Jeremy and Michael: I read your column hoping that some day you will deal with my issue – which is I don’t want to spend a lot of money on a car that is going to depreciate to nothing. That being said, I have a 2003 Ford Focus ZTS and it is just shy of 200,000 km. I like that it has leather seats. Think big, hairy, bearded collie and six-year-old child. Boy, those seats are worth their weight in gold.
What I don’t like is that the paint is chipping; seems the previous owner drove it on gravel roads. The piece under the door is rusting, too. I checked the value of the car – $3,000 – so, I don’t want to spend much money on it.
I want another car that meets my requirements. My in-laws are in their 90s and thus access to the seats is an issue. Buying something high off the ground is worse (an SUV?), as mobility is an issue. So mobility is likely to be a deciding factor. – Pat in Kitchener, Ont.
Vaughan: What a tale of woe.
Pat, dump the car now. Many things can be repaired but rust cannot.
And, as you didn’t tell us what cars you’re considering, why not start with the one that has given nearly 10 years of service. Go drive the new Focus. You’ll be knocked out by the improvements. Drives beautifully, roomy in the back and you can get a hatchback version for the dog. And talk about great seats. The new Focus has them.
Cato: Yes, Ford nailed the driving part here; best in class, no question. That old 2003 ZTS feels like a tractor in comparison. And the seats here are first rate – well padded and in all the right places.
But I see two problems for Pat. First, Ford of Canada has priced the hatchback version at $19,599 to start. You read that correctly: 20 large for a compact runabout with a hatch at the rear.
It’s clear to me that Pat watches pennies like you, Vaughan, so Ford may have priced the Focus right out of Pat’s wheelhouse.
On top of that, the Focus is tight for legroom in back. A Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Mazda3 each has three more inches of rear legroom, while the 2013 Nissan Sentra has four.
Vaughan: If not the Focus, Pat should next walk across the road from the Ford dealer to the Chevrolet store and check out the Chevy Cruze. Lousy spelling but an excellent compact car. It is easy to get in and out of, it’s comfortable, quiet to drive and gets great fuel economy.
I took one on a long road trip and found it satisfactory, especially in view of the price – $14,995 to start.
Cato: The Cruze is solid and I like the big doors – good for entry and exit.
Funny, the back seat looks and feels roomy and the numbers say the Chevy beats the Ford by two inches. But all the cars above, along with the Jetta – which has a HUGE back seat – best the Cruze on rear legroom by an inch or more.
As for the Jetta, roominess is a strong point, seat support is not. If you want good German seats, you want the more expensive Golf.
Another option is the Kia Forte five-door – $16,795 to start, and then you need to start negotiating the discounts.
Vaughan: Well it’s on the dull side for sure, but as you’re not planning to spend much dough, this one is definitely worth a look. There’s a new one coming and you can be absolutely sure that it will be a whole bunch more sexy-looking.
But what the heck? You’re coming out of an ’03 Focus. Negotiate hard and if you don’t get a rock bottom price – as Cato is suggesting – tell them you’re going to the Hyundai dealer for a five-door Elantra GT and then they’ll cut the price some more.
Cato: That’s the way to play this game. Line up a couple of acceptable rides, then bounce one off the other, going dealer to dealer.
I do want to talk about seats, though. The Kia and the Hyundai do not have the most comfortable, most supportive seats in the world.
Vaughan, we’ve been talking about small cars with hinged doors – and ignoring the obvious limits on entry and exit. I want to shift gears. Shocking, I know. Look, my No. 1 recommendation is the Mazda5 minivan.
Vaughan: Mazda calls it a wagon and the base price is $21,950.
Cato: Minus discounts. Think about it: the 5 delivers everything Pat wants for the kid, the collie and the aging in-laws – in a smallish but flexible package. And sliding side doors cannot be beat for ease of entry and exit.
Vaughan: The question is, will a minivan put some joy back into Pat’s woeful life?
HOW THEY COMPARE
2013 Ford Focus SE hatchback
2013 Chevrolet Cruze LS
2012 Mazda5 GS
Track, front (mm)
|front-wheel drive||front-wheel drive|
Curb weight (kg)
Fuel economy (litres/100 km)
7.8 city/5.5 highway
8.2 city/5.4 highway
9.7 city/6.8 highway
Base price (MSRP)
Source: car manufacturers
Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.