Hey Oppo, I’ve pretty much committed to the University of Arizona to attend college this fall. With this decision, my parents have deemed it necessary to pick up a new set of wheels for me since an ageing Volvo isn’t necessarily the best match for 300 days of sweltering sun (ahem, Swedish radiators much?) That said, my dad’s hoping to get something newish around $10-$17K and suggested some basic AWD since it’s Arizona and there’s plenty to explore off the beaten path.

I want a stick shift for funsies, so I’m leaning towards a Subie XV Crosstrek Forester (I’ve heard XV’s are deadly slow, can anyone confirm?) since it has a proper stick and the pretty good AWD system that Subaru makes (better than Honda’s, for sure.) I am a bit concerned, though; many report issues of engine failure even with the new FB’s and I don’t want to have a several-grand engine replacement marring the reputation of what’s supposed to be a relatively “reliable college car.”

Besides the XV, I’m also considering perhaps a CPO Mazda 3 hatch or 6 (no AWD, but stick), Outbacks (H6 is more reliable, but no stick and it’s massive), modern stick-shift Acuras—TL, TSX (stick and sometimes AWD, but no ground clearance), and even a Honda Accord Crosstour!? (iffy AWD, no stick, really ugly, I kinda like it?) My dad, the loyalist that he is, hasn’t ruled out perhaps a newer, less dog-eared Vo like an XC70 or XC60, but I kind of want a manual for once (so yeah, no Crosstour).

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TL;DR—I need a car for college and I want a manual with AWD+some ground clearance. Are Subaru FB engines questionable? Feel free to chime in with your own ideas that I might have overlooked.

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  • $15-18Kish
  • Reliable, manual transmission
  • Preferably hatch/SUV, AWD+some clearance