Gentlemen: I am looking to downsize from a 2009 Nissan Maxima to a sporty commuter vehicle. I need more than a coupe, as I will have occasion to put a car seat in for my daughter. While I would love something like a VW GTI or Mazdaspeed3, my caveat is that a set of golf clubs must fit in the trunk. If you had $30,000-$35,000 to spend, what would you consider? – Lee in Calgary
Cato: If you didn't have the car-seat challenge, I'd say splurge – get a Porsche Boxster. Golf clubs? Pull out your driver and 3 wood – they'll tuck nicely beside the passenger seat – and you can get a fat golf bag in the trunk of a Boxster.
I am telling you this to make a point: You have options. The sticking point for golf bags is your one or two long clubs. Be flexible there and you can get almost any car – even a tasty roadster.
Your big challenge is comfort for the kid. That rules out the Mazdaspeed3. Racetrack-ready and rides like a buckboard in the city. The reinvented 2014 Mazda3 GT is another story.
Vaughan: You and I, Cato, spent an afternoon in the Mazda3 GT driving the Sea to Sky Highway from sky to sea – Whistler to Vancouver.
Cato: We did. The car came as advertised, but I was more pumped to show you where British Columbians staged the greatest Olympics in the history of mankind. Perhaps someday the IOC will trust Toronto with an Olympics – er, no. Not even Toronto's charming and internationally recognized Mayor Ford has enough juice to sell Lausanne on Hogtown.
Vaughan: Toronto would have had the Atlanta Summer Olympics but a local politician named Jack Layton helped put the kibosh on it. Now we have a nice statue of Jack but zero prospects of Olympics.
But we do agree on the car, Cato. Compared to Lee's five-year-old Maxima, which is a good sedan, the Mazda3 will feel like a sports car. It's lighter and tighter than the outgoing Mazda3, which was a terrific car, too.
But I'll tell you this: The new one needs better seats. They're just not as comfortable as the seats in the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and recent Nissans. Lee, they might fit you better, but be sure to take a good long test drive before you make your decision.
Cato: Lee, the Mazda3 GT Sport is a hatchback with four passenger doors to make it easier to load up the child seat.
This 3 starts at $26,885 and comes with a 184-horsepower engine that has plenty of jam but doesn't force a gas-pump addiction. The steering is tight, the handling is a nice mix of flat-ish cornering and highway comfort. Look, Lee, you want something sporty; this is a handsome option.
Next, trundle over to a Honda dealer to test a Civic Si sedan – $26,250, reliable and powered by a 201-hp four-banger. I like everything Honda did to modernize the 2013 version of the Civic – except that it didn't add a four-door hatchback. Americans think hatchbacks are for impoverished losers, but Canadians know better. We love hatchbacks and Honda Canada should sell one with four doors, like in Europe.
Vaughan: Ah, Europe. The VW Golf is the best-selling car in Europe and Europe has had the new VW Golf and the new GTI for a year now, but Canada gets second-rate treatment, so it's still flogging the old stuff. The new GTI might work, but Lee can't have one.
Cato: The one VW that is selling in Canada is a good car, but you're correct, Vaughan. We're at the end of the global line in VW's grand scheme to roll out the seventh-generation Golf. How does that show up in the car? The GTI's fuel economy is a little sad because the powertrain technology is older. Newer models have more modern cabins, too.
Vaughan: If you believe all Veedub's hype, why would you buy the old stuff – unless you get an amazing price?
Cato: VW Canada is dealing. The GTI, the four-door hatch, starts at $30,375 for a solid car with a 200-horsepower turbo four. Fun, though a bit of a guzzler. Bank on VW sales sweeteners – at least $1,000 off plus a dealer discount – when you mull this decision.
Vaughan: Or, Lee, you could visit a Ford store instead. Try that Focus – go wild and pig out on the Titanium version, the four-door hatchback. It'll still only cost you less than $26,000.
Ford tries to sell you on all the electronics in the MyFord Touch and Sony Package, but it's the handling and the power and the fun to drive that I'm sure you'll like, Lee. Head out to Kananaskis Country for golf in this one and you'll be sold.
Cato: Lee, I want to recommend the made-in-Canada Civic, but you need a hatch, so no. That puts the Mazda3 GT atop my list, even though the Focus has better seats.
|2014 Mazda3 Sport GT-SKY four-door hatchback||2013 Ford Focus Titanium four-door hatchback||2013 Volkswagen Golf GTI four-door hatchback|
|2.5-litre four-cylinder||2.0-litre four-cylinder||2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged|
|184/185 lb-ft||160/146 lb-ft||200/207 lb-ft|
|Front-wheel drive||Front-wheel drive||Front-wheel drive|
|Six-speed automatic||Six-speed auto-shift manual||Six-speed manual|
Curb weight (kg)
Fuel economy (litres/100 km)
|7.5 city/5.4 highway||7.3 city/5.2 highway||9.9 city/6.7 highway|
Source: car manufacturers
Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV
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