Need Some Buying Advice

So, haven’t had a car since I sold my '03 Taurus, but I should soon be able to afford one, or at least the payments for a reasonable one, and I could use some advice.
I’ve been watching too much Top Gear (U.K.), but it’s kinda turned my interest away from most American made cars, especially the big boats I grew up with, so I’m leaning more toward something of a smaller hatchback maybe, like a Focus, Versa, or even a MINI if I can afford one.
So my question is, can anyone drop me some advice about which vehicle would be a good one, either of the three I mentioned, or if you can point me in another direction. Something that looks relatively good, because I work security for a higher end gated community in Florida, but is also reliable and can be fun.

Thanks for the help.

The Focus drives well, looks good, but has had reliability problems, especially with the automatic transmission and the fancier infotainment systems. A low-end model with a manual transmission and basic stereo might be OK, but there are plenty of other cars with fewer problems. The Versa is just cheap and nasty. It’s slow, handles poorly, isn’t well equipped, and has little to recommend it other than a low price. The Mini drives well, but is cramped and expensive for a car without many extras. The interior us also too gimmicky for my tastes. It’s probably the best car of the three, but only if you’re shortish and don’t need to fit adults in the back seat. For small kids it’s OK.

Better bets are the Mazda3, VW Golf, Hyundai Elantra GT, Kia Forte, Kia Soul, Honda Fit, Subaru Impreza (if you want awd) and Scion xB. Smaller models worth a look include the Mazda2, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Scion xD, and maybe the Toyota Yaris (not very nice, but reliable). If a hybrid appeals to you, the regular Prius is very pleasant, if not much fun to drive. The smaller Prius C js only a few thousand cheaper and a much less apoealing car with fewer features. The models are not listed in any particular order, though I’d probably take a Mazda3 over any of the others, or a Fit if you don’t expect to make long road trips. It’s an ideal city car. The Golf is comfortable, roomy, and drives well, but its reliability is more average than the best cars on the list, and maintenance and repairs are typically more expensive for German cars.

Other cars I wouldn’t consider are the Fiat 500 (slow, bad value), Ford Fiesta (overpriced and not very efficient) and Chevy Sonic and Spark (not very reliable). Anyhow, there are plenty of nice cars to consider that in no way resemble big, traditional, American sedans.

The Fit is a nice car and the one I’d take as long as you’re not doing much hwy driving as Mark said.

Stay away from Minis. Not reliable.

If I were in Florida and wanted a fun car, I’d think a jeep wrangler would be nice. Manual trans and a drop top. Outside of that Id look at Toyota and Mazda. I have to say the new corolla looks nice.

The 2013 Chevy Sonic hatchback is expected to cost less for maintenance and repairs than a similar Honda Fit over the next 5 years according to Edmunds. Maintenance is a lot less, while repairs are less than $100 more. I would not hesitate to consider the Sonic with the Fit or any other similar car. But M&R are only part of the decision. You need to consider handling, comfort, gas mileage, and cost as well. I just wouldn’t eliminate the Sonic on repair costs alone.

Thanks a lot, I think I’ll start looking at Mazda first. As for a Jeep, I’m not big on sitting too high over the road, a jeep can be fun, driven a few, but it’s not one I want to drive every day. I like leaning back a little when I drive, and closer to the road. My favorite car to drive that I’ve owned so far was a '97 Sebring coupe, but I had to replace 3 rims and a strut by the time I got rid of it, so not looking for another.

Avoid the MINI unless you have really deep pockets. I already gather from your comment that you don’t so this is just a friendly reminder.

My buddy had a manual mini and it was a blast to drive. The road feel was great, and I was not overly cramped at 6’1. He didn’t own it long enough to get into major repair territory however. I don’t know much about the Chevy sonic, but I do know my brother in laws Chevy aveo is first class garbage. All the wheel bearings went out before 70k. I don’t know if they’ve been mentioned yet, but scion might be worth a look as well.

The Aveo was built by Daewoo and the Sonic is built by Gm in Orion, Michigan.

Mitsubishi wasn’t on your list, but…just in case the OP is attracted by the low price of the Mitsubishi Mirage, here are some quotes from Consumer Reports’ very recent test of that car:

“In some ways, the Mirage lives up to its name. Its low sticker price and excellent fuel economy may conjure up an inviting vision of a good, economical runabout. But that illusion quickly dissipates when you drive this tiny, miserable car.”

The 1.2 liter, 3-cylinder engine is described as “weak, loud and vibrating”.

Some other choice comments:
"…the Mirage’s driving experience is atrocious
…acceleration is sluggish
…the cabin is filled with engine roar, road rumble, and wind howl.
…handling is so clumsy that several testers found it disconcerting
…pronounced body lean…gives the sensation of being in a small boat
…twists & curves elicit squeals of protest from the tires
…steering is slow, but requires hefty effort and is devoid of feedback
…the front seats feel like slabs of hard foam with little contouring or cushioning"

In summary, “with a tally of only 29 points (out of 100), it’s the lowest-scoring car we’ve tested in a long time”.

By contrast, although CR wasn’t exactly crazy about the Chevy Sonic, at least that car scored 42 points.

Stay away from the Mini

Horrendous reliability

You’ll be signing over your paycheck to the repair shop, just to keep it going

Thanks for the Consumer Reports quotes, I wasn’t planning on the Mitsubishi, but that was good info, I’ll look up reviews they might have for the other cars mentioned too.

Look on line at,, and You don’t have to leave home and they give you another perspective on the cars.

The Sonic is closely related to the Cruze. For its first year or two the Cruze had terrible reliability, but it has improved. The Sonic has also had serious problems. Domestic cars do tend to have very cheap maintenance and not much of it required. Reliability is as much about incovenience, lost work hours, stress, etc. Consumer Reports has had the Fit in its top category for reliability from the first year they sold it here. Seven straight top ratings, something none of its competitors can match. The Sonic, a car I quite like in many ways, is likely to be more troublesome, if maybe not much different in cost.

The Mini can be had for under $20k new, so it’s not all THAT expensive to buy. I got my portly frame into the driver’s seat a few years ago, and it didn’t really feel all that cramped to me.

The biggest problem with some of your choices is that they are made in America, which is what you weren’t too thrilled with.

I’m not against “made in America”, so much as the American car stereotypes that Top Gear UK brings up so often, like large bodies, poor handling, gas guzzlers, that kind of thing. But all the vehicles I’ve personally owned so far were American, '91 Grand Prix, '97 Sebring, '03 Taurus, and I honestly liked all of them for the most part. But I’ve driven a lot of big vehicles since I came to Florida: a Ford box truck, Ford cargo vans, Dodge Ram, a 4 door Wrangler… and I have gotten a bit sick of not being able to change lanes on a busy day.

@bscar2 the Mini is probably going to be hard to find for even the low 20’s (unless your dealer is really discounting the base model) The closest dealer to me has their base models optioned up to $25,000 or more.

I rarely see a Mini under $20,000. And it’s not all that lavishly equipped. It’s only real advantage over other very small cars is that its more fun to drive. If that’s worth a few thousand to you, go ahead and get one. Most people will be just as happy in a Fit, which isn’t as quick, but handles well, has far more room for people and stuff, and is exceptionally reliable.

I've driven a lot of big vehicles since I came to Florida: a Ford box truck, Ford cargo vans, Dodge Ram, a 4 door Wrangler...

Since when is a 4 door Jeep Wrangler (174") big? That’s over a foot shorter than a 2002 Camry (189").

By “big” I meant I was sitting higher over the road, when a vehicle is that tall I feel every breeze, every nearby semi… Basically it rocked way too much for my liking.