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First Car Purchase. $24,000

My college graduation gift is a new car! Willing to spend up to $25k. After flirting with the idea of a MINI I’ve settled down to more realistic ideas.

I’m attracted to the Civic Hybrid because of it’s gas mileage (I drove Jeep GC with 13 mpg before this) but I’m also thinking about a Subaru Imprezza wagon or Outback sport wagon, something that could handle snow.

While I’m in Portland, OR now I don’t know where I’ll be living in the future, having something that can handle weather could be important. But the Imprezza’s gas mileage would mean about $1,000 more in gas a year.

My priorities are decent MPG, reliability, 4 door, decent repair costs. Any suggestions on these two options or others?

I want to make a smart choice!

I’d get a non-hybrid Civic myself. The hybrid drivetrain is more complex and therefore more expensive to repair. A normal Civic gets good mileage without the added complexity.

I’d look at the Civic HF, and go for the 2012 model, it’s improved over the 2011. If you end up in a snowy area winter tires+wheels will work fine in most all situations.

Just the regular Civic would be an equally good choice.

On your budget, you can get a loaded Hyundai Elantra, which is the most refined compact car on the market. Also very reliable and economical with the direct injected engine.

Another reliable fun car is the Mazda 3, either as a 4 door sedan or a 5 door hatchback. The hatchback allows you to carry your mountain bike or skis inside the car.

Agree with others, avoid AWD and get 4 good winter tires, unless you are going to LIVE in snow country. Nearly all roads to ski resorts are regularly plowed in the winter.

Um, if your priorities are “decent MPG, reliability, 4 door, decent repair costs,” you’re looking at a Toyota Corolla.

Or a Honda Civic. Take your pick.

If you want to have some fun while driving, take a look at the Mazda3.

If you are willing to drive a manual transmission, you can get 42 highway/28 city in a 2011 Chevy Cruze Eco. Auto trans is 37/26. James Healey (USA Today auto reviewer) actually enjoyed driving the Eco with the stick. Give it a test drive and see if you like it. The Eco starts under $18,500. Read the article here:

The new Ford Focus would be another option.