You come to a gala press event filled with beautiful sheetmetal and old friends. The lunch is catered and the folks hosting the event go completely out of their way to make you happy. So far so good!
They have a fair amount riding on their new billion dollar entry level car. Tens of thousands of people will earn their livelihood on a model that promises to be ‘economical, sporty, and fun’ for only ‘$15,995!’ (before destination charge, tax, tag, title fee, and other bogus charges laden in dealer inspired small print).
Right now that ‘real’ cost doesn’t matter to you. You came to write a review, give it a fair shake, and inform the two million monthly visitors at this site that seek honesty and truth above all else. You walk up to the car. Sit down with another writer. Turn the key. Drive off… and…
The car sucks. There is no other way of putting it. The suspension is fine. The interior is on par with what you would expect for the price range. But damn! The automatic on this car seems to suck 20% of the power and 90% of the fun out of the driving experience.
You resign yourself to the fact that this review will mention a lot of nice complements on the interior. The seats. The fuel economy. Maybe the exterior is pleasing and it comes with a few electronic doo-dad’s that young people need and older folks rarely touch. But it’s not a fun car. Not at all.
You know why? A fun entry level car with a slushbox hasn’t been made in nearly 20 years.
Every entry level car with a slushbox, from the Cavalier to a Yaris has been an absolute adrenalin depleting disaster. These are commuter scooters. Nothing more. Made to a price point and designed for the open traffic jam. They are appliances without a verve of nerve except when they come with a good five-speed.
Then it all fits. The tires have just enough grip. The handling is awesome. The five speed flows like butter as you begin openly exploring the limits of exhilaration and adhesion. Damn! It is ‘FUN’!’ Every stoplight has become an opportunity to celebrate a vehicle that truly outperforms all your expectations.
This is the perfect car for the enthusiast. Except for when those enthusiasts that read your work have to deal with the traffic jams, the parking lots, the long lines of cars at concerts and sporting events.
The reality of 2011 is that most open road driving is done in traffic. Sorry. Stickshifts become a relative pain when it comes to the creep and crawl of modern driving. That’s why automatics have a higher approval rating than presidents at the beginning of wars.
Is that convenience worth it to you?
Let’s zoom in on the ‘entry level’ car market in particular. When it comes to buying an entry level car, would you give into the lords of convenience and get an automatic? Or would you willingly suffer the slings and arrows of heavy knees and muscled calves by driving a stick?