Or, for the same price, we can get a 1977 Dodge Challenger...
December 3, 2012 2:29 PM   Subscribe

Kia Spectra Hatchback vs. Kia Rio Hatchback vs. Mazda3 Hatchback vs. Hyundai Accent Hatchback?

Keeping the conversation to these four models if possible, I'm looking for specific advice on why one of these would be a better or worse deal than the others.

They all seem to fit our basic requirements as a family of three that does about an even mix between city and highway driving. We're looking at used 2008/2009 models with 50,000-80,000 km on them.

The Kias we're seeing seem to be $500 to $1000 cheaper than the Mazdas and the Hyundais. Is this a good reason to go with a Kia, or is there a good reason to pay a bit more for a Mazda or Hyundai?

Perhaps the meta-question here is: Do you know a really good and comprehensive car review site that calls out common problems and complaints with different model and model-years? Every site I've tried either has content-free reviews ("It's sporty for its price!") or only covers a small range of models.
posted by 256 to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
Consumer Reports is what you want, and given what I remember from past questions on this subject, I'd go for the Mazda3 or the Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe. Memail me if you want me to look them up again.
posted by wierdo at 2:31 PM on December 3, 2012

Edmunds is also a fantastic resource...


It's really awesome -- common problems for each year, etc...
posted by symbioid at 2:39 PM on December 3, 2012

Seconding Consumer Reports. It's really worth the small subscription fee. A couple other things:
* As I understand it, Hyundai and Kia use the same parts and engineering. I believe the differences between these brands is mostly cosmetic.
* Between the Mazda3 and the Toyota Matrix/Vibe, the Mazda drives way, way better, but the Toyota may be more reliable as you approach and exceed 200,000 km.
* The newest model Hyundai Accent and Kia equivalents are pretty good cars. The 2008-2009 models were not as good. They were smaller, seemed cheaper and had less power. I would definitely pick the Mazda or Toyota over the other two in that model year.

Drive all of the cars! Often times you'll find something (seat position, visibility, seat comfort, road noise, pedal positioning, etc.) that you wouldn't know except by driving the cars.
posted by cnc at 2:48 PM on December 3, 2012

I'm pretty sure those Kias are a lot smaller than the Mazda. We drive a Matrix, and when we are next to a Kia it looks absolutely tiny, but the Mazda is only a little smaller.
posted by rockindata at 2:55 PM on December 3, 2012

Michael Karesh runs a great website that collects data from a owners survey call truedelta that will have the data you are looking for. In reality Hyundai/KIA is kinda the same car company, like Buick and Pontiac were (when Pontiac existed) and tend to share a LOT of technology. Mazda is its own beast and designs some unique cars. In general Mazda generally builds a 'drivers' car that excels at handling and driver involvement but maybe not comfort (this a a very broad generalization and your mileage (ahem) may vary) while Hyundai/KIA specialize low cost value. In general the cars are comparable in quality but maybe not in features/gewgaws. Test drive them all, set in them. Load/unload a car seat in them, see how your luggage fits in them to get an idea for what works for you. That is the big deal. And sure your salesman will think you are crazy when you show up for the test drive with luggage and car seats but this is a HUGE purchase for you and who car what the car salesman thinks. And remember every feature/option/gizmo the car has is one more thing that can break. This is why i don't recommend the built in navigation system. for 1/10th the price you can get a garmin/magellan unit that has lifetime updates and will work in any car with a 12v power outlet (all of them).
posted by bartonlong at 3:41 PM on December 3, 2012

Every company builds reliable cars these days. When you're buying used, the most important thing to consider is the maintenance history. Doesn't have one? Run away.

Seconding TrueDelta. The reports, while anecdotal, are far more valuable to me because they come from owners who chose a particular car to fit their needs. Consumer Reports tends to evaluate every car on the same scale, as if you're a 45-year-old middle-class white male who only uses his car to commute to and from work, home, church, and the nearest Land's End store.

And personally, I'd buy a Golf TDI.
posted by bhayes82 at 4:05 PM on December 3, 2012

I have a 2002 Hyundai Elantra Hatchback that I haul my only kid around in all the time and I love, love, love it. I say this not to encourage you to get an Elantra, but because we got such a good deal on the used Hyundai that we could afford the leather seats and sunroof sport package, and this has made a real difference in my life in terms of mess cleanup of the kiddo and enjoying sunlight and air when diving my daughter around. Lots of people here are advising against Hyundais but I really love mine and their affordability allows you to get features you can't get in other cars for the same price. Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 4:44 PM on December 3, 2012

Is the Matrix a good car?

I was not considering it because I had an opportunity to drive an 08 Yaris and it handled like a brick and accelerated like two bricks. But if the Matrix is a whole different beast, I'll definitely add it to consideration.

And as for the Golf, I think it's too small for us. I'm a big guy and our daughter is still in a car seat, which necessitates a certain amount of room in the back seat.
posted by 256 at 5:01 PM on December 3, 2012

The Matrix has a lot to recommend it (space, good gas consumption, a basic but highly functional "wee truck"), however handling and acceleration are emphatically not its strengths.
posted by bonehead at 6:34 PM on December 3, 2012

The Matrix is a lot bigger inside than most of the cars mentioned so far, for example.
posted by bonehead at 6:38 PM on December 3, 2012

The Matrix is a Corolla hatchback. Completely different platform than the Yaris. I wouldn't call it sporty though. I like our 2010 base model, but I was only looking for an appliance that would last forever and haul a bunch of stuff when I needed it to. It does all that really well (a completely flat back is a wonderful thing). We bought it just before we(my wife and I) filled it with a bunch of stuff and a big dog for a multi-week cross-country adventure. I fill it regularly with all kinds of stuff- bales of straw, loads of scavenged lumber and firewood, a giant roll of concrete reinforcing mesh, etc. Handles it all like a champ.

The 2006(5?) to 2008 Matrix/Vibe was a little sportier, especially at the highest trim level, which had a Celica engine. The 2009-on models have electronic stability control and more airbags standard, if those things drive your decisions at all.
posted by rockindata at 7:10 PM on December 3, 2012

I'm on a very similar hunt, and my car choices have worked out like this: Nissan Versa (love but there are reliability issues; maybe a bit small for a family); Toyota Matrix (very middle of the road car; definitely quite literally a Corolla with a hatch); Subaru Impreza (maybe not an option where you are? Also I love it, but it's quite a bit more than the others on this list); Hyundai Accent hatch (I would not pick the Kia; resale value seems to be higher on Hyundai versus Kia, no matter the rebadging).

I can't tell you what I decided (I haven't) but I can give you the tool that I used to help narrow my search: US New and World Reports' Best Hatchback Rankings. It's kind of a glorious meta-summary of it all (it's got reliability stats, aggregated reviews from all the major sources, and a helpful list of good news/bad news about each car). Note that this is obviously US centric.

There's an incredible wealth of hatchbacks out there--Honda Fit, Fiat 500, Ford Fiesta and so on--and the US News plus lots of test drives are helpful.
posted by librarylis at 7:57 PM on December 3, 2012

I got the 2013 Hyundai Accent hatchback a few months back. I'm loving it so far. Great gas mileage. Fun to drive. I chose it because it seemed roomier than some of the others you listed while still having comparable features and specs. I can't speak too much for the others, but feel free to memail me if you have any questions on the Accent.
posted by fishmasta at 8:41 PM on December 3, 2012

Read the Edmund's reviews. Did the test drives. Bought a Mazda 3.

Thanks all.
posted by 256 at 9:00 AM on December 9, 2012

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