What's my next car...?

For the last 15 years, I’ve driven a Honda Civic. It’s been a good, reliable car and I’ve driven it about as hard as you can drive a Civic. Recently, however, the brakes went out and when I had it checked out, there are probably just too many problems with it to justify making repairs. In other words, it’s time for a new car. I’d like something a little sportier with a few “luxuries” (heated seats!) , but I don’t want to totally sacrifice fuel economy, nor do I want to break the bank. I have a toddler and another kid on the way (as well as a dog), so I’ve been thinking about hatchbacks, specifically, the Mazda3 Grand Touring and/or the MazdaSpeed3. I’ve also though about the Subaru Impreza WRX. I like the VW GTI and even the Audi A3, but I worry about reliability.

Any thoughts about any of those vehicles and/or others I may be missing? Thanks!

I’d stay away from the European cars for reasons of reliability and cost of maintenance and repair. Especially if you don’t want to “break the bank.” The cost of VW/Audi repairs might come as a shock to you after driving a Civic for 15 years.

I hate to burst your bubble, but with 2 kids and a dog, what you really need is a minivan or a Subaru Forester or Outback, or a Honda Element or CR-V.

Simply put, you are talking small, economical and sporty but you are needing a minivan. Your wants and needs don’t seem to be the same. If you don’t have the dog yet, don’t get one and you will get by with the Mazda 3. If you get the dog, you might want the SUV that resembles the minivan.

I believe that you aren’t planning to be the parent who installs the baby into the back seat or you might want to look at the rear door and the possibly back-wrenching position you will have to crunch into.

Last but not least, every other Mazda has better braking than Mazda 3, including the Tribute which is their fake SUV. I didn’t notice how well the pickup stops.

Last but not least 2: Whatever you do, try to get the wants and the needs as close together as you can.

Thank you both for your thoughtful replies. I hope to hear more soon. I neglected to mention that my partner and I also/already own a 2007 CRV, so this would be our family’s second car. Perhaps I’m still being a bit naive about the amount of space we’ll need, but I thought I should throw that out there two, since I certainly agree that trying to make something like the Mazda ALONE work with two kids and a dog would be impossible.

So, does that change things, or should I still be looking at something a bit bigger?

Before you rule out the Civic, check out the new ones. They are bigger inside and have a bigger trunk than your old one. If you need moor space and like a hatchback look at the Honda CrossTour. More bucks but more luxury too.

1 kid hauler is enough. More is just punishing yourself :wink:

What’s your budget? Of the vehicles you’ve mentioned, the Mazdaspeed 3 would be the best from a “sporty yet reliable” perspective. There are several people in my car club that have one and they’re very happy with them. The WRX is better from the sporty perspective, but will require more maintenance to keep in top shape.

You might also want to try a new Civic Si. They’re fun little road-hooligans as well.

Of course, again depending on your budget, the Nissan 370Z is one hell of an entertaining car, though that might be too small even for a second car for you.

If you want bigger, you might consider a lightly-used 08 Acura TL type-S. You avoid the AWD of the top current TL model (which is great, but again is more maintenance-intensive) while getting a car that can hold its own quite respectably in the sporty department. Heated leather seats are, of course, standard :wink:

Acura TSX, either sedan or the new wagon would be worth a look, depending on your budget. Stick with the 4 cylinder, not the v6.

What you really need is an adjustment in the way you maintain a vehicle.

You drove this one until your brakes failed, and are junking it because the vehicle needs a lot of repairs all at once to be safe, and you don’t have the money and the desire to fix it up properly.

No matter what vehicle you buy, you are going to destroy it in short time with this kind of attitude. A turbocharged vehicle is just going to die much much quicker, and means you are going to be driving much, much faster when the brakes fail on you several years down the road.

Don’t buy a car if your just planning on driving it fast, and then into the ground as quickly as you can. You will save a lot more money for your young family in the long run.


Perhaps I was a bit too flippant in my choice of words in my original post, for I fear you may have gotten the wrong idea.

The brake failure was not, I don’t think, due to (mis)use. Fifteen(!) years of winter driving in heavily salted parts of the country has caused the brake line to corrode. The fuel line is apparently on its way as well. Sure, you could argue that more frequent car washings with the attention to the underside might have bought me more time, and I’ll certainly acknowledge that I may not have given that area as much attention in the past couple years as I could have. Still, I don’t think it reflects poor maintenance on my part.

It’s also not fair to assume that the vehicle needs “a lot of repairs,” although I can see how you might get that from my original post. Rather, it needs one very significant repair – to replace the corroded lines. It’s a $1600+ repair on a vehicle that isn’t worth a whole lot more than that. And my point was that even in perfect shape, a '96 Civic lacks the size and some of the safety features I would want when considering I will be chauffeuring around two kids. So, I’m just not sure it makes much sense to invest that kind of money into this particular vehicle.

I bought my Civic new and happily drove it for 15 years. I may have driven it a little harder than I needed to, but I also made sure it had all the regular service needed. I feel a little silly saying it, but whether it’s now or sometime down the line, I will miss that little car when it goes. Whatever car I get next, and whenever I get it, it will receive the same thoughtful attention and will, I expect, provide as many years, miles and memories.

Big no to the Si. Maybe I’m a bit biased, since I own a Mazda, but I’d go for the speed 3. That, and the fact that a Speed 3 beat the pants off an Si with almost twice as much HP at a recent “forum wars” event. With a great driver, only $3k in mods, and only 2 weeks prep time, the Speed 3 came in 3rd place in the auto cross, with a Viper behind it and a Corvette in front of it; the Si was 4 seconds behind the Speed 3

Pound for pound, the Speed 3 will give you the best bang for your buck; 263 horse power, $27k, new, for navi, Bose, HIDs, and push button start.

and read up on the forum wars and to just get a feel for how those guys like their cars.


I suspect the Si’s driver sucked, or the tires did, or both then. Even if it didn’t beat the 3, I’d expect it to beat the Viper. Not to say that the 3 isn’t a great car, but the Si certainly doesn’t fall into the “big no” category, whether you own a Mazda or not.

Mazda 3 is cleared for launch with the same suggestion to MAYBE look for a similar car that stops quicker. Oh, CR tested the Touring Sedan model so the regular one may have different braking characteristics, but the brakes aren’t so bad as to be a no-go.

The local bookstore will have a copy of Consumer Reports New Car Buyers’ Guide (or whatever they call it), and that will be the best and most comprehensive source or data on the market. Pick one up, go through it, and test drive all those that look interesting to you.

I think someone said they blamed a “loose wire” for their problems.