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New Car Advice

First a bit of background:

I’m currently a graduate student in Princeton, NJ and I’m looking into buying my first car. I was given a 1997 SAAB 9000CS when I graduated from college. I’ve put 30K miles on it in the last two years (170,500 total) as well as about $1,500/year in repairs. The car originally cost ~$6,000 and I’m tired of dealing with it’s shenanigans (lots of kooky electrical issues). I just put $700 into getting through inspection with the hope of selling it for ~$1000 or at least improve the trade in value.

The new car:

I really like the hatchback style and so far i’ve looked into Subaru Imprezas and Mini Coopers. I like the cargo capacity of the Impreza and the 4WD but I also like the gas milage of the Cooper and the “fun factor”. I’m open to suggestions as well.

Basically I don’t want to spend more than $22,000. As for my driving habits, I mostly use my car to go surfing several times a week (30mi drive to shore from P’ton) and visit my girlfriend in Hartford, CT (180mi one way) at least every other weekend.

Any thoughts or comments on the suitability of the Impreza or the Mini or any other car are most welcome!

It seems you probalbly don’t need the complexity and later expensive upkeep of All Wheel Drive. Equally, the Mini, though a good car, will also have expensive upkeep, it’s a BMW after all.

For what you need to do, I would suggest some choices to try out:

  1. Toyota Matrix; it’s a spacious hatchback with very high reliability, long life and cheap operation. Front passenger seat folds flat so you can carry your surfboard inside.

  2. Hyundai Touring hatchback. Very similar to the Toyota in size, performance and affordabilty.

  3. Honda Fit. Bigger than a Mini and will hold your surfboard INSIDE with the pasenger seat down.

  4. Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback. This car is really fun to drive and cheap to operate.

The above 4 vehicles can be loaded up and still not reach $22,000. Unlike your Saab, their reliability from day to day will be almost boring, since they are the best in the business.

A slightly cheaper option to the Matrix, is the Pontiac Vibe(though no longer in production), and the front passenger seat will fold down so you can get some extra long things in there. The Mazda 3 will probably offer the most MINI-like sporty-ness feel to it.

Let me add to the fine lists of others…Scion tC and save $4K.

Technically the Vibe will remain in production until 2010, when the division will close.

Great, thanks for the input. I’ve looked into the Mazda and it seems to get quite good reviews. Has anyone had personal experience with the Mazda3 hatchback?

My son-in-law has a 4 door Mazda 3 hatchback. He likes it a lot. It’s a fun little car to drive and comfortable enough for 4 adults, though you’d have trouble getting 4 adults and surf boards into it. :wink: It seems to be pretty reliable and he’s found a pretty lively accessory market for add-ons.

My son also has a Mazda 3, and takes it to the mountains most weekends in all kinds of weather. It now has over 65,000 miles on it without any breakdown repairs; just normal maintenance and replacements such as brakes.

It’s one of the few really fun to drive cars that is also bullet-proof and cheap to operate.

Ford Fiesta is new for 2010 and Suzuki SX4 has about the cheapest AWD you can buy. Check out the Mitsubishi Lancer before you buy a Matrix, whose steering is numb imo. It’s too bad that GM is closing the brand, because I like the Saturn Astra. VW Golf, GTI, Jetta wagons are also fun but they have shady quality in the past. Utilitarian choices include Kia Soul, Nissan Versa, Nissan Cube, Scion xB, xD. I wouldn’t compare them to a Subaru or a Mini

Friend has one in family, and except for the stiffer than their Avalon ride, they are happy with it.

Golf and Jetta have the best fuel mileage in the hatchback group according to - for the diesel. The Golf is new in 2010 and the Jetta has had good reliability except for the 2.0L gasoline engine. It had problems with the fuel pump and camshaft fuel pump drive lobe. It will cost over $2000 to fix them if it occurs after the warranty runs out. The diesels start at a bit less than $22,000 with manual trans; a bit over $23,000 with auto.