Jeremy, Michael: I have a conundrum. I own a 2008 BMW 135i. It's a great little car and an absolute blast to drive, but maintenance costs are starting to increase. Also, with the weather we've had lately I'm left wanting something more winter-capable. My budget is around $30,000, and a manual transmission is a must-have. So I have considered the Subaru Impreza and VW Jetta GLI.
Would now be a good time to look at a new car, or should I slap on new winter tires and drive the BMW into the ground? -- Mike, St. Catharines, ON
Vaughan: That 135i of yours was an interesting choice back in '08. Probably cost you around 42-large for a plain-Jane subcompact. But what a great driving car.
It doesn't exist any more, at least in name. The geniuses at BMW have changed all the numbers. If it has heated seats and is manufactured on a day of the week with the letter R, it gets an even number. If it has a sloped roofline and was worked on at the factory by anyone named Helmut or Fritz, then it gets an odd number.
Cato: Guenther and Thomas also work on the odd-numbered cars at BMW, Henrik and Norbert the evens. Well… Not really. But it certainly seems as such.
BMW has taken the numeric numbering thing to an absurd extreme, but I'll simplify it for you, Vaughan. As always. The even-numbered cars are coupes and ragtops, the odd ones sedans. That means the old 1-Series is now the 2-Series.
See? The company that brought us iDrive now has a naming strategy just as simple and clear and user-friendly. iDrive has been in the market for a dozen years or so and I've finally mastered it. I imagine customers will "own" this new naming plan by 2020 or so.
Vaughan: Mikey says his maintenance costs are on the rise, too. I bet they are. A six-year-old Bimmer likely has at least 120,000 km on it. That's about the time when you can start running into some really fat repair bills. So, no, I do not recommend slapping on new tires.
Let's start with the Subaru Impreza. Great all-wheel drive and under twenty grand. Let me repeat that – under twenty grand.
Cato: $19,995 to be precise. Now that's with a bare-bones five-speed autobox, but still… The Impreza is a great buy.
For some very reasonable coin, Mike, you get one of the better AWD systems in the market, killer reliability, top-notch resale value, safety scores that would make Ralph Nader cheer and something that's fairly entertaining to drive.
Sure, sure, the 2.0-litre boxer engine is a wimpy 148 hp compared to your current 300-hp 135, Mike. And a new, $36,000 228i has a twin-scroll turbo rated at a healthy 241 hp. Point is, the Bimmer will blow the doors off the base Impreza. For a premium, of course.
Here's the answer. Take a long look at the WRX, a racy version of the Impreza sold in hatchback or sedan. It has a 265-hp boxer power plant, starts at $32,495, but sells for much less thanks to a $4,000 factory discount. That's the car for you, Mike.
Vaughan: Wrong. First, you've taken him over his budget, and who really needs 265 horsepower AND that goofy-looking spoiler on the tail?
So let's move on to the Jetta. It's not in the same league as your old Bimmer or the Subies – either of them. Jetta is the VW econo car from Mexico and there is no AWD offered on any Jetta.
But they do start under $15,000. For that you get your "must have" standard tranny, a five-speed, and a 2.0-litre, 115-hp, fairly-ancient four-banger. The loaded up GLI you mention is listed at $31,275 – more than twice the money. No way. Base model Impreza is a much better deal.
Cato: That's just silly. For starters, the Impreza has a much nicer cabin and much better seats than the Jetta. Subie finally, finally upgraded the interior of its cheapest model and while it's not the automotive equivalent of Red Carpet fashion, it no longer looks inspired by Value Village either.
And then there's the engineering. Subaru is the penny-pincher's BMW, but with better reliability and more consistent resale values. Mike will get all the palm-sweating joy of driving he could ever want with the WRX, for thousands less than the 228. And he gets AWD.
And one last thing, Vaughan. You mentioned the 2.0-litre base Jetta engine. It's under-powered AND unrefined. You will not like it, Mike. The 1.8-litre turbo is an improvement, but it's still just 170 hp. If I were buying a Jetta, I'd get the diesel – because the diesel is superb.
But Mike, you don't want a diesel. You want a WRX. Thank me later.
Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.
HOW THEY COMPARE
2014 Subaru WRX sedan base
2014 BMW 228i coupe
2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI
2.5-litre turbo four-cylinder
2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder
2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged
Curb weight (kg)
Fuel economy (litres/100 km)
11.1 city/8.0 highway
9.3 city/6.1 highway
Source: car manufacturers
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