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Manual hatchback w/ premium audio and manual transmission (and power driver's seat a BIG plus)

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta

jasonmreece
Advice Giver

I'm posting this for a friend because I want to make sure I've covered all the potential options for him. He wants to lease a 5-door/Hatchback with a manual transmission, upgraded audio system and (because he's 5'6") he prefers a power driver's seat.

The two cars currently on his radar are the Mazda3 i Touring (w/ Pref Equip Pkg which adds Bose stereo) and Ford Focus (but to get the SE with the high-end Sony stereo, it requires the SE Luxury Package w/ leather and ugly gloss black wheels; it also has a 5-speed, not 6-speed, manual). So the Mazda is the best fit at the moment.

I tried to get him to consider the Ford Fiesta ST (Sony audio, power driver's seat are standard along with 197hp 1.6L EcoBoost engine and 6-speed manual). But he thinks it's too small, so it's out. The Focus ST is probably out of his price range.

I also thought about the Kia Forte5 SX, but is it available with a premium audio system?

I was surprised that the VW Golf and Golf SportWagen are only available with manual transmission in the base 'S' trim level- which exlcudes audio upgrades and power driver's seat. The GTI SE is too pricey and it's the only one that would fit his specs.

Am I missing anything that you guys can think of???

Priorities: Powertrain performance / Audio & nav systems / Handling

Preferred Bodystyle(s): Hatch / Wagon

Car Needs: Daily commuter / Errands about town

Primary Driver(s): Short driver

Need minimum of 4 seats

Will consider new cars only

Maximum price: US $ 25000

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Response from slongenecker

11:23 pm August 23, 2016

I don't think you can get premium audio in the Forte5 or the Elantra GT (one you didn't mention).

With the Focus ST, discounts could bring one down into his price range. Ford has had to heavily discount the regular Focus, and possibly the ST as well.

With the Mazda3, I'd suggest that he at least drive the s before buying the i. Better power, wheels/tires, and instrumentation.

I'm not aware of any big discounts on the GTI, but I'd verify that one is out of his price range before writing it off.

For 2017 Honda will offer a Civic hatchback with a manual, but probably not in a trim level that includes both a power driver seat and a premium audio system. But standard features for the Sport trim have not been released, so it could happen. The future Civic Si could also be a possibility, but it hasn't even been revealed yet.

A final outside possibility: Scion iM. No power driver seat, just a manual height adjustment (standard on pretty much anything these days), but a decent easily customizable audio system. And if dealers are stuck with them, possibly a good deal.

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Response from jasonmreece

2:35 pm August 24, 2016

The Scion iM is actually a good idea, at least worth mentioning to him. Even though the iA (known as the Mazda2 in the rest of the world) is a better car, but it's not a hatch/wagon.

He is open to the idea of a Mazda3 's' instead of the 'i'. Along with a 2012 CX-9 GT and 2015 Volvo V6 T6 R-Design, I also have a 2006 Mazda3 s 5-door that will be 11 years old in December. The main reason I wanted the 's' was the engine and larger wheels/tires (17" std. on the 5-door).

I think the 16" wheels on the new Mazda3 are undersized for the wheel wells. They don't look quite right. The 18" on the 's' fit the car perfectly. I wish they'd offer 17" on the 'i' but they haven't.

The only problem with getting the 's' is that his only choice would be the Mazda3 s Grand Touring 5-door, which gets a little pricey. The 's' Touring isn't available with the 6-speed manual, only the Grand Touring. The other problem is availability. There are only 8 Mazda3 i Touring 5-doors (with the Preferred Equipment Pkg that adds the Bose audio) within 250 miles of Atlanta. There is just one Mazda3 s Grand Touring 5-door with 6-speed manual in that same area. Those manual s GT models tend to sell very quickly.

I was hoping that the Forte5 SX had some sort of audio upgrade because I actually like the car. Every review I've read has been positive. Just looking at the specs, the SX has the same 6-speaker (4-speakers + 2-tweeters) used in the cheaper EX model. That's odd considering that the optional 'Premium Package' includes HID headlights, Ventilated (cooled) seats, Blind Spot Monitor and Navigation.....but no audio upgrade??? They offer a 10-speaker Harman Kardon upgrade on the Optima EX/SX/SXL and an 8-speaker Infinity with subwoofer and external amp on the Soul, so it's strange that they don't on the Forte5....

He actually test drove the Civic before he even started considering the Mazda3 or Focus. He drove the Civic LX Coupe with 6-speed manual and liked it. But he was very disappointed when he learned that no higher trim levels were available with the manual transmission. The LX has a 4-speaker 160-watt audio system that could never satisfy an audiophile. He was willing to give up the hatchback for the coupe and the manual height-adjustment and tilt/telescope steering wheel helped him find a comfortable position without the power seat.

I thought the Accord Sport might be a viable alternative, especially since they look so sharp and the slickest 6-speed manual I've ever used. The Accord (or Civic) would be ideal because their high resale value translates into low lease payments. But the Accord Sport uses the same weak 4-speaker 160-watt setup as the Civic.

I find it a bit sad that Honda, the company that once made manual transmissions available in virtually every trim level of every model, is now regulating the MT to base models. In the past, I've had a '94 Acura Legend (5-speed manual), 1997 Accord EX 4-door 5-speed manual and several other top-end Honda/Acuras, all with manuals. I was 38 before I bought my first automatic, my CX-9.

Thanks for your input! I really do appreciate it!

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Response from slongenecker

2:52 pm August 24, 2016

Dear Honda of America,

This long-time Honda owner will NEVER EVER purchase a new Honda with a CVT or Automatic transmission. Are you listening? If/when the day arrives that you no longer sell manual transmissions in a model I want, then I will stop purchasing new Honda automobiles.

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Response from NormT

1:04 pm July 19, 2017

Under $25,000 limit is the mature Sonic Hatchback as low as $11,000, or step to a Cruze Hatchback offered on 2017 for $14,000-15,000. Both can be had with manual tranmsiasion at no extra charge.

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