Just test drove the Mitsubishi Lancer, figured that it needed to have a chance at being considered based on the offers that are avaliable right now.
First impressions before the drive, the dash does have quite a few hard plastics, though the textures look fine. The climate control knobs feel crunchy but theres more fan speed settings compared to the Mazda3 (Manual vs Manual). Overall, a bit stark. Nothing that pops up, but not so bad that it's like sitting in a rental.
Before even being on the road, when the salesmen first started it up (mind you this is the 2.0L, only one avaliable for 2011 in Canada), it was quite loud. Though once in the Lancer, it was still slightly louder than the Mazda3. Steering feel was overall fine on the road, was communicative and felt in control at road speeds, just a tad too light at low speeds due to the speed sensitive steering. The ride was decent, didn't jolt the cabin and composed well on the road, cornered fine with some body roll, not as noticable. The CVT on the other hand... It performed less than stellar. If just a light foot, it felt like it did the job. Bit harsh with the vibrations getting into the cabin. However once you put your foot down, it just drones and makes noise like every other CVT on the market. And most noticable was after releasing the throttle, the car would be feel like it catches and start to slow instead of being seamless. Isn't really refined to say the least.
Despite the CVT and it's harshness, it's a decent car to drive with a light foot. Based on pricing, it's comparable to the Mazda3 however on the feature list, i think the Mazda3 would win this out. But still need my sister at the very least to compare them side by side sometime. Conveniently there is on one road a Mitsubishi and Mazda dealership within a few blocks.
Last car to test drive before getting closer to a decision, the Subaru Impreza.
Well if you decide against a new car and actually want to go to used cars. Go to a website like this one that has second hand cars for sale in your country. They usually have a very good search function where you can narrow it down to max price you are willing to pay, and you can even put in keywords like "automatic transmission" (not "slushbox"). You will atleast be able to see which cars you may have overlooked and you can go through it together with your sister. And hopefully you find a good deal.
i had the same situation as you , my uncle actually runs dealerships and set 3 objectives i should hit when getting a used car .
1. be reliable manufacturer , he recommended a honda accord.
2.for it to be relatively low mileage and be from the south , because rust is more present in cars from the north cuz of salt and snow =) . i liked that tip .
3. be willing to have a quarter of the price available after you purchase it . its used , so expect stuff to go bad sooner than later ^^.
i personally cared about the 2nd obj , im looking in an sti now