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Which one to buy? Manual, fuel efficient, drives on snow

I have a 2003 BMW 325xi, manual transmission. I live in Massachusetts and have an uphill driveway.
Unfortunately it is time to buy a new car, and I want manual, that will last 10-12 years, is at least 20% more fuel efficient than my current car (19-27), and will be able to go up my driveway when it snows.
I am debating between a Subaru Impreza, Audi A4 (much more expensive), VW alltrack and Mazda 3 (which is the only one that does not have 4 wheel drive- would it go up my driveway with snow tires those 5-10 heavy snow days)?

I would appreciate any advice!

cars with AWD and 59-83 MPG are non-existant.

in fact cars with 59-83 MPG are pretty rare.

(that is 19-27 multiplied by 3.09 which is your requirement)

Can you be more realistic?

I am sorry, I meant to type 20% more fuel efficient, I edited my previous post. All of the above cars meet that criterion,

There is so little difference between manual and automatic transmissions any more it isn’t a factor. Besides there are fewer manual shifting vehicles all the time. Good tires and front wheel drive will be just fine.

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how about a subaru forester or other model?

I get 30-34 MPG on road trips, with a CVT. Expect a bit less with a manual. Great in the snow.

uphill on snow with a FWD car is difficult as the weight is shifted to the rear by the tilt, which decreases traction. But 4 snow tires may be enough. I had a RWD corolla a while back, no snow tires, and a steep unplowed driveway in NH, and I usually made it up with no problem.


Having owned, and still owning, a Mazda3 in the snowbelt of New York State, I can tell you it goes everywhere on snow tires in the winter. Even living in the snowy and steep Bristol Hills does not cause it any trouble. One thing I will mention is that it sits pretty low to the ground. It can struggle a little with the heavy lip of snow and ice the plow leaves at the top of our driveway. Our driveway is a steep climb to get out so that plow lip is the only thing that sometimes causes a slight problem. It can occasionally take two tries to punch out of the driveway onto the road.

My daughter drives a 3 now with snow tires and no issues and I am currently driving a Mazda6 that wears snow tires in the winter. The 6 sits slightly higher and works even better in the snow. If your budget can handle a 6 I think you will be happier. If you get a 6 with the 19 inch wheels you should be aware that you can purchase 17 inch wheels and snow tires for the winter that will save you lots of money compared to trying to put snow tires on the 19 inch wheels.

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I must agree with @VOLVO_V70 … a FWD car with snows is pretty darn good in 5+ inches of snow. It also is lower in weight and drag so MPG’s will be better as well as less expensive to buy and own.

As much as I love a manual, they are becoming more rare and they tend to get better mileage than manuals these days. If you are buying new, an automatic will help resale. If you are buying used, a manual will be cheaper to buy, FWIW.

The Mazda and Subaru will be cheaper to have serviced than the Audi or the VW in the long run.

One more consideration. My son is 13, so in a few years he will be driving it- any one of these safer than the other?

Bill, that may be your experience but not mine. I had a 1984 Dodge Rampage pickup FWD and other than ground clearance I seldom had a problem in snow with hills.

Thanks all. bloody_knuckles, this is very helpful. Anyone else with experience with the above models- opinions if one is better than the other- will last longer than the other…?

Without a crystal ball who knows.

Having a new driver would eliminate the manual transmission as far as I am concerned. The less a new driver has to do the better. As for safe that is also a very small difference these days.

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I am sure this is a topic for debate. I want my kids to know stick, because we frequently visit their grandparents in Europe, who all have manual cars. But I also believe that driving stick requires more attention, and one is less likely to be holding a phone while driving.
Anyway, my choices are all stick.

it takes a steep hill. but it may have been my expectations, it’s impossible to be objective unless I had two cars to compare on the same hill and same conditions, which I didn’t.

Very good point. another “feature” that I see, is less chance of “unexpected acceleration”, ie, when a driver (usually my age) hits the wrong pedal.

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Oh Boy , are you going to be surprised . The things we did as teenagers defies all logic. I would like you to think about the possibility that if your teen driver becomes to ill to drive the chance of their passenger being able to drive a manual is low.

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That is a fine opinion.
My question however was not if I was buying manual, my question was which of those models with manual transmission people would recommend in my circumstances.
It would be great to answer this dilemma, instead of creating a new one

We can’t see how steep your driveway is. I have friends in Corning VY who could not get uo their daughters driveway with their front wheel drive Buick but had no trouble after they changed to an all wheel drive Matrix.
My vote would be for the Impreza but I don’t know if iit s available with a manual. I know the Forester is CVT only but you can still buy the stick in Canada. Read the road test in the latest issue of Consumer Reports.

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You limited your choices a lot by demanding AWD/4WD and a manual transmission. A RWD BMW might work and you can get your manual transmission. Snow tires might be all you need to get up the driveway. I can’t see your driveway and have no idea what the grade and length is. What about a Subaru WRX? It will give you great handling like your 325ix. If you haven’t test driven one, take it out and see if it the noise level bothers you and pay attention to the fit and finish.

Are you sure? my understanding is that a manual transmission is available, and seems to confirm that.

“Fully synchronized 6-speed manual transmission with Incline Start Assist”

Fuesl economy does suffer versus the CVT:
Fuel economy** 2.5i w/ manual transmission 28/22 MPG. Fuel economy** 2.5i w/ CVT 32/26 MPG