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Fun to drive + Fuel Efficient + Decent noise isolation Car for 20K-30K

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta

Member6260

Actively considering Mazda3 iGrand Touring 2.0L - Like its minimalist interiors, drivability. Worried about ride smoothness, road noise and reliability.

Other cars I intend test driving include 2015 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T/2.0L SEL Automatic, 2015 Nissan Altima SL and Toyota Corolla LE Eco Premium to be sure where Mazda falls.

Is my choice correct?Should I be testing or considering any other cars? Will be the first car I own.

Priorities: Powertrain performance / Fuel economy / Quietness / Safety & braking / Ride smoothness

Preferred Bodystyle(s): Sedan

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

Primary Driver(s): New driver / Senior driver / Short driver

Need minimum of 5 seats

Will consider new cars only

Maximum price: US $ 28000

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Response from Member6256

11:40 am December 24, 2014

I'm not sure how useful this will be to you as I drive a 2005 Mazda3 GT (in Canada this is the top trim/engine). I've driven a few later model Mazda3s but only for a few hours.

Pros: In terms of drivability and feel it's fantastic for the class as you mentioned - one of those "fun to drive even slow" cars. Performance-wise it's more quick than fast but I have no trouble passing other cars on the highway, provided my car isn't too heavily loaded (ie. 5 people, full trunk). Reliability has generally been decent. I'm coming up on 130k km (~80k miles I believe) and I've had no major repairs or recalls that I'm aware of.

Cons: Not the smoothest ride, particularly if you have to take it out on the highway. My suspension feels like it's tuned a little more for handling than comfort and the short wheelbase doesn't make for the smoothest drive when traveling at highway speeds (although the latter point has applied to every compact I've ever driven). If you're concerned about road noise, this will be something you really want to watch for if you take it out for a test drive. My Mazda3 has atrocious sound insulation. It doesn't bother me and the newer ones are a lot better but if you're expecting S-class sound insulation you'll be disappointed.

In terms of how it fits with your other suggestions, I would guess the Altima and the Jetta would have smoother and quieter rides due to their larger physical dimensions. I believe both of those cars are midsizes though. Why haven't you considered the Sentra or the Golf? They're better comparisons to the Mazda3 as the Mazda6 is the brand's midsize offering.

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Nissan Sentra
Volkswagen Golf / Rabbit / GTI

Response from mkaresh

11:41 am December 30, 2014

The equivalent Nissan is the Sentra, not the Altima. The Sentra is quieter and smoother than the Mazda3, but isn't nearly as fun to drive. If I had a fourth slot, the Sentra would be in it.

The Jetta and Corolla probably aren't any quieter inside than the Mazda.

Aside from the Sentra, the smoothest and quietest compacts are probably the domestics: Chevrolet Cruze, Dodge Dart, Ford Focus. The last I checked, it was possible to get a very good deal on these. With the Dart, we only have reliability info on the 2013, and it has been poor.

From Korea, the Kia Forte could also be a contender. It's the comparison car in my Sentra review.

The best, quietest ride in the segment is probably the Buick Verano's. The compact Buick also happens to handle pretty well. So, if you want a benchmark, it's the one to check out. Key weaknesses, aside from a higher price, include rear seat room and fuel economy. The related Chevrolet Cruze trades some polish and performance for better fuel economy and a lower price, and so might also be worth a look.

All of this said, I personally like the Mazda3 a lot, though I'd want the 2.5-liter for performance and because the car looks much better with the s's larger wheels.

With any contenders, try to test drive them extensively on roads you frequently travel.

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Buick Verano
Ford Focus
Kia Forte

Response from inetcnslt

1:28 pm January 2, 2015

My daughter has a 2009 Mazda 3 and it has been very reliable. The only issue is that it goes through tires quickly. She bought it new and the original tires didn't last 20,000 miles. In doing some checking online, this seems to be a common problem and is the trade-off for having a fun-to-drive car. I had a Honda Civic Si and it was a good car except in the cold. It handled the snow well, but if I had to stop for traffic or a light the heater stopped putting outhot air. I took it to the dealer twice but they couldn't fix the problem.

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Honda Civic
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