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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I'm originally from New Jersey but now reside in FL after enlisting in the military. A recent change in my life (going back to college) is forcing me to downsize my 2011 F150 6.2 into a less expensive, gas miser. I've owned a few cars in my day, but lately been driving trucks as I'm a home-owner and a bed is damn near priceless.

List vehicles I've owned in order ;)
'88 Honda Accord DX - Love/Hate, Sold
'94 Honda Civic CX (hatchback) - Love, Stolen :(
'95 Honda Civic Del Sol Si - Love, Sold
'03 VW GTI 1.8T - Hate Sold
'04 Dodge Neon SRT-4 (Wife's) - Love, Sold
'02 Honda S2000 AP1 - Love, Sold
'03 Nissan 350Z Touring Love, Sold
'05 Ford F150 SCREW Lariat 4x2 - Hate, Sold
'05 Ford F150 SCREW FX4 4x4 - Love, Sold
'08 BMW E90 M3 - Best car I've owned, Sold
'08 GMC Acadia (Wife's) - Hate, current daily driver for wife
'99 Jeep Cherokee (Heavily modified for off-road use) Hate, Sold
'11 Ford F150 SCREW Lariat Limited Love/Hate, Daily Driver
'85 Porsche 944 (Current track car project)
'88 Porsche 944 (Daughters daily driver)

As you can see I'm not brand loyal but Ford is the closest one. I've always been a closet Mustang fanboy and I love Ford trucks. Ever since we got a proper european flavored Focus, I've been a fan. The original Focus SVT was real treat also. Since I recently hit the new car market here's what drove me here.

My price range is around $25k. I was almost ready to order a Titanium Focus 5 door (gotta have a manual) and then started looking at some other cars/cuv's in that price range. Here's a list of what I considered and drove in order of least liked to most liked

2012 Scion xB - $18k with a book full of dealer installed options available at additional cost. Awesome amount of room on the inside. Interior was forgettable. No manuals available, (might be an order option). The xB was boring inside and out and the gas mileage wasn't very impressive.

Kia Soul - $18k Best thing about this cuv was the manual transmission. It was one of the best feeling manuals I've driven in a while.

2012 Mazda CX-5 - Grand Touring FWD - $27k Beautifully designed exterior, great fit and finish on the interior. Steering felt good and sporty for a taller car based utility vehicle. Great room on the inside considering its small on the outside. EPA ratings were very good, but the engine was loud and buzzy and felt weak. No manual option except for base a stripper base model. Auto-manual will not hold gears. It still downshifts on full throttle and upshifts at redline in manual mode.

2012 Hyundai Sonata - Basically same car as the Optima so see below for thoughts

2012 Kia Optima SX-GDI - 274hp I4 Turbo $31k Amazing bang for buck. This car had cooled/heated seats front seats, rear seats were heated, huge trunk, roomy back seat, great fit and finish on the interior, good looking exterior (minus the wheels) and drove nice. Only issues were no manual option and auto-manual mode never really gives you full control. It automatically upshifts at redline. IIRC it will hold current gear under full throttle but still upshifts at redline. Also, acceleration was brisk but not 274 hp strong. Not much lag, but didn't impress me in the performance department like I was expecting and in the end was a bit out of what I wanted to spend.

2012 Mazdaspeed 3 - I enjoyed every second behind the wheel of this car. Trans and otor were fantastic. Interior was the only fault. The 3.5 inch nav screen was worthless and the red accents on the seats cheapened an otherwise well-finished interior. It's obvious that the 3 is getting towards the end of its life-cycle and the interior needs an overhaul. EPA rated 25 hwy mpg is almost unacceptable. Ford is getting close to that in a 5500 lb full-size pickup with 150 more hp/tq out of a bigger displacement turbo motor and the aerodynamics of a sail.

2012 Toyota Prius Sport - I was coerced into test driving this car after my utter disappointment with the Scion xB. To my surprise it was fun, very stylish in "Sport" garb, and a technological power-house. If technology floats your boat its hard not to develop a soft spot for this car. The Sport package adds TRD springs, sway bar, and forged wheels. The handling of the car was nice and you can't beat 51 city mpg. Also EV mode is great for traffic jams and parking lots. However the CVT is the worst transmission I could ever imagine. Under full throttle the monotone drone hurts my heart. Toyota needs to at least add simulated gear changes to the Prius if they want to attract some real car guys, because the straight line performance isn't all that bad in power mode. However its terrible in ECO and EV modes. But in the end, I came away very impressed with a car I never thought I was interested in, and it will probably be what I purchase if something goes wrong with the Focus ST

Things that will keep me out of the Focus ST...
Price : Has to stay under $30k well optioned
MPG : Has to get very close to 30mpg on the highway or better
Availablity : If I can't get my hands on one this year, I'm buying something else.

Sorry this was such a long post, but hopefully some of you enjoyed it. I'm a car guy, it's in my DNA. IMHO there is no better driving setup then a front or mid engined RWD car with a ~50/50 weight distribution. However, I need practicality and fuel efficiency and right now the Ford Focus ST looks like the best car for the job. It's going to be hard to get back in a FWD car, but the ST should make that transition easier to cope with.

Edit: I'm on quite a few auto forums and really like this site. To Chad and those that contribute to the site...Keep up the good work! I have a feeling this site will grow right alongside the growing popularity of the ST. Cheers!
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