Ask TFL: I Finally Sold My 2016 Mazda CX-5. What Should I Buy To Replace It?

I could use some suggestions for under $30,000!

I Finally Sold My 2016 Mazda CX-5. What Should I Buy To Replace It? (Ask TFL)
My last look at my former 2016 Mazda CX-5 before it was taken away by Carvana. Now I’m left with a dilemma: What do I get to replace it? (Photos: TFLcar)

I loved my 2016 Mazda CX-5.

After five years and 60,000 miles, the Mazda CX-5 is the most complete car I’ve owned to date. It felt pretty much perfect for all my needs, and it’s just a fun car to boot. In perspective, at least — it’s one of the most fun crossovers you can drive. Nevertheless, I decided to sell the car three weeks ago, mainly for financial reasons. In wake of the current global semiconductor shortage and a dwindling new car supply, not to mention many folks being more budget conscious during the pandemic, used car prices are seeing a fairly dramatic upswing.

At least, that’s true in my experience. Six months after getting a low-$10,000s offer on this five year old, almost-loaded Grand Touring model (less than I owed on the CX-5 at the time), I decided to give online car shopping site Carvana a try. I decided to give some other sites a wide berth, but farmed my car out to some other retailers, including CarMax, as well. For some perspective, I paid a shade over $32,000 for this car in May 2016. Now, almost exactly five years later, Carvana came back with an $18,000 offer. “Hey, that’s more than I owe!”, I thought, and I didn’t make the best financial decision getting into this car in the first place. The car payments and insurance totaled more than I’m keen to admit here, so I decided to sell and walk away before used car prices plummet again.

That leaves me with a dilemma, though — what do I get that’s going to give me that same satisfaction without breaking my budget?

The Carvana experience

Nathan also dealt with Carvana last year, so partially on his experience I gave it a shot. Honestly, from their offer to actually picking up the car, the experience was about as painless as I could imagine. They gave me more than I expected — not just paying off my loan, but pocketing some extra cash in the process — and I simply signed a few pieces of paper to properly transfer ownership. I didn’t have to actually interact with another human being until a rep came to inspect the car, but he was friendly and wrapped everything up in about 10 minutes, and handed me a check for the difference between their offer and the payoff amount on my note.

While the retailer has caught legal flak from unhappy customers, I can only speak to my own experience, and it was purely a good one. What else can I say?

A few CX-5 gripes

Even as it was a bit dirty from some recent showers, I still love the Deep Crystal Blue exterior and black/Parchment interior combination. Still, I wanted to share a few things that deeply annoyed me about this car before moving on. I’ve gone through two windshields with this car, and that’s a common occurrence with this generation Mazda CX-5. The glass is incredibly thin, in part to accommodate the Grand Touring’s sensors for rain-sensing wipers and the Smart City Brake system, so I shelled out $500 to replace the original glass in 2017. After the second windshield chipped some three months later, I didn’t bother to replace it again (my insurance at the time wouldn’t cover it). Fortunately, it didn’t get worse.

Another gripe: The blue paint still looks solid from a distance, it’s hysterically flimsy. There were so many pockmarks and scratches in the hood, I stopped counting after the first year or so, and just bought a touch-up pen to fill them in when I could. Bad paint quality is an issue that stems even to current models, including the brand’s signature Soul Red Crystal paint. Despite the issues, mechanically this car performed faultlessly with regular maintenance. I even avoided burning out one of the LED daytime running lights, another common issue specific to 2016 CX-5 Grand Touring models with the technology package.

I Finally Sold My 2016 Mazda CX-5. What Should I Buy To Replace It? (Ask TFL)
I still think this is a great-looking crossover — in some ways better than the current CX-5.

What would you recommend? Here’s (broadly) what I’m looking for

It’s nice to be free from a car payment, but the itch is already hitting me to try something new. So, I was hoping you all in the TFL community could help me out! Here are some basic categories I’m looking to cover:

  • Under $30,000
  • Manual transmission
  • Decent fuel economy (25-30 mpg at least)
  • Comfortable road trip car
  • Still fun to drive and decently equipped (not a cheap econo-box)

Other nice options to have would be all-wheel drive and some practicality like another crossover or hatchback, but the manual transmission does eliminate most of the options there.

Based on your experiences and knowledge, what would you all recommend? I definitely have a few ideas both new and used, but I want to see if there’s a common theme among your suggestions before I chime in. Thanks guys!