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Laura runs a popular entertainment site that you may have seen around these parts called the A.V Club. She’s in the market for a new ride and doesn’t want something boring—and it has to have four doors and three pedals. What car should she buy?
(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. Do you want us to help you find a car? Submit your story on our form.)
Here is the scenario:
I haven’t owned a car in 12 years, but I’d like to be able to get to my parents’ house a little more frequently (they live three hours away), and I’d like to be able to cart my husky around more easily and maybe get him out sledding in the winter. My last/only car was a 1998 Dodge Neon named Greta, and boy was she a piece of shit (RIP). After I totaled Greta, I drove my mom’s old minivan for a year before moving to Chicago. I was 27 at the time, which is not a great age to drive an old minivan.
I want something fun to drive—but it also has to be a 4-door, so I can easily get my husky in and out. I know jack shit about car innards and would prefer something low-maintenance and reliable. I want something on the smaller side, and it has to be a manual transmission. If I’m going to spend thousands of dollars on something I don’t really need, I better have fun driving it.
Budget: Up to ,000 but could be persuaded to spend a little more
Daily Driver: Not really
Average Miles Per-Week: Fewer than 100
Wants: Manual transmission, at least four doors, fun to drive
Doesn’t want: Something too expensive to maintain
Expert 1: Tom McParland - You Don’t Always Need A Five Star Review
First of all, welcome Laura and the A.V Club to the Kinja family. And since you like fun to drive cars with three pedals, that means you are also a Jalop. So you need something with four doors that’s fun to drive and can last for a long time without costing you an arm and a leg.
Honda has your answer with the all new Civic Si. The new one’s not as hardcore as something like the Ford Focus RS, or the crazy new Civic Type R, but it will do all the things you need it to do really well. With a starting price of about ,000, it falls right within your budget and you will get all modern goodies you expect from a brand new car.
The 2017 Honda Civic Si Is The Kind Of Fun That Won’t Ruin Your Life
The 2017 Honda Civic Si is no revelation of automotive excellence. But it’s easy to live with,…Read more Read
More importantly, the Honda Civic Si goes well beyond just a sedan that can handle the drive to your parents’ house. With a turbocharged motor packing over 200 horsepower, a limited slip differential, adjustable sport suspension, and one of the best manual gearboxes you can buy, it’s a car that will put a smile on your face when you go out for a drive.
Sure, you could easily pick up a “more interesting” depreciated luxury car with three pedals, but the Si, being a Honda Civic, should give you many years of trouble free ownership.
Using a terrible entertainment analogy, the Civic Si may never win an Oscar, but it will be enjoyed by fans and critics alike.
Expert 2 - Stef Schrader - Jalopnik’s Biggest GWAR Fan
Four-doors is good for a big dog. Five doors are better. The Ford Focus ST seems to tick all your boxes, and it only comes with a manual transmission. (As it should.)
This was Ford’s power-peanut before the RS came to America, and it’s still a fantastic little car to drive. Its turbocharged inline-four engine puts out 252 horsepower and 270 ft-lbs of torque, and it handles well enough to be far too much fun on twisty autocross courses.
Inside, it also comes with the more supportive Recaro seats up front that were a lot more comfortable to me than the regular Focus’s buckets. I’d road trip it.
And most importantly, it’s a hatchback. If you ever need to transport your doggo in a carrier or a kennel for any reason, drop the rear seats and you’re set.
New models start at ,775, and you can probably grab a new ‘17 Focus ST for slightly less as dealers are making room for 2018 cars right about now. While I’d love to suggest an old BMW wagon like I too often do, there’s something reassuring about having warranty coverage on a daily driver that you just expect to work reliably, and without issue. (And this one has boost.)
Expert 3 - Adam Milt - You Gotta Have Soul!
As Jalopnik’s least experienced car writer (I make the videos and only sneak into Kinja drafts when no one’s looking) I will just give you the straight deets on the car I would personally choose: a 2017 Kia Soul.
I once had to rent a car while driving three hours from New York to Massachusetts and was handed the keys to a (at the time) new Kia Soul. This was probably in 2015, so the model has changed a bit. However the ride I had was not only comfortable and roomy, but also a bit fun. The Kia doesn’t pack a huge punch, but for a daily commuter that needs to fit into tight spaces when it comes to parking, my buck is on the Soul.
You can get it with a six-speed manual transmission and a 1.6-liter turbocharged 201 HP engine starting at ,800. That will also have all the bells and whistles one might want in a modern car including a fancy touch-screen display and even leather seats.
The best part of the Soul was that it was a pretty smooth rides on the older roads in New York, plus I didn’t feel too low on the road, or cramped into a small car for a long ride.
If you can get past those stupid hamster commercials, then the Kia Soul is not only fun, but comfy, easy to park and a great value.
Expert 4 - Jason Torchinsky - You Work For An Entertainment Site, So That Means You Can’t Be Boring
Hey, Laura. LAURA. Wake up. Come on, get up, we’re doing this for you, remember? I’m assuming you’re already asleep because the three suggestions above here, rational and decent as they are, are boring, with a capital Z. You’re not going to be driving much, it’s not a daily driver, so why play it so safe? Life is for the living, dammit!
That’s why you need to really live and buy this fantastic 1965 Citroën 2Cv. It’s a charming little yellow stunner, in immaculate shape, and it’s only ,900. Not only does it have everything you want—four doors, a manual transmission (with a gleefully weird shifter), plenty of dog room—it’s also incredibly fun to drive, in a way that’ll keep you entertained and free from speeding tickets, because the only way you’re getting one of those in this thing is if you’re plummeting off a cliff.
Look at that plaid interior! Look how the whole roof rolls back! I hope your don’t have any problems with your brain’s charm and joy-receiving hormones, because you’re about to work the crap out of them.
These 2CVs are surprisingly roomy, mostly impossible to flip, and mechanically dirt-simple. Don’t waste your opportunity to have a fun car on some anonymous piece of modern, forgettable crap; make every one of your drives an experience, and you’ll be happier.
Get the 2CV.