What 2018 cars should I be looking at?
October 30, 2017 8:39 AM   Subscribe

It's time to replace my 9-year-old Mazda 3, which I love, with something with more modern safety features, backup camera, and bluetooth. What cars should I be looking at? Conditions inside.

Of course, I am looking at the 2018 Mazda 3, but also the VW Golf and the Subaru Impreza (I didn't like the Impreza in 2009). I've also decided to extend my search to include small SUVs like the Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester, and Honda CR-V, because their wheelbase and length are comparable to the Mazda 3, they are just a bit taller. I like a car that's fun to drive, has good ratings for reliability, has good comfort and safety features (e.g., blind spot monitoring, backup sensors, lane assist - and willing to go up to the higher or top trims for that), and preferably a high-end audio system. We'd like a hatchback in the family because my spouse's sedan isn't good for hauling stuff from Home Depot. Price range is about $25K for a car, $33K for a SUV (both of those are for the higher trims). It would be mostly for urban and highway driving around Seattle, with occasional road trips.
posted by matildaben to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I can't speak to the cars in those segments but we've been sufficiently happy with our Kia Sedona (big minivan) that I'd suggest looking at whatever their cars in those segments are.

If you're looking at the 3, you should also look at the Ford Focus. Same platform.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 8:44 AM on October 30, 2017

My wife and I have the 2016 Honda CR -V, and we love it. Lots of room, good.gas mileage etc. The 2018 Accord has features like lane monitoring and blind spot sensors, so I would venture the 2018 CR-V will be similar.
posted by Roger Pittman at 8:47 AM on October 30, 2017

Just a note, you're looking at the last year of this generation 3. Groundbreaking engine improvements and a bodystyle change coming for 2019.
posted by ftm at 8:48 AM on October 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

I just traded in my 2010 Mazda3 hatch for a 2017 CX-5 GT and could not be happier with the decision. Whatever car you end up getting, I highly recommend getting one with radar cruise control, it's amazing for road trips.
posted by noneuclidean at 8:50 AM on October 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

I really like the newer Golfs, especially in the upmarket trims. The current 3 is OK, but I prefer the Golf.

If you might want something larger, but don't need serious height, the Ford Fusion is pretty nice. You can pack a lot of stuff in it, especially with the rear seats down. Not as much as a CR-V or RAV4, of course, but the fuel economy is much better, as are the driving dynamics, though again, the Golf is better. The Fusion feels more like a Jetta or a Passat, being a larger car, but doesn't have body roll like a Camry.

That said, I'm thinking that if I buy a new car it'll be a Bolt or a 2018 Leaf.
posted by wierdo at 8:58 AM on October 30, 2017

Also see what 2017 models are still available; in many cases they will really be no differences between 2017 and 2018 models and you may be able to get a rebate and/or better deal with a 2017 model (we just got a fully loaded 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid for about $31k with a $3000 rebate).
posted by ShooBoo at 9:06 AM on October 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

We went from an '06 Mazda3 to a '17 Impreza this year. The Impreza feels a little sluggish compared to the Mazda (and no stick shift option on most trim lines), but compared to the new 3 that we test drove the Impreza is more comfortable and bright on the interior. All the dark fabric and smaller windows made the 3 feel pretty oppressive compared to the Impreza.

Cargo carrying in the Subaru is good - the rear seats fold flat and the hatch is nice and wide (the old Mazda was a sedan so I don't have much to compare it to). We upgraded to get the fancy safety features, and I would say they're all pretty much worth the price. The cold weather kit is also nice if you have to deal with winter (heated seats, side view mirrors, and windshield wipers).

It is a brand new design for 2017, so we have had a couple issues with it - one minor recall almost immediately after buying it, and and issue with the airbag computer that took a couple trips to the dealer to resolve. That being said, the customer service around both issues was great so it never felt like a huge deal.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:13 AM on October 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

On the "fun to drive" front, the VW Golf GTI is hard to beat. There's an add-on "driver assistance package" that is well reviewed. It's a little above your price range for a car, but I imagine you could probably get a good deal on a 2017 model at this point.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 9:32 AM on October 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

I was about to pull the trigger on a Mazda 3 and then I test drove my Nissan altima. It was a much more satisfying experience to me, so you should give it a shot too!
posted by bbqturtle at 9:55 AM on October 30, 2017

Toyota has both the Highlander and Rav4 in that segment.

The Highlander (and Rav, I think) has a hybrid option as well, which is a blast because electric motors = massive acceleration. In any case, Toyota/Lexus has a well earned reputation for reliability and longevity.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:11 AM on October 30, 2017

I went from an old Subaru hatchback to the hybrid Kia Niro this year, and couldn't be happier. It gets great mileage, sits higher than the Subaru, has back-up and lane-change monitoring, and is very comfortable. The way-back is large enough for the dog, and when I remember to connect the Bluetooth to my phone, the phone connection works pretty well.

My one complaint would be that it doesn't have a spare tire, and I need to buy one separately.
posted by suelac at 10:26 AM on October 30, 2017

I put some time into researching new cars for a potential relocation to Seattle, but the job offer didn't happen so I never test drove anything. From my research alone* I'd add a few cars to your list, but I can't really vouch for the driving experience of the most recent models. On the hatchback front I'd add the Ford Focus (but not the Fiesta or the Honda Fit, which are both practical but maybe too small for cargo purposes). On the crossover/SUV side of things I'd also look at the Ford Escape and Kia Sportage. The CR-V, CX-5, Escape, and Sportage seem to be most car reviewers' top four in the class, although never in the same ranking order. Of current models the Sportage seems to have the best smartphone interface, the CR-V has the best cargo capacity, the CX-5 seems to have the best handling (according to reviews), and the Escape seems to run a consistent second place in a lot of categories. You may also want to look into the Subaru Crosstrek (which is basically a raised Impreza), but it looked a little cramped for my tastes.

* We're Zipcar members and we rent cars about a half dozen times a year. We've driven a lot of cars for hours or days at a time, but not the Subaru or the Sportage, and we haven't driven any 2017/2018 models of anything. I don't feel qualified to talk about the handling of cars you'll find on the lot now.

I'm sad there's no wagon variant of the Fusion, because it's my favorite rental car and a wagon would be really practical. The Edge is the crossover built on the same platform and some trim levels are only a little bit more expensive than the Escape so you may also want to add it to your comparison (for that matter some trim levels of the Escape get really expensive). As a rental I haven't loved the handling of the Edge because it feels big in a way the Fusion doesn't, but you may like it.
posted by fedward at 10:32 AM on October 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I own Mazda 5 of about the same vintage as your car. There are a couple things abouf it that would affect my choice of a new car. One thing is the the Mazda just seems fragile. I bent a wheel, the upholstery seems easy to rip, etc. Also every time I had a minor repair issue, it seemed related to some expensive repair. It cost nearly $500 to replace the air pressure sensors in tires.

Second thing, the around town gas mileage was mediocre, though the highway mileage was excellent.
posted by SemiSalt at 10:40 AM on October 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've been a happy Mazda owner for many years now (my 2008 Mazda5, for one, a 626 before that, and we just got a CX-9 last month). Our market for the next vehicle was slightly different than yours - we needed to tow a boat and wanted AWD - but ended on the CX-9 because it was very zippy compared to any of the other comparable models, including a VW Atlas.

Now, given that you aren't looking for the same criteria, I just want to encourage you to TEST DRIVE, TEST DRIVE, TEST DRIVE. I was all but completely sold on the VW Atlas until I test drove it after the CX-9. It was big and heavy and slow to accelerate, whereas the turbo-charged 4 cylinder in the CX-9 was just fast and light and zippy.

Do you have kids that require car seats? It felt like a hassle, but we installed our carseat into every vehicle we test-drove and it was telling, for sure, which ones fit better than others and how convenient they were to get in and out.

Something else to consider is what kind of media you play for music in the vehicle. Many don't have CD players anymore.

And, now is a great time to get last year's models at discounted prices because they are trying to clean house for this year's new models. Keep your eye out.
posted by jillithd at 10:54 AM on October 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

No kids, streaming music/Sirius/HD radio, don’t want a big car, I like heated seats.
posted by matildaben at 12:02 PM on October 30, 2017

I drove a Mazda 3 and ended up with a GTI... my 2016 S has heated seats, came with a few months of Sirius, has CarPlay and Android Auto, and is a blast to drive. 35 MPG in non-sport mode. I paid around 25. The MK7s so far seem to be really reliable.
posted by Huck500 at 12:19 PM on October 30, 2017

I recently traded in my 2011 Mazda 3 Hatchback on a new Nissan Rogue Sport. I test drove a Mazda CX-5, but liked the interior of the Rogue Sport better, especially the infotainment screen/system. The Rogue Sport is a smaller version of the Rogue. I live just down the road from you in Portland, in a very hilly neighborhood. I did not like the way the Mazda 3 handled the snow. Hopefully the AWD on the Rogue Sport will do better. :).
posted by elmay at 12:26 PM on October 30, 2017

Take a look at the Kia Soul. They are fun to drive, and have a good amount of room inside for their footprint. Good gas mileage, too. Not sure if you can get heated seats.
posted by hydra77 at 1:05 PM on October 30, 2017

Also look at the Mazda CX-3, which is a little taller than the 3, more comparable to the size car you have now and has all wheel drive available.
posted by cnc at 3:33 PM on October 30, 2017

I recently bought a Subaru Impreza after auditioning four cars. I drove and was impressed by the Mazda 3 but my lasting impression was that it was like driving a barcalounger in a darkened room. I liked the features and it's external looks but there was no road feel and all round vision was oddly cramped. I loved the looks, feel, vision and acceleration of the VW Golf and while I know from previous experience (I owned a Golf for 13 years and loved it) that you can hide a lot of luggage in it, I felt that the seating was going to be too cramped for my growing boys. The choice came down to the Impreza and a VW Golf SportWagen. The SportWagen was fast, fun to drive, very roomy, had loads of cargo space, and had ok gas economy and I would have chosen it but it was too expensive at the trim level I wanted. I love the Impreza: it's great to drive, sure footed, vision is good, cargo space is adequate, sound system is good and the mileage is improving. It lacks the VW's acceleration but with the driving I do (city) I rarely need that level of power. I look forward to every trip. I would've bought the VW but couldn't justify the expense. If you end up making your choice from those four cars I think you'll be happy. Good luck!
posted by firstdrop at 4:17 PM on October 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

My one-man band just leased a Nissan Qashkai 1.6litre diesel. I drive a lot (30,000ks plus yr)., and wanted a highly efficient car with enough room for my 6'3" and with a big hatch and bluetooth.

I opted for zero extras (heated seats came as default, as did backing cam - but this seems a gimmick, and there was no manual option (but I think there is in US), but it's pretty nippy as it's diesel) but there was a whole list of things if you wanted. I'm really happy with it and still running it in - best mileage so far 4.7litres/100km and getting better all the time.

I do miss my Ford Ranger farmtruck tho' but it was SO hard to park in the city.
posted by unearthed at 2:04 AM on October 31, 2017


I just want to encourage you to TEST DRIVE, TEST DRIVE, TEST DRIVE.

I was completely sold on a Mazda 3 (the write-ups are very good) until I test drove it; the interior, how it felt in the cabin (especially "touch points"), and how it drove completely changed my mind. Your opinion is the most important here - it's good to do research, but when all is said and done, you're the one who is going to be spending a lot of time in the cabin, it's your call.

Having mentioned cabins, the Honda Civic 10th generation (2016 onwards) is an extremely nice place to be: they got the driver's position 100% right, the cabin interior is not too fussy but still visually appealing, and the quality of the materials are pretty good for this segment. I bought a 2016 Civic coupe so obviously I love this generation and what Honda's accomplished with their revamp of the Civic line. Again - you've got to devote some weekends to test-driving different make/models and see what appeals to you.

Have you seen the new Civic hatchback? IT GETS RAVE REVIEWS I AM NOT KIDDING. I've written recently on how great the handling is so I won't regurgitate that here. I will mention that on the hatchback, there is a controversial aspect to the styling; there are two honeycomb black bits on the rear bumper that almost everyone dislikes (guess what - I like 'em!). The rear end is different on my coupe but if a hatchback had been available in 2016 no doubt I would've gone with that.

But there is boatloads of room in the hatch, so if you're looking for room, it's got it. There's also an innovative 'privacy shelf' in the back that takes up much less space that conventional ones.
"Since this is basically a Civic sedan, the controls have the usual Honda delight in their weight and precision, and the gearshifter, if not quite S2000 quality, slips tightly from gate to gate with a gratifying feel."
Not my words - the words of "Car and Driver"!

I test-drove the CR-V and loved it, although it's less of a driver's car and more of a car for hauling; since I don't do much hauling I ruled it out.

Honda build and quality are superior to Mazda's, and there are many, MANY more Hondas on the road than Mazdas, meaning parts and service will be much cheaper. Add to that great gas mileage and Honda's reliability and you've got a good contender. (Also: Honda is very generous with even the base model - I bought the base model and enjoy a number of innovations that were new-to-me, like brake hold and capless fuel. Don't even get me started on that last one it is wonderful.)

Good luck with your search and remember the test drives can change all your preconceived notions!

[Some people think I should take it down a notch with the Hondalove; NO WAY JOSE.]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 10:10 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

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