My Girlfriend's New Car Search: What Should We Go Look At?

So, my girlfriend is getting ready to go look at new cars for hopefully a 2 (maybe 3) year lease. She wants a decent sporty car (2 or 4 door) that gets good MPG. I was hoping that some of you opponauts could help us figure out what we should go start looking at!

So, to cut a long story short, I'm fronting the down payment on a car lease for her so she can finally get her own car. She's been using my '12 Focus for the last 6 months while I've been using my Supra to commute around.

Unfortunately, last weekend something felt off driving my Supra to work. It just felt lacking in power, and on the ride back home I heard the inevitable gurgling. After doing a compression test earlier today, I can confirm the head gasket I replaced a few years ago at 16 finally blew.

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Which means for the time being we have to use one car to commute to work at totally different times. Thankfully we at least work at the same place. It has not been fun. In fact, we wouldn't have been able to make today work, so i had to call in sick and just screw around with my car in the garage.

She's pretty open to whatever I suggest for her to go look at, as she hasn't really been paying attention to what's for lease (or on the market) lately. However, she's a borderline car enthusiast, so it needs to be something somewhat sporty and fun. She has no preference towards 2 or 4 doors, and doesn't care whether it's a sedan, coupe, hatchback or convertible.

I've also been expressing interest lately in going back to AutoX sometime this year after being away too long, and she wants to give it a shot. So whatever she ends up with needs to be able to handle probably 4 or 5 AutoX sessions a year.

I should also note this will be her first car. Up until now she's only borrowed cars. The reason she wants to lease rather than buy is that she wants to build some simple credit, and get something else in a few years (something off her bucket list).

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Now, here's her "simple" requirements:

  • Less than $250/month lease with no more than $2700 down. That's all she can afford per month without blowing her budget and that's all I can afford for a down payment at this time.
  • MPG. This is her main concern. Her goal is 25 city, 35 highway. Slightly under is fine, and over would be amazing.
  • Must have a shiftable / manual mode automatic. A true manual transmission is out of the question (it's mostly a commuter) but she wants a manual mode for the occasional AutoX or spirited driving. She's waiting to learn how to drive stick until I get a new sports car.
  • It must be able to handle. It should turn where you turn the wheel, it should have at least some road feedback and shouldn't be overpowered (i.e. NOT the new Camry where you can turn it with your pinky and not feel anything).
  • Comfy seats. Pretty simple, we have a 35 mile commute (each way) to/from work nearly everyday. She also drives 60 miles each way to go visit her grandparents once a week. Just something comfy to sit in.
  • Has to look "good". Things like the Avenger or Fiat are out of the question. Looks aren't everything but something that's not too bland would be nice.
  • Reasonable ergonomics. Not her choice of words but her description was hilarious. She wants something that makes sense, not with buttons everywhere that aren't labelled. She doesn't care whether it has touch screen or not, just so long as it has Sirius and bluetooth capabilities.
  • Absolutely no: CUVs, Pickups, SUVs, Trucks or Wagons. No hybrids either.

Notice why I put simple in quotes? So far the first thing that has jumped to my mind has been the Mazda 3. With the new one coming out (sometime soon? I haven't seen a release date..), that seems like a decent option. I want to look at multiple cars and see what she likes the most though, so whatever you can throw at us would be great. We'll probably be hitting the dealerships this weekend to start looking.

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Also, it if helps, here's her Car Bucket list:

  • Chrysler Crossfire SRT
  • Factory Five Racing Type 65 Coupe (aka Daytona Coupe Replica)
  • Ford Mustang V8 Fastback - She wants a 1965 that has the 1964 1/2 bits
  • Mazda Miata NA1 with a hard top
  • Shelby Cobra Replica or Kit Car with a modern V8

Hopefully that helps with her taste. She also likes things like the Audi TT, R8, Toyota Supra MK4, etc. but doesn't want to own any of those.

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So what suggestions do you guys have for us? There is no right or wrong answer; and we'd love whatever advice we can get!

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