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Small/medium size family hauler - fun, inexpensive, good to look at it

The Right Car for Me:

This member has purchased a 2015 Mazda CX-5.

agog

Our requirements are:
- good space for a small family with at least 5 seats
- 1/2 child seat capacity
- rearview camera is a must, love to have all around view
- like sporty looking cars specially in red color :)
- climate control
- love to have moon/sun roof and leather seats
- like hatchbacks/crossover/SUVs over sedans

So far I have following cars in my probables:
1- mazda cx-5, ford escape
2- mazda 3 hatchback and ford focus hatchback
3- civic, elantra

I have driven focus and elantra but have not test driven any of these cars. Other interesting cars were: Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Nissan Rogue, VW Tiguan, Toyota Prius V, and VW Jetta Sportwagen.
Focus was a rented car from 2013 -- rattled a bit but handling was good.
Elantra is more comfy in city rides as compared to Focus but steering and brakes are not comparable with focus. Steering is very light with no feedback in comfort mode and sport mode is artificially super heavy. Focus brakes were definitely better in terms of feedback and overall effectiveness.

Priorities: Safety & braking / Rear seat room & comfort / Exterior styling / Reliability & durability / Cargo capacity

Preferred Bodystyle(s): Hatch / Wagon / SUV

Car Needs: Daily commuter / Family transporter

Primary Driver(s): New driver / Short driver

Need minimum of 5 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 50000
Maximum age: 5 years

Maximum price: US $ 30000

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Response from wcpowell12

10:30 am October 13, 2014

Take a long, hard look at the Subaru Outback. Properly equipped, you can find one with your wish list, including the rearview camera. Some may not think it looks sporty, but I do. Maintenance will be inexpensive, and it will be a long lasting vehicle. Every time you think about trading it you will talk yourself out of it. Fuel mileage will not be stellar (not bad, but there are others out there that fare better) due to the all wheel drive, but the level of confidence when driving in bad weather conditions is worth the trade off. My wife drove my son to an ice hockey tournament in the NC mountains during a rare snow storm in her Outback. 4 wheel drive Ford Explorers were pulling off the mountains roads to turn around and she blew up the roads at 45 mph. And she is a wimp driver.

Second place would be the VW Jetta Sportwagen. Get the TDi if you want 45-50 mpg. The new style diesels that have been around for a while are getting better since they have lowered the fuel pressure. It putts along nice and quietly, but if you need to get out into traffic simply press the accelerator and the turbo boost gets you there in short order. Maintenance will be a bit higher since it is German designed, but take care of it and it will last a long time. The diesel engine will outlast you.

While I loved my VW Touareg, I find the Tiguan to be a bit too small.

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Subaru Outback
Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen

Response from mkaresh

9:10 pm October 15, 2014

I like both the Mazda3 and Focus. But do they have enough room for you? I hear deals are really good on the Focus lately.

Among Hyundais, check out the Elantra GT rather than the Elantra sedan. Better steering and handling, if still not as good as the Mazda and Ford. More room in the back seat than the Mazda and Ford.

You might also check out the Kia Forte5, which costs a little less than the Hyundai and is offered with a stronger engine.

You'll need a Nissan for around view in this price range, but performance and handling will then be adequate at best. And we're receiving many repair reports for their latest CVT transmission.

The CX-5 and Escape have more cargo room than the hatchbacks, but aren't nearly as fun to drive.

If you're willing to trade styling for fuel economy, the Ford C-MAX is also worth a look. I enjoyed driving it more than I did the Escape. Real-world mpg in the high 30s.


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Hyundai Elantra GT
Kia Forte
Ford C-MAX

Response from SVO

6:05 pm October 17, 2014

Outback is NOT sporty by any stretch of the imagination. Smaller cars are not true 5-sEaters Jetta wagon a good call but it's a dIscontinued model. Prius is as far from sporty as you can get. Wait for the new Golf Sportwagen- out in 3-6 months.

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Response from svtcarboy

2:42 am October 19, 2014

I think the Escape or the CX-5 are better choices as a primary family hauler than a small sedan or hatchback, mostly for the much better rear seat room and headspace for putting the kid(s) in and out and cargo space. I don't think they give up all that much on the fun to drive for the space you get. Unless you need more power, I think the CX-5 delivers better value.

It is unfortunate there are no longer any larger hatchbacks in the US (I loved my Mazda6 hatchback), so I am going to throw in a larger wagon that may be in reach used particularly with the new TLX coming out, the Acura TSX wagon.

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Mazda CX-5
Ford Escape
Acura TSX

Response from agog

3:43 am November 14, 2014

Thanks a lot all of you. I couldn't buy or test drive 1 yet but I did continue my research online and shortlisted Forester, CX-5 and escape which I am planning to test drive this weekend.

Apart from these, other Cars which caught my attention were:
- mazda5 for its utility but discarded it based on low safety ratings, relatively low mileage and lack of a backup camera
- old Audi a4 avant - missed a good deal on a 2012 model
- old Audi a3 hatch - people have recommended a gti for a better value for money and it would be a bit small
- impreza sport or sportier (XV) -- probably small for my need but looked a good package overall
- old/new X1 or Q3 -- didn't find a good deal to fit my budget
- VW tiguan -- Mazda CX-5 looked better car in almost all aspects e.g. space, mileage, cost
- Prius v - low performance was the main concern and c-max suggested here seemed a better option in that sense

Going to update this thread with my test drive experiences.

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Response from SVO

1:16 pm November 14, 2014

We are currently shopping for my wife with very similar criteria. I'll repeat: Wait for the new Golf Sportwagen- 2 months away now. The TDI should get astounding fuel mileage, handle as well as an A3 and have the room of an A4. New design is better looking than old Jetta wagon too. On some of your options:

-A4 Avant is a great car- I've owned 2. Very tough to find and demand a premium in the used market.
-A3 loses to Golf on pretty much every count except exterior looks. LESS roomy than a Golf/GTI, not more. Golf interior is better quality and 6-footers fit in rear. Back seat in A3 is a joke.
-X1/Q3 radically overpriced for what they are.
-Tiguan has the GTI power train, which is worth a lot in my book. CX5 is pretty underpowered, but handles great. Real world fuel mileage is likely to be very similar. Tiguans also lose their value quickly- great bargains used or CPO. Manual trans option too. Install a set of H&R springs ($500 installed, drop 1") and it will far out handle a CX5 too. Then a slightly larger GTI with lower insurance.
-Prius is a different category. If you are seriously interested in high mileage but want some sportiness, the Sportwagen TDI is the place to look.
-What about a BMW 3-series wagon CPO? You should be able to find one around $30k and then you've got 6 years (from new) and 100k miles warranty. Not great on fuel mileage but kills on all your other needs. Great resale value in a few years.

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Response from agog

7:31 pm November 14, 2014

Thanks SVO - that was very infromative.

Had I had a chance to wait for 3-4 months, I had another car in my mind (HR-V -- smaller but I kinda liked it and I hate CR-V). I don't have an option as of now and need to buy a car this month.

Though I'll try to give a final look to Tiguan as suggested here.

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Response from agog

1:27 am November 29, 2014

Had a test drive of a Tiguan and didn't find it as expected. Intial power lag is noticeable, boot space left me to desire a lot more and the outward visibility is not as good as Subarus which I test drove today bedore Tiguan.

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Response from mkaresh

11:16 am December 7, 2014

Well, sounds like you can safely eliminate the Tiguan from consideration. So the Subaru is the leading contender?

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Response from agog

3:35 pm December 30, 2014

Yes, Tiguan was out of consideration after a test ride.

After the test rides of escape, cx-5, forester, XV, CRV, and tiguan - narrowed down to CX-5 FWD GT w/ tech package but then Mazda3 also looked appealing. With almost 10% price benefit over the CX-5, S-GT offers better standard instruments, same engine with slightly less weight and similar dimensions. I loose boot space and raised seating position with it. Seems like that could be a good option for me in the end.

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Mazda CX-5
Mazda Mazda3
Volkswagen Tiguan

Response from SVO

10:37 pm December 30, 2014

Mazda3 is a great little car. And a manual trans option- a good one. FYI: My wife went with a CPO Volvo XC60. Local dealer took it in on trade and with about $3k in Volvo incentives we got a very nice deal on it. Terrible fuel mileage but everything else is fantastic. Bigger than you need tho if a Mazda3 fits your family. The CX-5/Tiguan would have been a squeeze for us with 2 teenagers going skiing (tomorrow!) and camping, the XC60 is just the right size. Golf sportwagen AWD still many months away. Mazda6 wagon and CX-7 sadly killed in the U.S.

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Response from agog

12:20 am January 6, 2015

Finally I bought a Mazda CX-5 GT. So far liking it.

Slightly different dynamics than that cars I had been driving, small sedans. I think 19" low profile tires cause a bit more sound and jitters.

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Mazda CX-5
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