Here’s the thing about life: there really are only a few basic needs for a person on a day-to-day basis. What those needs are can vary from person to person, but only when drilled-down after the main categories are determined. Of course I refer to shelter, clothing, food/water, and transportation. Obviously clothing and food/water are not entirely expensive for those fortunate enough to be able to afford them, so therefore, shelter and transportation rise to the top of the most-important/most-expensive hierarchy. Hell, clothing isn’t even a necessity for some people (nudist colonies), but shelter and transport is something we all need daily for a greater chance at prolonging our own personal survival.
Shelter, in my opinion, is paramount to all when comparing major purchases. Whether it is a house or apartment, the majority of your personal income will most likely go towards shelter over the course of your lifetime. Speaking in generalities only as some people’s priorities are different, this leaves transport as the second most expensive purchase you will ever make. It can also be argued that this is the most important purchase ahead of shelter. In a pinch, you can sleep in your car. The car has represented freedom for generations. It is a personal statement as to who we are and what we stand for, in some cases. And still not all people choose cars as their main source transportation.
Yes there are millions of people who use public transportation every day to get to and from work, the grocery store, and to see family and friends and I say that’s excellent. Public transportation is a huge need in our world for sprawling cities and even in smaller towns. For those who cannot afford cars or simply don’t like cars, it helps keep our world moving. For those who do not use public transport, the car is important beyond comprehension.
Think about how much time you spend in your car. Without spouting off a Chevy Suburban sized load of statistics I’ll let you in on a secret…it’s a lot. And when you do make this mammoth purchase in your life, you want to make sure you are making the correct choice. Nothing is worse than making a major purchase, physically walking away from it, looking back at it and saying to yourself, “Hmmmm. Really wish I bought the other one.” This was my mantra as I shopped for a new car.
The dynamics of the car buying process are a fickle mistress. Thankfully, I came armed to each and every dealer I visited with a bastion of knowledge about cars and what I require in an automobile. Many people come into car dealers uninformed and that is easily remedied with a little online research. The cars I looked into were the Hyundai Sonata, Mazda 6, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord Sport, Subaru Legacy, Mazda CX-5, and Subaru WRX. Click those links for the reviews. Yes those last two are a bit “one of these things is not like the other,” but I wanted to drive my favorite car in each of those segments along with the family sedans. I was going to write a review on the CX-5, but honestly, it wasn’t worth it. Yes, it’s the best small SUV out there (best looking, most options for best price, 4wd optional), but it wasn’t worth the time. If you’re looking in that segment, get it. Or look at the Subaru Forester which just won Motor Trend’s SUV of the year award; which is no small feat. If you get either of those, I’ll allow you to be my friend.
In the end it boiled down to the Mazda 6 and the Subaru WRX. The Mazda is everything you want in a family car. The full review above will give you more detail, but in short it was excellent in the turns, got moving quickly enough to justify it being in the top 2, and was roomy with a great sound system. The WRX, on the other hand was powerful and better in the corners, had tons of head room and storage, and was adequately equipped with the essentials. So when looking at the two cars, I ended up going with…
The 2014 Subaru WRX Limited. Yes, my quest to replace the reliable Honda Accord has come to and end. What a glorious journey it has been. I found out some new cars are completely terrible (coughFordFusioncough) and some are highly recommended (Mazda6, Huyndai Sonata), but the WRX car just spoke to me as soon as I took it out on a test drive.
On my outgoing car, Honda sometimes gets a bad reputation and like all car manufacturers produces a few duds within each model every year. It can’t be avoided. Some cars just fail. One Honda Accord can be perfectly fine like mine was while the next one off the assembly line could be a lemon. My was not. It was a great car. I will miss it, but at least it is staying in the family as my Uncle will be driving it around until it croaks. Which could be the end of days given how well the car was made.
The incoming car has been incredible so far. Picked up on 9/9/13 from Clayton @ Ramsey Subaru in Ramsey NJ, a big thanks goes to the team there as they made the buying process very easy and gave me an excellent price. The car is sporty and whip fast. Compared to the Accord, it’s not even a fair fight. 0-60 is a full 3.0 seconds faster in the WRX (4.9s vs 7.9s) and would crush it in the corners. Yet, at highway speeds or around town, then WRX is a absolute kitten. It’s only fast when you want it to be and not very difficult to drive. The power is there and when you put your foot down, depending on the gear and revs, your immediate pleasure should be thoroughly satiated. Handling is like coming from a Donkey-powered wheeled cart to an F1 car. Okay maybe not that drastic, but it’s mind-blowing seeing 10-15 mph increases in certain turns from this car to the last. I’ve driven some great cars over the years, much faster than the WRX in fact, but I’m seeing all this in a daily driver and I feel that’s why there is such a drastic difference.
Gas mileage is actually much better than expected. The WRX is rated at 19mpg city/25mpg highway, but I’ve been able to do much better than that, even during spirited driving. On the highway to and from work, I’ve seen 28.2mpg @ 65mph and 27.0mpg @ 70 mph. Around town and on back roads, I’ve been able to achieve up to 22.8mpg but never less than 17 mpg. Combined over the life of the vehicle according to the trip computer, I’m getting a combined 23.4mpg and I’m still having fun while doing so. Obviously I did not buy this car for its mpg prowess, but I’m quite pleased and pleasantly surprised as to how good the combined output has been. Comparatively, the Accord was able to achieve 25 mpg combined over the life of the car, but the highway mpg was far superior (34mpg @ 75mph).
Utility is improved in every way with the WRX over the Accord. Where the incumbent only has a decent sized trunk and only 2-doors, the WRX has 4-doors and a trunk that fits a medium-sized (25-40 lb) dog kennel along with food, toys, and room to spare for a duffel bag if you so desired. Fold the seats down and it’s a vast expanse that can only be filled with dreams and unicorns. The storage space in a hatchback is unrivaled by any 2-door sedan conversion. And with an optional roof rack, you have the necessary hardware to attach a roof-mounted-storage container for even more space on those family camping trips. And the car on the whole just feels roomy. There’s ample headroom for someone much taller than I am and I know many owners that as pushing 6’2” and they have no complaints.
As stated in the review, the technology is nothing to write home about. I opted to the factory Satellite Navigation system and I’m glad I did. Everything is integrated well and it doesn’t have many flaws. Hands-free is also available in other models, but is great with the display and iPhone contacts integration. Bluetooth connectivity, XM Radio, HD radio, and Aha Radio are all part of the deal. The sound system itself is acceptable, but not great. An audio upgrade would be necessary for any audiophiles, but I will get by with the stock speakers for a while if not the life of the car. Besides, I do want to hear that engine up front. It makes a great noise.
As with all cars, I do have a few complaints on top of the Audio quality. You cannot select a destination to navigate to nor can you get to the navigation through the hands-free function while the car is moving. This seems to defeat the purpose of the hands-free in a large way. While the WRX handles far beyond the Accord, there still is a bit more body roll than I would like. This, however, can be easily fixed by the addition of aftermarket Swaybars and Endlinks. Reverse gear is an enigma on a cold start in the morning. If going directly to R, you cannot get into it, but throw the car in first and then go back to R, and it slides in easily. This is a known issue with the most recent model of WRXs, but isn’t bothersome to me. Just be careful not to force it in and you should be fine. The clutch is a little light, but only when compared to much sportier cars or aftermarket clutches. I’d like it to be a bit stiffer, but like the suspension, and really all other car parts, this can be fixed with the aforementioned aftermarket clutch. Lastly, the leather seats are VERY warm on hot days, but that’s the price you pay for leather in almost any car. The problem with this leather is that there are no holes for your back and bottom to breath. The leather is very comfortable and does hold you properly. It is not as “slippery” as many people online would lead you to believe. In spirited driving, I never once felt like I was sliding around in the seat or not held to the seat properly. I’d opt for cloth seats next time.
So there you have it. The last WRX of this generation is in the Shifting Lanes stable. In November we should see what the next WRX will look like at the LA Auto Show. We’ll update you with anything we hear about the new WRX in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, being this is my first daily drive manual car, I will be bringing you a new feature in the coming weeks as well about learning stick at day 1, week 1, month 1, month 3, month 6, and 1 year. This will detail how I’m coming along with the new transmission along with tips and pointers to help our readers along the way.
Until then, drive safe.