I’m looking to buy my first car (used). I’m 23 and finally have a job offer. My commute would be short, but because of highways in the area, I can’t bike, as I would much prefer. I’m not a car person, but since it looks like I’m going to need one, I’d rather have something I’ll enjoy. Here are my demands (please)!
Small, though not 2-seater small, and reliable.
Hatchback a definite plus, though sedans/coupes are ok. Sedans with folding seats would be a good compromise.
Fuel economy is important, though not terribly so since I don’t plan on driving too much.
Good handling. I like to be in full control and make tighter turns (probably because I’m used to a bike).
Something a little sporty would be nice, but if not, I’ll deal.
How much should I spend? $14,000? $10,000? $7,000? I can afford whatever I need to to get the most out of my money, but obviously less is better.
Should I be concerned about engines and horsepower? Some of the cars I’m looking at get down pretty close to 100HP. Is that adequate?
I keep reading 15,000 miles per year. How much weight should I give that? What would be too many miles?
It seems like this is my list: Best option is a Civic, preferred is a Mazda3 if I can get a good deal. Also in the running are the Fit, Matrix, and Versa. Any I should add to the list or remove?
In the end, cost, practicality, and reliability are most important, with handling and cargo space coming up behind.
I’ve checked a lot of sources, including Consumer Reports, Kelley Blue Book, and USAA. Now I need some real live person advice.