New Car Shopping, just can't decide



The last time I bought a car for myself was 1997, when I bought a used 1995 Mitsubishi Eclipse. Its been a pretty reliable car ever since, but its time to retire it and get into something new(er).

I’m looking at the following:

Subaru Imprezza (2.5i, 2.5GT, WRX, and Used 2008 WRX-STi trims)

Mitsubishi Lancer (GTS 4-door, Ralliart 4 door, Ralliart Sportback, Used 2008 Evolution)

Mazda3 (Mazda3 Grand Touring, Mazdaspeed3 trims)

Honda Civic Si

Mazda RX-8 (Grand Touring)

I’m a 34 year old Design Engineer. One wife, no kids (yet), 2 dogs. I’ve agreed that the time of two door cars is pretty much over, but I really want to stay in some sort of “performance” vehicle (thus all the above options are 4-door, with the RX-8 sliding in under technicality). I like hatchback styling.

27.5k is my ceiling, including any down payment and TTL.

What I’m looking for here, is any advice, opinions, and general gnashing of teeth that anyone has on any of these models, regarding maintenance, quality, comfort, etc.


You may also want to look at the VW GTI.


Do you drive your performance cars aggressively at times? Won’t a previous owner of one of these cars drive it pretty hard as well? Since you buy and keep I’d advise you to start with a new car, where you know how hard the car is driven. Can’t you get into a new Civic Si in your price range?

I’d really be leary of a Subaru WRX used. A bit less concerned about a Mazda 3. I wanted something sporty and fun but not a fuel guzzler so I bought a new Civic EX with a 5 spd stick in '03. At 90K miles still very happy with it and no repairs to date. In '03 you had to get an EX to get the VTec motor and ABS brakes.

Now all Civics have VTec and ABS. The Si has a bit more power in the motor and limited slip differential. I’d think any new Civic with a stick and 4 doors could be fun. The Si could be fun and a half. I have 2 dogs too and my Civic works for them. Also the trunk is surprisingly large for a small car.


Yep, good points. A clarification to make is that my wife doesn’t drive a manual transmission vehicle (hasn’t ever, for that matter). Not that she won’t, she’s just not used to it/comfortable with it like I am. So the Lancer gets a leg up with its available automatic CVT tranny (the Subaru 2.5i/2.5GT made the list because of manual transmissions).

Civic Si is on the list. Downside is that its sedan only (I really like the liftgates in this class) and 6 speed manual only (which is also where the WRX and WRX STi suffer the most).

2008 Sti is only on the list because its a) in the price range and b) certified used (6 yr 100k mi powertrain warranty).

edit- I stand corrected. VW GTi is now on the list. Didn’t know they came in 4-doors.
edit part deux- GTi gets spendy fast. $30k w/ options for basically the same package as the Mazda3 GT @ $24k. (but I’ll still LOOK at it)


For $27,500 I’d drive a gently used BMW 3 Series sedan over any one of the new cars you listed.



Has Mazda fixed the engine problems in the RX-8? I think I’d avoid it, unless you want to spend $7000 replacing the engine in a few short years. And I really wouldn’t call it a 4-door car, either. You will get tired of putting children in the rear seat very quickly in an RX-8. That is, of course, why married folks want 4-door cars.


There’s the Mini Clubman. It isn’t a 4 door like the RX8, but unlike the Mazda, it is a hatchback.


If you want a good handling sporty car, it’s RWD or AWD. Calling any FWD a performance car is an oxymoron. But I guess you’ve covered yourself with “sort of performance”.


Mazda CX-7 is pretty sporty for an SUV. The 2.3L turbo engine is probably what you’d want, it’s got a good amount of get up and go for a 4000lb vehicle. New, You’d be looking at a Touring to get the turbo engine, but only FWD(AWD is available, but costs a bit more. A 2009 should be in your budget though, just stay away from the 07 model year, as I’ve heard those have had their share of problems.

edit: the 2010 also has a 2.5L 4cyl engine in it, but I haven’t test drove it to see how sporty it feels. It does offer better fuel mileage though


Tell them you are about to buy an Accord or an Altima, and you wanted to see if they will price match a well equipped car with the CC, and I can almost guarantee that they will chop off enough money on the CC to make the sale.

Base CC comes with the same 2.0 Turbo engine used in the GTI, the Tiguan, Passat, and a couple other cars in the Audi lineup.

I just test drove one last week, and it was fantastic.
Comes with free maintenance for 3 years/36k miles.



The mini’s make me barf in my mouth a little. Sorry :frowning:


{I’m a 34 year old Design Engineer. One wife, no kids (yet))

You better get working on that, time slips by fast :).

Next year you will be posting about what would be the best family vehicle because above mentioned vehicle would not have been very good choices in retrospect.

          Good Luck


You think the VW GTI is expensive now?! Wait a few years after buying one! You might have to sell any future children into slavery to keep up with the repair costs.

I kinda like the base (2.5i) Impreza. I guess I am a bit old-fashioned, but the 2.5 engine has enough torque to keep up with traffic (and then some!) without having to flog it so much. Those 1.8 liter things wear thin on me rather quickly. The base Impreza is also cheap. If you have kids in the near future you aren’t going to want a $500 a month car payment!


I suggest that you buy a car that uses a cam timing chain, not a fabric reinforced cogged rubber belt that is expensive to change unless you, as a Design Engineer, have the mechanical ability to DIY.

I have firm opinions about buying a brand that is based in the US and employs US Design Engineers to the maximum possible extent but I will not get into that. How about a supercharged Cobalt?

Beyond my two comments, check out


Here is a sure fire method to determine which would be a good choice: Look at each car on Sunday or when the dealership is closed. For the next two years, study the frequency of repair charts in Consumer Reports. At the end of this period, you will have the information to determine which would have been a good choice. Then make a new list of the cars you would like to own and repeat this process. I started doing this when I was your age and I have saved a lot of money over the years. Of course, I still own the car I bought in 1978, but I know which cars I should have bought. This process has saved me a lot of money.


You’ve got a busy career ahead of you. I would stay away from anything sporty that’s used. My son has a buddy with a WRX; he rallies and repairs are very expensive on those vehicles.

A new Mazda Speed would fit your needs perfectly; it’s cheap to run, reliable ,and easy to maintain, as well as great fun to drive!


I admit, I lol’d a bit. Thanks for the grin :slight_smile:


Well, the practice sure is fun :slight_smile: