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So overall consensus seems to be, alpha-numeric ordered: 3 (Mazda), Civic (Honda), Corolla (Toyota).

1) Take those vehicles for a test drive. Do you like it does it feel comfortable?
2) I would want to take each vehicle for a really long test drive if possible, likely NOT.
3) Consider renting each vehicle. The $50/day is small price to pay, to learn you hate that vehicle vs spending $30k and finding out that way. Toyota has a Rent-A-Car program at participating dealers. You should pay for this and see if the rental fee can be applied against the final purchase price, if you decide to get a Corolla. See if Mazda or Honda has a similar Rent-A-Car program of if they would let you drive a test car for at least 60min, not around the block.
4) Few people factor Insurance and Maintenance costs. Which car will be cheaper to insure? Which car will be cheaper to maintain long term.

Let us know what you decide.
 

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2020 Toyota Corolla Sedan SE (6-MT)
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I'm considering trading my 2020 Corolla SE Sedan 6-MT for a similarly compact-sized 2022 Mazda CX-30 Crossover sometime next year before the 3 year ownership mark. I'm also at the age now, after driving nothing but manuals & mostly "sporty" vehicles since 1982, where I sort of want something with a higher, softer, quieter ride, as well as an automatic & another hatch. Plus, I haven't been as satisfied with my 2020 Corolla & "modern-day Toyota commitment to quality" in-general as much as I thought I would be. I do like the nice styling & road-stance on the SE/XSE trim Corolla sedans (which is sweet) - MUCH improved over previous generation Corollas. But, I will definitely rent a CX-30 for a week to drive around daily & play with before I ever consider a switch from my current Corolla.

The fact that Mazda still designs & supports traditional 6-speed geared automatics is big selling point for me when finally considering a switch to my first automatic, since my own research into "push-belt" designed CVT's over the years show them to be overly-sensitive to longer-term stress/use, random-reliable at best, & very expensive to replace/fix when they fail - but they are cheaper to manufacture (aka better profit margins) & get a few more MPG so, automakers have flocked to them as the standard now. Some automakers do a better build/implementation job with them than others but I just personally find the basic design too problematic & delicate. In terms of CVT's, the eCVT (no belt) design seems to be the way to go in terms of reliability & such, but that type of CVT is confined to hybrids/electric vehicles & the U.S. offerings on those in the makes/models that interest me is sadly lacking to non-existent. There are a lot better offering choices in other global markets for hybrids (IMO) - at least the ones that interest me (such as a TNGA Yaris hybrid or a Yaris Cross hybrid).

I'm not a fan of the Mazda3 hatch for the same reason I'm not a fan of the Corolla hatch - certain styling elements really turn me off. I find the Mazda3 sedan on par with the SE/XSE Corolla sedan, overall, though I would opt for the Mazda over the Toyota if I was going to get an automatic (& likely manual also, in hindsight). I drove nothing but Honda/Acura from 1982-2015, but wouldn't even consider one today given the current information out there, styling, etc. Honda is a shadow of itself today, riding on an outdated reputation for quality & reliability (IMO). Nissan has never seemed to care about build-quality much for a Japanese company, so I have always avoided them - though I have liked some of their styling over the years. Also not a fan of Subaru, mostly due to their CVT's & somewhat-problematic engine designs. Hyundai or KIA have never interested me much, for a variety of reason.

The U.S. market, in general, is just a big turn-off in their offerings IMO. Seems like all the small vehicles (& trim versions) that I like (I don't like anything larger than subcompact or compact size) are only sold in other countries.
 

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So overall consensus seems to be, alpha-numeric ordered: 3 (Mazda), Civic (Honda), Corolla (Toyota).

1) Take those vehicles for a test drive. Do you like it does it feel comfortable?
2) I would want to take each vehicle for a really long test drive if possible, likely NOT.
3) Consider renting each vehicle. The $50/day is small price to pay, to learn you hate that vehicle vs spending $30k and finding out that way. Toyota has a Rent-A-Car program at participating dealers. You should pay for this and see if the rental fee can be applied against the final purchase price, if you decide to get a Corolla. See if Mazda or Honda has a similar Rent-A-Car program of if they would let you drive a test car for at least 60min, not around the block.
4) Few people factor Insurance and Maintenance costs. Which car will be cheaper to insure? Which car will be cheaper to maintain long term.

Let us know what you decide.
My local Toyota dealer let me had the Corolla for a day to help me with my purchase's decision.
 

straight cash homie
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If you're not an enthusiast, you can't really go wrong with a Corolla; the Civic and Mazda3 would be the choice of buyers who want a spicier ride still, but the Corolla isn't the absolute vanilla car it had been. You definitely can find a Corolla to rent at Enterprise or Budget/Avis (My personal experience), since some places may not a Toyota dealer that offers TRAC. I have an Elantra in my fleet now, so I might even recommend it too depending on the circumstance.

If you want AWD, perhaps an Impreza should be on your list.
 

straight cash homie
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What about Kia Optima, if it's considered to be in same class as above named cars. Solid value, reviews have been good.
Optima is no more. K5 is the name of the new sedan for 2021, which competes with the Camry. Kia Forte is in the same segment as CivRolla3
 

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'21 Corolla Apex SE - 6mt
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Same here. I know the Corolla will last another 5-10 years and it will be my son's first car :)
That's what I'm banking on my son's first car fully bolted and tuned limited edition 1st car. he'll be the only person with a manual transmission as well they'll be extinct by then lol

I wish my dad was as cool as me...
 

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That's what I'm banking on my son's first car fully bolted and tuned limited edition 1st car. he'll be the only person with a manual transmission as well they'll be extinct by then lol
It's true. I wish I had bought a manual transmission unfortunately the wife didn't let me. Well, my next car will be an 86 with a manual transmission ;) regardless of her opinion.

" I wish my dad was as cool as me..."
:ROFLMAO:
 

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'21 Corolla Apex SE - 6mt
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It's true. I wish I had bought a manual transmission unfortunately the wife didn't let me. Well, my next car will be an 86 with a manual transmission ;) regardless of her opinion.

" I wish my dad was as cool as me..."
:ROFLMAO:
I hear ya man I had the car I was going to keep and build when we had kids (manual) went with 2 autos so my wife could drive. I played the waiting game driving her old car, years passed and I was going to upgrade to another auto so we had 2 brand new cars we could both use and all of a sudden she says now the kids are getting older get the car you want...

Your waiting will pay off 10 fold 馃憤馃憤馃徔馃崒馃崋
 

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Discussion Starter #31
I'll give an actual answer, not a non-answer.

Toyota: Reliablity, resale, fuel economy and fairly good driving dynamics.
Mazda: Premium feel inside, used to be class leading handling but not anymore apparently.
Elantra: Tons of tech for low price
Civic: Best handing IMO, good reliability with the 2.0 (Avoid the 1.5T)
Sentra: I'd just avoid Nissan IMO.
Really appreciate the summary of each. Doing a lot of initial research and every time I read something this tracks. Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter #32
Purchase or lease? If lease, buy the one that you like the best when you test drive it. If purchase and especially if you are going to keep it a while, the Civic or Corolla would be the only 2 I would get. Everyone else has covered the basics so far.

I will say that my 2021 SE is a million times better in just about everyway than my '17 LE. The way it rides, handles, feels, sounds and comfort. For me it's a night and day difference. If you do go with a Corolla, I would go with an SE or XSE for the powertrain alone.
Did you happen to compare your new SE against a Civic? Wondering if all choices evolved as much.
 

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'21 Corolla Apex SE - 6mt
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I drove all new trim levels 2020 civics compared to my se

My wife liked the se interior better , I liked the civics

The rear seat room is more in the civic.

The civics 2.0 is gutless

The civics outside is not nearly as pretty.

Honda cvt feels like Nissan when compared to Toyota.. Toyota is the best cvt I've driven

Oh and I'm a Honda guy so that's how much better the Corolla was this is my 1st Toyota.
 

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I owned a 2008 Elantra. It had a couple small issues but overall was good for the 70k mi/9yrs I owned it. The new Elantra is the ugliest car I've seen since the aztek van thing. Absolutely terrible looking. I didn't even drive any other small car when I bought my 21 LE.
 

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We had a 2018 Civic Sport hatchback 1.5T 6spd. We didn't know about the oil dilution issue with the new Honda turbo engines when we bought it. The Civic handles best.
We got a 2021 Corolla SE. Toyota reliability, and it's still one of the few small-to-medium sized cars out there that you can still get a 6spd manual transmission.
Kia/Hyundai nope; they just don't hold up in the long run.
Mazda; since they quit their venture with Ford they're getting better, but not there yet, give it a few more years
Nissan; look nice but cheap, and they're just rolling piles of crap as they age.
 

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'21 Corolla Apex SE - 6mt
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We had a 2018 Civic Sport hatchback 1.5T 6spd. We didn't know about the oil dilution issue with the new Honda turbo engines when we bought it. The Civic handles best.
We got a 2021 Corolla SE. Toyota reliability, and it's still one of the few small-to-medium sized cars out there that you can still get a 6spd manual transmission.
Kia/Hyundai nope; they just don't hold up in the long run.
Mazda; since they quit their venture with Ford they're getting better, but not there yet, give it a few more years
Nissan; look nice but cheap, and they're just rolling piles of crap as they age.
Nailed it ... I'm glad I didn't buy the new si it was a toss up between that and my corolla.
 

straight cash homie
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Oh and I'm a Honda guy so that's how much better the Corolla was this is my 1st Toyota.
Just curious, was a Type R ever in the cards? I was seriously considering a 2020 Si and not any of the other trims because only the Si and the hatch Sport Touring offer manual and a moonroof, but they were little to no discounts on them, and even the used ones I've found are all at MSRP. Corolla OTOH, can be negotiated to a very fair deal that is less than most Civics.
 

straight cash homie
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Kia/Hyundai nope; they just don't hold up in the long run.
Mazda; since they quit their venture with Ford they're getting better, but not there yet, give it a few more years
Nissan; look nice but cheap, and they're just rolling piles of crap as they age.
Mazda: You have to buy the most expensive model (3 Grand Touring hatch) to even get a manual; in Canada, they offer the transmission on cheaper trims.
Nissan: You can get manual on the car in Canada, but not in the US. I didn't know this until I saw The Straight Pipes review one. I was sort of interested in the last Sentra that offered a turbo, but the offering was meh given how "rental car" the last Sentra was.
 

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'21 Corolla Apex SE - 6mt
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Just curious, was a Type R ever in the cards? I was seriously considering a 2020 Si and not any of the other trims because only the Si and the hatch Sport Touring offer manual and a moonroof, but they were little to no discounts on them, and even the used ones I've found are all at MSRP. Corolla OTOH, can be negotiated to a very fair deal that is less than most Civics.
I wish but no, money was a factor, it did make me consider the accord Sport 2.0 same block as type r just tuned different & smaller turbo I think? But honestly the accord was 3 grand more than the si and the si was 3 grand more than the apex lol it just kept adding up...

Even my dealer loyalty and history of Hondas did nothing to get me to a price point I was happy with.


Fun fact the 2022 type r euro spec is the last all petrol Honda that will be made in Europe... it's happening

 
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