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Golf GTi MK 5. Ideally 3 door, manual.

We have one (DSG) and a MK6 too. Swiss Army knife car, can do it all, has a huge aftermarket scene too.
I would say out of the two the MK 6 drives better (but not hugely) but the MK5 is better made & has had less faults during our long ownership (both have done 160k KMs).

Of course the Mk7 would be even better.... but as a VFM sweet spot & platform for further mods, the MK5 hits the mark.
Although folks talk about the Golf R, do you really need the 4WD / extra weight / stuff to go wrong?

When VW wanted to make a harder core GTi, the came-up with the Clubsport & Clubsport R. FWD, 300 BHP, uprated rolling chassis, reduced the kerb weight. That same recipe could be followed with a Mk5 'Clubman Edition'
 

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Miata Is Always The Answer

The Fiesta ST is a blast to drive, but they do have some problems to watch out for.

Golf R if you want significant others/etc to not hate it.
 

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Golf GTi MK 5. Ideally 3 door, manual.


Although folks talk about the Golf R, do you really need the 4WD / extra weight / stuff to go wrong?
The problem with the MKV, dog bones, no dog bones, however you reasonably try to manage it, is that it just can't seem to lay down the power without a lot of intervention and/or axle hop. I've had my '09 MKV since new and have really enjoyed it, especially with its APR flash but my experience is that it overwhelms all season tires in first, second and sometimes even in third gear especially if it's wet. The Haldex system does add weight and complexity but it puts the power down and offers the other AWD benefits that are nice for daily use. The Haldex penalty is mostly one of weight and not so much of fuel efficiency. I think the R understeers a lot less in spirited driving as well.

The chink in any Golf's armor are the niggles that come with long term ownership: carbon buildup, every kind of pump you can think of that fails because some VW exec decided to save a $1.22, bad coil packs, abs module failures, things that all MK V owners are well familiar with. Still on balance, a generally well made car that only lets down in what should be small ways that yet manage to cost more than they should to correct.

Against that, they are now offering 6 year 75K mile warranties now that largely mitigates long term ownership concerns. I've been doing the research for three weeks and keep coming back to the R as meeting most of my daily needs at a price that isn't too onerous. I'd really like a Guilia QV but it's too much money for me to rationalize as a shopping car(t) and anyway, I have my Evora for the thrill rides.

That being said, I think the GTI is perhaps the best balanced value in its segment if daily use and the overall package is considered.
 

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Do you have to drive this in the snow, ice, etc, which would skew recommendations towards AWD?
 

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Golf R is a pocket rocket and can be made to be even more so with some upgrades but they are not an economy car from price perspective. And not so under the radar with the standard wheels.
 

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I've heard great things about the Focus ST and to a slightly lesser extent the Fiesta ST. Both sound like great choices...depending on how things go, I may potentially be picking up a Focus ST as my daily next year. Was checking prices on Carmax a month or two ago, just to see, as a matter of fact...it all depends on which way my life goes.

I will say though that on a recent fun trip to Disneyland and Beverly Hills with my long-time girlfriend, we ended up with a yellow Honda Fit as our rental car. Thrifty gave us a choice down rental car row...much as I love yellow and red on exotics, I hate loud colors on a rental. All the risk and none of the glory is what I used to say. Funny thing is that after I finished laughing at the prospect of a yellow rental, after looking at all their other offerings, the yellow Honda Fit they had easily turned out to be our best choice so we went with it.

After driving it all over LA and Southern California during our trip last July, we liked it a lot and I actually got pretty attached to that car...something I never expected in a million years. Funny thing about the bright yellow too was that whenever I saw a cool car and the owner noticed me checking it out, they would look over and figure it was my own car and not a rental due to the color...pretty hilarious!

Here's a pic of the rental Honda Fit that we had...it's no wedge or a landmark of automotive aesthetic design excellence, but this thing had a heart of gold and while it wasn't very fast, it turned out to be a great choice. Aftermarket pieces available for Honda cars are virtually endless...I would definitely give one serious consideration in the future if I want a more conventional car with potential for future mods that doesn't break and does everything well. Not a bad car at all for what it is and after spending much time in LA traffic, there was something really endearing about it.

I say hit some dealers and do some test drives to see what fits you best. :)
 

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2005 Elise LSS Saffron Yellow
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There's a yellow Fit running around Charlottesville with 'Pikachu' as its vanity plate. I admit to chuckling when I noticed it.

Frankly, I'm glad that Honda and Subaru at least have been willing to break the gray/gunmetal/maroon wall for economy cars and give us some interesting colors. FCA has gone back to boring colors for Fiat 500s, and VW mostly quit putting interesting colors on water beetles lately, too.

There's a Focus RS in a sort of 1950s throwback non-metallic utility gray (they call it Stealth Gray) in town - it actually looks very purposeful in the color. Who knew that nonmetallic gray on a Ford is more eye catching than a silver Porsche? I guess silver and gunmetal are just really overdone.

I should probably at the Focus RS to the fun econobox list for this thread: Five doors, AWD, and 350 HP make for about as much fun and practicality as a WRX wagon, and unless you know what the blue RS badge on the grille means, you don't know that it's not just another Focus.
 

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There's a yellow Fit running around Charlottesville with 'Pikachu' as its vanity plate. I admit to chuckling when I noticed it.

Frankly, I'm glad that Honda and Subaru at least have been willing to break the gray/gunmetal/maroon wall for economy cars and give us some interesting colors.
My Fit is metallic orange.

It really is a ball. Get this, it came with paddle shifters.
 

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Eric
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if not worried about price...get a tesla!

If you are not worried about price, and you are looking for another SUV, but actually fun to drive, I would highly recommend a Tesla Model X, even in the 75D variant, it's actually fun to drive, handles very well for a beast, is faster than most cars out there and depending upon how much you drive and what your electricity (off peak) is, for us in MN only costs < $25/month to drive 1k+ miles at off peak rates. And, if you have a business that you can use for a mileage write off (ie it exceeds the 6k gvwr rating), it becomes reasonably priced.

I have to say, I normally wouldn't spend that kind of money on a vehicle, but because I used it as a business write off, it made sense, and I don't regret the cost at all. My wife even suggested that we sell the 2008 elise and get a model s. There's really no way to describe driving one, you really have to drive one for a week or so to understand it...smooth, quiet and makes going back to the mini van or any other vehicle seem prehistoric and sloppy. It's almost like the first time you drive a lotus and understand why people like them...it gives you that same feeling!


...and if your not looking for an SUV, I'm sure a model S or 3 will give you the same experience...after owning one for < 6 mos, I don't think I would ever buy an ICE car again, and hope to replace the mini van with an S or 3 sometime in the future...don't get me wrong, I still love my elise, but for daily driving, the Model X is a joy and gives me that feeling of driving the lotus all year round! (since the lotus only comes out for 3 mos out of the year here in MN).
 

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shay2nak
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Mazda 3 skyactive MY 2014+

18" wheels with continental extreme contact sport tires with Eibach springs is awesome combo.
 

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I like my $3,500 06 Mazda 3 hatch. With 140 hp, it's not fast but good for 50 mph on the cloverleafs:

Bilstein dampers
Front 215-50-17 BFG Sport Comp 2 tires
Rear 255-40-17 BFG Sport Comp 2 tires
Factory springs
2.5L engine
Rear fenders rolled, but only necessary for heavy passengers when hitting the curbing at the track

I'd have to lookup the alignment settings
Steering is much crisper and faster than the Elise, but not as direct in feeling
 

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Nothing that is FWD is worth it to me. JIMHO.
 

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Discussion Starter #34
Nothing that is FWD is worth it to me. JIMHO.
Well, as someone who owned an M100 for 13 years, I'm sorry, but you are just flat out wrong

I also love AWD cars[3 Audi quattros], but if you 'need' them in the winter, ya jus caint drive. Yeah, they are fun, but Tires are always the limiting factor, and if you cannot stop, you shouldn't be going.

And yes I drove the M100 on all season tires most of 4 winters.
In New England
To work every day

I appreciate all the suggestions, but come on, WRX, BRZ, Golf R, Focus RS, Civic R, not economy cars.

I have owned my +2 for coming up on 35 years, so I know how to enjoy myself with an 8 second 0-60 time.

Honestly, I cannot figure out why, in 2019, cars still drive so terribly. I have driven a few Fords and Kias that feel like a 4 door 1973 chevelle.

Yeah, a passenger car is going to be set up to understeer, but look at our cars, is there anything expensive in the suspension components?
Nothing.

Why not design a suspension geometry that is good and then let the sport models have the stiffer springs and negative camber?

It reminds me of reading 'Race Car Vehicle Dynamics' about how in the 50s and 60s GM did all this work because basically they had no idea why cars did what they did. Chapman somehow knew things intuitively but yah caint make a million cars that way. Still these people act like they know nothing

Anyway, budget is basically new or just off lease, but I find new dealer financing usually makes new a better deal, or lease and see what you can get it for at lease end. [yeah, there is a buyout in the lease, but if they are auctioning for half that sometimes you can make a deal] . If it truly is an econo car I don't want to pay more than low 20's
 

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I appreciate all the suggestions, but come on, WRX, BRZ, Golf R, Focus RS, Civic R, not economy cars.

Anyway, budget is basically new or just off lease, but I find new dealer financing usually makes new a better deal, or lease and see what you can get it for at lease end. [yeah, there is a buyout in the lease, but if they are auctioning for half that sometimes you can make a deal] . If it truly is an econo car I don't want to pay more than low 20's
I was wondering how people were confusing "economy car" with the cars mentioned in this thread. Low 20s new/nearly new should thin the herd.

San
 

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Less is Better
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I'm convinced from my own experience over the past year and a half, that there is no better commuter car than the Mazda Miata. It's extremely fun to drive but also easy to live with. The NA I've been driving this year cost me just a tad more than "pocket change", it takes regular gasoline and gets mid-20's mpg in traffic that averages less than 20 mph. But the real key is that the car is ALWAYS enjoyable.

A good set of snow tires even makes it fun in the snow (as long as it's not too deep).
 

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Discussion Starter #38
Hell, I would just drive the Exige

Not an option, 2 seats and all

And, no the M100 was a better car summer and winter
 

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I appreciate all the suggestions, but come on, WRX, BRZ, Golf R, Focus RS, Civic R, not economy cars.

If it truly is an econo car I don't want to pay more than low 20's
I wish you'd lead with this - it would have changed a lot of suggestions. You also didn't state new/used.

Well, if you want to stay under 25K, you're looking at stuff like Fits, a Fiat 500 Abarth, a Fiesta ST, or (just barely) a GTI or Focus ST and equivalents.

As for handling, it has been decreed (by Ralph Nader, originally, but now in law and SAE Engineering Handbook) that understeer is safer than oversteer, and cars are all about safety. Further, most cheap cars are transverse FWD, which gives them pretty terrible weight distribution. If you take a small FWD car and set it up for optimum handling, you end up with a SAAB Sonnett. Nobody builds that car today.

If you want it to handle decently, you're going to have to either get a boy racer package or do some suspension mods. You can blame aggressive lawyers and crappy driver education.
 
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