Car Purchase Help

Oppoland,

A friend is having a baby and is looking for a replacement vehicle to put her aging truck to rest. Any suggestions? Relevant info:

- Current vehicle is a Nissan 2WD pickup truck with manual transmission and camper shell. She loves surfing and being able to carry stuff in her truck (currently she has the back set up with a bed and shelving for roadtrips), so practicality is a big factor.

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- Must be decently affordable to buy (she’s on a teacher’s salary), fuel efficient, not expensive to maintain, and preferably a manual.

- With kid on the way safety is a priority, and being able to carry child seat, stroller, and other random things like bikes, surf boards, household items etc. every now and then.

Options currently being considered - Honda Fit, Mazda3, Ford Focus, Honda CR-V (older gens before they got fat and boring and manual-less), Element, Toyota Matrix.

We’ve thought about Subarus (Forester, Outback, Impreza etc)...but she doesn’t need AWD and would rather have better fuel economy and less complexity, at least at this point.

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Also keep hearing a lot about good dealer incentives that might make buying brand new worthwhile compared to something a few years old - I’ve never bought a brand new car, should this be something she considers given her market segment? (I don’t have a specific budget from her but would imagine she wouldn’t want to spend much more than $15k total)

Any other suggestions, besides a Miata?

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