ANSWER – SCOTT NEWMAN:
You’ve picked out three good choices here, but there are a few things to consider.
The current Focus was introduced in 2011 so I’ll assume your current car is one of those. That means a new Focus will feel quite familiar. The Focus also now uses an excellent 1.5-litre turbo engine and Ford recently added extra equipment to the range. It’s also still a fine drive, so there’s plenty to recommend the Focus, however it can be a little bumpy on poor road surfaces and the SYNC2 infotainment system can be frustrating to use, though as an owner you may get used to its quirks.
The Mazda 3 is also a fine car. With $25,000 to spend you’re probably going to be looking at a 2.0-litre model, though with a small budget stretch you could look at an SP25, which is fun-to-drive, good value and gets the bigger engine. It will use a little more fuel but will be a more relaxed drive as you won’t have to work the engine as hard. Road noise is still a Mazda weak point, too, so for highway driving it could be tiresome.
We’d probably steer clear of the Impreza, primarily for the reason that the all-new Impreza is due to land towards the end of this year. That said, there could be an opportunity to score a very sharp deal on a current model as dealers try and clear stock, but you will still be stuck with a previous-generation model in very short order.
Two other models to consider would be a Volkswagen Golf 92TSI, which is probably still the best car in this segment, and the Hyundai i30, on which there has been some extremely enticing deals of late, plus you get a seven-year warranty.
My advice would be to test drive the Mazda and the latest Focus and see who can offer the best deal, though the VW is certainly also worth a look.