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Low End Sedans (under $16k)



  • kmagkmag Posts: 98
    I would ask, What do you get in a "certified" late model, inexpensive used car as opposed to a non-certified car?

    Any used car should be inspected by the dealer and worn tires or brakes should be replaced, or at least noted. Most used cars I have looked at have come with an inspection sheet telling me the % wear on the tires and brake pads. The Cavalier my wife bought last year was certified, but we didnt even get the sheet listing what was inspected. I wasnt on top of this purchase as I normally am or I would have asked for it. Also we had to pay extra to have the mfg warranty extended to 50K.

    Maybe on a 26K Cadillac there is more margin for the dealer to install new tires and bump up the warranty. Remember this is a discussion of low end sedans and the profit margins are probably much slimmer. I wouldn't normally consider a one year old car with 30K miles, but if I did I might wonder about the need to replace the original Michelins so soon.
  • alpha01alpha01 Posts: 4,747
    Despite the fact that you've failed to answer my question, I'll answer yours:

    Even with a carfax, you still dont know how the previous owner treated the car. With a manufacturer's certified used program, you have basically an insurance policy of a very attractive extended warranty (some more than others- Honda's is particularly outstanding given the cars very mediocre new warranty, for example), and the manufacturer's certification that the car was in great shape to begin with- having passed a thorough inspection. The mfr. isnt going to certify a car that it feels is substantially likely to need repairs, after all. Additionally, many certified used programs offer roadside support for the life of the warranty, and I belive that most are transferrable to subsequent owners, easing any further resale.

    To me, a 3 year certified used car (under a good program) with a clean carfax is just as safe as buying a new car, and backy's plan to get a certified used BMW sounds like a great one, especially given the so-so repair record of the make.

    Im not saying its perfect for everyone, but to me- it seems the SAFEST way to save a bunch of cash vs. buying new.

  • dispencer1dispencer1 Posts: 489
    I agree totally. It is important to check out the "certified" cars though. A NM dealer (who has the reputation of simply washing a car that comes from the auction and sticking it on the lot) was selling a "certified" 2000 Park Avenue for a normal price (cars can be certified if they have less than 60k miles). This one had as I recall around 48k on it. The power seat didn't work, the engine ticked when idling, it felt like every bolt in the car has been turned a half turn back - car rattled and felt like the struts were shot. It was, however, "certified" but unlike the Cadillac had a super generous 3 month 3k extended warranty. I bought my Cadillac in Ft. Worth, 400 miles away. I certainly wouldn't care if a GM (non-Cadillac) car was certified since the warranty is so lousy but Honda, Toyota, and most of the other manufacturers have great extended warranties for "certified" cars. It just pays to check out any used car and not jump to any conclusions by the fact that it is "certified". I think the program for Cadillac and the other manufacturers is great. I like extended warranties anyway and here is a chance to get one without haggling over the price of it. As for ex-rental cars most of the year old used cars on a dealer's lot recardless of size ARE rental cars. A CARFAX check will verify that.
  • lngtonge18lngtonge18 Posts: 2,228
    I'll put my 2 cents in on how I rate these sub 15k cars. I will be taking into consideration opinion on design.

    15. Dodge Neon - loud unrefined engine, ultra cheap looking interior, no power rear windows, not very comfortable though roomy, unfinished look to the rear, poor rear visibility. in desperate need of a redesign.

    14. Saturn Ion - can't stand the styling inside and out. seats are uncomfortable and the car isn't as roomy as it should be. acceleration is also a disappointment with the auto. expensive when features are added. Ride is good; handling, engine, and mileage are competent.

    13. Kia Rio - good cheap basic transportation with great warranty. comfortable driver's seat. doors are tinny sounding, small back seat, low fuel economy, not much style, adequate acceleration though loud when pushed. standard 14" tires.

    12. Toyota Echo - Much better looking on the outside then previously but still a tad odd. Don't like the interior style, the fabrics are cheap, door sounds too tinny to be a Toyota. spunky engine with great fuel economy. poor stability on the highway.

    11. Suzuki Aerio - funky looks on the sedan. hatch looks much better. room and comfort is top notch. good stereo. good crash test scores though poor bumpers. cheap interior pieces with way too odd styling (about to be fixed for 05). tinny doors that buzz constantly. so-so handling and the ride is a tad too firm. the 145 horse 2.0 feels slower then the 135 horse Elantra and is also a very rough feeling slow to rev engine (haven't driven the 2.3 but I doubt much changed). low mileage. poor paint quality and fit and finish.

    10. Chevy Aveo - great looking inside and out. comfortable. expensive msrp. too short warranty. haven't driven one so not sure how well it drives. fuel economy is competent but low for size. unknown reliability. this car has the potential of moving up the scale.

    9. Suzuki Forenza - attractive styling inside and out. great fit and finish. shimmering paint. great price. good warranty. dismal engine and fuel economy. unknown reliability. put a better engine in it and this car has potential.

    8. Chevy Cavalier - exterior styling still looks good on the coupe after all these years. reasonably roomy with a big car feel. strong engine. cheap though semiattractive and ergonomic interior. uncomfortable front seats. cheap tires squeal at every turn and handling is just ok. low fit and finish and poor crash ratings. solid reliable powertrain. smooth responsive automatic and comfortable ride. competent mileage. big rebates and cheap financing.

    7. Hyundai Accent - great basic transportation. attractive styling. great warranty. comfortable seats. peppy though loud when pushed. better mileage then the Rio but still too low. tires are too small. Comfy ride and adequate handling. solid sound to the doors and relatively quiet on the highway. reasonably roomy considering size. side airbags standard, along with good safety scores. good reliability. rebates.

    6. Honda Civic - roomy, comfortable, great fuel economy and crash test scores, good reliability and resale, better handling then Corolla but a busier ride. buzzy sounding on the highway, low power, low warranty, low feature content, high prices, bland styling.

    5. Ford Focus - great handling, fun to drive, comfortable ride, great power in pzev form, pleasing style inside and out, roomy, competent mileage, good crash ratings, big rebates. uncomfortable driver's seat, questionable reliability, build quality and resale.

    3.(tie) Toyota Corolla - roomy, comfortable seats and ride, great mileage power and crash scores, good resale and reliability, attractive mini-Lexus interior style, better warranty then Honda. funky driving position, loud engine, subpar handling, bland exterior, expensive and low feature content.

    3.(tie) Mitsubishi Lancer - roomy, good looking inside and out, comfortable yet composed ride, good handling, good reliability, solid expensive sounding thunk to doors and excellent fit and finish, quiet at idle and on highway, good crash ratings, rebates. low resale, buzzy sound quality when floored, not the best mileage, a few cheap interior pieces, driver's seat a little uncomfortable.

    3.(tie) Mazda3 - sporty, great handling, attractive on the outside, audilike on the inside, neat options, powerful engines. high price, low standard equipment, firm ride.

    1. Hyundai Elantra/Kia Spectra - great duo. awesome price, standard feature list, warranty; good reliability on the Elantra, pleasant styling inside and out, great fit and finish, good power and ride, roomy, comfy seats, competent mileage. mixed crash results, not the best handler.
  • kneisl1kneisl1 Posts: 1,694
    I made the mistake of doing a google search for mini cars and got a snootfull of the cars availible to Europeans. Oh wouldnt a one liter ECHO be nice or better yet the 1.4 liter diesel. EVERYBODY makes diesel engines for their cars...even Jaguar! Its such a shame you cant get a mini here in the US!
  • kmagkmag Posts: 98
    Alpha you said:"With a manufacturer's certified used program, you have basically an insurance policy of a very attractive extended warranty."

    As I pointed out, this was not true for the Cavalier we bought, thats not what I found for most cars I have looked at, and so it is not always the case.

    If there is paperwork that the car is certified by a factory backed program and includes the things you are describing, thats great. But I would expect a higher asking price on a certified car, and if I am buying a car that is still under warranty I would have to judge whether it is worth the extra cost.

    "Certified" means whatever the dealer wants it to mean. It could mean what you are talking about. It could also mean they want to ask a higher price while doing nothing more than the normal inspection-if that. This is the meaning I have seen more often than not.

    Here is a real-life example. Last year my sister purchased a 1999 Toyota 4runner, supposedly a "cerified" vehicle, from a Toyota dealer in Cincinnati. This thing cost 18K, so I was glad that it was ceritified when she told me about it. I thought that would be a good thing since she has normally only bought new cars. Then she found that the dealer had lied, and had told people that used cars were ceritfied and had not actually done anything to certify them. After much complaining and, I believe, threatening legal action, she got the certification along with some no-cost maintenance that was needed. Even so she had to have a brake job this spring and pay for it out of her pocket.

    Im sure that this was a not a typical occurance, so dont flame me for knocking all dealers, but it shows that "certified" can mean anything the dealer says.
  • mazdaman3mazdaman3 Posts: 12
    I would love to have more diesel options here in the US. Great fuel economy and decent power in a small car would be nice. esp. with gas prices going no where but up.
  • alpha01alpha01 Posts: 4,747
    Agreed- certified can mean anything the dealer wants it to. However, its not as hidden as you make it sound. Its more than simple to tell, for example, if a vehicle is manufacturer certified or dealer certified. My primary argument is talking about manufacturer's certifications programs. The picking of vehicles under such programs are not hit or miss. Your experience is just that- whether it was the dealer's fault for not providing materials or your own. On the whole, a manufacturer's certification program, if you are willing to pay a very fair premium for it, is the safest way to go. Most of those programs also provide CarFax Reports, but if not, as long as you've got one, buying used is 99% as good as buying new.

    Brochures are available from the manufactures who provide certification programs, about their certification programs, that detail exactly what should have been done. My guess is that your sisters 4Runner was not mfr. certified, because it would be pretty tough for a dealer to pull off a claim about Toyota's certification process without paperwork presented to her, detailing the checkpoints, car specs, warranty etc. And the saying still holds-"Caveat Emptor".

  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    Great list, you obviously put a lot of thought into it. The biggest surprises for me are the Lancer over the Civic and the relatively high placing of the Accent and Cavalier (and I assume Sunfire)--but that's what is great about this board--the chance to give our opinions on the whole spectrum of low-end sedans.
  • dispencer1dispencer1 Posts: 489
    If a car does not have a manufacturer's certification and if you do not get the documented extended warranty that comes with a manufacturer's certified vehicle it is NOT certified regardless of what a dealer tells you. Cadillac, for one is absolutely serious about its certification program and the warranty that goes with it is the standard GM Protection Plan Bumper to Bumper 100k, 6 year 0 deductible warranty. Most year old Cadillacs ARE certified and the price ( I followed price closely in January because I was shopping for one) didn't really differ much between private owner sales, used car dealer sales, and "certified" new car dealer sales. I wouldn't worry about all the other GM cars including Chevvy. The "certified" warranty is 3 months or 3,000 miles -the absolutely worst "certified" car warranty in the business. I'd prefer to look for a private owner sale, a car from Hertz or Enterprise, or a creampuff at a dealer's regardless of whether it is certified or not. In summary - we are talking about a manufacturer's certified program that includes an extended warranty.
  • mike91326mike91326 SoCalPosts: 251
    The big problem with diesels is they can’t meet emissions in some states, like California and New York, because of our high sulfur fuel (up to 500 PPM). That’s going to change in 2006 when all 50 states will require ULSD of no more than 15 PPM. I was at my local Ford dealer last week and the sales manager told me that they would most likely be selling the Focus diesel in late 2006. He said that the specs on the Focus diesel with a CVT show it getting over 50 MPG. I would give almost anything for a car that got 50 MPG right about now.
  • baber1baber1 Posts: 49
    I read that Hyundai sells the Elantra in Europe with a 2 liter turbo diesel with about 115HP. I wonder what kind of mileage it gets. I wonder if they will export it to the USA or not.
  • mike91326mike91326 SoCalPosts: 251
    If gas prices keep going up I think you will see a lot of turbo diesel cars starting in the fall of 2006.
  • alpha01alpha01 Posts: 4,747
    Next months August issue of CR will have full road tests of the Chevy Aveo, the new Kia Spectra, the Mazda 3, Scion xA and xB, and Suzuki Forenza. Also, there will be a comparison of the advantages/disadvantages of the manual transmission vs. the modern automatic.

    Should prove interesting. CR already had a preview of the Mazda 3 in an earlier issue, and it looks like its poised to take over as the class leader. Formerly, this had been the Ford Focus, after its reliability improved to average, and before that, the Civic.

  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    That will be an interesting issue, but I don't know why CR insists on directly comparing cars in different classes. For example, they compared the Accent to a group of much more expensive and larger compacts and, naturally, the Accent didn't fare well in the comparison. So here they are comparing three compact sedans to three small hatchbacks (if the Aveo they test is a hatchback). The xB isn't that small in volume but small in other ways, including engine displacement. I think it would be more fair to compare the Spectra, Mazda3i, and Forenza and in a separate review compare the Aveo and Scions.
  • alpha01alpha01 Posts: 4,747
    Who knows, we might see the Aveo HB and the Scions addressed more separately. But in the scheme of things, they're all transportation at the lower end of the spectrum, compact models that differ primarily in execution, but that are clearly distinct from the class above vehicles.

    Im not sure why you say the Accent didnt fare well- in that particular issue (March 2003), the Accent acheived the second highest rating of the vehicles tested- just below the Aerio, but well above the Neon, the brand new ION, and the aged Cavalier. In fact, CR cited that the Accent was a good deal, fine basic transportation given its higher score than the more expensive models. If you were to separate out the Accent, you'd be left with a uselessly small category- the Accent, Rio, Aveo sedan, and the on-its-way-out ECHO. EVEN here, in recent posts, said cars have been included by many in their personal overall rankings, so why shouldnt CR do the same?

    About the Scions- my biggest peeve are the tiny engines that are used, which do a good job of offering efficiency, but what seems to be a paucity of power. However, MT, in this months issue, scooted the xA manual to 60 in just 8.8 seconds, which surprised me. Id really like to see a Car and Driver "street start" on an xA 5M, which would give a better idea of what consumers like you and I could achieve in everyday driving.

  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    I was referring to the Accent's overall score in its "group", in which CR places it far down the list. Beating the Neon, ION, and Cavalier is nothing to brag about IMO.

    CR groups cars by type. For example, they compare 4-cylinder family cars together and 6-cylinder family cars together, as in the May issue. I just think they could do a better job separating the very small cars from the compacts that can sell for $5000+ more.
  • glueguyglueguy Posts: 1
    Going to be purchasing a low end sedan for my mother-in-law later this year. I'll be buying it in the Lansing, MI area where she resides. I know that some of the cars in this class list ABS as an option, but which ones are actually available on the lot? When I bought a 97 Sentra for her, I had to go nearly 400 miles out to southern Ohio to find even one. Just wondering if anyone has some information for me. Thanks --Ron
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    The Mazda3i includes ABS in its "safety" package, and I found quite a few cars with that package when I last looked at the 3i in the spring. More Elantras have that option than they used to but it is still pretty rare in my area. The Focus or Corolla might be other good choices to find ABS.
  • georgia00georgia00 Posts: 27
    If you had to choose between the Lancer, Ion, and Elantra, which would you choose? I am looking at these because of the large rebates. I know that Ford Focus has a $3,000 rebate, but am afraid of all the problems I have read about it.

    Also, is Mitsubishi the only one of these who does not support the Lemon Law?

  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    Personally I'd go with the Elantra (and did!). The Lancer IMO is not a better car than the Elantra, is not any less expensive, and Mitsubishi has some very serious problems right now financially and legally (lawsuits in Japan re liability for some deaths of drivers of their trucks). The ION has some good points (rustproof body panels, good ride and handling) but is not a satisfying overall package for me. I encourage you to look at the Focus. Its reliability has improved a lot since its early years, and it is has one of the best combinations of ride and handling of any small car. Personally I like the Elantra better due to its comfortable seating position, value, and warranty, but I think the Focus is worth looking at. You should also look at the "all new" 2004 Spectra (not to be confused with the "old" 2004 Spectra). It's a very nice car, built on the Elantra platform, has great safety features (side airbags and curtains, 4-wheel disc brakes), and is priced competitively with the other cars you are looking at.
  • georgia00georgia00 Posts: 27
    Actually, I went back to read abou the Focus SE and only read two negative ratings 1.4 and 4.6. Someone said they had problems with car from day #1. But that could happen with any car even Toyota. The $3,000 rebate is very attractive. I am going to research the Focus some more on other websites.

    I will keep checking here too to see what anyone else has to say in response to my question. Thanks.
  • badgerfanbadgerfan Posts: 1,565
    Lemon laws have nothing to do with whether a particular manufacturer (Mitsubishi in your case) "supports" them or not. They are specific laws enacted by individual states, and any manufacturer who sells in that state has to abide by the rules of the particular lemon law of that state if it is invoked. Each state's lemon laws can vary somewhat, and I am not sure even that every state has a lemon law.

    That being said, I would stay away from Mitsubishi as at this point it is questionable whether they will stay in business. They have some real problems.

    Focus has the advantage at this point of quite a few years production and a lot of attention to correcting initial defects. I wouldn't hesitate to consider one if I was in the market.
  • georgia00georgia00 Posts: 27
    I see the Focus rebate expires June 30. There are still a few of them around. So, as long as I can find one, will the dealers give me a rebate?
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    They will if you buy before July 1! 8-) Actually, it's unlikely Ford will get rid of the Focus rebate entirely on July 1. There is always a chance it could go down, but it could increase too as the year-end closeout approaches. As Dirty Harry once said, "How lucky do you feel?"
  • alpha01alpha01 Posts: 4,747
    I think the easy choice is the Elantra- its simply the most car for the money. Side airbags are a big plus, as is the gutsy, if somewhat thirsty, motor. IMO, it rides well, is roomy, slick looking, and has a great warranty to boot.

    The rebate on the Focus is most likely on leftover 2004s. The 2005s are out, and are not as heavily discounted. If youre really strongly in favor of that car, you might want to act sooner than later.

  • jprybajpryba Posts: 201
    I have an 02 Elantra, and I've had some experience dealing with the infamous steering wheel shimmy at highway speeds. (Balancing and a rotation have fixed part of it, but I'm still thinking about dumping the car, especially if a new set of tires doesn't fix the problem.)

    I was wondering if any of the other low end sedans discussed here have the same steering wheel shimmy issue. I'm going to guess the answer is no for some (or most) of them. So, what is it about the Elantra that makes it more sensitive to this than the competition?

    I hope Hyundai fixes this for the 06 Elantra -- and I also hope that the new Spectra (based on the Elantra) doesn't have the issue either.
  • georgia00georgia00 Posts: 27
    Do any of the Ford Focus 04 models have back seat headrests? I test drove a Focus SE yesterday and was surprised to see it did not have back headrests. The engine is not that peppy but okay.

    Is it true that Ford cars take a long time to warm up or they will not perform? I read on another board where one owner commented on that.
  • georgia00georgia00 Posts: 27
    I am still thinking about a Mitsubishi Lancer. What happens if you buy a car and the company goes out of business? Is the warranty not honored, etc. I see you mentioned that Mitsubishi is experiencing problems.
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