Hi Sajeev and Steve, I’m looking to buy a new car in the next year or two. I have a 2006 Toyota Corolla CE with 35k on the clock. It’s a manual transmission, which is the only thing that’s kept me from going insane. When I bought it, I didn’t have much choice in the matter (time crunch) and the price and gas mileage (something like 41 mpg hwy, though I regularly get 35 mpg in stop and go traffic). It has been servicable, reliable (mostly), cheapish, and gas efficient. There is nothing wrong with it, other than it’s just kind of boring.
I’m looking for something a little more fun. I want something that is fun to drive, not just a machine to get from point A to point B. I used to have a fabulous 1991 Nissan 240SX SE Fastback (again, manual) that I loved. However, I moved to Phoenix and didn’t have the funds (because of the move) to take care of the things that it needed. I still regret selling it. So now I’m looking for:
Coupe (preferably, or a small sedan)
2 + 2 seating, Hatchback would be nice
At least an average of 25 mpg
Zipppy enough to be competitive on the freeway (not like my old ’76 VW Bug that had to get a running start to pass someone on the freeway… unless it was downhill)
Stable enough to take turns fast
Under $30,000Should not be horribly expensive to fix
I seem to think that there are some potential gems coming out soon, maybe in 2010. I’m keeping an eye on the FT-86. I know there is more out there, but past looking at all the existing cars (of which there are a dearth of good coupes, especially RWD), I don’t quite know where to start. I’ve got a bunch of car blogs on my RSS, so I try to keep up with the latest, but I’m sure you’ve got most of what I’m looking for in your head. Or at least readily accessible.I won’t have much for a downpayment, but would be trading in my Corolla (which is in pretty damned good shape – regular maintenance, everything still runs fine) but I can wait as long as I need to to get the Right Car. And yes, I plan on being picky.The car doesn’t have to be new, but as I live in Phoenix, I don’t want to have to constantly worry about the car breaking down (okay, at least until I learn how to fix it) in 110+ degree temperatures. I’m flexible on most of those things to a degree, but it absolutely must be a manual transmission.
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Sajeev Mehta: Oh yeah, who isn’t foaming at the mouth to get the keys to Toyota’s FT-86? Since your needs are specific (kudos on that, btw) and the market doesn’t cater to your style, wait for the Toyota’s next hot compact. Or get a V6 Mustang. The EPA says it gets 21MPG in mixed use, which isn’t half bad. The motor is crude but ballsy and the suspension and brakes don’t totally suck, but a few hundred dollars in the (disturbingly cheap and plentiful) Mustang aftermarket for a spring/shock/swaybar package and better brake pads fixes that quickly. If you don’t like the Mustang as-is on a test drive, that is. Coming from a Toyota Corolla, the V6 ‘stang might as well be a Corvette.
And V6 Mustangs are cheap. Which, even though I’m the New Car proponent in this series, makes a great case for used Mustangs as the best bang for the buck in the efficient RWD coupe market. Then again, the 2011 model with a 300+hp Duratec six-shooter under the hood sounds like a serious threat to the FT-86: if they get the suspension sorted, sans aftermarket help. So wait another 12 months. Your Corolla is just peachy until then.
Steve Lang: There is an absolutely insane number of used sports cars out there with a depreciation curve that is far more worthy of your wallet. Start with a BMW M3 or even a low mileage and older M5 model. As much as folks gripe about Car & Driver always granting BMW’s the #1 slot in their comparos, there’s a reason for it. They are the absolute gold standard when it comes to fun, sporty and luxurious vehicles.
If you must stay in the Japanese fold, a very low mileage 2008 Infiniti G37 Sport would definitely hit both sides of the fun and luxury equation. These models have performance levels that are neck and neck with many of the Germans for about two-thirds of the price. However if you must go for the nasty and brutish cars I do have one interesting alternative that is off the beaten path… and still a Toyota. Kinda. Sorta. A low mileage Lotus Elise. These models offer a Toyota engine along with a ride that simply blows the doors off of 99+% of the vehicles out there. Chances are you would be far better off with the Infiniti and BMW if most of your driving is commuting related. But with smooth roads and a frequent jaunt down a long and winding road may make the Lotus a real consideration.