2012 was a lousy year for my 1999 VW Golf GLS. A lot of things went wrong and needed repair and replacement. I've probably spent near $5000 with all the things that had to be handled. Since my mum's house sold, I have the money to do something all at once.
The latest problem happened in the last week where a plastic coolant junction broke. This reminds me of the stinking news that a Mr./Hr./Sr. Lopez was at VW for cost-cutting reasons. There was a huge clamour about it. It showed up in so many ways on my car, including the 30+ visits for the window regulator clips. It showed up in the armrest fabric that pulled away or the door sensor that doesn't know whether the driver's door is open or closed and when the security alarm decides to activate while the door is open. I was told that Lucas Electrics were used in the car, which is ridiculous since most cars built in the UK went to Bosch to get away from being stranded on the side of the road.
I've been considering cars from Suzuki, Mazda, Subaru, and mostly avoiding the thought of another Volkswagen. I have plenty of reasons to avoid VW but the worst was the person on the toll-free hotline who told me that there was no problem with the power window regulators. I was there for maybe the 14th time already and there were three other customers in the waiting room for the same problem, that apparently didn't exist.
The Suzuki SX4 Crossover AWD is quite nice. It's more of a wagon than an SUV/Crossover and the price is right. Unfortunately, Suzuki is to stop selling cars (but not SUVs) in the U.S.A.
The Mazda 3 has been on my list, more-or-less since I first had a Mazda RX-3 and drove my co-workers Mazda GLC/323. I liked the joy that seemed to come with the cars and the 3 is much sharper than either of those were. I only wish for a rotary engine getting 30 mpg in city driving, as well as one having low emissions.
Subaru's Legacy was on my list but the price continues to escalate. The Impreza seems more in my preferred range but it's big on the outside, small on the inside, like most Japanese cars.
Given my druthers, I'd prefer a Mazda 2/Toyota Yaris/Nissan Versa/Honda Fit-sized vehicle like my 1999 Golf GLS with 4-wheel disc brakes. They're not to be had, and from my experience driving in Florida's storms, I'd never again suffer drum brakes. Besides that, the cars really don't have that Volkswagen space efficiency and upscale feel.
Enter the VW Golf mk. VI (isn't it the 6th generation?), which is larger than the one I have, as two generations have passed, and it's about 300 pounds heavier which seems reasonable and fat. I hope they used more sound insulation. Despite what people say about the price of the Golf, it's a huge bargain. You get a lot for your money, especially in the upper models. Of course, the diesel version, TDI, has a substantial price premium, which you should be able to recover more quickly than with a hybrid.
Locally, the Mazda dealers seem to be jerks or clowns, playing games with the prices. I don't see anyone I feel I could trust. Obviously, when they have a lot of money for television-based advertising, it's coming out of your pocket. When they won't tell you their price, you're in for games, and you'd better play your part well or they will walk all over you.
The Subaru dealers seem to change their inventory very, very, very frequently. Given that it's winter and we just had a minor but not really minor snow, I suspect All-Wheel Drive is in demand, especially when you can get it in the low $20s. I suspect you can't order extras unless you order them through the parts department to be installed after your receive your new car.
I checked the web site for the VW dealer I already use and they had 2 Golf TDI models from 2012. Since they're last year's models, they're discounted. The manual is more expensive than the DSG Automatic. There should be an equipment difference but the web site is not properly informed. White cars with dirty snow (the manual) on them look horrible but I would think that red cars (the DSG Auto) would look almost equally bad, and be police bait.
After reading the review from a former Mazdaspeed 3 owner, I think there is no huge question but to buy one of the TDI models. My concerns about reliability seem to be unjustified, as this generation, introduced in 2010, seems to be better than my four generation model. Of course, the Subaru Impreza Sport Premium still looks a good option, but reviews call it rather utilitarian, instead of inspired. Plus, the ULEV II-compliance of the Golf TDI looks better than the PZEV-compliance of the Impreza.
I punted and drove both of the Golf TDI models. I've never owned a car with an automatic transmission and which car gave me the trouble--the manual. I killed it twice during the test drive. I couldn't get the seat in a great position. The automatic had over 5000 demonstrator miles but was sold as new with full warranty. I like refurbished electronics so it was perfect for me. I was so nervous, but I think it worked out well, and my bank was directly across the street--even the driveways met. I just hope people will leave it alone. I already had a few close calls.