Civics are fine, but what about a Honda Fit?

A co-worker has a 2007 and really likes it. He commutes to work daily and has racked up about 120,000 miles since he bought it new in '07. Nothing has broken. And he's even a bit nutty and will take the thing semi-offroading on camping and fishing trips. Other than gas, just scheduled maintenance, front brake pads, and a set of tires. The interior has a few squeaks and rattles, but the engine and transmission are still going strong. I've ridden in it plenty of times and it's a decent little car. It's not a sports car but it's zippy (his is an auto - manual would be better), gets good gas mileage, but has a great amount of cargo & passenger space for its size. Here in the US they're about $15k, brand new. As a small, inexpensive, reliable, good-mpg commuter car, it's just about perfect, IMHO.

My sister has a 2005 Scion TC. I think it has about 70k miles on it now. She has not had any trouble with it, though she does complain that it seems to go through tires quickly. It's actually her second TC; the first one was totalled when someone T-boned her at 30mph. She walked away from it unharmed. I don't recall her commenting on high insurance rates, but she's a she, so YMMV.

Mazda3's are nice cars too. Never owned one, but I've come close to buying one, twice. Previous generation and the new current generation. They drive well and are decent-handling little cars for the money. Good MPG and I think they're fairly reliable, though I don't know for sure. MazdaSpeed3's are a riot, but probably not what your'e after. ;\) One caveat - the higher-speced Mazda3's may have the premium stereo, which is Bose. Good luck with that. \:D

What about a Subaru Impreza? I used to have an Impreza WRX and it was a great little car. The regular Impreza 2.5's aren't as crazy-fun, but they're still nice cars. Not the best MPG in their segment but Subie's are generally quite reliable and you do get AWD, which might be handy for those arcic Canadian winters up there. ;\)

I've test driven Mini Coopers. While they handle well and are fun to drive, the regular Mini's aren't exactly speed demons. Cooper S's are *much* better, as far as fun-to-drive-ness. But do check insurance rates. If you are thinking about a used Mini, make sure you've got a Mini dealer nearby. Not that Mini's are unreliable (I don't know), but you will likely need a dealer sooner or later. Mini dealers are few-and-far-between in some parts of the world. Not only can they be a pain to get to (gotta take a day off work, etc), but it also means they can charge whatever they want becuase they have no competition from other Mini dealers. They don't allow Mini dealer's on every corner as you'll find with Honda, Toyota, Ford, etc dealers.

I used to own a Saab that required a 200-mile (round trip) drive to get it to the dealer. I convinced myself it wouldn't be a big deal when I bought it. Turned out to be more of a PITA than I thought. Never again will I buy a car whos dealer is more than 30-40 minutes away.

The best advice I could give is that for whatever makes/models you're interested in, find their respective forums online. Every car model has an enthusiast website (or two or twenty) where owners will discuss and gripe about their cars. Do a little lurking. Look at the FAQ's for common complaints and/or problems. In an hour, you'll know more about the car than any salesman.

Good luck with whatever you chose!
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