Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 vs Mazda CX-3, Cheap Used MINI and 1980s Icon? [Ask Nathan]

2016 mazda cx-3 | tfl car

In this edition of Ask Nathan:

  • Can’t afford the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 – options?
  • Is a $5,500 2004 MINI Cooper-S a good idea?
  • Buying an 80s icon; the 1987 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z?

Today’s first question comes from a fan who wants an option to the pricy Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4Matic.


Q: Hi guys and hi Nathan.

I have a problem and I was hoping you could help. I am in love with the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 with 4Matic but I simply cannot afford it. Equipped the way I want it, the price is well over $40,000 and that is too much for me to get affordable financing for. I finally gave up and now I’m looking for an alternative that’s $10,000 cheaper.

I won’t touch Subaru because they don’t like TFLcar. Also, I find their cars unattractive. I don’t trust any company that can handle real world results.

What do you think? I want a car that has presence and is fun to drive. I live near San Diego, CA, but I ski from time to time and want AWD. I own a big dog and fly RC planes, so I need a hatch. I know you love manual transmissions, but I live in traffic and don’t need to be constantly shifting. A non CV-T automatic is what I want.

Can you help me?

Donnie. F

Oceanside, CA


A: Thanks for the great email, Donnie!

First, thanks for your perspective about Subaru. Despite everything, they do make solid and safe cars.

I think I have a good ride for you. Have you looked at the 2016 Mazda CX-3? It is a terrific option and a well-featured model runs about 10K less than the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4Matic you were looking at. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised about the way the Mazda CX-3 drives and its AWD system is terrific.

The presentation of the Mazda CX-3 is pretty good too. It’s a fresh design and the interior is well appointed. Front seats are remarkably comfortable, but the back seats are a hair cramped.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Good luck!


By the way: I like the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 too. Wait a year or two and look at the CPO (certified pre-owned) GLAs. You might be surprised!

This next question comes from a big fan who wants a used MINI Cooper S for school. One that costs less than $6,000.

Q: Roman and Nathan! You guys are awesome! Can you help me? I want to buy a 2004 Mini Cooper S for $5,500. It has less than 74,000 miles and its in great shape. The owner has all of the service records and the thing is immaculate.

Both of you like Mini’s and I know that Roman had that convertible. I have watched every one of your Mini reviews and you always seem to love themn. I know that they cost a lot to maintain, but I am okay with that.

Is thete any reason to not buy this car?

Thanks guys. I am such a big fan!


Rancho Cucamonga, California

2008 MINI Cooper S Convertible

A: Hi Leslie!

Roman and I agree and the price sounds right. Keep this in mind: MINI owners tend to buy the cars to drive them in a spirited way. That is to say, you need to double check components like brakes, tires, and suspension.

Make sure the steering wheel does not shimmy and/or shake when your driving or braking. After you check it, make sure there is no burning oil smell either.

We hope that everything works out with your purchase. The older “new” MINIs were my personal favorites!

Best of luck!



The last question comes from a long-time fan who wants an older Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z. Interesting,

Q: Hi Nathan. I have been keeping track of you since your Vehix and Autodriver days. Love your writings anf videos and I find that our car tastes are similar. Also, I have a liking for cars from the 1970s and 1980s.

I am looking for a project and saw an ad for a 1987 Chevy Camaro IROCZ. Here are the details.

1987 I-ROCZ z28, 5.0 305v8 TPI, Engine oil cooler, 5 speed, 16 in I ROCZ wheels, T-tops, Power windows, Power seats, Tilt steering, Limited slip differential, Defogger rear, Air conditioning, power mirrors and cruise control. $5,900.

You used to own a similar Camaro. Would you buy something like this? It’s yellow and spotless.

Thanks for reading my email. Keep the great videos coming!



A: Greetings C.C.

Thanks for taking an interest in my career! I must be honest, I never owned an IROC-Z Z28 or even an RS. My 1985 Chevrolet Camaro was a base model V6. I modified it to make it run and drive like an RS, but it was never anything like the IROC-Z you’re talking about.

With that being said, when it comes to projects of the heart, I always say make yourself happy. If this car makes you feel special, or if it simply makes you happy – buy it! Sure, you might suffer from buyers remorse, but it sounds like you’ve been thinking about this purchase for a while.

Besides, the Camaro IROC-Z was SO cool!



Nathan and The Fast Lane Car team are here to answer your (reasonable) questions. Interesting and/or entertaining emails will be posted to this column. If it’s relevant in the automotive universe, there’s a chance we may know something about it. The author’s email address and name will be omitted – leaving your initials or nickname, your preference.

From day one, The Fast Lane Car has made it our policy to answer as many questions and comments as we can. We get thousands of emails and comments and feel that, as part of a tight-knit automotive community, having an open dialogue with you keeps things fresh and exciting.

Got a question for Nathan? Drop him a line at:

nathan adlen Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism – Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. His words, good humor and videos are enjoyed worldwide.