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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hello all-

I am new here and as stated, I currently own a 1991 Nissan 240sx. It has about 66k miles, everything is left stock (I feel I have an obligation to do so because so many are trashed but that's a different topic). I have been considering selling it for a Mazda3 but I've considered many different cars such ranging from a G37 to a GTI.

I guess I am just looking for further convincing since I have not been able to test drive one yet. It seems to be the best compromise between cost of ownership (versus a GTI), MPG (versus a G37), and practicality (versus a BRZ/FRS). The only experience I have with FWD cars are a 2004 Camry which I absolutely hated and a 2012 Jetta Sports Wagon which handled pretty well but hated the numbness. Initially I was being snobby with the whole RWD>FWD thing but I figured that I would never drive the cars to the limit to really notice anyways, since I rarely push my S13 hard at all.

So if there's any other 240 owners here, great, I'd love to hear from you. I've been wanting a new car lately but I know that if I sell the S13 I will probably never find one as clean as mine again. Moreover, it was my first and only car I've ever had and not many newer cars have felt as engaging. So I just want to make the future purchase as justified as possible.
 

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Do it! I used to own an rx-7, and currently have a miata as well as the new 3. As far as rwd to fwd, this car won't handle as well but it feels great for a fwd car nonetheless. I have plenty of fun with it alternating between it and the miata. It has a good frame and suspension geometry. Most of all for daily driving you'll never miss the 240 when comparing daily comfort and interior feel. I love the way the new 3 feels when you're in the cabin.

Although I agree with the low mileage and unmodified 240 being rare. One of those out where I live would get a good price though so it pays off!

My 2 yen
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Do it! I used to own an rx-7, and currently have a miata as well as the new 3. As far as rwd to fwd, this car won't handle as well but it feels great for a fwd car nonetheless. I have plenty of fun with it alternating between it and the miata. It has a good frame and suspension geometry. Most of all for daily driving you'll never miss the 240 when comparing daily comfort and interior feel. I love the way the new 3 feels when you're in the cabin.

Although I agree with the low mileage and unmodified 240 being rare. One of those out where I live would get a good price though so it pays off!

My 2 yen
Thanks for your insight, I wish I had a miata. Compared to the S13 stock suspension I'm pretty certain the M3 will outhandle it anyways. How is the overall feel of the drive compared to your RX and miata? My main worry is feeling that same numbness I felt in that Jetta.
 

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A 240sx is probably one of the few cars I've not driven, but I bet it's fun.

I've mainly owned sports cars or 2-door cars and my main thing is that the car is comfortable and fun. Aside from my Mazda3, the only other 4door car I've ever owned was a '07 Charger RT. I've also had a '77 2-door Buick LaSabre, '84 Porsche 944, '03 Hyundai Tiburon, and '10 Hyundai Genesis Coupe. I travel a lot for work, so I've also drive newer Nissan's, Toyota's, Fords, Chevy's and Kia's. My wife actually has an 08 VW Rabbit. So, I've not owned anything that's not been fun to drive. I've also driven enough new cars to know that some of them are just big and clunky and have driven the same way for the past 10 years. Haha, I don't work for Motor Trend or Car & Driver, but I'm thinking I may as well submit articles to them.

In my Tiburon, the torque steering was horrible. You could never gun it with out feeling like it was going to do a 90 degree turn in to a wall. Thankfully, FWD vehicles have come a long way since then. There's still a little pull with the new MZ3, but it is no where near what that Tiburon had and I'm pretty sure the MZ3 has more horse power and torque. Under normal or slightly heavy acceleration, you wouldn't even know it's a FWD car.

The MZ3 has some get up and go power, especially the S trims with the 2.5L engine. The handling is pretty decent. Nothing has matched that 944, but I don't think this is any worse than the Genesis Coupe. The suspension seems to be a good balance between comfort and sport.

The car is fairly spacious as well. It's not a full size car, so I know it's not like a Cadillac or Buick, but Mazda made pretty good use of the space they had. One of the reasons I got my MZ3 was practicality. The Genesis Coupe doesn't have much for storage space or trunk space. I got tired of having to take my wife's car any time I needed space to carry anything in the car. I also drive a lot in town for work, so I wanted something a little better on gas mileage too. The MZ3 i and S trims both have enough space to be comfortable, power to be sporty and they both put up pretty good MPG ratings. I drive a lot more on the highway, but I'm pulling about 32MPGs out of my car on average, which is 8MPGs more than the Genesis Coupe. Which for me, equates to about a $30 savings per month in fuel costs.

Comparing the '14/'15 Mazda3 to a GTI or Toyotabru/Subaroyta, isn't totally fair because those are definitely sports cars. However, on the Grand Touring trims, especially the 2014 GT trims, the MZ3 comes with some pretty good features and options that you may or may not get on that G37. It's still not as fast as a G37, but the cost to fun ratio is definitely in Mazda's favor.

I can tell you, I will never buy a Corolla because it feels like you're driving a truck and the dash board is big enough to have a stove and kitchen sink. The Corolla S at least feels like it has a little zip. Oh wait, it just lets the RPMs go above 4500. Haha! The Chevy Cruz feels like it has a 75/25 weigh ratio, so the handling is a little off. The Ford Focus is nice, but the interior is kind of lacking, especially compared to the 3. I also don't like the lack of power available with an automatic transmission. I need a break from the MT for a while. I've driven a couple mid-level Focuses and they just feels too plain and basic. They're not bad, I just want more. I won't get a Nissan Sentra or Altima either, they're not fun enough. The Sentra feels a little low on power. I won't ever drive a Versa again. I can sneeze louder than that little engine. May be able to push it on to a highway faster too. Ford Fiesta? No competition there either. Even a VW Passat and Jetta. They've come a long way, but I still can't see spending that kind of money for that kind of car. I feel like it should drive better and have a better interior finish. The Golfs are nice. Still, interior needs work, but I guess I can't say too much bad about them. I also think the MZ3 is pretty comparable with the Ford Fusion. It's just full size sedan Vs smaller hatch. Features are about the same though. Also, Kia Optima's are nice, but the base level is just horrible. I'll never ever take one of those for a rental again. Mid-level and up is nice.

TL; DR version: I spent a lot of time comparing cars I've owned and rentals I've had over the past year. I've test driven several cars, but nothing seemed to compare to the Mazda 3. At least not for what I wanted and how much I wanted to spend. I would recommend spending some time at a dealer and test driving an i trim and an S trim and make one of them a grand touring. That way you can see and experience the full range of options.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
A 240sx is probably one of the few cars I've not driven, but I bet it's fun.

I've mainly owned sports cars or 2-door cars and my main thing is that the car is comfortable and fun. Aside from my Mazda3, the only other 4door car I've ever owned was a '07 Charger RT. I've also had a '77 2-door Buick LaSabre, '84 Porsche 944, '03 Hyundai Tiburon, and '10 Hyundai Genesis Coupe. I travel a lot for work, so I've also drive newer Nissan's, Toyota's, Fords, Chevy's and Kia's. My wife actually has an 08 VW Rabbit. So, I've not owned anything that's not been fun to drive. I've also driven enough new cars to know that some of them are just big and clunky and have driven the same way for the past 10 years. Haha, I don't work for Motor Trend or Car & Driver, but I'm thinking I may as well submit articles to them.

In my Tiburon, the torque steering was horrible. You could never gun it with out feeling like it was going to do a 90 degree turn in to a wall. Thankfully, FWD vehicles have come a long way since then. There's still a little pull with the new MZ3, but it is no where near what that Tiburon had and I'm pretty sure the MZ3 has more horse power and torque. Under normal or slightly heavy acceleration, you wouldn't even know it's a FWD car.

The MZ3 has some get up and go power, especially the S trims with the 2.5L engine. The handling is pretty decent. Nothing has matched that 944, but I don't think this is any worse than the Genesis Coupe. The suspension seems to be a good balance between comfort and sport.

The car is fairly spacious as well. It's not a full size car, so I know it's not like a Cadillac or Buick, but Mazda made pretty good use of the space they had. One of the reasons I got my MZ3 was practicality. The Genesis Coupe doesn't have much for storage space or trunk space. I got tired of having to take my wife's car any time I needed space to carry anything in the car. I also drive a lot in town for work, so I wanted something a little better on gas mileage too. The MZ3 i and S trims both have enough space to be comfortable, power to be sporty and they both put up pretty good MPG ratings. I drive a lot more on the highway, but I'm pulling about 32MPGs out of my car on average, which is 8MPGs more than the Genesis Coupe. Which for me, equates to about a $30 savings per month in fuel costs.

Comparing the '14/'15 Mazda3 to a GTI or Toyotabru/Subaroyta, isn't totally fair because those are definitely sports cars. However, on the Grand Touring trims, especially the 2014 GT trims, the MZ3 comes with some pretty good features and options that you may or may not get on that G37. It's still not as fast as a G37, but the cost to fun ratio is definitely in Mazda's favor.

I can tell you, I will never buy a Corolla because it feels like you're driving a truck and the dash board is big enough to have a stove and kitchen sink. The Corolla S at least feels like it has a little zip. Oh wait, it just lets the RPMs go above 4500. Haha! The Chevy Cruz feels like it has a 75/25 weigh ratio, so the handling is a little off. The Ford Focus is nice, but the interior is kind of lacking, especially compared to the 3. I also don't like the lack of power available with an automatic transmission. I need a break from the MT for a while. I've driven a couple mid-level Focuses and they just feels too plain and basic. They're not bad, I just want more. I won't get a Nissan Sentra or Altima either, they're not fun enough. The Sentra feels a little low on power. I won't ever drive a Versa again. I can sneeze louder than that little engine. May be able to push it on to a highway faster too. Ford Fiesta? No competition there either. Even a VW Passat and Jetta. They've come a long way, but I still can't see spending that kind of money for that kind of car. I feel like it should drive better and have a better interior finish. The Golfs are nice. Still, interior needs work, but I guess I can't say too much bad about them. I also think the MZ3 is pretty comparable with the Ford Fusion. It's just full size sedan Vs smaller hatch. Features are about the same though. Also, Kia Optima's are nice, but the base level is just horrible. I'll never ever take one of those for a rental again. Mid-level and up is nice.

TL; DR version: I spent a lot of time comparing cars I've owned and rentals I've had over the past year. I've test driven several cars, but nothing seemed to compare to the Mazda 3. At least not for what I wanted and how much I wanted to spend. I would recommend spending some time at a dealer and test driving an i trim and an S trim and make one of them a grand touring. That way you can see and experience the full range of options.
Thanks for your insight as well. Power is not something I'm really chasing, I've driven an older Mercedes CLK55 AMG with 376hp and while it was fun a lot of the times, I was also completely terrified of it going around corners. So as long as the power to weight ratio is equal to or better than my car I'm fine with it. But I would primarily be opting for the 2.5. Also, I am not looking for anything bigger than a midsize sedan, or my 240sx ideally. Where I live, parking is already terrible and I don't fit many spots as is. I've seen the complaints about the road noise in this car, but frankly I don't think that'll bother me too much... I'm used to manual windows and the idea of having a cupholder is luxury to me.

I guess if I had to have a list of criteria it'd be:
1. Fun/engaging to drive. Provides as much smiles per gallon as a miata. I'm not kidding when I say that. Something I can throw around on the California coastal highways and mountain roads.
2. Practical. Cheap to maintain and insure, reliable, can carry things from IKEA sometimes. The fastback styling on my car allowed me to hold carry a ton of things with the useless backseats folded down.
3. Compact. For the sake of parking
4. MPG. I get 165-185 miles in the city right now if I'm lucky.


So far, the M3 fits the bill for all of that!
 

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If you can somehow find a way to keep the 240sx and get another car (daily driver) I think that would be your best option. The 3 is nice, but it is not a RWD coupe. A clean 240sx is pretty rare and I consider it to be a modern classic. I think you will be disappointed if you get rid of your 240 for a 3 IMO.
 

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The Mazda 3 is not a sports car, it is an econobox. But then, the 240sx is not really a sports car either. I've owned mostly sports cars in the past and most of them have been Porsches and before that, Triumphs. That said, the 3 is now probably the best handling and most fun to drive econobox on the planet. The hatchback is great for carrying stuff and is 4" shorter than the sedan. It has enough power for most all of my needs and probably one of the best automatic/paddle shifting transmissions in an econobox today. If you are into modern tech like me, you won't be disappointed, but it sounds like you aren't.

Unlike the 240sx, I don't think you'll find many people turning this into a track car. It is engineered extremely well -- so well, in fact, that it will be difficult to modify the power output for significantly increased power. While I occasionally miss not having the "push your head back in your seat" 450hp of my Porsches, I just didn't use that power much. As far as FWD, you don't really notice a huge difference except when you power through corners. It is probably one of the best handling small cars I've ever driven.

If you want a small, fun, sports car, get a 2016 Miata and it will blow your 240sx out of the water. But if you want one of the best compromises in a small car, with really good design, good balance, good handling, and a high fun-to-drive quotient, this Mazda 3 econobox is pretty hard to beat.
 

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I would agree with everyone here. The Mazda 3 won't compare to a full on sports car, its not meant to, but I think it is a perfect compromise of fun and efficiency. I have an s Touring, an absolutely love it. Also, just as a comparison, I also have a '91 300zx. The Mazda gets a lot more use. I would try to keep both if you can, especially with the low mileage on yours, and how clean it sounds, but if not, I don't think you will be disappointed with what you get in a 3.
 

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Thanks for your insight as well. Power is not something I'm really chasing, I've driven an older Mercedes CLK55 AMG with 376hp and while it was fun a lot of the times, I was also completely terrified of it going around corners. So as long as the power to weight ratio is equal to or better than my car I'm fine with it. But I would primarily be opting for the 2.5. Also, I am not looking for anything bigger than a midsize sedan, or my 240sx ideally. Where I live, parking is already terrible and I don't fit many spots as is. I've seen the complaints about the road noise in this car, but frankly I don't think that'll bother me too much... I'm used to manual windows and the idea of having a cupholder is luxury to me.

I guess if I had to have a list of criteria it'd be:
1. Fun/engaging to drive. Provides as much smiles per gallon as a miata. I'm not kidding when I say that. Something I can throw around on the California coastal highways and mountain roads.
2. Practical. Cheap to maintain and insure, reliable, can carry things from IKEA sometimes. The fastback styling on my car allowed me to hold carry a ton of things with the useless backseats folded down.
3. Compact. For the sake of parking
4. MPG. I get 165-185 miles in the city right now if I'm lucky.


So far, the M3 fits the bill for all of that!
My priorities were the same as yours. In NYC parking is sparse if non existent. Traffic is also a hell hole. I still manage to pull 200+ miles out of the tank even with only inner city driving. I've gone Ikea shopping - a queen size mattress won't fit, but a majority of small furniture will. I've even helped a friend move with my M3. The road noise has died down a bit now that the Dunlops have broken in. I suspect swapping out the tires will quiet it down even more but I have no complaints for where it is now.

In short: I think you'll enjoy a 2.5L M3 too.
 

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All right-- sorry to jump in, but I purchased a 1993 S13 240SX new (yes, I'm old) and frankly it was not a car that I enjoyed without reservation. It was the car I purchased because it was literally the only new RWD car in my price range (I was able to get a little $$$ from my folks with the provision it would be a new car with warranty so I wasn't buying used at that time.) I didn't get the SE, though, which would have included the anti-roll bars lacking on the base and the handling wasn't that spectacular despite RWD. The SE would have been better for sure. The KA24DE in the '93 had problems with a very narrow powerband, although I've never driven the earlier SOHC version. I really dislike the way Nissan manual transmissions are set up, so I've got very mixed opinions of the S13. Certainly its' a platform that can be built out to do great things, but stock is only so-so.

I traded it two years after purchase with my dad, who needed something with more storage than his '91 MR2 as a "beater" car. (it was good growing up in a house with automotive taste.) He kept the 240SX until 2003 though so I had some long-term experience with it. It was unmodified except for a simple stereo head unit swap after the head unit died out of warranty.

The Mz3 suffers from mediocre tires stock, but beyond that it's a large improvement on virtually all counts. The negative FWD characteristics are muted and the comfort is much higher in the Mz3. It's honestly no comparison. I tolerate the FWD handling very well, and this is coming from a guy who has driven lots of great RWD cars and have a strong RWD preference.

If you want to find a '90s era car to compare against, then by far the closest comparison I can find would be a 6-cylinder E36 BMW 3-series. Once you get past the torque steer (again, tolerable but muted) and the lighter steering effort typical of most Japanese cars, it feels pretty similar in daily driving. Performance is similar as well.

As the token S13 ex-owner, I'll be happy to answer questions. PM me or ask here!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Yep, I had a feeling you guys would be helpful. Thank you for the warm welcome. As many of you had said, the M3 is probably the most "balanced" in terms of being compromised in every category. While I may never take the car to a HPDE or AutoX, I would like to have it be capable of doing so. And again, doing a lot of my driving in the city I would want power that I can mostly utilize. My friend's G37 can't do that at legally and he gets 12mpg.

Ovrsteer, I'll send you a PM soon but I definitely did consider something like a used E46 330i but the thought of repair costs swayed me otherwise. All I've had to do for my S13 so far is change fluids and it goes.
 

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Ask anyone who has ever owned an E36 M3 and they will tell you they regret selling it lol. They are probably one of the best cars from the 90's era

Our photographer still misses his E36

Nick C.
 

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Welcome to the forum! I loved those 240SX models when I was in high school! I always wanted one but… well I was in high school. So it wasn’t happening. Congrats on keeping it stock too. So many of them were ruined. Ugh!

I own a Miata. It's a 1994 all-original triple-black B Package model. I bought it used (I'm the second owner) in 1999 and have kept it since. On a crisp yet sunny fall day – warm enough to put the top down – spending an hour or two carving up twisty back country roads is the most fun you can have for next to no money/maintenance/worries. Easy-to-control rear drive, just enough power to enjoy (but not enough to get in trouble), mechanical sounds that I find aurally pleasing and simple controls all add up to automotive heaven.

I'm also a bit of a Mazda aficionado. I owned a 2002 Protege that was a perfect fun-to-drive reliable daily driver for nearly 13 years. My wife has a 2009 Mazda 6 that's also (so far) been flawless and is a fairly fun car to drive despite its size. So I may see things with more bias than others but I do try to be objective. Weight what I say through that lens though.

I just went out and bought a '15 3s GT hatch. It's got the big motor. And it has the stick. I've only put 900 miles on it but I could not imagine anyone building a more engaging front-drive car for the money. It has power to spare. I’m just starting to jump on it from time to time and it moves much more quickly than something that’s averaging 34 mpg should. It feels a lot like my 5-speed 1996 Maxima SE did in terms of acceleration. Considering that my Max had 190-hp and weighed about 3200 lbs (compared to 184 ponies for the 3 carrying 2950 lbs) that’s probably a fair comparison. I bet 0-60 will be in the high 6s (with 1/4-mi times in the low-to-mid 15s) when someone hooks one up to test equipment. The engine sounds good too under hard acceleration especially for a big four. It makes almost two sounds simultaneously when revved hard -- merging a sort of guttural growl with a turbine-line soundtrack laid on top of it. It’s… interesting. Very mechanical. Kind of refined, yet… kind of not but in a good way. The motor pairs really well with the stick. There’s so much torque (and it’s geared a little shorter than the auto) that in theory you don’t have to shift much at all. I can go up hills in 6th with no problem. But you’ll want to shift because it’s a great gearbox. Also that sound… that interesting sound the motor makes when you drop a two gears and nail it. The clutch is a tad light but the engagement point is easy to modulate. The powertrain pieces all work very well together.

The car grips well on turns and the steering rack is among the best electric set-ups I’ve ever encountered. Sure it’s somewhat light like all modern steering racks are, but it’s well-weighted and it’s also precise. The car goes where you point it and with more enthusiasm than anything this side of a GTI. The ride is refined – especially for 18” wheels – if a tad noisy on certain surfaces (though I find it quieter than most do… see my recent automotive history for context though). When I switch out to Conti DWSs that’ll be fixed.

Quick summary of the rest: The interior is roomy enough that I carried three other guys all about 6’2” to lunch today with little issue (I'm only 5’11” though). It has decent cargo room. The equipment levels are insane for a non-lux compact car (AFS Xenons, Bose, nav, heated leather, power everything, HUD, blind spot/cross traffic radar, etc.) and the technology all seems to work fairly well (so far… the audio forum leads me to believe I’ll find issues from time to time). Assembly quality is first rate – at least off the line. We’ll see how it ages but my other three Mazdas all aged very well (except for the Protege starting to rust the last two years). And I expect the same rock solid reliability I’ve had over the past 15 years with my other Mazdas.

When you compare apples-to-apples with other cars I actually think it’s a pretty good value. People knock the pricing but most other cars in this class simply don’t offer some of the features this one has. And there are cheaper models within the lineup for those who don’t want everything in the buffet. But couple the equipment with the driving experience at this price level and it's pretty tough to match. For people that want a point A to point B car? A base-model Corolla will do nicely.

So I guess my advice is go drive one. You’ll see it for yourself. But as someone who owns an old, all-original early 90’s RWD funmobile (and who knows how to drive that car like I stole it) I can say for what it is this car is about the best anyone who actually values driving can do in this class. Of the stuff I benchmarked and drove, the GTI was the closest and I just couldn’t justify another $7K out the door for slightly better performance (it was definitely much quicker, but the ride/handling/steering combo wasn't discernibly different) and seemingly iffy reliability. I also considered used G37s and 328is but just couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger on either in the end (the former for fuel economy and ancient audio/nav system reasons, the latter for out-of-warranty horror stories and lack of CPO manual 328s with the M-Sport package). My other advice – if possible in your situation – is to not sell the 240SX. You’ll never find another one in the same condition with the same known history for a low price. Also, for the days when you want to take something RWD and simpler out for a drive – and you will – it’ll still be there. On the other hand, if you are going to sell it, please PM me with what you’d ask for it. It’s never too late to indulge in something interesting I once coveted. ;)

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thank you so much for your insight, Pumodi. I failed to mention that my S13 is a 4 speed automatic. Yes it sucks but being able to be the third owner (with the first two owners being the father then the son) is worth it. I think an additional concern I have is selling to the right buyer-- someone who won't slam it on cheap coilovers and weld the differential then proceed to smash the quarter panels into walls. I have no clue how much I would sell it for.

I've read that this M3 has been described as close to being a four door miata, to a pseudo spirtual cousin of the integra so I'm keen to find out what they did to make this car feel so good to drive despite the electric steering. Regardless, for anyone that's owned sport 90's cars that transitioned to newer cars, please let me know your experiences.
 

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Honestly, while the automatic 240SXes weren't popular, Nissan did make decent automatics for their era and I should have gone with the automatic in hindsight. The KA24DE would stall easily below ~2000-2400 RPM so you had to rev it into the power band... but then it ran out of steam quickly. The 1993 model had a 6900 RPM redline, but that was completely unnecessary. You never needed to shift after 6100 for maximum power and most of the time the ideal shift point was slightly less than that. The 1994 S14 dropped the redline to 6300 just because the last 600 RPM were totally useless. The auto avoided all that -- but then again, the SOHC 12v engine made less horsepower but was more drivable at low RPM supposedly (I'm sure you're more qualified to say.)

It's not a Miata, but for a car in 2014 it's pretty light and tossable. Technically it's still a c-segment car, but it's definitely large for its class. I'm coming from a '12 Focus which was set up a little bit more like a German car and was a great car in 2012... but as soon as the 3s released as a '14 model, it's instantly obsolete ;) Really, it's a well put together car that makes just about every compromise perfectly. Most of the competition is pretty distant in one regard or another.

Just looking at the Focus as a close comp:
Inferior manual transmission
DSG (DCT in Ford-speak) transmission bothers some people and manual shifting/sport shifting options inferior
Mileage slightly inferior
No comp model to an sTouring or sGT.

The Civic Si gains a few HP on the sTouring/sGT but with a huge mileage penalty and 91+ octane gas.

etc. etc.

I dunno-- it's familiar to what you've experienced from 90s Japanese performance cars and feels comfortable in that regard but it's just put together well as a whole package. I don't mind the higher seating position and don't feel like it's full of compromises. When an "economy car" trades blows with the best cars of 20 years ago, but gets much better mileage, who am I to complain? ;)
 

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I failed to mention that my S13 is a 4 speed automatic.
I'll politely withdraw my solicitation of a PM on price then. :p

I've read that this M3 has been described as close to being a four door miata, to a pseudo spirtual cousin of the integra so I'm keen to find out what they did to make this car feel so good to drive despite the electric steering. Regardless, for anyone that's owned sport 90's cars that transitioned to newer cars, please let me know your experiences.
I don't know if it's a 4-door Miata. I don't think anything from the 2014/2015 model year is. You can't engineer the feeling of lightness, tossability, and connection to the road and mechanical elements that a Miata has for everyday car money. That's why I still have the Miata. There's not really a substitute for what that car delivers at a reasonable price and there are days I still need to drive it. It really is a weirdly unique experience. But what I do know is that as someone who owns a Miata and "gets it" in terms of what it was designed to do, the 3 is an exceptionally good driver's car for being a compact family car. [Quick addendum: I think my '02 Protege was closer to a Miata than the 3 but that's because it was 250 lbs lighter than my 3 and had more direct steering -- you could feel everything going on under the front wheels of that thing. It also had no modern audio/nav conveniences, very little safety tech (ABS and side bags were it), and probably ran at 7 db higher in noise on the highway than the 3 does. So it was getting tired and feeling old, like a first gen Miata can at times. Modern cars have safety, technology and refinement expectations that cars of 10-25 years ago did not.]

Mazda is not a wealthy company. They do not have a ton of resources (but despite what's sometimes talked about on here they do have some rather large financial backers in their system they can go to the well for if they have to -- see Sumitomo for now, and likely in the future based on whispers in the industry: Toyota). But they do know how to engineer driver's cars. Sometimes that comes at the expense of other things like noise supression or technology (they're catching up there though). But it's not at the expense of durability. It all comes down to what one wants.

As far as electric steering goes, that's becoming irrelevant with better firms. Some automakers are doing just fine with it. Ford (yes... Ford), VW/Audi/Porsche, Mazda, and some others are starting to do really well engineering it to feel very much like the old hydraulic set-ups. There will always be some artifical nature to it but so what? You got the same thing going from non-power-assisted to power-assisted years ago. It seems to be hard to capture true road feel through feedback with the electric units, but the general precision and weighting is there now with the best systems. I've driven the Porsche 911 (991 variant) with electric steering and I'm sorry but I can't tell the difference between it and a hydraulic set-up. It's that close. And I have a little amateur racing experience from back in the day with an older Porsche 911 (996) to compare it to from a feel perspective. I don't write for the car mags though, so maybe their everyday experience puts them in a better place to judge things more closely.
 

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So I've owned an S13 hatch with a manual and an S14 automatic. I also work at a Mazda dealership now so if you have any questions just let me know.

I own a 2014 Mazda3 i Grand Touring with a manual transmission and it reminds me of my old S13. Same power, way better gas mileage and an incredible amount of modern perks. I'd take a couple for a test drive and make sure you like it. Love it or not, hold on to that S13 you have. That thing would be impossible to replace.
 

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So I've owned an S13 hatch with a manual and an S14 automatic. I also work at a Mazda dealership now so if you have any questions just let me know.

I own a 2014 Mazda3 i Grand Touring with a manual transmission and it reminds me of my old S13. Same power, way better gas mileage and an incredible amount of modern perks. I'd take a couple for a test drive and make sure you like it. Love it or not, hold on to that S13 you have. That thing would be impossible to replace.
Your first post is addressing my current situation? I appreciate it. I may PM you sometime in the future. After some consideration though, I've been leaning toward keeping the car and keeping it as OEM and rust free as possible. I don't think there's a newer car out there that's this cheap to own, while being compact and still carry a ton of stuff due to the fastback design. I'd be giving up a lot of modern amenities, but for the past 5 years I never was truly unhappy for not having them. Call it underequipped and old or simple and nostalgic, a matter of perspective.
 
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