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Sunday, 11 April 2010


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A friend of mine was driving his beat up old Camry when he saw a bumper sticker: "Life's too short to drive a crappy car" Bought the beemer that day.

1) Honda Fit (non-sport model)

2) Suzuki SX4

or the wild card:

3) Ford Transit (compact euro/nippon van finally available in USA)


Buy a truck. Good engines, stck shift, fantastic seating room, great to haul stff ,including Lulu. Best of all worlds.

Well, I'm a European, where cars are by default "smaller", but I have to say that in any side of the pond, The Golf GTI is one of the best handling and most lively cars around. And those two mean active safety, which combined with the passive safety of a VW make it an excellent purchase for someone who, above all, values life. Just my two cents!

I've had 5 VWs over the past 24 years and never had a bit of trouble with any of them. I don't think I've paid for one repair, just scheduled maintenance. They are comfortable and good in the snow. My call on this is to go with what you want and buy the GTI. You only go round once.
Expect to pay big insurance, though, especially with a kid as a driver. I was 35 when I got my GTI, no tickets and no claims for years and the premiums still made me scream. When you drive it you'll understand, though: Foot-on-the-floor will feel really good, especially on a windy road.
My first VW as an adult (had a Bug as a kid) was a 86 GTI, followed by a couple of Jettas and couple of Passats. I now have a 2001 Passat and an 08 Prius, for when I need a nap. I am also old, but nevertheless next time I car-shop I will be looking hard at the youth-minded GTI, even if it is targeted at the boy racer.
I don't like the wheels, either, but you can't see them from behind the wheel.

Ferrari 599.

Well, if I were to buy a new car I would go for the one with the least enviromental impact my money could buy, there is no other way, but that´s me, and it surely doesn´t answer your question. And, isn´t it the Opera House in Sydney in the background of the Sonata picture? Wich probably isn´t even a photograph, but a cgi....totally off topic.

That's easy. I suggest you go with the Ferrari 599. Hypothetically, of course.

Life's too short to drive a car you hate.

Get the GTI.

Don't be a 50 year old freak, get the Golf with the 1.4 TSI engine and DSG, no one else will know how good it really is.

Speaking as a VR6 owner I was faced with pretty much the exact same dilemma. In the end I just got the car I wanted, and while everything hasn't exactly been wine and roses (in somethings I was just stupid, in others I just got screwed), I don't really regret the choices I made.

See, before I got the car I didn't know how to drive a stick, so the sensible thing that everyone tells you to do in that situation is to get a "beater" and learn how to row first, then get something nice down the line. However, every time I've ever made that kind of "sensible" purchasing decision in any other time in my life, I have always wound up "stuck" with the original item because something would always get in the way of me just getting what I really want. I figured for something that I'm really and truly going to be using everyday it was worth it for me to get something I knew I was going to like driving, even if I was once again forced into hanging onto the car forever and a day. (Life has a real sense of humor in that circumstances really didn't work out that way, but that's a whole 'nother story.)

One bit of practical advice: whatever you do, make sure you read consumer reports and other reviews about the reliability of the electrical systems in the GTI before you pull the trigger. See if they've gotten the kinks worked out in the later models. I know someones going to come out and say that they have no problems with their VW and it must be my fault, but regardless mine's from the first half of the aughts and that would be my number one (more or less my only) complaint these days...


I, for one, welcome off-topic posts. And am more than a bit of a car guy...

Current ride is a standard MINI Cooper (not the 'S') BRG with a white roof. Sport suspension, which I would not recommend for a guy with a dicey back. IMHO, the Cooper is the best balance of style, performance, economy and utility out there.

On the other hand, I rented a VW Golf diesel in Europe last year and drove it from Paris to Barcelona via the Loire valley and Bilbao. What a great car! Loads of torque, excellent handling and really cheap to run. I bombed across Spain at 120 KPH plus on a bit less than a tank of diesel.

I'm planning on keeping Paddy (the MINI) until electric cars get more practical and less expensive, but the VW would be on my list if I were looking.

The Hyundai.
I´d avoid any car with the regular manual gearbox from the VAG group. Notchy, with too short of a throw, and quite disengaging.

For that only reason, the Golf rules itself out.

Dear Hypothetical:

You might consdier a Subaru; avaialable with a 5-speed manual and if you need the torque, there's a turbo version. Let's say, hypothetically, you live in a northern climate like, uhh, Wisconsin. The AWD and heated seats are really useful.

Yours in theory

At 53, you should get the Volkswagon. The Hyundai might last until that final drive to the old folks home, but the Volkswagon will last just long enough to give you some great memories, and probably crap out before your memory stops working.

The Golf, but I couldn't live with those wheels.

However, if it were me, I'd check out all possibilities with the "Dog and Lemon Guide", go for something 3 years old, and change the oil and filter every 6 months for a long and happy relationship.

It comes down to how much time you want the car to spend being repaired.

Don't get VW. They break alot. Also, Hyundai have been making great cars for a few years now.

I'm 55, had a mazda6 and now have a brand new GTI. All I can say is its great! Never had a car this much fun to drive in my life. Go for it, you deserve to treat yourself. And it costs less than a M9 with a bag of lenses (assuming a large enough bag).

I've always had a thing for hot hatchbacks too even though I wouldn't admit that to my friends (I associate with a rugged crowd).

This seems like the classic head/heart conundrum which can never be adequately resolved. It sounds as if you've been very practical all your life so why not let your hair down for once and get the GTI. I bet Zander will thank you for it.

Seriously? GTI v. Sonata? Err..."I'd definitely go with the Ferrari 599."

I recommend the Ferrari 599, or an Enzo if you have the papers.

Well, posed with a choice like yours, I'd definitely go for a Ferrari 599. Red one would be nice i think.

Mike - let me start by saying that I'm on my second Hyundai in 8 years and I have yet to have a "problem" of any kind. Regular maintenance and consumables .... that's all.

Consumers Report gives both the GTI and the Sonata two thumbs-up and their ownership costs are about the same so, in practical terms, there's little to choose between them.

The Hyundai is a "good enough" choice and the GTI equally "good enough" in the critical areas but with more zip and pizzaz (at a price). Year's ago I had the choice of an Accord (which was an excellent car) or a Prelude (which was an excellent car). I opted for the Accord as the practical choice for a number of reasons. I loved the Accord, but always wished I had bought the Prelude.

My suggestion is go with your heart cause that's what you are always going to have to live with. Get The GTI and hokey wheels be damned.

When buying something that you are going to own for a long time, I found it is best to get what you really desire, if you can afford it without breaking the bank.

I made that mistake once with a guitar when I was a teenager. I saved up money for a concert guitar and after trying out many of the guitars in my price range I was down to two choices, on of them a bit more expensive than the other. Around 80 dollars. Which for me was quite a bit of money and would have required borrowing from my parents and paying it off. The more expensive one »spoke« to me and was what I really wanted. After thinking about it a long time I went with the other one because it was also good and, as I told myself, just fine for playing.

That was fifteen years ago, I still own it, never really warmed to it and still wish I'd bought the other one when I pick it up. Over a sum that, viewed over all these years, didn't really matter (ok, 6000 bucks is a different story, but comparable when you look at the item).

Long, winding way of saying: go and buy what will give you joy.

Obvious reply (I'm sure I am not original here): I'd go for the Ferrari 599. :P

Now seriously: I would go clearly for the Golf. Not that Huyndai makes bad cars, but comparing those two, for me it's a no-contest: the Golf is one of the best cars in that category, and the GTI version has a very long tradition. Possibly it would not win the prize for best car in price/quality, but it is a very solid buy IMO.

Keep in mind, Volkswagens are VERY expensive to maintain over the long haul. Parts are priced like Audi parts, ouch! VeeDubs are sweet drivers though.

Why not a FIT type S? Fun to drive, easy in and out, lots of aftermarket stuff, cheap enough to buy and maintain.

Don't ask me. Never bought a new car, never will... I've been without one for about 10 or 15 years. Last year I needed one, I looked for a secondhand thing with automatic change -I was trying to convince my gf to drive to work, she hates it and I imagined that autogears would make it easier- and air conditioning. Found a beautiful Citroen Xantia with 60.000 miles for US $1,200. Done about 20,000 more, no problem, and it's supposed to be an unreliable car. She still doesn't drive, so I failed miserably. Had the car failed, I'll dump it. No big loss.

Most enjoyable car I have driven was probably a VW GTI 16 valve, long time ago. Torquey, great reprise, fast on corners... But then Hyundai has become mre reliable than WV, but did you drive it? Those I've rented were so dull...

I'll probably would look for a secondhand 1994 VW Golf GTI or, if I needed to satisfy somme mid age itch (I'm 53 as well!), a Barchetta (Lotus are too expensive)... For twenty grand you should be able to buy both and keep some change for running expenses.

As I wrote, I'm not of much help on this. I am sure car reviews are even less helpful

Anyway, weren't you recommending buying a Ferrari the other day?

Get the Ferrari 599

There are two great strategies when it comes to making decisions.

First. Imagine you're advising a (imaginary) friend who is suprisingly much like yourself. Perhaps you'd come to the conclusion your friend really can't miss the extra boot space the Hyundai offers.

Second. Just make a decision. See how you feel about it for a week and see if you would have rather gone the other way.

Third. Remortage your house and buy that Porsche you actually, secretly, would much much rather buy.

Good luck.

That sleek wonderful looking Hyundai is just begging to be bought--by someone else. I'm more skinflintish than you. I bought a second-hand Jetta over a nice, sporty Pontiac Grand AM, also second hand. I spent noticeably more money in the process. I've been happy most days.
Now, you tell me, did I "succumb" to Nikon when other far more expensive German things were calling my name?

I bought a VW Jetta Sportwagen GTI 2 months ago and love it, especially the 30 MPG around town and 38 MPG on long driving trips. You can get better highway mileage but you must drive slower (65 mph or less). You can shift the 6 speed automatic transmission manually if you want that stick feel w/o the clutch.

What does the reliability of the Hyundai look like? I have a Jetta, which I love, but which I regret buying because I expect to have trouble with it later in its life.

I can't believe you're even asking this. The answer is obvious. A Ferrari 599.

Get a Mercedes Benz. When my first son was born in 1997 I bought a C-class T-model (station wagon) - the safest family car I could think of then. After 13 years the odometer reads 297,000 km and something and it's running like on day 1. All I ever did was bring it in for scheduled service each 15,000 km - oil change and that kind of maintenance stuff. VW Golfs are for rich college kids and Hyundais for single mothers. Take my words for granted, a Benz's what a guy like you will savor.

Definitely go with the Ferrari.

My advice, buy a Subaru. The new Outback is sweet.

You're the one buying it, and you're the one who has to look at it every day and drive it and marvel at it or yell at it, but it's you, not someone else. The only one it has to impress is you.

I had an 83 GTI, as well as other VWs. My fav was the 90 Corrado, but the best was the 90 Jetta, which lasted 12 years (and I'm hard on cars). Current ride is an 05 Acura RSX Type S, my first Japanese car. While my current next car could easily be a Civic Si, the GTI is still a hot little machine.

If you like the car and can be comfortable with the deal, go for it and be happy with it. It's yours. It's your money. Good luck and have fun with it!

Ahh, gee, couldn't the local dealer find one you like, like in the Chicago metro area?

There is a lot to be said for the "driveability" of any vehicle that one needs to make payments on.

Tina Fey and the GTI seems about right.

Tell the dealership to change the wheels and they'll sell a car. If they're not willing to do that they don't deserve your business anyway...

I'm smiling as I write this because I'm thinking that this post and the coming comments are in no way going to clarify your choice ;-)

We just bought a Mazda 3 and really like it. This, in a way, was a practical choice. But still with some fun relative to the other cars in the segment (not hard to do, but yet Mazda's the only one to have done it).

Now ask me what I wanted to buy...a Golf. A GTI if I could have.

My garage said no. My wife said no. So that was it.

No one has yet to convince me that VWs are reliable. The horror stories are frightening. I hate going to the garage and I hate paying for it. But still I might have bought one if I could have.

So...For me it's reliability, then practicality (they are sort of the same), then fun. Cars are an irrational purchase of the highest order. Always try to keep it as rational as possible.

Yes, I would definitely go for the Ferrari 599.

Mike, I suggest you go with the Ferrari 599. ;-)

Hmm...nuts to the Cobalt SS; in a few more months you'll be able to see what the interior of the Chevy Cruze feels like...

Get a Skoda. Same build quality as an Audi (it is made by VW of course) and half the price. I dont know which models you have in the US (or even if you have any), but it is well made and not an ostentatious car. The 1.9 diesel has lots of torque and feels good accelerating.


PS "We" drive a Volvo but am looking at the small Skoda for myself depending upon my next job.

As someone who only bought two cars in his life, I'd go with the GTI purely because I like European cars.

FWIW, my mum and uncle used to own a Golf and it was very reliable. But as usual your miles may vary.

In any case, enjoy the new car!!!

Sorry, but this is just too easy... Ferrari 599? :-)
Now, seriously... I'd probably wouldn't get that particular Golf because I'd end up hating the freaking wheels, but if you think you can get over it, well... money is there to be spent, isn't it?

Given exactly the same choices exactly two years ago, and leaning towards the GTI, but considering the practicality of a tacoma pickup or a Honda CRV I decided on the SmallVo C30 and I have been very pleased with the exception of the ridiculously expensive and short lived "High performance" tires cars like it and the GTI require (two sets in 50K) Try one, Its "softer" than the GTI but is a lot of fun.

I feel your pain. I'm 55 and missed the "cool car" days of high school and afterward, never owning a sporty car. In September 2008 I bought only the second "new" car in my life, a Mazda 3 5 dr 2.3. I wanted something sporty yet pretty practical. Mazda 3s are a great value for what you get and they get good reviews for their sporty performance and handling. This became my "mid-life crisis car on a budget" - $19K plus tax and license for a car with a large 4 cylinder motor that gets decent highway mileage, four-wheel discs, anti-lock brakes and stability control. Plus the transmission gives you the option of shifting manually sequentially without a clutch: very cool. I've done some modifications to the car as a way to make up for those missed days of yore: cold-air intake, free-flowing rear exhaust and beefier springs and sway bars. So for less money than the GTI (I think) I have a reliable car that handles great, moves out well and has a subtle yet noticeable exhaust growl. Works for me.

I'd keep riding the subway and rent a car occasionally when I need one. They have a subway in this hypothetical town not far from Milwaukee, don't they?

As a GTI owner (a '99 Mk IV), I'd certainly go that way myself - even though my own experience has had it's share of frustration with small electrical gremlins etc. When the car IS working, you just love driving it so much you forgive its little foibles from time to time. Even the wheels.

(Also, the VW should hold it's value better - so while it costs more up front, it may be worth more at the end of your time with it too. Though I caution against considering any car - or camera - an 'investment'....)

Try a Peugeot - they are reliable and they handle beautifully.

Or, they handle beautifully and they are reliable.

After yesterday's post, we can only "suggest you go with the Ferrari 599."

Good luck!

Personally, I'd try hard as hell to wait for the 2011(12?) Ford Focus. Looks like a nice, fun, practical car.

Otherwise I'd get the GTI. Budget extra for the tickets.

If you buy the non-GTI Golf, you'll probably save the $6000 or more, do away with the gawdy wheels and plaid seats, and still get 90% of the fun. That extra 10% that you won't have was probably not at legal speeds anyway. Also, that extra 10% represents a lot of temptation to a teenage boy, having been one myself.

We had a 86 Golf and 97 Jetta at one point. They are slightly less reliable than Japanese or Korean cars, but parts are cheaper, if you have a knowledgeable local VW guy, but as driving cars, they're hard to beat. Somehow, they're never boring.

If the warranty and reliability of the Hyundai really attracts you, the Elantra is way more fun that the Sonata and will cost less. It's possible that it's a tighter fit for you, however.

Suggestion from left field, Suzuki SX4, but you may not have a dealer near you.

I did what you are doing now last year. I'm a few years older than you, needed a new car (old one was also a Clinton era vehicle), and I tend to keep cars for a long time. I went to the Minneapolis Auto Show, read the car magazines, web sites, and was also in analysis paralysis. I also really liked the VW GTI. The optional wheels were expensive and something that I didn't want (replacement tires for the larger rims would be much more expensive too). I couldn't find a new GTI without extra options that I didn't want so I ended up buying a one year old low-mileage GTI with the certified waranty which which gives you bumper to bumper coverage for 2 years along with the remainder of the new car warranty. I don't regret it. I really like the car and intend to keep it for a long time. The car is fun to drive (quick, handles well, and stops quickly), comfortable, and gets good gas mileage (could be a little better, but is pretty good--I get low to mid 20s in the city and low to mid 30s on the highway).


Obviously, the correct recommendation is the Ferrari 599.


The two door Accord Coupe comes in a 6 speed manual. And It. Is. Bad. Ass. Not that I even *own* a car since moving to NYC, but if I did, the Accord Coupe would easily win over the Hyundai and Vee Dub.

It probably won't matter to you if you don't change cars that often but normally you'd want to factor in resale value (or you can call it depreciation). If you changed in a few years I suspect you'd get a noticeably higher percentage of your purchase price back on the Golf when compared to the Sonata.

A hypothetical 67 year old male I will pretend I know personally bought a GTI when he was 59. The only one he could get was RED and had fancy sport wheels (just as dopey as the ones in the picture) and a ridiculously over-featured sound system, none of which he wanted to pay for. But he bought it anyway, after much agonizing. Like your hypothetical prospective buyer, this geezer had purchased precious few vehicles in his life, and the raising-a-family station wagons don't really count. So with that disclaimer, he says its the best car he's ever had. Fun and reliable. But it's only 8 years old, so it's hard to say how it's going to hold up in the long run.

There's a lot to be said for fun.


The Ferrari 599!

It sounds like you have already made your decision. Trust me I speak from experience when I say that if you don't get the item you are really passionate about, you will absolutely regret it. Get yourself a copy of the Greatest Hits Album by the Scorpions, and blast the stereo in that GTI. You'll feel like a teenager every time you get into that thing. Btw. I hear the pedal shifting is pretty good in that thing. The GTI is the car you wanted when you were younger but couldn't afford. Now you can. Don't get me wrong, I think that Hyundai builds really good cars for the price, but go German, you're already in Milwaukee.

If it were me, I'd buy the Hyundai with no hesitation. But I think a car is just something to get me and whatever I need to carry from point A to point B.

Get the VW, but not from that dealer with those wheels. Actually they will trade with another dealer for you rather than lose your sale.
Oops! Why am I telling you this trash when I know what to tell you...get the Ferarri 559.

Well I live in the UK and would have loved an Alfa Romeo. If someone else had bought it had promised to pay the repair bills. I ended up with a Skoda Octavia - owned and designed by VW, and it's a mix of Golf and Passat under a different body and at a cheaper price. It does exactly what it says on the tin - and has done so very competently every time we've used it over the past 4½ years. It costs peanuts to run, and we don't worry about it. If something awful happened to it, we'd probably by another. Or possibly a Hyundai....

Do you want me to move on to explain why I still shoot Pentax now?! The Subaru of camera manufacturers?

Mike, it's the rational vs. emotional dilemma that many of us are victims of. Never fall in love with a car that you are in the market for.
If you look at this rationally, as I know you have, you can see that the Hyundai is the better consumer choice. I am not sure if you are referring to the 2010 or the redesigned 2011 Hyundai, but Intellichoice.com rates the 2010 Hyundai as a better value than the VW. The 2010 Hyundai also performs better in front crash testing than does the VW. And I wouldn't be surprised if the insurance is less money for the Hyundai. (If you haven't checked that out, you should, as you can be be unpleasantly surprised after you buy a car.) I don't know about reliability for Hyundai, but VW has not had the best repair records over the past few years, although you can always find people that have had a trouble-free experience with almost any brand.
The dealer is also very important. I will not buy some car brands because their dealer networks in my area are not good, or do not have convenient service hours. Even if you might have you car serviced by an independent shop, you might still need the dealer for warranty repairs. A bad dealer is one of several reasons why I will never again buy a Ford product.
You might also look for a low-mileage used car. It's nice knowing that you won't be losing $2,000 dollars or more the moment that you drive away in your new purchase. Depending upon the brand, certified used cars sometimes have better warranties than do new cars.
You do owe yourself and Zander a newer car, but not because the old clunker might not survive the new driver. Side curtain airbags are a must-have safety feature, and crash structures have greatly improved over the past several years. Anti-lock brakes and vehicle stability control are safety features that especially benefit inexperienced drivers. Our children are precious, and they should be driving the newer and safer cars, especially as new drivers are more likely to be in an accident.
It's a buyer's market, so take advantage of it. In three months, it will be an even better buyer's market, as the new model year gets closer. One buying option that you can try is an auto broker. Sometimes I have done better by myself, but using a broker I sometimes have been able to get a car at a better price, or more quickly when the local dealer did not have availability.
With all that being said, my most favorite car was one that I beat myself up over for two weeks before I bought it. I was prepared to walk away from it, so I was able to negotiate a fair deal. I ended up owning it for 17 years and 225,000 miles.

Mike, I can commiserate with your plight. Every time I buy a car I swear I'm going to do it better next time. After a lifetime of used cars I finally went new for my last few. But there are a few negatives to that experience -- higher insurance 'cause you gotta go for collison etc.

But I do like my now-nearly-4-yr-old Honda Civic a lot. It's a base model with manual and no air. Try getting one of those in some other brands. Lots of low end torque so I even have to be careful not to spin the wheels starting off, and generally futuristic styling, although it took me a while to get used to the quasi-heads-up-display speedo and instrument array. You may find it a little low though. But hey, low COG makes for flatter cornering!

It soon could be time for me to choose again. Like with cameras, it's not just what's out there now, it's what around the corner. Notable on the horizon are the Mazda 2 (highly acclaimed in Europe) and its Ford equivalent, as well as the next generation Honda Civic (in the fall). Coming soon, there's also the BMW X1 -- a tall wagon that's maybe priced comparable to the VW GTI. At least in Canada it's coming soon -- not sure about the states.

That said, I've got a friend who's a car nut and a very smart guy who swears by late-80s BMW 325s with 200,000+ km on the clock. I'm tempted to try one myself.

Still, for all-out prettiness in a car, I do like the new Camaro. But the automatic version I tried didn't feel like it had 300 hp under the hood. My Civic gives more satisfying acceleration. And why did they have to make it so big? Tradition?

Not that I'm a car expert, but if you want a GTI, think about a plain vanilla Golf. Oversized engine for its weight, a bit less money, runs on regular gas (GTI needs premium), and is still fun to drive.

I passed on the GTI twice, and when the current car (Jetta) bites the dust (hopefully after two kids are out of college -- they will be attending for a two year overlap), I will be celebrating with the indulgence. I'll be in the my early sixties (or as I choose to look at it, 15 for the 4th time) and hopefully will have enough marbles and reflexes left.

One last thing to consider -- your kid will want to drive the GTI and as a new driver can potentially get into a lot more trouble in it than you can.

VW. Hyundai's are...really...bleah. And life is short.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Western Automotive Journalists Media Days, which involved testing a multitude of cars in the hills of Monterey County, and the following day, at Laguna Seca racetrack. On the road, I was very impressed by the Volkswagen Golf TDI diesel, which had a GTI-ish suspension, had loads of torque and got 43 MPG on the highway. It had a solid germanic feel which was felt throughout every every component. The GTI, which was also present, was no better and got 11 MPG worse fuel economy. The purchase of a Golf TDI also brings a significant tax credit.

Hyundai as reliable, practical and wallet pleasing as they are unfortunately do not engender much passion especially after 5 -10 years of driving.
I purchased my second Golf last month,not a GTI but still the standard steering setups on Golfs are better than any car in this price range.
I would check your ok with the contoured shape of the GTI seats though as they can be a tad hard maneuvering in and out of.
I drove BMs and Golfs back to back and could not tell much difference other than the $30,000 Aust price difference and the blue badge on the front. I have driven my new Golf about 7,000 kms already and it has not missed a beat same as my last one which I drove for 100,000 kms in two years.
Good luck with your decision but I would say the Golf wins hands down in the passion stakes even if it costs a little more.

Go with the GTI. I drive a Hyundai and, while it is eminently practical and reliable (I've not had even a minor issue in 5 years ownership), it is nothing more than a means to transport people and objects from one place to another.

If you enjoy driving (which, if you are getting a standard transmission, you do), life is too short to deny yourself a car that is truly fun to drive!

GTI all the way. Clearly you want it. So get it - it's by all means practical enough. Is it absolutely going to break the bank? You should indulge yourself every once in a while. A nice sporty car is one of life's greatest pleasures :-)

I went through the same dilemma recently. My first car was an '84 MK I GTI. Unlike you, I have had quite a few cars in my 22 years as a licensed driver. When the MK IV GTI came out I decided I wanted to recapture the joy of that original GTI. My VR6 equipped '00 was a Q ship on the freeway but no where near as much fun to drive in the city. I kept it for less than a year. Several cars later I found myself torn between a 4 cylinder manual Accord sedan that I couldn't find an example to test drive and a MK VI GTI. I went to go test drive the GTI and discovered a Mini dealership a block before the VW dealer. I never made it to the VW lot. I should have been driving a Mini since the day they were (re) launched. This coming from a guy who traded a Porsche Boxster in on a base Mini :-)

I bought the 2litre tdi vw golf. Love it. A (German) collegue mocked me buying a vw then test drove it and bought himself one. He loved it but overlooked how tall he was (much taller than I) and couldn't drive with an arm resting on the window with how far he had his seat back. Within weeks he had traded the vw (which he loved most things about) far a hyundai that accomodated his longer body (I think that is the sonata but car names don't stick in my head). He misses the mechanics (your word) of the vw though. The closest I have been to driving the Gti was taking a friends Audi S3 for a spin. I will concede, it was awesome.

Ferrari 599

Is a used Infiniti G35 a possibility? (Nissan Skyline for those of you in some other countries.) If you want fun to drive, then perhaps rear wheel drive is the way to go. I believe there has always been a model with a manual transmission.

New cars are thousands of dollars more than they should be, but if limited to the choices you listed then I would say the VW. Sounds like you want a more engaging car. The Sonata is a great choice if practicality is at the top of one's list.

Good luck.

Why are you stuck with the local dealer. Get online and use google or bing to find a site where you can put in the specifications of the exact model that you want, and a dealer radius (100 or 150 miles for example) and get them bidding against each other.


funny I'am looking for a car to replace a 97 Ford Taurus an have been shopping....I also have a 04 Honda Accord. I like the AWD Subaru, I know people swear by em up north.. The Ford Fussion with the 4 cyc and six speed manual is a real sleeper and the price is right with the rebates and is Car & Drive car of the year for 2010...The V's are nice, but $$ to fix...If you really like that GTI get em to change the wheels...Its the best time since the Clinton years to buy...my 2cents

Errr, nothing says mid-life crisis more than a (Volkswagen) Golf GTI. :) Not even a Porsche Carrera. Hot hatchbacks are for kids. I'm certain it's not your intention to be labelled as such.

Hyundai Sonata... I've never driven a Hyundai and I have no idea how it behaves. But it looks like a better option.

Although, I'd look for another car in this case. I don't hate Volkswagens, but I simply don't like German cars except a few at the very top. Hyundai is Hyundai. That is, no charisma at all.

My wife and I had a GTI. Fun as hell in the summer; treacherous as hell in the winter. I would never buy another one as a year-round car. So we replaced it with a turbo Subaru Outback. While that may not be your cup of tea another Subaru with a turbo might be. As always, YMMV...

"I'd definitely go with the Ferrari 599."

You might want to check with your insurance carrier about which car costs the most to insure with a 16 year old driver. My guess is the GTI will be expensive. It's a favorite of the teenagers.

You want the GTI. You love the way it handles. THAT is EXTREMELY important. Get the GTI....or....you will be filled with painful remorse.....for many years.

By the way. The following link has some great tips on getting the best deal possible. Forget about leasing (which is mentioned in the article).....but some of the buying tips are gold: http://www.poyeyphotos.com/blog/personal/how-i-leased-my-new-car-for-1374-under-invoice-how-to-buy-or-lease-your-next-car-and-get-the-best-possible-deal

With a teenager driving in an area where it has been known to snow, I could think of some good things to say about underpowered cars, and even automatic transmissions.

My sweetie is a fleet manager for a large oil company and their analysis has shown that new VW vehicles have the highest and most costly repair record. YMMV. To bad because I really like the GTi too.

First off, I think you should save yourself several thousands of dollars and buy used; you'll probably also find yourself a GTi that you actually like.

Check surrounding cities; if you're buying a car that you enjoy
driving, take the scenic route back. You won't mind the low mileage because you'll be listening to jazz music on the XM while you navigate some twisties, laughing like an idiot because you decided to have fun.

Here's what Jeremy Clarkson thinks of the Mark V GTI:


Mike, hands down the GTI. I am that rarity, a photographer AND car guy. Got one myself in January after coming to conclusion that my Mini was just a bit too small. Perfect for one to four people and a dog. The thing hauls butt and gets close to 30 MPG. The Hyundai will just leave you irritated with cheesy plastics, limp handling and general downmarket feeling. Like being in Finland in February. You'll get your money back in the GTI when you sell it.

PS, the wheels aren't dopey, they're ultra cool, at least according to my associates.

You honestly though that asking the Internet would make it easier?

I guess I'm like you, I buy cars new and keep them until they die or really need to b put out of their misery. My wife together have had seven cars in the past 27 years, and two of those were totaled in accidents. Right now we have a 2004 Honda Element with a stick shift and a 2004 F-150 4x4. No complaints with either.

FWIW, I've always had a bad impression of Volkswagens, as in they're nothing but trouble. My neighbor has a Vanagon and it has had problems that have kept it in the shop for months. I rarely hear good things about them. But maybe the GTI is a peach, I don't know.

Also FWIW, Consumer reports predicts the GTI to be 7% less reliable than average, the Sonata 21% more reliable than average.

Do you have any info on how much each costs to maintain? Call around and see how much it costs to do some basic post-warranty repairs on similar but older VWs and Hyundais.

Sorry to offer up such prosaic criteria.

Hi Mike,

Sounds like you know what you really want to do in your heart of hearts. Just need a few people to say it's OK to spend the extra money on what you really want. (It is).

Which one will give you most enjoyment?

Buy that one.

GTI. It's cooler, more fun, and let's face it, more practical.

You're going to have this car for over 15 years, remember? As much as Korean cars are better now than they once were, they're still not up to par with some of the Germans, even the nice Hyundais. The Volkswagens have always been nice cars. Every day I see at least one hippie driving around in one from the sixties. It'll run forever, and the engine in the GTI is bulletproof. The warranty doesn't last quite as long, but who needs it if the car's fine?

As for the money, let's say you own this car for 10 years, a little less than you likely will. That's $600 a year. A lot, still, but it really isn't so much to pay for your extra fun.

The gas mileage in the GTI is better, if I recall, too, meaning you might be able to make that money back.

The GTI is a hatchback, so, while the Sonata may be larger, you can fit a chest of drawers in the GTI, making it far more practical in strange situations, which, let's be honest, is the only time huge trunk space actually matters.

When people are paying $6000 for digital medium format cameras nowadays once every couple years, how can you not justify $600 a year for your complete happiness? Get the damn GTI, because if you don't, you'll wish you did.

Followup to my previous comment. I will be 54 in less than a month so I am very close. The GTi says one of two things to me. With a young man at the wheel is says boy racer with more hormones than neurones. With an older man at the wheel (say around 53 or 54) it screams "Male menopause". Oh, and I hate those wheels. I would spend money to get rid of them.

On the other hand if you have driven them both and really prefer the GTi you may not be happy with the other car, and anyway, life is for living so go and enjoy yourself while you are still young enough. Good luck.

Hello Mike,

Speaking for myself, I'm just sayin' here!

The Suzuki SX4 (Sedan, Sport or Crossover) is what I'd be looking at. I can stand the test of a teenager out with his friends on a saturday night, has good fuel economy (watch for the price of gas to go up this summer, again) and is pretty much trouble free.

But then, you should buy that Ferrari.

I would look at the reliability ratings if I were to buy a car that I wanted to keep for a long time. In fact, I really wanted a Passat, but avoided it specifically because VW generally has crappy reliability.

Then again, YMMV.

The wife got a 07 Beetle with those 17" dopey wheels, love the VW, it's the second new one in a row for her. We hate that dopey wheel tire combo She has twice ruined a $325 tire hitting chug holes. It rides like a skate board on concrete compared to the one we had before with fatter tires. The newer car also has sport tuned suspension, that is half the harsh ride. The new car is a blast to drive on short trips but stays home when we hit the road for a longer road trip. We loved taking the older beetle (2003) on long road trips.

If it's your only car skip the sport tune options the fun wares off. And I'm not that old only 54.

Buy a bicycle, maybe a tandem, seeing you've got a learner to accommodate.

AFAIK buying a new car doesn't make sense even when you can afford to (never happened to me yet).
A new car loses a lot of its value in depreciation very quickly, best value for money and the sensible choice for a frugal chap is to buy a car that's 3 or 4 years old and sell it again after 2 year's use, then back to the dealer for another 3 year old one.
Volkswagens (new or old) are overpriced but I suppose you Americans haven't got the better value alternative (same car) of a SEAT or Skoda.
Hyundais just lack any kind of soul.

Easy, Ferrari 599 :-)

Just go with the Ferrari 599, you won't regret it.


You can buy an old man car when you are an old man. On the other hand, a 16 year old me would have wrecked the GTI in about 4 days.

My wife and I really wanted a GTI but got a Honda Fit (sport) instead, due to our lack of budget. Zippy and fun but so underpowered it would drive you mad. I do however get 30 mpg in the city.

I'm no help, best of luck.

Persuade the dealerships to let you take extended test drives, spend at least an hour in each drivers seat, and see how you feel physically after that. That being said, I have worked at as a tech at a dealer that sold both, and in my opinion the GTI is a better built car. Look at the fit and finish of the interior parts, and the quality differences in places like the inner fenders under the hood. When you are alone and away from the salesman, knock on the interior panels with your fist (lightly) and listen to the difference.You can do that in comparing any two cars, not just the VW and hyundai. Hope that helps.

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