We are 109,000+ car owners sharing real-world car information.

Join Us

Reliable hatchback for a early-30s guy

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta

loganomic

I am currently driving an aging, although still functional, 2004 Nissan Sentra. I'm in the market for a new-ish car and have plans to purchase a pre-owned car between the range of 2013 to 2017 year of make. I have always wanted a hatchback. My life: I have a significant other, zero plans to have children, and have a dog. I usually drive alone or with one other person. I like reliability and versatility in a car to commute to work, run errands, go camping, take road trips, etc. I am tired of playing Tetris with my small sedan. I also have no interest in a large SUV or car. Decent fuel economy would also be a huge plus in this day-and-age. I plan to keep this car for a long time. I definitely have reservations on the reliability of gasoline CVT transmissions, drive manual transmission very poorly, and prefer automatic.

I have looked at several cars over the past month:

-2016 Honda Fit: This was my top and first choice EXCEPT my legs are too long for this to be a comfortable option. The Fit is a no-fit for me. :(
-2017 Honda HR-V: I test-drove this at the Honda dealer's suggestion since it was a "larger version of the Fit". I enjoyed it, but wasn't really looking for a SUV and I have reservations about what seemed to be an underpowered engine (I would be hesitant to add weight to the vehicle in concerns for ovetaxing the engine). I also have large reservations about CVT transmission reliability over the long-term.
-2015 Subaru Impreza: I generally liked this car. Comfortable front seat and good leg room. Drives nicely and feels good to drive. I liked the hatchback. I like the exterior looks; I'm neutral on the interior because it just looks a little grim to me. I'm neutral on the AWD; it's not necessary for me. I'm hesitant about the CVT transmission reliability (plenty of ancedotal stories of transmission failure between 55l and 100k; makes me nervous) and have heard ancedotal evidence that the Impreza isn't terribly reliable.
-2017 Toyota Corolla iM: Terrible visibility, especially from the rear. And trying to change even the radio seems like an accident waiting to happen. This ruled out the Scion xD too since they are pretty much the same car.
-2015 Mazda3 Hatchback: Likes: Gas mileage is great for an automatic. It's a hatchback. My legs fit in comfortable and driving it is fun. Dislikes: I don't really like the look of these hatchbacks in their newer years. The front end is way too long. Too much of a sport's car look for me; I prefer more boxy or wagon-looking hatchbacks. And the interior just feels too claustophobic with poor rear visibility.
-2018 & a 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT: I generally liked both of these years. I like the exterior and interior styling of the 2018 more, but there is a well-taken care of, well-priced, pre-owned 2016 that I test drove today and, aside from a stiff feel to the gas pedal, it was good. I am comfortable in the front seat in both. My only dislike is that the gas mileage isn't as good as the rest of pack, and I definitely carry the stigma that Hyundai/Kia is unreliable.

My favorites out of the above are the Subaru Impreza and Hyundai Elantra GT, but I'm hesitant about even those. Any thoughts, advice, recommendations to consider?

Priorities: Reliability & durability / Front seat room / Fuel economy

Need minimum of 2 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 45000
Maximum age: 5 years

Maximum price: US $ 18000

« Return to results

Sign in or join TrueDelta to post your own thoughts.

Sort responses by likes

Response from Automotim

12:39 am April 21, 2018

I've had a 2013 Mazda 3 I bought used for about 2 years now. I have the 2.0L i touring with a Sunroof, Bose Stereo, and Keyless Start. I have to say I love driving this car, it's extremely nimble and fun to drive to it's limits. It's no 0-60 champ but it handles like a dream and it's been very trouble free, requiring only Tires and Oil changes from 44000-67000 miles. The 2014 and newer have more limited visibility although they look very sharp. I'd suggest looking at the 2013 hatchback with the 2.5L in a higher trim. You'll get a good deal on it, being the last year of the model cycle it will have most the bugs worked out of it and it should meet all your needs at a lower cost.

As much as I like the Mazda, I regularly rent cars on work trips and have rented a Golf on several occasions. The Golf is FUN. The turbo gives it a real zingy feeling and its so tidy to park, comfortable for longer legs, has a nice adjustable armrest, and carries a nice amount of people/cargo in a tidy package. Aggressively slipping through traffic is pretty satisfying in this car, especially in Sport mode. Reliability is generally more questionable so if that's important to you, look into leasing. The 2017 Wolfsburg Edition is very well equiped for the price so maybe you can find a leftover on a dealer lot somewhere with your name on it, if you like risking some extra maitenance bucks for a truly fun time. It's also a remarkably comfortable and quiet vehicle aside from being a pleasure to drive. A GTI would be even better with a lot higher cool factor.

Finally, the Focus. I've never been a Ford fan but I've rented one of these before and with the dual clutch transmission, it's also surprisingly fun to drive. Parts are generally cheaper as well as the entry price, especially given it's at the end of the model cycle. A good option if you're on a budget and want the newest car possible with good discounts.

I've heard that Subaru dealers and VW dealers make a pretty penny off their customers. I too am wary of the CVT transmissions both for longevity the overall dull rubber band like driving experience they offer. Despite recent offerings including CVTs, I still think Toyota offers the most reliable vehicles as they spearheaded the adoption of six sigma statistical process control in the automotive industry. However, I can not see driving one since they are incredibly boring.

I hope these ramblings help!

2

Link to this reponse

Mazda Mazda3
Volkswagen Golf / Rabbit / GTI
Ford Focus

Response from danlisahall

12:25 pm April 21, 2018

Loginomic:
You certainly have done your homework well! Lots of good choices there and as you have discovered, all have an Achielle's Heel or two!Automotim has great suggestions, I'll add my two cents worth:

The Mazda3 or Hyundia Elantra are probably your best bets since you mention that you don't like CVTs (I love 'em), don't need AWD, and reliablitiy is a high priority.

The Hyundia reputation for poor liablility is past history. They have made giant strides the last decade and now are among the most reliable. If you can find a CPO one, you get the 10 yr/100K warranty. I had an early Elantra GT and as did a friend (2002 & 2004). They were good cars. Mine had no issues but I only had it for 40K. My friends had a few issues and at over 100K the tranny started to act up but it remained drivable. As you noted their MPG is a little less than some but you could consider that a trade off for reliablity.

As an owner of 3 Subies, I can say I really like the brand and have not had major issues. My 2004 Forester had almost 100K trouble free miles, even though I towed a 2,000 boat with it at times. Since then Subie reliablity has suffered a bit with a small number having oil use issues. To hedge any Subaru reliabity concerns, a CPO one would get you a 7 yr/100K (I think) warranty. My 2015 Outback has a CVT & Subie recently extended the warranty on mine to 100K - I suspect they may have done the same on their other models -- would be a great question to ask a dealer. Sorry to say that my 015 did need a a cam follower gasket replaced at 27K (under warranty).

I also ow a 2017 Golf Wolfsburg which drives as nice as Automotim makes it sound. You will be very hard put to find a nice driving / riding hatchback. Golf's have a rising reliablity star, but it is too soon to tell how they current model will do in the long run.

1

Link to this reponse

Response from Member4859

2:14 pm April 21, 2018

It's clear that you're doing research and giving your car search serious thought. Despite having a slightly different set of requirements than you have, I looked at most of the same cars you're considering in the winter of 2016. I finally bought a certified pre owned 2014 Subaru Impreza Sport Wagon with a manual transmission. This car had been recalled for oil leakage and that issue had been successfully addressed, all at no expense to me. In the nearly 16 months of owning this Subaru it's been a trouble free, solid and reliable car. It's been used both for commuting and for long distance solo trips between Albuquerque and Seattle. While I agree with you that the interior is basic, I spend most of my time looking out the windows while I'm driving the car, so that's not an issue for me. While it's not as refined or fun to drive as a VW, having the manual transmission gives me a higher level of engagement with the driving process and keeps me better focused on driving.

I grew up driving VW's and recently owned an older VW that nickel and dimed me to death. Because I keep my cars for a very long time, and since I'm not able to perform simple maintenance tasks on my car, I won't buy another VW in the foreseeable future. The Subaru fit my criteria better than the other cars and has been a pleasure to drive and own.

1

Link to this reponse

Response from AcuraT

2:16 pm April 21, 2018

No bad advice above, and your analysis is quite detailed. All I can add is Subaru brags about 98% of all ten year old Outbacks are still on the road. Subarus are still quite reliable, but for about 10% of the cars burn oil and in the 10% other engine problems do develop. Most deal with and fix the issues. I have a 4.5 year old Subaru with nearly 70,000 that started burning oil at 41,000.

Thing is - Subaru knows it is a problem and if consumes less than a quart every 2000 miles you are out of luck. I know as every 5000 miles of driving I add about two quarts. Not enough to fix the engine, but enough that I have to moniitor it constantly. Still, our Legacy never has had any other issues. If you are okay checking the oil every 1000 miles like I have since I bought it new, it will last you a long time.

We test drove the Impreza - my wife hated the CVT so I have to disclose when we bought our Legacy we bought the older 5 speed automatic that came with the H6 engine in 2013. She has liked it much better.

Hyundais are much better than they used to be. They still offer an industry best 10 year powertrain warranty on the first owner of their cars (new in other words). Overall is five years and 60,000 miles. Only brands that come close to this are Buick (7 years, 70,000 on powertrain, 4 years 50,000 on everything) and Cadillac which has the Buick offer. Hyundais work much better than they used to - you can easily get ten years and 100,000 out of them and if you take care of them, 150,000 should be fairly easy as well.

So get what you like better and know you are getting a fairly reliable car with the two choices you listed. Best of luck.

2

Link to this reponse

Subaru Impreza / Outback Sport
Hyundai Elantra GT

Response from danlisahall

11:16 pm April 21, 2018

After recommending the Impreza earlier, I had a couple of otherthoughts regarding the Honda HR-V vs Sub Impreza:These are both good cars.

You expressed concerned that the HR-V would be underpowered iwth a load. You also said that you had just 1-2 passengers most of the time. I think you would find ether one fine as you daily driver. Likewise I think that you would find both struggle a bit with a full load - overall probably very little differnce in that regard.That said, the Honda is available in 2WD and in that form it would probably be a bit friskier than the AWD Subiie Yet both would probably due as well or better than your Sentra in similar circumstances.

Additionally the Honda has significantly more passenger and cargo space. While the Subie has better EPA ratings my experience with muliple cars of both brands is that it is really I've been hard pressed to match the EPA in Sub but have always been able to surpass it in my Hondas. Last but not least the Honda is likely costI less to maintain. Subies require oil changes every 6,000 miles or every 6 months. Honda monitor engine use and usually go 8-10K between oil changes. Honda overall reliablity iis also likely to be better.

The plus for the Imprezas is that theiir passengers get a smoother quieter ride.

Again both good cars but I loved the flexibiilty of my 2011 Fit and think you would find it a better all around car especially when you need to load your car up.

1

Link to this reponse

Response from Member4859

1:08 am April 23, 2018

Re Subaru oil changes: the recommended mileage for oil changes is every 10K when using synthetic oil-the car came with it and I continue to use that. Also, when we moved from NM to WA State, the car had enough power to accelerate and cruise at highway speed fully loaded down. Having the stick shift definitely helped the car move when it needed to.

1

Link to this reponse

Response from LectroFuel

1:17 am April 23, 2018

Automotim had good suggestions of the Mazda3 and Golf. The Golf and Focus are unreliable, though. The Focus' dual clutch transmission has many problems and replacements, and you said you don't like manuals, so I guess the Focus is out of the question. The Golf will be more expensive to fix and will break more often than a Corolla, Mazda3, Civic, and most other cars. However, if the driving experience is worth some maintenance costs it is a great car. Most CVTs are actually pretty reliable. Nissan is the major exception as their CVTs have been unrefined and unreliable for the past decade. Subaru I've heard has had some problems with the CVT, too, but not major. Unfortunately, almost all of Honda's 4 cylinder cars are CVT. Car brands that place driving enjoyment as a priority such as Mazda and VW don't offer CVTs. Toyota and Honda have reliable CVTs. Hyundais and Kias are very reliable, sometimes even better than Honda and Mazda. They improved all of their cars at around 2011. They stand behind their products as their powertrain warranty has not been beaten, only matched.

My first suggestion is the Mazda3 because it is reliable and fun to drive. My son has a 2015 Sedan and loves it, though he wishes he bought the hatchback because you get twice the cargo space and it looks nice. Super efficient as it gets 40 MPG on the highway. We love the exterior and interior styling. It is a tight car in terms of interior space, suspension, and steering ratio. It is a very pure driving experience. The road noise is pronounced and the ride is occasionally too much like sitting on a park bench. It isn't for everyone, but for the enthusiast it is perfect. Like you said, the hood is super long, but many people including me think it is the best looking compact car on the road.

My next suggestion is the Prius. It has one of the most reliable transmissions on the road even though it is a CVT. This CVT uses a single planetary differential gear set to combine power from two electric motors and the engine. It has about 20 moving parts instead of the 100 parts the other CVTs have so it is much more reliable. It still is rubber bandy but it is refined and smooth. I have two Prii: a 2005 (with 254k miles, no problems ever except A/C and recalls/maintenance) and 2016 (47k miles). As long as you maintain the car you'll get at least 200k miles out of the car. I suggest getting a 2012 Prius Five. You'll get all the safety features such as adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking. It gets over 50 MPG, 70 MPG in heavy traffic. The interior is very roomy, more so than most of the cars you mentioned. Lots of cargo space. The acceleration isn't much slower than the other cars mentioned. The Prius is one of the most reliable cars on the road with low running costs. The only downside compared to the Mazda is that it is not as enjoyable to drive as the Mazda.

Last but not least the Honda HR-V. There are some negatives to choosing this one, such as the underpowered engine and weird styling. It holds a lot of stuff in the trunk and cabin as it has the same packaging magic as the Fit. The CVT and engine have proved to be very reliable. I consider it a hatchback. I would buy the Fit over the HR-V, but the Fit didn't have legroom for you. Comparing the HR-V to the Impreza and considering your priorities, they are both good choices, but the HR-V will probably outlast the Impreza. One of my coworkers bought a 2018 Impreza Hatch and he likes it so far. The Impreza would be the more comfortable option and would be the one I would personally buy if I had a choice between the two.

If you go used I suggest getting a CPO one with a big warranty. Our Mazda3 has a 7 year/100k mile powertrain warranty as do CPO Subarus. Hyundai and Kia have a 10 year/100k mile powertrain warranty. Pretty much all mainstream brands offer a 7 year/100k mile CPO powertrain warranty with the exception of VW which is the brand that needs it the most. GM has 6 year/100k (I think it covers the entire car). Fiat's is 6 year/80k (haha!). Some of these brands have a separate bumper to bumper warranty that is much shorter.

2

Link to this reponse

Mazda Mazda3
Toyota Prius
Honda HR-V

Response from AcuraT

10:01 am April 23, 2018

While Subaru and Subaru dealerships recommend 7500 or 10,000 miles it comes with a caveat - they don't recommend that unless you only use the car for highway use. Since nearly no one does that, most dealerships and mechanics recommend 5000 miles between oil changes to prevent the engine burning I described. You can do the higher amounts without voiding the warranty but if the engine burns oil under "normal" usage, then you are out of luck - you won't get it fixed. Just an FYI.

1

Link to this reponse

Response from danlisahall

9:58 pm April 23, 2018

To clarify oil change intervals on Subaru 2.5i engine:
Pre 2015 the official recommendation was 7,500 max
2015 & later it is 6,000 or 6 whichever comes 1st w Synthetic Oil

I firmly believe that that the 2.5i can go 7,000-10,000 K with synthetic and that is what I have used on two of my Subies after they exceeded the warranty period. Had one oil analysist to back it up on my 2004 Forester, you will find more on Bobstheoilguy.com.

But if you want to keep you engine warranty in effect you best stick with the 6/6 interval on any 2015 or later.

0

Link to this reponse

Response from LectroFuel

2:07 am April 24, 2018

If you do a lot of city driving or are parked with the engine running for prolonged periods of time it should be shorter than the recommended interval.

1

Link to this reponse

Sign in or join TrueDelta to post your own thoughts.

Return to top