Needed a car for my daughter to learn to drive. Had to be a manual transmission, inspire confidence when driving, safe, and reliable. Compared and test drove all the usual suspects (Civic, Corolla, Je...
Needed a car for my daughter to learn to drive. Had to be a manual transmission, inspire confidence when driving, safe, and reliable. Compared and test drove all the usual suspects (Civic, Corolla, Jetta, Mazda 3) and bought the Mazda. Everyone values different things about cars so here are the criteria I used (in order) and comments on each car for them. I didn't consider features (all can be spec'd out to have what you want), price (all are similarly priced after aggressive negotiation), and all are safe and reliable.
- Mazda: very crisp, responsive, and stable
- Jetta: solid, German-style handling, firm
- Civic : not as balanced as they used to be, more towards comfort that handling
- Corolla: squishy, soft, flaccid
- Mazda: best engine/transmission combo by far
- Civic: best clutch, silky smooth
- Jetta: best engine, strong throughout
- Corolla: meh all around
- Mazda: polarizing exterior (I like it), quality interior materials, and very comfortable
- Toyota: boring exterior, best interior design, seats OK
- Civic: handsome exterior, weird interior and cheap materials
Jetta: totally anonymous exterior, very cheap interior materials
- Mazda: best combo of handling, performance, efficiency, and design with quality materials and construction
- Civic: did not buy mostly because of the build quality, handling biased toward comfort, and average performance
- Jetta : did not buy because of the build quality, cheap interior materials, boring style
- Corolla: did not buy because of the poor handling, weak engine, mediocre transmission, and really boring design
In the end, the Mazda offered the best combination of what I valued. Over the first month of ownership, it has not disappointed. Solid, stable, decent performance, excellent handling, and terrific fuel economy. For context, our family car is a Honda Odyssey so I was biased toward Hondas but the Civic didn't quite cut it. (the Odyssey is a far superior Honda vehicle) . My car is a BMW 3 series and the Mazda was the closest to it in terms of handling, performance, and stability. If you value comfort and mainstream design over performance and style, the Mazda might not be your first choice but it was mine by a mile.