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alleykat
alleykat Reader
5/25/17 8:41 p.m.

I am finally ready to part with my beloved E36. I am currently shopping a new daily driver. My priority is driving entertainment. I want a driver's car. I like crisp throttle response, quick turn in and neutral handling at the limit. The car will be a commuter that sees infrequent highway use and autocross duty. I will upgrade the suspension on anything I buy.

My budget is $15k or less.
I need to haul up to 4 people. I prefer a sedan but usable back seats will suffice. A manual transmission is a must. Model year 2008 or later (needed to finance).

My short list: Mazda2, S2 RX8, MazdaSpeed3, Gen6 GTI, Gen8 Civic SI, E90 328i, 128i, Legacy GT and Cadillac ATS. FRS/BRZ might work. WRX and STI are all too expensive for what you get. Audi maintenance costs scare me.

I drove 2012 GTI the other day. I liked everything about it except the throttle response. I wonder if a tune will fix that.

What do you all think? Anything else I should test drive?

mndsm
mndsm MegaDork
5/25/17 8:42 p.m.

Speed3 is on the top of my list. Have had one since 2007.

MrChaos
MrChaos HalfDork
5/25/17 8:48 p.m.

On your list i would go Speed3 or Civic Si sedan with the civic likely to be less beat.

captdownshift
captdownshift PowerDork
5/25/17 9:07 p.m.

RSX type S and add boost.

pres589
pres589 PowerDork
5/25/17 9:08 p.m.

1988-1992 626 Turbo.

Dusterbd13
Dusterbd13 UltimaDork
5/25/17 9:15 p.m.

2 nb miatas.

Somebody had to....

secretariata
secretariata Dork
5/25/17 9:31 p.m.
alleykat wrote: I need to haul up to 4 people... FRS/BRZ might work...

Are these human people? Full sized? FRS/BRZ rear seats don't permit anything near a full sized human with actual legs to sit in the rear seats. I have a 29" inseam and anyone who isn't in a Sally Struthers commercial couldn't fit their legs between the front and rear seats...

cmcgregor
cmcgregor Dork
5/25/17 9:41 p.m.

Focus ST

untchabl
untchabl New Reader
5/25/17 9:54 p.m.
Dusterbd13 wrote: 2 nb miatas. Somebody had to....

That's what I did although I'm into both for just over 1/5 of the OP's budget.

alleykat
alleykat Reader
5/25/17 9:58 p.m.
cmcgregor wrote: Focus ST

Good suggestion. Thank you.

Nobody has any love for the S2 RX8 or E90?

Boost_Crazy
Boost_Crazy HalfDork
5/25/17 10:29 p.m.

Mazda Speed 6? You might be able to find a non-salvage Evo if you are patient. Be wary of the Legacy GT (or any other 2.5T Subies), lots of them suffer engine failure. They could have one foot (ringland) in the grave and still appear to run fine. Too bad, because they are very good cars otherwise.

Edit: Infiniti G37 Sedan looks like a lot of car for the money.

captdownshift
captdownshift PowerDork
5/26/17 6:31 a.m.

ZHP and lots of suspension bits from bimmerworld.

mndsm
mndsm MegaDork
5/26/17 6:33 a.m.
alleykat wrote:
cmcgregor wrote: Focus ST
Good suggestion. Thank you. Nobody has any love for the S2 RX8 or E90?

The rx8 is a fantastic 2 person car. Not so much 4 people. I swore off bmws made after the Reagan administration, so I can't really attest to those.

scardeal
scardeal SuperDork
5/26/17 7:05 a.m.
alleykat wrote: Nobody has any love for the S2 RX8 or E90?

Depends on what you mean by usable back seats for the RX-8. My wife and I are both short, and we were able to fit my parents behind us, but it was cramped. Not recommended for regular 4 adult use, but acceptable in a pinch. For kids, as long as they're not in rear-facing seats, it should be okay.

02Pilot
02Pilot Dork
5/26/17 7:06 a.m.

Being in a similar situation (though I have not fully convinced myself that I can let go of my E39), I've looked at current generations of the Mazda 3 (hatch) and Mazda 6. My GF has a new 3 and it's really quite good, but a little above your price range. I've seen more than a few manual 3s and 6s under 15k (mostly 2014-5), however. I'm really liking what I've seen of the 6 (haven't driven one yet, though).

pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
5/26/17 7:16 a.m.

You are describing the spec sheet for the Fiesta ST. Small, but can carry four people and some stuff. Plenty of turbocharged power, but immediate throttle response. Awesome handling characteristics, but a set of Konis take it to another level. Maintenance is cheap and easy, mods are as crazy as you want to get, and the car is a hoot on any type of commute. $15K gets you a really nice 2014 model. You really should drive one.

pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
5/26/17 7:20 a.m.

If you are a Mazda fan, I cn't see how you could go wrong with a Mazdaspeed 3.
I drove this gen when they first came out and I fell in love. The interior is better than the FiST (IMHO) and the power puts in in another league altogether. I prefer the styling of the original, and they should be more affordable as well. I was broke at the time and couldn't swing the payments, but I tried hard to make it work and still shed a tear for not having one.

pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
5/26/17 7:25 a.m.

Option #3: VW GTI
I test-drove a 2016 GTI, base with the S package (limited slip) and the DSG and I really wanted it. It is one step up in size from the FiST and three steps up in interior quality. (OK, overall quality) Drove well, more "grown-up" and the DSG was the best of both worlds for sitting in traffic or hitting the track. My concern is that a $15K cap doesn't get you the best model. My experienced with buying a used VW was to never try to buy a used VW again.

pres589
pres589 PowerDork
5/26/17 7:51 a.m.

In reply to pinchvalve:

It's funny how nice these earlier Mazda 3's look... and how badly Mazda screwed that up with the restyle. Not really funny, more like sad, but you know what I mean.

CobraSpdRH
CobraSpdRH Reader
5/26/17 9:14 a.m.

I am perusing new daily drivers with a similar set of characteristics, so just a couple things I might add. Have you considered a 9th Gen Si? More torque than the 8th Gen, which should be better for around town, and they are getting down to $15k (perhaps due to the new Civics?). Also, Honda has the Accord Sport, which is slightly bigger and about the same power as an Si, but it did come in manual and they are hovering around $15k. Lastly would be the Acura options of TSX/TL Type-S, which pop up with manuals somewhat commonly.

From VW, there is also the GLi, which seems to be a little cheaper than the GTi (as far as more throttle response, just check out APR's website ). I think I would still go GTi, but it is an option.

I also have the Lexus IS250 on my list, as they did come in manual, but haven't driven one (my wife had an IS350 auto, which was a fun car). Someone mentioned the G37, that is another luxury option that seems like a lot of car for the $$.

Rumnhammer
Rumnhammer Reader
5/26/17 9:36 a.m.

The answer is Mazda 3 I just got one for the exact same reason you are looking for one and could not be happier! absolute drivers car in every aspect of the description. It handled well when the entire suspention was shot and now that I upgraded it, it will outhandle my miata. It has 4 doors has a big trunk, and gets 30mpg even with me flogging it. The car is fun to drive. Get one you will thank me I promise you.

accordionfolder
accordionfolder HalfDork
5/26/17 10:25 a.m.

Gen 2 MS3 - It drives great, and when I run it at Sonoma - punches well out of its weight class. I've got it running consistent 2:01's on stock everything and E36 M3 tires.

Though everyone will comment on your "WRX." ;)

LuxInterior
LuxInterior HalfDork
5/26/17 10:30 a.m.
Rumnhammer wrote: The answer is Mazda 3 ... absolute drivers car in every aspect of the description. It handled well when the entire suspention was shot and now that I upgraded it, it will outhandle my miata. It has 4 doors has a big trunk, and gets 30mpg even with me flogging it. The car is fun to drive. Get one you will thank me I promise you.

The 3 out handles a Miata? Hmmm. Your heavier FWD with economy car roots out handles the benchmark for great handling small RWD cars? I gotta call bull-cookies on that.

A 3 could have more grip -- just add big sticky tires. But I don't believe that a 3 is a better handling car than the miata. -- Not unless the Miata is completely clapped out and broken and the 3 has the best suspension on the planet

LuxInterior
LuxInterior HalfDork
5/26/17 10:48 a.m.
alleykat wrote: I am finally ready to part with my beloved E36. I am currently shopping a new daily driver. My priority is driving entertainment. I want a driver's car. I like crisp throttle response, quick turn in and neutral handling at the limit.

You have an E36 -- one of the best handling affordable 4 seat RWD cars made in the last 25 years. Can you really be happy with what FWD does to chassis dynamics? Have you spent enough hours in the canyons or at AutoX driving a FWD car to know?

I bought a '16 Focus ST. It's modern, quick, comfy, practical -- a logical "sporty" choice. However, it doesn't know the meaning of "neutral handling at the limit". The torque vectoring does its magic to try to hide the fact that it's a nose-heavy, torque-steering tarted-up econo-hatch. But, that's what it is.

After driving the Focus for a month, I was bored with the quick acceleration and frustrated with the handling. I test drove a '17 Toyota 86 on a curvy mountain road. This is a driver's car. The handling is wonderful. It's the poor man's Porsche Cayman.

If I needed 4 seats, I'd be looking seriously at the 128i. Otherwise 86.

Ricky Spanish
Ricky Spanish Reader
5/26/17 11:02 a.m.

Do you like how the RX-8 is perfectly balanced and revs to the moon but do you dislike how it has no torque?

Look at an E46 M3.

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