Ask the Best and Brightest: Fun-to-drive, Newish Sedan Under $15,000?

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Commentator kobo1d writes:

My wife and I are in the market for a slightly used car. I would like to ask the Best and Brightest: what cars should we take a look at in the under $15,000 (out the door) almost new category? Is there anything decent in this range? We want a sedan/wagon/hatch still under factory bumper-to-bumper warranty, long-term reliable, and fun to drive. Wife can’t drive a stick, and ABS is mandatory. Must get 30 Highway MPG to guarantee our low loan rate. Can it be done?

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Kobo1d Kobo1d on Aug 27, 2009

    Back from some test driving. Wow, such a long list to get through. So far almost 50 different cars have been suggested. First up was the nearest dealer...Hyundai. Drove an Elantra and a Sonata. Both very respectively equipped for their price, though neither of us liked the Elantra. The Sonata is a decent car, and bang for buck looks like a good benchmark. Only problem...boring! What the car lacks in fun to drive it makes up for in other ways. But we want to have our cake and eat it too. Next stop was Ford. No Fusions on the lot-at all. Epic fail, Ford. Drove a used Focus since we were there price, and decent steering. Otherwise total rubbish. I really hope the Fusion isn't as bad. Carmax was our last stop for the day. They had a lot of cars we could have tested that were suggested here, but after the first two drives the salesman was looking at us a little bit like we were crazy and we got the feeling test drive time was over. The two cars we did get to drive: Civic and Mazda 3. The Civic was decent, pricey (doubly so here, remember we're at Carmax), but of course doesn't depreciate much either. Comfortable, not as much as a Sonata, but better than an Elantra or Focus. The dash was awkward, multi-tiered and seemingly 12 feet deep, I didn't mind but she didn't like it. Plus, as far as fun, about as much as a in not much. Why not get more (bland) car for less? The Mazda 3 is everything mentioned here and more. It was seemingly perfect. Though it was slow (2.0 engine), and a bit small (back seat), the rest of the car was phenomenal. She was ready to buy, though the one we were in was previous rental and of course we have tons more cars to sample. New requirement for recommendations: has to equal or better the 3. I want to go test a 6 now. If its just a bigger, more powerful 3 (which it looks to be) then that porridge might be not too hot and not too cold.

  • Odomeater Odomeater on Aug 27, 2009

    Boy, I'll bet the sales people at the respective numerous dealerships you are visiting really enjoy participating in your odyssey.

  • IDANECK IDANECK on Aug 28, 2009

    Do what the salesperson will most likely try to do to you, screw them. They have nothing else better to do than sit on their ass and eat french fries. I test drove an 07 CRV at the local dealership, the saleslacker decided to try out the reclining rear seat and damned near fell asleep. Must have been tired from walking that empty GM lot all day.

  • Kobo1d Kobo1d on Sep 23, 2009

    Update: We ended up with a Mazda 3i. We don't really need the extra space of a midsize, and the 3 was the best overall car for the price.