Mazda 3 or Subaru Impreza for a climber/road trip car?


Original Post
daisy s · · New York, NY · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 25

Hey, I haven't owned a car for the last 12 years, and my last one was the world's best 1987 integra, so I'm having a hard time deciding which more modern car works best for me. I know for sure that I want a stick shift hatch or wagon, but apart from that, the blur of touchscreen navigation systems and keyless starts make them all seem kind of the same.

I would be using the car for climbing trips on the east coast, and also as a family car for my boyfriend and me. We're planning a long road trip this summer, and would probably take a tent, but I also want something that I can sleep in for climbing trips. BF doesn't climb, despite my best efforts. :(

Any input from the community about good choices? The Mazda sounds like a nice all-rounder with decent mpg, the Impreza might be just big enough for both of us to sleep in it in a pinch, but I'm sure there are decent picks I'm missing out on. My budget is about $8k for a decent used car.

Thanks for any help!

David Hous · · Boulder, Colorado · Joined Nov 2001 · Points: 195

I am a hatchback fan as well. Those are both good cars - the main distinction being the Subaru's all-wheel-drive. AWD is great, but unless you are an avid skier you can get by with front wheel drive and snow tires most of the time and save yourself some money on gas. I had the old version of the Mazda 3 and was able to sleep in the back reasonably comfortably, but I never tried two people in the back. I had to lean the front passenger seat all the way forward to make room for my feet.

You really can't go wrong with either car in my opinion.

Michael Schneider · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 735

I'm also looking at vehicles. I had VW diesel, that was part of the emissions soft-ware scandal.
I had a love\ hate relationship with it.
A Jetta TDI, on a sport wagon platform,
it did not have the to heavy for the car glass roof, a big plus,
but it had stupid body modification, a front ' luver' that reduced clearance,
filled with road derbies & gave it a ' lowered appearance,' @#allbig-negatives.

The milage was amazing 50+ MPG hi-way ! With the Auto Trans!
It had all sorts of Nav, and DVD /cd /MP3 but no backup camera.
Pleather, but the Whole tint / white exterior /camel interior was a ' Kool' ride.

Tires are another thing to watch the replacement cost of.

We had been leaning very strongly Subaru, Impreza/legacy
But the MPG is not all that great, we are looking at - ""Is That More Than A Go-Cart?""
Used Hybrids , while we wait like sheep for slaughter for the ' New Offering from VW;
The Golf All-Road.

To be fair, once you get used to the pu-put no pick-up, the Camry 4 door ( ho No! )
The Prius V and it's kind of way over priced Lexus sibling, Used? May be the answer
for our needs which are mainly a regular 50 miles back & forth around town a week, with two 500+
mile trips seasonally ((200mliles back & Frth to Gnks (4-6x) , every now & then)), and not more than then 3-14 days out @ a time.

ChrisN · · Morro Bay, CA · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 25

I was looking at the same cars. I ended up gettingthe Alltrack intead. I really enjoy it so far, and for the money ($25,600 before taxes), I think it's a great value. A significant step up in terms of refinement and interior quality than the Mazda and Suby. Presumably the AWD will help getting up slightly less than smooth dirt roads I suppose.. I guess it's nice to have. Gas mileage has been 26mph mixed, closer to 30mpg on the highway... so not great but not terrible. The DSG transmission is nice. The CVT Suby transmission was a deal breaker for me. Felt like crap. Better yet, you should be able to get it in manual soon.. then you'll actually be able to drive your car and not just operate it.

I'm coming off of a Golf TDI as well, I would buy that motor again in a second. 42-48mpg, 126,000mi and the only only thing that failed was a $80 glow plug sensor (maybe I'm just lucky though, others have reported problems). A manual TDI Alltrack for under $30k would be tough to beat.

Edit: just saw the $8k caveat. Ignore my post!

Parker Wrozek · · Denver, CO · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 83

I have a 2014 Impreza hatch and it is pretty good for most climbing trips. I am not sure how the east is but with only 5.9" of clearance that is the limiting factor for most off the beaten track climbs. I think if I had a do over I would have gone with the crosstrek (8.9" clearance). The CVT is pretty good imo (although not sure how old you need to look for one at $8K) and I am using this all over Colorado in the summer and winter. The AWD gets you a huge advantage over a FWD with snow tires (maybe not a concern for you). The newer ones are great on gas mileage. With a thule on top I get 30-31 mpg average.

Sleeping in the back is not too bad. My GF and I have done it in a pinch a few times and both fit good. We are 5'8" and 5'4" though. Much taller than that will get tough. Also you need to put all your stuff in the front or have another way to store it.

For me AWD was the big decider but as a huge skier I need it in the winter (that plus snow tires are pretty killer)

daisy s · · New York, NY · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 25

Thanks for all the input! Sleeping in the back for both of us would really only be in a serious pinch, and I'm only 5'3", so I can sleep in the back of almost anything when I'm by myself.

I agree that a Golf TDI looks very tempting, but I could only get one at least 15 years old for my budget.

I'll probably go with the 3, since I don't need AWD. I really prefer manual, since I've only ever driven automatics in rentals, and that was no fun at all.

Michael Tarne · · Conway, Arkansas · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 0

I have a 2015 Mz3 and it's been a great car. While not AWD, I really haven't had any issues here in CO with snow tires, even up in the mountains (I like BC skiing every once in a while). It also made it up and down Gemini Bridges Road in Moab, though I wouldn't want to do that frequently. Mileage is great, they feel nice on the inside and drive well, have all the nice amenities. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend one. Oh, and the rear seats fold basically completely flat. I haven't tried sleeping in mine, but I bet I could.

David Kutassy · · Charlottesville, VA · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 5

My wife and me have a 2007 Mazda 3 and 2015 Mazda 3 both manual hatchbacks.

The 07 is right at 200,000 miles and still running strong. There was an engine mount that needed replacing at 70k, struts at 100,000 and sway bar bushings at 120,000 but everything else has been normal maintenance. Oil change every 7,500 miles and trans oil change every 50,000 miles. Try to rotate the tires every 10,000 miles.

If your looking at 3s between 2004 and 2010 make sure you check the passenger side engine mount. It commonly fails around 60,000 miles but is super easy to fix with a floor jack and socket set. Check for oil under it (the mount is filled with oil). If the oil has been washed away you can't really see the split rubber indicating a busted mount. No immediate danger if it is broken but you'd want it fixed.

The 2015 has slightly more space in the back but it's marginal. We're both 5'9"; and fit pretty easily. When we've slept in the car we did need to put most of our gear in the front seats.

mediocre · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 0

We just bought a new forester ( the first new car either of us have ever bought). While I love the car, if you've gone the past 12 years without a car, keep going. You're better off.
Zoom zoom.

daisy s · · New York, NY · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 25
Fajita Dave wrote: If your looking at 3s between 2004 and 2010 make sure you check the passenger side engine mount. It commonly fails around 60,000 miles but is super easy to fix with a floor jack and socket set. Check for oil under it (the mount is filled with oil). If the oil has been washed away you can't really see the split rubber indicating a busted mount. No immediate danger if it is broken but you'd want it fixed.
Thanks, that's very useful advice. I read of a lot of clutch failures in the 2010/2011 models, so I may double check that as well.
daisy s · · New York, NY · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 25
mediocre wrote: if you've gone the past 12 years without a car, keep going. You're better off.
I hear you, but I also hear a road trip calling, which is awesome. I'm not looking forward to garage fees either. It's pretty much obligatory in Manhattan to have a garage spot.
mstolorena · · Shelby, NC · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 95

The Subaru Forester comes in a 6 speed manual. Also in not just the base model, the 2.5i Premium comes in a standard. I recently got a Silver 2015 before I turned in my Golf TDI (sad day). So far really like it!

Ryan Mac · · Seattle · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 5

Love my Crosstrek, have taken that thing through snow my Wrangler (tj) wouldn't get through. Higher ground clearance than the impreza, but basically the same otherwise.

Michael Schneider · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 735
Ryan Mac wrote:Love my Crosstrek, have taken that thing through snow my Wrangler (tj) wouldn't get through. Higher ground clearance than the impreza, but basically the same otherwise.
The Crosstrek is Similar but not same.
Both the Impreza & the Mazda 3 run fine on regular octane gas, does the Crosstrek?
the tires also cost more, the mpg is lower
and its claim of 6 inches more clearance doesn't consider the undercarriage.
(catalytic converter /exhaust hang down )
Ryan Mac · · Seattle · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 5

I'm just giving you my experience. I've never bottomed out in it, and have driven through some gnarly backroads in Wyoming in the Gros Ventres, Wind River, and Teton ranges. Not to mention it took me up the hill (12deg, .5mi, super winding) to my house in 18" of powder on top of a season's worth of snow pack. But yeah maybe the catalytic converter got some snow on it.

Michael Schneider · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 735
Ryan Mac wrote:I'm just giving you my experience. I've never bottomed out in it, and have driven through some gnarly backroads in Wyoming in the Gros Ventres, Wind River, and Teton ranges. Not to mention it took me up the hill (12deg, .5mi, super winding) to my house in 18" of powder on top of a season's worth of snow pack. But yeah maybe the catalytic converter got some snow on it.
Ah ! When need out ways thrift Subee is usually the most cost effective way to go.
I'm an all the time city/highway driver.
I was not dissing the Crosstrek, I like its ride and costs to run, compared to the Outback.
I have been looking into older (2010-14) Audi a4s, built on a similar 'platform' as the older Outback.
but they seem to run hot and have high running /maintenance costs. . . .
What else are people driving that is economical ?
T Roper · · DC,VA,NM,UT,CT,MA · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 860
Michael Schneider wrote:What else are people driving that is economical ?
Honda Fit, plenty of room in the back and our 2007 gets 35-40 on the highway. 100k and not one problem yet.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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