What to Buy: Wrangler, Mazda 3 Hatch, Subaru Outback?

08-17-2014, 07:17 PM

So, I'm new to the forum here and looking for a bit of purchasing advice, if anyone has time/feels like it :)

For some reason, I'm really indecisive on cars right now. I'm not totally head over heels with anything at the moment, and I'm wondering if you have any experiences/thoughts to add. I've test driven a '99 Wrangler manual, 2007ish Wrangler automatic, Subaru Outback automatic, and a Mazda 3 automatic. Whatever I get, I'd like to go manual for the fun/awesome factor, and just to do something different.

I live within 3 miles of my work and usually commute via bike, although that will change during the winter. I mostly drive around town, picking up groceries or taking my two roommates and I on little adventures. I also drive about 130 miles to visit my parents once a month. Ideally, I'd like to be able to jump in my vehicle and feel confident taking off to Portland or Washington (about a 10 hour trip) whenever, but realistically, I won't be doing much of this. I do want to feel confident at highway speeds of 80 mph though, and in the curvy mountain roads around Idaho, which is one thing I'm questioning about the Wrangler.

The vehicles I'm thinking about right now are the Jeep Wrangler, Mazda Speed Hatchback (or Speed3), and the Subaru Outback. I'm up for other considerations too, but am trying to narrow it down.

-I'm looking to purchase a new car and have about $9,000 to $11,000 to spend.
-I'm a 23 year old single guy, just out of college and making 11/hr, 40 hrs a week and live in Idaho.

-I currently drive a '97 Buick Lesabre

-I'd like to get something with under 100,000 miles and preferably more like 60-80.

-I don't do much offroading/mountain driving, but basically a few snowboard trips a year, which any car could handle.

-I really like the look/customization factors of the Wrangler, but not so much the interior. I could do some seat modifications I'm sure, but it's hard to feel like you're upgrading when going from a '97 vehicle to a '99 (that was the Wrangler I tested). I can afford a much newer/more comfortable Mazda on the interior.

Basically, the Mazda or the Subaru would be the most reasonable and sensical choices, especially due to gas mileage and comfort, but there's part of me that really wants to like the Wrangler too :) It would be my daily driver though, and especially with limited money, the mpg of either the Wrangler or the Speed 3 is something that I might come to regret later.

Anyway, if anyone has any tips or personal experience they'd like to throw in, I'd appreciate it. Thanks!

Dave B.
09-11-2014, 09:57 AM
This would be a no-brainer for me. Buy a Mazda3 hatch. Forget the Speed3 unless you're into performance driving - the regular 3 is a quick little car with better-than-average handling and very good fuel mileage. Plus, if you go manual, they have a really sweet-shifting gearbox. The Jeeps are OK, but don't get very good fuel mileage and seem to require a more-than-average amount of maintenance. Subies are nice if you're buying new, but can get maintenance-needy after 80-100k miles and they don't get the mileage that the Mazda3 does. As far as winter driving goes, pick up a set of used wheels and buy some good winter tires. A front-wheel-drive car with winter tires (especially if they're studded) will still go in situations that would leave an all-wheel-drive with regular tires stuck! Dave B. (veteran of lots of Ohio winters...)

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