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Low End Sedans (under $16k)



  • Good point backy!

  • Get ready for a long post as I will attempt to answer questions and make comments in regards to the five posts done after I posted my most recent post.

    The Focus that Consumer Reports used for the accident avoidance test was the top of the line ZTS with an automatic transmission. More on the other cars in that test a little later.

    On the other hand, the Focus that AutoWeek used for the slalom was a ZX3 with the optional 130hp engine and a five speed manual transmission.

    In fact, all the cars I listed for the AutoWeek slalom were manual transmission cars.

    Now, back to Consumer Reports. Here is the rundown of the cars again, but this time I will indicate whether or not they were manual or automatic transmission.

    Toyota Echo - manual
    Chevrolet Cavalier - automatic
    Daewoo Nubira - automatic
    Dodge Neon - automatic
    Ford Focus - automatic
    Honda Civic - automatic
    Hyundai Elantra - automatic
    Kia Spectra - automatic
    Mazda Protege - automatic
    Nissan Sentra - automatic
    Saturn S-Series - automatic
    Toyota Corolla - automatic

    The other car, Subaru WRX, I mentioned in my accident avoidance post was a manual. This begs a question. Will a manual transmission or an automatic transmission lend itself better to achieving high(er) speeds in the accident avoidance maneuver? Same question in regards to the slalom.

    And Backy, you seem to imply that Edmunds was not complaining about the Echo's handling. Go read the review for the 2002 Echo. They say, "handling is not the Echo's forte." I think I have shown that the Echo handles comparatively well.

    Edmunds does complain about crosswinds, but I do not find what they say to be true. I am not in the same state as them, but my state does have some really, really blustery days and I have never felt unsafe in my Echo due to the winds. I have never felt that I was being buffeted more than with any other small car I have driven. And I have driven a lot of small cars.

    And anyway there are others who do not share your view that slalom tests are less an indication of stability than handling. But wouldn't you agree that an unstable car would not handle well?

    You are right that larger tires would cause a decrease in fuel economy. The car handles fine to me so I know I won't be changing wheels or tires. FWIW, I have steel wheels and not alloy.

    In regards to the AutoWeek test, my point is that the Echo (supposedly this terribly unstable car) didn't do too bad.

    And I do not find my Echo boring to drive or boring to look at. I had to go to my mother's the other night and it is about eighty miles one way. A very fun, comfortable trip.

    Sorry for the long post. Hope it answered all the questions. If not, post any more questions you have and I will try to answer them.
  • I brought up the point about tires hobbling the Echo because one of my sources made that mention and I thought it was germane to the subject.

    And changing to larger tires is a relatively cheap fix if you want better handling as compared to doing engine modifications if you want faster acceleration.

    And if you spend enough money, you can end up with a modified Focus that will hang with a Corvette. I believe Car And Driver had an article about this last item.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,906
    FYI, the 130 hp engine is standard in the Focus ZX3.

    I have never driven a car in CR's accident avoidance manuever (obviously), but I wonder if there is any shifting involved? If not, I think it's possible the manual shift car would have a slight advantage, due to lower weight (less inertia to overcome on directional changes) and maybe a little better engine control (no "slush box" in the way). I don't see any reason why a manual shift car would be at a disadvantage, unless there is some significant shifting involved, meaning the car is changing speeds a lot. From what I've seen of films of these types of maneuvers, the cars did not seem to be changing speeds much through the cones.

    Major, please re-read my comment on stability. I was merely stating my opinion on what I consider to be stability. I did not say that did not complain about the ECHO's handling. And of course other people are entitled to disagree with my opinion. Otherwise these would be boring forums, if everyone always agreed, right?

    BTW, my comment about boring cars was a general one, in response to CJ's post, not directed at any particular car model. In fact, with its unique styling, I think the ECHO is one of the least boring cars (at least visually) out there.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,906
    Thanks to the good people at Hertz at O'Hare Airport, I had the chance to take a brand new (15 miles) '02 Elantra GLS automatic, with moonroof and 6-speaker CD stereo, on an extended drive around the Chicago suburbs this week. It was interesting comparing the car to my '01 GLS 5-speed. Fortunately, the weather cooperated with some warm (for November) sunny days so I was able to make use of the moonroof.

    The car was of course familiar--the same comfortable 6-way driver's seat (in the same beautiful "puke brown" fabric), the same solid structure, the same simple but clear instruments and smooth switchgear. But the automatic impressed me by being even quieter than my GLS. I think most of that was due to the revs being about 10% less than the 5-speed's, e.g. 2250 at 60 vs. 2500. The engine note seemed more muted at all speeds, making the car seem even more refined.

    As expected, the automatic took away some of the power, but it was not as bad as I expected, and the car was peppy for a slushbox. The shifts were smooth, although once when driving at low speed I detected a bit of "hunting". The shift indicator on the instrument cluster was a nice touch for a low-end car. I came away thinking that I could learn to live with the automatic in the Elantra, especially if I had to regularly drive in Chicago rush-hour traffic.

    I was really impressed by the noise isolation. Even at 80 (er, I had to get past a truck), the car was quiet, with just a bit of wind noise at the A-pillars. And it was pulling just 3000 rpms at 80 and wasn't even breathing hard. (Note that this is one reason I would never buy a rental car--people who drive 80 mph on a brand-new engine.)

    The stereo upgrade was a definite improvement over the base stereo in my car. I didn't try the CD, but the radio had plenty of volume without distortion and good tone, not thunderous bass of course but that's why they sell subwoofers if you really need one. I don't; I want to keep my hearing as long as possible.

    The moonroof worked fine, with little wind noise and no rattles. I wouldn't mind having one of those. Next car maybe. There was about 3" of headroom for me, and I am 5-10.

    There were only a few small changes that I noticed from the '01 model. First, they put the rear seat slide-out cupholder in! (Scratch one item off my wish-list. I heard some later '01 models got that too.) Second, the little buttons that indicate the child seat latch locations are seat-color (tan), instead of orange as on my car. Third, they added some indentations into the spare-tire cover, I suppose for added strength.

    There was no "Korean new car smell", just the usual new car smell. Maybe by the time Hertz got the car, the preservative had faded away. But I noticed the burning smell that Major reported on the Spectra, a couple of times when stopped. My theory is that preservative or undercoating got sprayed onto the exhaust system. My Elantra had the same smell but it went away in a week or two.

    I noticed no squeaks, rattles, or other defects. I couldn't check the paint (cranberry) very well because Hertz didn't do a great wash job, but it looked smooth and glossy on the clean parts, with no orange peel. There was no shimmy from the Michelins.

    When I rent from Hertz, I ask for a compact since that's the size of car I like to drive in city traffic and it saves my company a few bucks. Hertz's choices, at least in Chicago, are the Escort SE, Focus SE, Corolla LE, Protege LX, and Elantra GLS (and maybe an occasional Neon or Sentra). I always ask for an Elantra because I think it is superior to all the other choices. I don't get one very often because they don't stock many, so this week's rental was a nice surprise.

    Footnote: I drove up behind a stopped car early this morning and said to myself, "Oh, a new Camry." I thought sure it was a Camry until I got closer and saw the Kia badge on the trunk lid. It was a Spectra. These car makers have GOT to come up with some new tailight designs--it's getting hard to tell one from the other!
  • There is a reason why Hyundai sales were up 95% last month. They are good cars.
  • You don't think that the much touted 10 year (power train) warranty had anything to do with it? You don't think the fact that many (all?) Hyundais are cheaper than comparable vehicles had anything to do with it?

    Do you really think the only reason (as your post implies) is that Hyundai makes good cars?
  • Backy, I just want you to know that I don't always disagree with what you say. I just disagree when you are wrong and you are only wrong when you disagree with me. ; )
  • fangio2fangio2 Posts: 214
    Less money,more warranty,more standard features, of course,those are reasons for buying Hyundais-good reasons.Saving money is what "lower end"cars are about.Hyundai and Kia both offer the savings of low priced cars and the features associated with higher end cars.The Daewoo Leganza is a good example of this(could not resist the opportunity for a plug-sorry)
    The question to ask is why buy something else?
  • Just got done putting gas in my tank.

    I had gone 441.30 miles and put 9.892 gallons in the tank which means I got 44.61 miles to the gallon.

    That and the price of gas being 99.9 cents a gallon makes the cheapskate in me very happy.
  • 99.9 in Kansas City? Not too bad considering all the press that went to high gas prices in the mid west. I have seen gas as low as 92.9 in "name" stations and 88.9 in "no-name" stations here. Gas mileage is the only complaint I have with my Kia. I only get about 30 in a mixture of hwy and city driving--majority city. I guess if that's my biggest complaint, then things must be okay!
  • I forget how high gas prices got this summer (I am thinking north of $1.80 a gallon), but they did not budge after the events of 9-11 except for a few stations that decided to gouge people. Gas got as high as around $6.00 a gallon the day of the attacks. The owner/operators of the stations were/are in legal trouble.

    Fuel economy was the biggest disappointment I had when I test drove the Kia Spectra and the Kia Rio. I thought it was very bad.
  • fangio2fangio2 Posts: 214
    with your command of so many words.Here are some more words-trust.As in trust in Toyota's reliability for 10 years vs written guarantee for 10 years.SAVINGS on gas mileage Echo 300 gals for 12,000 miles per year-Elantra 400 gals.GEE at a $1.50 per gallon thats $150.00 per year.In only 20 years you will make up the difference in similarily equiped cars.Specific-what areas SPECIFICALLY is the quality of the Echo superior to the Elantra?
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,906
    Let's see... Quality: I'll compare the quality of my Elantra GLS to any other low-end car, any day, in any aspect. Reliability: fewer problems in its first year than any other new car I have owned, including Hondas, Toyotas, Nissans, Mazdas, and Mitsubishis, and no problems of any consequence. Fuel economy: 28-30 mpg city, 40 mpg highway observed from a 2700-pound, 140 hp car. Not bad at all I'd say.

    How about another word: Nausea (what I would get if I had to look at an ECHO in my garage each morning). :P
  • protegextwoprotegextwo Posts: 1,265
    1.)Resale Value-
    2.)Pride of Ownership-
    3.)Dealership Experience-

    If those concerns do not bother you, I think a 2002 Hyundai Elantra GLS is a comfortable, refined sedan at a VERY attractive price. Perhaps, the best choice under $14,000? However, I would stay very far away from the KIA and/or Daewoo products for now. Just my opinion.

  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,906
    Larry, please explain why you believe the owner of an Elantra cannot be proud of his/her car. I have pride of ownership in my Elantra. It's the most satisfying car I have owned, with the exception maybe of my '85 Civic S.

    As for dealers, there are good dealers and bad dealers. This goes for Hyundai dealers as well as Mazda dealers, Toyota dealers, Honda dealers etc.

    And as for resale value, it's interesting you mentioned that. According to, my '01 Elantra GLS has declined in value 12.6% over the past year, comparing my purchase price with dealer prep but not tax to its current value if sold to a private party. Compare that to the average depreciation over the past year of about 15%, which is up a bit from historic levels due to the strong sales of new cars (0% financing and all). Also compare that to what calculates for depreciation for a '01 Protege ES, based on's TMV price, with mats and perimeter alarm, the same miles (7700) and condition (excellent) as my car: 16.8%. So I guess if resale value is an important consideration (which it is not for me, as my Elantra is a long-term car), one should really steer clear of the Protege, maybe stick to cars with proven high resale like the Civic.
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 Manson, WAPosts: 6,920
    wider tires than stock? I'd like to see how one would look with tires about 1/2 again as wide as stock.

    2011 Kia Soul Sport 5-speed

  • mpgmanmpgman Posts: 723
    The proud owner of an Elantra GT with 14,000 plus miles checking in. Resale is indeed a consideration, although Mazda never exactly lead that pack. The key to Hyundai these days is negotiating a great price when you buy. That will soften the extra depreciation a bit, providing that the future is what the past has been. I suspect that Hyundai's improving reputation and build quality will result in better resale, as later models make their way into the "desirable used car" category. I personally spent a lot of time testing the Pro-5 and the GT and for me personally, money aside, the GT won hands down for driver comfort, cargo capacity, and content. But....I would be darn proud to own a Pro-5 too.
  • protegextwoprotegextwo Posts: 1,265
    >"Larry, please explain why you believe the owner of an Elantra cannot be proud of his/her car. I have pride of ownership in my Elantra."<


    I was speaking only of my personal pride in ownership. Some folks really don't consider it an issue to drive a South Korean vehicle. I associate South Korean autos with credit criminals, because that's the target group in Lancaster, PA. The local Hyundai/Kia co-branded dealership markets their vehicles to credit bandits through "screamer Ads" in the local newspaper. Worse yet, the local dealership operates out of a former "Mouse House" building. Yikes!!

  • fangio2fangio2 Posts: 214
    First it was elitist wannebe yuppies in BMWS,NOW financially superior Protege owners?What next?Will the gruopings be further delineated by what tire is on the car?
    It could get really confusing.For instance,should a person who paid cash for an XG300 feel more pride then a Protege owner who finances?
    Will the pecking order be decided on the economic situation in Lancaster?
  • protegextwoprotegextwo Posts: 1,265
    >"It could get really confusing.For instance,should a person who paid cash for an XG300 feel more pride then a Protege owner who finances?
    Will the pecking order be decided on the economic situation in Lancaster?"<

    Well, Fang2, he asked and I answered. My opinion only, as I stated clearly. No need to get your undies in a bunch.

  • protegextwoprotegextwo Posts: 1,265
    >"I think a 2002 Hyundai Elantra GLS is a comfortable, refined sedan at a VERY attractive price. Perhaps, the best choice under $14,000?"<

  • fangio2fangio2 Posts: 214
    verbal wedgie.If one can actually be "proud"of something that anyone with the required amount of money can attain;this pride should not be contingent on the percieved financial status of owners of different products.
    I realize that it was your opinion,just as I hope you understand my response is just my opinion.Some of the "things" I own evoke "feelings too.These feelings include gratefulness and joy,but not pride.
    When I see someone driving an Elantra,I don't think "credit criminal"(are people with "bad" credit criminals-didn't we get rid of debtor's prisons).I think an Elantra owner is a person who enjoys getting the most for his buck.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,906
    Larry, thanks for your positive comments about the Elantra. But I do take issue with your comments about "pride of ownership" and South Korean cars being associated with "credit criminals." You can recant if you wish, but your initial statement about "pride of ownership" was clearly not a personal statement, but rather directed at all readers of this forum, to wit: "If these concerns [pride of ownership etc.] do not bother you..." [italics mine]. You see how easy it is to take your post to mean that owners of Elantra GLSes cannot experience pride of ownership. Is that because they are all "credit criminals"? What is the "issue" you mentioned about driving a South Korean vehicle--especially if one of them is "a comfortable, refined sedan at a VERY attractive price. Perhaps, the best choice under $14,000"?

    I assure you, I am not a credit criminal (actually, I own my '01 Elantra free and clear), and no one I know has made any issue about my driving an Elantra. I did get puzzled looks from a couple of passengers who asked me if the car was an Accord, and I told them, no, it's a Hyundai Elantra. I also assure you that not all Hyundai dealerships are like the one in your town. The Hyundai dealers in my area are all respectable businesses, paired with dealerships for Subarus, Nissans, Dodges, and Mitsubishis. Lately their ads have been touting 0% financing deals--not the kind of thing that would appeal to "credit criminals", right?

    Of course, you are entitled to your opinions, but don't be surprised if those who find your opinions offensive take you to task on them.
  • protegextwoprotegextwo Posts: 1,265
    >"Less money, more warranty, more standard features, of course, those are reasons for buying Hyundais-good reasons. Saving money is what "lower end" cars are about. Hyundai and Kia both offer the savings of low priced cars and the features associated with higher end cars. The Daewoo Leganza is a good example of this(could not resist the opportunity for a plug-sorry)
    The question to ask is why buy something else?"<

    My very simple reply: Re-sale value, pride of ownership, dealer network. I think maybe more people than not, actually think like I do. It IS reflected in the perception of poor Korean build quality, based on Hyundai's earlier reliability issues. Finally, the re-sale/depreciation issue ultimately reflects the general public's opinion of South Korean autos. HOWEVER, "the times they be a changin"! Hyundai's and Kia's are selling pretty well, they seem to have carved out a sizeable niche in the NEW car segment. Hey, good for them, I think thats neat. As I stated, the 2001/2002 Hyundai Elantra is the real deal. At the risk of Backy, impeaching me for recanting, :-) Edmund's long term test of the new Elantra is VERY promising. I think, if Hyundai re-introduced a stylish wagon/hatchback version of the Elantra GLS, it would be a killer with young families and Generation Next types.

    Nonetheless, at the end of the day, It is still my opinion that Honda Civic, Mazda Protege and/or Nissan Sentra offer a better long term value, better reliability, and the features people really want at a very fair price. JUST MY OPINION.

  • I have yet to see an Echo with wide tires.
  • Actually, the difference in price between the MSRP of my Echo and the MSRP of an Elantra with a CD player (which makes it comparably equipped in my mind) is $135.

    I will probably drive 20,000 miles a year plus gasoline around here is $ .999 a gallon so I used these figures in determining the difference in yearly fuel cost between the Echo and the Elantra.

    According to the government site, the Echo will cost $172 a year less to drive than the Elantra. What this means is that the savings in gasoline in ONE year, NOT twenty years, makes up for the Echo being slightly more expensive. And then some.

    And anyway, even if it did take 20 years to make up for the difference in MSRPs, I would rather spend the $172 a year in gas savings on something else.
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