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Low End Sedans (under $16k)



  • I don't think its either 9/11 or any real or perceived popularity of Hyundai/Kia, but rather that the cars being updated were simply extremely long in the tooth (Cavalier, Saturn S) or simply at the end of their NORMAL 4 or 5 year life cycles (Corolla, Civic, Accent, etc).

    Nothing going on other than $$$$. The pitiful Cavalier (1982 platform) is no longer even getting rental fleet sales, so an update was essential, and the Saturn S at a decade newer (1991) is almost as long in the tooth.

    The old Focus, Corolla and Civic were totally competitive, however those companies are quite religious in their upodate cycles.

    The Accent and Rio had been around a while too, the current versions really just "face lifts" on mid 1990's models (the Rio is the same pplatform as the Kia Avella, aka Ford Aspire of 1994).
  • shriqueshrique Posts: 338
    to be honest I think it's just a continuation of the whole "Fast and the Furious" craze. People just aren't tolerating a poor handling, rattling small sedans like they were in the past. Obviously these cars are still available on the low low end but Cars like the Civic and Protege Impreza WRX etc are getting more power and tight suspensions. I think people are also looking at the cars in a different light. You don't have to sacrifice fun just to have a small sedan or HB. Some of them may not have huge HP but but they are fun to drive.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    Good points, but your dates are a little off...

    * The current Cavalier/Sunfire platform debuted in the fall of '94 as a '95 model, and was a full redesign of the original '82 platform. The update for '03 is the first significant one since the '95 model.

    * The original Saturn S platform debuted in 1990.

    * There was no "old Focus"--there's only been one Focus platform. The tweaks for '03 are minor.

    * The current Accent platform debuted in the fall of '99 as a 2000 model, and was a complete redesign of the '95-'99 Accent. The changes for '03 are a facelift and more power standard.

    * The Rio may share some components with the Aspire, but the body and interior were all-new just a couple of years ago. For '03 the Rio gets styling tweaks and a more powerful engine (I think the same engine as the Accent).

    When was the last time you saw Honda make significant updates to a new design for the next two years following the new design, as they have done with the Civic? I think that shows increased competitiveness in the low-end car space (or maybe just that the redesigned '01 Civic was lacking). Another sign of increased competitiveness: I drove a 2002 Sentra GXE today, and it's already way outclassed IMO by competitors like Corolla, Civic, Elantra, Lancer, Protege, Focus, and Aerio. And it still has two more years to go on the current platform! Note also that Nissan hasn't made any significant changes to the low-end Sentras since the redesign three years ago. They just aren't keeping up.
  • I beg to differ. GM CALLED the Sunfire/Cavalier a totally new platform, but it was the same J-platform with significant updating. This has been done many times before by many car companies, as was the Accent and Rio you also claim as completely new platforms. I can assure you, they are not. I lived in Korea when those cars came out, and know people at Hyundai. Low-end cars tend to get completely new platforms rather seldonme, making due with very comprehensive overhauls of existing platforms. Even the current Buick Century is essentially the same car as the Chevrolet Celebrity of the mid 80s. THe new one is vastly superior in every way (a platform GM has invested real money in), but it is the same platform, which even in the 80s was one of their batter ones.

    The Cavalier was a dreadful car, and while MUCH improved for 95, remained a dreadful car. While the Accent was stretched, widened and up-powered, it was a great little car to begin with, and has remained a great, not quite as little car in its freshenings. The Elantra, in contrast, is a completely new platform.
  • I am in no way defending GM, but the current Buick Century is NOT essentially the same car as a Celebrity. The Celebrity, however was an indirect descendent of the X-car Citation. I know people who worked on these platforms at GM, and there was one new design between the lamentable Celebrity and the lamentable Century.
  • lngtonge18lngtonge18 Posts: 2,228
    Good review of the Aerio. I think you wrote an informative and fair comparison. I have noticed the same passenger side door buzz at moderate speaker volume with +2 bass on my 03 SX. I need to find a way to fix it because it ruins the sound of certain songs (usually the techno type). Otherwise, I have had no other problems with rattles.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    >>> GM CALLED the Sunfire/Cavalier a totally new platform, but it was the same J-platform with significant updating. <<<

    Whatever. I just know that the '95 Cavafire had an all-new body, all-new interior, and the chassis had at minimum SIGNIFICANT updates based on its on-road performance--there's no comparison between the ride and handling of the '94 and '95 models. If you don't consider that a new platform, that's fine with me. I do agree that the '95 Cavafire remained a dreadful car--not bad looking though, in 2-door trim.

    Now then--what compensation should we demand from GM for lying to us all these years about the "all-new" platform they say they have been selling since late '94? How many millions of cars would be involved? This has got to be worth a <i>lot more than the misstated horsepower ratings for Hyundais. ;-)
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    In the November Car and Driver, the Protege LX outscored the Elantra GLS by one point overall in a comparo of low-end sedans. They topped the Corolla, Civic, Lancer, Aerio, and several others in the under-$16,000 class (very close to the $15k threshhold for this board). It leaves one to wonder what would the results have been if they had tested the 2003 Elantra GT sedan, with better handling (the Pro won mainly based on its handling) and more equipment, and still a price well under $16k.
  • newcar31newcar31 Posts: 3,711
    You can get a Protege ES for less than $16K that has more equipment than the LX and has better handling.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    Since I responded to your similar post in other boards, I'll do it here too. You can get an Elantra GT for around $12,500 that has better handling than the GLS (whether it's better than the Pro ES is a subjective thing) and lots more equipment than the Pro ES. So what is your point?
  • newcar31newcar31 Posts: 3,711
    "It leaves one to wonder what would the results have been if they had tested the 2003 Elantra GT sedan, with better handling (the Pro won mainly based on its handling) and more equipment, and still a price well under $16k."

    My point was that you can get an ES Protege for less than $16K also. What equipment are you talking about? I don't want leather, ABS, or traction control.
  • jimbeaumijimbeaumi Posts: 620
    It appears that backy was following C/D's criteria, and refers to MSRP when he suggests the GT's inclusion in the November test. It will still list for under $16K (unless COMPLETELY loaded), whereas the Protege ES will not.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    Well, if you don't want leather, buy an Elantra GLS and save a couple of thousand bucks. ;-)

    Besides the leather interior, the GT sedan has side airbags, anti-theft alarm, adjustable lumbar support, heated mirrors, and 6 speakers in its stereo, all of which the Pro ES does not have as standard equipment according to All for over $2000 less MSRP.

    And James is correct, I was trying to stick to the rules of C/D's comparo on the pricing. In that test, the Protege LX was the most expensive car tested, at about $16,900. The Elantra stickered at $14,400. So that extra point above the Elantra costs $2500.
  • newcar31newcar31 Posts: 3,711
    Were these automatics? Sheesh, that's a lot for a Protege LX. I bought my 5sp ES for $15,300 and got 0% financing for 48 months. Sounds like a better deal than the LX for $16,900. I think the new ES's have 6 speaker stereos BTW.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    No, you got a discount. I will repeat this point one more time: the prices in the C/D comparo were MSRP. That's why the 5-speed LX was $16,900. That's why the Elantra was a whopping $14,400 in the comparo. The market price for the Elantra would be closer to $12,500, after rebate and discount, plus or minus a few hundred. still shows the ES with a 4-speaker stereo--maybe one of you Pro owners could bring this error to their attention.
  • newcar31newcar31 Posts: 3,711
    Whoa! I know how the reviews work. I know they use MSRP. I know the Elantra is cheaper than the Protege no matter how you look at it. I guess I just didn't even realize that LX Proteges stickered that high. It must have had some options because a 5sp ES stickers for cheaper than that.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    You may have noticed that is planning to release their "Best Cars for 2003" awards in the next month. The low-end category this year is up from $13,000 to $15,000--coincidentally the same limit as for this board. Their price limit is for the base model of a car line, no options, MSRP without destination charge. They have three low-end car categories: sedan, coupe, and wagon.

    So what say we have our own little "Best Low End Cars for 2003" nominations? We can nominate our own "winners", and then compare them to what Edmunds will eventually say. But I recommend we add another category: hatchback. There's actually more hatchbacks in this category than coupes or wagons.

    For example:

    Best Low-End Coupe: Honda Civic
    The best of a nondescript bunch. I don't know enough about the Saturn Ion 4-door coupe to put it over the Civic.

    Best Low-End Sedan: Toyota Corolla
    The most refined car under $15,000, even if I'll never buy one because the driving position is best suited for shorter people. If you don't fit, go for the Elantra or Protege, depending on your driving style.

    Best Low-End Hatchback: Elantra GT
    A great value, but also a fine car in its own right.

    Best Low-End Wagon: Suzuki Aerio SX calls it a wagon--OK, so will I. A close call over the Matrix, but the Aerio wins out because of a better driver's position, more power, and better warranty.
  • protegextwoprotegextwo Posts: 1,265
    Kia Spectra
    Verdict: Why buy used when you can get brand new 80's sophistication?

    Suzuki Aero
    Verdict: Part-time charmer, full-time nonconformist.

    Nissan Sentra
    Verdict: Just the right couch for potatoes needing transist.

    Dodge Neon
    Verdict: No longer cute, no longer crude, Neon settles for the committee approach.

    6th (tie)
    Mitsubishi Lancer
    Verdict: Woderfully flingable machinery packed in an oddly shaped box.

    6th (tie)
    Honda Civic
    Verdict: Something new from Honda...a loser.

    Ford Focus
    Verdict: Lose the front seats, and we'd smile on this car.

    Toyota Corolla
    Verdict: Short-legged drivers will love this car, others will respect it.

    Hyundai Elantra
    Verdict: If you can find a better portfolio of feels and features at this price, buy it.

    Mazda Protegé
    Verdict: A four-door Miata
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    I didn't know the Protegé was a convertible! A person can learn all sorts of things from car magazines. ;-)
  • protegextwoprotegextwo Posts: 1,265
    Backy, CAR and DRIVER rates the 2003 Hyundai Elantra and the 2003 Mazda Protegé top box. I never ever would have.....? Ahh nevermind. :-D

  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    any mag would rate a four-year-old Mazda and a Korean car ahead of the all-new Corolla? Could this be the first sign of the Apocalypse?

    Re "portfolio of feels and features", I think these car mag editors must get some kind of "creative writing" bonus. Maybe they could spend less time coming up with flowery language and more time paying attention to the cars they are reviewing, e.g. failing to notice that the engine on the Corolla has changed since 2002 and is no longer 125 hp.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907's Top Picks are out, and I see they agreed with me on 2 out of 3 categories, the only difference being I picked the Corolla for the best under-$15,000 sedan and they picked the Elantra. I'm not unhappy about that, since I own an Elantra and love it, but IMO the Corolla is just a bit better overall, if you fit in the driver's seat. I'm still surprised they totally ignored the hatchback category in their Top Picks.
  • Instead of speculating what might be the best 2003 low end car out there, let's talk about facts for a second. The fact is that the best mileage car with a gasoline engine is the Echo (with a manual transmission). This according to the government. There are other vehicles that have achieved higher ratings, but those are all either diesels or hybrids.

    Thus the choice is clear, if you want the best mileage in a gasoline powered vehicle, buy the Echo.
  • newcar31newcar31 Posts: 3,711
    So what? Does that make the Echo the best 2003 low end car? IMO, nobody in their right mind would walk into a Toyota dealership and pick the Echo over the new Corolla. There is almost no difference in gas mileage between the two cars. Hmmm...minimal (and I mean MINIMAL) fuel savings, or a better car in every way? The choice is clear.....
  • Buy the ECHO! Just kidding, both cars are good though, if you like the interior of the ECHO.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    >>> Thus the choice is clear, if you want the best mileage in a gasoline powered vehicle, buy the Echo. <<<

    Last time I checked, both the Prius and Civic Hybrid have a fuel filler pipe that accepts gasoline. Does that make them "gasoline powered"? Does that mean they are better cars than the ECHO, because they get better gas mileage?

    I have to agree with newcar31, saying a car is the "best" because it is tops (?) in one category seems like a narrow viewpoint. I could just as easily say that the Aerio has the most horsepower of any low-end car, so that makes it the best low-end car. Or the Protege has the best handling, so of course it is the best low-end car. The Civic has the best shifter, so it's the best car too. And the Spectra has the best... er, ah, hmmm.... warranty, yes, <i>warranty, that's it, so that makes it the best low-end car. No, wait, the Accent, Elantra, and Rio have the same warranty, so they are all the best low-end cars!

    Glad to see you back posting again, Major!
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 Manson, WAPosts: 6,929
    with an unbeatable warranty. This thread just needed a little shot of common sense, that's all. Hey majorthom, where ya been? Been playing a new video game or new-world order Monopoly, eh?

    2011 Kia Soul Sport 5-speed

  • newcar31newcar31 Posts: 3,711
    You can "win" a catagory like that. What if I was to say: "The Protege and Elantra are the best looking low end cars" How do like that?
  • newcar31newcar31 Posts: 3,711
    You CAN'T win a catagory like that.
  • 8u6hfd8u6hfd Posts: 1,391
    Car and Driver beat the Corolla, because it has the sportiest handling of the bunch, something there greatly prefer. The Corolla was the hot-rod of the bunch, but its ride is more tuned for comfort and handling.
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