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Fuel-Efficient Versatile Commuter

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta

lazydrumhead

Want to be able to drive friends places (want a 4-door!) but also carry music gear (thus the desire for a hatch). Will also be my daily commuter - my commute is 40 minutes and I'm nearly 6'3". I would rather not drive an automatic - love driving smaller-feeling cars with stick shifts. My current car is a 2000 Honda Civic with 250k miles on it, love how it handles in tight spots. I have looked into the Mazda2, Mazda3, Yaris, and Honda Fit.

  • Honda Fit looks like a no-go since I have a longish commute and apparently the drivers seats are terribly uncomfortable for tall folk?
  • Yaris seems to be a great car - would like to know how spacious they really are including trunk/back seat etc.
  • Mazda2 seems to be a good fit as well, though I'm not sure it would be as reliable as the Yaris.
  • Mazda3 would definitely be the most roomy I think especially the trunk, and I would enjoy the better HP -- but how does the drive feel compared to a smaller car?

    OK, enough being goldilocks for now!

Priorities: Reliability & durability / Price or payments / Fuel economy / Front seat support & comfort / Driving position & visibility

Preferred Bodystyle(s): Hatch / Wagon

Car Needs: Errands about town / Daily commuter / Long trips / Fun toy

Primary Driver(s): Tall driver

Need minimum of 5 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 125000
Maximum age: 10 years

Maximum price: US $ 9000

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Response from mwcten

11:22 pm August 19, 2015

I'm 6'-2" and find the Fit to be fine. Sure a few folks complain about seats, but most people don't have a problem with them. It would be a good idea to check them out, though. The hatch Yarises you might have a hard time fitting into; the sedan gives you more leg room. Either way, the Yarises give better mpg than the Fit (they have taller gear ratios) but have less interior volume. The M2 is small with not the best mpg, but for a good deal, maybe it would be worth it. The M3 is a little larger; more powerful; a little worse milage; not really more space than the Fit. And the Mazdas will probably rust sooner if that's a concern where you are.

The Yarises give you ESC in 2010; whereas only 2012 for the Fit if you're at all concerned for safety.

None of the cars you're looking at are bad choices. Test any of these models you can find a good deal on and see what happens. The Yaris would minimize your cost of ownership, probably followed by the Fit/Mazda2 then the Mazda3.

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Response from jasonmreece

5:38 pm August 23, 2015

For the sake of full disclosure, I will tell you that I own a 2006 Mazda3 s 5-door (manual) that I purchased new in 12/2005. I am very fond of Mazda vehicles (also had a 2012 CX-9 GT that I sold to my parents when I leased a new Volvo S60 earlier this year). But the Mazda3 is a great car. Fuel economy is the only (minor) complaint i have after almost 10 years of owning the car. I average 23-25mpg overall with the 2.3L and 5-speed manual.

Mazda only offered the 5-door with the larger 2.3L engine thru 2009 and 2.5L in 2010-2011. They finally introducated a 2.0L version of the 5-door in 2012, but those are going to be out of your price range.

But I have three alternatives that fit your criteria and they are all cars I would purchase for myself.

1- 2010-2012 Suzuki SX4 Sportback 6MT- the Sportback has an aero body kit, 17" alloys, sport suspension, fog lamps, stability control and a 6-speed manual standard. The look good and are very nice to drive with a peppy 150hp 2.0L and 6-speed manual. They're also very well built and reliable. I found two identical silver 2011 models on Cars.com wiith clean Carfax reports which include maintenance records. One has 77k miles (in CT) and is priced at $8995. The other has 52k miles and is $9500 in IL.

2- 2009-2011 Nissan Versa S 5-door- I have always found the 1st-gen Versa 5-door to be an attractive, well-packaged and nice driving small car. It feels like a much larger car from the inside and has some nice features not expected in this class. A quick search on Cars.com turned up more than a dozen 2009-2010 models with 40-70k miles and CPO warranty for well under $9k!

3- 2009-2010 Toyota Matrix- The base and S models feel underpowered with a 132hp 1.8L, even with the 5-speed manual. The XRS with a 158hp 2.4L is a much different story and has plenty of power. But finding an XRS manual isn't an easy task, especially for $9k or less.

BTW, I am 6'2" (34" inch inseam, so I am rather 'long-legged') and I weigh about 255lbs....I'm a pretty big guy. I have driven all three of the cars above and haven't had any height/size-related problems. I seem to remember that the SX4 has a manual seat high adjustment, like my Mazda3, which I keep set as low as it wil go. I have plenty of head room, especially in the SX4.
Good Luck!

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Suzuki SX4
Toyota Matrix
Nissan Versa

Response from lazydrumhead

9:47 am August 24, 2015

Wow. Awesome responses! Going to test drive a Mazda2 and perhaps a Versa this week. One question on the Versa - there's a great deal in my area ($6,000) for a Versa SL but it's a 2008. Is this year any good? I noticed you mentioned the 2009-2011.

Thank you!!

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Response from mkaresh

10:07 am August 24, 2015

He might have excluded the 2008 because it was the second year of the car, and those were still somewhat glitchy. Looking at our reliability stats, reliability is about equally middling for the 2007, 2008, and 2009. Of greatest concern: we have had some reports of issues with the CVT transmission in Nissans from these years. Most are reliable, they're just a bit of a gamble.

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Response from lazydrumhead

1:54 pm September 11, 2015

Thanks guys - I found a GREAT deal on an '09 Pontiac Vibe (basically a Matrix, right?). Not crazy fast or with crazy good mileage, but fit all my needs. I spent $6,900 + tax on a Vibe with just 60,000 miles on it.

Thanks for your help!

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Response from mkaresh

5:40 pm September 11, 2015

Yes, basically a more attractive Matrix. Should be reliable, and plenty of passenger and cargo space.

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