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Fun or functional? Twentysomething weighs his options

2014 Ford Fiesta SE


Jeremy and Michael: I am two years out of university looking to buy a car, mainly for city driving. The dilemma I face is deciding between coolness and practicality. By cool, I mean the Altima Coupe, Accord Coupe, Mitsubishi Lancer and Acura TL/TSX. Of these I could only afford the Lancer brand new; the rest would be 3-4 years pre-owned. By practical, I mean the Versa Note, Kia Rondo and VW Jetta. There are awesome zero per cent for 84 month deals right now. But boy, are these cars unexciting. So what do you recommend? I'm looking for a car cheaper than $20,000, one that won't require lots of repairs and is easy to maintain. – James in Toronto

Cato: You know the story. Young people aren't as excited about cars as we baby boomers were at their age. Blame the economy: Teenagers simply can't afford the costs associated with cars.

Vaughan: James gives us a second big clue about why young people don't love cars like boomers, the greatest generation of all. James: "Boy, are these cars unexciting."

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Cato: Now there's a killer cocktail for the car business – economic/employment issues mixed with affordable cars that are a snooze. I almost cried when I read James' letter. Here's a young guy anxious to go racing, yet he's stuck trafficking in a budget wheelhouse filled with dull selections.

Vaughan: A lot of the affordable cars out there are sensible; they are aimed at families who need versatility at a budget price. What's wrong with that?

Cato: Nothing, except sexy cars drive sales. And why have the Detroit car companies become The Grinch that Stole Fun Cars for young people? Before you pipe in, Ford's Mustang and Chevy's Camaro are boomer cars.

Vaughan: Wait, Cato. In our dotage we have forgotten the "Youth Brand." Yes, when you see one on the road it is likely to be driven by a penurious octogenarian. But Scion was created by Toyota to go after our man James. If he doesn't consider it cool, then Toyota has blown a few billion dollars. But in an odd way, it is cool. I'm talking about the boxy Scion xB.

Cato: Sure, if you think cars that look like refrigerators are cool. Maybe James is like you, though. And the xB at $18,600 is affordable, reliable and practical. Personally, I'd steer James to the Scion tC coupe – $21,490 and everything he seems to want in a car.

Vaughan: Our man James is devotedly following our advice, so he shows signs of life for his ilk. His discerning nature might suit him to a racy, yet affordable coupe like the tC. If he wants to tone it down a little bit – because we know how horribly conservative his generation is – he could go for the Honda Civic Coupe. For the dough – $18,645 – it's always been a favourite of mine.

2013 Honda Civic coupe Honda Honda  

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Cato: Agreed. James needs to test a Civic Coupe – 150 horsepower, manual gearbox. As for the others he mentioned, the Altima Coupe is too pricey at almost $30,000, the Jetta is plain, and he should save the Rondo for when he has kids. I might send him for a look at the Kia Soul, but wait for the 2014 version.

Vaughan: Stop. Cato, I've got it. Remember when I came back from the early road test of the Ford Fiesta with the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine? If you don't, I'll remind you. I thought it was fantastic. And to test your memory further, do you happen to recall when I pointed out my enthusiasm for this product to Ford CEO Alan Mulally at some auto show?

Cato: Name dropper. You are talking about the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid car for sale in Canada. It's coming next month at $16,675 plus $1,295 for the three-banger, for a total of $17,970.

Vaughan: Worth every penny. Remember that Mulally said he kissed that engine when he got the final briefing on the EcoBoost engine. The little three-cylinder is a perfect engine for such a small but sporty car. Its fuel economy gives James bragging rights in front of his car-hating contemporaries. That's the one Jimmy.

2014 Scion tC coupe Toyota Toyota  

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.

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 2014 Ford Fiesta SE hatchback EcoBoost2013 Honda Civic LX coupe2014 Scion tC coupe

Wheelbase (mm):


Length (mm):


Width (mm):


Height (mm)



1.0-litre three-cylinder, turbocharged1.8-litre four-cylinder2.5-litre four-cylinder

Output (horsepower/torque)

123/148 lb-ft140/128 lb-ft179/172 lb-ft

Drive system:

Front-wheel driveFront-wheel driveFront-wheel drive


Five-speed manualFive-speed manualSix-speed manual

Curb weight (kg)


Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

6.2 city/4.3 highway7.2 city/5.4 highway9.1 city/6.4 highway

Base price


Source: car manufacturers

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