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Commuter with good handling and decent rear seats for adults

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta


I'm looking for a car for my daily commute (30 minutes of back roads), but which can handle vacations too: highway travel with 3-4 adults and their gear. My current Fiat 500 doesn''t cut it for the latter use and is a bit too rough over nasty pavement.

I''m 6'' and I''d prefer to be able to fit in the rear seats. Strong preference for available manual transmission, but if the right contender only comes in AT that''s probably okay...provided the transmission is responsive.

I''m very picky about responsive handling and throttle, so if you''ve had good experience there let me know.

Past test drives:
2014 Mazda3 5-door 2.0L: good interior space, good handling. Ride a little rough.Good cargo space. A little pricey.
2014 Mazda6: good interior space, good handling, rear headroom a little low, car is very long. Plenty of cargo space. Pricey.
2014 Hyundai Veloster Turbo: too small inside, especially back. Bad rear visibility, small cargo space. Good steering response and power.
2014 Subaru Impreza: great interior and cargo space, boring, meh handling, wobbly shifter. Felt ''big''.
2015 Subaru WRX: great handling and power (obviously), too rough a ride. Good interior space, average cargo space. Pricey.
2014 Hyundai Elantra GT: unexciting driving experience. Okay rear seats. Sluggish automatic transmission.
2011 Volvo C30: good handling, good power, good seats; heavy steering. Cramped rear seats. Small cargo space.


Priorities: Handling / Front seat support & comfort / Price or payments / Rear seat room & comfort / Fuel economy

Preferred Bodystyle(s): Wagon / Hatch / Sedan / Coupe

Car Needs: Fun toy / Family transporter / Daily commuter

Primary Driver(s): Tall driver

Need minimum of 4 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 60000
Maximum age: 7 years

Maximum price: US $ 25000

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Response from acetech09

2:14 pm June 11, 2014

Responsive handling and ride quality are generally mutually exclusive, but it's not a concrete rule. I rented a 2014 Mazda3 5-Door 2.5L a few weeks ago, I found the ride to be very good for its handling capability. I think the new ones are a bit pricey but they're a pretty good car.The Mazda6 is just a bigger and more expensive Mazda3.

Although I'm a subaru nut and can tell you exactly how to phenominally increase handling and shift response for only a few hundred dollars in modifications and labor, or how to smoothen a WRX ride a bit, they're overall meh commuter cars unless you need the AWD, in which case they're some of the best.

Ever driven a Ford? The recent fords are pretty stunning in terms of handling and economy. I believe that their dual-clutch auto-manual comes standard, and it's pretty impressive. Not DSG-level but close. The chassis are extremely well-sorted, and the ride is not bad. I doubt it's much smoother than the Mazdas.

I'd also recommend trying a Golf, or a Jetta if the Golf's too small. You'll find great quality, handling, and transmissions there. It'll be a bit pricer, and not sure about the rides, as I haven't driven one recently.


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Ford Focus
Mazda Mazda3
Volkswagen Golf / Rabbit / GTI

Response from mkaresh

11:18 am June 15, 2014

It sounds like any midsize sedan will feel too large to you (and I feel much the same).

The Mazda3 s once it becomes available with a manual seems the top contender. The s does ride even more firmly than the i, though. The sedan might have more cargo space assuming people are in the rear seat.

I agree with acetech09 that the Focus and VWs are worth a look. The 2015 Golf is supposed to be much better than earlier ones. If you want more cargo space, a wagon version arrives early next year (if you can wait that long). And if you think the Mazdas are pricey...

Some outside possibilities include the Hyundai Elantra GT and Kia Forte SX. They don't handle quite as well as the cars above, though.

With any of the compact hatches I wonder if they have enough cargo capacity for four adults.


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Mazda Mazda3
Hyundai Elantra GT
Kia Forte

Response from acetech09

11:25 pm June 15, 2014

Mazda3 Definitely does. The rear legroom did surprise me. Not sure about the latter two - I haven't been in either.


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Response from Member6089

7:53 pm June 20, 2014

Thanks for the replies above--Ford's up next for test drives, also GTI / Golf. Have had bad experience with VW in the past, but I hear they've turned around since the early 00s.


- 2011 Volvo C30: good handling, good power, good seats; heavy steering. Cramped rear seats. Small cargo space. Cheaper (used).
- 2014 Hyundai Elantra GT: unexciting driving experience. Okay rear seats. Sluggish automatic transmission.


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Volvo C30
Hyundai Elantra GT

Response from Member6089

9:14 am June 26, 2014

Alright, more updates.

- 2014 Golf and I went out for a test drive. Sadly no manual transmission this year. May have to wait until the 2015s come out. Good seats in front, good headroom in back. Unexciting but competent handling, unexciting but competent power. Suspension is more compliant (like our old Golf) but not wallowy. Sadly, it's $3-5k more than competitors. So maybe a used one?
- Still waiting to find a local Focus ST. They seem to fly off dealer shelves instantly.


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Volkswagen Golf / Rabbit / GTI
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