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regfootball

FOCUS

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so, in Jan i had to bring in my car to get some body damage fixed from an accident. had an 08 focus loaner.

fast forward to today. i dropped my car off for a couple weeks to get hail damage fixed. so again, i get an 08 Focus loaner.

Cheeky little car. I am sure blu is jealous.

Driving the small car is an adjustment all the time but this Focus is a nice little commuter.

I had test drove an Astra XR recently and that car was a blast. It is indeed a better driving car than the Focus.

HOWEVER.

I TOTALLY am liking the focus from an interior amenities and convenience standpoint. Enough that it tips the scales in its favor for me.....I think. Everything is laid out nicely. The best part is the center stack. The radio display is at the top of the dash, it's pure genius. The new climate controls and radio controls are brilliant. Logical, fun to look at, and very inventive. The folder / track 4 sided button is awesome. The location of it is high and easily reachable. Mine doesnt have sync but to imagine that is amazing. This also lacks SWAC which i was missing terribly. Everything else is perfection......the window swtiches, vent locations, armrests (including a PERFECT center one.....take that ASTRA), 2 count em 2 perfectly located CUPHOLDERS (astra are you listening) and a deep storage bin under the armrest. Even the little nook at the base of the center stack is PERFECT. The seats are nice and wide and supportive, if lacking a bit in shape in the backrest. The cloth is perfect. I got a tan interior this time and its very attractive and all the textures are neat, the black was dreadful. Trunk, spacious. Back seat supportive and spacious. Lots of interior amenities that are as well done on many other small cars. No weirdness. Just extremely user friendly and a bit luxurious for a small commuter car. Although i was missing badly a second wiper stalk on the right side.

The car itself drives average, of course. The engine is pretty smooth at low revs...booms a bit at full throttle. Its not a buzzer, though. Cabin noise is not much for a small car on the right pavement. Mine is undertired. SOme beefy wheels and wider tires would work. Steering has been toned down from previous focus, buts its still ok. The steering wheel is nice. The suspension is decent on bumps but rolls a bit in turns. The tranny needs to kick down better sometimes but overall its rather smart. A six speed auto would be nice. I would take a 5/6 speed manual myself. I could use 40 more hp but the car actually does move out nicely for a small car once you get on the gas. It's actually faster off the line than my 500. Mostly, it drives quite well and feels capable and comfortable and composed. It drives well enough so that you say, hey nice car.

So its a little crapbox but has lots of nice touches now for the everyday driver it did not have before. So much my wife suggested she would possibly be fine drivng one to work some days.

For me what it is is an appreciation of all thought put into the cabin amenities. Perfect layout, thoughtful touches, unique design, clever controls. A nice inexpensive cheeky little commuter. I think its why its sales have been on the uptick. Computer showed an average mpg over 31 mpg. Its not the Euro focus but i think it makes commuting interesting and useful. I know somehting like a rabbit drives much better, but may not be as inexpensive nor have as good as gas mileage.

I'm gonna have to try a 5 speed now and see if i like it, just for kicks.

Edited by regfootball
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Reg, I'm with ya on this one, I'm really a big fan of the new Focus.

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Once they get rid of the little distractions on the front quarter panels I think it looks pretty decent in sedan form.

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update.

REALLY liking the interior layout and amenities.....nice armrests, perfect cupholders, center stack controls, wide seats, and the radio display and controls atop the dash is brilliant. Best feature of the car.

CAr is fairly quiet, rides over the bumps nicely without thumps, very agreeable handling and stuff. Steering feel is a little dead. Wish i had wider / stiffer tires and more roll stiffness. Overall, as a commuter car, this does a lot of things well.

The Astra is a better driving car, as I have tested it. Astra is definitely more fun, but does not have the nice center stack and cupholder / armrests that the Focus has.

From what i understand the 09 gets rear headrests and stability control. As an aside, my neighbor who does work for Dodge promotions, and who also works for a place that is an auto supplier or engineer, his wife's vehicle (SX4) is also getting its damage fixed and he is stuck with a Cobalt rental. He said the Cobalt sucks big time, especially compared to the SX4, and this is a guy who gets to drive a lot of stuff.

Edited by regfootball
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Funny thing about the interior: I liked it better when I first saw pictures of it but over time and after seeing it in person it looks and feels cheap.

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Funny thing about the interior: I liked it better when I first saw pictures of it but over time and after seeing it in person it looks and feels cheap.

the plastics are not top grade that's for sure, but at the same time they are all nice enough, they are not completely nasty like some of the mid 90's buicks and pontiacs. it's the layout of the dash that is appealing. The contrasts in colors and textures makes it stand out. the door panels are a lot more comfortable and lavish then typical for small inexpensive cars. it's a totally comfortable car. There is not a surface that was neglected to make it at least fit in with the design. The door panels are nicer than my 500, for example.

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the plastics are not top grade that's for sure, but at the same time they are all nice enough, they are not completely nasty like some of the mid 90's buicks and pontiacs. it's the layout of the dash that is appealing. The contrasts in colors and textures makes it stand out. the door panels are a lot more comfortable and lavish then typical for small inexpensive cars. it's a totally comfortable car. There is not a surface that was neglected to make it at least fit in with the design. The door panels are nicer than my 500, for example.

How was the center stack to use? I haven't fiddled with one yet, but there are a fair number of buttons. I don't care about the number of buttons, just curious about the learning curve.

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the layout is perfect and logical.

there are three main buttons for the radio / audio including the 4 way button in the center. up/down is folders (i.e. mp3 disc or on sync attached drive i assume) left/right is track forward track reverse. the rest of the audio buttons are not used much but you will learn those quick enough.

the climate control is similar. fan is one big button. temp is one. the vent positions (top, middle, floor) are stacked in a same fashion, top to bottom.

each of the big buttons lights up at night with a circular accent color ring and the plastic part of the knob has like three little arrow thingies that cut through the lighted circle to indicate where the button is on the circle. that part is cool.

the icing on the cake is the top display, no need to look down for the radio info. time, track info, name, artist, all that stuff, just a quick glance to the right. Brilliant! i would consider buying the car for this feature alone.

Even though the Astra drives better, and its interior is more quality materials, the control layout of the center stack of the focus and that radio display up high is very convenient. For a commuter, that may mean more.

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http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/review...urn-astra_N.htm

The result in the Astra is a vehicle not quite aimed at Yank tastes and one that's a bit pricey. It gives you roughly the same space as a Ford Focus, its dead-on rival and one of the best-selling small cars. But Astra has slightly less power and gas mileage and a window-sticker price from hundreds to as much as $1,000 more. Astra starts at about $16,000-plus; nearly $23,000 loaded.

Here are some small things noticeable on the test car — a well-equipped, four-door, hatchback Astra XR with manual transmission — that could irritate you after the new-car smell wears off:

•Astra's main cup holder is so far back on the center console it's behind the driver. Even if you don't drink much while driving, the test car's console was so small that the cup holder needs to be handier for cellphones and other normal kit.

•Hip features such as satellite radio, an iPod jack and anything rivaling Ford's Sync central voice-command system are not available on Astra.

•Seats are a little stiff and lumpy, though finding a good seating position — a separate matter — is easy.

•The clock's a 24-hour, military-style readout (4:30 p.m. is 16:30, for example). That's hardly a deal-breaker, maybe even better in some eyes, but it's another reminder that Americans weren't top-of-mind during development. Among the few changes to the mechanically identical '09 model coming this fall will be a 12-hour clock like most Americans use.

•Astra's extra weight cuts a few miles per gallon off its fuel-economy ratings vs. the Focus that's 250 to 300 pounds lighter. Extra heft might help in a crash, though, depending on how and where it's deployed.

So why bother, you ask? Why not just snatch up that Focus, or Mazda3 or Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe?

Because Astra drives oh-so-nicely. That's the Euro factor that could make you forget niggling annoyances.

Though the engine is slightly smaller and less powerful than the Focus' and must motivate more weight, it has a sweeter feel and loves to zip up to the red line. It has a feeling of quickness, although the speedometer reading wasn't impressive at the end of the full-blast on-ramp sprint in the Test Drive routine.

The manual transmission in the hatchback test car let you know via slight mechanical resistance each time you slipped the lever into gear. It was not the clichéd "hot-knife-through-butter" feel some drivers crave, but the gearbox was easy and fun to shift and there was no danger of slipping into the wrong gear.

The light-touch clutch made the car easy to start from rest, even uphill, and minimized the strain of stop-and-go driving.

Steering, oh joy. Very well-centered. No need to make small corrections to keep the car pointed straight ahead. But ask it for a dart, a swerve or a simple turn, and the car responded with such fine snap that you wanted to go down the road yanking the wheel back and forth just to feel the crisp response.

If your physique fits the front seats and you don't need more than kid-size leg or knee space in back, the interior is pleasant. Rubber-ringed control knobs feel better than plastic. The seemingly hard steering wheel is just soft enough to be grippy. No-nonsense horizontal air vents in the center of the dashboard have a visually satisfying, industrial look that blends well with the lines and angles of other trim — a small touch, but something you lay eyes on every time you climb in.

The hatchback test car had a trip computer — labeled BC for "board computer," which one assumes is Euro-speak — that tracked all key items and could display them simultaneously. You could see, for instance, your fuel economy, number of gallons used, average speed and miles driven (at least GM made the concession to switch from kilometers to miles). All are in big, bright numbers for a fast peripheral read without taking your eyes off the road. Very useful.

And here's one: The doors opened stiffly, much like on some Audis. That might sound like a pain, but the advantage is that the doors stay put in the part-open position instead of falling back to squish kid fingers or flopping full-open to ding your other car in the garage.

Look strictly at the numbers and you'd drop Astra a ways down on your small-car shopping list. But if engaging driving feel is more important than a couple of mpg's, console space or the numbers on the clock, you might find Astra a delightful surprise.

And, seeing that Saturn's selling only about 1,000 Astras a month so far, it'll be distinctive, as well.

Healey can sometimes be so dead on in his reviews. When i drove the Astra myself, i recall thinking, man this car is fun, but WTF can't i have a cupholder that works? Or SYNC?

Edited by regfootball
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It sucks that the Focus addresses comfort and convenience issues so well, and the Astra addresses the drivers part so well. put the two together, and add some HP, and i could love the lovechild of those two cars.

I think saturn has 2k on the hood of these though, i swore i saw that on a sticker when i was at the saturn dealer last week.

Edited by regfootball
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