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Thread: Please Help Me Choose:

  1. #1
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Please Help Me Choose:

    Monday I test-drove four cars:

    VW GTI
    Mazdaspeed3
    Subaru Impreza WRX Sport Wagon
    Audi A3

    I liked them all in different ways, and could live with any of these cars. I'll post my impressions later, which one would you choose and why? Got any other ideas for circa-$25K cars? I am only considering hatchbacks, hatchback coupes, or wagons.

  2. #2
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Please Help Me Choose:

    Here are my impressions from the road tests:

    (1) I drove the VW first. It is very impressive. The chassis is refined and solid, the steering quick and communicative. This car was fresh out of dealer prep, the engine was tight so there were limits to how far I was comfortable pushing it, but it seemed nice enough. The car corners flat and sticks like glue. The interior is comfortable and the quality of the surfaces and materials is high.

    (B) Next was the Mazda, since the Mazda dealer was right next to the VW shop. This car is a hooligan. It has the most horsepower of this group and it shows. Very well behaved in the corners too, even flatter than the VW. But the interior is dark, dark, dark, depressingly dark and gloomy. I'd need new bifocals to drive and read the gauges at the same time, they seem to be down a deep tunnell, partially obscured by the steering wheel, and the red-on-black writing has poor contrast. I couldn't see to find the controls. Visibility out of the car is poor, I think it's a parking lot fender bender waiting to happen. Its lowered suspension is an issue with curbs and speed bumps too.

    (III) Subaru. Sitting in this car is the polar opposite to the Mazda. The windows are big, the sills are low, it's light and airy and inviting. The surface materials and textures look and feel cheap, and the seats are kind of thin, but they seem supportive enough. Overall, the interior is a very nice place to be. On the road, this car seems to have zero learning curve, it's immediately familiar and easy to drive. I was asked to keep the revs below 4000 since the engine wasn't broken in, so there was a lot of what this car has to offer that I wasn't able to explore. However, the chassis feels soft and the steering is a little numb or over-assisted. It'll still go wherever you point it, and stick to the road with grace, but it doesn't dare you to push it the way the VW does. It's very user friendly though, all the controls are in the right places and don't require a lot of consulting with the owner's manual to figure things out. This is a very likeable car, and it'd be easy to run as a daily driver/grocery getter that will also get down when you wanna.

    (d) The Audi was beautiful. Considering that it's built on the same platform as the VW, it's hard to believe they share anything at all. The interior is as light and inviting as the Subaru, with top quality materials too. The seating position wasn't like the VW, VWs always have that kitchen-chair-high upright posture thing, the Audi was more normal. The only one they had on the lot was an automatic though, and didn't have the handling option package. It's more of a small luxury car than a hot hatch, but it's a great little car.

  3. #3
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Please Help Me Choose:

    Process of elimination:

    First to go was the Mazda. It's the best car of the four on the road, a real boy racer. But it also looks like a boy racer. A RICE-boy racer. It looks like a modified econobox. And the interior, which is where I'd be spending all my time with it, is not a nice place. This car had the highest high marks and the lowest low marks of the group. It's also the best bargain. But I don't really want it.

    Next to go is the Audi. By the time you add the $2K S-Line sport suspension option to get its performance up to the level of the GTI, it's a $28K car. It's nice, it may even be worth that, but that's out of my range. It is the nicest car of this batch, but I can't justify the price when the similar VW is so much less expensive.

    So I'm stuck between the VW and the Subaru. I went into this thing wanting the Subaru, but I'm more impressed by the VW. Both cars have a lot going for them. The Subaru has more power, and it's got the AWD thing going for it for our rainy season and the two snow days/year. The interior is very pleasant and inviting, but cheap. The VW has a much sharper chassis. I'm not sure if it's actually faster through the tight corners than the Subaru, but it feels like it is. The Subaru will go where you tell it, and it sticks, but the VW invites you, DARES you to floor it when you approach a corner.

    Another issue is that the Subaru is a six year old car, due to be replaced by a new model in August or September. So if I buy the WRX, in just a few months it will be obsolescent, and I might be kicking myself saying "why couldn't I have waited" when I start seeing the new ones on the road. On the other hand, the 2008 WRX is f-ing ugly. It looks like a Mazda 3 that melted in the sun. But if it has a tight, responsive chassis that addresses all my concerns about the WRX's "softness", I'll have buyer remorse.

    In contrast, the VW GTI is new for 2007, so it won't be made obsolescent for a few years to come. The VW is also a couple grand cheaper, it seems like a better deal for a higher-end product than the Subaru. But there is the issue of VW reliability. They have had a spotty record for the past decade or so, although it seems to be improving lately. The Subaru, on the other hand, can boast Honda/Toyota levels of reliability.

    I could flip a coin and be happy with either choice. But right now I have the feeling that I'll be second-guessing myself less if I go with the VW.

  4. #4
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Please Help Me Choose:

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    Monday I test-drove four cars:

    VW GTI
    Mazdaspeed3
    Subaru Impreza WRX Sport Wagon
    Audi A3

    I liked them all in different ways, and could live with any of these cars. I'll post my impressions later, which one would you choose and why? Got any other ideas for circa-$25K cars? I am only considering hatchbacks, hatchback coupes, or wagons.
    Many subjectives here, but both the MazdaSpeed3 and WRX are favorites of mine; excellent bang for your buck, too. Something to consider regarding the VW is VW's recent (and not so great) track record for reliabilty - while Subarus are legendary for being toughmuthas that run and run and run... the AWD is a strong point, too - as you've noted.

    It really comes down to which car you, personally, find the most appealing. That's the one to buy, ultimately....

  5. #5
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    Re: Please Help Me Choose:

    I am not familiar with any of these cars except for the Subie and the VW. I prefer the VW, although the Subie has a higher top end. I like the way the VW feels at speed. It is rated higher gas mileage wise, alhtough the Subie has the advantage of being extremely reliable. Its a tough one. I'd go with the VW if you need to get the car now.

  6. #6
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Please Help Me Choose:

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric


    Many subjectives here, but both the MazdaSpeed3 and WRX are favorites of mine; excellent bang for your buck, too. Something to consider regarding the VW is VW's recent (and not so great) track record for reliabilty - while Subarus are legendary for being toughmuthas that run and run and run... the AWD is a strong point, too - as you've noted.

    It really comes down to which car you, personally, find the most appealing. That's the one to buy, ultimately....
    There's also the added bonus that I can get a brother-in-law deal on the VW.

    The Mazda is an amazingly good car, but I just couldn't get past the doom-and-gloom interior. I couldn't read the gauges even in mid-day. The Mazda also has the most cavernous cargo area, it and the Audi. All the time I was in the Mazda I was thinking "this is so fast and so fun, why do I hate it?"

    The potential reliability issues of the VW, and the general softness of the Subaru, are the factors that are making this decision difficult for me. I'm afraid that the Subaru's main thrills will come from its accelleration, it just didn't seem as overtly "fun" as I was expecting. I think I need to spend more time in both cars.

  7. #7
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    Re: Please Help Me Choose:

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    Process of elimination:

    So I'm stuck between the VW and the Subaru. I went into this thing wanting the Subaru, but I'm more impressed by the VW. Both cars have a lot going for them. The Subaru has more power, and it's got the AWD thing going for it for our rainy season and the two snow days/year. The interior is very pleasant and inviting, but cheap. The VW has a much sharper chassis. I'm not sure if it's actually faster through the tight corners than the Subaru, but it feels like it is. The Subaru will go where you tell it, and it sticks, but the VW invites you, DARES you to floor it when you approach a corner.

    Another issue is that the Subaru is a six year old car, due to be replaced by a new model in August or September. So if I buy the WRX, in just a few months it will be obsolescent, and I might be kicking myself saying "why couldn't I have waited" when I start seeing the new ones on the road. On the other hand, the 2008 WRX is f-ing ugly. It looks like a Mazda 3 that melted in the sun. But if it has a tight, responsive chassis that addresses all my concerns about the WRX's "softness", I'll have buyer remorse.

    In contrast, the VW GTI is new for 2007, so it won't be made obsolescent for a few years to come. The VW is also a couple grand cheaper, it seems like a better deal for a higher-end product than the Subaru. But there is the issue of VW reliability. They have had a spotty record for the past decade or so, although it seems to be improving lately. The Subaru, on the other hand, can boast Honda/Toyota levels of reliability.

    I could flip a coin and be happy with either choice. But right now I have the feeling that I'll be second-guessing myself less if I go with the VW.
    I think the VW and the Sub are both excellent cars of their type.

    Exact specs might vary.

    How is the dealer? It's better to buy off someone you like. In general experience here the VW will generally be slower than a 2.5 Sub turbo 4WD but will always be better built... which is to say Sub is cheap in things like door weight and other trim areas for the sake of big power/acceleration.

    The Mazda3 MPS 2.3 turbo has a great engine but it's not for everday happiness. Audi doesn't do good cheap cars.. you pay for good uns. Branding you know.

    It comes down to prejudice.

    I'd buy a Corvette myself.

  8. #8
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    Re: Please Help Me Choose:

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    Monday I test-drove four cars:

    VW GTI
    Mazdaspeed3
    Subaru Impreza WRX Sport Wagon
    Audi A3

    I liked them all in different ways, and could live with any of these cars. I'll post my impressions later, which one would you choose and why? Got any other ideas for circa-$25K cars? I am only considering hatchbacks, hatchback coupes, or wagons.
    I've had a RAV4 for about four months and am very well pleased with the car. It's smaller than on the outside than one might expect with great inside space. Mine is a V6 but the four is said to be excellent and economical - I'm sure you could get the four at your price point. Get the two wheel drive, perfect for your area, and save even more.

    A couple things wrong with the car: the center console displays are not that easy to see in bright light )not that important) and the base radio has very poor sound on AM and FM. It's the radio head mainly because MP3s sound pretty good. These nits are not issues to me -


  9. #9
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Please Help Me Choose:

    " I'm afraid that the Subaru's main thrills will come from its accelleration, it just didn't seem as overtly "fun" as I was expecting. I think I need to spend more time in both cars."

    If the softness of the Subaru is your main issue with this car, consider that you could always upgrade the suspension after you bought it. There is a huge aftermarket dedicated to enhancing this car's performance - acceleration and handling. Check the STi stuff, for example. If you can make the car the way you want it for an extra $2k or so - then that might be the ticket.

  10. #10
    mrblanche
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    Re: Please Help Me Choose:

    I made the suggestion elsewhere, but here it is in short form:

    Consider the base Chevy Cobalt 2-door. Out the door with a stick shift for about $12,000. High marks from Consumer Reports. And more power than you'll ever need.

    There are good reasons why this car is now in the top 20 sellers.

  11. #11
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Please Help Me Choose:

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    I made the suggestion elsewhere, but here it is in short form:

    Consider the base Chevy Cobalt 2-door. Out the door with a stick shift for about $12,000. High marks from Consumer Reports. And more power than you'll ever need.

    There are good reasons why this car is now in the top 20 sellers.
    I agree the Cobalt's a great little car - but I think Dave's looking for something a bit more aggressive (and which is available in sedan/wagon bodystyles, too. The SS Cobalt's a coupe-only deal).

  12. #12
    mrblanche
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    Re: Please Help Me Choose:

    But I wasn't talking about the SS, which is only a coupe.

  13. #13
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Please Help Me Choose:

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric

    I agree the Cobalt's a great little car - but I think Dave's looking for something a bit more aggressive (and which is available in sedan/wagon bodystyles, too. The SS Cobalt's a coupe-only deal).
    I'm looking only at hatchbacks. Whether it's a hatchback sedan, hatchback coupe, or wagon, it's gotta have a liftgate on the back.

    Does the Cobalt coupe have a hatch?

    I'm not going to buy a Cobalt, I want something that's fun to drive.

  14. #14
    mrblanche
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    Re: Please Help Me Choose:

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    I'm looking only at hatchbacks. Whether it's a hatchback sedan, hatchback coupe, or wagon, it's gotta have a liftgate on the back.

    Does the Cobalt coupe have a hatch?

    I'm not going to buy a Cobalt, I want something that's fun to drive.
    Nope, no hatchback. However, the trunk on the coupe opens very wide, and the rear seats lie down.

    I imagine you want to get some audio equipment in it, right?

  15. #15
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Please Help Me Choose:

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    But I wasn't talking about the SS, which is only a coupe.
    Right - but the standard Cobalt sedan's not in the same league as the WRX or MazdaSpeed3... these are both very powerful, high-performance cars...enthusiast's cars, etc. The Cobalt's a normal passenger sedan... not a performance/enthusiast driver's car.

    The Mazda has something like 100 more hp. And the WRX 50-75 more.

  16. #16
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Please Help Me Choose:

    200HP for the VW, 235 or so for the Subaru, 265 for the Mazda.

    It's not necessarily audio gear I carry, although sometimes I do have to schlep a piece to the repair shop. I've just become accustomed to the function of a hatchback for normal shopping and the occasional big household item such as furniture or a TV. I know from experience that you can haul a 32" CRT TV to the repair shop in a CRX, I would prefer not to lose that level of functionality.

    If Acura still made the RSX-S, that car would be a slam dunk for me, perfect fit. Too bad 2006 was the last model year. And the local dealer can't seem to make Certified Pre-Owned ones just appear at will.

    BTW, the Acura dealer here is also the Subaru dealer.

  17. #17
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Please Help Me Choose:

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    I made the suggestion elsewhere, but here it is in short form:

    Consider the base Chevy Cobalt 2-door. Out the door with a stick shift for about $12,000. High marks from Consumer Reports. And more power than you'll ever need.

    There are good reasons why this car is now in the top 20 sellers.
    I'm not sure exactly why an entry-level car is being suggested when I'm looking at enthusiast-type cars.

    In addition to performance and refinement, something else that comes with the cars that cost twice as much as a Cobalt is a range of small luxuries and conveniences such as power windows, seats that are adjustable in every plane, nicer surface materials and textures, Quality.

    A Cobalt is the car that a girl buys when she gets out of business school and gets her first secretary job.

  18. #18
    mrblanche
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    Re: Please Help Me Choose:

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    A Cobalt is the car that a girl buys when she gets out of business school and gets her first secretary job.
    True for the base model, which is the modern equivalent of the pink or yellow Firebirds around 1980. But the supercharged version is a lot closer to the Trans Ams.

  19. #19
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Please Help Me Choose:

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    A Cobalt is the car that a girl buys when she gets out of business school and gets her first secretary job.
    True for the base model, which is the modern equivalent of the pink or yellow Firebirds around 1980. But the supercharged version is a lot closer to the Trans Ams.
    But you suggested the base model.

  20. #20
    mrblanche
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    Re: Please Help Me Choose:

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    But you suggested the base model.
    I did, assuming you were wanting a fun car to drive for the least possible cash.

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