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The 2024 Acura Integra Type S offers 320 horsepower, five more than the Civic Type R.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

I am a recently retired woman who enjoys both cars and driving. My husband and I fight over who drives, regularly. We are both keen automobile fans and currently share a 2014 BMW 335 xi with the M package - the pretty bits - and a manual transmission. We love our BMW dearly, but it is aging and we are starting to think about possible replacements.

I have a reasonable budget as a decent car is a priority, and four requirements: manual transmission, four door, hatchback and all-wheel drive. Would love to hear your possible replacement options. – Colleen

Mark Richardson: Wanting a manual transmission instantly removes most of the choices for Colleen, because they’re a tough sell these days. There are still some to choose from, fortunately. You like manuals, don’t you Petrina?

Petrina Gentile: I love a stick, especially on windy, country roads. And I appreciate people who love manuals and driving – Colleen fits the bill. We don’t get many women with this wish list. But I love it.

Richardson: I’ll assume Colleen’s already taken a look at BMWs, and seen the only manuals available are in the M models that cost north of $100,000. Even then, she can only have all-wheel drive with an automatic transmission. So let’s look at another brand.

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The V6 in the 2023 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing makes 472 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque.Kunal D’souza/The Globe and Mail

Gentile: BMW has the M2, M3, and M4, but they are expensive. I’m thinking an Acura Integra – it’s a four-door compact luxury car with a six-speed manual transmission mated to a 200-horsepower turbo four-cylinder engine.

Richardson: Honda and Acura do make a very nice short-throw stick transmission, and it works well in the Integra, but it’s not all-wheel drive. There aren’t many cars that are. Subarus, Volkswagens and Porsches are the only ones that come to mind.

Gentile: Oh, yes – all-wheel-drive. That narrows the selection even more. Too bad, because I was also thinking of the Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing, but unfortunately it’s not available with AWD, either.

Richardson: I’d suggest Colleen not be so picky about wanting all-wheel drive. Most people really don’t need it. It’s nice to have sometimes for getting moving in slippery situations, like snow or mud, but traction-control systems these days make the extra driving wheels redundant for actual driving.

Gentile: I agree. She has fewer options with all-wheel drive – there’s the Subaru WRX, the Volkswagen Golf R and the Toyota GR Corolla. But none of these are luxury vehicles like her BMW.

Richardson: And the nicest of them all, the Golf R, has a long waiting list. A friend of mine just bought one, and apparently the dealer had more than 30 people on the list behind him if he cancelled. So let’s leave AWD for now and go back to the Acura Integra. It’s a great drive with a lovely engine and transmission, but not a ridiculous price. About time too, for Acura.

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2022 Volkswagen Golf R.Emily Atkins/The Globe and Mail

Gentile: Yes, I agree. It starts around $47,000, before freight and taxes. And it’s well equipped with lots of luxury appointments similar to her BMW.

Richardson: She’ll pay less for the automatic, but the manual includes adaptive dampers and a limited-slip differential. If she spends another $11,000, she can go for the Type S, which boosts horsepower from 200 to 320. I think she’ll like that.

Gentile: Oh yeah! She’ll love that. It’s so much fun behind the wheel. She’ll appreciate the extra power.

Richardson: Acura’s using the new Integra to return itself to being a performance brand for Honda. It tried being just a luxury brand and that didn’t work so well. This Integra is really nice, though.

Gentile: And so is the Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing. Even though it doesn’t have all-wheel drive, I think she’d love it. It has great performance and road manners plus beautiful styling. It’s often overlooked, but it shouldn’t be.

Richardson: I’ve not driven the Blackwing. What makes it stand out?

Gentile: The CT4-V Blackwing gets an exclusive 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6 with 472 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque. It has tight steering, sport-tuned suspension and is a blast to drive. The styling makes it stand out on the road, too. When I drove it, I was stopped constantly and showered with compliments.

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2023 Toyota GR Corolla.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

Richardson: Do those rear seats fold properly flat? Colleen says she wants a hatchback and the CT4 has more of a standard sedan trunk.

Gentile: They’re 60-40 split-folding rear seats, but they don’t fold down completely flat like in an SUV. There’s room, but not as much as a hatchback style would offer.

Richardson: That could be a deal-breaker for Colleen, but she should take a look for herself. How does the $74,000 Blackwing compare to the $54,000 CT4-V? Is it really worth all that extra money?

Gentile: Yes. The Blackwing is more powerful – it’s the fastest vehicle in the CT4 lineup. The CT4-V gets a 2.7-litre turbo I4, with 325 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. I think Colleen would appreciate the extra power and the get-up-and-go performance.

Richardson: Maybe, but we’ve not mentioned one car that might give Colleen most of the things she’s asking for: the Audi A4 Allroad. It’s great to drive and a premium car, it’s all-wheel drive, it’s four doors and it’s a wagon-like hatchback. It’s not a manual transmission, but she might forgive that when she drives it. It’s not even that expensive, coming in at less than $60,000 for the base model.

Gentile: While it does offer more cargo space thanks to its hatchback styling, it doesn’t have a stick – I think that’s a deal breaker for Colleen. I’d skip it.

Richardson: The only cars I can think of that offer Colleen all four of her requirements are the all-wheel-drive boy-racer hot hatches: the Volkswagen Golf R, and the Toyota GR Corolla. Neither are luxurious and there are long waiting lists for both of them, though she may be able to find one as a used vehicle, if not necessarily “gently used.”

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2022 Audi A4 Allroad.Supplied

Gentile: I like the Golf R, but I also like the ride and handling of the GR Corolla hatchback, from Toyota’s Gazoo Racing Division. It also checks all of the boxes – 300 horsepower, all-wheel-drive and manual transmission. And it’s a blast to drive. Definitely worth it for Colleen to test drive both and let us know what she likes better.

Richardson: I think the GR Corolla will be a little too loud and boisterous for everyday driving, but it’s worth a look if Colleen can find one.

What car should you buy? Write to Mark and Petrina at and use ‘What car’ as as part of your subject line. Emails with different subject lines may not be answered.

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