Whether it's the Accord's buttery-smooth refinement, the Mazda's athleticism, or the Legacy's not too hard but not too soft dynamics, each of these three vehicles is a great buy in the low-$20K range. The 6's hatch and wagon offer increased utility, and the Subaru's wagon and Outback tall wagon take that utility a step further for just a few thousand dollars extra. Either would make a fine SUV substitute, and the Honda loses a few points with us for having no such offerings. And all that talk of reliability isn't enough to make us forget that the Accord is just no fun to drive. Despite the Mazda's ability to make us smile on winding roads, its torqueless engine and oversprung suspension get old fairly quickly. Like Goldilocks sitting down to her third bowl of porridge, we find the Subaru Legacy just right. A great engine and class-above interior are just the beginning with this car. The only problem comes when it puts on its fully loaded GT dress bearing a $32,000 price tag. But a base car, such as our tester, is a screaming deal and a perfect middle ground between the sports car you dream of and the boring appliance you fear.
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