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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

I've been reading countless posts the last few days and wanted to finally chime in.

Here's the situation: I'm considering a new job that has a 52 mile (round trip commute 85% hwy). I currently own a 2004 Infiniti FX45 AWD (with all the trimmings) and my commute to work is currently 20 miles (round trip 100% city). If I were to take the new job, I don't think the FX45 will be very economical (duh). I have one child (10mo) and a wife that drives a '97 Landcruiser (short work commute).

I'm considering selling the FX45 and getting either a MS3 or M3 GT. Then saving the rest of the money to put towards a new car for the wife (hopefully in 5+ years).

PROs for Mazda3 or MS3:
- gas mileage vs FX45(15MPG)
- still fun (especially MS3)
- still some 'utility', hatch
- I save $1100(MS3)/$2100(M3 GT) per year for gas plus insurance over the FX45
- new car means I have a warranty again
- reliability is fair for Mazda
- Extra $$$ saved for next purchase of a car, whereas, if I keep the FX45, we have no way of saving for a replacement to the wife's car.

I LOVE my FX45, I just wish it didn't cost so much to operate (mostly gas+oil). I like that it is powerful, good handling, AWD, has 'some' utility (like a wagon), luxurious, and has nice options (Navi, keyless start/entry, rear camera, rear DVD). I know I can get some of these options with the Mazda3/MS3. I live in suburban MD and the weather here isn't too bad, but I do like having a AWD, or at least a FWD w/all seasons tires.

Here are my questions:
1. Will I regret selling the FX45 for a Mazda?
2. I don't plan on replacing the Mazda for 8-10 years, will I be satisfied that far down the road (compared to the FX45)?
3. Will I be happy commuting to work in a Mazda?
4. Will I be able to do some light 'kid moving' with the Mazda
5. MazdaSpeed3 or Mazda3 GT?
6. Other cars I should consider?
7. Should I just keep the FX45 and swallow the operating costs (and hope the new job pays REALLY nice)?


Other cars that I'm considering (I know all different classes, apples and oranges)
- Used Acura TL (2004+)
- Used Lexus IS250 AWD (2005+)
- Used G35x (2004+)
- Euro cars (out of the question - wife factor)
- American cars (out of the question - wife factor)
- ??? (as you can see the wife ONLY approves of Japanese cars (mostly Honda/Toyota). She wants reliability, I want FUN to drive (with some reliability). I'll already have a hard time getting a Mazda by her, much less any other Euro/US brand.


Thanks for reading and replying!
 

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I love the Mazda3 overall, but I'm used to higher performance. As such, I bought the Speed3. It's is quite a car. My previous car was also AWD like yours. To be precised, I still have it and it is a Subaru Forester Turbo. I love it, too, but not as much as I love my Speed3. Since you are used to the nice and bigger Infiniti, why don't you consider a CX-7. It will still be a downgrade from your Infiniti, but it is faster than a Mazda3 and performs like a GTI, it is more family oriented and has a very nice cargo area. I thought hard about the CX-7, and I even drove it on a race track, but the Speed3 is what I dreamed about, and now the dream is a reality. I cannot deny that AWD is superior to the FWD, but Mazda did a good job on this FWD Speed3. It has the DSC and the LSD plus the torque steer mitigation system. I do not miss AWD on my daily ride as much as I expected and I have a similar commute than yours. However, I am in Florida. Had I been in snow country, I would have gone for a Speed6 or the CX-7 with AWD or a Subaru Outback. You can get a loaded FWD CX-7 with tech. package including Nav for MSRP of $27,000 or less. If you give up the tech. package and get AWD instead, it still costs less than $27,000. Mazda's value proposition in the Speed3 and CX-7 is tough to beat.
 

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If you really like the Mazda I'd go with the CX-7. You said you're planning on keeping it 8-10 years. I think the CX-7 is more comparable to what you have now in terms of space, comfort, options, etc. Just my 7 cents.....
 

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I think you should seriously consider a WRX hatchback if you are really concerned about all-weather handling. You should keep in mind that although the Mazdaspeed3 gets decent gas mileage, it requires premium gasoline (like most turbocharged cars, including the WRX), which will reduce the cost advantage somewhat. The Mazda3 has a very good reliability record so far (according to Consumer Reports and TrueDelta, anyway). The 3 does have traction control available in the models you're considering as well. It's not as good as AWD, but it helps.

When it comes to cars that are fun to drive, reliable, and economical, the Mazda3 is hard to beat. In addition to the WRX, you might also consider the Scion tC (I don't care for it, but it's often cited as a close competitor to the 3). Subaru and Toyota, of course, make some of the most reliable cars around.

To answer your questions:
1. Will I regret selling the FX45 for a Mazda?
I don't think so, unless you do a lot of offroad travel or frequently haul larger cargoes. The FX45 doesn't really look like it's big enough to justify too much extra expense just for the sake of hauling cargo.
2. I don't plan on replacing the Mazda for 8-10 years, will I be satisfied that far down the road (compared to the FX45)?
Reliability should be similar, if that's what you mean.
3. Will I be happy commuting to work in a Mazda?
I've found mine to be very comfy, even on long drives. The seats are wonderfully supportive.
4. Will I be able to do some light 'kid moving' with the Mazda
You can do quite a bit of kid moving. The hatch version will leave plenty of room for kid stuff in the back.
5. MazdaSpeed3 or Mazda3 GT?
I would not be willing to pay the extra insurance and gas for the Mazdaspeed3 myself, but maybe you are. You should drive both and decide for yourself.
6. Other cars I should consider?
Scion tC, Subaru WRX (or WRX STi if you really want power). Hell, try out a Civic Si just to see how it feels.
7. Should I just keep the FX45 and swallow the operating costs (and hope the new job pays REALLY nice)?
I would go for something more fuel efficient myself. If I really cared a lot about driving fun, and less about fuel efficiency, I'd still rather go for some other vehicle than the FX45. Ultimately, however, it comes down to your personal driving experiences. You must test all these cars and think about it for a while. Don't take our word for it; only you can decide what kind of car feels right.
 

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I agree with the Grey Zoomer and MS3 Hot Hatch. Given that you love your FX-45, you'll probably like the CX-7. I'm not a SUV guy, but I drove the CX-7 at the urging of my dealer. It's quite a car for the money.

If you want a "wild child", you can't go wrong with the MS3. It's a fantastic performance bargain. The CX-7 is softer, smoother and quieter. The MS3 is faster, edgier and more responsive. So it depends on what you want.

I recommend you to take your wife to a good Mazda dealer and drive them both for at least 1/2 hour. You'll know the answer when you are done.

D.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for all the suggestions.

I'll take another look at the CX-7, but I don't really like the look.

I need 4 doors (putting a kid in the rearseats), and I really prefer a hatch. So if I do sell the FX45, it comes down to either the MS3, M3 GT, Subaru WRX Wagon are my top choices. The Mazda's really give a good bang for the buck (after adding all the options) compared to a WRX. I'm 'trying' to stay under the $25K mark. I'm going to have to go to the dealership and try out a MS3 GT vs M3 GT vs WRX vs 4door Civic Si.
 

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I'm currently in the same boat:

- Need four doors for the kids
- Want efficiency...sort of
- Gotta please the general...I'm mean wife
- Currently driving an SUV but love to drive just for the sake of driving
- Etc

My biggest mistake was driving the MS3 first. All practicality has flown out the window of the MS3 on the test drive (really easy to scare the salesman...it's amazing these guys sell this car and hey don't even know what it is!). I've got the Civic 4dr Si, WRX, and Mz3 GT on my list as well, but I'm just not sure that I'm going to be able to shake that drive out of my mind long enough to make a rational decision :loco:

I have a hard time sleeping if the subject comes to mind. I'm afraid I'm hooked. Just a warning :D

[quote author=thetruthkc link=topic=68318.msg1180297#msg1180297 date=1170306438]
Other cars that I'm considering (I know all different classes, apples and oranges)
- Used Acura TL (2004+)
- Used Lexus IS250 AWD (2005+)
- Used G35x (2004+)
- Euro cars (out of the question - wife factor)
- American cars (out of the question - wife factor)
- ??? (as you can see the wife ONLY approves of Japanese cars (mostly Honda/Toyota). She wants reliability, I want FUN to drive (with some reliability). I'll already have a hard time getting a Mazda by her, much less any other Euro/US brand.
[/quote]

Funny. This is almost a repeat of my "other" list that is still sitting at my desk untouched. The TL is a great car. A guy I work with had one and loved it, reliable, well mannered but still willing to please. I don't have any knowledge/experience with the IS250. I'd thought about the A3 and came to my senses when looking at what I really got at base and where I would end up after I really got what I wanted.

I've been working on the wife with the MS3. The backstory is that she started with "Prius" and I countered with "Civic Si", she went to "New Altima" (apparently they have a hybrid version of some kind - damn hybrids), I came back with "Mazda 3" and she was blown away at the value factor...knew I had her. Just had to work in the "...oh, yeah, and then there is the speed version...it's the same car really, maybe a bit faster".

I think she's wise to me but it's all good. I'm not big on advice, but I'll say one last thing and stop wasting everyone's time:

Whatever you get, don't compromise if you feel it's right (for you AND your family). You and I both have some very similar requirments for a vehicle and I know PLENTY of people that were in the same boat and they ended up with a minvan they cursed for years on end until they had to start taking bloodpressure medication and were sucking down tums all the time. Life is too short to spend 25k or your hard earned money and NOT be happy.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
:D :D :D

Glad to have a sympathizer! I'm still running the numbers through my head and doing the footwork for the research... even before I tell my wife the plan yet.

I'm thinking... sell the FX45 for ~$33-35K (KBB Private party value). Get a $25K car (that will have to satisfy/last me for the next 8-10 years). Put the leftover $10K in investments so we can eventually replace the 'big' car for my wife, which should be in 3-7 years ('97 toyota landcruiser, which should last as the ultimate kid(s) mover).

I don't want to mod the car too much... so that's why I'm considering the MS3 and WRX (I know, those are famous last words, EVERYONE gets the itch eventually, especially after 3-4 years).

I just talked to a buddy and he's also considering the MS3, I think we'll go test drive together... maybe get a deal if we buy two!

Well, we'll see if I even accept the new job... could be that my current company matches the offer and I keep the FX45 and short commute!

(but i still have the itch to go with a sport compact hatch!)
 

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Discussion Starter #9
BTW any one know of a good general Subaru WRX forum? I don't want one where all the super tuners hang out and discuss all the ways to add a STI spoiler to their WRX.
 

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[quote author=thetruthkc link=topic=68318.msg1180297#msg1180297 date=1170306438]
Thanks for all the suggestions.

I'll take another look at the CX-7, but I don't really like the look.

I need 4 doors (putting a kid in the rearseats), and I really prefer a hatch. So if I do sell the FX45, it comes down to either the MS3, M3 GT, Subaru WRX Wagon are my top choices. The Mazda's really give a good bang for the buck (after adding all the options) compared to a WRX. I'm 'trying' to stay under the $25K mark. I'm going to have to go to the dealership and try out a MS3 GT vs M3 GT vs WRX vs 4door Civic Si.


[/quote]

The WRX is a great car, but the interior is disappointing. Have you actulaly seen it? The exterior is a little boring, too. The next WRX to be show cased in the fall in Tokyo is supposed to fix the current cheap interior and the current fugly looks. The Evo X raised the bar for Subaru's next WRXs and STIs. The speculated design is awsome and the STI version might even include a hatch just as the WRX now does. I would not recommend you to get a WRX now just to see it replaced in less than a year more or less for something much better looking inside and outside and at least 10% more horses. You could be disappointed. With the exception of AWD you get more in the Speed3 than in a WRX. If you do not like the CX-7, get the Speed3 GT or the Mazda3 GT. Anyway, just test drive the WRX and see the interior. You'll be turned off. The interior of my Subaru Forester Turbo is much better.
 

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I don't think you can beat the Mazda for styling and getting all the extra options for a good price. As far as reliablilty 8-10 years down the road, I'm not so sure of. That's kind of where I'm at with the reliability issue.........and that's where Toyota and Honda come into the picture. When you're talking of keeping a car 8-10 years I would really be researching the reliability factor also. The new Mazda's are too new to know how that will shake down. We all know what makes have the reliability behind them, but they sure aren't as fun, sporty, or good looking as the Mazda...........
 

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I occurred to me after I posted that the revised Subaru Impreza (including WRX and STi versions) may indeed be worth waiting for. I read a rumor on Autoblog that there will not be a WRX version (just normal and STi versions), but I think that has to be wrong.

Anyway, both the WRX and the Mazda3 are fantastic values. I'd go with the WRX if you want the additional safety of AWD and don't care about the car's ugly exterior and interior. Go with the 3 if you want slightly better gas mileage and don't need the AWD (and you can save a few dollars on the price, too). When I bought my 3, nothing came close to it in bang-for-the-buck. Yet I still strongly recommend test driving several other cars. If you're leaning toward hatches, the Civic Si is out(although I think it is a great car--the lack of a hatchback just means too much storage capacity sacrificed).
 

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Discussion Starter #14
<warning> long

Test drove the MS3 tonight at Congressional Mazda/VW in Rockville, MD. Cosmic Blue GT trim (no nav). The salesman was VERY nice and no pressure. I setup an appointment at 4:15pm and was in the car at 4:20pm. I was waiting for a friend to show up so the salesman and I sat in the car and checked it out for almost 30 minutes. The car had 150 miles on it. So here are my observations:

Exterior:

  • The CB color is very nice. Looks just like the anthricite blue on the VWs that I always wanted
    I'd like to see a black mica up close and in person though.
    Everyone has seen pics of the outside, and yes it is a very nice looking car
    I didn't spend too much time checking all the gaps and stuff, it was about 25 degrees outside and I was freezing
    I opened all the doors and slammed/shut them. There was a nice quality sounding thud when the door was closed
    Trunk hatch opened easily (it took me a minute to figure out the lever). My FX45 hatch was really heavy and the hydraulic struts couldn't hold the hatch up in cold weather. On the MS3 the hatch was noticably lighter and it swung open and kept going up until the top. A fairly tall person could fit under there no problem
    HID headlights were fine (i stayed until dark). About the same brightness as the ones on my FX45. I did notice that the highbeams were only the halogens
    I didn't see the LED taillights

Interior:

  • Like I said, the doors shut with a nice thud (quality sounding)
    Past cars for me was a 1.8t VW Passat and the FX45, VW interiors are very quality. Infiniti interiors are... Nissan like, but nice where it counts. MS3 interior was much better than I expected. Parts you touch everytime you enter/exit/use the car are all pretty quality materials, door handles, window switches, steering wheel, shift knob, arm rests, and seats.
    Buttons are nice, good feedback, and I'll eventually learn my way around the features
    information display screen was thin, i think about one/two lines of information. I'd like to see the clock constantly, as well as information about the trip computer. I'd also like to see the outside temp displayed constantly (it toggles with the interior temp). But, all the info can pretty much be accessed with one touch of a button. Anyone know if the steering wheel controls control any of the trip computer stuff?
    HVAC controls are intuitive, I noticed that the knobs were a little 'shallow', I'd like to see them protrude out a little more for better grip (or have rubber around them)
    Speedo gauges were lit in a bright orange, almost red. The FX45's are all amber, so I'd get used to it. I think I'd prefer if the added another color to that to add some contrast, but I can get used to it.
    Horn is wimpy (beep beep)
    Glove box is HUGE. very deep. I almost wanted to take my 15" T42 Thinkpad and put it in there. I think it would fit. Nice bonus
    I'm 5'9", and I had to move the seat up. I'll miss the power seats, but at least the seat adjustments are easy. The old VW had a knob (that fell off all the time) to adjust the reclining feature, which was horrible.
    Leather/fabric seats were nice and seemed durable and quality. One thing that might be of concern for me is that I was in the car for a total of 1 hr and my back and butt hurt afterwards.
    The backseat was fairly spacious, about the same legroom as my FX. It'll fit two adults, but I have concerns about the comfort of the seats back there. When I folded the seats down, I noticed how thin they were compared to my FX.
    As a father, I had to make sure a carseat would fit in the seat directly behind either the passenger or driver. I plan on eventually having more kids, so I needed to know if it would fit a rear-facing toddler seat (Fischer Price seat, very large and barely fits most cars when rear-facing). It barely fits my FX45 but it tucks snugly up against my drivers seat. It was the same fit in the MS3, I was surprised to see that it was just fine. So my concerns that two 'baby' seats would not fit are put to rest.
    The trunk was fairly big. Its what I was expecting, pretty deep and almost comparable to the FX45. The wheel-wells didn't protrude into the cargo area, so it was a pretty square trunk area. With the rear seats down, I can imagine that I could fit quite a bit in there. The privacy cover is something i'm not used to. But I guess a good feature, I might end up removing it. I like the ability to fit tall stuff back there.
    Power windows went up and down fairly fast. But I'll miss the four auto up and down windows in my FX.
    Didn't get a chance to test out the auto wipers
    Forgot to test auto headlights
    There are some decent knooks and crannies to put stuff in around the car. Rear center armrest had two cupholders. But it seemed like the armrest would fall down easily, it didn't feel like it snapped into place when put away.
    Turn signal/wiper rod controls were all pretty standard. They all worked like I expected them to...I mean nothing confusing and 'different'.
    Steering column tilted and telescoped (manually).
    Wish there could've been a sunroof/moonroof, but my buddy said that they probably didn't include one for enhanced structural stability
    Removing the key is a little pain (with the little button), the only feature that I'll REALLY miss from my FX45 is the Intellikey option (the world's best option EVER).
    Other than some fancy power seats, and some fancy electrical doodads in the FX45, I think the MS3 interior isn't much of a step down from the Infiniti. Actually, I like some manual controls, because thats just less stuff that can break in the long run. Like all the stupid electrical problems in my VW
    All in all, I'm very impressed with interior quality, and space. This is a very important concern of mine. Because I'm really trying to justify the MS3 vs TSX vs WRX vs FX45 (current car)
    The buddy I test drove with has a modified 03 Mazda protoge (5dr). I sat inside of that and REALLY noticed the difference in interior feel and quality. The MS3 is a HUGE step up from the 03 model.
    While waiting for the sales manager afterwards, we checked out the VW GTI in the showroom. I was really disappointed by the interior...it seems a step down from my 98 passat. The same rubbery feel was on the dash, but other things like the door handles (interior) and other things like the plastic and the buttons didn't feel very good at all (maybe i'm just REALLY trying to justify the mazda)

Finally, the test DRIVE:

  • Engine starts up fairly quietly. Almost didn't notice it start
    Learned manual on all 5-speeds, but it took only a few minutes to get used to the 6 gears. I was a little embarassed when I pulled onto the street in 3rd (i thought i was in first), I downshifted to 1st and made the wheels hop.
    Clutch felt light and it was pretty easy switching through all the gears.
    The car has tons of power, especially in 3rd and beyond. I guess it was the Limited slip computer that prevented 1st and 2nd from pulling the car too much
    Brakes were nice, the car stopped nice and quickly
    Cabin noise wasn't too bad on fairly smooth suburban roads (with a thin coat of salt on them). I'm no audiophile, but I couldn't really hear a difference from my FX45 as far as road noise, maybe it was the new tires vs mine
    Everyone knows that the car performs well, I'll probably only use it to 30% of it's power potential, but its nice to know that the power is there if I ever needed it
    Of course it is hard to compare the V8 vs the 2.3 turbo, but I think it'll be just as fun (in a straight line) as the FX45. (not quite as smooth, but it'll do.
    Suspension felt nice and tight, but not too tight, the ride was smoother than I expected (thinking that a performance tuned suspension would shake the heck out of me)
    Engine/Exhaust noise was a little bit of a concern. I didn't notice it too much as I was driving (maybe it was my driving style) I kept the rpms down and didn't really notice much engine noise. But when my buddy drove it, he kept the rpms up and there was a slightly annoying droning sound. I'll have to test drive again to hear the difference
    AHHHHH... i love the turning radius. Now I can park without having to put it in reverse once (like on my FX45), its embarassing to do that in a mall parking lot full of angry Christmas shoppers
    the car was light and the steering was nice, and it made the car very fun to drive.
    needless to say we were both impressed by the ride/power in the MS3 (my car FX45, his cars S2000 and MazPro5)

Sorry for the EXTRA long writeup, hope it helps some people in their decisions, and I wanted to write my impressions down somewhere. I'm leaning towards the MS3, but I'll test drive the WRX and TSX soon to see what they have to offer.

thanks for the read!
 

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Regarding your back discomfort, did you try adjusting the lumbar support? That might help somewhat. I regularly drive between Nashville and Memphis (about 3 hours) and find it very comfortable.

You'll get used to the little button used to pull the key out. Moving my thumb over it while turning the keys is now a habit for me.

The turn radius is indeed nice. I went from a 1988 Grand Am to a 2004 Mazda 3, and although the 1988 Grand Am wasn't a big car, the difference in handling was extreme.

I'd be interested in hearing how the WRX and TSX stack up, in your opinion.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Test drove a 06/07 WRX sedan and an 07 TSX This weekend.

In SHORT: WRX has dropped off my list as a contender, the interior and transmission were not even close to comparable. The TSX is still on the list, but I want to test drive a 6-spd manual. Added to list: Used TL and 07 Honda Accord EX (V6, 6spd man).

WRX impressions:

  • It'll be VERY hard to find a Limited WRX Wagon in my area
    Power and torque are fine. Nice zippy little car.
    Handling was nice, pretty fun to 'whip' around
    From the moment I sat in it, I knew there was NO chance of me buying one. The interior was very very 'cheapy' compared with the MS3 and my current FX45 (I know, different class, but wow, REALLY cheap). Doors were light feeling and rattled upon shutting them. All buttons and knobs felt very plasticky. All driver touches (steering wheel, hand brake, gear shift knob, etc, were cheap. Sorry WRX fans, this just isn't what i'm looking for.
    Transmission was hard to get into and out of gear (with only the MS3 as comparison). It was very much less refined.
    Road noise and engine noise were slightly more than the MS3, but by the time I got around to paying attention, I'd already ruled out the WRX as a contender for me and just wanted to end the test drive and stop wasting time
    Again, not trying to bash the WRX, but for me, it is out of the running after the test drive.

TSX impressions:

  • The dealer couldn't find a 6spd man for me to test drive so i took out an automatic.
    I like the exterior revisions to the 06/07 models
    Passenger space was on par with the MS3. Now, I have to convince myself and wife, sedan or hatch (I love hatches, but I'll have to convince my wife that hatches aren't butt ugly)
    The interior was AMAZING. I test drove this car before the WRX so it isn't a matter of perception. EVERYTHING was luxury standard. I was VERY impressed with everything. However this made me think that the MS3 was not very far behind as far as interior quality. It is hard to compare the luxury Acura interior with the Mazda, but I'd say in all categories, the Acura wins out (but not by far). One thing that stood out to me was the TSX steering wheel (VERY nice feeling)
    Trunk space was ok...but hard to compare with the MS3. The fold down rear seats were disappointing, although they folded down, the opening to the back was a fairly small trapezoidal shape. I personally, much rather the MS3's cargo space.
    TSX has all sorts of other doodads, bluetooth, better radio (IMO), power seats, auto up/down windows, etc... (although you DO pay for it)
    Initially, I prefer the TSX speedo/tach area much better than the MS3
    Seats were fine, but I didn't spend nearly as much time in the TSX as the MS3. The leather was much softer and more comfy, but, in the long run, maybe it won't last as long.
    The test drive was fine... that's all fine. I really wanted to compare the 6spd man to the MS3, to make sure that the TSX with the lower HP/torque would be 'fun enough' for me. However, the automatic really left something to be desired. It felt pretty boring to me. Sufficient for most days, but I think with a manual tranny, you get that feeling that the car is more powerful than it seems. So, I still need to test drive the manual before I pass any judgement
    Steering and handling felt fine, but not as 'fun' as the MS3 (but fine for me)
    Cabin noise was on par with a luxury car. IMO, quieter than the MS3. But the MS3 was quiet enough for me.
    The car was SOLID, felt heavier, felt quality.
    Can't beat Honda/Acura quality (car was made in Japan like the MS3 was)
    So the TSX still remains at the top of the list for MS3 competitors, until I get a chance to test drive the 6spd manual.

I went on a 2.5 hour trip to Deep Creek Lake (in the mountains of Maryland) for the weekend and drove the FX45. It made mince-meat of the drive up the mountains. I easily averaged 75-85 MPH up without much effort from the V8. It put a smile on my face (until I stopped at the pump and hand calculated MPG... 14.8mpg). I still had a smile on my face, it made me 'rethink' the 4-cyl engine choice. I think the MS3 would still be fine in the mountains (however, I'd have to deal with the loud engine). And although the TSX would be fine in most cases, I worry about it not having a good amount of power... so I added two V6's to my mix of contenders (a used 04 TL and 07 Honda Accord, 6spd man). Both are at the VERY top of my price range at $26K, but, at only $1-2K more than the MS3, I'd have to consider them. Again, I travel to the mountains... maybe once every two years, so not a huge problem, but something to consider (we'd probably take the Landcruiser next time anyway).

So off I go to test drive the Accord (6spd), 04 TL (6spd), and TSX (6-spd). Am I too obsessed with trying to find a manual transmission car? The automatic was nice to have occasionally when I needed to answer a phone call... but I feel that the 'fun-ness' factor just isn't there.
 

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I don't think it's unreasonable to want a manual transmission, particularly in a small car. Consumer Reports did a survey of a bunch of small cars a couple years ago and found that manual transmissions still got about 10% better gas mileage and were 10% faster to 60. I personally don't see any reason to go with an automatic unless one is doing so much rush-hour, downtown driving that one's arm would be exhausted and the clutch quickly worn out. Now a CVT, on the other hand, is something I would consider as an alternative to a manual transmission (but not one of those silly CVTs with the fake shift points programmed in).

The WRX interior is that bad, eh? Oh well. Maybe they'll get it right with the upcoming redesign. The TSX is a great car; I have a friend who is very happy with his. It gets similar gas mileage to the MS3 and requires premium fuel, like the MS3. It's definitely more luxurious, but you give up cargo capacity.

I know I'm in a minority here, but I don't care for leather seats. I have too many childhood memories of getting in hot cars with leather seats during the summer while wearing shorts, burning my legs. Plus the squeaking and sliding. Cloth is fine for me.
 

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Cloth is fine for me, and I'm getting 26 MPG with automatic...and a I love automatic. Have driven manual before...had a Civic.....and loved it ...it was a '95 and I had that one for a loooog time. But I really like the ATX and I think I get good mileage....better then some on here with ATX. Justed unlocked my mileage computer on my 2006 and am happy to find I'm gettin 26 MPG city. Don't know yet what it is highway............big snow storm coming, so won't know for a few days. Will let you know!!!!
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Had some time after work so I swung by the Honda dealership.

Accord V6's (MTX) were out of stock. So I decided to test drive a blue Civic Si (4dr).

Impressions:

  • The interior is on par for what I was expecting in a Honda. The Si was fine, I guess I'm a little spoiled by seeing the TSX interior. I'd rate the interiors of the TSX (9/10), MS3 (7.5/10), Civic Si (6.5/10), WRX (4/10).
    It would take a little 'getting used to' for the instrument cluster. Someone mentioned that it looks a little like a video game.
    Touch and feel of the interior was fine, but some of the components needed a little more... weight. some things felt light, like power window buttons, door handles.
    Steering wheel was nice. Steering the car felt a little numb, I didn't feel as connected with the road as I did with the MS3
    Power was on par with the TSX, which means, I'm not completely impressed. For the test drive we stayed mostly on city roads (like my commute would be). I wasn't really impressed with the power. I guess I'm used to the FX45, which only the MS3 has been able to deliver. I guess I'm looking more for 'torquey' car, not as much on the high end.
    The gearbox felt about the same as the MS3
    Cargo area was about the same as the TSX, rear seats fold down, but still a trapezoidal opening from the trunk area.
    Overall, I don't think I could live with the Civic. It'd have to be a V-6 (or turbo-ed). I know I can't beat the reliability, but I really like that 'fun steering and fast feeling car'.
    Sticker price was into the $24K range - with navi. For that price, I'd rather the $25K MS3 GT w/o navi.
    Ride noise was fine. I'm getting pretty numb to all this...

So against all the competitors I've put it up against, I'm still leaning towards the MS3. So now I have to convince the wife that the Mazda is not unreliable and 'low-class'. This will be the BIG challenge. Anyone have good experiences with extended warranties?

Thanks for the read, I'll keep you all posted with other test drives... (although none will compare with the MS3)
 
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