We are 106,000+ car owners sharing real-world car information.

Join Us

Wagon or Hatch with great handling and turbo for the Rockies

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta

SVO

I've offered some advice here so I thought I'd ask for opinions too. I'm a car guy- used to do all my own work when such was possible. Cars owned were BMW 335i (current), Audi S4 Avant, VW Passat 1.8T, Passat VR6. All bought CPO with long warranties. I live in snow country but run snow tires. No worries about the myth of AWD being necessary in CO. I have a sedan now, the only one I've ever had, and hate that aspect. So stupidly impractical. But Americans apparently decided at some point that hatchbacks and wagons are unattractive (rather than using their eyes), so none of the cars made and sold in the rest of the world that I would want are available here. 5-door hatchbacks and wagons are increasingly rare.

I think SUVs are fundamentally stupid, inefficient and wrong-headed. I don't drive off road and I don't want the weight and inferior high center of gravity if I can avoid it. But, if a compact SUV met my requirements I would consider it.

I live at 5,000 feet and regularly drive much higher to mountain bike. So sadly the Mazda options (5, CX-5) are underpowered for me. Put a couple of adults and their gear in them/on the roof and the naturally aspirated motor is wheazing pretty hard at high altitude.

The VWs are the obvious option (I've owned 3) but the quality is highly suspect. I know the data does not clearly show this but all the VWs I've owned (10+ years ago) were built in Germany and generally quite reliable. I know many people with recent Mexico-built cars who were VERY sorry they chose VW. So the leading candidate right now is a 2012-2013 Golf R, built in Germany. If they were reliable, the GTI, TDI, TSI, Sportwagen would all be candidates. If Honda built a fit at 140% size with a turbo (rumour of Civic R 5-door, but years away) that would be my car.

My priorities are hatch/wagon practicality (5 doors), sporty handling and reliability. If not a turbo-4 then a V-6 with good power. Personally, I think all Subarus are pretty dowdy, and the interiors look and feel cheap, but a used WRX hatch is a possibility. Ford Escape has had serious quality issues. Ford Fiesta too small. Ford Focus ST is a possibility but they are between models currently.

Any other cars to nominate?

Priorities: Cargo capacity / Handling / Reliability & durability

Preferred Bodystyle(s): Hatch / Wagon / SUV

Car Needs: Daily commuter / Family transporter / Errands about town / Fun toy

Need minimum of 4 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 40000
Maximum age: 3 years

Maximum price: US $ 30000

« Return to results

Sign in or join TrueDelta to post your own thoughts.

Sort responses by likes

Response from mkaresh

11:23 am April 6, 2015

In my opinion, the problems with those older VWs were not related to where they were assembled, but to the components, such as window regulators and ignition coils. There are plenty of horror stories with German-made VWs.

You don't mention a transmission. Manual or automatic?

If automatic, the BMW X1 could be a candidate. Though a crossover, some sedans are as tall.

If you want a manual, the best fit likely is either a VW GTI or Focus ST. I compared them in my recent review of the former. Recent VWs tend to be reliable for at least the first 4-6 years. After that it's too soon to tell.

Unless you're going to mod it, it's hard to justify the additional cost of the Golf R over a GTI. The suspension and steering seemed tuned for autobahn cruising. But I hear some fairly simple mods can greatly enhance performance and handling. Also, the new Golf / GTI handles quite a bit better than the previous one.

Or maybe a 3-Series wagon? The latest one doesn't handle as sharply as earlier ones, but does have a turbo four.

0

Link to this reponse

BMW X1
Volkswagen Golf / Rabbit / GTI
Ford Focus

Response from mwcten

11:23 am April 7, 2015

It sounds like you would want one of the turbo volvo or saab wagons but with better reliability.

What about a Mazdaspeed3 hatch? They would be significantly below your budget. And if the Mazda 5 format suits you better you could always swap the Mazdaspeed3 drivetrain into the 5 like this: http://www.caranddriver.com/features/return-of-the-boss-wagon-mazdaspeed-5

Although their writeup doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

There is also a V6 Rav4 that was made until 2012.

The Nissan Juke is a turbo hatch, although it does try to be stylish at the expense of cargo space so maybe it's too small for your needs.

My thought with the turbo VW's is to always have an exit strategy if the engine fails. Have the cash on hand to replace the engine, or be willing to sell the car unfixed and move on. I've seen too many of them fail to trust them. And the fact that so many fail means used prices are really high, compounding the problem.


1

Link to this reponse

Mazda Mazda3
Toyota RAV4
Nissan JUKE

Response from SVO

4:37 pm April 7, 2015

Michael, thanks for posting. Trans: I would strongly prefer a manual or double clutch but will accept an auto- I'm realistic.

I had mistakenly assumed the X1 CPO would be well over $30k- that is a good suggestion. I drove one once and was pretty impressed with the handling for a CUV and that turbo 4 is a really nice motor. On the downside the flat, fake leather seats were pretty bad support-wise. Seems like even BMW now assumes that seats must be modeled around a 250-lb+ driver. The worst seats in any VW are better. Also the interior was small relative to the exterior dimentions I thought. I will go drive one again.

I tried to drive a Focus ST but the dealers near me don't stock them and they are between models. Also, I'm a 52 year old manager/adjunct professor so I worry about the "boy racer" factor. I think it is a super sharp looking car, but one that is typically owned by a twenty-something wearing his cap backwards. Taking peers out to lunch or to the airport might make make me seem a bit silly- no? The GTI's reserved styling is an advantage for me there.

Visited the VW dealer- new GTI's with the performance package (highly desirable LSD) are very tough to come by and cannot be ordered. Maybe VW will give dealers a chance to order again in a few months. Maybe not. REALLY hate crap like this: I've got $30k to spend and you can't manage your production and order fullfillment any better than that? There are a couple dozen Golfs sitting on that lot, going nowhere fast. They come off the same line. In Euro/U.K. ALL the Golf purchases/production is custom. Grrrrrr!

Yes, the recent 328i wagon is soft- much softer than the X1 IMHO. And there are a total 5 of them under $30k/40k miles in the entire U.S. and all are the older 3.0 motor.

A 2012/13 Golf R (non-CPO) can be had for about $26-$28k with low miles. That's about $5k more than an equivalent GTI. The R started out $10k more expensive, is loaded, can handle mods much better as you note, has AWD and will provide much better % resale as a limited run model with AWD here in the Rockies. I'd guesstimate it will net cost me an incremental $2-3k in 5 years of ownership (including higher parts cost). $500 a year for an R over a GTI? Pretty good option to my thikning, especially since I can't get the new GTI with the LSD.

2

Link to this reponse

BMW X1

Response from SVO

5:03 pm April 7, 2015

mwcten- thanks for the note. Between my wife and I we have owned many hot wagons. Just sold a Volvo V70 R manual (Look it up). The newer V60 wagon is an option but tough to get for $30k. Saab is dead.

The Mazda's are underpowered at high altitude. 184 naturally-aspirated ponies doesn't cut it at 8,000 feet loaded with bikes and buddies. That's about 140HP at that altitude. A 210HP GTI probably makes 190HP there, and that's before an ECU mod. But the Mazdas look good and handle great. Give me a Mazdaspeed6 Wagon please!

The RAV4 is not a good handler, period. The Juke is too small and the styling is for a teenage girl, IMHO.

If I buy a 2013 Golf R or GTI I get powertrain coverage to 2017 or 18. That's good enough for me. I've spent $2400 on just a water pump, couple of hoses and a small oil leak on my BMW recently. Now that hurts. I used to do water pumps myself for maybe $150 for the parts.

1

Link to this reponse

Response from mkaresh

8:07 pm April 7, 2015

You can't avoid a cramped interior in the X1, but you can avoid the flat seats. Look for one with the Sport Line or M Sport Line package. The sport seats included in this package not only have much larger side bolsters but their spacing is adjustable.

This said, the VW could still make more sense.

0

Link to this reponse

Response from mwcten

10:12 am April 8, 2015

Re: Mazdas, I mean the turbo 2.3L, 268hp Mazdaspeed 3 that Mazda stopped making in 2013. At least for their last few years they were all hatches. There's a fair number of them around in the $20-24k range.

1

Link to this reponse

Response from SVO

12:02 pm April 8, 2015

Right- forgot about the speed3. Yes, I should go drive one of those. Reliability is likely great. I don't mind a little torque steer either. (These are known for it). Still worry about the Dude factor. Do I feel stupid picking up a client at the airport in this:

Also, can the back seat fit adults? My kids are teenagers and I often drive them and their teammates to their sports. I'll drive one and check it out.

0

Link to this reponse

Response from SVO

1:40 pm April 20, 2015

Drove the X1 (couldn't find sport pkg CPO), Speed3, Golf R and Focus STI, WRX (all used/CPO) and a new GTI, again. All my intitial impressions basically were affirmed. X1 is good value, great motor and ugly and the standard seats are terrible. Speed 3, Focus and WRX all have great drivetrains, smaller interiors than the Golf and exude the "dude" thing in a big way. The Speed3 and WRX interiors are cheap. The GTI/R has the most space and most mature image of the hatches. All but one CPO R near me has mods- likely invalidates the CPO warranty. Dealers were pretty clueless or lying about this. Still, great car if I could have found the right private seller with a low miles car not too far away. But most are on the coasts.

Found a new GTI in Texas that fit the bill: Base S 4-door, Performance package (LSD for snow), lighting & adjsutable suspension. The only fabric interior I really like. Smooth and quiet drive given the handling- like my 335 with sport package. FWD less of a performance deficit with the LSD. $28k and I can get under 1% financing on a new car. Give up sunroof and leather (minor things for me). Unknown relaibility with the new model but I have a good dealer within a mile and 5-year powertrain provides some comfort. Still a bit immature looking compared to my BMW but I'll swap out the wheels for something more conservative and that will help. A rear seat I don't have to apologize for.

Fly out tomorrow to pick her and drive back to CO- very excited! Thanks for all your advice.

1

Link to this reponse

Volkswagen Golf / Rabbit / GTI

Response from mkaresh

9:24 am April 27, 2015

Sounds good.

I don't think the adjustable suspension is available on the S, though.

0

Link to this reponse

Response from SVO

12:01 pm April 27, 2015

I have the car now and it has the adjustable suspension. Apparently that option was listed as not available for the S model in VW info, and yet when the window for dealers to place orders online was open a few months back, there was a box to check for it. Nice option to have for highway cruising on bad pavement. I found some nice remote roads through hills to take from Lubbock to Denver and the car is a blast. Too much tire noise on old asphalt is the only negative so far. Got 30 MPG averaging 85 coming back. I'm 6' and fit easily in the rear seat with teh front positioned for me to drive. Base stereo is very mediocre but I'm an audiophile and would upgrade it regrdless.

1

Link to this reponse

Response from mwcten

10:06 pm April 27, 2015

Good deal. It sounds like that's probably the vehicle that makes the most sense given your requirements; especially since you'll under warranty for a while. I rode in my cousin's '14 GTI in Honalulu and it was nice, although that's probably the worst place to own one since it feels like the whole island is 35mph. If the turbo doesn't kick in, can you actually say you've riden in a GTI?

I see what you mean about the boyracer factor on the MS3. I had forgotten about that Celica-esque hood scoop.

Sounds like you enjoyed all the test driving at least. Enjoy the GTI!

1

Link to this reponse

Sign in or join TrueDelta to post your own thoughts.

Return to top