Toyotas have a reputation for being very durable, if that’s what you’re looking for. They’re also very fuel efficient as a bonus. Not super-sporty to look at though, unless you get into something like a Celica. I like the idea of getting a mechanically very good used car, leaving the body with dents and dings and not looking super-good, and putting a fantastic stereo system in it. Use camouflage, as it were.
You might want to check that a wheel needs to be balanced. Get the tires rotated and balanced if you haven’t recently. That’s pretty cheep to do. Go to the last place you bought tires, they may do it for free.
We have two Toyotas now (a Corolla and a Tercel) that we are very happy with. We researched cars for about a year before we decided on the Toyota - we discovered that while Honda used to have a reputation for building bullet-proof cars, they have been resting on that reputation for a while now. Plus, Hondas are very expensive, even used (as Really Not All That Bright mentioned). Good if you want to sell your car, not so good if you want to find a bargain used.
I bought my first new car because I discovered that the Toyota Matrix was actually MORE expensive used per remaining mile when used than new. That’s how well it’s perceived in quality and value-holding. I know it’s just the first 30K miles, but the only complaint I have is that the steering wheel puts a bar at the bottom where I want to put my hand. That’s seriously it. Nothing rattles, has broken, fallen off, sputtered. I can put actual things in it, I can open only the glass and put the shopping in against the back door instead of opening the entire door. And it was assembled in N. America.
Umm… I hadn’t realized there were any Metros still on the road. Holy cow.
Toyotas are pretty boring looking, but I’ll toss my chip into the reliability pile. I’ve had my '94 Corolla for about six years now and the only work I’ve had done to it outside of fluid changes and the like was to replace a CV boot that was damaged in a hurricane. Oh, and for some reason the inside door handles all gave out, but I have a feeling that’s because of the idiots I used to haul around who had never seen a door that doesn’t unlock itself when you open it from the inside.
Exciting, though? No. There aren’t many hatchbacks nowadays to choose from, unless you want to go way back and get a CRX or something.
Thought about that, too, but so many of them have been thrashed/raced and probably just as many have been crashed. That’s why I wanted a Corrado - the modder kids love those too, but even though they’re seriously quick (well, the VR6 is) and handle well they all seem to have been cared for.
I tried to find a second-gen MR2 last year (not the one **Inigo Montoya’s ** got, the curvier one from '93 on) but decent ones are scarce.
Same as the regular Focus except Ford changed the engine, transmission, suspension, brakes, interior, sound system, and wheels and tires. Probably never made any money after all the changes. Not at all like a regular Focus; quality is much better. They came fully optioned.
It’s a hatchback, has a great ride - both supple and road holding, goes like heck, great seats (Recaros) and in the price range. Six speed shifter is a little ropey but I never missed a gear driving unfamiliar cars. Short shift kits are available to tighten up if that bothers you. I drove a few and missed out on one I called back on by a couple of hours when I was looking a couple of years ago.
Only real nit is turning radius, like an extented full size pickup - I kid you not. Just park another 100 feet away from the store - saves the doors and gives you more exercise.
Checkout autotrader, Ford Focus, 2002 to 2004, and manual transmission. All/most of the higher priced ones will be SVTs.
Reliability and longevity: definitely Toyota. Mine’s 12+ years old, near 300 000km, and there appears to be no end in sight. My husband and I occasionally think we ought to sell it (and his car, which we never use) and just get one newer one, but we have trouble justifying it given as how the Tercel costs us next to nothing to keep on the road (and insure!).
It’s not a hatchback, but the Saturn Ion is a decent enough car, reliable, acceptable powerband and fuel economy, plus, you have the dent-resistant polymer body panels and an offset instrument cluster
(it’s funny, the OIC was repeatedly lambasted in the automotive press when it was in the Saturn Ion, but the same automotive press LOVED the OIC in Toyota’s Scion line, go figure…)
It’s not particularly sporty, but it handles well and the 2.2L Ecotec four cylinder puts out around 145 HP at the crankshaft, and it has some pep, especially when equipped with the manual transmission
I have a new '07 Ion, and at last fill-up I got around 26 MPG City, but the engine hasn’t reached the “magical” 5000 mile point, where the Ecotec starts really showing off it’s best efficiency (i have about 4,400 on it so far), the average real-world fuel economy range for the Ion is 20-30 City, and 32-40 Highway
over on saturnfans dot net, one of the posters there had an '04 that ran for 360,000 miles before it suffered a cracked block, he used it as his daily driver for a courier/delivery business, 200K+ Ions are common there as well
the Ion is a Delta platform GM product, it’s essentially the same car as the Chevy Cobalt and Pontiac G5
What is your price range? If your car rattling at high speeds, there might have something wrong with your engine mounts. Before I decided on a SUV, I was looking at an Audi A6 2004-05, 2.7T engine, and only that engine (best bang for the buck). They don’t make it any more. It’s about 16-18k.