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Thoughts on the Next Ride

October 10, 2009

Barring the completely unforeseen, the Mini isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Apart from endemic tire issues and the lack of a second suicide door, I absolutely love the Clubman. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s the best car I’ve ever owned.

But, at some point, it’ll have to go. Maybe the warranty will run out and maintenance will become ridiculous (hey, it IS a BMW at heart). Maybe Capitol Tower will burn down with the poor car stuck in the parking garage. Or maybe my needs will change.

Whatever the case, car nut that I am, I can’t help but look down the road to the next ride. Right now I don’t see myself moving on until 2012 at the earliest, but hey, it’s always fun to look.

So…as of right now…here are the cars that are on my radar.

Mazda3 5-door

I’ve been a fan of the Mazda3 since it first came out in 2004. Built on the same platform as the Euro-spec Focus (which is far superior to the crapbox we have over here), the Mazda3 has earned a reputation as one of the best-handling, most fun-to-drive cars in its class. The new generation, which debuted this year, builds on the success of the first-gen, and brings a swoopier, more sophisticated design into the mix. The giant, smiling fascia has turned some people off, but I’m guessing that’s something Mazda will grow out of by the time I’m in the market. Hopefully they’ll move on to a better engine, too, as the 4-cylinder options powering the 3 aren’t really anything to shake a stick at.

Subaru Forester

The Forester is one of those cars that grew on me. I was really put off by the design at first, but then I saw it in person, and it really holds together well when you see it with your own eyes. This not-a-wagon-but-not-an-SUV took home Motor Trend’s SUV of the Year Award, and has been pretty much single-handedly responsible for Subaru’s awesome staying power in the midst of the automotive apocalypse that has been this recession. Chalk it up to right-size packaging, one of the best AWD systems on the market, and Scooby’s horizontally-opposed boxer engines. Admittedly, the Forester’s not at absolute top of my list, but it’s pretty high, especially if driving dynamics have to take a back seat to functionality.

Ford Focus

Every time I mention my interest in the Focus, people look at me as though I’ve admitted to having a leper fetish. I can’t say I blame them. After all, the Ford Focus that’s available to us here in the U.S. is a total crapbox of a car. Like that other forgotten Ford, the Ranger, it rides on an extremely dated platform and simply isn’t competitive in its category. But that’s not the case in Europe, where the C1-based Focus enjoys a reputation as taut, sharp handling car. For years, stateside enthusiasts have clamored for a change at the Euro-spec Focus, and pretty soon, we’ll get it. The next-generation Focus (rendered above) is being designed as a world car, with a specific eye on the U.S. market.

Aside from sharp looks and the anticipated driving dynamics, the Focus has two more things to recommend it. First is Ford’s new line of EcoBoost engines, which embrace turbocharging as a way of delivering that extra oomph without adding cylinders and thus killing fuel economy. In other words, what Mini, Volkswagen and a few others already do. The second is the Ford Sync infotainment system, which is quite frankly the best in the business. Bluetooth integration, voice-to-text, full iPod navigation and playback, even Bluetooth audio streaming.

I’m still waiting to see the final product, but right now, my interest is highly piqued. Look for the production 2011 Ford Focus to make its world debut at the Detroit Auto Show in early January.

Volkswagen Golf GTD

GTD

Chances are you’ve heard of the GTI, the go-fast version of Volkswagen’s Golf. If you haven’t, the GTI is, well, the go-fast version of the Golf. In it’s current form, it ditches the staid engine for a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, firmer suspension, more heavily bolstered sport seats, and a row-your-own or DSG clutchless manual transmission.

The GTD basically takes the GTI formula and swaps out the gas engine for a turbodiesel, the benefits of which include gobs of torque and hybrid-level fuel economy.

With the GTD, Volkswagen addresses my number one complaint regard diesel cars here in the states. Namely, the tendency to offer them in regular models with lots of luxo options, but soft, spongy suspensions. For someone like me, who puts a huge premium on driving feel, this sucks. I don’t necessarily need speed. Hell, with my tendency to accumulate tickets, speed is probably the last thing I need. But in lieu of speed, I demand a car that’s a blast to toss through the winding roads of the Texas Hill Country.

Just one catch. The GTD isn’t currently slated for America. But Volkswagen is considering it, and has said they could bring it over within 18 months if they decide to do so.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 17, 2009 5:11 pm

    same car until 2012????? No way, not the Matt I know! Wait, what’s that I hear…..MMMMMIIIIINNNNIII-VAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNN

  2. Matt permalink*
    October 17, 2009 8:36 pm

    It’s a testament to just how much I love this Mini. I’d honestly be looking further out if it weren’t for some reservations about reliability (or rather the cost of fixing an out-of-warranty Mini).

    As for minivans…apart from the Mazda5, they’re missing that whole driving dynamics thing. Though I’d be willing to give the Focus Grand C-Max a glance:

    http://jalopnik.com/5359230/ford-grand-c+max-headed-for-us

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