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Compact Sedans

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  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,628
    What I find is that once you get to a certain level of performance and reliability, all the cars are essentially similar.

    I have to disagree. Just in this group of cars, there are major differences in some attributes important to many buyers. For example:

    * Sharp handling: Mazda3, with Focus and Civic pretty good also. But there's a major difference in how those cars handle compared to others e.g. Corolla, Elantra, and Sentra.

    * Performance: Big difference in acceleration in the class, since some cars have ~135 hp and others have 160-170 hp, with "sport" versions with even more power.

    * Interior room: Huge range there, especially in rear seat room. Some cars such as Jetta and Elantra have very roomy rear seats for the class; others such as Corolla, Cruze, Focus, and Mazda3 have tight rear seats.

    * Luxury features: Some cars do well just to offer a moonroof. Some such as the Corolla don't even offer leather, let alone other high-end features becoming increasingly common on cars like the Focus, Mazda3, and Cruze.

    * Fuel economy: Huge range there. Some compacts like the Jetta 2.5 struggle to hit 30 mpg highway EPA, while others are over 40 mpg.

    Those are just a few examples of the wide range of offerings in the compact class. Which is a good thing... easier for just about everyone to find something they like.
  • igozoomzoomigozoomzoom Waleska, GeorgiaPosts: 790
    "I also think its so odd to me that after growing up in Southern California and seeing most Hondas as aspirational vehicles I'd want to own, the Civic really does nothing for me, nor the new Accord, for that matter."


    I am from one of those "Honda families". I have two cousins with 25+ years as Honda mechanics, my brother-in-law has worked in a Honda/Acura body shop for 21 years and my one of my uncles worked at another Honda dealership's body shop for 28 years. Back in 1996, for about four months, I even sold Hondas at the dealership where my cousins and bro-in-law work. Despite outselling all but two long-term salesmen during that time and making a lot of $$$, discovered that I have an affliction that is fatal for a sales person- a conscience! =)

    But I drove a Honda from the day I got my license in 1991 (when I got my sister's hand-me-down '85 CRX Si) followed by six others over the next 14 years. I had an '89 Accord LXi 4-door, '90 Acura Legend L 4-door, '92 Accord EX 4-door, '94 Civic EX 2-door, '96 Accord EX 4-door and '99 Accord EX 4-door- all 5-speed manuals, too! It was never a question of which car to buy, but which Honda to buy!? My sister followed much the same pattern as me with a few Preludes thrown in. We even bought '96 Accords on the same day, in the same color- both were EX 4-door 5-speeds in Heather Mist Metallic (silvery gold). Mine was just the stock EX, but she managed to get a set of the EX Coupe wheels and she added the rear spoiler, sunroof deflector, had the windows tinted and even the hideously tacky 'gold' emblem package. Even though they started out as identical twins, you could definitely tell them apart after she finished 'accessorizing'.

    When I totaled my '99 Accord in December 2005, I went to the Honda dealer the following morning to pick out my next one. That's when I saw the 2006 Civic for the first time and I test drove an EX 4-door with manual and an automatic. I couldn't believe how much I hated it- from the wonky exterior design (a cross between a doorstop and a suppository) and the two-tier digital/analog dash felt anything but Honda-like. I couldn't even find a color combo that I would consider if I did entertain the thought of buying one, which I didn't.

    I genuinely liked the 2006 Accord, but my budget was around $18k and definitely not over $19k. The EX 4-door I wanted was over $23k and the LX was too plain-looking and still over $20k. I was confused and, for the first time, realized that my next car wasn't going to be a Honda. I ended up getting a 2006 Mazda3 s 5-door and I'm still happy with it 5.5yrs and 82k miles later! Some of my family considered it treason, at least that's how they acted. But over the last five years, I've watched almost every one of them do the same thing....

    The 2008 Accord was the final sign to me that my days as a Honda owner were over. They no longer had anything I'd want to drive, much less own. The 'magic' that made my '85 CRX, '89 Accord and '90 Legend feel so unique and made them so enjoyable to drive was lost years ago. My '99 Accord still had the 'feel', but felt more polished and not as sporty as the earlier model.

    I was hoping for a 2012 Civic that was slighlty less hideous, but they changed it so liittle that it would hardly seem like a 'refresh' much less a real 'redesign'. They also carried over the powertain which was no more than adequate in the old car. One of the car mags commented that they followed the Corolla's lead in terms of ride and handling. So it is now freaky looking and morre boring than ever before...
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    edited June 2011
    I'd love to see some mag test all the "40 mpg" cars out there, but test with an emphasis on driving for best fuel economy... not best 0-60 times

    How about a blend of performance and economy? Fuel economy is only half the equation. If we were only concerned with fuel economy, we would be seeing 100hp engines in this class that get 50 mpg.

    Manufacturers seem to be seeing who can get the best FE and best performance in one package.

    I will agree, I would really like to see a battle of the 40mpg club. I would like to see who builds the best all around car assessing economy and performance.

    I find it a bit weird that no one has driven a Mazda3 SKYACTIV just yet. The car is due here in the fall, perhaps as early as September. Maybe Mazda has been keeping the lid on that in combination with the disaster in Japan. Even us dealers have no more information than is currently available to the general public.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,628
    edited June 2011
    I think the current crop of compacts DO offer a blend of performance and economy. How many of the current cars offer 140 hp+, which a few years ago was typical for a V6 mid-sized car? Let's see... Civic, Elantra, Focus, Forte, Impreza, Mazda3, Sentra, SX4 all offer at least 140 hp in their base models, and the Jetta offers a 170 hp gas engine or 140 hp TDI in all but the base trim. Only the Corolla and Cruze are below 140 hp, and they're in the 130s.

    The reason I posed the "what if?" about a test focusing on fuel economy is that the car mags usually thrash the cars they test, and get far below the EPA specs in fuel economy. I just thought it would be interesting to have a test where the cars are driven more like normal people drive them, or even with some basic techniques (not hypermiling) to get maximum fuel economy, like using a light foot on the gas, sticking to speed limits, coasting up to lights when appropriate etc.

    P.S. There is a near-100 hp engine in this class, in the base Jetta: 115 hp. But it doesn't get anything close to 50 mpg. I don't think 100 hp engines are the magic answer to better fuel economy, except maybe in very small cars. If we were interested in maximum fuel economy, we'd have small, light cars with 6-speed sticks and diesel engines. Guess how many of THOSE would sell in the USA? :P
  • lilengineerboylilengineerboy Posts: 4,116
    Backy,
    I think you are making a point that defines what I was trying to say. Any of these vehicles is going to get you to work and back, safely and reliably. I also think that they would be fine for a small family. Fuel economy, for the most part, seems to be within 10% of each other. It comes down to what is important to the individual. Any of these will do just about anything one *needs* them to do, but some people will *want* one more than another.
  • m6userm6user Posts: 2,897
    Check out cars.com on Monday. They have been doing a comparison test of some compacts and I think they focused somewhat on real world MPG. Don't know if it will fit your criteria but it's worth a look.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,628
    Cool, thanks for the tip!
  • tenpin288tenpin288 Posts: 804
    edited June 2011
    I think this is the story Backy is referring to...

    Cars.com test

    also in USA Today
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,628
    That's kinda the idea, but it wasn't clear that the drivers were doing anything special to get highest possible fuel economy out of the cars. But it looked like a more realistic test than what the auto mags usually do--real-world stop-and-go traffic, suburban traffic, and freeway traffic. Also they were looking at the cars overall vs. focusing on just one attribute such as handling or acceleration.
  • dodgeman07dodgeman07 Posts: 573
    edited June 2011
    I'm amazed that these "tests" rely on a vehicles trip computer to report mileage. I realize these handy devices are far more accurate than they were in the past, but I prefer filling the fuel tank to a known level, driving XXX number of miles and re-filling to the previous known level then calculating the actual mileage achieved.

    Another note of interest was the statement in the 2012 Focus and Civic have been available since last September........."The combined average transaction price — including all options, discounts, rebates and shipping, but not taxes and license fees — for Elantras, Civics, Fortes, Focuses and Cruzes that dealers sold in May was $19,843, up about $1,500 just since September, the first month that all five shootout cars were available." After reading that line I tossed this article aside. Trip computer for fuel economy and clueless as to availability? Come on guys. Read more here if you missed this one:

    Cars.com/USA Today
  • m6userm6user Posts: 2,897
    While I agree that your method is the best, you just can't do it in a limited mileage test. How would you drive 160 miles or so in each car and then refill with any kind of accuracy. They were probably limited by time, money and car availability precluding them from doing that.

    As far as the clueless to availability. All five cars were selling in September but not the 2012 models in some cases. I think they were talking about compact cars in general going up in average transaction price. I think they just crunched the numbers and mistakenly said "all five shootout cars were available". I still found the article interesting.

    Next time you can acquire all five of these cars and run them through several full tanks of gas and average the results. Then report back to us with the absolutely exact mpg numbers.
  • dodgeman07dodgeman07 Posts: 573
    edited June 2011
    "Next time you can acquire all five of these cars and run them through several full tanks of gas and average the results. Then report back to us with the absolutely exact mpg numbers."

    That's not my job. That's their job and they missed the boat completely. The entire test is predicated on fuel economy and they use a trip computer for the evaluation? Trip computers can be inaccurate by several mpg and voids the entire test.

    Next point: The Focus and Civic have been available for years, as has the Elantra. They were not referencing "compact cars in general". They explictly stated, "...the first month that all five shootout cars were available". Two were not available last September. These are completely new models for 2012. The 2012 Civic and 2012 Focus were not available last September and that was the point.
  • mz6greyghostmz6greyghost Posts: 1,230
    That's not my job. That's their job and they missed the boat completely. The entire test is predicated on fuel economy and they use a trip computer for the evaluation? Trip computers can be inaccurate by several mpg and voids the entire test.

    I totally agree with this point. Trip computers have gotten better, but even now, some of them can still be 2-3 MPG off. Unless there's a meter straight off the fuel pump, reading the exact amount of fuel used, I'd rather crunch the numbers myself, just to be sure they're accurate.

    Who's to say that a manufacturer does or does not purposely inflate their trip computer numbers, just to make it "look better" during testing?
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,628
    You know, it could have been a simple error in sentence construction. They might have been trying to say that May 2012 was the first month all of the cars were available, but messed it up. I see that kind of mistake in print all the time, and I think it's more likely that was the problem here vs. these folks not knowing that, for example, the 2012 Civic just became available a few weeks ago.
  • m6userm6user Posts: 2,897
    The entire test is predicated on fuel economy

    No, it was not. If you had read the article instead of getting incensed that they didn't follow your method of determing MPG you would see that the ratings were based on 5 or 6 major factors......not entire test on fuel economy. Exaggeration is fun but please.

    I know what they said and I explained that it was a mistake to explicitly state that the exact shootout cars were for sale back then. I still believe they were making a general comment about how compact cars as a class are selling for more per transaction with the current gas prices. They shouldn't have worded it as they did but the point IMO is valid.

    You know, every mag and blog review, test etc. out there makes a mistake sometimes. I could say "Ahah, they misspoke here so everything else they write is complete hogwash". I wouldn't be reading too many auto articles then. Even the car manufacturers publish wrong info on their websites sometimes and have to correct it. Nobody's perfect.....or are they?
  • m6userm6user Posts: 2,897
    I totally agree with this point. Trip computers have gotten better, but even now, some of them can still be 2-3 MPG off. Unless there's a meter straight off the fuel pump, reading the exact amount of fuel used, I'd rather crunch the numbers myself, just to be sure they're accurate.

    Who's to say that a manufacturer does or does not purposely inflate their trip computer numbers, just to make it "look better" during testing?


    They stated that the numbers they reported were from the trip computers. Didn't seem to me that they were trying to fool anybody. I think most of us here at least know that the computers can be off a little so they are giving a general idea on comparably mpg. My gosh, if they were trying to be exact do you not think they aren't smart enough to figure out what you're suggesting? They only drove the cars for 160 miles or so for the mpg test. Do you think if they were trying to determine the absolute exact MPG numbers they wouldn't have tested a little more thoroughly?

    Conspiracy theory??? Oh, yeah, I'm sure they would love to be caught doing that. Plus, if you adjusted enough to materially affect the MPG(big if), wouldn't it reflect in other aspects of the drive like acceleration or possibly shift points thus lowering the score for that aspect. Remember, this was absolutely not a test for just best MPG which I think people are forgetting.
  • dodgeman07dodgeman07 Posts: 573
    Gotcha - it's based 70% on subjective opinions. That makes sense too. :P

    The title of the article is regarding fuel economy and price. They blew it and the entire test is a joke.

    I've spent over 20 years as a manufacturing engineer, much of automotive, and understand yellow journalism. This article was just that.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,628
    What car reviews are NOT based mostly on subjective opinions? :confuse:
  • dodgeman07dodgeman07 Posts: 573
    Many reviews are based on primarily on quantifiable and objective data as they should be. Things like weight, skidpad results, fuel economy, acceleration, braking results, dBa interior sound level, engine horsepower & torque, RPM/MPH, gearing, power to weight, CO2 emissions, price, warranty, fuel requirements, airbags, cost, tire/wheel size, suspension architecture, valvetrain, and about 50 other things.

    I made a simple point about USAToday/cars.com joke of an article. It's titled "...high-mileage cars..." and they use trip computers over 160 miles to determine mileage. I collect, interpret, and analyze data for a living. I made a point about this article, that is all. James Healey at USAToday is not a good source of information for me. Everyone gets to pick and choose.
  • tlongtlong CaliforniaPosts: 4,701
    Many reviews are based on primarily on quantifiable and objective data as they should be. Things like weight, skidpad results, fuel economy, acceleration, braking results, dBa interior sound level, engine horsepower & torque, RPM/MPH, gearing, power to weight, CO2 emissions, price, warranty, fuel requirements, airbags, cost, tire/wheel size, suspension architecture, valvetrain, and about 50 other things.

    Didn't GM have teams of financial analysts who would analyze every new vehicle, figuring out where they could cut costs, while making sure the vehicles met specs? And didn't that cheapening cause a mass flock to other makes?

    Just saying that objective specifications are not everything, or maybe even the most important thing. I'm sure Audi's sumptuous interiors are not measured in the specs. Just because something is hard to measure doesn't mean it isn't important, and vice-versa.
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