Returning to the USA. What car to buy?

I have been living in Germany for the past 6 years and sold my lovely little 1996 Nissan 200sx. It had a peppy 1.6 liter engine, 5 speed manual trani and was a light weight car getting 40-42mpg regularly. I sold it reluctantly but I cannot forget how great that little car ran and felt to drive. Now I will be returning in a year or 2 and will need to get another car. What is out there now that is in the same realm of that Nissan 200sx? I haven’t been following the car industry much since I have been here in Germany where I ride a bike mostly or take a train when I need to travel longer distances. I was very conscious of the mpg’s but what had led me to purchasing that 200sx was its high ratings in Consumers Reports. It was easy to care for and needed little big ticket repairs. All I did was to keep the oil changed every 3k miles and have regular tune ups. Can any of the posters here give me direction to a good used (not too old, perhaps 3 or 4 years old) make and model. I will be researching whatever suggestions are made.

Unfortunately, North American cars lack the driving enjoyment that is so often found in European vehicles, so your list of similar cars to your 200sx will be short. That said, the Mazda 3 should be on the very top of your list, followed by a Nissan Versa, then a Honda Civic or Fit,and then perhaps a Hyundai Accent or Elantra. Last to consider would be a Toyota Corolla. The reason I’d suggest the Corolla last is that it’s as reliable as the Hyundai offerings, but costs more.

Avoid, at all costs, ‘American’ compacts. The Ford Focus and Chevy Aveo and Cobalt are all rubbish.

I would NOT put a Civic(or many of those cars you listed) in a list of fun cars to drive, unless you bought the SI, maybe the Mugen edition. My suggestions on fun to drive, easy on gas cars would be something like a Miata or a Mini Cooper.

Oh, bscar, you mentioned the Mini Cooper and I love that car. I have not done any research as yet on the reliability of that car and wonder what the USA transformation has done to it. I must look into that one.

Why such a ‘short’ list to duplicate the 200sx do you all think? It was an efficient car, good body integrity and reliable. Isn’t that a good formula for successful car sales?

Then Ford Focus (available in Europe) is built off of the Mazda 3 platform, The Volvo S40 (Ford also owns Volvo) is built off of the Mazda 3 platform.

As per the above posts, a 3-4 year old used car would put the Mazda 3 on top of the list, mostly because, in addition to being fun to drive, it is reliable and inexpensive to maintain.

The Nissan Versa was new in 2007, so you will not be able to find a 3 year old used one. Depending on your driving, you might opt for a new small car such as the Honda Fit, a top rated small car, or Nissan Versa.

Cars cost less in the US than in Europe, due to lower taxes. Since gas is still only half the price of Germany, I would not try for the best fuel economy, since, as you say, you don’t drive a great deal.

The Mini Cooper will defintely be fun to drive, but a used one will likely cost you more than a new Honda Fit or Nissan Versa. Besides, it will be less reliable, and costs a great deal more to maintain and repair.

I think the most bang for the buck will be a 2005 Mazda 3, which also happens to be a good long distance highway car. Agree with others that used Corollas and Honda Civics are way overpriced.

One car to avoid, even though it is fun to drive is a Volswagen Rabbit, the German Golf. These are now imported from Germany, instead of being made in Mexico, but because the exchange rates, they are expensive to run and repair, and reliability has not been the best. They also have high resale value for some mysterious reason, and are therefore not a good buy used.

With the current gas panic in the US, used economy cars will soon be premium-priced. So, it migth make sense to buy a new small car (Fit, Versa) as recommended.

Good luck!

What about a used Yaris or a 2004 Echo its a reliable car with great high milage on good standar features you can get 38-41 miles driving it and is not that bad in perfomance

You say it like it’s gonna break down every 20 feet. :stuck_out_tongue:
A brand new Cooper will run you just under $20k for base, nor frills, $30k for an S model loaded.
As for my short list, I can only attest to what I have personally test drove myself. I would have thrown in the Chrysler 300C, but the 5.7L v8 in that is a little more thirsty than the other 2 I mentioned, the Mini is rated 27/38 base and 26/34 for the S. Miata is rated 22/27

I have the same quandary…I have to replace an aged '94 Subaru Justy that is rusting away on me. Just can’t kill the little EF12 3-cyl. engine. There is no current modern car that can replace it as far as reliability and fuel efficiency (hint…Subaru, get your act together and build a new Justy). Prius is over-priced like all hybrids…I’m looking at either Hyundai Accent, Toyota Yaris, or Smart Car. In the meantime, back to Bondo and POR15.

I think the Nissan 200sx in U.S. had a bigger engine was geared differently and lower mpg. Typical pattern for U.S. variations of over seas cars. If 26ish mpg is acceptable I would also suggest Acura Integra. They are geared to run a little higher rpm than similar size cars so mpg suffers but they always have a little more torque ready to go. Very reliable, 200K miles easy!

Not contribute to thread hijacking, but DO NOT consider the Smart cart. It’s too small, too expensive, and too fuel thirsty for any serious consideration.

Try to find a well-kept 1967 Chevy Biscayne, with the “250 hp six cylinder” engine. I have it on good authority that these cars were able to get 37 mpg. And, of course, the handling and braking of these cars was also excellent, leading to the total driving experience.



Here’s a list of small coupes. Some are like the 200sx and some aren’t. I imagine that a few, like the Corvette, may be a bit too costly. But you can figure that out. If you want to, you could post a price range.

From that list, I’d suggest you look at an Acura RSX (sporty), Focus ZX3, Civic, Civic Si (if you want sporty), Mini Cooper, Mini Cooper S (sporty), and Scion tC. It depends how much you want to spend. The 200sx was not an especially sport car, and you might consider subcompacts, too. There a several thta started arriving here during the 2007-2008 model years.