I'm a 26 year old guy. Is the car I want a car I SHOULD be getting?
October 24, 2009 3:54 PM   Subscribe

I need to get a car, but I don't do much driving... so I don't want to spend a lot. That means I'm looking at the new Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3 class of cars (all 2010). Of the group, the Mazda 3 is my favorite by far. Thing is, I don't really know much about cars + I'm a 26 year old guy = is the Mazda 3 a chicks car?

I'm not at all a "car guy" and I don't really do much driving, but I do NEED a car.

For all of these reasons, I'm looking at something new (2010) but in the lower priced class of cars. This is the class that includes the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3, etc..

After doing a ton of research, looking at tons of pics and videos, reading a ton of reviews, and sitting in them all myself, the 2010 Mazda 3 is BY FAR my pick.

I'm thinking black exterior for sure, probably black interior as well.

However, there's a potential problem. I don't know crap about cars, but I somehow associate the VW Jetta with being a chicks car. The Nissan Sentra too.

The combination of this, the fact that I don't really know car stuff, and the fact that I'm dude has made me want to check in with smarter "car people" to help ensure that I don't end up with a chicks car myself.

So I guess my question is, as a guy in his 20's, is the 2010 Mazda 3 (all black) a car for me?

And yeah, I know, there really is no such thing as a chick car, or a guy car, or a young person car, or an old person car, a straight car, a gay car, blah blah blah.

I'm asking this knowing full well that it's all superficial BS.

Still though, I'd like avoid being the dude getting out of his Jetta or the middle aged guy getting out of his [insert some non-old guy car here]: etc. etc. if I can.

And if it happens to turn out that this car really isn't a car a 26 year old guy should own, is it at least the closest thing to one out of the class of cars I'm looking at?
posted by creative to Travel & Transportation (70 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Mazda 3 is not a "chick's car." It is one of the most well-mannered and well-handling hatchbacks sold in the U.S. It is widely praised by automotive publications, gearheads, petrolheads, and all-around car people.

The Toyota Corolla is a squish-mobile for people who hate driving. The Mazda 3 is an enthusiast's hatch.
posted by The World Famous at 3:58 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Damn, I knew I forgot something. It would be the 4 door Mazda 3 sedan, not the 5 door hatchback.
posted by creative at 4:07 PM on October 24, 2009

It would be the 4 door Mazda 3 sedan, not the 5 door hatchback.

Same response. It's not a chick car. It's a brilliant-handling and awesome car that is universally praised for its driving dynamics and overall awesomeness.
posted by The World Famous at 4:09 PM on October 24, 2009

I will note that if you're not going to be doing a lot of driving, there's a strong case to be made for finding a reliable used car - automobiles depreciate in value incredibly fast. I saved myself something on the order of $10,000 with mine. That said, if you're going to get a new one, the Mazda should be great - before I settled on going used, I test-drove the '07 model, and other than the speedometer (which crammed the "useful" range of 0-70mph into a small corner, reserving way too much space for numbers like 120 that I'll never see) I absolutely loved it. The one caveat in terms of perception is that Mazda as a brand has a certain amount of conspicuous-consumption cachet - as opposed to the Civic, which I found plenty fun to drive, but which registers first and foremost as a practical choice. In my social circle, cars are generally seen as a necessary evil and almost nobody owns them, so that was actually a nontrivial bias for me; I think for most people, the bias would probably run the other way.
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:10 PM on October 24, 2009

I am a chick with a 3, but I see just as many men as women driving them.
posted by olinerd at 4:10 PM on October 24, 2009

Get a Hyundai or a Kia. Unless you live in California, where the car you drives defines you as a person (which I personally find hilarious!). Good luck.
posted by torquemaniac at 4:14 PM on October 24, 2009

I will say that I have had women compliment the looks of my Mazda 3 hatchback, unprompted. Take that as you will.
posted by smackfu at 4:14 PM on October 24, 2009

Any reason why the Honda Fit isn't in your list? We just got one, and I love it. The cargo space configurations are insane. You can pop down the back seats and have a huge storage area (as someone told me, almost big enough to fit a grand piano); the back seats can also pop back for another storage configuration (like a huge box from Ikea); and the front seats recline completely for camping or sleeping or other activities you might find you need to do in your car.

Gas mileage is almost identical to the other options you've listed. Plus it's a Honda, which means it should last forever.

The other great thing is that there are only three model options, so you're not going to be upsold and end up paying $5000 more than the basic price.

I also agree with Tomorrowful that you often get more value with a relatively new used car, like a 2008 version of any of these models. New cars lose a whole chunk of value when you drive off the lot.

But you didn't ask these questions. To answer your question: none of these cars strike me as chick cars unless they are pink.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:19 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do you spend much time with car people? Do you have any reason to impress them?

If not, just get the car you like. If so, talk to the people you hang out with and see what you think.

Toyota and Honda are the highest quality Japanese brands. Nissan and Mazda are generally second tier, though their sports models (GTR, RX8) can be very good.

If you want a fun car that looks cool, go with the Mazda. If you plan to own this car for a decade or more, consider getting a Honda or Toyota instead. Toyota's aren't bad cars, but they are completely devoid of soul.

smarter "car people"

Car culture is as much about fashion as anything else - whether that fashion happens to be max power, amazing design, or max mileage. If you want to play that game, go right ahead. But there is no reason not to just get a Mazda 3 or a Toyota Corolla and get on with your life. Car culture is expensive.

The Toyota Corolla is a squish-mobile for people who hate driving.

The Corolla is an everyman car, and a fairly good one. I usually drive a '96 C280 with the AMG suspension. When I drive a Corolla, I'm usually impressed by how competent it is. It certainly feels a lot more light and nimble than modern German cars do. I suspect that the Corolla with the sports package and a manual transmission is every bit as much fun to drive as the latest 3-series BMW. The only thing you don't get is the bragging rights. But then you aren't forced to pay for them with the Toyota either.
posted by b1tr0t at 4:20 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

For all of these reasons, I'm looking at something new (2010) but in the lower priced class of cars. This is the class that includes the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3, etc..

BTW, the Mazda 3 is the car that car guys buy in that class.
posted by smackfu at 4:21 PM on October 24, 2009

Get a Hyundai or a Kia.

Don't. Korean cars are universally terrible. If you need to save money, get an older Japanese car.
posted by b1tr0t at 4:23 PM on October 24, 2009

As an aside, keeping a black car clean is like having a part time job. I have a black car and it looks amazing when it's clean, but it's a dirt magnet.
posted by contrariwise at 4:23 PM on October 24, 2009

If you think it's all superficial BS, get the car you want. It's not like a Mazda 3 is a Mary Kay Cadillac or something.
posted by box at 4:25 PM on October 24, 2009

Don't. Korean cars are universally terrible. If you need to save money, get an older Japanese car.

Nope. Not so with the Elantra with ~90k miles on it that drives like the day it was delivered a close friend owns.

(I drive early 90's model GEO Metros, so what do I know? Other than getting 40-50 mpg and spending nearly nil on maintenance.)
posted by torquemaniac at 4:28 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding these two points:

I don't think I'll ever buy new again. My next car will probably be a one year old luxury car, let someone else take the hit.

My black car looks great for about fifteen minutes after I wash it. Black cars attract light colored dirt, white cars attract dark colored dirt. I'm thinking silver mght be a good compromise. Black is also crazy hot.

Middle-aged guy with Subaru Outback.
posted by fixedgear at 4:33 PM on October 24, 2009

Me: The Toyota Corolla is a squish-mobile for people who hate driving.

b1tr0t: I suspect that the Corolla with the sports package and a manual transmission is every bit as much fun to drive as the latest 3-series BMW.

Fun is, of course subjective. Some people would, no doubt, have just as much fun in either car. And I have no problem with you being one of those people.
posted by The World Famous at 4:39 PM on October 24, 2009

Seconding the option to consider a recent used car if you're not going to be driving much. It can save you a lot of money, even if the car is only 2 or 3 years old. I think the old adage is that the moment you drive your new car off the lot it is worth 20% less. Why not capitalize on that?
posted by bengarland at 4:43 PM on October 24, 2009

Oh, and no I don't think a Mazda 3 is a chick car. Actually the only cars I think of as chick cars are VW Beetles (the "new" ones) and Mazda Miatas. Don't get one of those and you'll be ok :)
posted by bengarland at 4:45 PM on October 24, 2009

I suspect that the Corolla with the sports package and a manual transmission is every bit as much fun to drive as the latest 3-series BMW.

Oh, my. Wow. Don't take this as a personal attack as I'm sure there are plenty of people that think the same way, but just taking a look at the drive layout there's a big difference between a Corolla and a 3-series.

In this class, most "car guys" buy the Volkswagen GTI--unless they've had a bad experience with a VW/Audi, or they just don't like the hatchback style. Then they go for the Mazda3.

For what it's worth, I have a Volkswagen Golf. Arguably a "chick car" with the silver paint and the 2.0L engine. I'm quite confident with it anyway. Chicks like chick cars. My chick thinks it's a fine car, despite the fact that she could drive over it with her lifted Jeep.

And there's nothing wrong with a Korean car, if you can live with the blandness (given that you're considering a Corolla, no problem). They've made huge improvements in reliability over the last few years, and the warranty proves they'll stand behind it.
posted by bhayes82 at 4:54 PM on October 24, 2009

"Yeah, but when I'm driving it, I'm not looking at the outside."

something I overheard a Pontiac Aztek owner say in response to someone complaining how ugly they are.

I currently have an 08 Civic, and I like pretty much everything about it. about the only complaint I have: The arm rest on the center console is about an inch too low.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 5:03 PM on October 24, 2009

Oh, my. Wow. Don't take this as a personal attack as I'm sure there are plenty of people that think the same way, but just taking a look at the drive layout there's a big difference between a Corolla and a 3-series.

The current M3 is a 7-series shrunken down to a smaller wheelbase. The v8 engine is absurd, but maybe you need it to lug around all the crazy stuff they've wedged into it.

If you want a light, fast, fun car that you can enjoy on the road, go with the Corolla. The M3 is a very luxurious car to commute in, but it has far too much power, grip, and weight to be fun on the street.

If you want an MP3 player and google maps, get an iPhone.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:14 PM on October 24, 2009

The Jetta is a chicks car? Noooo!

— 98 Jetta GLX owner
posted by floam at 5:19 PM on October 24, 2009

You want the Mazda 3. Get the Mazda 3! It is, by definition, not a chick car because you will be driving it, and you are The Man. Anybody gives you a hard time, tell them that.
posted by misha at 5:22 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I need to get a car, but I don't do much driving... so I don't want to spend a lot.

Just to throw this out there (and yes, I'll admit it's tangential to the question you're asking):

Do you live in a city served by ZipCar or another car-sharing service?

Seriously, how much driving are you planning on doing? Purchasing a new car has always been a lousy investment, and between payments, gas, insurance, ownership hassle, etc, it's pretty expensive.

Zipcar's inventory has a number of fun-to-drive cars as well (in addition to the Mazda3).
posted by swngnmonk at 5:24 PM on October 24, 2009

I am a 24 yr old guy and I bought myself a Mazda 3 this week. That was after test driving a Honda Civic and renting the Corolla several times.

All 3 cars that you mentioned are great - reliable and maintenance-free. I was all for buying a Civic even before test driving cos I had heard a lot of praise about how reliable it is. But after test driving the 3, everything else fell paler IMO. Its got great pickup, looks awesome, drives really well, is stable and has got good default accessories. If you like getting some feed back from the car (when you are driving it casually or just revving it up), this is the car you want. Its definitely not a chick car. I've seen both sexes driving it. (just don't take the pearl color :P) (Graphite Mica looks so much like the luxury cars - BMWs/Audi etc and the Celestial Blue has got an nice sporty feel to it - I wouldn't advice a black - gets dirty too soon).

Honda Civic/Corolla are fine cars as well, but I felt the Civic to be a little too smooth for me. I am sure it must be by design and most people like it but when I drive I want to get the feeling that I AM driving the car and not just pressing the gas. I like the feel of the car speeding up or slowing down and the 3 does this beautifully. Also, Civic's default accessories are not comparable to the 3 - 3 has a lot more to offer at the same price. Corolla could pass of as a chick car I think.

Corolla + sports package is definitely not a BMW328i
posted by bbyboi at 5:29 PM on October 24, 2009

Go used. You'll get so much more for your money.

That said, you seem like you want to drive a cool car. Superficial, yeah, but we all do it. It's just like fashion, you want to make a statement.

If I were you, I'd go buy a used 3-series. Or a mini cooper S. And find a good independent mechanic. Every highway on-ramp will make you happy with your decision.

Also, agreed with above about the VW GTI, btw. Cool car.

Oh and in my book? Mazda 3 is a chick car. :( ;)

Go drive some stuff and kick some tires and see what you like. Don't be embarassed about this being an emotional decision.
posted by milinar at 5:30 PM on October 24, 2009

Check out the Kia Forte, it's probably right in your price range, and comes very nicely equipped for the price. I'm a Forte Koup owner, and I looked at all the same cars as you. I settled on the Koup for the price and the looks, couldn't be happier.
posted by splice at 5:31 PM on October 24, 2009

I love the Mazda 3! I think it's an awesome car, and I have never heard of it being a particularly "girly" car. Oh, I'm a woman, I don't tend to like "girly" stereotyped things, fwiw.
posted by jacquilinala at 5:31 PM on October 24, 2009

Seconding Zipcar if your city has them and you don't have to drive much.

A car will be

Price you paid on the car
Insurance - (> 1000 a year)
Fuel Cost
Servicing costs (every 3-6 months or so).

So, if you really have little driving to do, Zipcar is the way to go! Their daily charges are like $75 and hourly charges would be about 10$ including Carrent/insurance/taxes/fuel + decent miles based on the duration of your rental.
posted by bbyboi at 5:33 PM on October 24, 2009

I own a 2.3L Mazda3 sedan (Aus 2005 model, v.similar but slightly less 'aggressive' looking than the current ones). I've also driven the Aus verion of every 'sports' model Toyota Corolla since then, and a fair few of the European small hatches / sedans available here.

In the 2005-9 models, on average I'd rank them (from 'most fun' to 'average'): Peugeot 20x/30x series, Mazda3, Holden (Opel) Astra, VW GTI, Toyota Corolla.

In practicality (driving and day-to-day use), I'd rank them: Mazda3 / Astra, Corolla, VW GTI, Peugeot.

The Peugeots, particularly the 20x series, are tiny with a nastily-cramped footwell. Helluva lotta fun to drive, though. I found nothing much to like about the VW - distinctly average in everything except power, where it had a little too much for the way it drove, and everyone I know who owns one has niggling mechanical problems with it. The Corolla is everything a Corolla should be - average, reliable, nothing special. The Astra's are a surprise - they're bland, but they do it so well. Every time I drive one, I think "this is nothing special, but it does it so well it's actually nice to drive!". I'm probably biased about the Mazda 'cos I own one, but as someone said above, it's one of the most well-mannered, precise handling, and nicely-powered cars I've ever driven.

(Apart from the Mazda 3 MPS though - they've tried hard to bring everything up to match the engine, but it's too overpowered and too harsh in power delivery to be fun. Not bad in a straight line though…)

Go the Mazda3. It's not a 'chick's car' (or if it is, it's a car for some very discerning chicks ;-). If they have the Astra over there, they're worth a look. Failing that, go the Corolla - you can't actually go wrong with a Toyota.

And yeah: black is a PITA colour, don't buy new (although here Mazda3's hold their value near new until they're a couple of years old), etc, etc.
posted by Pinback at 5:35 PM on October 24, 2009

I bought a new car once and never again, the second the tires left the dealer's lot, I lost a few thousand dollars. I had a 96 Civic, loved it, then bought a 2005 Acura RSX Type S, so I would have no problem recommending a Honda vehicle. I've got some friends with various Mazdas and they love them. No, a 3 isn't a chick car. I've never been excited by Toyotas.
posted by Brian Puccio at 5:57 PM on October 24, 2009

The only two people I know that own a Mazda 3 are both dudes, for what it's worth.
posted by pemberkins at 6:01 PM on October 24, 2009

I just asked my 24 year out boyfriend who is a major car buff your question, and he tells me that the Mazda 3 is most assuredly not a chick car. Go for it!
posted by shannonigans at 6:42 PM on October 24, 2009

Civics and Corollas are the best cars I've owned; but I view a car as a means to an end, nothing else. An expensive means to an end, too, so you want something with a reputation for longevity, which both of those have. Take care of them and they last quite a long time, generally. Never had a Mazda.
posted by rahnefan at 6:55 PM on October 24, 2009

It really, honestly doesn't matter. There is no "chick car" unless it's especially pink, maybe. If you drive so little, there is no point in buying a car for any other reason that a) it's a car, b) the price is right. Go for whoever gives you the best deal - and this is really a good spot to be in to buy a Hyundai or Kia because you won't pass the mileage limit on the warranty before you pass the year limit, probably.

We traded in a Scion xB (the good old square one) on a second Prius, which I regret every day because it was 10K cheaper (and didn't get the 45-47MPG we get now, but still landed in the 30s). Loved that car, we just went out last weekend and sat in the 2011s at the State Fair, would buy a new one (or the xD) if I had to go buy one tomorrow. I know several people (grown up, middle class, don't need a vanity car kind of people) who own 3s and haven't had a moment's trouble. I know several people (one of whom used to go big on cars, were dual-SUV at one point) who bought Kias and love them.

I don't get how the 3 is a chick car in any way. They look more or less exactly like their peers. It's a Mazda, you'll get years out of it. Whichever one you can get the best deal on, buy that one. Nobody cares.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:55 PM on October 24, 2009

I, a mechanic, own and love my Mazda 3. I bought the 2.3 hatchback and have put fifty thousand trouble free miles on it. It doesn't just handle well for a cheap car, it handles well compared to the sporty german cars that I fix for a living. I considered a Civic but the hatchback won me over.
You will not be dissapointed by the Mazda.
posted by Jon-o at 7:37 PM on October 24, 2009

Zip. Car.

If you're not driving much, the money you save by not shelling out for fuel (included in rental), insurance (included) and parking, depending on where you live, you can stuff thousands of dollars away in your special secret VACATION FUND! Or your "Dream Bike" fund. Or Parisian Hookers fund!

You just won't be spending it on a car.

Plus, you have your choice of oo-gobs of cars depending where you live (if there's a college campus near you it's a likely Zipcar hub); feel like driving a sensible Hybrid? They've always got a ton. You need to move Grandma's sideboard? Rent a truck! It's great for that kind of flexibility, and in some places they have Mini's. I even saw a BMW once, which I know would be the only way I'd be able to drive one unless I hit Lotto.

If I had to get a new car because my old one bit it, I wouldn't. I'd do Zipcar and upgrade my bike.
posted by readymade at 7:56 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

We have an 03 Mazda Protege5 that we love, and with 90k+ miles on it we are looking to upgrade only becuase we might want more room soon. We have never had a single problem with it, and it has survived 24/7 outdoor storage for its whole life. My only stipulation has been that the new car is at least as much fun to drive as the Protege5. The Mazda3 is the top car on my list. You want a real screamer? Check out the MazdaSpeed3.

And the Corolla "sport package" is essentially body moldings and badging that just add weight to the car at a hefty markup. But it still won't even look like a BMW, much less drive like one.
posted by Big_B at 8:02 PM on October 24, 2009

There is no "chick car" unless it's especially pink, maybe.

Weeeell... I don't think I'm especially neanderthal, but I do associate some cars not just with "chicks" but with "stereotypical bowhead sorority bimbos." Most especially VW cabriolets.

But none of the cars the OP mentioned are chick cars -- a "chick car" is going to something up a few rungs on the luxury or some other exclusiveness ladder; a car that is a little bit of a status symbol. Corollas and Civics and Mazda3's are way too basic and universal for that. Everyone drives Civics and Corollas and Mazda3's and so on.

I think the old adage is that the moment you drive your new car off the lot it is worth 20% less.

That's not nearly as true if you're shopping for Japanese makes in 2009 as it was if you were shopping among the Big 3 in 1985. If you don't believe me, try shopping for year-old Hondas at dealers.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:28 PM on October 24, 2009

I have the Corolla you're looking at. Don't get it. Other than the brakes being squishy, it does everything I tell it to do but with no enthusiasm at all. It's terribly reliable and terribly boring and it will never break so I'll never get to replace it.

It's kind of the nice safe parent-approved terminally bland boyfriend car.

I really do love my car, but then I discovered I like driving.
posted by casarkos at 9:09 PM on October 24, 2009

I have 2 hyundai accents for less than 4k miles per year use.
They have been less trouble than the somewhat older toyota corolla that gets maybe 6k per year, and has dropped its muffler and broke its accelerator cable--annoying but tolerable--no big bucks. (it also will flip its 'engine' light and stall if you drive it through a sufficient pothole).

All cars were bought new from dealers. The Kia dealer was farther away than the hyundai so I didn't get there.

The hyundais have pretty awful milespergallon (like 27 or so) and are noisy because of the cleverly omitted soundproofing around the engine. And the name is PAINTED on (no fancy-ass chrome lettering for an accent). They are now about 6 years old; the corolla is 11. All have 'low' mileage.

I will note that I am old. And stingy. But I have 3 cars that together cost less than one half-decent one.
posted by hexatron at 9:13 PM on October 24, 2009

In my life, I have owned and driven two "chick"'s cars: a 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit (back in the early 90s), and a 2008 Nissan Versa (now.)

Without question, I got (and get) more praise and attention from women while driving these two cars than I ever got driving much nicer, more expensive and more "guy" cars. Guys are not impressed, but why would I care about their opinion?

Similarly, I ride a 1984 Honda Elite scooter, and occasionally do so with a guy who rides a Harley, and I'm the one who the women talk to. YMMV.

Now putting aside all that, get the car you like and don't worry about it. If you enjoy driving at all, of the ones you named you should get the Mazda3 5-door; if bland is your taste, get the Corolla (or save money and get the Yaris, which I've driven back-to-back with a previous-generation Mazda3 and actually preferred -- shocking!) If it were my money, I would skip all three and get a Cube or a Soul, both of which are surprisingly awesome for the money (the Cube shares a platform with the Versa, the Soul with the Rio) and will get you novelty/style points. But that's the kind of guy I am, I guess.

Or, you know, spend a little more and get a Miata, the ultimate "chick" car that turns out to also be the ultimate sports car.
posted by davejay at 9:24 PM on October 24, 2009

Oh, and if you decide to go Honda, get the Fit, not the Civic.
posted by davejay at 9:25 PM on October 24, 2009

I've driven a Mazda 3 in Ireland (a rental) and it's sweet little car with loads of balls, fun to drive and good gas mileage. Of all the cars I've rented in that class, it's been my favourite rental, and I've preferred driving it over a bigger Mazda 6 that I rented in the US. However, I haven't driven a Corolla or Civic.

I don't think it's perceived as a girlie car, and style wise I'd choose a Civic or Mazda 3 over the Corolla. 7 years ago, when I was last researched getting a new car, Honda and Toyota had better reliability than Mazda (ended up with a Saab demo model that's not as reliable as either, but it's a great car to drive).

A friend whose owned a VW Jetta, then a Golf, and a Beetle, now drives a Mazda 3 and prefers it over any of his VW's for performance, reliability, and for being a fun drive.

I'd 2nd others suggestion that if your not going to drive the car much, to consider Zipcar (if it's an option for you) or to go for an inexpensive used car. It may not be good for a car to be sitting for extended periods of time as it can lead to carbon and moisture build up in the engine and in moisture build-up in the fuel line so my car buff friends claim. (Can anyone confirm this?).

Whichever you decide to go with, let us know!
posted by zaphod at 9:40 PM on October 24, 2009

For what it's worth, 23 year old male, and i've REALLY enjoyed the past 2.5 years with my 2007 mazda 3. Lots of fun, and IMHO the car has much more personalty that the civic i test dove. My only regrets are not getting the bigger engine and a sunroof.
posted by itheearl at 11:08 PM on October 24, 2009

Chick car. All you need is a frangipani sticker for the back.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:41 AM on October 25, 2009

The current M3 is a 7-series shrunken down to a smaller wheelbase. The v8 engine is absurd, but maybe you need it to lug around all the crazy stuff they've wedged into it.

He wasn't talking about the m3. He was talking about a regular old 3-series. That has some really nice 4-cylinder engine options. Not the V8 high-performance M3 model.

I have the Corolla you're looking at. Don't get it. Other than the brakes being squishy, it does everything I tell it to do but with no enthusiasm at all. It's terribly reliable and terribly boring and it will never break so I'll never get to replace it.

Exactly my opinion of the Corolla.

Nothing wrong with the Mazda 3, it's a bit boring and all that, but not a chick car. Not a man car either, though.
posted by Authorized User at 4:13 AM on October 25, 2009

I don't think the the Mazda 3 is a chick's car; though opting for the sedan over the hatch may make it a touch of an old persons car.

b1tr0t writes "The M3 is a very luxurious car to commute in, but it has far too much power, grip, and weight to be fun on the street."

How can you possibly have too much grip? And while a case can be made for too much power 414 hp isn't quite there on a 3700+ lb car.

Lyn Never writes "There is no 'chick car' unless it's especially pink, maybe."

*cough*white VW Golf/Rabbit convertible*cough* From what I remember less than 10% were owned by males and a significant portion of those were driven exclusively by their daughters. Those things might as well have been called the barbie edition.
posted by Mitheral at 5:39 AM on October 25, 2009

I have a 2005 mazda 3 s. It gets about 30 mpg and its fast. I don't see any reason why anyone would think it is a girl car. My advice is to get it with a manual trans. and throw a turbo/ exhaust and intake on it. Very easily doable.
posted by nuke3ae at 8:08 AM on October 25, 2009

In the US, the 3-Series does not have any four cylinder engines. In fact, no BMW auto in the US has a four cylinder engine. The US always gets a more limited range of engines, usually more premium.

I don't think the Mazada 3 is an effeminate car. It's well optioned and is known for a good driving experence. Is it a BMW? No, but for the money it's as close as you can get. That's the car i'd get.
posted by luckypozzo at 8:30 AM on October 25, 2009

The New York Times likes the 2010 Mazda 3, and doesn't seem to feel that it's a gender-specific car. (They're a bit put off by its maniacal face, though.) If you feel like overcompensating, you could look into getting the Mazdaspeed version.
posted by mumkin at 9:05 AM on October 25, 2009

Two datapoints:

(1) Used cars tend to be good values.
(2) A coworker of mine just sold an '05 (I think) Mazda 3. She used to race it, so that says something about its performance. Yes, she's a chick, but I would never accuse her of driving a chick car. :P
posted by Alterscape at 9:56 AM on October 25, 2009

You guys are awesome. Thanks for all the replies. This will be the car for sure.

For everyone mentioning going with something used rather than new, I have considered that. But, I'm going new for the simple reason that I got my first car when I was 17 (it was 10 years old at that time), and I'm actually still driving it today (making it nearly 20 years old).

I just kinda feel really due for something brand spanking new at this point.

I'm also happy to hear a lot of you own/used to own Mazda 3's or know people who do (and only have good things to say about them as well), because I have literally not seen one on the street anywhere (I'm in NY) in the last few weeks where I've been purposely looking out for it.

Seen infinite Civics and Corollas, not one Mazda 3 though. Kinda scared me a little, good to know it shouldn't.

Thanks again for the help everyone.
posted by creative at 11:11 AM on October 25, 2009

I've personally observed a pretty even gender balance among drivers, so I'd say it's fairly gender neutral.

I think it's a good pick for someone interested in that segment. I own an '08 Mazda3 myself (which is the previous generation design) and I've been nothing but happy with it. The points made above about new vs. used are fair, however.
posted by Pryde at 11:12 AM on October 25, 2009

Seen infinite Civics and Corollas, not one Mazda 3 though. Kinda scared me a little, good to know it shouldn't.

Those other cars are just very, very popular. Among all US vehicles, Corolla is #4, Civic is #6, behind the larger Camry and Accord (and the Ford trucks). Mazda3 is not in the top 20. (source)

But in Canada, the Mazda3 is #1.
posted by smackfu at 11:52 AM on October 25, 2009

There is no "chick car" unless it's especially pink, maybe.
I guy I know has a pink car, but he says it's a manly pink. He does fine; you might want to check whether you can find the Mazda 3 in manly pink.
As a former black car owner, I recommend not getting a black car unless you're really into washing cars.
posted by Killick at 1:23 PM on October 25, 2009

Just chiming in to say I have a 5, which is built on the 3's platform, and I love it. It's pretty zippy even with the extra weight, so the 3 should be fun to drive. I'm pretty sure my next car will be a Mazda, so I vote yes.
posted by middleclasstool at 2:04 PM on October 25, 2009

Don't. Korean cars are universally terrible.

This might have had some basis in truth in the '80s and into the '90s, but it's way off base now. Hyundais have improved vastly in quality and reliability in the past decade. I've been driving an Elantra for 5 years and it's been just as good as my old Nissan Sentra ever was.
posted by scody at 3:17 PM on October 25, 2009

Yeah, I think that perceptions about car reliability lag well behind actual reliability. In the same way that Hyundai's reputation suffers from the cars they built ten or twenty years ago, Volvo hasn't been the same since Ford acquired 'em, and while Toyota and Honda still make good cars, both reached the high point of quality in the '90s.
posted by box at 3:22 PM on October 25, 2009

I have a new Kia Sportage. It has a noticeably higher quality than the Ford Escape, Subaru Forrester, Jeep Patriot and Honda Element, and has a ten year bumper-to-bumper warranty (this was extra, it raised the cost to a mere three thousand less than the equivalently equipped RAV4).

Kia and Hyundai are essentially the same company now, and they make cars that are Honda-reliable these days.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:05 PM on October 25, 2009

I don't know about the chick car part, but I will never again own a black car. They look dirty almost as soon as you wash them, I learned that there's no such thing as black dirt or dust. If you own a black car, you had better own an orbital buffer to get the swirls out when you wax it. Getting into a black car after it has been parked in the sun on a hot day is like getting into an oven; they absorb sunlight and turn it into heat.
posted by Daddy-O at 8:05 PM on October 25, 2009

Mazda3 is a fun little car; I suggest you spring for the fully-loaded 3Sport version. You'll have wicked amounts of fun.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:40 AM on October 26, 2009

i love love love my mazda 3. it's so fun to drive. also i've had guy friends in my car who've gone out and bought one too after being in mine so i'd say it isn't a chick car!
posted by raw sugar at 10:41 AM on October 26, 2009

A dude friend of mine practically drooled over my Mazda 3 yesterday. I freakin' LOVE this car (I have a 2007 hatchback).
posted by medeine at 10:59 AM on October 26, 2009

The Mazda 3 is by far my favorite of small cars that I've driven as Zipcars or rentals. It's well-composed, the interior controls are laid out logically. Materials don't feel particularly cheap. The Civic has very odd visibility. The dashboard is super-deep, and there's a little window between the a-pillar and the front door windows. (And the hybrid Civic is perhaps the worst car I've ever driven-- the handoff between the electric and gas drivetrain is clunky, the regenerative brakes are mushy.) The Corolla is boring, boring, boring. It's a perfectly competent car, but there's no joy in driving it. The Mazda 3 is a far superior car to the Civic or Corolla.

As a competent and stylish car, the Mazda 3 seems pretty demographically neutral.
posted by andrewraff at 11:42 AM on October 26, 2009

To continue the Mazda3 fanboyism, my wife got the top- or penultimate- one, 2009 model. 17" mags, heated seats, fancy everything. It's a pretty charming car. Back seat is not horrendously awful; we had a mix of passengers this past week and none complained. It's zippy as hell, even when loaded with passengers. Steers very nicely, and the braking amazing. I ran it to 100kmh then stomped the brakes; damn near popped my eyeballs out it stopped so fast. Stereo is decent. Hate the cupholders. Manual transmission is great, nicely geared, amenable to double-clutching, and can do highway speed in 3rd if you really need to. Cruises nicely at 150kmh for hours at a time; top speed is around 180-200kmh.

Nonetheless, I don't think I'd have chosen it for myself. Maybe the Sport version. Maybe the Subaru, but I'd have found it hard to reconcile the price with the interior quality.

Although now that I drove a beat-up pickup the other day to haul loads of crap to the dump, I think I just want a big ol' 1990s F250 4x4. A real redneck truck, that's what I want. Nothing better than a vehicle that will take you anywhere, and can treat like shit 'cause it Just. Don't. Matter.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:22 PM on October 26, 2009

Incidentally, if it matters in your climate, my Mazda 3 with stock tires is the worst car in the snow I've ever driven. It just feels like you are skating if there is any snow on the road. This is partially due to the 17" tires on the hatchback, which are shared with the s sedan but not the i sedan. It's fairly common to get snow tires for this car if it's an issue.
posted by smackfu at 1:29 PM on October 26, 2009

In my climate, I wouldn't drive a car if it didn't have snow tires in the winter. I did the all-seasons for years, but by gods have my eyes been opened. Even the cheapest winter tires are better than the best all-seasons, in my experience.

Also, fucking up a mag because of ice and potholes would cost as much as the set of winter rims and tires.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:35 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

From the new Consumer Reports 2009 Car Reliability Survey:
The major Japanese brands and South Korea's Hyundai and Kia make plenty of reliable vehicles. Of the 48 models with top reliability scores, 36 were Asian. Toyota accounted for 18; Honda, eight; Nissan, four; and Hyundai/Kia and Subaru, three each.

On the whole, Japanese vehicles are consistently good. All Hondas and Acuras were average or above. Toyota, with its Lexus and Scion brands providing a broader product range, had just one vehicle that was below average in reliability, the Lexus GS AWD.

The Nissan and its Infiniti luxury division have been mostly very good despite lapses such as the subpar Nissan Quest minivan. The once problematic Infiniti QX56 and Nissan Armada SUVs are now average, and the same goes for the 4WD Nissan Titan pickup, although its RWD version is still troublesome. Over the last two surveys, the Nissan Versa hatchback has been average while the sedan has been far below average-an oddity.

Subaru has been a very reliable brand, but this year the turbocharged Impreza WRX turned up with a worse-than-average reliability score even though other versions of the Impreza have been average or better, as were all other Subarus.

Hyundai and Kia continue to make reliable cars. The Hyundai Elantra and Tucson, and the Kia Sportage got top marks. The new Genesis sedan was better than average with the V6, average with the V8. The only models that scored below average were the Kia Sedona minivan and Sorento SUV.
posted by scody at 3:28 PM on October 27, 2009

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