Buy/Drive/Burn: Alternative Japanese Compacts From 2008

buy drive burn alternative japanese compacts from 2008

In our last edition of Buy/Drive/Burn, we considered the Mazda Protegé, Mitsubishi Mirage, and Subaru Impreza sedans from 1998. Most of you preferred the Protegé as your Buy of the three. Today we fast forward to the same offerings in 2008, and see if things shake out differently.

Note: We’ve chosen mid-range trims for the Mazda and Mitsubishi as the base Impreza is notably more expensive than the other two in basic form.

Mazda 3

Mazda ditched the Protegé name after 2003, probably in an attempt to escape its well-known rust issues across the nation. For 2008 the 3 is in the final year of its first-generation, as a new model promises to continue the 3’s sales success in 2009. On offer in sedan or hatchback body styles, the 3 is available in eight different trims and shares its platform with the Ford Focus and Volvo S40. Today’s trim is the middle-range i Touring Value (weird name) sedan, which uses the smaller of the four-cylinder engines available. With 2.0 liters of displacement, the 3 produces 148 horsepower sent through the front wheels via the five-speed manual. Its ask is $16,595.

Mitsubishi Lancer

Mitsubishi also abandoned its smallest brand, Mirage, in the North American market after 2001. Its replacement in 2002 was the very slightly larger Lancer. Lancer is in its ninth global generation this year and is all-new for 2008. Based on the Chrysler-Mitsubishi GS platform, the new Lancer is available initially only as a sedan. Trims are three in number: DE, ES, or GTS. The ES is today’s choice at $16,090, and offers a 2.0-liter inline-four good for 152 horses. The power is allocated to the front wheels via the five-speed manual transmission.

Subaru Impreza

Impreza is also new for 2008, as Subaru debuts its third-generation model around the globe. Like the Mazda, Impreza is available in sedan and hatchback formats; the Impreza wagon becomes a thing of the past. Four trims on Impreza range from the very basic 2.5i through the expensive and racy WRX STi. The base 2.5i trim asks $16,995 as it comes standard with Subaru’s all-wheel-drive system. The boxer-four engine produces 170 horsepower, sent through all four corners via the five-speed manual.

Which of these three compact sedans is worth a Buy with your Great Recession 2008 dollars?

[Images: Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru]

Join the conversation
4 of 53 comments
  • Eng_alvarado90 Eng_alvarado90 on Nov 04, 2021

    This is a tough one because overall I think these three were very closely matched. Buy: Lancer. It looks the best, has the most features and it's surprisingly reliable for what it is (arguably the least reliable Japanese brand). Drive: Subaru. It must be fun on an unpaved road + it's got some power. But I don't want anything to do with the EJ25 engine in the long term. Burn: Mazda. The only reason this is a burn and not the Subaru is because this 3 was behind the other two in safety equipment. Side/Curtain airbags and ABS were an option while it was standard equipment on the other two. Had this been the 2.5 the outcome would've been entirely different

  • CoastieLenn CoastieLenn on Nov 04, 2021

    Hey Corey, another idea for a B/D/B: "Near Premium Midsize Cars from [insert year]". Volvo S60 (2.5T had 208hp) Audi A4 (3.0/3.2 200+hp version) Acura TSX (TSX had 200hp) All were relatively close in price, too. You could also throw in the Subaru Legacy GT as a wild card....

  • Snickel Fritz I just bought a '97 JX 4WD 4AT, and though it's not quite roadworthy yet I am already in awe of it's simplicity and apparent ruggedness. What I am equally in awe of, is the scarcity of not only parts but correct information regarding anything on this platform. I'm going to do my best to get this little donkey back on it's feet, but I wouldn't suggest this as a project vehicle for anyone who doesn't already have several... and a big impressive shop with a full suite of fabrication/machining/welding equipment, and friends with complimentary skillsets, and extra money, and... you get the idea. If you don't, I urge you to read up on the options for replacing anything on these rigs. I didn't read enough before buying, and I have zero of the above suggested prerequisites... so I'm an idiot, don't listen to me. Go buy all of 'em!
  • Bryan Raab Davis I actually did use the P of D trope, but it was only gentle chiding, for I love old British cars of every sort.
  • ScarecrowRepair The 1907 Panic had several causes of increased demand for money:[list][*]The semi-annual shift of money between farms and cities (to buy for planting and selling harvests)[/*][*]Britain and Germany borrowing for their naval arms race[/*][*]San Francisco reconstruction borrowing after the 1906 earthquake and fire[/*][/list]Two things made it worse:[list][*]Idiotic bans on branch banking, which prevented urban, rural, and other state branches from shifting funds to match demands. This same problem made the Great Depression far worse. Canada, which allowed branch banking, had no bank failures; the US had 9000 failures.[/*][*]Idiotic reserve requirements left over from the Civil War which prevented banks from loaning money; they eventually started honoring IOUs illegally and started the recovery.[/*][/list]Been a while since I read up on it, so I may have some of the details wrong. But it was an amazing clusterfart which could have been avoided or at least tamed sooner if states and the feds hadn't been so ham handed.
  • FreedMike Maybe this explains all the “Idiots wrecking exotic cars” YouTube videos.
  • FreedMike Good article! And I salute the author for not using the classic “Lucas - prince of darkness” trope, well earned as it may be. We all know the rap on BL cars, but on the flip side, they’re apparently pretty easy to work on (at least that’s the impression I’ve picked up). On the other hand, check the panel fits on the driver’s and passenger’s doors. Clearly, BL wasn’t much concerned with things like structural integrity when it chopped the roof off a car designed as a coupe.