After the JPMA convention in Orlando last month, I was all stoked to write about my rental car, the Ford Focus. But I kept putting it off, then last week, a Business Week story came out about how horribly Ford had screwed up with the US version of the Focus [they didn't redesign it all nice like the EU version, and they still lose something like $5,000 per car sold], and I felt like a clueless chump.
But then in Iceland, we rented a Toyota Yaris, and my experience with the Focus all came back to me. Both cars are small but tall, they're cheap, and they're reasonably well styled. [Actually, I've thought the Focus was one of the best-designed, best-proportioned, best-detailed cars out there since its debut in 2000. The symmetry between the headlights and the rear taillights is especially nice. Of course, they were both changed on the new model.]
The Yaris feels absolutely spacious inside; the back seat isn't bad, even, but the front seat area is positively huge. The car drove and handled and performed really well, and it got great mileage, too. The Focus felt and drove great, too: very responsive, solid, nice pickup, sporty, even. The only problem was the legroom in the backseat: it was almost non-existent. I don't know if the wagon is better than the 5-door, but the only way it won't matter is if your rear passengers ride in a car seat. Then it'd be great, because you could reach them easily from the front. Otherwise, it's pure
Sgt. Lieutenant Dan-land back there.
This was supposed to be short, so here's my feeling: there are some small cars out there that are cheap and get great mileage and drive really well and feel spacious and functional. They're not luxurious, but they're mighty fine all the same, and they should do really well for a new family. But without having driven them first, I confess, I never would've considered either car for a second.