Emily loved her 2013 Mazda3 manual. She planned on keeping it for a long time at least until the EV market offered her something fun. Unfortunately she got into an accident and while she and her daughter were uninjured, the Mazda didn’t make it. What car should she buy?
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Here is the scenario -
Me yesterday: Happily tooling around in my 2013 manual Mazda 3, looking forward to getting to 10 years with the old girl and then getting some sweet new plug-in EV that hasn’t been released yet. Me today: Beloved moderately sporty, maximally sensible compact car totaled. Reading that used car market is a mess. What now? (My 6-year-old and I were both unhurt, but she cried after the accident because, “I just really loved that car.” Me too, kiddo. Me, too.)
Great gas mileage (or electric), small and speedy, fun to drive, four doors because I do have a kid, can we thread the needle between sensible and stylish? I would really like another manual, but I realize that isn’t an option with anything hybrid/EV. I want something fun, but also, like, I’m a mom with a kid, so it has to be reasonably sensible. Also I parallel park all day every day, at home and at work, so nothing too big, thank you. My budget is up to $35k.
Budget: up to $35,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Location: Allentown, PA
Wants: Fun, reliable, somewhat sensible
Doesn’t want: Anything that gets under 25 MPG
Emily, I am very sorry to hear about your Mazda and it especially stinks to have lost a car you have a special attachment to. There are a number of replacement manual hatchbacks that would fit your needs and fall within the $35,000 mark, but it seems you are looking forward to electric motoring and it might be time to make that transition.
Of course the issue with EVs right now is that, for the most part, they are still a bit pricey. However, if your income means you can get the federal tax credits that most EVs still qualify for, that puts a few cars in striking distance of your budget.
I think your best bet is the new Volkswagen ID.4. Most of the reviews describe it as fun to drive, similar to a small hatchback, and despite the lack of a “frunk,” our Jason Torchininsky found it to be a fairly solid offering.
Starting price for the ID4 is about $41,000 with the destination fee, which means once you subtract the $7500 tax credit, that puts you at $33,500. Of course, since the car market is hot right now many dealers are charging markups, but there are several units nearby that are being advertised at MSRP.
I’m glad you and your daughter are OK. Just because you need something sensible doesn’t mean you need to compromise. Why not have some fun? Enter the Hyundai Veloster N. It starts at $32,250. It’s real hot hatch and it has room for you and your daughter with its quirky three-door arrangement and hatchback body. When things get serious you have 275 horsepower on tap and an exhaust note that lets everyone know you aren’t playing around—but you’ll still be able to get nearly 30 mpg on the highway. Don’t forget to choose the manual. And for peace of mind, this thing has Hyundai’s excellent 10 years/100,000 warranty. No one buys these things so you should have no trouble finding some sort of deal on one either.
I’m happy to hear that you both are OK. It’s always heartbreaking to hear about a beloved car getting destroyed. But if there’s a silver lining, it’s that you get to fall in love all over again!
With that in mind, I present a Japanese Domestic Market 1994 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution II GSR.
Outside of the wing on the back, it looks like an every day family sedan from the 1990s. But under the restrained looks is a WRC homologation special. It’s powered by a 2.0-liter inline four pumping out 256 ponies through a manual transmission. Do it up in a silly rally livery and have plenty of smiles and miles with your daughter.
Here’s one within budget at Duncan Imports.
Your question is one that I think about a lot, Emily, because EVs are the future and if I bought a new (not used) car tomorrow I’m certain it would have to be electric. When you mentioned your Mazda 3, I immediately thought of the Mx-30. It’s a cool EV, but it’s sadly only available in California to start and may not have enough range for your needs.
So, I’m recommending the 2021 Toyota Rav4 Prime. This little SUV splits the difference between a gas car and a BEV, and gets pretty decent performance out of that combination. It has an all-electric range of 42 miles, which is fine.
The Rav4 Prime makes 302 horsepower in total, and goes zero to 60 in 5.7 seconds. It has AWD, and I know it’s not nearly the same, but you could futz with the paddle shifters at least once to pretend you’re holding onto the redline.
It’s a give and take for now, but I think the Rav4 Prime could give quite a lot. It starts at $38,250, but with the tax credit Tom mentioned, you could be looking a price in the low-to-mid 30s.
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