Fun and standard shift, good mileage, quality when pre-owned


I’m looking for something fun (I’m mid-life and female), and definitely standard shift that my kids can learn to drive in, and that has good gas mileage, and has good “pre-owned” quality. Mini? BMW? Audi? Are there some years that are better than others? My husband is suspicious of Mini as he thinks it is unsafe. What do you all think? We’ll leave the Suburban in the driveway for when we need it, and use the fun one for life-in-general at our beach town in Rhode Island. Suggestions?


Can’t beat the e-46 BMW, The standard all others are judged by.This is the 1999 to 2004-5 3 series. They do have a list of common problems but not every car has every one.


BMW is great balance of fun, reliability, MPG, safe etc. Mini is a hoot and are plenty safe with modern crash protection. Audi forget it.

Japanese I can only think of Infinity G35. Lexus IS series are nice too if you can find a stick.

Another great car if you make do with two seats is ANY year Miata.


Civic SI, Mazda Speed3/Speed6, Acura Integra, Honda Del Sol


BMW’s come with an ATTITUDE many people don’t care to adopt…They also come with MAJOR service issues…A Mustang GT convertible or the now discontinued T-bird are both “fun” cars. They like being garaged…


Mid life crisis = E28 M5, the best Bimmer ever built in my opinion, or for a more financially viable piece of fun how about an IS :


An RX-7 Roadster. Nothing BUT fun…


You ought to be ashamed of yourself, I thought at least you’d be pushing the CTS-V…:slight_smile:

RX-7 is okay I hear, I blew the wheels of one with my M5 a couple of weeks ago, and they just have that sameness about them. That IS I posted is a huge amount of car for the money, I’ve seen it and driven it, goes like a train and is absolutely perfect alround. The very desirable Euro conversion alone will cost you around $2000.


RX-7’s are quick enough in stock configuration…They come in different flavors, the turbo versions are more than most people can handle…If blowing the doors off M5’s is a requirement, for a few dollars more, that too can be arranged…


BMWs are RWD with longitudinal engines, so replacing the clutch should be easier than with a FWD car. The only down sides are shop rates for dealers or specialists (shared with Audis and possibily Minis), parts prices (average about 50% higher than your typical economy car…sometimes more, sometimes less), and fuel economy in most models. Avoid early 90s V8s unless you know they’ve had the engines replaced. Early 90s 325s had water pump issues, and if the impeller was replaced with the original plastic, they could still have issues. E30s (late 80s-early 90s 3 series) are probably the coolest ones to have apart from the “clown shoe” Z3 Coupe, any wagons, and any M-cars.

Audi had some reliability issues along with their VW kin in the late 90s-early 2000s, and some models have some design issues WRT maintenance. I recall a thread in which an Audi technician showed photos of a torque converter replacement on an Audi SUV. They had to remove all of the bodywork forward of the doors, and it was something like a 30 hour job. That was enough to horrify me away from ever considering an Audi.

Any reason you’re only looking at German cars? An RSX or a high-trim Civic with a manual is a good car, with good handling, and enough but not too much power. I’m not sure I’d give a new driver any of the turbo models (WRX, Legacy GT, Forester XT) but Subarus are pretty fun to drive, particularly in winter. Possibly the ideal vehicle for your situation, though, is the Mazda Protege 5. It’s basically a wagon version of the Protege MP3, which was the high-performance version of the Protege sedan. It handles very nicely and the manual is very well-behaved. The Mazda 3 is pretty good, too. Miatas are great, too, easy to work on, cheap parts, and safer than you’d think, but not as much as you probably want. (That can be vastly improved by adding a proper SCCA-approved roll-bar.) If you’re looking at relatively late-model cars, the only fun cars you’re getting from Toyota are either trucks or the MR2 or Celica.

Fun American cars are mostly too much for a new driver to handle…at least, you don’t want to pay for the insurance.

Minis are probably the safest cars that have ever been made in that size. Look for the crash test on youtube, and there’s this:


$ for $ I think I’d head for the GM showroom if I wanted practical fun. The RX-7 may be good but it’s just another blob rice beater, it has the character of a plank.

The only reasons I keep my E28 M5 are that it’s distinguishable, it’s fast, it’s fun and it’s cheap to maintain. I keep a 76 Jaguar for the same reasons. There are very few modern cars that have the same attributes.


Fun should = convertible. Therefore, I think you should check out the Mazda Miata and the Honda S2000. Short of a motorcycle, few things are as fun as a two seat convertible.


BMW’s are pretty decent service wise. An independent mechanic especially ones who knows the make makes ownership more pleasant.


I have not looked at the test results, but I would expect that the Mini would hold its own for safety relative to other fun cars.

My wife is also mid-life, and she absolutely loves her bright red 2004 BMW 330 with M3 wheels and trim. Her students think that she is the coolest (albiet strictest) teacher in high school. After 70k miles, repairs so far have been almost nil. Just normal brake and tire replacements. One water temperature sensor O-ring and one one window regulator that I fixed with zip ties.

Prior to this car, she had a bright red '97 328 BMW that is now our daughter’s car. Lots of miles, still looks and drives great.