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Quirky and fun economy hatchto last 10 years+

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta

Member1026

Hey everyone,
I'm considering selling my 10 yo Ford Focus ZX5- I have loved, loved this car but it is getting to the age that a few things are wearing. It has been roomy, fun, fuel-efficient, and still looks good after all these years. It's been perfect.

I'm looking for a worthy replacement; mainly something equally comfortable, fun to drive, a hatch with a manual transmission, I don't wanttoo many features (namely just AC and cruise), simple and not overly complicated, and something a little offbeat and quirky. I've always had a thing for odd cars. I plan on keeping it for ten years as well and reliability is important. It'll be just for my husband and I, so back seat is nice but not a must.

I'd like to stay with Ford, but the new Fiesta and Focus have bad reliability ratings and are terribly cramped inside for my 6'4'' frame.

I have looked at every little car and have narrowed it down to three or four options. But I can't decide; my mood swings with each day:

The Ford Fiesta SE: have been loyal to Ford all these years and love the handling and styling; feels like my Focus in many ways. But is very cramped in the driver seat and I can never find a comfy seating position. Once again, poor reliability ratings don't add confidence

The Hyundai Accent SE: very roomy, aclean and attractive dash, great warranty, and lots of thoughtful touches make this appealing. However, no spare tire is almost a deal breaker, and the rear visibility is bad. Also at the top of my price range

The Mitsubishi Mirage ES: yes, believe it or not: rented one and liked it; it was very roomy, fuel efficient, full of character, lots of value and features and a long warranty. However, handling was indeed sloppy and it did get noisy with the three cylinder (didn't mind its performace though)

and maybe, just maybe the 2015Honda Fit LX: promises to be very roomy and versatile, nimble and fun to drive, and great visibility. However, not so keen on the styling (why are there two holes punched out in the back bumper?), the messy dashboard layout,and never have been a fan of Honda; I would find it hard to say I own one

Any advice from anyone who knows these cars or owns one? Thanks!

Priorities: Reliability & durability / Driving position & visibility / Exterior styling / Price or payments / Handling

Preferred Bodystyle(s): Hatch

Car Needs: Long trips / Fun toy

Primary Driver(s): Tall driver

Need minimum of 2 seats

Will consider new cars only

Maximum price: US $ 17000

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Response from willied

9:39 am May 19, 2014

Response from mkaresh

6:26 pm May 19, 2014

In our reliability stats, the Fiesta is so-so. Not awful, but could be better. Your current car had iffy reliability ratings, and how bad has it been?

The larger Focus is more reliable, aside from the 2012. With either car, getting the manual eliminates one expensive potential trouble spot. Lower trim levels also avoid the MyFord Touch system, which is a good part of the reason for poor reliability ratings on sites other than this one.

So if you can find a Focus at a low enough price, I wouldn't rule it out. They drive very well. But if it's too tight inside that's harder to fix.

The Nissan Versa Note is a much better car than the Mirage, and much easier to see out of than the Accent (which, on the other hand, handles a bit better). Getting the manual avoids the CVT many people don't care for.

Nissan also still offers the Cube, which would give you quirky. Slow-selling, so there are probably deals. But the handling is somewhat clumsy. Definitely doesn't handle as well as your Focus.

The Kia Soul might also fit your needs for quirkiness and space. It's a better vehicle than the cube, but likely also costs more. Also, I don't think you can get cruise with the manual transmission from the factory, but the dealer can probably add it.

Same goes for the lower-level of the Accent, the GS.

Any reactions to these suggestions?

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Ford Focus
Nissan Versa Note
Kia Soul

Response from semaj82

1:08 am May 20, 2014

I second Mr. Karesh's suggestion of the Kia Soul. This definitey fits the description of quirky, without being as weird and relatively useless as the Cube. They seem to be pretty popular, so I don't know what kind of deal you would be able to get, but it looks like the "stripper models" - basically only cruise and manual transmission, are running <$15K around here. They're surprisingly roomy, and more fun to drive than they otherwise appear. I did check Kia's website, and cruise is standard across the line.

My other suggestion that I haven't seen listed is the Subaru Impreza. I seemed to have enough head room (I'm 6'2"), but you'd want to check that - otherwise, this seems to check all of your boxes, albeit at approximately 2K more than the Kia. AWD most likely will not help you in California, and you'll pay a small price at the pump as a result of having it. Recent Subies I've tested have been well put together, and somewhat off-beat, if not quite as odd as Subarus of old. It's more car than the others you've listed at a class "up", but I think it many of the cars you've listed may end up seeming as a downgrade from your Focus.

The Fit is nice, and Honda knows how to make a reliable car, but it doesn't sound like you're particularly in love with it. Honda does a GREAT job of squeezing every possible inch out of an interior, but they're not as fun to drive as Hondas of old.

The new Focus is alright - I'm shorter than you and felt quite cramped. My '10 Civic seemed much roomier, and overall a much higher-quality car. The Focus was more fun to drive, for what that's worth.

Good luck on your car search - I hope you and your husband find what you're looking for.

James

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Subaru Impreza / Outback Sport
Kia Soul

Response from mkaresh

9:10 am May 27, 2014

James missed a little fine print on the Kia site. A disclaimer for the standard cruise control reads "requires automatic transmission."

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Response from Member1026

1:28 am August 21, 2014

Thanks for the suggestions guys. My best friend has a Kia Soul, and loves it. I've driven it a few times and see the appeal; it's roomy, feels well-built, surprisingly handles well, and has loads of trunk volume, and personality. But as Michael mentioned, a cruise and manual transmission are not combinable from the factory, there is no spare tire, and, to be honest, although quirky, I can't grow fond of the looks. It looks disjointed and like two teams designed the car, one for the front and for the back, and they didn't talk to one another. All of those combined are the kiss of death for the Soul on my list.

The Versa Note has gobs of interior space, and drove better than expected. But once again, no manual and cruise are combined, and the interior felt even cheaper and more plasticky than the Mirage. At least the Mirage has the glossy black surround on the dash to break up the monotony.

Looked at the Impreza and liked it, but it is way over our price range. We're looking around at $17k, and the Impreza is around $22k

Looked at the 3, briefly, but didn't like the looks (the long hood is not in proportion to the rest of the car), and the template-looking screen that's mounted on the top of the dash would drive me bonkers. It looks like a cheap afterthought and I'd always want to rip it off. Plus it's still over the price range.

So that still leaves the Accent, Fiesta, and Mirage. I'm planning on buying the car in the next month, so who knows what I end up with. My choice varies day by day. I've had good service from Ford for all these years, and would like to stay loyal. Hyundais reliability ratings are good, and I fit comfortably in the Accent. And I like the sheer quirkiness and simple nature of the Mirage.

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Response from tmport

8:34 am August 21, 2014

I think the Accent is a really solid choice. And you can easily add a spare tire; the cheapest way to get a new one would be to buy it from someplace like tirerack.com, but other people have also said you can go to a junkyard and buy one from a compatible car for much cheaper. Ditto for the jack.

One final choice, although it may not come out soon enough for your needs: the refreshed 2015 Toyota Yaris. An SE (top trim) manual transmission comes with all power options and should ring in around $17,000. This is a car that I personally dismissed initially, but the forums make clear that its owners LOVE the car for its simplicity and reliability. And the new version supposedly has a revised suspension, better sound deadening, and improved interior materials, so it should be ever better. However, Toyota sells very few of them in the US, so it can be difficult to find them.

I know how you feel about choies changing on a daily (or even hourly basis). The problem is that there are a lot of good cars out there, but none of them are perfect. :-)

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Toyota Yaris
Hyundai Accent

Response from willied

9:43 am August 21, 2014

The Fiesta is a great car. And they've got the 3-cylinder manual only version that gets great gas mileage. It's too bad it's too cramped for you.

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Response from Member1026

10:01 am August 21, 2014

Ditto to both responses regarding the Accent and Fiesta. They are both excellent little cars and that makes it a tough decision. Both show how far small cars have come since the days of my Ford Aspire and Geo Metro back in high school.

I have visiteddealerships many timesto try both and revisit them. Each time I sit in the Accent I feel immediately comfortable in the driver seat and the interior is logical and simple. It's just on the higher end of my budget in SE trim (and of course, doesn't have the generous rebates that Ford offers) and I know it doesn't handle quite as slick as the Fiesta.

And I have rented a Fiesta once and loved its driving dynamics, and how stable it feels on the highway. The driver cockpit does feel less airy than the Accent and more cramped.

I'm thinking of renting both (and a Mirage)over thecourse ofa weekend to take on roads and drive for a few hundred miles each to see which would standout.

I always overlook the Yaris. Never been a big fan of the mismatched style of the interior, but I do remember driving a friends once and coming away pleasantly surprised. It may be worth just looking at

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Response from mkaresh

11:08 am August 21, 2014

Response from tmport

11:57 am August 21, 2014

Michael's review of the Yaris reminded me of another contender: the Chevy Sonic. Quirky instrument cluster aside, I think it's a great design--very nice to look at in person, good cargo space (the seats actually fold flat, which is frustratingly uncommon in this segent, aside from the Fit), excellent engine, great fuel economy (29/40 with the 1.4 turbo). However, reliability questions have pushed the Sonic lower on my own list...the forums are filled with discussions about the troublesome 6-speed manual transmission, suspension noises, and mysterious disappearing coolant. If it weren't for those issues, it would be at or near the top of my own list. You can probably get a well-equipped LT version with the 1.4 turbo and 6MT for somewhere between $16,000 and $17,000 in the real world. An LTZ would probably be about $1000 more.

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Response from Member1026

1:15 am August 22, 2014

I'm so glad you mentioned the Sonic! I've been so torn on the Sonic.

I rented one last year and loved it. I like the looks, I like the roominess, and it drove very nicely. Even the base 1.6 litre felt gutsy enough. I even like the quirky digital speedometer and gauges. And at one stage during the rental period, I did have to swerve to miss a sudden accident in front of me and the Sonic did an amazing job with emergency manuevers. It was a car that I would feel comfortable owning, driving, and being seen in for years to come.....

That being said, I'm very skeptical with GM. I did own an Aveo ten years ago, and it was a complete lemon. The Aveo and Sonic are completely different animals, and I wasn't so upset with the issues on the car. Things happen. What was more upsetting was Chevy's handling of the situation and refusing to solve the problems after the car had been in the shop numerous times. I ended up suing GM and winning the case, the car had to be brought back as a lemon. I've had one Ford with issues, but Ford handled the situation gracefully, and for that I forgave them and would be willing to buy from them again.

I've spent some time on the Sonic forums online, and have noticed a lot of complaints about annoying issues, like the suspension you mentioned

Ilike the Sonic....a lot. It's a well balanced car that does everything well. I'd be just paranoid to go back to GM again, but am not totally closed to the idea of buying from them X X X X

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Response from Member1026

10:25 pm September 23, 2014

So now is the time. I've sold the Focus and we spent half of Saturday looking at all of the cars we were considering. We did eliminate the Accent (it was the most expensive one we were looking at, had no spare tire, bad visibility, and extremely high insurance premiums), the Fit (still not a fan of Honda, the car's styling, buzzy engine, or ridiculously small, stubby manual gear shift), and the Mirage (it drive pretty sloppily and felt like the cheap car that it was intended to be.It was okay, but not a worthy replacement of the Focus)

We even looked at an Elantra GT; however, it's clunky manual and sloppy handling didn't win it friends,or its high insurance rates as well.

We've narrowed it down to the Fiesta and the Sonic. But I can't choose. My decision varies by the minute.

I personally prefer the Fiesta, as it drives wonderfully, feels refined, looks great (especially in green envy), and with Ford's generous college and loyalty rebates, we can get a well-equipped SE (in green) for $13,050, or about $4500 below MSRP. As gimmicky as it is, I also love the interior mood lighting. It just appeals to me as a driver's car. But my husband felt cramped in it, and granted, it has half the cargo space of the Sonic. We don't carry big items often, but I can see how it can hamper us if we do an IKEA run. I also see all of the reliability complaints on the Fiesta, but most of them regard the dual-clutch auto and the Sync; one of those we don't have and the other I'll never use. Regardless, it's not reassuring

The Sonic was a last minute addition thanks to a member on here and a friend's suggestion. I overlooked it because of some bad history with GM about ten years ago. But granted, the Sonic is much roomier, versatile, and has more power than the Fiesta. It also has an overall perfect 5-star crash test rating (which my mother won't let me forget and has insisted that I should be in a safer car). It's also built in America, which is important to me. The gauges are funky, as is the overall styling, and I like its looks(although not as much as the cute Fiesta). Bright colors are hard to come by in manual, I can only find the dark cyrstal red, which I don't find as appealing or as exciting to see in the morningas the green Fiesta. Although it has decent reliability ratings, I'm very hesitant to go back to GM after my experience. We found a manual Sonic LT in dark red for $14950, or about $2.5k below MSRP

Help! Can't decide with all of the pressure, lol

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Chevrolet Sonic
Ford Fiesta

Response from willied

9:39 am September 24, 2014

That's quite the conundrum. :P

It sounds to me like the Sonic will probably be a better fit. It's really a shame the Fiesta doesn't offer more room. I'm curious to see how the next Fiesta will change. How did you feel the Sonic drove?

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Response from mkaresh

4:10 pm September 24, 2014

Have you checked what a Focus would actually cost? There's a chance discounts are large enough to bring it within your budget.

Otherwise, it sounds like it comes down to how often you husband will be in the car. If often, the Sonic seems the smarter way to go. If possible, get one with the turbo engine, as it is both smoother and more efficient.

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Response from tmport

5:50 pm September 24, 2014

Tough choice--I can sympathize! I'm having difficulty sorting through all the options myself. With those two finalists, I don't think you can really go wrong. If you don't need the cargo space, the Fiesta is probably your best choice. You say it's your personal preference, PLUS it's a couple thousand dollars cheaper than the Sonic. With a manual transmission, I wouldn't think reliability would be a big issue; the car has been out now for multiple years (the 2014 refresh was only cosmetic), so Ford should have ironed out the major problems. Green Envy is a fun color, too. :-)

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Response from Member1026

9:43 am September 25, 2014

Willied- It is a shame about the space in the Fiesta. Even though it's the same size as the Fit or Sonic, it feels like it's half the size inside; a packaging miracle! I'm curious to see if Ford will address this with the rumored redesign of the Fiesta for 2016. The Sonic drives nicely enough; very quiet, well-controlled ride, gutsy 1.8 liter. It handles decently too; not as slick as the Fiesta, but not bad either

Michael- I did look at Foci last night, and with Ford's heavyrebates on them as well, the price is about the same as a rebated Sonic. Took an automatic for a test drive last night, and it drove very well and it has a little bit more space than the Fiesta. I wouldn't mind it. However, manualSE hatchbacks are hard to come by

Tmport- Glad you can feel my pain. There's so many good subcompacts out there now; it's a blessing and a curse. There's few bad choices, but there's so many good ones. What are you considering in your conundrum? I agree with you, the 2014 Fiesta is now the fourth model year of this generation, and Ford may have worked out the bugs on it. Avoiding the automatic seems to avoid the worst complaints about the car as well. I love the green envy, you'd never lose it in a parking lot, and the car has a more fun nature than most this size; like a budget Mini Cooper of sorts. It's more a matter of trying to overcome my better half and an overprotective mother with buying a Fiesta, lol

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Response from tmport

3:00 pm September 25, 2014

Heh, I agree--it really is a curse to have so many good choices! I think I've now closely scrutinized just about every compact and subcompact hatchback, crossover, "cute ute," and even some sedans (though I strongly prefer a hatchback). My personal short list is still shifting, but here are the main contenders and their good/bad points (I only note the year if there's a significant difference between 2014 and 2015). I should note that I haven't test-driven any of them yet, so these impressions are based on way too many hours of reading reviews and watching videos. :-)

2015 Honda Fit EX or EX-L: tremendous interior space, good engine and transmissions, excellent gas mileage, BUT pricey, and early production units have been beset by a string of quality control issues

Kia Soul +: I love the design inside and out, good cargo volume, lots of features for the money, BUT poor gas mileage

Hyundai Elantra GT: elegant design, great cargo space, BUT poor gas mileage

2015 Toyota Yaris SE: less "cheap" interior after 2015 refresh, proven reliability, good gas mileage, BUT in very short supply (especially manual transmission SE trim), underpowered

2015 Nissan Versa Note SR: interior improved for 2015, SR trim is really cute, great interior volume, great gas mileage, can probably negotiate a good deal, BUT underpowered, still a bit cheap and plasticky inside

Other contenders are the Ford Fiesta, Chevy Sonic (w/ the 1.4 turbo), Hyundai Accent, and Kia Rio. I'm on the fence when it comes to manual vs. automatic; it'll probably depend on which car I ultimately choose. I live in the DC metro area, where traffic is horrendous, so I may ultimately go automatic (unless I get a Yaris, Fiesta, or Sonic, which will definitely be MTs.)

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Nissan Versa Note
Toyota Yaris
Kia Soul

Response from Member1026

10:47 pm October 25, 2014

This is the weekend now, finally!!!!

I've narrowed it down to two specific cars that are for sale and this is the most difficult part.

OPTION 1: A 2015 Honda LX in blue with manual. MSRP is $16300, dealer is willing to sell it for $15991. Likes are the color, roominess, simplicity of controls, and the nimble feel. Dislikes are that it's an import, a little cheap feeling around the edges, and some of the styling touches (why are there two big holes punched out in the rear bumper?)

OPTION 2: A 2014 Ford Focus SE hatch in ruby red and manual. MSRP is $21,110, dealer took it down to $19028 and brought in $5000 in rebates (regular rebate+owner loyalty+college student+FMC offer+bonus cash) bringing the price down to $14028. Likes are the driving dynamincs, quiet interior, features, and solid feel. Dislikes are the massively wide console, cramped rear seat, and it's not very quirky (but a friend mentioned that I could even do a full vehicle wrap in a more vivid color)

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Ford Focus
Honda Fit

Response from tmport

2:37 pm October 26, 2014

I think you can't go wrong with either of those choices (I assume the Honda is the Honda Fit?) The Focus is an amazing bargain with those rebates, and the Fit LX is very well equipped for a base trim. They both have excellent manual transmissions, from what I've read, although the Fit's gearing makes for a lot of shifting in city traffic.

Go with your heart, or gut, or whatever! :-)

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Response from willied

3:12 pm October 26, 2014

If it were me I'd probably go with the Focus, though I'm a little bit biased towards Ford (and I like the styling better, among other things (such as the optional keypad, which I recommend)). :P

Do you have any sort of gut feeling that's telling you to get one over the other? The roominess of the Fit is nice, but I imagine the Focus would be the more enjoyable one to own. And at $14k it's a steal! It's a tough choice for sure.

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Response from mkaresh

3:28 pm October 26, 2014

I knew deals were good on the Focus, but didn't know they were this good. A $21,000 car for $14,000 is an incredible deal. As functional as the Fit is, the Focus is a more solid, more refined, higher grade car. The weakest aspect of the Focus is the dual clutch transmission, and you're avoiding that by going with the manual.

This said, a full-car wrap is $3,000+, so I wouldn't buy the car expecting to do one if cost is of any concern. Depending on which wheels are included in that price, a wheel/tire upgrade down the road could make more sense. Does this price include the Appearance Package, with larger wheels and leather interior?

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Response from Member1026

9:35 am October 27, 2014

Thank you everyone for the advice and hearing me out. After several test drives of both cars again and deliberating it over a delicious lunch at Olive Garden, we decided on the Honda Fit!

Being a loyal Ford buyer my entire driving life and in light of the massive rebates that Ford was offering, I was just as surprised.

Each time we test drove the Focus, the wide console felt intrusive on both our long sets of legs, we couldn't get over how cramped the rear seat was, and the dashboard controls were unnecessarily complicated and distracting. It was a handsome car as well, but wasn't what we would call "quirky". Despite the rebates, we both agreed that it just wasn't a car we'd look forward to seeing and driving as much.

It may sound bizarre, but the Fit felt more like the spiritual succesor to my Focus. I loved my '05 Focus for its roominess, simplicity, and fun to drive factor. The Fit carried that over.

Compared to the new old and new Focus, the Fit seems louder, and is certainly slower, but it's not enough to turn me off.

It's also the first car that I've owned with ABS, side airbags, traction control, bluetooth, rear camera, or automatic headlights, so to me it's well appointed despite being the base model

In the 12 hours I've owned it, the service from Honda has been great (one of the reasons I've avoided Honda is that the dealerships were always sleezy and arrogant, actinglike the car was built by God himself, but this particular dealership was very down to earth) and the car has been fun to drive.

Thanks again for all of the help on this guys!

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Response from mkaresh

10:40 am October 27, 2014

It sounds like you made the right call. A deal is only a deal if you'll be happy with the car.

I think if you edit your response to indicate that you bought the Fit a photo of it will appear in the original post.

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Response from willied

10:49 am October 27, 2014

Congrats on the purchase!

Hopefully Ford gets with it and makes the next Focus roomier on the inside (and hopefully not bigger on the outside).

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Response from tmport

10:20 pm October 27, 2014

Nice! I agree, the Fit LX is very well equipped--a bit of a surprise, given how relatively stripped the Civic LX is (no split fold rear seat, and 2-speed wipers...really??) If you haven't yet, check out fitfreak.net. There's some complaining about quality control issues, but most people seem very happy with the purchase. It's definitely still on my short list. :-)

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Response from mkaresh

10:17 am October 28, 2014

Fitfreak.net is an excellent forum, and they've been supportive of our car reliability survey for years. Partly thanks to their support we should have some initial reliability stats for the 2015 Fit in February.

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