Buy/Drive/Burn: Alternative Japanese Compacts From 2008

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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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....

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