Time was up on my Audi A3 with 70+k miles and various expensive maintenance items about to hit the checkbook, so I faced the question everybody gets to sooner or later : What Next? In today's automotive marketplace the choices are virtually unlimited if you are willing to consider something used, but on the new car side things have gotten expensive and the selection is not as broad as you'd think.
My priorities were a manageable monthly on something fun to drive, that would not need a gasoline trailer as part of the deal. I really liked the A3 but had gotten a bit blase about it over 6 years. Shopping around at the various Honda, Toyota, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan models available revealed a distinct lack of fizz in the cocktail and some very indulgent styling and plastacky interiors on offer. BMW and Audi had great stuff, but that all started around $40 large, so I drifted into VW to check out the more affordable German engineering on offer there.
BINGO! The cute little GTI was still in the lineup, stickered out well under $30 K and looked and felt like a real quality piece. The four-door looked a bit pudgey, but the 2-door looked sharp. They had finally offered an alternative to the previously standard clown wheels and the interior was dressed in a natty plaid fabric that set a unique and hip tone.
Getting behind the wheel proved the point - this is one of the best cars on the market - at any price point. An honest pocket rocket that goes swell, handles tight, hauls more than ass and can be had for pretty doable cash. Not a cheap piece anywhere in sight, very comfy seats, great dash layout, good audio and very good bluetooth.
Getting into the back seat is coupe difficult, but that's really the only legitimate gripe. Truth be told once in there, even a full size dude can cozy up. The hatchback is convenient and with the rear seats folded down, cargo capacity is very respectable. It's no minivan, but it can get on with the necessary hauling.
OK ... 8 months later and I'm still a happy ramper. Zippy around town, nice clean shifting 6-speed manual, overall 27+ MPG and only 1 warranty complaint - for a fuel gauge that stopped gauging. On balance, I love this thing and recommend it highly.
• dean seven