Hey Sajeev and Steve,I recently asked the Best and Brightest for help regarding my friend’s car buying dilema, but now I’m in one of my own! I am looking to get rid of my 2006 Mazda5 GT, which has been quite problematic. I can no longer tolerate the frequent trips to the shop. Its got about 125,000km on it, and I’ve been getting offers ranging from $6000-8000 for it on trade. The cars I am considering are in the compact to mid-size class, but there are benefits to each car, and I can’t seem to make up my mind. I am seeking a car with decent fuel economy that is fairly engaging to drive. However, I DO NOT want a harsh ride. The GTA is filled with pot holed roads, and I know the stiff ride would get tiresome. Manual transmission is preferred, but not necessary. I do carry four people occasionally, so cross out any coupes. On the Mazda I’ve taken quite a hit in the residual value, so this time around, I am looking to buy something that is a couple of years old. That way, someone else takes the largest depreciation hit. Here is the list so far:
- 2007 or 2008 Acura CSX w/premium package and manual tranny: Essentially a Civic with a nicer front and rear end, leather, a bit more sound deadening, and the motor from the RSX. Really fun to drive, but the manuals that I’m seeing in the GTA carry a price premium… The 2008 that I test drove with 58,000km is going for $18,900. At this point, does it not make sense to just buy a brand new one for $23,000?
- 2008 Honda Civic EX-L w/ manual: The CSX, while it only has 15 more hp, does feel noticeably more powerful than the Civic. My main problem with the Civic is that it feels a little gutless on the highway. However, it does deliver great fuel economy. Going in the $15-17,000 range.
- 2007 or 2008 VW Rabbit: These are surprisingly cheap in the GTA… There are quite a few 2007 and 2008s with low mileage going in the $12-15,000 range. I don’t find this car as engaging to drive as the Acura, and the VW shifter just doesn’t compare to the Honda’s. I do love the “solid” VW feel, but I am concerned about the reliability of the Volkswagen. Fuel mileage is also disappointing. Jettas carry a price premium and I prefer the hatch.
- 2007 or 2008 Ford Fusion SEL: This is the lazy commuter choice. It was surprisingly good to drive, but I am not a huge fan of the looks, which I find to be a little bland and cheap looking. I would be looking at a 4 banger with auto in this case, because the manuals are just about impossible to find. Quite cheap as well, with low mileage examples going in the $13-16,000 range. Not the greatest on gas either.
- 2007 or 2008 Honda CR-V: In Canada, only the LX was offered with front-wheel drive. If you step up to the EX, you need to get AWD, which I am hearing is a little problematic. Apparently, there is a grinding issue in reverse? Either way, I had this car as a rental for a week when the Mazda was in the shop and found it to be quite easy to live with. The steering and brakes were just right and the car was roomy. Downsides? LOUD on the highway, and the ride is a little harsh. Fuel mileage is so-so. Holds it’s value really well, so we’re talking $18-24,000.Lastly, 2012 Ford Focus Titanium: Ford has really outdone themselves with this one. I found that the car felt like it was worth the admittedly steep price tag. The car has a refinement to it that is not matched in the compact class, and I found the MyFordTouch to be pretty easy to use. Downsides? Rear seat legroom is a joke. Also, I am assuming that this car is not going to hold it’s value well, since most Fords do not. Probably best to wait a couple of years for a lightly used one?Well, Best and Brightest? What to do? Am I forgetting something that I should be driving? I have intentionally left out the TSX and GTI as I do not want to purchase a vehicle that takes premium when regular is already at $1.38/L. Help Sajeev and Steve!
I used to live in upstate New York which also has rather nasty roads. So I can appreciate your desire to couple comfort with sportiness.
Back when I lived there in the early 90’s, the car to bridge both divides was a Volvo. 240, 740, 940, etc. All those bricks were underpowered. But they offered excellent durability in a nasty climate and a feel for the road that was unique unto anything short of a Mercedes W124.
So what up today? It depends on where your comfort and sportiness intersect. Everything you mentioned would be brutal for me after 50k miles. I would opt for a midsize vehicle that can offer a nice thrust of acceleration, a healthy level of comfort, and a good feel for the road.
My choice? 2007 Honda Accord EX with Leather, V6 and a five-speed. If you can’t find a good one (and yes, that is a tough find in this market), I would just enjoy a four-cylinder version. The Acura versions are overpriced and the price for Subaru Outbacks and Foresters in the northern country makes them poor values compared to a new purchase of the same model.
If you are willing to buy new… ask Sajeev. That’s his domain.
I can see why you’d want the Focus Titanium, but depreciation on a top drawer compact (just about ANY of them) will be worse than a middle of the road unit. So you should steer clear of Titanium, wait a couple of years for them to show up on the used car market. A new Focus SEL is a wiser move, and you should also test drive the Hyundai Elantra and Sonata…just for funzies!
More to the point, anything can be fun with a touch of aftermarket suspension bits. Sure, the last-gen Focus is fairly hideous, but all the SVT/aftermarket goodies just bolt right up! Ditto a non-SS Chevy Cobalt with all the suspension bits from that “Hot One.”Relatively speaking, of course: none of these modifications will hurt the ride enough to upset your commute to work. Probably.
Well, that’s only food for thought. Also consider the Mazda 6, last generation. They aren’t the best on gas, but I truly enjoy driving them. You might too.
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