Greatest Hits: Driving Impressions & Road Tests
See my complete list of road tests here.
2002 Ford Escort: During our 2002 Great California Adventure, my friend Ray and I put 900+ miles on a rented Ford Escort.
The Escort was Fords cheapest car and, at the time of our rental, was being discontinued in favor of the Ford Focus, which was supposed to be a much better car.
But the Escort was a pretty good little car - for what it was. It always started right up; the engine never stumbled. Shifts were smooth; brakes were good. Gas mileage was great - over 25 mpg on regular gas. And it handled pretty well, too - Ray recalls too well that last-minute, high-speed, left turn we made into a missed motel in San Diego - the Escort never tipped over on us. (Try that in a 1961 Corvair.) In fact, we didn't even lose a hubcap.
The air conditioner worked well and the seats were pretty comfortable for a small, entry-level car.
Don't understand how they can sell those new Bentleys in LaJolla for over $200,000 with exposed screws on the cowl and very primitive-looking headlamp washers. Seemed unfinished. Heck, even our lowly Ford Escort rental car didn't have exposed cowl screws. And it got over 25 mpg on regular gas. Better than a Bentley in those two respects.
Sum-up: cheap and cheerful. (February 2002, permalink)
2002 BMW 330i: One of my Lincoln Club members, Kris, just got a 2002 BMW 330i and let me drive it on the back roads - what a blast. It's very quick - 225 horsepower, handles great and stops on a dime. Nicely fitted interior, too. Looks much better in person than in the photos I've seen - it has a very muscular stance and very powerful lines.
It's a little car - two-feet shorter than my wife's Lincoln Continental - but the front seats are roomy. I didn't check out the rear seat space, though. Kris really likes it - has only put 1,300 miles or so on it since new.
Sum-up: Nice ride. (April 2002, permalink)
2003 Chevrolet Cavalier: During our 2003 Colorado vacation, I put almost 1,500 on a Cavalier, rented from Budget. What a Pile-O-Crap. Manual windows, no keyless entry, manual door locks, an interior which managed to look both cheap and cheesy (somewhat hard to accomplish from a design standpoint), two position seat adjustment, poor fitment of components, etc. The seats were uncomfortable.
It was noisy and buzzy on the road but it did get an amazing 36 mpg on regular on the road over almost 1,500 miles. This car lived up to a Consumer Reports road test (which I just looked up) which called the Cavalier "unpleasant, crude and outdated." Amen.
Our friends flew in from Kansas to meet us and rented a Hyundai Elantra. We rode in it for two days - Bill and Barbara were gracious enough to let us ride with them since our Chevrolet was a two-door model with lousy back seat access and the Elantra was a four-door.
The Hyundai was similar in size and power to the Cavalier but would cost almost $2,000 less. The Elantra had excellent fit-and-finish, keyless entry, power windows and door locks, etc. Nice car. Not as peppy as the Cavalier but a much better ride.
Sum-up: No wonder no one buys American cars anymore. (September 2003, permalink)
The complete guide to proper Road Test Lingo can be found here.