Originally Posted by Exoter175
I was more concerned about the criteria than the car. I read "under 10k loan, sporty and practical" and started thinking all of the 444 cars out there, I'll explain what that means in a second. Mazda has a really bad habit of building 442 cars and did terrible on their 444 experiment, which is why the Speed6 went bye bye and half of the ones that hit the road were plagued with repair builds.
A 444 car is what my friends and I like to classify 4 door, 4 cylinder, 4 wheel drive vehicles. 442 is a 4 door, 4 cylinder, 2 wheel drive. The 444 in most peoples eyes is going to be superior to the 442.
Example, Subaru STI > Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution > Neon SRT-4, why? 444>444>442. More importantly, they end to be better cars, more reliable, and certainly more practical. And more mod friendly.
In the case of the MS3, you're talking about a 442 hatch. For the same price of say, a 20-30k mile MS3, I'd rather go pickup a 50-70k mile Subaru STI, Evo, etc.
As a car guy and a driver, I'd say go for the subaru. Hell, you could even find a WRX for sale if you can't find an STI at the right price. Having had a ton of seat time in both the STI's and the EVO's, I can tell you the STI is the one to drive. It is far more practical in its design for every day use in Kansas 6 speed close ratio vs. 5 speed not-so-close ratio (older Evo's in price range), better suspension, economy is about the same, faster than the evo, and so much more fun to drive.
Lets take a 2006 STI vs. a 2nd gen MS3 as an example and compare them in some categories, since the prices are damned near the same.
1/4 times= STI
Gas Mileage= Push with a fractional advantage to the MS3 18/25 vs. 18/24
Response to modification= STI
Practicality= STI, AWD> FWD all day in the rain, snow, etc.
Braking= STI, and this is important for any real driver, because braking is everything at the Auto-X, Road Course, and adds a near priceless value to the safety of the person driving the car. Crash impact ratings are one thing, but braking is a whole new ball game.
New Car Feel= MS3
Choice is yours, but if you're talking Sporty, practical, non coupe vehicles, the Subaru STI and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution have to be in your argument if you're looking at an MS3 since they are all in the same pricing range. The difference, of course, is that you are going to sacrifice Age and Mileage for an all around better car.
If newer and less mileage truly is a deciding factor, go with the MS3, but if driving the car, practicality, and even performance have anything to do with it, go find an older STI or even an EVO. And if you want you want to compromise and toss affordability into it, go find a basic WRX that is at least turbo charged, and you'll have about the same performance as an MS3, but have the practicality of AWD and having saved a few bucks all together.