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February 25, 2010 7:57 PM   Subscribe

Help me find the perfect car. The stars have finally aligned and I'm looking at pretty much the only time in my life in the forseeable future where I'll have both the money and opportunity to buy a car that's just for fun. Name that car!

Normally I've done the practical thing and bought a very cheap runabout but I lucked into a little money and after investing most of it can have a bit of a splurge with what's left. Here's what I'm after and see if there's anything that might match; I want it to have a bit of grunt, I'd like either a convertible or coupe (or something else that's sporty and looks good) 4 seater, it doesn't have to be new in fact it would be preferable if it was a year or two old as new cars depreciate pretty quickly.

I'd like it not to be an expensive to fix European model - so no BMWs or Mercs, and in the off chance that I happen to get pregnant in the next year or two, in a pinch I'd like to be able to fit a baby seat in back if need be though we do have an SUV (I just don't want to buy a car and then have to sell it in a year). Things I am considering - Holden Astra convertible, Peugeot 207 CC (the back seat isn't very big though) Mazda RX8. What am I missing? Oh, and I live in Australia. Budget is anything up to A$35,000 though obviously cheaper is better. Thanking you...
posted by Jubey to Shopping (20 answers total)
When you say a car that's just fun, I think of a MINI Cooper (especially with a JCW kit) but that's a BMW. I know you can fit a baby seat in the back but only if you don't push your seat all the way back. It's a two door coupe but the RX8 is also a two door isn't it?

I do drive a MINI and I definitely think it's a fun car.
posted by tksh at 8:01 PM on February 25, 2010

Let me be That Guy.

If you want to have fun on the road, but also need to be able to do the family car thing: Buy a top of the line sport bike (~$10k) and then buy a honda civic with the change.
posted by 256 at 8:09 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Subaru WRX. You guys get all sorts of neat, zippy kits in Australia that never make it to the US.
posted by Netzapper at 8:13 PM on February 25, 2010

Mini Cooper. Had one, loved it. Otherwise, I have a friend that has a Holden Astra and it's a nice German car as well.
posted by michswiss at 8:18 PM on February 25, 2010

If you can wait a bit and want something truly fun...

Lotus Evora 2+2. They are not yet shipping, but you can put a baby seat in the rear, supposedly, and I've not heard terrible things about reliability.
posted by rr at 8:51 PM on February 25, 2010

If it is truly just for fun, go get a Clubman (Lotus-7 clone) - they can be bought as kits, completely assembled or second-hand. Consider something like a PRB or a Birkin or similar.

Otherwise, there are plenty of high performance Japanese imports floating about in Australia, some of which (MR2, MX-5) are available in open-top versions. I love my SW20, though it's old enough to vote now.
posted by polyglot at 8:51 PM on February 25, 2010

The 2-series Peugeots are loads of fun but somewhat of a buzzy ride on autoroutes (speed limit 130 kph). Seconding netzapper on WRXs though the ride can be a bit cheap-feeling and so have been the interiors on those I've been in.

If I lived in Australia, and were looking for a car in that range, I would be at the Holden dealer looking at a 2008 Commodore SV6. We got that car in the US as the Pontiac G8 and these cars are a lot of fun. The 6 l V8 in the SS (260 kW) might be over the top when the 6 cyl SV6 produces 190 kW or thereabouts. If you haven't driven a car with north of 150 kW for any length of time you may be surprised. More power is better, but not always at the expense of the consumption.
posted by jet_silver at 9:05 PM on February 25, 2010

Sorry, I should have mentioned I really don't want a big car - in fact the smaller the better which is one of the reasons the Peugeot appealled, the thing is tiny. It's more about ease of parking and the fact that I'll be driving around inner city Sydney, so small and zippy is better. RR, the Lotus gorgeous but about $120k out of my price range! The Mini would tick most of the boxes... but I just don't like the look of it, plus I think being made by BMW, repairs could be pricey. Keep 'em coming though! If it helps, I'm female and am open to 'chick cars' as well.
posted by Jubey at 9:47 PM on February 25, 2010

I've always been rather partial to the Hyundai Tiburon. The Koreans give you an awful lot of car for your money these days.
posted by zjacreman at 10:04 PM on February 25, 2010

Hey, Charger! Well, maybe not so much. It's just about the most Australian of sportscars around and they can be a lot of fun, but that way also lies madness and heartbreak unless you get lucky and pick up a good one. Those old Valiants look great, but they're dogs to drive and getting really costly to keep running, especially if you need to replace something like bodystyle-specific glass.

If you're looking for a small quick car that's also reasonably practical, I can recommend based on two years of ownership a Ford XR4 (Europeans in askMe might know it as the Fiesta ST). It's basically the same power/weight formula as the original Golf GTI, and is collossal fun in the hills. Plus it's good for fuel (I get between 7.7-8.2L per 100km, and I don't drive very economically). The ride is... harsh, but not impossibly uncomfortable. I drove mine from Adelaide to Brisbane and back via the Great Ocean Road, south-east Victoria and up through the Hunter and had a blast: it handles fantasically. It isn't quite the fastest car in its class in a straight line (the Ralliart Colt and Polo GTI have a marginal edge there), but the Ford's chassis dynamics and low-end torque will leave them in the dust as soon as you get into the bends. You could probably pick one up now for $14-19000...

However, if you just want an awesomely fun little toy that probably won't break the bank? You can get your hands on a pre-GM Saab 900 Turbo convertible these days for about $4-5000. Stacks of spare change left over to mitigate any eurocar concerns and get any little kinks worked out (although old Saabs are vastly more reliable than a lot of people believe). Upgrade the shocks and springs and fit some sticky rubber to the wheels, and it ought to corner quite nicely. Probably the best four-seat convertible I can think of. And even though they've been out of production for 18 years, those old Swedes still have a certain cachet of refinement and eccentricity to them.

Where you are in Australia could be a factor, also. Roadworthy inspections in QLD, NSW and Vic can cause problems when it comes to owning older awesome cars. Here in SA, where mandatory periodic or change-of-ownership roadworthys are unheard of, it's much less of a hassle to keep a classic on the road.
posted by MarchHare at 10:29 PM on February 25, 2010

On preview: I didn't notice the Sydney reference, sorry. That might well limit the choice of older cars. But I threw the XR4 up over the Blue Mountains and had a lot of fun, for what it's worth. It's a naturally aspirated 2.0L four-pot, too. Rego and insurance costs should be pretty cheap.
posted by MarchHare at 10:32 PM on February 25, 2010

Mazda MX5.

I have had mine for 10 years, and it has given me soooo much fun and good times. Plenty of room for two, a decent boot (mine was my daily driver for four or five years and handled trips away for 2 for a couple of weeks and lots of groceries).

They are cheap to buy, cheap to run, don't break, don't leak.

Best of all they are FUN and having been in production for 20 years there is one to suit every budget.

But you won't fit the baby seat in the back ...
posted by GeeEmm at 12:29 AM on February 26, 2010

mazda 3 speed. Way too much fun.
posted by TheBones at 6:02 AM on February 26, 2010

Ford Mustang Convertable.

I'm American and know nothing about what kinds of cars you can get in Australia, but a 'Stang sounds like it would fit what you want.

If you can't get a Mustang, I second the MX5. I've never driven one, but they sure look like fun.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:22 AM on February 26, 2010

If I was in the position I would get a BMW M3, a car I've been lusting after for years. I would definitely break the no-BMW rule for that car. Mmm.
posted by StephenF at 7:49 AM on February 26, 2010

Subaru WRX/STI. The rally-inspired cars (WRX, EVO) will be seriously fun to drive. The Subaru is a better I-actually-have-to-drive-this-every-day car than the EVO. The four-door hatchback is a very practical car -- buy groceries, haul people, etc. Cars in this class are also all-wheel-drive, if you have any need/desire for that.
posted by madmethods at 9:57 AM on February 26, 2010

The rally-type cars aren't cute little roadsters, though, so if you're after that you're on your own. There's a definite practicality vs. cute-little-thing decision that you're going to have to make.
posted by madmethods at 10:00 AM on February 26, 2010

my dream car - Acura RSX, last year of production (2006 I think), sunroof, alloys, five-speed, vtech. color/interior unimportant. save the rest of the money for paying tickets.
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:21 PM on February 26, 2010

BMW Z4 - pre 2009/10. American made, and just a lot of enjoyment.
posted by Aztekker at 3:47 PM on February 26, 2010

Hi, I thought I'd let you know how it all went. Well, I had a drive of a few convertibles and then had a chat to friends who have kids. Who knew babies didn't like wind in their face? Heh, obviously not me. They pointed out that once I had a baby and a convertible, I would have to have the top on all the time which would kind of make it pointless so that option was out.

So then I tried pretty much every small car on the market. Eventually it was between the Ford Focus Turbo Xr5 and the Honda Civic Type R. The Civic won out, it's just beautiful to look at and drive. We got a 2008 model which had only done 17,000kms at a very reasonable price and we both love it. In fact my husband loves it so much I've hardly been out in it at all! Now I just have to make sure I keep my leadfoot under control... thanks again for all your input. And it's a shame I couldn't afford to take rr up on the Lotus suggestion!
posted by Jubey at 10:36 PM on August 2, 2010

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