I live in Northern Virgina, and for those of you unfamiliar with the area, think of it as the ultimate grid locked suburbia. We are a stones throw from DC, however a paper airplane could reach Washington before anyone from south of the city could. So understand that, even though commuting around the area is dependent on I95 / 495, it is by far different than your typical highway commute.
That said, I am an avid mountain biker, and a seldom weekend camper. I love the outdoors, I LOVE adventure, but I'm tired of driving an SUV. I purchased a 2011 Ford Escape brand new, and I've grown weary of driving it. It is small, boring, though it fits everything and has clearance to go over curbs (though, I rarely do such a thing). I don't go far off-road, nothing extreme in my opinion. I felt the SUV would open my ability to take a soft utility vehicle and conquer areas that I wasn't sure a car would be able to (read small stream / camp site). I go camping perhaps 4-5 times per year. Not often, and perhaps even more seldom than that. My parents are looking into buying some mountain property, but most of the roads are paved or gravel, and I wouldn't need to traverse walls or boulders. I also am not impressed with the 21.9 mpg average that I have gotten. I feel like with larger storage space in the vehicle, 6 days out of 7 the space is used to carry "junk" and I'm frequently considered the go-to driver as the trunk can fit some packs and small cargo and fit 5 people total. Whatever the case, the performance in the Escape is meh, the gas mileage for a small 4 banger SUV is not great, but it isn't pathetic, but the "off road" capabilities just don't please me, and I'm totally looking for a funner daily commute. I used to own a '98 6 banger Mustang which was a 5 speed, and even at the lowsy low horsepower that I was used to from my dads supercharged GT at the time, the car was a blast! RWD, manual, I didn't care that I could barely fit my backpack when I had to commute to college in it.
This brings me to the 5 Door WRX. It's got some spunk, optional all weather inside mats, AWD, yadda yadda yadda. The interior isn't that cool, but I could always throw in an aftermarket receiver into the dash board. I like how RAW it is, the sound, the appearance, the performance. It's awesome. I love the idea of touting that rally-esque feel when driving. I like that Subaru markets itself to outdoorsy people. I think a removable roof rack could work well for my mountain biking adventures, and I've read numerous forum posts where people take the car weekend camping. Hell, my friend takes a VW Golf TDI camping...
So I'm coming to you guys, who may have been in the same situation. Do I opt for something like the Forester, or do I drop rubber on the pavement and have fun? Am I experiencing a pipe dream? Should I really dump my SUV for a car? Should I go for the Forester? Would the WRX not be advised for small camping trips? Would I bang up the car beyond repair taking it off mildy unmaintained roads? Would I receive even worse gas mileage driving it in traffic? 16.9 gallon tank is comparable to the 17.5 gallon in the Escape - if I could achieve 21/22 combined, I'd probably be okay with it, though I know I'd smash the pedal frequently, at least the first few months I drive it.
TL; DR I need your biased and expert advise! WRX or Forester for seldom weekend camping, often mountain bike carrier, daily commuter. Cheers!