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  1. #1
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Car Talk: I'm looking for a compact hatch

    After 380k miles, my trusty old Acura Integra just got a terminal diagnosis from the mechanic -- zero compression in one cylinder and fused spark plugs on two others. The car still drives, but it's on borrowed time and only operating on three cylinders. Basically, fixing this would require removing the cylinder head ($$$), and there are too many other things already going on to justify that kind of repair bill.

    So, I'm now back in the market for a car! Basically, I'm looking to stay with a compact car, preferably a hatchback/wagon. If possible, I'd also prefer a manual transmission. While I do enjoy sporty performance, I am also looking at a high gas mileage vehicle (concession to my wife, who wants something "green"). Here's my list so far:

    Mazda3
    The last car we bought was a Mazda5, which is surprisingly sporty considering that it's an imminently practical tall wagon/small minivan. Aside from a leaky strut that now needs replacing, we've had zero problems through 75k miles.



    Given that I've always liked how the Mazdas drive and our positive experience with the 5, the Mazda3 is getting the first look. The 3 is a lot of fun to drive, and they've had a solid reliability record. In previous years, the mileage with the Mazda3 was not great, especially with the larger 2.5L engine (which was the only one available on the hatch/wagon).

    However, for 2012 Mazda has introduced their new Skyactiv drivetrain. Basically, an all-new engine/transmission combo that is rated at 40 MPG highway. The reviews indicate that this engine has a lot of usable power, and achieves the high mileage without having to resort to low resistance tires and other tweaks that drain the performance. The Hyundai Elantra is the only other "regular" car in the compact class rated for 40 MPG, all the others are detuned variants.



    So, this would seem like a slam dunk, right? Well, the only thing that gives me pause is the fact that this is a brand new engine and transmission design. It's Mazda's first ground-up new engine in 10 years, and their first ground-up new transmission in more than 20 years. I would prefer a little more seasoning and reliability data before jumping on board. But, given that I don't know how many more months my Acura will hold up, I might not have that option. This is a dilemma, because brand new drivetrains are always a risk.

    Ford Focus
    The Ford Focus uses the same C1 platform as the Mazda3, and has received similarly high marks for how it drives. In more recent years, Ford has ironed out the reliability problems that plagued the first generation models. And last year, Ford as a whole ranked #5 in the J.D. Power IQS.



    However, this year, Ford has slipped badly, and much of that has been attributed to their widely implemented MyFord Touch touchscreen control system. Aside from the confusing layout and controls, the system has also been prone to crashes (any surprise that Microsoft designed it?). The lower level models don't use this setup, which might limit my choices.

    The Focus is available as a 5-door hatch, which I like, and the price is comparable to the Mazda3. The mileage is a little lower than the Mazda, but still pretty good (37 MPG highway). One potential issue is the transmission, which the Focus shares with the Fiesta that debuted last year. The automatic tranny uses a dual clutch design, which is great for fast shifts, but purportedly gets balky at slow speeds and has had reliability problems. I would likely opt for the manual transmission, but I don't know how many of them I will have to choose from, since dealers tend to stock mostly ATs.

    VW Golf TDI
    Here's where I get into more of a "green" option. VW has been selling clean diesel cars overseas for years, and began importing them into the US a few years ago. Mileage is great and the performance is also supposed to be good. Plus, the TDIs can run on eco-friendly biodiesel. Generally, I like how VWs drive and their interiors have been better appointed than competing models.



    Drawbacks include VW's current trend towards decontenting, cheapening, and softening their US models (the new Jetta is an abomination compared to the previous version). Also, VW's diesel engines have been less reliable than their gas engines. And I know people who have had to deal with electrical problems galore on their VWs. Supposedly, the electrical system issues were ironed out in the last series, and the German-built Golfs have historically had a better reliability record than the Mexican-built Jettas.

    The list prices on the Golf TDIs are reasonable, but I see in the fine print that VW's diesel models are usually excluded from their financing deals. So, the actual cost of buying the Golf TDI might be a lot higher than another car with a similar sticker price. The test drive will go a long way towards deciding if the VWs stay on my list.

    Honda Civic and Fit
    Given that my Integra is a spiritual descendent of the Civic, I'm surprised I haven't looked closer at the Hondas. I guess I'm too much of a hatchback fan, and the last few generations of Civics just haven't excited me much. Despite the atrocious interior design, I thought the most recent Civic was a pleasant drive. Just not as engaging as the Mazda3.



    And I've been reading that the new Civic got dumbed down for the US market -- softer suspension, bulkier dimensions, and cheapened interior (and the last one was already bad enough). The one aspect that the Civic always had in its favor was the gas mileage. But, with the new Mazda drivetrain, that advantage has been negated. I've driven the Civic hybrid, and it didn't do anything for me. Plus, Honda's hybrid design is less efficient than others, which means that its gas mileage is not much higher than the newer direct-injection gas engines and diesels.

    The Fit is closer to what I'm looking for, except that it's a subcompact. Honda supposedly did a great job at packaging the car and creating a lot of usable space in the interior. And it's purportedly more of a driver's car than the Civic, despite its modest engine. I've read generally mixed things about the Fit, and I have yet to drive one, so that's something the test drive will take care of.



    Other Models
    Other models like could fall under consideration if I decide to venture beyond compact hatchbacks and higher efficiency models. Lots of test driving and kicking the tires ahead! And I will probably hit the auto show next month to get a close up view of what's out there. It was actually at an auto show that my wife and I discovered the Mazda5, so who knows what as-of-yet-unknown vehicle might strike my fancy.
    Last edited by Woochifer; 10-25-2011 at 12:35 PM.
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  2. #2
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    All good choices. Last year at this time I was taking a hard look at the VW Golf TDI as well as it's Audi A3 counterpart. The drawback was that it didn't come with 4 wheel drive. If you don't get snow like we do, this would get my vote.
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    Rep points are my LIFE!! Groundbeef's Avatar
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    I like the looks of the Kia Soul. And they have a 5 speed manual, and the price is attractive.

    I think they have a pretty long warrenty as well, similar to Huyndai.
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  4. #4
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GMichael View Post
    All good choices. Last year at this time I was taking a hard look at the VW Golf TDI as well as it's Audi A3 counterpart. The drawback was that it didn't come with 4 wheel drive. If you don't get snow like we do, this would get my vote.
    In sunny Cali, AWD would be more of a hindrance than a plus. That's why I'm not really looking at the Subarus.
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  5. #5
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woochifer View Post
    In sunny Cali, AWD would be more of a hindrance than a plus. That's why I'm not really looking at the Subarus.
    I like the idea of the clean diesel. Not a ton of HP, but plenty of torque. It would have no trouble with any mountains you may need to climb. Good gas mileage without any batteries to end up in a land fill 20 years from now.
    I ended up with a Subaru. Only 30mpg, but that was the best mileage of any AWD cars at the time.
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  6. #6
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Groundbeef View Post
    I like the looks of the Kia Soul. And they have a 5 speed manual, and the price is attractive.

    I think they have a pretty long warrenty as well, similar to Huyndai.
    Hey Beefy, good to see you!

    I thought about the Kia Soul -- it's definitely an eyecatching design. I see that they do have an Eco model that's tuned for higher mileage by using a stop-start engine. I'd have to see how it drives before moving it higher on my list. In my previous experiences, I generally haven't liked compact SUVs very much.

    As for other Kias, I hadn't considered them until I drove the new Kia Rio5 as a rental. It's a subcompact 5-door, but drives a lot better than the previous Kias that I've rented. Mileage that I got was around 34 MPG in mostly twisting highway driving. Ride was a bit choppy and the handling got slightly twitchy in the turns, but overall it was a decent ride. If I go with a Kia, it would likely be the Forte hatchback.
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  7. #7
    Musicaholic Forums Moderator ForeverAutumn's Avatar
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    I used to drive a Ford Focus and I absolutely loved it! It was the high-end model with the bigger/faster engine. It was quite a few years ago though so I don't know what the newer models are like. I'm on my third Ford Escape (I used to take out three year leases) and I can't imagine driving anything else. While it's not considered a compact by any means, if you compare the width and length to the Focus they used to be very similar...again, not sure about the newer models. The Escape is available as a Hybrid.

  8. #8
    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    I have friends who both have Fits and really like them. How about the Nissan Versa. I think they come in two different engine sizes a 1.6 and a 1.8. Of course I would try one of their CVT transmissions. I used to drive standards all the time but have learned to enjoy an automatic.

    My Toyota Echo which is now the Yaris has 107,000 miles and is 10 years old has been a great car. The engine uses a timing chain instead of the belt so no problems with belt replacements. New body style for the 2012 model year. Other than fluids and normal wear parts the only things the car has needed was a little exhaust work where the pipe bends over the rear axle and repair of the sway bars. The two repairs cost me $100 total. Now it is ready for the next 100,000.
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  9. #9
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    I think you've identified the contenders, Wooch.

    You might add the Hyundai Elantra Touring which is really as small station wagon.

    Personally we'll be looking for a new car by this time next year. I'm looking at a small wagon, but maybe a little bigger than the Elantra Touring mentioned above. One contender for us is the Kia Rondo, but most of all we like the Mazda 5. My wife & I test drove this and it's really nice; also it's Consumer Reports top rated wagon ...


  10. #10
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnMichael View Post
    I have friends who both have Fits and really like them. How about the Nissan Versa. I think they come in two different engine sizes a 1.6 and a 1.8. Of course I would try one of their CVT transmissions. I used to drive standards all the time but have learned to enjoy an automatic.

    My Toyota Echo which is now the Yaris has 107,000 miles and is 10 years old has been a great car. The engine uses a timing chain instead of the belt so no problems with belt replacements. New body style for the 2012 model year. Other than fluids and normal wear parts the only things the car has needed was a little exhaust work where the pipe bends over the rear axle and repair of the sway bars. The two repairs cost me $100 total. Now it is ready for the next 100,000.
    My Suby has a CVT tranny. It gets better milage than the manual tranies of the same model. IMO they are worth looking into. Watch for reports on the model & mfg you are interested in. I know that Nisson had some problems with them a couple years ago. Don't know if they worked it out though.
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  11. #11
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Wooch, I did a lot of traveling this summer and got to drive the new Ford Focus. I was very impressed to say the least. The car was designed in Germany and it shows. The car rides and handles like a German car. It has a very well controlled firm but comfortable ride. It handles corners well without excess body lean. The car feels much heavier than it is in a good way. It feels more solid, not cumbersome. Handling feels crisp and precise Fit and finish was very good. It's also very quiet inside with very little road noise for a car in this class. My only beef's with it are that the electronic controls can be confusing and that one of the turn levers was cheap. The car could also use a bit more take off power but I did not get to drive the sport model that has a bigger engine I believe. The Focus comes in Sedan and Hatchback models.

    If I were looking for a small comfortable well handling car the Focus would be it. Ford really has a winner with this car.

    If you are looking for a fun car to drive then I would consider the VW Golf. But reliability and maintenance costs can be an issue. I think that VW's are good if you are only going to keep the car for 3-4yrs.

    I am also a fan of the Mazda 3 and was a fan of the Civic till Honda downgraded the car to cut costs. The same goes for the VW Jetta. Read the reviews on the new Civic and Jetta, they are not very good for the most part.

    The new Elantra is a very nice car, good styling, great mpg and interior fit and finish is a big notch above the other cars I mentioned. But road noise is an issue.
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  12. #12
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ForeverAutumn View Post
    I used to drive a Ford Focus and I absolutely loved it! It was the high-end model with the bigger/faster engine. It was quite a few years ago though so I don't know what the newer models are like. I'm on my third Ford Escape (I used to take out three year leases) and I can't imagine driving anything else. While it's not considered a compact by any means, if you compare the width and length to the Focus they used to be very similar...again, not sure about the newer models. The Escape is available as a Hybrid.
    The Focus is definitely a strong contender. I rented the previous version a few times, and liked how it drove. The new model finally brings the C1 platform to the U.S. Mazda has used it since 2004 for the 3 and the 5, and the European Ford Focus has been using it as well since 2006. The new Focus is Ford's attempt to unify all of their global variants into one design.

    I'm not really looking at compact SUVs, so I haven't considered the Escape.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnMichael
    I have friends who both have Fits and really like them. How about the Nissan Versa. I think they come in two different engine sizes a 1.6 and a 1.8. Of course I would try one of their CVT transmissions. I used to drive standards all the time but have learned to enjoy an automatic.

    My Toyota Echo which is now the Yaris has 107,000 miles and is 10 years old has been a great car. The engine uses a timing chain instead of the belt so no problems with belt replacements. New body style for the 2012 model year. Other than fluids and normal wear parts the only things the car has needed was a little exhaust work where the pipe bends over the rear axle and repair of the sway bars. The two repairs cost me $100 total. Now it is ready for the next 100,000.
    I drove a CVT several years ago, and absolutely hated it. I know it's a very different design, and can be disorienting because there are no gear shifts involved. The newer versions are supposedly a lot better than before, so I won't automatically rule it out if I find a car that meets my criteria and happens to use a CVT.

    Except for the Fit, I've (for now) ruled out subcompacts like the Fiesta, Mazda2, Sonic, Rio, Versa, and Yaris. I want to move through my compact class choices first before widening my search. For now, the limiting factor seems to be my preference for a hatchback, which seems prevalent among subcompacts, but scarcer among larger cars (for example, no hatchback Civics, Corollas, Cruzes, or Elantras).

    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    You might add the Hyundai Elantra Touring which is really as small station wagon.

    Personally we'll be looking for a new car by this time next year. I'm looking at a small wagon, but maybe a little bigger than the Elantra Touring mentioned above. One contender for us is the Kia Rondo, but most of all we like the Mazda 5. My wife & I test drove this and it's really nice; also it's Consumer Reports top rated wagon ...
    The Elantra is definitely an interesting choice, and has gotten a lot of acclaim. Unfortunately, the touring wagon is a carryover from the previous version, so it's saddled with the old chassis and drivetrain. The new Elantra versions are only available with a trunk, which limits their appeal for me. If Hyundai decides to come out with a new version of the wagon, with the latest chassis and drivetrain refinements, then I would be all over it.

    We've had a Mazda5 since 2007 when our daughter was born. It's really the only true MINIvan on the market right now (Kia no longer imports the Rondo to the US). It's a great family hauler and drives better than any minivan or SUV I've experienced. And its size is well suited to navigating tight urban spaces like San Francisco. Mazda also priced it very competitively. We're really happy with that car.

    Quote Originally Posted by blackraven
    Wooch, I did a lot of traveling this summer and got to drive the new Ford Focus. I was very impressed to say the least. The car was designed in Germany and it shows. The car rides and handles like a German car. It has a very well controlled firm but comfortable ride. It handles corners well without excess body lean. The car feels much heavier than it is in a good way. It feels more solid, not cumbersome. Handling feels crisp and precise Fit and finish was very good. It's also very quiet inside with very little road noise for a car in this class. My only beef's with it are that the electronic controls can be confusing and that one of the turn levers was cheap. The car could also use a bit more take off power but I did not get to drive the sport model that has a bigger engine I believe. The Focus comes in Sedan and Hatchback models.

    If I were looking for a small comfortable well handling car the Focus would be it. Ford really has a winner with this car.
    My understanding is that the Ford Focus' C1 platform was a collaborative between Ford's North American and European divisions, Mazda, and Volvo. The Wikipedia entry says that each company sent 30 engineers to Ford's development center in Cologne, Germany for two years to develop that platform. The Mazda3 was the first car to use that platform, then came the Volvo S40 and the European Focus.

    Ford North America waited until now to finally build a Focus model around that platform. Sounds like it was worth the wait. If I do opt for the Focus, I would definitely stick with the manual tranny and at least try to find a model without the MyFord touch controls. The automatic transmission and MyFord options have had major reliability issues, which is too bad because it seems that otherwise, Ford has been doing pretty well with their build quality.

    Quote Originally Posted by blackraven
    If you are looking for a fun car to drive then I would consider the VW Golf. But reliability and maintenance costs can be an issue. I think that VW's are good if you are only going to keep the car for 3-4yrs.
    Good point. I soured on VW several years ago when I saw how crappy their electrical systems were -- not just unreliable but ill-conceived designs that never should have gone into mass production. They're definitely more expensive to maintain than comparable compacts. But, the TDI option is very intriguing, since it promises mileage comparable to a hybrid, but with huge amounts of torque.

    Quote Originally Posted by blackraven
    I am also a fan of the Mazda 3 and was a fan of the Civic till Honda downgraded the car to cut costs. The same goes for the VW Jetta. Read the reviews on the new Civic and Jetta, they are not very good for the most part.

    The new Elantra is a very nice car, good styling, great mpg and interior fit and finish is a big notch above the other cars I mentioned. But road noise is an issue.
    Too bad about the Civic and the Jetta. They decided to let the beancounters design a car, and this is what we got. Unfortunately, the ploy of dumbing down and decontenting those cars might actually work because they're trading down for a lower sticker price and more space -- aspects that appeal to the North American market. The Elantra has gotten great reviews, but it's too bad hat Hyundai decided not to come out with a new version of Elantra wagon, choosing instead to carry over the old model.

    The Mazda3 is my #1 contender right now, but I need to see how the new high mileage Skyactiv drivetrain performs. If it measures up to the early reviews, then I will need to assess whether I'm willing to take the risk with a brand new engine and transmission design.
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    Forum Regular frahengeo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    I think you've identified the contenders, Wooch.

    You might add the Hyundai Elantra Touring which is really as small station wagon.

    Personally we'll be looking for a new car by this time next year. I'm looking at a small wagon, but maybe a little bigger than the Elantra Touring mentioned above. One contender for us is the Kia Rondo, but most of all we like the Mazda 5. My wife & I test drove this and it's really nice; also it's Consumer Reports top rated wagon ...

    My wife and I are interested in the Mazda Micro Van as well. My recollection of CR's rating was just average. However, I was concentrating more on the reliability ratings, than anything else.

    Of the choices listed, my vote would be for the FIT with its Honda reliability, low gas consumption, and all around good looks.
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    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frahengeo View Post
    My wife and I are interested in the Mazda Micro Van as well. My recollection of CR's rating was just average. However, I was concentrating more on the reliability ratings, than anything else.

    Of the choices listed, my vote would be for the FIT with its Honda reliability, low gas consumption, and all around good looks.
    I'm not sure whether it's the "Mazda Micro Van" you refer to, but the Mazda 5 Grand Touring was top rated in the 'Wagon' category in the April 2011 edition of Consumer Reports Annual Auto Issue.

    CR granted it a 95 score which is among the highest ratings of any vehical in any category. Predicted reliability was average however.

  15. #15
    Oldest join date recoveryone's Avatar
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    Well if the Focus is a contender then get this model:



    2010 Ford Focus RS: First U.S. Drive

    The Ford Focus RS is the most lustworthy European hot hatch forbidden to us Yanks. No journalist has dared put all 305 hp of its front-wheel-drive madness down on red, white, and blue soil. Until now.


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    Like all great journeys into uncharted territory, the arrival of a privately owned '11 Ford Focus RS on Texas soil began with a series of circumstances worthy of Jules Verne. In honor of its having sold cars in Mexico for a century, Ford decided to bless the country with five examples of the German-built RS. An enterprising dealer posted the car on eBay, and we immediately reposted the listing here. Less than 48 hours later, a member of the Jalop faithful made an offer on the car, and in doing so, made history. Here's the story of an enterprising car guy, an international journey, and one crazy green car.
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  16. #16
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frahengeo View Post
    My wife and I are interested in the Mazda Micro Van as well. My recollection of CR's rating was just average. However, I was concentrating more on the reliability ratings, than anything else.

    Of the choices listed, my vote would be for the FIT with its Honda reliability, low gas consumption, and all around good looks.
    Keep in mind that Consumer Reports' reliability ratings are based on statistical deviations from the average for a given year, not the actual repair rate. In general, the auto industry's repair frequency is much lower than a decade or two ago.

    The issue that I have with CR's methodology is that they have very little documentation on how they arrive at their ratings. We don't know what the actual average is, and what deviation differentiates "better than average" from "much better than average." Some cars will have nearly all of the individual components rated as "average" yet the overall rating is "better than average" or "much better than average." If they weight different components more than others, they don't tell you.

    By comparison, JD Power's IQS rankings are very clear -- they show the average number of defects per 100 vehicles, and the rankings are based on that number. If you look at it, the differences between different manufacturers is minimal for the most part, and the actual number of defects per car is much lower than it was 10 or 20 years ago. I have also started looking up True Delta's reliability data, which is similarly transparent.

    A decade ago, Consumer Reports scrapped their statistically derived ratings and went with a straight scale based on the percentage of owners reporting problems. This was much more transparent, but it wound up confirming an obvious trend -- the newer the car, the more reliable it is. They went back to their less transparent statistical ratings a few years later.

    Also, a single problem area can drive the entire rating down, and the problem area for the Mazda5 has been the suspension. And this has been my experience as well. With our car at 75k, we need a new front strut. Supposedly Mazda fixed this with the 2010 models (and presumably the new 2012 model as well -- there was no 2011 model).

    Quote Originally Posted by recoveryone
    Like all great journeys into uncharted territory, the arrival of a privately owned '11 Ford Focus RS on Texas soil began with a series of circumstances worthy of Jules Verne. In honor of its having sold cars in Mexico for a century, Ford decided to bless the country with five examples of the German-built RS. An enterprising dealer posted the car on eBay, and we immediately reposted the listing here. Less than 48 hours later, a member of the Jalop faithful made an offer on the car, and in doing so, made history. Here's the story of an enterprising car guy, an international journey, and one crazy green car.
    Wow, I've seen a lot of modified Focus SVTs at race tracks, but this is a whole different level! If Mazda can bring its 260 HP Mazdaspeed3 to US shores, why can't Ford bring this model here? Since Ford is now selling the same version of the Focus in all countries, there's no longer any reason to withhold the good stuff from us.
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  17. #17
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Well, looks like indeed Ford took a big tumble in the latest Consumer Reports reliability rankings. Not entirely unexpected, since JD Power's IQS ranking had earlier shown the same trend. Ford's reliability problems appear entirely driven by the MyFord Touch control system and their new dual clutch auto transmissions.

    Ford falls, Chrysler jumps in Consumer Reports reliability survey

    I've been checking my local dealer inventory, and the vast majority of the Focus models in stock have both the touch screen and the automatic tranny. With the reliability info, I'm definitely looking to the manual and no touch screen. Unfortunately, the dealers want to pack those features into the cars on the lot, and the manuals are only available at the lower trim levels.

    Mazda now ranks #5 on the Consumer Reports list and about that high on the JD Power ranking as well. The general trend though is that reliability tends to increase as a model ages, and Mazda's reliability benefited from having no new models. I would expect things to tumble this year, since Mazda has introduced two new models, and a brand new engine and transmission design.

    Right now, I'm waiting for the new Mazda3 to start arriving with the new engine and manual transmission. The automatics have arrived, but I want to try both on the same visit.
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  18. #18
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Geez doesn't seem that long ago you were buying a Mazda5.

    I got stuck with a Focus to rent recently. I was pretty damned impressed. I can't knock the Mazda3 but it's given up a lot of ground in the "fun to drive" category it used to dominate its competitors in. I'm going by shoddy memory here, but the Focus felt a lot roomier to me.

    Sadly, I know several diehard VW fans who don't speak kindly of the Golf or Jetta right now. Sounds like VW's shifted it's approach to competing in those segments.

    We drove a lot of vehicles before deciding on the Equinox a few months back, Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd own another GM product, and the Ford Edge was a top consideration. The domestics are making some pretty nice vehicles right now. I don't know if it'll win out over the Mazda but if you get a chance to run the manual Focus I would be curious to hear your impression.

  19. #19
    Forum Regular winston's Avatar
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    how about those Toyota Scion's, I'm not sure how the 2012 models is gonna stack up, but base on their pass performance they might be a worthy contender!!

    my son drives a (2005 XB) from Miami to Gainesville, two to three times per month, (except during the Summer) for three and a half years, averaging about 46-47,000 miles, with just the schedule maintenance, to date its a 180,000 miles on it, I just did all the (belts) that little box is ugly but still (hip) and I consider my self a very lucky man by choosing Scion XB for him, as I have no complain about the maintenance cost.

    take a look at the 2012 line up, the numbers are looking good plus meet the new (iQ) Scion
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  20. #20
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc View Post
    Geez doesn't seem that long ago you were buying a Mazda5.
    Hey Kex, how's fatherhood treating you?

    Yeah, it wasn't all that long ago (then I look at my no-longer-a-baby four-year old)!

    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    I got stuck with a Focus to rent recently. I was pretty damned impressed. I can't knock the Mazda3 but it's given up a lot of ground in the "fun to drive" category it used to dominate its competitors in. I'm going by shoddy memory here, but the Focus felt a lot roomier to me.
    I have not yet sat in the Focus, but the measures seem to point to a slightly roomier interior than the Mazda3. It seems that with the new CAFE standards looming, the car makers have finally made a concerted effort to make their smaller cars more appealing, and start deploying all the drivetrain technology they've been hoarding all these years (e.g., direct injection, dual-clutch transmissions, stop-start engines, cylinder deactivation, etc.).

    Up to this point, small cars in the U.S. market have largely been viewed as loss leaders -- make them as cheaply as possible just to get buyers into the showrooms. Not much attention was paid to making them more fully featured or using higher quality materials in the interiors or upping the ante on the performance. That doesn't seem to be the dominant view overseas, where the small car market is much more mainstream.

    Mazda was one of the few companies that tried to make an enthusiast-oriented small car that didn't cut a lot of corners. That made the Mazda3 more expensive, but it's also why the 3 has been so well regarded. This is how Honda was 20 years ago, but with the latest Civic, they really seem lost.

    The one strike against the Mazda3 has been the mediocre fuel mileage. But, if the new Skyactiv drivetrain achieves 40 MPG while retaining the Mazda3's sportiness, it puts them at or near the top of the pack.

    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    Sadly, I know several diehard VW fans who don't speak kindly of the Golf or Jetta right now. Sounds like VW's shifted it's approach to competing in those segments.
    My first car was a VW Bug, so I've been a long time VW fan, and the direction they've gone with the new Jetta and Passat (cheaper, softer, and bigger) is sad to see.

    Unfortunately, the new Jetta is by all accounts a bloated Toyota Corolla wannabe. All the things that made VWs unique in the small car segment (the German ride and dynamics, the polished and upscale interior, the efficient space packaging, and the tight tasteful exterior lines) have been jettisoned to hit a lower price point and gain bragging rights over size.

    My understanding is that the Golf is a very different car from the North American version of the Jetta (even the Jetta sold overseas is different). It retains more of its German character, and VW didn't cheap out on the parts and materials. It also helps that the Golfs imported to the U.S. are still German-made (historically, even with all of VWs quality control issues, their German-made cars have remained more reliable than the ones built elsewhere). The Golf TDI is on my list because my understanding is that the Golf was not dumbed down for the American market. Unfortunately, the TDI also costs about $4k more than the Skyactiv Mazda3

    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    We drove a lot of vehicles before deciding on the Equinox a few months back, Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd own another GM product, and the Ford Edge was a top consideration. The domestics are making some pretty nice vehicles right now. I don't know if it'll win out over the Mazda but if you get a chance to run the manual Focus I would be curious to hear your impression.
    If Chevy made the Cruze as a hatchback, it would definitely be on my list. GM made the correct call in going all out on the Cruze. The timing was perfect (showing up at dealers just as gas prices began climbing again) and the product quality was good. The risk GM took with ramping the Cruze up to full production immediately has paid off, as Ford took a more cautious approach in starting up the Focus, and the Cruze's sales have been huge.

    GM has done a decent job of focusing on their product, and letting that serve as the selling point rather than the incentives. They still seem to lag behind other competitors, but at least they're now in the conversation and not a laughing stock like before.

    Quote Originally Posted by winston
    how about those Toyota Scion's, I'm not sure how the 2012 models is gonna stack up, but base on their pass performance they might be a worthy contender!!

    my son drives a (2005 XB) from Miami to Gainesville, two to three times per month, (except during the Summer) for three and a half years, averaging about 46-47,000 miles, with just the schedule maintenance, to date its a 180,000 miles on it, I just did all the (belts) that little box is ugly but still (hip) and I consider my self a very lucky man by choosing Scion XB for him, as I have no complain about the maintenance cost.

    take a look at the 2012 line up, the numbers are looking good plus meet the new (iQ) Scion
    My wife and I looked at the Scion xB four years ago, and it was just a bit too small for what we needed at that time with a medium sized dog and a baby on the way. Friends of ours who drove the xB absolutely loved them.

    Now, it has somewhat flipped around. Since we already have a Mazda5, we can go with a smaller car this time. But, the current Scion xB is now larger and more of a gas guzzler than what I'm looking for this time. Seems that Toyota paid more attention to those non-buyers who complained about the xB's small size, than those who did choose the xB because of its more modest proportions.

    The iQ is an interesting car, but I'll probably weigh my options in the compact class before going to the subcompacts.
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    Stereo value > car value texlle's Avatar
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    As an individual who is used to the richly textured interior of an acura, I'm surprised you're content with the mazda. I like mazda and all, they really are a fun drive with quick reflexes and great power, but I could never get past the cutrate feel of their interiors to where I'd consider owning one. They look awesome on paper, and in person, the fitment is on par with other Japanese brands, but there is just a sense of cheapness about them. And I thought hyundai's were moderately guilty of this.

    If handling characteristics, fuel economy, reliability, and the versatility of a hatch factor largely into your consideration, I would have a look at the VW Golf diesel. This seems to fit your bill well. The interior is well appointed with a nice feel and available options galore. The TDI makes fantastic torque that is great for tooling around the city and commuting. The structure is extremely solid and with a million airbags and electronic safety system nannies like TCS, ESC, ABS etc, to keep you safe. I know the VW diesel drivetrain is renowned for its dependability, however, I can't attest to the quality of their electronics, power features, etc. I hear they can be hit or miss with the early 2000's generation VWs, but I've read in various reviews that the new VW's are a vast improvement. Overall, the diesel golf is really a great package.

    My vote would go to the new hyundai veloster though. The looks are certainly unique, definitely a love it or hate it affair. Yes it looks like a two door, but the coolest feature of this car is the third door on the passenger side. It is forward hinged like the other two, can be opened independently (unlike the old saturn sc2 and mazda rx-8) and really adds extra versatility. The door handle is hidden in the c-pillar trim so it really does look like a two door.The 1.6L DI engine yields a very economical 28 city/40 mpg highway rating with the 6-speed manual, and can move at a surprisingly un-leisurely pace courtesy of 132 horses and 123 ft lbs of torque. It boasts best in class interior volume and a stylish interior with superb fit and finish relative to class competitors. Like the golf, it has all the safety features you'd expect in today's compact- abs, tcs, esc, enough airbags to catch a falling elephant. No crash test data available yet as it is in its first year of production and was released for sale only a few months ago. Where this car really exceeds expectation is in the tech department. 450 watt dimension 8-speaker stereo, bluetooth connectivity, satellite navigation are all things we've come to expect in an entry level sport sedan, let alone a compact. It also takes fuller advantage of the in-dash lcd by including realtime eco monitoring graphics, turn by turn navigation, ipod/iphone connectivity including Pandora internet radio via your iphone, and bluelink which hyundai's proprietary version of Onstar. It's astonishing how technologically capable this car is. I would make car this my next move, personally, but I'm going the performance route (RWD has become a must for me). The warranty is great too. 5 yr/60k bumper to bumper coverage, and 10 yr/100k powertrain (not that you need it). Also, hyundai has announced a turbo version soon to come, with 200 hp and most likely similar torque.

    I can attest to hyundai reliability as I've owned a 2003 Tiburon GTV6 for going on 10 years, a first year model, and have had very few issues with this car. A window motor here, sunroof motor (common issue for the early models like mine), alternator. The engine itself and the transmission have been absolutely bulletproof, as has the chassis. No odd squeaks, clicks, whines, ticks, noises. As quiet as the day I bought it and it runs like new after 150k miles. The only powertrain repairs were the alternator at 70k and the valve cover gaskets at 90k, the latter were covered under warranty. The interior has developed a couple of vibrations/rattles more recently, most notable on rough pavement, but nothing very intrusive. No electrical bugs, everything works on command as it is supposed to, everytime. The reliability is probably the best attribute of this car along with the very communicative steering, agile handling and engine torque of course. It has really surpised me since I took a chance on buying this car when hyundai's reliability was just starting to improve and I can confidently say I'm glad I did.

    As far as the others you mentioned, the Honda Fit is also very nice, well built, has a nice, spacious interior, but is just too slow for me with its weed-whacker competitive torque figures. The Civic is just plain ugly, and has fallen behind the other compact mainstays as they have improved greatly in recent years, whereas the civic has stagnated.

    I would give a good recommendation to the Focus, but I don't trust ford reliability quite yet. This goes double for GM and Chrysler. Regarding the Kia Forte, it's a nice car with a good options list and nice available power from the 2.4L, but as you stated, the handling is a bit quirky, it gets jittery and twitchy over rough pavement and bumps. The price can't be beat, but you can get a better car with a lame-ass vanilla toyota corolla. On that note, go with the hyundai and get way more for way less. I know I sound like I should sell for hyundai, and maybe I should, but I'm a firm believer in their commitment to the more-for-less business model.
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  22. #22
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by texlle View Post
    As an individual who is used to the richly textured interior of an acura, I'm surprised you're content with the mazda. I like mazda and all, they really are a fun drive with quick reflexes and great power, but I could never get past the cutrate feel of their interiors to where I'd consider owning one. They look awesome on paper, and in person, the fitment is on par with other Japanese brands, but there is just a sense of cheapness about them. And I thought hyundai's were moderately guilty of this.
    I wouldn't call an Acura Integra "richly textured"! It's definitely nice, but I don't see the interior of the Mazda3 as a huge step down. Unfortunately, Acura no longer makes a compact sports hatch, and Honda does seem to have taken a dive with their driving dynamics in general. To me, that outweighs anything they might bring to the table with the interior design.

    For example, the two-seater hybrid CR-Z has one of the best designed small car interiors I've seen in a long time (THIS is how Honda should have designed the new Civic). Just the right blend of utility, ergonomics, flash, technology, and textures. But, that car has some missing features, and has lower gas mileage, inferior performance, and higher price compared to the Mazda3.



    Our Mazda5 definitely has a cheap feeling interior, but the price, utility, and the driving capability (aside from acceleration) won out in the end when we were car shopping four years ago. We've been very happy with that purchase, which is why the Mazda3 is the odds-on favorite right now. The 2012 version of the Mazda3 removed some of the extraneous metallic and shiny plastic, and it looks better than before.



    Quote Originally Posted by texlle
    If handling characteristics, fuel economy, reliability, and the versatility of a hatch factor largely into your consideration, I would have a look at the VW Golf diesel. This seems to fit your bill well. The interior is well appointed with a nice feel and available options galore. The TDI makes fantastic torque that is great for tooling around the city and commuting. The structure is extremely solid and with a million airbags and electronic safety system nannies like TCS, ESC, ABS etc, to keep you safe. I know the VW diesel drivetrain is renowned for its dependability, however, I can't attest to the quality of their electronics, power features, etc. I hear they can be hit or miss with the early 2000's generation VWs, but I've read in various reviews that the new VW's are a vast improvement. Overall, the diesel golf is really a great package.
    For all these reasons, the VW Golf TDI is on my list. I'm anxious for a test drive, and plan to pay very close attention to how the chassis and drivetrain respond. I need to take a close look at how the Golf compares with the newly cheapened and decontented Jetta (if you think the Mazda interiors look cheap, they're downright luxurious compared to the new Jetta). The Jetta interior is nowhere near VW's standard, but unfortunately it seems to be the direction they've gone for the North American models.



    And for the reasons you've mentioned, I'm leery of VW's build quality. I know people who had major electrical issues with their VWs, and the TDIs from just a couple of years ago have had two major recalls.

    Quote Originally Posted by texlle
    My vote would go to the new hyundai veloster though. The looks are certainly unique, definitely a love it or hate it affair. Yes it looks like a two door, but the coolest feature of this car is the third door on the passenger side. It is forward hinged like the other two, can be opened independently (unlike the old saturn sc2 and mazda rx-8) and really adds extra versatility. The door handle is hidden in the c-pillar trim so it really does look like a two door.The 1.6L DI engine yields a very economical 28 city/40 mpg highway rating with the 6-speed manual, and can move at a surprisingly un-leisurely pace courtesy of 132 horses and 123 ft lbs of torque. It boasts best in class interior volume and a stylish interior with superb fit and finish relative to class competitors. Like the golf, it has all the safety features you'd expect in today's compact- abs, tcs, esc, enough airbags to catch a falling elephant. No crash test data available yet as it is in its first year of production and was released for sale only a few months ago. Where this car really exceeds expectation is in the tech department. 450 watt dimension 8-speaker stereo, bluetooth connectivity, satellite navigation are all things we've come to expect in an entry level sport sedan, let alone a compact. It also takes fuller advantage of the in-dash lcd by including realtime eco monitoring graphics, turn by turn navigation, ipod/iphone connectivity including Pandora internet radio via your iphone, and bluelink which hyundai's proprietary version of Onstar. It's astonishing how technologically capable this car is. I would make car this my next move, personally, but I'm going the performance route (RWD has become a must for me). The warranty is great too. 5 yr/60k bumper to bumper coverage, and 10 yr/100k powertrain (not that you need it). Also, hyundai has announced a turbo version soon to come, with 200 hp and most likely similar torque.
    I thought about the Veloster as well, but it has gotten some negative reviews over how it drives and it might be a bit smaller than I'm looking for. Hyundai is definitely on a big hit streak, and very much on the rise. I might come back to Hyundai if my current top choices present some problem issues during the test drives.

    The reliability of Hyundai is now very solid. Over the years, I've just not found much excitement driving them (granted these were rentals for previous models, and I have no experience with their current crop). The warranty is a huge plus.

    Quote Originally Posted by texlle
    As far as the others you mentioned, the Honda Fit is also very nice, well built, has a nice, spacious interior, but is just too slow for me with its weed-whacker competitive torque figures. The Civic is just plain ugly, and has fallen behind the other compact mainstays as they have improved greatly in recent years, whereas the civic has stagnated.
    The Fit very well might be only Honda that I test drive this time around (sad, considering how huge a Honda/Acura fan I was before), and I might give the CR-Z a test drive as well. The Fit is a well packaged car that seems to be the only Honda nowadays (aside from the Civic Si) that gets fun-to-drive kudos.

    Even Honda now acknowledges that they've screwed up their latest revision to the Civic, making specific mention over how upset they were that Consumer Reports removed them from their recommended cars. First off, it's sad to hear just how important Consumer Reports looms in their thinking. In this case, they outguessed themselves, because they thought the Civic would stay on CR's recommended cars list if they softened it up and made it drive more like a Toyota Corolla. Instead, CR blasted the new Civic for its mediocre performance and general cheapness. Back in the day, Honda would simply design affordable cars that they themselves (many of them coming from motorcycle and racing backgrounds) would want to drive. Now, they've rested on their laurels and built cars that only an accountant would love.

    Going to that bilevel digital dash in 2006 was a disaster IMO, yet for the 2012 redesign, Honda decided to "fix" the parts of the car that weren't broken. The new version looks much like the previous one, only cheaper.



    Rumors abound that Honda is now in total crisis mode with the Civic, planning a major redesign for 2013 rather than the planned 2014 refresh. Even with the quake disruption, Civic sales have fallen off big time, and their reputation is taking a beating, with even long-time lapdog Consumer Reports turning on them.

    Quote Originally Posted by texlle
    I would give a good recommendation to the Focus, but I don't trust ford reliability quite yet. This goes double for GM and Chrysler. Regarding the Kia Forte, it's a nice car with a good options list and nice available power from the 2.4L, but as you stated, the handling is a bit quirky, it gets jittery and twitchy over rough pavement and bumps. The price can't be beat, but you can get a better car with a lame-ass vanilla toyota corolla. On that note, go with the hyundai and get way more for way less. I know I sound like I should sell for hyundai, and maybe I should, but I'm a firm believer in their commitment to the more-for-less business model.
    Even after Ford's tumble in the rankings, the Focus still seems like a solid choice, provided it comes with no touchscreen and no auto tranny (as I've seen, not an easy combination to find). They made great progress over the last few years, but they bit off more technology than they could chew with those gawdawful Microsoft-designed touchscreens.

    After driving the Rio as a rental, I thought the Forte would be a good choice. But, its mileage now lags behind the other contenders, and the current version is due to replacement next year.
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  23. #23
    Stereo value > car value texlle's Avatar
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    Supposedly, Ford is going to be revamping the MyFord touch system for their 2013 models because of the numerous complaints regarding performance, in an article I read on autoblog.

    I know the integra interior comment was an exaggeration, but I must just really dislike the build quality of the mazda3 interior. On the other end of the mazda lineup, however, the CX-9 uses far superior materials. Much like the Jetta to the Touareg, it sounds like Mazda pulled a VW here, and hopefully the Golf has not adopted the Jetta's cheapened interior, since they are nearly sister models mainly differing in body style.

    You should drive a Veloster and judge the roadgoing characteristics for yourself. It is a new platform with a new engine, so I can't really compare it to any other hyundai product, but on that note, they have had great success with their newer production platforms and drivetrains.

    To me, it sounds like you'd be happiest with a Mazda3. Get the 2.5L with any available sport suspension. It will be a good drive. The skyactiv 2.0 (or is it 1.8 now) will give you the great fuel economy you're looking for.

    I just can't recommend the new hondas. They're far too expensive for how far they've fallen in recent years. Nothing like the bulletproof, well-refined models of the 90's. The CR-Z is cool though. I like them a lot. I just wouldn't overpay for a new one.
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  24. #24
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by texlle View Post
    Supposedly, Ford is going to be revamping the MyFord touch system for their 2013 models because of the numerous complaints regarding performance, in an article I read on autoblog.
    I read that current owners would also get USB sticks in the mail with the software update sometime next year. In general, I'm not a huge fan of touchscreens in cars. Microsoft says that they want to deliver "the Windows experience" everywhere -- yeah, lke I really want that! Just give me some well designed buttons, dials, and displays -- no lag, no crashes, no attention diverted from the road.

    The Ford system sounds like a mess, even when working correctly. Having to scroll between different screens just to use different climate control functions is inexcusable. A touchscreen requires more attention, and when it comes to car safety, every split second of distraction is an accident waiting to happen. They really pushed the envelope here.

    And compounding Ford's problem is that MyFord Touch has bugs galore. The system has issues with lag and crashes. Even though the system is built on Microsoft's embedded mobile platform, I doubt that Ford (or any other automaker) is going to pony up for a more powerful processor. So, the system's not very responsive to begin, and the software bugs make it prone to freezes. Just what someone needs on a hot day -- getting in the car and finding that the touchscreen that operates the AC has locked up.

    On the one hand, I commend them for bringing more advanced features to their smaller cars, like they do overseas. On the other hand, this just seems like techies run amok, trying to cram more checkboxes onto a feature list. Might be okay for smartphones, but downright stupid for cars, where controls and displays need to be designed for easy and quick interactions.

    Quote Originally Posted by texlle
    I know the integra interior comment was an exaggeration, but I must just really dislike the build quality of the mazda3 interior. On the other end of the mazda lineup, however, the CX-9 uses far superior materials. Much like the Jetta to the Touareg, it sounds like Mazda pulled a VW here, and hopefully the Golf has not adopted the Jetta's cheapened interior, since they are nearly sister models mainly differing in body style.
    Unfortunately, this seems to be pandering to the American market, where small cars are treated like bottomfeeding crap. The Mazda3 interior might not fare as well compared to more expensive cars, but I think within the compact class, the interior is no better or worse than competing models. And unlike some other compact models, they do make a lot of upscale features, like rotating HID headlights and heated leather seats, available to US buyers.

    I will agree that VW has been a step above the competition here. In the European market that VW dominates, you don't have to step out of the compact class to get better interior materials and more advanced features. The market sweet spot overseas is the compact class, and buyers over there don't seem to mind paying more for a better equipped small car. Over here the market is more tilted towards the midsize class, once consumers hit a certain price point, the auto makers try to migrate them to a larger car rather a more fully equipped small car.

    Quote Originally Posted by texlle
    You should drive a Veloster and judge the roadgoing characteristics for yourself. It is a new platform with a new engine, so I can't really compare it to any other hyundai product, but on that note, they have had great success with their newer production platforms and drivetrains.
    I'm going to the auto show in a couple of weeks. I will definitely give the Hyundais a good look. If the Elantra had been available in a hatch, it would be on my list. (The Touring model is a carryover of the lackluster previous version)

    Quote Originally Posted by texlle
    To me, it sounds like you'd be happiest with a Mazda3. Get the 2.5L with any available sport suspension. It will be a good drive. The skyactiv 2.0 (or is it 1.8 now) will give you the great fuel economy you're looking for.
    Among the compact cars that I've actually driven, the Mazda3 is the one to beat. The 2.5L model is fun (the 2.0 direct injection turbo even more so), but the mileage is mediocre for this class. The Skyactiv drivetrain gains a lot of fuel economy, while losing some peak horsepower. But, it has a very even torque curve, so I'm going to see how well it goes off the line and in highway passing.

    Quote Originally Posted by texlle
    I just can't recommend the new hondas. They're far too expensive for how far they've fallen in recent years. Nothing like the bulletproof, well-refined models of the 90's. The CR-Z is cool though. I like them a lot. I just wouldn't overpay for a new one.
    Honda used to be the template that everybody else copied. Nowadays it seems that they're just trying to make a better Toyota. In years past, Honda indeed set the bar very high in the compact car class -- they created cars that people who love driving would want to drive. Toyotas have always been commuting appliances that are unengaging but generally reliable. Sad to see Honda's aspirations now following that model, or at least in North America. The overseas Accord is a very different car than the bloated oceanliner that they sell here (the Accord began as a compact car, and now it's officially classified as a large car). It's sold here as the Acura TSX, but unfortunately it carries a luxury car price tag.

    The CR-Z is a great design that's just drifting without a rudder -- it's a sporty hybrid two-seater that tries to balance between performance and fuel economy, and does neither particularly well. If Honda would jetison the hybrid drivetrain, and just offer up the CR-Z as either an economical 1.6L model or a sporty 2.0L VTEC model, I think it would do wonders by lightening the load and making a clear distinction about the car's purpose.

    Hopefully, the crisis they're in right now with the Civic will spark some of that out-of-the-box thinking that brought Honda to prominence in the first place.
    Last edited by Woochifer; 11-08-2011 at 06:21 PM.
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  25. #25
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    I have 60,000 trouble free miles on my Mazda3 5 dr hatchback ( 5 sp and 2.3 engine ). It is a joy to drive on twisty mountain roads and my only complaint has been the fact that it's expensive 17 inch performance tires only last around 25K miles.

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