I think I’m going to be in the market for a new, or new-ish, car here sooner or later. I took the Cruze to the mechanic today. I know it needs a turbo ($500) and brakes (have pads, $50-100 for rotors) and the associated labor. There’s also a new mystery clunk that it exhibits when accelerating from a stop. A common Cruze problem is upper strut mounts, but some owners have also had issues with front swaybar end links and lower motor mounts. I’m thinking it could also be a CV or maybe a clutch hub. So I’m thinking repair bill could be anywhere from $1000 to $2000 depending on the mystery clunk. I just put $1000 in it a few months ago to fix a leak in the VVT actuator and another leak in the coolant system.

If the fix ends up being really expensive I’m just going to cut my losses. Otherwise I may put a little money in it with the intention that I still don’t really trust it but it will buy me sometime to look around some more.

I’m an engineer, I understand trade spaces, so I don’t have a lot of hard and fast rules for my next car other than it’s got to have a stick, be “fun” (which is a subjective term), and fit in my budget of low $20k range. Beyond that I can tell you a few hard no’s. No Miata. I hate to say this but my wife rode in my friends and she has long legs and was very uncomfortable in it, so that isn’t going to work for us. I’d like at least decent gas mileage but that tends to be a tradeoff with “fun”. Cruze pulls a constant average of 34.6mpg for reference. Circling back to the Miata, I’d also want something with more space than that. I’m open to new or used but this is going to be my daily so it needs to be reliable so if I go used I’d prefer something with lower mileage (30k range or less).

Currently I’ve driven a Camaro LS and Mustange Ecoboost. These two are literally just different flavors of the same apple. Camaro is lighter and a bit more fun to drive. Mustang makes more power on paper but feels “boaty” to me. Mustang does win points back for having a somewhat nicer interior and more space (Camaro trunk is almost non-existent). I’ve also considered a used Cadillac ATS since it’s basically a 4 door Camaro with a lot more refinement on the inside. It would probably be at the top end of my budget but I could make it work. At this moment I’m kind of waffling between these three. I got a little impulsive and almost traded the Cruze last weekend and talked to 2 Chevy dealers and a Ford dealer and all 3 are aggressively contacting me to try and get me to buy something, so I wonder if it might be a good time to try and park a deal.

So what else am I missing? I looked at some BMWs but there wasn’t too much in my price range that interested me, mostly old Z cars or stuff with too high mileage. There were one or two gems but they were on sketchy looking “buy here, pay here” type lots. Has Mercedes made anything fun recently with a stick? Is there anything Japanese I’m overlooking? I’m not a huge 370Z fan, but I suppose it might be worth going to test drive one.