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Economy Sedans (~$16k-$20k)



  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,905
    I got to compare the 2007 Elantra SE head-to-head with the brand-new 2008 Lancer ES today. I drove both back-to-back over exactly the same course. Both cars had automatics (no sticks available), both had tan exteriors and interiors, and both had no options (except the Elantra had floor mats). Even the prices were within a couple hundred dollars of each other.

    I drove the Lancer first. The engine sounded coarse while warming up, but at speed on the highway it was muted up to 75 mph (the fastest I took it). The car felt solid and well-planted on the road, even on a rough side road that I use to test the NVH on cars. Handling was good, although I heard noise from the front suspension when taking a sharp cloverleaf at higher-than-posted speed. I thought the ride was the best thing about the Lancer. The AT muted the car's 152 horses, but it was more than adequate when pushed (I did that only a couple of times) and smooth and quiet on the highway (about 2250 rpm at 70 mph). The main noise on the highway was some wind noise around the A pillars or mirrors, but it was not excessive.

    I was less favorably impressed by the car's interior. The driver's seat had a single height adjustment and the wheel tilts but doesn't telescope, so I was unable to find a just-right position. The wheel is plastic, but with a thick rim so it felt good in my hands and has controls for cruise and audio on the spokes. The gauges were almost retro in style, with large recessed dials and a red LCD display for the trip computer. I briefly checked the stereo and it sounded fine.

    My main gripe about the Lancer is that there is obvious cost cutting in the interior. For example: no telescopic wheel; plastic vs. leather wheel; only one, non-illuminated vanity mirror; simple cutouts for cupholders; single-tier storage in the center armrest; cheap-looking/feeling black plastic HVAC dials, stuck low onto a cheap-looking beige plastic dash panel; no soft surfaces at all on the dash or doors, even for armrests; cheap-looking solid black "carpeting" (which looked out of place in the beige interior); and black plastic door pulls. Some of these are quibbles, but I think it's pretty bad when the interior of a $17.5k car looks and feels cheaper than that of a $12k car (like the Accent).

    There were a few nice details on the Lancer: the alloys looked sharp, there's struts holding up the trunk lid, and there's good legroom and toe space in the back seat (although I wished for more thigh support) and a center armrest to help passengers get comfy.

    Then it was on to the Elantra. The engine sounded coarse like the Lancer's while warming up, but then was silky smooth on the highway. The ride and handling of the two cars was pretty close, with the Elantra feeling a little bouncier over low-speed bumps. But the Elantra took sharp turns without a whimper and with little body lean--a big improvement over the previous-generation Elantra. The Elantra has 14 fewer ponies than the Lancer but is lighter, and I noticed little difference in response during my test runs. The Elantra was quiet on the highway, with the engine turning just a little faster than the Lancer's. There was some wind noise at 70 mph, maybe a little less than on the Lancer. Directional stability was excellent (true for both cars). The Elantra SE seemed to take bumps a little harder than the GLS I rented a few weeks ago, but it's difficult to tell for sure due to the differences in roads and weather.

    The interior of the Elantra has a more luxurious feel than the Lancer. The seat fabric is plusher, the dash and armrests are nicely padded, the wheel and shifter are covered in leather. Little touches like two lighted vanity mirrors, spring-loaded grips in the cupholders, a two-tier storage compartment in the center console, faux aluminum door handles, canted and damped HVAC dials with silver trim that fall easily to hand, and nice-looking carpeting lend a more upscale appearance to the Elantra compared to the Lancer. And the Elantra is more comfortable, with a telescopic wheel that helps in finding the best driving position, and a high back seat cushion that offers good thigh support as well as good leg and toe space for adults. Some obvious cost-cutting moves on Hyundai's part are the regular hinges in the trunk instead of struts and dimpled plastic accent panels on the doors instead of fabric.

    In the end, the Lancer wins points for its buttoned-down ride and slightly more power. Also, some people will undoubtedly like its aggressive styling better than the Elantra's swoopy contours. (Looks-wise, I could live with either one in my driveway.) The Elantra impresses with its quietness, passenger comfort and convenience, and capable ride and handling. Both cars offer a strong complement of safety features, including four-wheel disc brakes with ABS (Lancer DE has rear drums with optional ABS) and lots of airbags--six on the Elantra and seven on the Lancer. Both cars offer long warranties. But what might tip the scale in favor of the Elantra for me (other than the Hyundai loyalty rebate I could get!) is the fuel economy. According to the car's trip computers, the Lancer got 28.0 mpg for my test trip (urban highway and back roads), while the Elantra got 33.5 mpg--nearly 20% better. That is not insignificant with $3.00 a gallon gas looming on the horizon again.
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 KC MetroPosts: 6,874
    indeed, that is one of the '08 Lancer's newest attributes, it handles even rough pavement well. That is a good thing because our little cow town's streets are hideous!

    As for fuel economy, the 28.0 mpg will suit my wife and I well. Also, I appreciated your review of the Lancer's interior. Indeed, this is one area where Mitsubishi gets broiled from people. I gotta tell ya, I rented an '04 Lancer sedan whilst still in college in the fall of 2004. I liked the ride and here's my point: I didn't even notice the interior that people are barfing up furballs over!

    So, in short...this. I think I'm really gonna like this '08 Lancer GTS. Hopefully this week I'll get my test drive in.

    2011 Kia Soul Sport 5-speed

  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,905
    Different strokes for different folks. I know some people couldn't care less about the interior as long as it moves down the road as they like. Maybe the GTS has a spiffier interior than the ES. Bottom line for me is that I couldn't see paying more money, or even the same money, for the Lancer ES compared to the Elantra SE.

    I actually thought the previous Lancer had a pretty decent interior for its class. :surprise:
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 KC MetroPosts: 6,874
    the thing about this 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS is the looks. I love the body design and the GTS has the bodykit and spoiler that is the best usage of bodykit and spoiler I've ever seen. Bar none.

    I thought I'd save money and get an ES or one of the cheaper models but I saw what the GTS offered and need to get one of them.

    More on this later. I did enjoy your review and learned about both cars from it, backy.

    2011 Kia Soul Sport 5-speed

  • sandman46sandman46 Posts: 1,798
    This car is definitely a looker...I went "wow" when I saw some pics of the car. Compared to many of the others in this class, I think it looks the best in sedan trim. Just wish the interior was up to snuff with the rest of the class. But will withhold judgement until I can sit in one. Very impressed with the exterior though. I'd bet that we could all rent one from any of the rental fleets when they hit the streets.

    The Sandman :)
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,905
    Unfortunately, I doubt we'll be able to rent a GTS. More likely a DE, maybe an ES--which don't have the snazzy ground effects and big wheels. But the car looks good in those trims too--has a little bit of a snarl to it. The car I drove was beige. This is one car they really shouldn't even offer in beige. :shades:
  • sandman46sandman46 Posts: 1,798
    This size seems to be the norm now for this size of car. We have 'em on both cars and they handle nicely. Think the ES will be the best seller for this car also.

    The Sandman :)
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 KC MetroPosts: 6,874
    2008 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS rides on P215/45R18 Dunlop's. I read on one website where guys were talking about the '08 Lancer GTS that the 18-inch tires can get worn out faster. If(more like when, although my wife is not privvy to this at this time...uh-oh!!!)I get a '08 Lancer GTS the Dunlop's will be one part of the sedan that I will be watching closely and reporting in to Edmunds about.

    I would venture a guess those tires would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 each.

    "Wearing them out quickly" would not be something in my vocabulary. My '01 Sportage 4x4's OEM Hankook SUV tires lasted me 102,000 miles. I kid you not. And we were not floating all over the road. I finally swapped them out in the summer of '05 for some Toyo SUV tires. The Toyo's have not been as good. One flat and one leaks air.

    That is not the fault of Kia, either. Kia is a manufacturer that I grow more fond of every passing month. The new '07 Kia Optima is a good car IMO.

    2011 Kia Soul Sport 5-speed

  • Kia built the Ford Festiva. I've never owned a car that was still solid at 250k, except for my 1990 Festiva, which still purrs like a kitten and gets 35MPG city.

    When I was looking in the 16-20k range, I looked at all of them, and settled on the 2007 Ford Focus ST. Paid just over $14k,(sticker was over $18k) and looking at what others have paid, that was just a middle of the road price for the car. I probably could have gotten it for $13k.

    Fuel economy is not great, averaging 27, but I'll take that for the flexible power it gives.

    As for 215-45-18s costing about $100, think again. You are probably looking at closer to $200, installed, unless you go with an el-cheapo rim-protector.
  • micro99micro99 Posts: 51
    __"I will be watching closely and reporting in to Edmunds about."

    Please - stop for a moment and think about what you just said ! There are far too many people who do research on a vehicle, find that it either doesn`t have a feature that they would like, or, find that it does have a feature that they do not like {like low profile tires) - but nevertheless buy the car anyways. THEN, they feel obliged to fill these boards with negative reports ,and generally, rate the manufacturer lower because of such features. Does this seem logical or fair to you ?
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 KC MetroPosts: 6,874
    I'm still interested in getting a 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS. The tires are low profile "racing" type tires and those are the ones I want on the car. I'm not even remotely interested in bad-mouthing Mitsubishi...why would I want to do that?

    You got me all wrong from that post, bud. The new Lancer has way, way, way too many positives going for it to even start heading into reverse and spreading propaganda about it. Yikes and spikes and crazy little trogaladykes. :D

    I will call an ace an ace and a spade a spade, though. If the tires start wearing out prematurely I will report it in here. I've always been honest about my rigs on Edmunds. Anyone who has been on Edmunds for any length of time knows that Kia has been given thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars of good, positive advertising about my two Kia's. I have loved both of them and told Edmunds' readers the truth about them.

    2011 Kia Soul Sport 5-speed

  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,905
    Just so you go into this with your eyes wide open... expect that those 18" low-profile, high-performance tires WILL wear out pretty darn fast. That's the tradeoff for their added performance. If you want long-wearing tires, getting a car with high-performance rubber is not the way to do it.
  • Most UHP tires I've owned go about 25-30k, if you drive the car the way it's meant to be driven. With people who baby the car, I've seen them go out to about 40k. Of course, some of the UHPs won't do half that, and some tires, such as the "DOT race" tires may not make 10k.

    Premature wear is a pretty vague term, when it comes to tires. All depends on how the car is driven, and what the tire is designed to do. I consider premature wear to be wear as a result of a bad alignment or worn out parts, that sort of thing.

    My Focus ST came with with Pirelli P6s, which would probably have lasted me 50k. I could not stand the lack of stick though, so I put a set of Goodyear F1 GS-D3s on, which will probably need replacement at 25k, but it will be a fun 25k, instead of a frustrating 50k.
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 KC MetroPosts: 6,874
    I think you hit on it with that last comment..."it will be a fun 25k, instead of a frustrating 50k."

    I am at the point in my life that I can spend a bit more and enjoy a lot more. The Dunlop's on the '08 Lancer GTS may last me 20,000 but I'm guessing, the way I drive, they'll last about 35,000-40,000. But if they wear faster I'll find the best deal available in Tucson and replace them. I realize I drew the comments in on this subject by stating that tire wear will be one primary thing I report on with the Lancer GTS, so any discussion that can come about regarding performance tires is a good thing.

    2011 Kia Soul Sport 5-speed

  • steve333steve333 Posts: 201
    Its still an opinion piece, but its good to get as much info as possible.
    They rated the Cobalt 14th which is absurd, IMO. They rated the Corolla 4th, which I also find absurd. Should have been flipped IMHO.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,905
    The Corolla has a rock-solid record of dependability for many years, a smooth and quiet ride, class-leading fuel economy, a well-finished interior (for an economy car), and decent back-seat room and cargo room. The Cobalt has... well, it has OnStar available and a smooth highway ride. It deserves to be rated near the bottom of the compact class IMO. The Corolla might deserve being lowered a notch or two, depending on one's priorities. But if someone is looking for an economical, reliable, high-quality small car, the Corolla fits that bill nicely--IF the driving position is comfortable, which it isn't for many people. I think the Corolla is outclassed by the Civic, Elantra, Mazda3, and Rabbit. Even the Spectra and Sentra are better in many respects than the Corolla. But the Corolla is an old model, overdue for a redesign. By rights, Chevy should have jumped over the Corolla with the Cobalt, since it's newer. They didn't.
  • steve333steve333 Posts: 201
    In my opinion the Corolla was an awful driving car. Sure, its great to have reliability and good mileage but if you hate getting into the car and drive it, then that all goes down the toilet.
    I guess some people can get comfortable in the Corolla, I just felt like there was no way I could ever drive the thing. The engine was loud and had no power. As for the ride, I don't remember either way because there were no potholes around to test it but I assume it takes bumps better than the Cobalt. Just getting the Corolla on the Freeway was a chore.
    The Cobalt has many flaws and I think I am just not counting them because it doesn't matter to me. I don't put anyone in the back seat for instance. Basically, its me and my Cobalt and for a small inexpensive car its very easy to live with as an everyday car, mainly because of the power. Freeway driving is a snap-quick to get to 60 and very stable. Thats what was most important to me, so i guess it all depends on what you're looking for.

    The main Cobalt faults IMO?:
    1. Mileage is decent but could be a tad better. I average 25.5 MPG mixed driving.
    2. The dash could be a nicer design.
    3. A little too harsh over bumps for my tastes (I like soft rides, which is why I looked at the Corolla first-just was shocked at how much I hated to drive it).
    4. Brakes could be a little more powerful.
    5. Small back seat (doesnt matter to me but does to a lot of folks).
    6. Drivers seat could have some more cushioning but my back never hurts driving it which is a miracle for me.
    7. Steering wheel should be telescoping as well as tilt.
    8. Wndshied wiper switch is retarded. You have to move the switch up and then turn for some things or down and then turn, etc etc. You should just be able to turn the freaking knob without moving the handle.

    Cobalt Good Points:
    1. Power. Acceleration is very good for this class of car.
    2. Steering-linear and pretty smooth for an electric system.
    3. Engine is pretty quiet. Funny how I usually read reviews that say the engine is loud. The Corolla was muh louder than the Cobalt.
    4. Smooth Automatic Transmission-Can barely detect when it shifts.
    5. Good looking design. Matter of opinion but I always get praise about its looks.
    6. AC and Heat work well.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,905
    The Corolla has only one major fault for me: the driving position. It's so uncomfortable there is no way I would buy one. But if the seat fits, it has a lot of plusses--especially considering it's such an old design. There are better small cars, though. I think the reputation for reliability and the fuel economy sells a lot of Corollas. Or some people just don't look at other options.

    The Cobalt has one huge fault for me: the cramped back seat. I sometimes have to carry three people back there, and some over 6'. That's a no-op with the Cobalt. I also think a lot of the interior bits are cheap, the fuel economy as you noted isn't that great for a small car, and the driving position is adequate at best. In short, there's several small cars I like a lot better than the Cobalt. I also don't like the looks of the car that much, especially the rear side window lines. I'd rate the Cobalt only over the Forenza and ION, and the ION won't be around much longer. I am looking forward to its replacement, the Astra.

    But it fits your needs and that is what matters.
  • steve333steve333 Posts: 201
    If you need big backseat than the Cobalt is out, I agree.
    I find the driving position to be good with the seat cranked all the way up heightwise and with the lumbar support almost completely removed. I have the LT which allows for lumbar adjustment otherwise I wouldnt have bought the car. The seats are much more comfortable without the lumbar support.
  • After reading all the reviews, I felt like they did a pretty good job. They gave price the importance that it deserves in this class, and looked at the overall packages.

    I was very suprised at their review of the Focus, only because I agreed with it. Most reviews, these days, fixate on the platform's age and then discount all its good points because the platform is so old.

    I went with a 2007 Focus ST, because it was the best bang for the buck. If I could have gotten a Civic SI for $19k, I'd of given that one a lot more consideration, but all of the dealers I talked to wanted $22k or more, after putting dealer installed garbage on that I did not want. I wound up getting the Focus for only $14k.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,905
    The Focus is a great value, with the rebates. Also a great blend of ride and handling. Downsides for me, which is why I would not buy one, are not-so-good crash test scores (a knock-out item for me; are side curtains even available on the Focus?), boring and cheap-looking interior, cumbersome seat height adjuster, and mediocre fuel economy for the class. I considered it when it was a new design back in 2000, and was very impressed by the ride and handling (just like I was with my '95 Mystake), but when parts started falling off the inside and outside of a brand-new rental car, and when I heard about the mounting recalls, I steered clear. The quality issues seem to have been addressed, but it's still a dated platform that is no longer competitive in terms of safety or interior quality compared to several other small cars. So I don't see a reason to buy one when there are better choices for about the same money. Maybe the refreshed Focus for '08 will be more competitive.
  • I don't really see better choices for the same, out-the-door price. Keep in mind that invoice pricing can be had simply by asking for it, and there is a $2500 rebate.

    I do concentrate more on driving dynamics than anything else, and the Focus simply shines there. I traded in a '99 Miata, to buy the Focus, and the Focus was the closest sedan, in terms of fun-factor, to the Miata. If I had not had to take long trips often, I'd of stuck with the Miata.

    The 2.0 Focus delivers peppy acceleration and gets 37/27MPG. I don't think that's bad, especially when you can get one for $11k.

    The 2.3 only gets 32/22, but the extra power was worth it to me.

    Many people seem to fixate on the seat height adjustment. I've never found it to be a problem and am glad for it, along with the tilt/telescope wheel, in such a basic car. Interior is boring, but that is not something I worry about. I spend my time looking outside the car, not at the inside. I prefer vehicles that help you avoid a wreck, to ones that don't handle well, but do well in crash tests.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,905
    I spend my time looking outside the car, not at the inside.

    So you don't get to drive it much? That's a shame.

    There are several cars with good driving dynamics and good safety. Two that can be had with 4-doors or 5-doors and well-equipped including power package, six airbags, and ABS for under $14k are the Versa S and Elantra GLS. The base Fit will cost a little more than that but has great handling, fuel economy, and utility. Did your Focus for $11k have six airbags, ABS, and power package? Is it a 4/5 door or 3-door?

    I prefer cars that have very good active and passive safety. Fortunately there are several economy cars now that offer both.
  • steve333steve333 Posts: 201
    The Fit does 0-60 in 15 seconds. He says he likes to drive, people who like to drive don't generally get excited by cars that cost 15 grand to go 0-60 in 15.
    The new Elantra from what I have read has a smooth ride but doesnt handle well.
    For the money the Focus has a good balance between handling, acceleration, and mileage.
  • Bingo.

    I like to drive. I occasionaly AutoCross as well, and if a car does not feel like it would be fun to autocross, it's not for me. The Focus ST was the only $14k car that did sub-8 second 0-60s and sub 16-second quarters, while having the sportiest feel of anything in it's price class.

    Even the Mazda3, which is often considered the leader in this class, in regards to handling dynamics and performance, carries 270Lbs more weight than the Focus, and you feel that weight in reduced sharpness and performance. It is certainly more refined than the Focus, but the weight gain was a step backward. Mazda showed that it's possible to improve a car in every way, without a substantial weight gain, with its Miata. It's a shame the 2nd gen Focus could not have gotten that treatment.

    The Fit came close to what I want, but the power simply is not there. If there was a "Fit Si," I'd of given that serious consideration, but that does not exist.

    I'd really like to see an affordable practical RWD compact car with the performance and handling optimization that the Miata has. I'm not holding my breath though.

    My other car is a '96 Impala SS. If they could shrink that down to compact size, cut the weight in half, but keep the power to weight ratio the same, that would be my ideal car. Again, not holding my breath...
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,905
    Maybe you didn't read the same reviews I did on the Elantra; the ones I've read (and my test drives) indicate that it handles very nicely, esp. with the 16" wheels. Not quite as crisp as the Mazda3, but a much smoother ride than the 3 so IMO that is an acceptable trade-off, for someone like me who drives pot-holed and frost-heaved streets every day.

    Have you driven the Elantra? If so, what did you think of the handling?
  • eldainoeldaino Posts: 1,618
    The Fit does 0-60 in 15 seconds

    your not serious right? All the tests i've ever read have said otherwise. Otherwise by about 7 seconds. Dont you think that is a little, uh, extreme? :blush:
  • steve333steve333 Posts: 201
    From what I've been reading GM is developing a small car RWD platform. The next small Pontiac is supposedly going to be using it.
  • steve333steve333 Posts: 201
    I havent driven one but I know what you're talking about with bad streets. I would like the Cobalts ride to be a tad softer, but I think it may be the 16 inch Pirellis that make the ride a little more harsh.
  • steve333steve333 Posts: 201
    The Fit with Automatic does 0-60 in 15, or close to it. The stick is faster.
This discussion has been closed.