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2013 Mazda3 (Mazda)
2013 Mazda3 (Mazda)

Best of the Lot

What’s the best compact car for a goalie and his gear? Add to ...

The lease on my 2009 Acura TSX is up in the spring, but I have to move into a new car prior to that as I’m up against my mileage limit of 96,000 km. I don’t anticipate having the same issue four years from now, as I now run my own marketing consultancy from home.

I didn’t have great luck with the TSX from a service standpoint, so I’m not keen on getting another one. I considered the Acura ILX, but the lack of a split folding rear seat or pass-through annoys me – my son is a goalie and I need to get the stick in there.

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I love hatches and the versatility they can provide. I have considered an Audi A3, Hyundai Elantra GT, Jetta GLI and a BMW 320i. I like the new Honda Accord, but its lack of a split rear seat or pass-through is again a deal breaker. I don’t understand why manufacturers are getting away from this simple, utilitarian feature. Any guidance you can provide would be appreciated. – Mike in Ottawa

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Vaughan: Mike, so now you’re a consultant working from home. I hope that works out for you, but I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to keep your costs down, especially in the early going. Cato and I can give you some quick comments on your choices, then we’ll suggest some that will meet your requirements and cost you less that the Acura or most of your other picks.

Cato: First, the TSX, ILX and Accord. I’m surprised you’ve had bad luck with the European Honda Accord, sold as an Acura here in North America. You’re one of few. Acura is surely going to phase out the TSX now that the ILX is in showrooms and selling well.

So to the ILX ($27,790 base) and the Accord ($23,990 base). As you say, Mike, neither is sold with split rear seats or a pass-through, but both do have full fold-down rear seatbacks. If it’s just you and the goalie, that would work for you. By the way, car makers save money wherever they can and the added cost of adding a pass-through or a split is not something Honda wants to incur.

Vaughan: Now to the others. The Audi A3 ($37,500 for the AWD) I like a lot, especially the diesel ($37,100 base), but this car is expensive. As for the Veedub, I prefer the Golf ($19,975 base for two-door hatchback) over the Jetta ($14,990 base), but they also are difficult and expensive to repair. Besides, there’s a new Golf coming to Canada in 2014, which is worth waiting for, if you can deal with your present lease. By the way, I used to lease but I will never do it again.

Cato: Ah, Vaughan, I just had a conversation with a top VW official about your old Golf, the one with 330,000 km on the clock and a dozen years in the book. He says you should pick a time and he’ll accompany you to the dealership for any repair. He guarantees a fix.

 

Vaughan: That won’t help Mike. I think there are a couple of alternatives he hasn’t considered. The Ford Focus hatchback ($19,599 base), for instance.

Cato: I’m a huge fan of the ride, the handling and the engine. Great looker, too.

Vaughan: I have no problem with the Focus, but maybe self-employed Mike should downsize to a Fiesta ($13,999 base hatchback). It’s a subcompact with room for goalie equipment as long as no one’s in the back seat.

I just went out to drive the new Fiesta with the three-cylinder engine. It’s terrific. Gets 126 horsepower and an easy 40 miles a gallon. You’ll have to wait until early next year to get it, though.

Cato: It’s a long way downmarket from a TSX to a Fiesta, so think twice, Mike. Something bigger and eminently affordable: the 2013 Mazda3 GS-SKY ($20,695). I love the smooth, strong powertrain. You’ll love it, too, Mike.

Vaughan: There’s a lot to like about Mazda, especially since it became independent of Ford. Mazda has developed this package of technologies it calls SkyActiv. Mazda will soon be putting clean diesels in its cars. But, Mike, your lease problem doesn’t allow you to wait. Mazda is getting interesting again. I hope it can survive as a small, independent company but I have my doubts.

 

Cato: I have two words for you, Mike: Dodge Dart. For you, I like the loaded Limited/RT ($23,245). Sexy styling and, yes, a 60/40-split rear seatback.

Vaughan: Cato, the car snob, is recommending a lowly Dodge Dart? Circle the day on your calendars! Here you’re getting a handsome little car with a lot of Alfa Romeo engineering under the skin. Mike, you’re self-employed now and we’re trying to save you some dough just in case. Drive the Dart before you sign up with BMW.

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HOW THEY COMPARE

 

2013 Ford Focus SE hatchback2013 Mazda Sport GS-SKY2013 Dodge Dart Limited/RT

Wheelbase (mm)

264926402702

Length (mm)

435945054671

Width (mm)

182417551829

Track, front (mm)

146614701466

Engine

2.0-litre four-cylinder2.0-litre four-cylinder2.0-litre four-cylinder

Output (horsepower/torque)

160/146 lb-ft155/148 lb-ft160/148 lb-ft

Drive system

Front-wheel driveFront-wheel driveFront-wheel drive

Transmission

Five-speed manualSix-speed manualSix-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

131013181471

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

7.8 city/5.5 highway7.6 city/5.1 highway8.1 city/5.4 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$19,599$20,659$23,245

Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

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