thoughts to toss at you to consider.

First, as a note, I happen to be one of the few women who regularly frequent this forum and I also have never been physically able to do my own repair/maintenance work and therefore must rely on having a reliable vehicle, a major MUST for the safety of us ladies. The advice I’ve received here over some years has been great.

Several questions for you:

  • When you say your Equinox is slow, do you mean it has slower acceleration than you want?
  • Aside from finding your current Equinox slow and not sporty, what else if anything do you dislike about the vehicle? Think specifically. How it handles, seating, ease of getting in and out, is it bigger than you prefer driving, does it sit too high, is it a vehicle that you feel out of place driving compared to those of your friends, is it a hand me down “mom” car from your parents, etc.???
  • Are you using your vehicle for daily commuting, such as to and from campus and possibly also a job each/most day? If so, in what type of traffic/road conditions? How far? What climate; do you contend with much rain or snow?
  • Since you want something sporty, I assume you do not require a lot of cargo area?

Now some thoughts for you to consider:

  • As others have pointed out, European cars, no matter how appealing they are, tend to be money pits, even just for standard maintenance. They average needing far more repairs and at higher prices than most other brands of cars. Any brand of luxury car that is within the price range you cited is going to be older, with higher mileage, and therefore more prone to mechanical problems and repairs than a newer car that is smaller and/or more “average.”

  • I totally relate to the desire for more speed, sportiness, and having a “fun” car. Although for a variety of reasons I compromised on driving a fairly average vehicle, I still like to have an engine with some giddy up and go for those times I truly need rapid throttle response, i.e. rapid acceleration, such as when merging onto a busy highway, and also just for fun. I suspect that your desire for more speed than your Equinox provides is dissatisfaction with how rapidly, well, and smoothly it accelerates.

  • Having a sporty engine and car is fun. But so is staying alive and unhurt!!! I do not know your driving record nor am I implying anything negative about you or your driving. But speaking from experience, both having been your age, and as someone with more years and lots of miles under my belt, at age nineteen you haven’t yet quite as good a combination of experience and the judgment that comes from experience at consistent safe driving habits as best mates with fast sports cars. Yeah, fast sports cars are just about every young driver’s dream (memories of the desire for a Charger with a Hemi engine come to mind…) but you can still have good fun in non-sports cars. It’s all in learning how to truly handle a car for spirited driving.

  • As others pointed out, getting a car such as a Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, or even a Mazda 3 would be far more affordable to buy, insure, and maintain than the cars you have mentioned so far. They aren’t as sporty looking or handling but do still have very good acceleration and handling. If you want something bigger, then a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry are very comfortable with responsive fast acceleration.

  • Most important consideration of all is SAFETY; safety for you as a driver, safety for your passengers, safety for others on the road. Today’s cars are all built for safety, so the primary safety variable is the driver. It’s quite okay to have fun with your driving but never at the expense of endangering others.

If you can give us answers to my questions, then we can give you suggestions tailored to your needs as well as desires, and you will hopefully have a clearer idea in your own mind as to the specific attributes and features you want, why you want them, and which of those you are and are not willing to compromise on to get a car that you will be happy with and have fit your needs.

Let us know, please. :sunglasses:


@Marnet thanks for the reply!

To answer your first few questions, the main thing I dislike about my equinox is that it has a very slow acceleration that i’m not used to. I can barely hit 55 on the on ramp and I have to gun it to get there, and the speed limit on the highway I drive most frequently is 70mph. To pass people, it takes me far longer than i’d like and i’m not used to it. I used to drive an ‘02 tahoe and I guess I never realized how quick it was until I got this car.

Another thing I really dislike about the car is it’s “mom” car status. I know that seems superficial, but it’s my second car and I bought it with my own savings and I really regretted the purchase after I realized I had so many other options. I wanted a car that got better mileage at the time, and I went with an suv because it’s what I was used to driving. But these past few months i’ve been really getting into cars and I want a more fun and sporty option to get me through college.

As far as the size of the car, it doesn’t really bother me per say since i’ve only driven SUVs. Hell, i learned how to drive in a yukon xl so nothing big phases me. I guess I just realized that there are other options and I want to drive something I really enjoy everyday instead of settling for a slow mom car for the next 4+ years…

Most of my driving is on the highway at the moment. I go to school an hour and a half away and I commute every weekend. I still need to get around town to run errands and stuff, but that’s not where a majority of my time is spent. As far as weather goes, I live in missouri and we only get light snows a few times a year. Since I live on a hilly gravel road, I’m a little worried about getting home when it snows but again it happens very infrequently.

I don’t really need that much cargo space, I don’t think i’ve hauled anything that big in my equinox since I got it. And my mom has a yukon and my brother has a pickup so we have plenty of options for space if need be.

And yes i’m realizing that I should really avoid the luxury cars. I just saw their low upfront cost, I never considered the maintenance. I’ll probably go for a japanese car, i’ve heard they’re very reliable and run forever. My driving record is pretty clean, I got one ticket a year ago but they got it removed so my insurance is fine. I’ve never had an accident in the past three years i’ve been driving and i’m a very safe driver in my opinion.

As far as the cars i’m currently considering, the honda civic si seems to check a lot of my boxes, as does the subaru impreza. I’m not too particular on the size of the car, but i’m sure my mom would prefer me to be in a mid to full size one. Really the biggest thing holding me back from making this decision is my parents, they’re scared a sedan isn’t as safe and they’ve only driven big trucks and suvs so they’re hesitant. If it was awd I think they’d be more on board, but awd sedans are limited and somewhat hard to find in my experience. If you have any other reccomendations of an awd/fwd sedan that’s a little faster than average and not too much of a “mom” car, id really appreciate it!!

I am going to try this again, wait until you are out of college to trade vehicles. You have no idea where you will be or how long it will take to heve employment security . This current vehicle seems to be good enough to take you to school and back so there is a good chance you could buy a used vehicle that breaks down within the first few weeks.

As for Japanese running forever that is not always true. Almost any major brand will last a long time with proper service schedules .

The Equinox , my neighbor has one and I have driven it so I think most of your complaints are imaginary because of buyers remorse and the fact you want to drive like a NASCAR driver.

As for your Missouri location , there is a regular here who lives in rural Missouri and does extensive traveling as a computer repair service and drives a Mitsubishi Mirage which is a small FWD vehicle so AWD may not be as important as your parents think it is.

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I can’t believe the 2015 Equinox isn’t fast enough for you. When I was your age, about 20 years ago, I had a 1988 Toyota Corolla. While it was no speed demon, I thought it was more than adequate for my needs.

Now, I have a 2004 Toyota Corolla and a 1995 Dodge Caravan. The 2004 Corolla has a 4-cylinder engine and 4-speed automatic transmission, and the 1995 Caravan has a 4-cylinder engine and 3-speed automatic transmission. The Corolla feels like a rocket compared to anything else I have owned, but the van definitely seems slow. Unless you are used to driving high-performance sports cars, your Chevy Equinox should be fine.

My advice is to save your money and not buy another vehicle. If you absolutely cannot stand to drive the Equinox any more, I’d sell it and buy a low-mileage Toyota Corolla or Toyota Camry. These are not AWD cars, but they provide excellent fuel economy, reliability, and handling even in poor weather.

The Lexus IS sports sedan line fits all of your criteria. It is available in either AWD or RWD and is sporty. You can find a listing of Lexus IS sports sedans here at CarTalk’s partner site BestRide. If I were you, I would use that same budget lease a newer car, like a 2019 Mazda3 AWD. After all, you just need to get through college and then you will be employed and be able to afford a new, fancier vehicle, or buy-out the Mazda3 you have been leasing if you like it. Your dad will be happy since the Lexus and Mazda 3 are both safe and also have good reliability ratings. If you can find a Lexus IS 350 AWD, that is the quickest of that model line. ps - I drove a Toyota Supra while I was in college commuting. The Supra and the Lexus IS are from the same lineage.

I will acknowledge that the 4 cylinder Equinox is slow.
I still recommend you keep it.
But, between both your threads you are getting the same advice.

One thought, could you work out a compromise with your parents and brother, on the very few days that the valley is snowed in, use one of their 4X4s if you get a 2WD FWD?

I know times have changed, but I didn’t have a car when I was in college. I attended college 50 miles away from my house. I hitch-hiked 50 miles every other weekend for a horn lesson with a music professor I had taken lessons from while in high school. I would then go right back to my home campus. I would have been happy with any car while in college.
When I did graduate from college, I had a graduate teaching assistantship that paid $200 a month back in 1962. I purchased a 1947 Pontiac that got me and my possessions to a university 350 miles away. The car got me to campus from the room I rented in a house for $8 a week and around town. On breaks, I took the train back home.
At any rate, any vehicle that gets you to your destination is a good vehicle. Own a vehicle that fits your needs, not your desires.
I drive a Toyota Sienna minivan. It fits my needs. What would I like to be driving? A Mazda Miata. I need to put the seats back in Sienna. I took the seats out so I could haul a set of timpani to an outreach concert the chamber orchestra for which I am president performed at an assisted care facility this past weekend. One cannot fit four timps in a Miata. For me, playing music and bringing music to people is more important than having a sports car to tool around in. As a college student, decide what is important to you. Is it really that sporty car?

@parcora Thank you for your excellent response further detailing your concerns with your Equinox and your preferences and needs. I also found and read your other thread questioning the need for AWD. So…

  • The fact you live down a long gravel road gives weight to the suggestions you received in your AWD question discussion thread that your important concern is less about AWD vs FWD and far more about ground clearance. Hate to tell you, but sporty cars are low clearance. Even in good weather with a clear, dry road, gravel roads are hell on sporty cars. Too easy to hit bottom and/or tear up the suspension unless you drive s.l.o.w.l.y., and the gravel tossed up by tires as you drive will hit and eventually damage the underside components and the paint job of a low clearance vehicle far far more than to a higher clearance vehicle. Quite frankly, as long as you live where you drive such a road all the time, stick with higher clearance vehicles now matter how boring they seem.

  • How much you need AWD depends a lot on whether or not your long gravel road gets plowed when it snows. I suspect not. By the way, I’m in Missouri and well aware of how MODOT does and doesn’t get the highways cleared and that county highway departments normally only plow paved secondary roads, with residential streets getting treated and plowed last, if at all.

  • Regarding acceleration times, I looked up the 0-60 mph times for your 2015 Equinox compared to similar vehicles from 2015 such as the RAV4 and Mazda CX-3 and CX-5. The Equinox is definitely slower. When I shopped for a new car in 2014, that slow acceleration was one factor that knocked an Equinox out the running for me.

  • That said in my previous paragraph, although slow acceleration merging onto interstates with high speed limits is not fun, it is safely doable with the proper precautions; and with the driving record you gave about yourself along with the fact you have been and are successfully doing this regularly, then you do know how to merge safely with a slower accelerating vehicle. And, yes, it’s merging into traffic with the big trucks barreling down the road that is scariest and most challenging. Now, if you simply do not feel at all comfortable and safe in these circumstances, that is okay. Far better to recognize and acknowledge any real limitations in your driving abilities than not. At any age – young, middle, or older – we all make adjustments in our driving habits to accommodate staying safe within the parameters of what our respective physical abilities, mental comforts, and accumulated experience allow.

  • A thought to ponder regarding your dislike of the “mom car” image of your SUV… the reason you find the Equinox so sluggish is because you were used to driving and prefer the more powerful engine of the large “mom car” vehicle belonging to your parents. If you really think about it, what you want is a vehicle that reflects your tastes rather than your parents’ preferences. No harm in that. However, there are times when sheer practicality needs to outweigh fun personality preferences. And I speak from experience. I loved driving my parents’ huge land yacht sedan with its v.e.r.y. powerful engine for the time and yearned for similar power in my own car. Alas, my budget allowed for a basic compact car with anemic hamsters I had to wind up with gas pedal to the floor and prayers to merge onto highways. But by sticking with that little econobox I was able to save up enough money to buy outright without car payments/debt what I really wanted in a mid-size car that handled somewhat sporty like and that had a powerful engine that normally went into a more luxury level car. It was worth the wait. I eventually had the car I wanted, debt free from the day I bought it, and could put what would have been car payments into other things both practical needs and pure fun wants. Remember, you are most likely piling up school loan debts that you must start paying off immediately once you finish school, no matter whether you land a job with good pay or not when you graduate. Add car payments to that and you are already looking at a huge chunk of take home pay going to debt payments and limiting how much independence you have. Just saying.

  • A good method for test driving is to figure out a “test track” drive that encompasses all normal driving conditions: local stop and go traffic in an urban setting, highway driving with limited access acceleration ramps and merge lanes, crowned two-lane country roads, winding road with lots of curves both uphill and downhill, and in your case the long gravel road with its problematic valley to and from your house. A good test drive should last at good 45 minutes to well over an hour at the least. Vehicles that make your short list should go out for more than one test drive, having driven something different in between. Given your young age, car dealers may be reluctant to allow such extended test drives. But if one of your parents is willing to come along as “chaperone” …… Also, if you tell the car dealer exactly what you are up to, give them the route itinerary, how many miles long it is, and how long you expect it to take to drive, most are reasonably accommodating. Some will let you test drive on your own, some will insist on going along. For those who insist on riding along (salesman and/or parents), tell them up front that you do not want to talk or have on the radio, or have them playing with the electronic features and showing off the cupholders, etc. Tell them and politely but firmly enforce they stay quiet except to answer any questions you have – and save your questions for after the test drive if possible. This lets you concentrate on how the vehicle handles, accelerates, turns, brakes, steers, and how it sounds and feels. Does the engine strain, does it shift smoothly, is the seating position comfortable, can you see out well, how big are the blind spots, etc.

  • There is buyer’s remorse and buyer’s remorse. Most times it is a remorse and dissatisfaction that can be lived with and chalked up to “know better next time.” Sometimes it involves truly good reason to incur the financial penalty of changing out what was bought. One regular of many years here on the forum found that despite long test drives and all else, the seat in the car he had bought turned out to kill his back no matter how he adjusted the seat. So after only a few short months he traded it back in for a different car.

  • If the slow acceleration for merging, passing, and keeping up with traffic at high speeds truly bothers you enough to make you feel unsafe, then it is okay to say “this SUV scares me to drive” and to find a vehicle that you are confident driving. But if you can still feel confident but unhappy to have to deal with the acceleration issues, then financially you’d be far better off sticking with the Equinox.

  • A good reference guide is the Consumers Report car magazine you can find in any bookstore or library. It gives lots of information on specs, including acceleration times. It also has info on reliability of used cars of specific model and years. It is a good place to start comparison shopping for such details and then go test driving various vehicles that on paper seem to make the cut. Often you will find that initial test driving makes you go back and look at those written specs with a different eye and then change somewhat the list of what you want to test drive.

I know this has been a very long response to read through. And I know it may sound like someone older lecturing about “you are young and need to do this, that, and the next thing.” But I hope that the ideas and suggestions I’ve given along with the considerable amount of very good advice you’ve gotten overall from multiple people here on the forum helps you. I highly applaud and respect that you have responded as someone with a truly open mind wanting an array of advice to think about. It is an excellent character trait to maintain throughout life.

Let us know if you have additional questions. :sunglasses:


The 0 to 60 time for the Equinox is close to the published time for our 2018 Ford Fiesta and I don’t have a problem merging from a highway ramp .