A 148-horsepower 2.0-litre DOHC four cylinder carried over from the previous 3, paired with either a five-speed manual or automatic transmission. The upgrade was a 167-horsepower 2.5-litre DOHC four mated to a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. Mazda’s “Skyactiv” 2.0-litre four cylinder arrived for 2012, employing direct injection, higher compression and lower friction to deliver 155 horsepower and genuine fuel savings (the 2.5 is piggish by comparison). Assembled in Japan, the 3’s reliability has been exceptional – with one exception: the clutch wears rapidly, owners warn. Watch for fast-wearing tires and easily chipped paint.
2007-10 Mitsubishi Outlander
The Mitsubishi Outlander may not enjoy instant name recognition, but it is a stylish and genuinely sporty utility that’s well put-together, owners say. The cabin is not be the most luxurious place to spend time, but it’s decently roomy – save for the optional third-row jump seats, which are for munchkins only. The Outlander features a trick headliner that acts as an odour fighter, as well as an anachronistic two-piece tailgate: the lower segment drops down to aid loading while the glass hatch swings up.
Initially, all Outlanders had a 220-horsepower 3.0-L SOHC V-6 tied to a six-speed automatic transmission. For 2008, Mitsu introduced a 168-horsepower 2.4-L DOHC four cylinder working through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The Outlander felt extraordinarily car-like, although drivers noticed considerable tire and wind noise in the cabin. Owner complaints singled out exterior paint quality, which is prone to chipping easily, as well as short-lived front wheel bearings. Poor throttle response may require updating the engine-control program.
Like the Volkswagen Jetta that preceded it, Mazda’s ambitious 3 was and remains an overachieving driver’s car that rises above its econobox billing. Its front-drive C1 platform, shared with the Euro-market Ford Focus, felt supremely balanced with its strut front and multilink rear suspensions. The 3 was available as both a four-door sedan and five-door hatch. While a little cramped inside, the fit and finish were superb and every control moved and clicked with gratifying precision.
2007-10 Honda CR-V
With its sensible size, great road manners and capable all-weather drivetrain, the third-generation Honda CR-V checks all the boxes on many buyers’ lists. For 2007 the CR-V was made 8 cm shorter overall by tucking the outboard spare tire under the floor, which conveniently lowered the centre of gravity. The well-finished cabin remained as airy and inviting as ever with its tall seating for five and excellent sightlines. With the spare tire below deck, the CR-V sported a proper top-hinged hatchback, which permitted easy access to the cargo hold.
Power was supplied by Honda’s long-serving 2.4-litre DOHC four cylinder found in the Accord, good for 166 horsepower and 161 lb-ft of torque, working in tandem with a standard five-speed automatic. The power is adequate and nothing more. For 2010 the CR-V earned some styling tweaks, revised interior furnishings and added horsepower (up to 180). Commonly reported gripes include fast-wearing tires, noisy rear differentials, broken a/c compressors, malfunctioning door locks and faulty power window switches.2010-13 Mazda3Like the Volkswagen Jetta that preceded it, Mazda’s ambitious 3 was and remains an overachieving driver’s car that rises above its econobox billing. Its front-drive C1 platform, shared with the Euro-market Ford Focus, felt supremely balanced with its strut front and multilink rear suspensions. The 3 was available as both a four-door sedan and five-door hatch. While a little cramped inside, the fit and finish were superb and every control moved and clicked with gratifying precision.A 148-horsepower 2.0-litre DOHC four cylinder carried over from the previous 3, paired with either a five-speed manual or automatic transmission. The upgrade was a 167-horsepower 2.5-litre DOHC four mated to a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. Mazda’s “Skyactiv” 2.0-litre four cylinder arrived for 2012, employing direct injection, higher compression and lower friction to deliver 155 horsepower and genuine fuel savings (the 2.5 is piggish by comparison). Assembled in Japan, the 3’s reliability has been exceptional – with one exception: the clutch wears rapidly, owners warn. Watch for fast-wearing tires and easily chipped paint.
2006-10 Toyota Sienna
Canadians like – love, actually – minivans. And why not? They can haul seven or eight people in comfort without drawing heavily on Mother Earth’s finite oil reserves. The most reliable of the bunch is Toyota’s Sienna, which works as a popular taxi in New York’s cratered streets. We like the athletic engine introduced for 2007, but the basic van remained the same: a stiff unibody yielded a quiet, squeak-free ride, the third-row bench offered room for thee and folded flat into the floor, and optional all-wheel drive made the Sienna especially sure-footed.
A 266-horsepower 3.5-litre DOHC V-6 was the lone engine choice, mated to a smooth five-speed automatic. The Sienna AWD came with mandatory run-flat tires, which many owners disliked because the tires don’t last long, are horrendously expensive to replace, and can leave you stranded since not all tire shops stock them. Reported mechanical weaknesses include broken power sliding doors, leaky radiators and gas tanks (both recall items), faulty air conditioners, weak tailgate struts and short-lived batteries.
The powertrain software toggles imperceptibly between electric and gasoline propulsion, working through a standard continuously variable (CVT) automatic transmission. The Fusion’s regenerative braking recovers up to 94% of braking energy, one benefit of which is that brake pads may last up to three times longer, owners noted. Consumers are finally getting the message that hybrid cars can be remarkably reliable. Fusion nitpicks amount to weak air conditioner performance, squeaky brakes, a “surging” transmission, and the occasional fussy Sync communications interface.
2007-10 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder
Got an itch only a convertible can scratch? The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder not only has a cool handle, it has a swoopy profile to match. With its better-than-average materials inside, the sculpted cockpit is as appealing as its shapely body. The two-place rear bench is strictly a kids-only zone, however. The insulated three-layer convertible top folds down in mere seconds at the touch of a button, but the small rear window hampers the view out back.The GS model is (under)powered by a 162- horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder tied to a five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic transmission, while the GT harnesses a 260- horsepower 3.8-litre V-6 with a six-speed manual or optional five-speed autobox. The Eclipse invites stoplight challenges, so be sure to spring for the V-6. Reported setbacks include a truculent air conditioner, creaks and rattles in the instrument panel and paintwork that may chip and scratch a little too easily. The turning radius is a tad too big for what is supposed to be a nimble sporty car.
Base LX and EX models got a 156- horsepower, 2.0-litr four-cylinder tied to a five-speed manual transmission or four-speed automatic, while SX models came with a 173- horsepower, 2.4-L four and a six-speed manual or five-speed slushbox. All models were upgraded to the six-speed manual gearbox or new six-speed automatic for 2011. The Forte is a quality piece. Owners reported a few lit Check Engine lamps and a stumble while accelerating, which could be traced to a failed throttle position sensor. A few hard-shifting transmissions have been replaced under warranty.
2010-13 Kia Forte
The California-designed Forte arrived on a fresh front-drive platform just in time to replace the forgettable Spectra. The crisply creased Forte took the shape of a four-door sedan and two-door “Koup;” a five-door hatchback debuted for 2011. Despite a 4-cm-longer wheelbase, passenger volume was reduced a smidge compared to the Spectra, but it was still generous for a compact. Trunk capacity grew thanks to a less intrusive torsion-beam rear suspension that replaced the independent multilink setup.
2010-11 Ford Fusion Hybrid
The Mexican-built Ford Fusion Hybrid married the Mazda 6’s front-wheel-drive platform with hybrid technology licensed from Toyota, along with Ford’s own tooling and styling edict. This mid-sizer’s 2.5-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine was modified to run on the Atkinson cycle, which keeps the intake valves open longer for better thermal efficiency, making a modest 156 horsepower and 136 lb-ft of torque. The engine is supplemented by an AC electric motor, good for 106 horsepower and 166 lb-ft of torque. Together, the duo puts out a healthy 191 horsepower.
2007-09 Subaru Legacy and Outback
Subie owners have long delighted in the Legacy’s standard go-anywhere all-wheel drive, its balanced drivetrain and general quirkiness. Ditto the Outback wagon, arguably North America’s first crossover, a car with sport-utility DNA. Subarus truly are different, thanks to their devotion to the horizontally opposed “boxer” engine that lies low, employs a shorter crankshaft and accommodates equal-length driveshafts. Manual-transmission models used an AWD viscous-coupling locking centre differential that split power 50/50 front and rear, while automatics got a planetary centre diff and a variable hydraulic transfer clutch.
The Mazda2 is propelled by a 100-horsepower, 1.5-litre DOHC four cylinder engine – laughably few horsies, but the car defines the flyweight class. A five-speed manual transmission was standard, with an outdated four-speed automatic optional (the Fiesta uses a troublesome dual-clutch autobox). Mechanical letdowns have been few and far between. A common gripe identifies front brake rotors that warp too easily, while the rear drums are durable. Be forewarned: fuel economy may not be as great as its tiny footprint suggests.
Looking for a gas-sipping commuter car, but can’t bring yourself to pay good money for half an automobile advertised as a “smart” buy? The Mazda2 arrived from Japan as a five-door hatchback that earned the World Car of the Year title in 2011. Its front-wheel-drive platform also underpinned theFord’s Fiesta but unlike the Fiesta, Mazda kept the 2 free of frills like sunroofs and telescoping steering wheels. Buyers got a bigger cabin, though, especially in the back seat (which is abysmal in the Ford). What it lacks in amenities, the 2 makes up for in fundamental goodness.
Two familiar engines lived under the hood: a 2.5-litre DOHC five-cylinder gasoline engine made 170 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque, while the TDI used the 2.0-litre turbodiesel four, good for 140 horsepower and a workmanlike 236 lb-ft of torque. Both were well suited to the optional six-speed automatic transmission North Americans favour. The 2.5-kitre engine is a largely trouble-free powerplant; owners report only the occasional knock sensor or secondary air pump tripping the Check Engine light. Beyond that the door locks and sunroof can get fussy.
2010-11 Volkswagen Golf 2.5
After a flirtation with the old Rabbit nameplate to appeal to nostalgic buyers, VW resurrected the Golf name in North America, citing the strong recognition it enjoys globally. With the front-drive PQ35 platform carried over, the 2010 Golf was essentially a re-skinned Rabbit. The Golf’s three- and five-door hatchback profile was made less rounded, slightly shorter and significantly lower. The roomy cabin enjoyed new levels of finish that approached Audi-like quality. This is an econobox?
New-car dealers are having a banner year as Canadians crowd showrooms to kick the tires on their next new vehicle. Yet despite all the hub-hub, used vehicles continue to outsell new ones by a ratio of almost two to one – and for plenty of good reasons. Chief among them is the lower cost of acquisition, thanks to the big depreciation hit the first owners willingly absorb.
Buying used may be good for your health as well as your wallet. Turns out that new-car smell is mostly organic compounds “off-gassing” in the cabin, released from the vinyls, plastics and foams that make up a car’s interior. Because they don’t require high temperatures to evapourate, the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from these materials may bother people with environmental sensitivities.
You can breathe easy. Here are 10 reliable used vehicles you can find today for less than $15,000.
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