Bradley is 26, and like the rest of us dirtbags, he slogs away his 9 to 5 workday sitting behind a desk. Therefore, he needs to find enjoyment in his commute. I’m sure many of you can relate. What car should he buy?
Most of us have had at least one supremely boring job that sucks the life out of you. After graduating college I worked odd jobs here and there just to pay the bills. Sometimes you have to suck it up and be an adult. The absolute worst job was literally stuffing envelopes for six hours. The only thing keeping me from jumping out of a window was the fact that I could jump into my Mini Cooper instead and blast down some roads on the way home.
Bradley lives in Portland, Oregon and has a truck for his gear, but he also wants a fun car that keeps him fulfilled and helps him get through the day.
Here is the scenario:
I’m 26 and have a desk job. I’d like a car that takes advantage of my 15+ mile one-way commute since I’m stuck behind a desk from 9-5. I’m a hockey player so I need something with a good sized trunk or a hatch long enough to hold two hockey sticks that won’t reach the center console.
I have a wide range of automotive tastes. I used to drive a manual Mini Cooper S but it was too small for my lifestyle. It was a great car though and I miss it every time I go around a roundabout. I love the BMW 3 series wagons, but I also love trucks (currently leasing a ‘16 Silverado with 5.3) because of the added utility and the ability to keep my awful smelling gear away from the interior.
I’m looking for something with an engaging drive and a manual transmission. It doesn’t need to be fast because most of my miles are spent on streets with speed limits under 45. Having all-wheel-drive would be nice because the winters up here get slick.
Daily Driver: Yes
Average Miles Per-Week: 100-200
Wants: Manual transmission, fun to drive, practical enough to carry his hockey gear
Doesn’t want: A boring-ass car
As I was digging through the listings to find your ideal AWD car with a manual gearbox I came across this gem, a 2004 Audi S4, well within your budget and with a fairly reasonable 74,000 miles. On the surface this car is perfect: a 340 horsepower V8, six-speed manual, quattro AWD, and a body that still looks good today. Then I remembered that these S4 models have a bit of a flaw that can end up being quite costly, in addition to being just generally expensive to maintain. However, if you have the budget to account for that, I say go for it.
If shifting your 401k contribution into a German car fix fund doesn’t sound appealing, I’ll offer an alternative. This 2006 Subaru Legacy GT sedan may not have a V8, but the 2.5-liter turbo four cranking out 250 HP mated to a five-speed manual has more than enough power for your needs.
Also, Subaru’s all-wheel-drive system will provide grip in bad weather just as good as Audi’s system. This car has some miles on it, but not anything to be overly concerned about. A good pre-purchase inspection from someone who knows their Subarus should give you an indication as to whether or not it’s worth it.
Bradley, I feel your pain, my man. I really do. I had a soul-killing job for many years and my only solace was wasting time on Jalopnik when I could and driving my Subaru WRX home the long way on some quality back roads. (Now that I run Jalopnik, I waste most of my time at work trolling Reddit.)
There are a lot of fun and practical cars you can get for $10,000 to $15,000, including a used WRX, a used Volkswagen GTI or any number of similar pre-owned hot hatchbacks. I get your love of Mini Coopers; I’ve owned two myself. But while our new one is great, the last one we owned, a used model, was a maintenance nightmare even with an extended warranty. And a decent BMW wagon or 3 Series may be an option, but could be tough to find in that range in good shape.
I’m going to take the rare step of recommending you stretch your budget juuuuust a bit and get a pre-owned Ford Fiesta ST, the funnest and best little car there is. I found one with just 30,000 miles for under $17,000. Hell, you may even be able to score a sweet deal on a new one because the end of the year is coming up. You’re young! Have fun while you can.
Do you own any bagpipes? Do you know how to play Danny Boy? Well, if not, I suggest you figure it out, because that’s what you’re going to be playing at the funeral for boring in your life. You know why you’re having a funeral for boring? Because you killed it. Or you will, once you buy this amazing 1976 Austin Clubman Estate.
As a former Mini owner (even if it was a modern, BMW one) I’m going to assume you know that the Clubman was the name Austin gave to their Mini with a different, updated-for-the-’70s face. It’s got a bit of a longer front overhang and a simpler, cleaner look. Lots of Mini purists don’t like these, but I think they’re handsome in their own way. Besides, who gives a shit what the purists think?
This one is an estate (you know, a wagon) so there’s plenty of room back there for all your gear, and if there isn’t there’s a nice big roof rack. I know you said something about all wheel drive and not being too small, but I’m not listening to that, because your real want –no, need– here is excitement. And this little kook will deliver that to you by the fistful.
You’ve got a 4-speed manual with 1100cc of four-banger dragging you around, all wrapped in a tight little go-kart that will make every one of your commutes feel like a rally stage. This little guy is fun with a capital everything: it looks great and not like every other damn car on the road, it’s engaging to drive, it’s RHD which keeps life exciting, and best of all it’s within your $15,000 budget.
Punch boredom right in its doughy face. Buy this little wine-colored Mini wagon. Life is for the living.
Living in Portland you are spoiled for cool vintage cars to take up to the mountains. This two-tone FJ55 Land Cruiser is a particularly neat one. But I could understand that something half a century old might not be the most ideal daily driver selection.
So I would point you towards two different BMWs that nobody seems to remember. The first is that BMW did indeed sell a manual first-gen X5 here in America and there are not one but two for sale right by you. Straight six, all-wheel drive, and a sense of superiority that nobody else on the road has any idea how cool your transmission is.
But if you’re not looking for an SUV, BMW also made an all-wheel drive E30 back in the day. Again, straight six, manual, all-wheel drive and very, very cool. I see one of these things running in rallycrosses near me and they are painfully cool and forgotten. This one in New Mexico is in painfully nice shape, if you’re willing to make a trek.