By on July 7, 2010



People have different ideas on what constitutes a good car. Some people think driving dynamics are the key, which explains the sales of cars like BMW and Ford. Others look to reliability, which accounts for cars like Toyota and Honda. Then you have the skinflints who consider value their key factor, Hyundais and Kias. While each car brand stands for something, there are many people who want a mixture of many factors. After all, a car is a major purchase and you’d want it to perform well over many areas and not just excel in just one. You car is your transport, it keeps your children safe, keeps you entertained in traffic and keeps the rain off your head. And all it asks for is a tank of petrol and regular servicing. So maybe there’s more to buying a car than just branding? So here’s the question of the day: Which one does it all?

Taking into account the following factors:

[  ] Fuel Economy.
[  ] Driving Dynamics.
[  ] Price.
[  ] Reliability.
[  ] Quality.
[  ] Practicality.
[  ] Dealership Service.
[  ] Repair Cost.
Which car on the market today (please state quite clearly which market you are talking about. We don’t want a massive argument about the Ford Focus only to find out that one was talking about the Euro Focus while the other as talking about the NA one), covers all those bases the best? In short, which car, on the market today, is the most comprehensive over those 8 factors?

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54 Comments on “Question Of The Day: Which Car Checks All 8 Boxes?s...”


  • avatar
    holydonut

    I think driving dynamics is a bit subjective. I’m sure most people on here would equate driving dynamics with sporty/fun. But I know a lot of customers feel that’s more about turning radius, outward visibility, and comfort behind the wheel.

    Anyway, the Mazda3 (hatch) and VW Golf are probably the ones I would assume cover all the boxes. Reliability is also a more “on the average” type of thing. These hatchback VW’s and Mazdas have avoided the hugely expensive boogeer items that have plagued some other automakers (ie scenarios like the oil-sludging 2.7L Chrysler and Toyota V6s.)

    • 0 avatar
      Acc azda atch

      I often have serious wood for the Civic hatch for Europe…
      Then I get into the Civic for the U.S…

      And I realize… how much the car is seriously lacking… from my main next choice for a car..

      Mazda3hatch.

  • avatar
    twotone

    No one car “does it all”. To me, a BMW 3-Series seden does most things right, and very few things wrong. It checks all of the boxes IMO.

    Twotone

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      I don’t think there is a new car on the market that you can check all eight boxes without reservation. That’s why there’s such a vast array of vehicles out their that appeal to some more than others.

      Take the mighty 3-Series, generally regarded as one of the best sedans out there: it’s a bit tight in the back seat and trunk, so practicality isn’t a full check; and it’s imported from Germany, which inflates its price. To check fuel economy with confidence, you’ll want the diesel, which makes the price box uncheckable. Dealership service and repair costs depend on whether or not you’re dealing with a nice dealer and whether or not your free maintenance period is expired.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      The 3-series flunks the repair cost and reliability buttons, at least if you are talking about buying a new car and running it for ten years or more. It also isn’t very practical if you like to take four people on road trips. The back seat and trunk are mighty tight.

    • 0 avatar
      NorthwestT

      I don’t really fit behind the wheel of a 3-series…too tall.

  • avatar

    “BMW and Ford”…I didn’t know ford was known for its driving dynamics

    • 0 avatar
      roadracer

      Have you driven a Ford…lately?

      (I have not, but I couldn’t resist :)

    • 0 avatar
      Greg Locock

      Interesting. So either they spend a great deal of effort and money on something that a potential customer is unaware of, or perhaps said customer ignores the information in front of him. I wonder whch it is.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      Brought to you by the inventors of the nylon steering gear.

      (If you’ve ever driven any of Ford’s commercial products from the past 20 years, you’ll feel a tingle of mixed fear and disgust at that statement.)

  • avatar
    frenchy

    I would say the Subaru WRX wagon fits the bill.

    • 0 avatar

      That was my first choice too – I haven’t owned one so I can’t tell if the dealership service box would be checked, but that’s usually very dependent on the individual dealer. But they seem to be reliable (if somewhat difficult to work on) and everything else seems like a good balance.

      Both the Golf (4-door GTI, please) or Mazda3 (speed) would hit the marks pretty well for me too.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    My 2007 Outback (2.5i MT) surely fits all those boxes.

    [X] Fuel Economy. – 23 mpg average in mixed, 28 mpg on highway. Not the best for a midsizer with a 4-cyl, but it’s better than any comparable sport-ute with a 6-cyl (similiar power/weight).

    [X] Driving Dynamics. – handles quite nicely even though it’s on stilts and has all-terrain tires, but definitely does well on trails with said tires.

    [X] Price. – Right in the same range as other midsize cars and crossovers, with similiar options (power windows/locks/seats, heated seats/mirrors/windshield, sat radio)

    [X] Reliability. – At 45k miles, everything has been great. Older Outbacks had headgasket issues, supposedly fixed after 2005.

    [X] Quality. – Great materials for it’s price range, holding up quite well to a young family as the main vehicle.

    [X] Practicality. – It’s a wagon with a roof rack and 8.5 inches of clearance.

    [X] Dealership Service. – Larry Miller Subaru in Boise has been great to do deal with, small dealer but big name.

    [X] Repair Cost. – Still under extended warranty, but prices look about average with Fords I’ve previously owned. Oil changes are $25.

    This is my 2nd favorite car I’ve owned, my first being a 1990 Integra that just ran and ran and was enjoyable to drive even at 220k miles. It was also my first car and that may be part of the reason.

  • avatar
    jacksonbart

    Dealership service is really location dependent as I have yet to see huge consistencies between dealers selling the same car unless you get to the more luxury brands like Lexus. When two mechcanics and the head service rep left my local Nissan dealership, I took my business else where.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I have to agree. Maybe there’s some luxury brands that are able to keep their dealers in line, but from the forums I read service varies a lot between dealerships.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    Speaking about the US Market, I don’t know if any car will meet all these requirements. All of them are very subjective and vary so much from person to person.

    I have heard many bad things from the B&B about GM dealership experiences, the experience of my girlfriend with her Vibe and the local dealership has been stellar. She had her 3rd gear (manual trans) go bad out of warranty and the dealership picked up the tab. My soon to be sister in law has had nothing but great experiences with her VW dealer. It’s all subjective.

    Another thing would be that your asking for a car on the market today. I happen to think the Ford Five Hundred, with it’s steep depreciation would be a great candidate, but the new Taurus? Not so much, too expensive and they compromised the rear seat and trunk for a swoopy design.

    Among current cars I think the best candidate is the Ford Flex, FWD non turbo version. Effective use of a large space, D3 platform has been well reviewed for how it handles for such a large vehicle, fuel economy is good for a vehicle that seats 7 (24 hwy), Ford’s quality and reliability have been on an upswing, and I hate to repeat the old cliche but American cars are generally cheaper to repair (in the US) than foreign cars.

    So there’s my candidate.

  • avatar
    nmcheese

    Mini Cooper, VW Golf

    Both get 7/8 on the car alone. The dealer experience bit is what can kill either of those though – too much variability in the quality of the VW/BMW dealers in my experience.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    When looking for something that does a lot of things well, the trade off is that it usually isn’t the best at any one thing. In general, at least in the US market, any of your major midsize sedans will check all of those boxes. I’m obviously partial to the Fusion myself, but looking down the list it has best in class fuel economy, nearly best in class trunk space (for practicality), airbags everywhere plus the full spectrum of electronic nannies so it’s safe, you can get a new one for as low as about $17,500 after rebates, and they also lease well, so price is covered too.

    JD power rates it very high on quality, and exclusive features like Sync certainly add to the enjoyment of the car. Reliability has thus far been excellent. There are Ford dealers everywhere, so it’s easy to get service, and since most decent sized dealers are adding “quicklane” franchises, actual service costs are below dealer service norms.

    Finally, with the Ford/Mazda co-developed CD3 platform under its skin, the handling and driving dynamics are amongst the best in the category.

  • avatar
    ott

    Couldn’t help but notice the absence of one more important factor, Resale Value. How many people have paid up for the Camry rather than the Sonata just for that reason?

  • avatar
    John Horner

    In the family sedan market, the Fusion probably does the best overall job of hitting all those buttons, though the redesigned Sonata might be in the running as well. Once upon a time, the Accord did the best balancing act, but Honda seems to be a bit off its game with its most recent redesigns.

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      Agreed on all points Fusion/Sonata/Accord.

      I’ve driven the 2011 Sonata more recently than the 2010 Fusion, but IIRC the Sonata handles more securely (the Fusion’s rear felt floaty on a sweeping ramp and slightly delayed rear roll on a quick flick in SE trim). The 2011 Sonata has better fuel economy and more power from a smaller engine than the 2010 Fusion. The Sonata comes with XM standard which I find more appealing than SYNC since I currently listen to it more than mp3s while commuting anyway.

      The Accord does have a nice way of increasing rear headroom by carving out the headliner which both the Fusion and Sonata could benefit from by imitating. It was the sole thing about the Accord that impressed me (well positively at least).

  • avatar
    mikey

    Here in Canada, The Impala, for it’s size,combined,city and highway fuel economy not bad. The 3.9 has plenty of power,but FWD and a soft suspension doesn’t make for great driving dynamics. The price is a bargain. Practice makes perfect in the car assembly buisness, and translates to great reliability and quality. For twenty years GM has built basicaly the same car in the same place.

    No matter where you are in North America you can find, {A} parts for your car,cheap,and {B} a guy that can repair it.

    Practical? Well you can put four sets of golf clubs in the trunk,but two of the golfers better be small guys. Not a lot of room in the back,though perfect for kids/grandkids. The same kids that slop icecream,have greasy fingers,and muddy shoes. Five minutes with a damp cloth and the Impalas spartan interior sparkles again. My wife and I are not big people but we do have some arthritis issues. The leather buckets a very comfortable,and I’m being kind here,but I do see some rather large people with Impalas,and I understand why.

    Dealership service has come a long way{it needed to}. IMHO, General Motors dealers, like all of us connected to GM had to make some changes. The two local dealers I deal with are going in the right direction,but I believe there is still room for improvement. So far 22000 KLM’s 18 months the Impala has been trouble free. Time will tell, eh?

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      The rear seat of the Impala is very uncomfortable after any period of time.

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      The Impala might be cheap and have great interiro space, but the driving dynamics from the laying down of power to the handling are quite likely the worst I have ever experienced. The gas mileage was quite unimpressive and the ergonomics were horrible. I would say, maybe that’s changed in the last few years since I drove the rental car from hell, but as you pointed out, the car has remained nearly unchanged over the past 20 years. I can’t speak to the repair costs, dealer experience, or reliability as the car I had was a rental that I was able to fly away from after 7 days of soul sucking misery. If soem think I am being to harsh and don’t have any experience with middle of the road good enough cars, the rentals I had on either side of this Impala were a Dodge Neon and a Chrysler Magnum. Both had their problems, but neither was as dissappointing as the Impala. I have also owned a Chrysler Aries K, Nissan Sentra Wagon, and Saturn Vue. While the Impala was unquestionably a better all around car than the K car, it also would have cost considerably more than the $1,000 I paid for the K car and should rightfully be compared with it’s contemporaries rather than a mid 80′s economobile. I would also argue that the mid 80′s Sentra and Saturn Vue (which I also hated) were better cars, period.

  • avatar
    buzzdsm

    I wouldn’t be interested in one but I’d have to think a Honda Fit would cover all these basis. I guess it depends what you compare it to. The driving dynamics are not going to equal a sports car but in it’s class it compares well. Everything else checks out well.

    The vehicle that would least meet these standards would be the Hummer H2 or H3. I really can’t think of one reason to buy one of these vehicles.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    Some of the cars that come to mind are the Fit, Santa Fe, Escape.

  • avatar
    carguy

    None check all boxes but some come close:

    Mazda MX-5 Miata – cheap, frugal, reliable, fun but not really all that practical.

    WRX – cheap, reliable, fun and practical (not really frugal).

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    Honda Civic, hands down

  • avatar
    buzzdsm

    I like others have been impressed by the BMW 3 series but the reason I refuse to buy a new one simply comes down to numbers. There is no way a 328i with just a few options should come close to 40K and a 335 costs $45K. IMO they are about $7K over-priced. For the price of a 335 I could buy a loaded G37X or a base M37.

  • avatar
    bucksnort

    Not only does the 3-series flunk reliability and repair cost but out of warranty, it also flunks quality and dealership service.

    One of the problems with an exercise like this is the inverse relationship between some of the criteria. People don’t buy cars based on 8 criteria. They probably buy based on 2-3 max. Thus markets are segmented based on narrower sets of criteria.

    It is unlikely any car could meet all these criteria and it would be targeted at no segment if it did.

    GCH

  • avatar
    buzzdsm

    I also don’t think many people go in with this mindset. I may think about these 8 areas but depending on where I’m at in life these things change.

    Repair costs are rarely important to me since I buy reliable cars. The last car that I had a big expense on was 15 years ago when I had to replace an air conditioner in an Honda Accord. My cars are usually new or certified pre-owned so not really an issue.

    Fuel Economy-Pretty low on the list but I also look at what type of fuel they can take. Having to always buy premium fuel is something to consider.

    Driving Dynamics-Important but you usually have to balance this with a rough ride

    Price-Probably most important

    Reliability-I tie resale and quality into this one. If you have a reliable and quality vehicle usually resale will follow.

    Practicality-I don’t worry about this much when buying my own car. 99% of the time I’m driving myself to work alone. I have the wife’s SUV if I need more space.

    Dealership Service-Not real important to me. They change my oil and fix my recalls. If i don’t like them I just move to another dealer. I don’t usually buy from the dealership that services my vehicle anyway.

    So for me about 90% of my purchase comes down to Price, Driving Dynamics, and Quality.

    [ ] Fuel Economy.
    [ ] Driving Dynamics.
    [ ] Price.
    [ ] Reliability.
    [ ] Quality.
    [ ] Practicality.
    [ ] Dealership Service.
    [ ] Repair Cost.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    I’m mildly appalled there’s no comfort rating on this list.

    2008 PT Cruiser LX MT5:

    [x] Fuel Economy. 28.2MPG showing on the trip computer, occasionally goes north of 32MPG on surface highways.

    [x] Driving Dynamics. Great fun had by driving a slow car fast. Quite acceptable body roll. Solid rear axle isn’t my favorite, but it does its job and keeps cargo space open. I’m very surprised this is the base suspension. Good job on that one, Chrysler.

    [x]Price. $7,990.00 with 24,000 miles last November.

    [x] Reliability. One wheel balance issue, a torn floor mat and door lock wire repaired under 36k mile warranty. Car is 38,5xx miles at-current. It certainly doesn’t feel like a 300k car to me, but I don’t think 175,000 good reliable miles are out of the question.

    [x] Quality. The car is what I expected. This is what quality means to me. Poor quality is not a lack of squishy vinyl trims– it’s whether or not the car functions reliably, as advertised and as I expected it would.

    [x] Practicality. 5 door maxiwagons/minivans/hatchbacks are the most practical cars on planet Earth. That this one seems to have more rear seat room than most full-size automobiles is practically magical. Its wee tiny!

    [ ] Dealership Service. I sure did receive dealership service at Benchmark CJD in Birmingham, Alabama. It was just not what I expected. Out-of-pocket expense was $65.00 for a 55MPH shimmy. Balancing/rotating the tires did nothing. I wonder if it’s a “new PT owner” tax they simply collect knowing the car’s harmonics produce the issue? neons do it too, but– try getting a dealership to believe you know their product. Lower control arm bushings or ball joints may need replacing at what I’ll term an abbreviated service interval. Ahh– cost engineering.

    [xx] Repair Cost. neon/Stratus/Sebring repair rates are quite low. Until you realize the dealership is going to charge you extra for that triple-decker-club sandwich engine design. DIY keeps this one checkable for me.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    My VW GTI is pretty close, but no cigar.

    [x] Fuel Economy. 31mpg hand calculated over the past 47k miles
    [x] Driving Dynamics. Fantastic car to drive.
    [x] Price. Can be had for $22k new pretty nicely equipped.
    [ ] Reliability. Too many times in the shop.
    [/] Quality. Great interior, seems well built, not sure over the long haul.
    [x] Practicality. 4 door hatchback w/ ample room for 2 adults in the back.
    [/] Dealership Service. Initial purchase and some warranty items: great. Getting a hold of them to get into the dealer: not good.
    [ ] Repair Cost. Parts are expensive and not widely available.

    This is after 3.5 years and 58k miles. It is simply a fantastic vehicle to own other than the VW dependability. My AC is acting up (already replaced the compressor once under warranty) and it could be a $1300 repair.

    The best candidate would be the Honda Fit, IMO. It pretty much checks all the boxes assuming you aren’t expecting WRX/MS3/GTI performance. It is still a fun little car to drive considering the money spent and the fuel economy returned.

    I personally feel that practicality requires a hatch. The number of large items I’ve stuffed into my GTI is insane. Given the choice, I’ll take the wagon/hatch version any day. Most sedans aren’t even on my radar, nor will they be. I love my setup of big hatch (4Runner), medium hatch (GTI), and small hatch (MINI).

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Someone is going to say it, so it may as well be me: The Ford Panther cars. Someone may try to beat me up over driving dynamics or fuel economy, but with the tradeoff between size and price, nothing beats it in either category. My 93 has achieved 26 mpg on the highway, which is excellent for what the car is. It is the best handling car I have ever driven that is also really quiet, really smooth and really comfortable. On price, durability, quality and cost of repair, it is unassailable.

    • 0 avatar
      Mud

      Initiate 2c input.
      I’m with you with both my 2002 HPP and 2003 Sport.
      I think that this question is generally pointless since most will (surprise!) think that their driver is IT.
      2c input complete.

  • avatar
    buzzdsm

    I went with an 09 Mazdaspeed 3. I knew when I bought it that it wouldn’t rank high on things like quality compared to some of my other options but I knew what I was getting. A small rocket ship.

    I also had an 07 VW GTI and it probably hit more marks but just wasn’t as fun. It did have a lot better quality interior though. That’s something i miss along with the DSG transmission.

  • avatar
    nikita

    Having owned a BMW 325i and Toyota Camry as the two most recent passenger cars, my latest, a 2010 Honda Fit (Jazz outside North America) came closest to checking all the boxes for me. That list is pretty much how I did the evaluation myself. While driving dynamics dont touch a BMW, it’s still way more fun than average for a FWD car.

    Others considered (all M/T):
    Mustang V-6 Coupe
    Civic DX-VP
    Impresa 2.5
    Golf/Jetta TDI
    Fiesta SE Sedan
    SX4

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    I’m firmly in the camp that believes this kind of list is entirely subjective and is likely to change over time as one’s own priorities evolve.

    That said, (and in line with Nikita’s list above) I offer my Subaru Impreza Outback Sport 2.5 with manual transmission. It’s not perfect but does check almost all the boxes. No, it’s not as fast as a WRX but it’s still a blast to drive in a “it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow” kind of way. And I love the sound of that boxer engine running up through the gears. Road feel, steering and handling are excellent and the ride is surprisingly supple. It’s a four-door hatch so it’s highly practical. It’s also been reliable and the overall cost of ownership is quite low. Quality? I’m not the type who is put off by some hard plastic here and there. But, even so, the quality of this Subaru is much higher than my 2001 Impreza. Not a rattle to be found. Price? I paid 18K, brand new. 2.9% financing. Fuel economy? Mid 20′s, no matter what. Not fantasic, but decent for an AWD vehicle. In fact, I’d say that’s the car’s weakest point and it’s not terrible,

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    I’ll put in another vote for the Mazda3 hatch.

    Fuel economy is certainly in the 30 mpg range.

    Driving dynamics were good based on the test drives I had four years ago. Have they ruined the handling in the new one? I highly doubt it.

    Price is certainly fair compared to another new cars in its class, and it seems to hold its value as well.

    Reliability is hard for me to coment on, as I don’t own one, but my Mazda6s has certainly been reliable.

    Quality appeared to be similar to the MAzda6 I ended up with, which means not good. Better than a GM, certainly, but not even within shouting distance of an Audi or Mercedes.

    Practicallity is good. It’s a hatch which means hauling stuff around and access to the back are very good for a car of it’s size and better than most if not all mid-size sedans.

    My dealership experience was good with my Mazda6s, both at the time of purchase and for repairs (different dealers), but that is highly variable and I don’t think you can generalize by brand.

    Cost of repairs seem to be typical for mid-size FWD sedans for my Mazda6.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Elantra Touring?

  • avatar
    folkdancer

    When I see a car the size, comfort, and utility of a 1996 Toyota Camry Station Wagon that gets 40+ MPG it will be time to bother checking boxes.

    Now I am just happy to find a car salesperson who can tell the difference between a (to jacked up to be useful) CUV and a Transit Connect.

  • avatar
    hurls

    I agree with all the three series dissidents — the reliability/cost of maintenance isn’t there after warranty expires. Which doesn’t keep me from loving mine anyway, but it’s an issue.

    I’d vote for the Acura TSX. 4 cylinder. At least the last generation — never bothered to try the new one when mine went back on lease because of the liberal beating it received by the ugly stick (that said, the new TL makes the new TSX look much better by comparison).

    TSX virtues: cheap (low 30s), decent mileage in the 4 cylinder version, dynamic yet comfy handling/ride, cheap maintenance, honda-esque reliablity, comfy if not super stylish interior, all the amenities you’d need, plenty of room in cabin and trunk… and a wagon on the way.

    Note: I bought something else (A4 Avant) because these aren’t necessarily MY 8 priorities. But I think the TSX fits them about as well as any car out there now.

  • avatar
    Mercennarius

    Infiniti G series

  • avatar
    Monty

    I nominate the Ford Focus ZX5 as the vehicle that checks off the most boxes for me. This is such a subjective area, though. What checks off the boxes for me may not resonate with anybody else. We chose this car after far too many test drives to remember, mostly because I was absolutely certain that Ford was on the upswing and that the market had not caught up with the reality; making ’03 and later Fords a really good buy. I feel that I have been proven correct in my analysis.

    [x] Fuel Economy – low to mid 30′s in the city
    [x] Driving Dynamics – yup, mostly everybody agrees on this one
    [x] Price – still one of the best bargains on dealer lots
    [x] Reliability – Cross my fingers, but so far, it’s been blissfully reliable
    [/] Quality – Okay, so if it’s top quality ingredients, then no. But, if it’s cheap ingredients put together really well, then yup. So this one’s a draw.
    [x] Practicality – five door hatchback in a small but useful size
    [x] Dealership Service – cross my fingers here, too, but so far it’s been awesome.
    [x] Repair Cost – so far, other than a brake shoe replacement at 50,000 K, it’s cost me only for routine maintenance.

    Ford Focus ZX5 FTW!

  • avatar
    James2

    What happened to the Looks Good box? I know styling is subjective, but since we’re talking about MY OWN eyes, therefore any car I own has to appeal to me visually, never mind if it checks any other box.

    One of my friends was considering the bug-eyed WRX and I said to him, “That car might be fast, but you’ve got to look at it every day.” He only nodded.

    One can argue that you don’t have to look at it once you’re inside, but you’ve got to look at it occasionally. Ugly = No Sale.

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      So ugly that I wouldn’t want to be seen it would be a deal breaker for me – Acura I’m looking at you, though I’d rather not – but bland or unispired I can deal with.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    Here are my thoughts on a few options in the US market.

    Mazda5: Has to be the hands-down winner. We don’t get many of these space wagons in the US. The Mazda5 is fun, economical, reliable, practical, pretty much anything you name it does and does well. The next generation model certainly is ugly, though.

    Hyundai Sonata. Yes, it’s a sedan, but a practical one. The fuel economy is good and it’s reputed to be not too bad to drive.

    Honda Fit. Obviously.

    Honda Civic Si. If you’re after a small performance car that needs to be economical and reliable, this is the one to get.

    Honda CR-V. Surprisingly fun for a small CUV. Quite economical.

    Acura TSX. No, it’s not as good as the last generation (I own one of those). But if one luxury brand option goes on this list, the TSX is still it.

    Ford Fusion. Probably the best small-midsize volume sedan on the market.

    I would expect the Fiesta and the next generation Focus to tick all of these boxes too, unless there’s an unexpected reliability snafu.

    “Almost” cars: Mazdaspeed3 (due to fuel economy), Subaru Legacy 2.5GT (ditto), Suzuki Kizashi (parts cost, dealer availability).

  • avatar
    dignotov

    I have to nominate the 2005-2009 Subaru Outback XT (turbo)wagons 5 sp manual for Pacific NW NA market. I have not driven the new model so won’t comment on that other than its ugly. I think you could make a case for checking all the boxes, other than perhaps fuel economy. I had a 2005 for about 20k miles in Alaska. Sure footed, fast, comfortable, and you can carry your stuff in it. The only problem I had with it was a rear drive shaft seal that went out but the dealer fixed under warranty. Even if you live in less extreme environment it would be a great car. All for way under $30k, what a bargain.

  • avatar

    Acura Integer. Oh, right, they don’t make it anymore. How stupid is that? (I’m actually thinking of getting one.)

  • avatar
    Joe_Gamer

    Tough question, I’d say the Mazda speed3 and the Subaru WRX fit the bill, provided they are gently driven to conserve gasoline >:-)


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