By on May 10, 2016

Valeo Electric Turbocharger

Matt writes:

I am anticipating that my 1997 Subaru Legacy wagon, with 210,000+ miles on the clock, will need replacing soon. I’m lucky in that my wagon is a five-speed manual with the 2.2-liter EJ motor, so has been fairly bulletproof. In the last 19 years, it has needed only minimal work besides regular maintenance and wear items (brakes, clutch, tires), aside from the occasional axle or other random parts (i.e. alternator). I’ve been looking around at affordable commuter 5-door hatchbacks (Mazda3, Impreza, Focus, etc.) as it must fit multiple kids, sports gear, and I need a daily driver for work (~45 miles round trip).

Here’s my question: I would like something a little sporty as more than half of my commute is on fun twisty back roads. I keep going back and forth on whether or not to go for a naturally aspirated or turbo engine, followed by trying to decide between auto or manual. I feel like my five-speed-manual Subaru skewed my perception to believe a naturally aspirated engine and manual transmission is a much more sturdy, robust and reliable setup that’s less prone to breaking and needing repairs (fewer parts to fail) than a turbo and/or automatic.

Am I wrong?

The other half of my commute in bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic makes me want to ditch the manual, but curvy roads make me want to go with a turbo manual. My wallet and the fact that I’ve always driven cars into the ground (180K+ miles) makes me think N/A and a manual transmission will be more reliable, cheaper and safer in the long run.

Am I totally off base? Is this true for current, late model cars?

Thank you,
Matt

Hey! I used to have one of those Legacy Wagons. I wish you’d written to tell me about that axle thing a year ago — I might still have one if you had!

As far as your question goes, the answer is simple: yes and no.

I don’t think there’s any real reason to suspect modern automatic transmissions as less reliable than modern manuals. In fact, based on how quickly OEMs are running away from manuals for any “non-performance car,” there may not be many manuals left for us to buy in the near future. The question may become moot. There are still examples of notoriously unreliable autos (the wretched FCA nine-speed and, yes, Ford Fiesta autos come to mind), but, as a whole, I think that the industry has gotten the automatic transmission thing figured out.

That doesn’t mean automatics in the C segment cars you mentioned are any fun to drive. Far from it. I think the cheapest car with an automatic transmission one might describe as “fun” would be the GTI with the DSG option.

Turbos? Eh, that’s a whole other kettle of fish. When Caroline Ellis looked at buying a Sonic hatchback two years ago, I advised her to get the naturally aspirated 1.8-liter Ecotec motor over the 1.4-liter turbo because I wasn’t convinced that the latter was durable over the long haul. I still think that was solid advice, but we’ll never know because a flood totaled her car. Sad trombone.

For your specific situation, I share your concern about the long-term reliability of turbocharged, smaller motors. I had no problem getting a turbo motor in my Fiesta ST, because I was only doing a 24-month lease, and the car would be under warranty the entire time. My next car purchase is likely a turbo boosted to high-heavens — but, again, I don’t typically keep cars more than 3-4 years at the most.

I also think that you’ll be somewhat disappointed by the fuel mileage you’ll get out of most of these little turbos. Your commute isn’t too bad at 45 miles round trip, but you mentioned a fair amount of stop and go traffic. That’s not awesome for turbo gas mileage. Combine that with the hooning you’ll likely do in the curvy section of the trip and you’ll probably experience fuel mileage that can best be described as “Barkish.” (I’m notorious for getting much-worse-than-EPA fuel mileage in every car I drive. Heavy right foot, even for a size 8 1/2.)

So based on your unique set of circumstances, I think the right car for you is a Mazda3 hatch with a manual. I’d love to recommend a Focus ST here, but you’ll get a disturbingly large number of hits if you do a search on any ST forum for “turbo failure.” And when turbos fail on a FoST, they tend to do nasty things to the rest of the motor too if you don’t catch it in time. If you wanted a 36 month lease, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend one, but I can’t see you driving a FoST for 19 years. As long as the notorious Mazda rust issues are resolved in the current gen, I think you’ll be happy behind the wheel of a manual Mazda3 for decades to come.

Remember, if you want some advice regarding a car purchase, email me at [email protected] or DM me at @barkm302 in the Twittersphere.

[Image: Electric Turbocharger, Valeo]

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85 Comments on “Ask Bark: Old vs. New Tech – Which Is More Reliable?...”


  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Over the years I have looked at a fair amount of reliability data. Reliability has more to do with who built it than how “high-tech” it is.
    Some companies seem to be able to build pretty consistent reliability from top-to-bottom of their range, others can build-in problems in an axe handle.

    Just a thought.

    Cheerio,

    Bunter

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      Perhaps. You know, only Toyota could have made the Prius both in technology and reliability in 1997. And their 8 speed automatic transmission has been pretty good. I think it’s the most reliable automatic they’ve ever put in a RWD car. And the stock 2JZ-GTE is stone reliable.

      But then they have a few missteps – the engine blocks in the 2002-2004ish 2.4 inline 4s didn’t have enough threads for the engine head bolts.

      So we have this unexpected result – the 300 horsepower turbo is more reliable than a 158 hp inline 4 N/A 2.4 liter.

      If anything, reliability is a function of how conservative the design is. The 2JZ making 300 horsepower is very conservative when most people turn up the boost and push 500+ hp out of the engine. The Honda Ridgeline might be the most reliable truck for just driving around because Honda was so paranoid about people using it as a 1 ton truck. That Chrylser/Jeep 4.0 inline 6 was as sturdy as an engine could be because the designers wanted to run it for 24 hours at full power on warm sparkplugs.

      • 0 avatar
        hawox

        agree, i remember the old celica in the 90s was a reliable car. and was a turbo 4×4

        fact is that designers must push the components to the limit. they reduce weights for fuel economy, and also the costs, so every complication is a possible source of troubles.

        also modern cars are expensive to fix, so in a near future we’ll think like tv and washing machines: when something breaks buy a new one.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      That’s the issue with reliability data because it doesn’t parse out ‘engine blew up or car burnt down’ from ‘knob came off.’ In most studies it’s all treated the same as a dealer repair under warranty. Then you get ameteur detective hour on forums where a disproportionately small number of people (maybe 50 total cars with this problem spread out over several years)are complaining about the same issue that make up literally 1-2% of the total run in a given year. Course nobody wants to be left to deal with the turbo self-destructing and taking your engine with it but the probability of that happening is relatively low in a modern vehicle.

      It’s better to get a stable turbo model that’s had the engine run a few years to let them work out the bugs. Course that’s true with anything automotive.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Totally different experience from you Bark.

    I replaced a Subaru with a Saab a long time ago, and my fuel use went down, and reliability went up. On top of that, I also got a few incidental improvements like paint that stays attached to the sheetmetal, a heater that works, an interior that doesn’t wear-out in a year. Those last few items are off-topic since you can’t replace Subarus with new Saabs anymore, but the main point stands.

    There’s no reason to believe that a well-engineered turbocharged car will be any less reliable/long-lived than a non-turbo.
    I’m sure some manufacturers have figured-out how to f-up a turbocharged powerplant (Ford?), but I wouldn’t buy a non-turbo from those same manufacturers either, so it’s a moot point.

    • 0 avatar
      facelvega

      I replaced a 96 Outback 2.2 manual with a 99 NG900 Saab 9-3, both within the last five years as beaters, and my experience was unequivocal: the Saab was a much, much, much better vehicle. Both cars had a few dumb design decisions that required a little google and rockauto to fix, but the Saab was better built, far more comfortable, got about the same fuel economy, handled much better, and had almost as much room inside. Also, the seats on the Saab are many orders better than the Subaru.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I ordered the Sonata with a manual and one of the main reasons was I believed that the manual would be more reliable over the long haul. And much cheaper to repair if something did go south.

    However my beliefs were skewed by the fact that from 1992 to 2012 I nearly always had at least one Dodge/Chrysler product in the driveway and the number of automatic transmissions that we went through was diabolical.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Reliability is largely determined by the company that designed and assembled your car.

    If reliability is a priority, then it would be smarter to buy a turbo Toyota with an automatic and power everything than a manual transmission naturally aspirated BMW with handcrank windows and no A/C.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Yes, but the turbo Toyota will have less reliability than a naturally aspirated Toyota. Since reliability seems to be the main thing the OP wants, the Mazda 3 suggestion is probably the best one

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “Yes, but the turbo Toyota will have less reliability than a naturally aspirated Toyota”

        I see no evidence of that.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Why would you say that? Toyota adjusts engine design and parts quality to account for the wear expected in the engine. It’s not like a turbo is just an NA with a turbo strapped on.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          Sure, and we can probably assume that a Toyota turbo powered vehicle will be more reliable than a GM turbo power vehicle. However, you cannot escape the added complexity and stress. Sure, they will mitigate this with improved cooling and stronger internals. Exclude all the other issues that will come up by turboing a vehicle, and just focus on the turbocharger itself. Say 1% of turbo Toyotas will have turbo failure by 120K miles. This will compare to 0% of naturally aspirated vehicles. I also think that’s a conservative estimate.

          This doesn’t mean that I am anti-turbo. I love turbo powered performance cars. I think they are a great way to add power. I have a turbo ready to install on my Miata once I get my wagon back on the road. If the original question was, “I want a fast sporty car, and don’t mind fixing some issues here and there as they pop up in exchange for the added power.” I would have no problem recommending something like a Focus ST. I am only against turbos in every day econo boxes and family sedans.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            All cars are complicated by nature.

            If your logic was sound, then a “stressed” Toyota 4-banger should be less reliable than a domestic car with a larger motor that runs at lower RPM. But the opposite is true.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            There are many factors to reliability, but a simple car from a high quality manufacturer with an unstressed, naturally aspirated engine will be more mechanically reliable than a complicated, forced induction, smaller displacement car of similar mass and similar selling price from the same manufacturer. You can address that deficit by spending more money, or reducing mass, or reducing performance, or the sort of gains in materials utilization and engine management that happen so slowly you don’t even notice they’re occurring until you compare two cars built a decade apart.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    With modern turbos I think it’s reasonable to expect maybe 150K miles out of them. More than that is probably pushing it. I don’t know if small fours with a lot of boost wear out faster than a six with less boost pressure.

    I would probably be more concerned with oil consumption than turbo failure. I certainly wouldn’t want to drive 15 or 20 years in a car that has to have a big oil can in the back because it drinks a quart every 700 miles. Audi’s 2.0T was notorious for drinking oil a few years ago…as was Subaru’s NA H6, so I’m not sure turbo vs. NA makes any significant difference there.

    I’m also not sure that Mazdas are necessarily 20 year cars. Newer 3s are holding up pretty well, but if a car has significant problems within 5 or 6 years that would be considered pretty horrible reliability. Mazda3s at 7 and 8+ years though are not holding up so well, and it’s not just that their rear fenders have completely rusted through. Major engine problems are MUCH more likely in a 2007 or 2008 Mazda3 as compared to say a Honda Civic from the same year.

    With the new Civic, the MT is only available on the poverty spec car, which is usually how it is with most cars these days. The other option is of course the CVT, which is not exactly the most fun transmission in the world. Also, it was the NA 2.0 in the new car with the problems, so far at least the 1.5T has been fine.

    I also would probably avoid a first year model from ANY car company. Toyota and Honda may still be better than most, but that doesn’t mean they always get their first year cars right (see 2.0 Civic above).

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “I don’t know if small fours with a lot of boost wear out faster than a six with less boost pressure.”

      They are designed with that it mind. When they build a turbo they don’t just take a NA and slap on a turbo. They entire engine is modified to deal with different stresses.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Looking at TrueDelta data the Civic and 3 have comparable reliability data going back to 2004. In 2006 and 2007 the 3 was merely average compared to the good reliability of the Civic. Seems to be a very isolated time period.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        TrueDelta doesn’t measure catastrophic failure, as far as I know. Owners could theoretically update their data when they take a car off the road, but there’s little incentive to do so.

        What that means, for instance, is that if every other Mazda 2.3 blew at 100,000 miles, it wouldn’t show in the data. On the other hand, if every Civic needed new lower ball joints every 24 months, it would show.

        I guess they could fix that by correlating the data with registration info.

    • 0 avatar
      Lampredotto

      As of MY 2017 the turbo Civic will be available with MT!

      http://blog.caranddriver.com/honda-offering-1-5l-turbo-engine-with-stick-shift-on-all-2017-civic-body-styles/

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatic

      My only turbo car (XR4Ti) had a manual. The engine had 280,000 miles when I sold it (still running well just too rusty for me). Original owner replaced the head gasket at 60K due to a non functioning radiator fan. I fixed the radiator fan and went the next 200K+ miles original turbo and the bottom end was never opened up. Of course this was an all cast iron engine so YMMV.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      “With modern turbos I think it’s reasonable to expect maybe 150K miles out of them.”

      With a modern NA engine, I think it’s reasonable to expect at least 250K out of them. I also think, we spend too much time caring about the reliability of the engine. Every old car my extended family has gotten fed up with was not due to engine problems. It was due to the cost of suspension or steering issues exceeding the value of the vehicle. But then, none of them were turbos either. :)

    • 0 avatar
      vwgolf420

      We donmt have the rust issues so many on here claim Mazda has in much of the country, but in the sunbelt I would venture to guess that Mazda 3 is as durable as the Civic.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I prefer naturally-aspirated engines because every turbo car I can afford has the power delivery and/or sound of a tuned diesel.

    As far as reliability goes, I agree with others- it depends more on who built it (and long-term how you maintain it).

    If you are looking for something on the “forever car” side of things check out the Scion/Toyota iM.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      ajla

      how does this translate to the more pressured engines of today
      .
      I am not anywhere near knowledgeable on how the internals of engines work. But I am curious as to the new Skyactiv and other engines where they talk about the internal cylinder pressure.

      I think the Mazda Skyactiv are said to be around 14…fro their own mouths:
      “20 percent better fuel efficiency thanks to the low compression ratio of 14.0:1” If I remember reading correctly, this is way higher than normal.
      So the discussion above about long term wear and tear of boosted 4s vs regular 6s seems confusing. At least to me.

      I am guessing this is what jmo was referring to when the pressure is considered when they design the engines. Hopefully.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    I thought Mazda’s automatic in the 3 and 6 was supposed to be a good one, no?

    19 years is a damn long time to keep any car. Other than cars like the Corolla which you probably won’t want to drive for that long, durability is almost impossible to predict that far out. Buy what you like and roll the dice.

  • avatar

    More parts = more problems.

    Rather than putting ADEQUATELY SIZED ENGINES into cars, the industry has been throwing smaller engines into big cars – hoping the billion-speed transmissions would be able to make up for the difference.

    THEY DON’T.

    A turbocharger “Can” be reliable…but not if you’re forcing us to drive with boost more often because the 1.nothing -liter displacement can’t get us from 0-60 in the time it takes a toddler to crawl from here to the bathroom.

    My recommendation.

    2.0-L should be the minimum.

    SUPERCHARGE everything.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      Compared to a generation ago, modern cars are more complex with more parts and also far more reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      blppt

      I think the reason they are doing small engines + turbo is that such a combo can fool the EPA test as currently set up into higher MPG numbers, but as we’ve often seen by customer complaints, that combo doesnt work for John Q. Public’s average driving habits. Its all about the CAFE guidelines.

      I’ve been very happy with the economy of my 2.0T CC/DSG, but I’m careful to keep the revs below 2k whenever I can, which I guarantee most who drive it dont pay that much attention to.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      So true. If Mopar knew what they were doing the Hellcat would have at least a 10 liter ‘real’ Hemi with iron heads, running on a mechanical Hillborn fuel injection, delivering the power through a powerglide and a proper Dana 60 instead of that flimsy IRS.

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      Yes, more parts = more problems

      which is why so many people chose Ford Model T’s as reliable daily drivers and eschew overwrought Corollas and Camrys for their unreliability.

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        To be honest the model A was a better car than the T. And the B with the 4 cylinder wasn’t all that bad, as they had dropped the wood in the body by then. Old Henry really dropped the ball by doubling the number of cylinders though.
        There are still a few daily driven A’s around even today, and they’re built from better and thicker steel than early Japanese cars, so they don’t rust apart quite as quickly either.
        But, offcourse more modern cars, like the straight six Fords from the 50’s with their fancy automatic gearboxes (so that even ladies can drive them) and radios and heaters and stuff , are certainly faster and more comfortable.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          Part of the reason why early Fords don’t rust as quickly as early Japanese cars is, ironically enough, Japanning, aka Japan black enamel.

          Search for the word “japan” on this page to get the lowdown:
          http://www.mtfca.com/encyclo/P-R.htm

          Short version: it’s a type of enamel paint, made with asphalt or carbon black, that is very resistant to vibration, stress and humidity. Ford used it until the early V8 era (1930s).

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Putting V8’s in everything sure has improved FCA’s durability ratings.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        A billboard near my work claims that they have “the most durable pickups in Canada.”

        Of course, reliability is different from durability.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          heavy handle – that is the same campaign Chevy used to run in the USA. They say “longest lasting” trucks on the road. Fine print says, “based on registration data”.

          A rusting hulk in the back of a farmer’s field that is still registered counts or a truck that has been rebuilt stem to stern 5 times also counts if it is registered.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            who would waste the money to register a rusting hulk?

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            “who would waste the money to register a rusting hulk?”

            The campaign used by Ram in Canada and Chevy in the USA was based ONLY on registrations.

            I’ve seen some pretty badly beat up trucks used on farms and in remote parts of the backcountry that would never be fit for use in an urban setting but have plates on them to keep the occasional police patrol happy.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          very true. my aforementioned SRT-4 was reliable in the sense that I never had to worry that it would fail to get me where I needed to go.

          It was in no way *durable,* thanks mostly to its voracious appetite for front suspension parts. It ate control arm bushings and wheel bearings like popcorn, and I think the tie rods were made from tin foil.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Bleh. Thumbs down to the Mazda3. NA, hatchback and somewhat fun to drive limits things significantly, sadly. I guess a 3 will have to be it… just make sure it’s a 6MT 2.5L.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Why the Mazda hate from you all the time? As you acknowledge, given the requirements of the OP the 3 is a reasonable suggestion.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      The Mazda 2.5 is a little peach of an engine. I have CX-5 which is certainly heavier than the 3, and it still isn’t exactly slow (or quick). The lighter 3 would move pretty well with that level of power. I do think it’s often more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow (*cough* Hellcat *cough*).

  • avatar
    detlump

    I agree with comments saying to avoid the turbo. They are nice to have, but not for the long term. When I was looking at Volvo 850 wagons, there were N/As and turbos. I skipped the turbo 850s and chose an automatic N/A 850. It now has 270,000 miles and is still running fine. In fact, maybe I have a unicorn 855, but it’s still on the original transmission, radiator, and alternator too. I did have to replace the steering rack, it rusted away to nothing. Otherwise no major repairs, just maintenance, including timely timing belt changes.

    Turbos put more stress on the engine and heat in the engine compartment. Plus it makes it harder to work on them – more plumbing, etc. I think the general rule is if you want to keep a car long term, keep it simple.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      On turbo charged redblocks it takes one sparkplug trickier to get to, otherwise you can still get 28mpg while not being outrun by economy cars.

      I had a 91 740 turbo wagon at about 197k, the turbo and the engine were still in decent shape despite the miles (though it had piston slap), the rest of the car was on its last legs:

      Dying squeaky power steering
      Radiator Leak
      No AC
      Poor heat
      Bad rear suspension
      Broken casette player
      Sagging headliner
      Delayed reverse gear

  • avatar
    JimZ

    when I sold my SRT-4, it had almost 170,000 miles on it. never a problem with the engine or the turbo hardware. between oil changes the level dropped less than 1/8″ on the dipstick. Last time I looked up the VIN it was still going at 200k+ miles. modern turbos are incredibly so much better than in the past.

    plus consider that every single heavy duty truck on the road for the past couple of decades has been turbocharged.

    • 0 avatar
      EAF

      Inherently, more moving parts, associated feed & drain lines, as well as feet of extra plumbing, will compromise reliability to some extent. I do agree that the manufacturer and the end user, obviously, play a critical role.

      My DSM, known for its lack of reliability, is now approaching 225k miles on its original drivetrain. The secret? As Jim mentioned, oil changes are always on time and modifications (difficult to resist) are kept MODEST. Those power extracting mods I do have are heavily researched and properly supported.

      OP, go drive a 2015 Civic Si! The naturally aspirated K24 is a vast improvement over its predecessor, a 4-door is available, LSD, and the true reliability killer (direct injection) is omitted!!!!!

      Lastly, Subaru’s 2.2 is gone, don’t assume you will extract 210k miles out of their new F series, it will not happen! Goodluck!

      • 0 avatar
        bikegoesbaa

        “Lastly, Subaru’s 2.2 is gone, don’t assume you will extract 210k miles out of their new F series, it will not happen!”*

        *Citation needed

      • 0 avatar
        ttacgreg

        DSM?? As in Diamond Star Motors?
        My 1990 Plymouth Laser (AKA Mitsubishi Eclipse without the bolt on boy racer spoiler) has over 100K miles and is still going strong. If it is good for 225K I will die before it wears out. One thing I do is stay on top of the synthetic oil changes, and never shut it down without a 90 second idle if it has been running hard within a minute or two of shut down.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        So far the FB seems to be very reliable.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        EAF – I find that looking at mileage as a durability metric can be deceiving.
        I read about a Chevy pickup that hit a million miles without “core” repairs. In a fairly short time. Fuel pump, water pump and some minor stuff had been repaired. It was religiously maintained and the guy lived in the temperate southern States and delivered newspapers on a fairly long haul which was mostly highway miles.
        Some Canadian auto experts weighed in and said that it would be highly unlikely in Canada especially the further north you went. Cold starts would shorten life.
        My brother routinely kills a new 3/4 pickup in 3 years or less. Mileage is usually under 200,000 km or 125,000 miles. His trucks travel dusty logging roads daily or have to deal with -30C to -45C.

        • 0 avatar
          EAF

          Point taken Lou, you’re right, but what would you say is a better metric?

          You can find bias, flaw, deficiency, limitation with any methodology of survey or study.

          I’ve always maintained that asking a large sample size of independent repair shop owners their thoughts on vehicle reliability/durability is often the best measurement.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @EAF -neutral local shops tend to be good source.
            I find that on “the net” mileage gets bantered around and since that person or vehicle could literally be anywhere it is hard to pull much value from mileage alone.
            If a company like the one my brother works for were to release their data on their fleet that would carry much more weight in my eyes than that of any JD Power study (but then that would only apply to pickups.)
            I always try to find as many sources as possible in relation to durability/reliability.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    I’m unnaturally aspirated every night by my CPAP and I’ve never slept better. I’m all for turbos as a mechanical metaphor that’s probably just as reliable.

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    I think the turbo fad these days is less technical progress than automakers taking softest regulatory road towards giving customers what they want, which is some power on demand. Displacement taxes cripple simpler technologies like pushrods which are not competitive with OHC volumetric efficiency but are on power-to-weight (which matters more, frankly).

    Turbos are logical next step – instead of more physical displacement, stuff ever more air in a smaller displacement. Modern Ecoboost 3 is almost a hybrid gas-turbine/reciprocating engine anymore; and I think we will see small gas turbines in series hybrids before long given the millions of hours in experience being racked up building and maintaining all these turbos now in the wild, almost like industry dress-rehearsel before the big operating switch to full Braytons.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      This is probably true. A turbine is really a lot less complicated than a 4 stroke piston engine. It is known for being noisy and hot though, which makes packaging an issue in a car, despite the much smaller engine needed.

  • avatar
    duffman13

    I don’t have much to say on the manual vs auto or the turbo vs NA part of your question – I think that comes down to personal choice. However, I have to disagree with bark on a Mazda 3 as your choice given the kid hauling duties.

    It does everything else you ask exceptionally well, but it has some of the worst rear leg room in class and fairly bad trunk space even in hatch form. You can’t fit a large suitcase in length-wise with the seats up for example. Given the hauling kids/dogs/sports equipment part of what you said, those two factors may become an issue.

    I would also tend to stay away from the focus on the same data point. I know for a while it was fairly closely related to the Mazda 3. I don’t know how closely, but I was never thrilled with the rear seat space in it either.

    Dark horse contender: Jetta 1.8T sport. I know it’s not a hatch, but it has good power, sporty enough handling, available manual that’s actually stocked by dealers, best rear-seat space in class, and a cavernous trunk. Plus leatherette, heated seats, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. VW is giving them away right now too.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      If you’re looking at Jetta, why not a Golf? Rolling the dice on VW is always a little risky, but you should get a great price. Squirrel away some of the cash you save for a rainy day, or a new head gasket. You spend a fair amount of time in the car, get one you enjoy.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        The Jetta is actually a better deal by several thousand dollars in MSRP, and possibly better when you consider feature content and trims with manuals.

        The Golf only comes in a manual in poverty spec, while you can get a manual up to the Jetta sport. The sport gets you carplay, leatherette, and heated seats at $20k, where you don’t get that until a $25k Golf SE, granted it gives you a panoramic sunroof too. Compounding the purchase price difference, the Golf just won car of the year, where the jetta is on a facelifted old platform. This can give you $6k+ difference in purchase price. That’s a significant amount on a $20k car.

        • 0 avatar
          derekson

          The Jetta Sport is a damned good deal. Especially since you can get it with the good BiXenon headlights.

          I’ve seen them listed at ~$18k without the headlight package.

  • avatar
    Snail Kite

    Newer = less reliable, older = more reliable. Cars get more reliable the later they get in the production cycle. There’s nothing magical about design or brand or NA vs turbo. It’s all about experience with production and the product in the real world.

    Toyotas are reliable because Toyota just doesn’t change that much year to year or generation to generation.

    Find something post mid-cycle refresh or that is about to be replaced by a newer model. The current generation Mazda 3 has been out for 3 years now and the auto is quite responsive.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    If you can budge on the hatchback/wagon need, it might be worth checking out a Honda Accord with a 6 speed manual. THAT is a 20 year car if there ever was one.

    They have huge trunks, the seats folds down, and the back seat leg room will be WAY better than any of the compact hatchbacks.

    The only thing I’m unsure about is carbon build up with the direct injection. Other manufacturers have issues with it, but Honda seems to be a little more proficient at engine building than other manufacturers. Perhaps they’ve solved that issue.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Buy a Subaru hatch! wait… WRX with Manual = no hatch. Impreza with hatch and manual = no turbo just [email protected] -> Never mind Subaru then.

    Mazda is slow but feels fun, never much on Longevity compared to Toyonda though…

    Fit’s too slow. Toyota only makes a hatch if it’s a hybrid….

    Yup, Mazda or used. Or maybe: Test drive a nice crossover and risk finding out why they sell so many of them?

    Edit: WRX with hitch mounted cargo box???

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Can you still get a Forester with a turbo?

      That would be a turbo AWD “wagon.”

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      I’m pretty sure someone who’s calibrated to a 2.2 Legacy (with a whopping 137 hp) is going to find everything new adequately quick.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        OK, but if you get to ignore OP’s desire for sporty, I get to ignore his reference to wallet and choose Volvo Polestar V60 T6 FTW.

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          That’s some…strong hyperbole. Sporty is a very vague term, and given that OP didn’t specify how they feel about their Legacy except that it’s been reliable, it’s fairly open to interpretation. Maybe what they really want is a HELLCAT that gets 40mpg, maybe they’re just satisfied with rowing their own in something that’s eager to be thrown into turns even if it couldn’t accelerate through a wet paper bag. You might be right that they want something quicker, but we’re starting with a pretty simple baseline.

  • avatar
    mshenzi

    You can add the Cruze hatchback to your list of possibles in the fall, if your present ride can get through the summer. It’s a wild-card for the long term, though: turbo motor, first year of the new generation design. But they’re advertising good backseat and luggage hauling room. Choice of AT or MT promised. I don’t know anything about the present model’s reliability reputation.

  • avatar
    jetcal1

    You don’t need to be afraid of a turbo as long you realize there is no free lunch. 1. Stay out of it when the oil is cold.
    2. Change oil every 5K miles
    3. Add a oil temp gauge and monitor temp.
    4. Pull a sample every 10-15k and look for oil condition and metal from the bearings.
    5. Let engine idle/turbo spool down and cool for a bit before you shut down.
    I’ve had zero problems with multiple turbo car and aircraft engines by paying particular attention to #1 and #5.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Just to tag along on your post… I had a 1987 Dodge Lancer ES turbo with the 3 speed autobox. In the 11 years and 167+K miles I drove it (a fair amount in Atlanta traffic), I had ZERO problems with the turbo. It did suffer a catastrophic cooling hose failure, which borked the head gasket. Thank God for the 7/70 warranty… I was religious about oil and filter changes and just maintenance in general on that car.

      Think back almost 30 years ago, metallurgy and other materials we use today weren’t mainstream or even available in some cases. I took a turbo car on dino oil through a decade of driving with no internal engine issues.

      If I were buying new, I would have no problem with keeping a turbo motor long term. Been there, done that. Maintenance is the key to a long termer.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    Years ago, I would have said avoid turbo. These days, the turbo and really the entire car, come down to who builds it and how it’s built. I do not think you can make blanket statements anymore that turbos are less reliable.

    I have owned turbos (without issue), but currently own a high performance NA with a 6-speed manual. Mostly because I like the power delivery of this NA engine and I prefer the engagement of a manual. They both have benefits, but you drive a turbo different than an NA car.

    I’ve always felt that how I drove and maintained the car had far more to do with reliability than anything else.

  • avatar
    omer333

    I agree with the idea of Civic Si sedan. The clutch is feather-light and you won’t hate it in stop and go traffic.

  • avatar
    Brett Woods

    While cars can look good on paper, have reps, cred, or popularity – I will say that like a pair of shoes – you’ve got to try them on and sometimes you know instantly.

    It is helpful to do test drives on all the possibilities and then a second test drive on the finalists and then leave time to mull them over and do more research. So many whole interiors and other parts are made by the same (un-investigated companies like Magna etc.) that there may be more difference in different year cars than in different brands during the same year.

    Spend one half-day a week for the rest of the year test driving. Then go in to the dealership in January and order the new model year for delivery in April. I like the Mazda 6 with manual, but times they are a changing and there is some modern stuff out there. Who knows what makes you feel comfortable.

    I do think that it’s time for our consciousnesses to expand and consider the volume of waste gases emitted per second. I have been driving a start/stop motor recently and greatly appreciate the times of silence. It’s got a lot of km and hasn’t gone through starters or anything. Do also give hybrids a chance.

  • avatar

    Given your experience – similar to mine with 196,xxx on my 2006 Legacy Spec. B at trade-in time – I would say that you have two choices:

    1) Forester Turbo – 5-doors, no manual
    2) WRX – 4-doors, manual available.

    I went with the WRX (manual) and look forward to racking up more worry-free, highly enjoyable miles.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    Are we still at the point that we’re considering turbocharging “new tech”? If ABS, traction control and stability control were not mandated, you guys would be debating those, too. Come on.

  • avatar
    AK

    Focus ST’s have a handful of issues (mine is in for the 5th time this year with cold start misfires), but bad turbos isn’t a widespread issue.

    I wouldn’t worry about the turbo. Ford’s overall build quality is much more alarming than a few people early on that had a bad turbo.

  • avatar
    ponyboy69

    VW TDI owner here. No idea what you guys are talking about, turbos are super reliable. Door handles, though, those’ll kill you.

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