By on February 25, 2011

“Am I the only one,” one of my Twitter friends-I’ve-never-really-met wrote, “who looks at Gadaffi and sees Renee Zellweger in ten years?” I used to get Renee Zellweger and Joey Lauren Adams confused, at least until “Mallrats” when it was revealed that Ms. Adams was closer to Twiggy than Sophia Loren. Ms. Zellweger, on the other hand, had that fabulous scene in “Bridget Jones’ Diary” where she was “deliberately chunky”, possibly a size 8 instead of a 4.

Where was I? Oh yes. Ford’s announced that the EPA will certify the Focus SFE PowerShift at 40 highway MPG. That means that if you are looking for an automatic-transmission car in this segment capable of hitting the magic mark, you now have two choices: this, and Hyundai’s Elantra.

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38 Comments on “In A World… Where Fuel Is Running Out… One Car Takes A Stand…...”

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    You’re one up on me. I couldn’t pick Joey Lauren Adams or Renee Zellweger out of a police line up. That’s okay though. There’s a lot of us who have been laughing at Mo Khaddafi/Gaddafi/al Qaddafi’s fashion statements since before Renee Zellweger had a My Little Pony toy.

  • avatar

    So I drive 15000 miles a year at 40 mpg. Figuring gas at around $4.00,it works out to $1500 a year.

    So if I got a four year old car that gets 20 mpg and costs $3000 a year in fuel, and I trade it.sell it, whatever. Then I got to cough up at least another $10,000 to buy this 40 mpg car. I drive it off the lot and depreciation kicks in.

    So when its all said and done,my wife and I are crammed into this little tiny car. BTW, niether of us are large people. We give up comfort and safety. We part with $10,000 for a depreciating asset.

    Oh I’m saving $1500 a year in fuel. My $10,000 would have made me $200? in interest. My new little car is eating another $1500? in resale value.

     Even with my limited education, and math skills, and really can’t see what sense it makes to buy a 40 mpg car.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m with you on the cost savings, but the majority of people that I run into aren’t very good with regards to math skills.  Ford will probably run out of build capacity for the Focus in North America, if gasoline stays above $4.00 a gallon for an extended period of time.
      PS – I may be buying a used pick-up, if the panic ramps up to the summer of 2007 levels.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re right – it’s not like the revolution could spread to Saudi Arabia or anything…

    • 0 avatar

      Your math skills are fine, but your reasoning is suspect. Of course if you’ve got a perfectly good car, trading it in for no reason but to get a more efficient one isn’t going to pay off. Duh. But someday you’re going to need to replace your car. Maybe run those figures again with the assumption that you’re already going to be buying a car, and the price difference between the 40MPG and the 20MPG car is small. That’s the real scenario.

    • 0 avatar

      So when its all said and done,my wife and I are crammed into this little tiny car. BTW, niether of us are large people. We give up comfort and safety. We part with $10,000 for a depreciating asset.

      Now, to be fair, a new Focus is probably going to be more comfortable (in the front seats) and safer (in most scenarios) than your current car, even though it’s bigger.  Hell, I’ve found a Smart ForTwo to be roomier for a driver and front passenger than more than a few larger cars.

      It’s also true that it isn’t a money-saving proposition to trade into a new car when you have an existing one in most circumstances. On the other hand, if your current car spits it’s powertrain on the road or gets it’s front half torn off by a someone who didn’t notice the red, then a Focus (or whatever) starts making sense vis a vis a larger new car. And heck, a used Civic (made in Canada FTW!) looks even better.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve been driving a series of >40MPG cars since 1980… and realizing those savings ever since! Who’s got sense… math or otherwise? ;)

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah…agree with the other replies, depends on your situation. I knew a lot of fresh grads out of university who were quite afraid of used cars, they wanted a new car, they had a budget and they wanted to keep their monthly costs down. Cars like these sell to those folks and there are a lot more than you think. And in 4 years, when you decide to junk the ol’ 20mpg, you can find a handsomely depreciated one of these. The world just became a better place…

      Now if only someone could convince me out of my 2 door V8…haha. I guess reason and gas price go out the window when love, adrenaline and acceleration are on the mind :-)

    • 0 avatar

      @JMO…. Ya, your right,but if this mess in the middle east speads any more it could get really ugly. Scary fuel prices will impact our economy….but for how long? The world demand for oil will drop off. Sooner or later greed, or need, will take over, and fuel will stabilize.

      In the meantime I’ll park my Jimmy, and reduce the Impala driving to bare essentials. I will not be forced into a small car.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      Even with my limited education, and math skills, and really can’t see what sense it makes to buy a 40 mpg car.
      The math almost never works out when comparing a used car against a new car.  But don’t get too smug about it.  If nobody bought new cars, used cars wouldn’t be such a great deal.  You should write thank you notes to the buyers of the new Focus and Elantra.

    • 0 avatar

      The new Cruze, the 2012 Focus, the 2012 Elantra and both the 2011 and 2012 Civic are very good cars. For two people, or even two adults and two children, they provide plenty of room, comfort and performance (not to mention lots of goodies, if one desires to order that particular version), along with respectable gas mileage.

      It’s not 1975 anymore, where you had the choice of a 12-13 mpg Olds Ninety-Eight or Chrysler New Yorker Brougham with all of the goodies or a 30 mpg tin-can Corolla or Rabbit.

      The days of small cars as rolling penalty boxes are long gone…

    • 0 avatar

      “Maybe run those figures again with the assumption that you’re already going to be buying a car, and the price difference between the 40MPG and the 20MPG car is small.”
      It might be worth pointing out that, in addition to fuel efficient cars being generally smaller than their 20mpg counterparts, they’re also cheaper. To be sure, there aren’t a lot of options for the enthusiast (apart from the models that EVO-types poo-poo) but they’re out there.
      I find it fascinating the mentality of the post-2001 large-vehicle purchaser. Grunt and sweat all you want, but the writing has been on the wall for decades. It ain’t Obama’s fault that someone splurged on a Transformers-edition Camaro when they could barely afford a Cruze.
      I support folks’ right to drive whatever they can afford, but after the price and insurance, the cost at the pump, and any future uncertainties therein, should be factored in when making a personal purchasing decision.

    • 0 avatar

      Many consumers intentionally shut out lots of variables and focus on one attribute, do a mini comparison based on that feature, then make the purchase decision.
      In a market brimming with choices (cars, smart phones, etc), consumers avoiding analysis paralysis is understandable to an extent.

    • 0 avatar

      Ah, pop psychology.

      May it never grow old.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t worry, it won’t as it is reality based, freak-a-nomically speaking.

    • 0 avatar

      I am sick and tired of reading another automaker boasting the hwy mileage of its product(s). Com’on, what’s the city mileage you’re hiding behind.
      BTW, in addition to the two vehicles the author mentioned, Cruze Eco (MT only; AT is about 36 mpg IIRC), and 2012 Civic HF (41 mpg – higher than both Elantra and Focus SFE) also achieve 40 mpg hwy or above.

    • 0 avatar

      I will not be forced into a small car.

      eAssist Lacrosse? Looks like it should be good for about 30MPG combined.

  • avatar

    I suppose you could put that actress that plays “Grey” on “Grey’s Anatomy” on that list, too. Some people don’t age well, but to compare them to Gaddafi? Now THAT’s a low-blow! For the record, I’m probably ugly too! Now, what was the point of the article? Oh, yes – CARS! I guess all you “Panther” lovers had better start hoarding, ’cause I fear they are going to the crusher quite rapidly, and since they are somewhat bullet-proof, buying one on the cheap saves a lot of money to pay for a lot of gas! Beats payments any day of the week. Both of our daily drivers are getting old – our CR-V is 9 and my Impala is 7, and the thought of buying something new at my age in view of the straits of the times is unnerving to me. Frankly, if I HAD to buy something new, it would probably be another Impala, though, or a Malibu or a Fusion or a 200 (very impressed with them at the auto show, BTW). A Ford Focus? They’re still ugly and I won’t buy one. My son is going to have to replace his 2000 Eclipse later this year, and I believe I’ll have to recommend something that is economical over sportiness. I think I’ll have to submit a “Piston Slap” or “Hammer Time” this spring on this subject. A Focus may be for him. Or a Civic. Or a Corolla. Or a Cruze. Or a…40 mpg is tempting…Back to Gaddafi – I could tell a story or two about a friend’s experiences being stationed in Libya when we had an air force base there – Wheelus AFB. Fun times, and I’m glad I wasn’t there!

    • 0 avatar

      And then think of all those people who can service their own cars. If you own a well-kept older car where you can do if not all then at least most of the work yourself, then you just ignore the gas prices and keep driving your guzzler. The low maintenance cost (paying for the parts, basically) is going to way trump the gas consumption rate in the city traffic.

      Example: the recent overhaul of the rear brakes (rotors+pads) and suspension (shocks +sway bar links/bushings) cost me just a tad over $100. It would have been five times that, maybe more depending on the mechanic, for a 20 year old car like mine, and I hate to think what a dealer today would ask. In fact I do know what they’re asking, my friends got quoted for the brakes to be done on their Rav4 (2008 model) and 335i (2003 model) last year.

      Now, my daily driver does 13-14 mpg in the city (25 hgwy), and I do maybe 50 miles of driving a week, so that’s 200 miles a month. I think I’ll keep it. Not to mention it looks great, unlike these lookalike econoboxes they’re trying to put everyone who can’t afford a real car into these days.

      But then of course the car industry these days is mainly targeting: (a) those who can’t work on their vehicles for reasons of either time or lack of mechanical interest and are afraid of depreciation and maintenance cost after the warranty period, (b) those who want to be green for ecological reasons, (c) those who actually like the generic look of a modern car. So, with that in mind (and it’s fun to watch this from the outside), the new Focus hits all three target groups, but misses the price mark. No way should a car called “Ford Focus” be priced in that range, and I don’t care how nice it drives.

    • 0 avatar

      Car’s age is a relative thing.
      CR-Vs, if not abused, can run forever, so as long as everything works and there is no rust – just keep it.
      Ditto the Imp – especially with a 3.8L. If you do not absolutely need a new car – stick with it.

      Newer cars are all suspect. Too many gizmos, too many microprocessors, near 0 custom-ability (everything, from a simple relay to a radio) should be “mated” with a proprietory diagnostic tool at a dealership… Bring the whole economic uncertainty in the equation – and… thanks but no thanks.
      And the 200 is nothing but an old, break-prone Sebring underneath those newish clothes.  

    • 0 avatar

      @Acubra: Agreed. My Impala has the 3.4L, but no problems. In fact, since buying the CR-V and Imp new, we have maintained them by the book, and they are running neck-and-neck as far as how few problems we’ve had with either of them. Now, I qualify that by saying we’re older (I’m 60) and we don’t drive like kids, and the older you get, the easier you are on your car. These are 10-year cars at a minimum and we have no plans to replace either of them. I’ll start using our 2007 MX5 more often to share commute duties with my Imp, due to distance. Also, our cars are registered on TrueDelta, for what it’s worth.

    • 0 avatar

      With a 3.4 just make sure you check the coolant level and oil from time to time. As long as the coolant level stays at the same level and there is no foam / diluting in oil – you are fine.

      Grown-ups of all ages are normally easy on their cars. Irresponsible and infantile “kids” (again, regardless of age) are not. 

      Older folks may get a scratch or dent here in there as it becomes more difficult to judge distances and notice stuff in time, which is no biggie.
      The only concern would only be mostly very short trips, when engines always run cold and rich, causing rapid carbon build-up and sludge, and irregular maintenance if the owner’s memory skips.

  • avatar

    @Chuck Goolsbee    …. As ,I understand you do all your own repairs, and brew your own fuel. You have the resources, the know how, and the ambition. Your also content driving a small car. What 30+ plus years driving a diesel VW?

    Great… more power to you….but for most of us it doesn’t make economic sense.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    Today’s 40 mpg “small cars” like the Focus and Elantra are pretty close in interior size to midsize American sedans of the 80s (the Taurus, the GM A-platform (Celebrity, Cutlass Ciera, etc), and the Chrysler K-car variants). Plus they’re more powerful, handle a lot better, and are much safer.
    I don’t understand the revulsion towards modern “small cars” but then again, I’m fine with driving an Outback and a 3 series.

  • avatar

    Downsizing from a fullsize truck or SUV becomes increasingly attractive past $3 a gallon.  But once you’re in the reasonable car range the the additional savings for moving down to a clown car just aren’t there.
    Assuming 15,000 miles a year at $4.00 a gallon an Elantra at 33 mpg combined would run about $35 a week.  An adult sized sedan with a V6 at 23 mpg would run about $50.

    $2 a day to upgrade to a real car is a no brainer.

    • 0 avatar

      You drive to work at a constant 60mph?  Most people I know are driving back and forth in traffic (often bumper to bumper) getting far less than 30mpg.

    • 0 avatar

      @aspade…..$2 a day?….Okay lets call it $3.00 a day. Its going to take 10 years to save $10,950.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a Focus, not a Fiesta. I’m not sure where all these “clown car” comments are coming from. You’d think we were talking about a Smart Fortwo or something.

      Also, anyone who thinks that fuel prices are going to remain steady for the next five or ten years is delusional.

    • 0 avatar

      If my commute were in 10 mph urban gridlock I wouldn’t get combined mileage.  But I wouldn’t put on 15,000 miles a year either.

      I don’t know about the Focus but the Elantra, the other “40 mpg” choice, certainly leaves no doubts you’re driving a poverty box. Noisy and bumpy.

  • avatar

    I don’t get the 40 MPG magic bullet.  The reality is that if you drive something that gets 15 MPG, a switch to even 20 MPG is a huge change. Looking at the numbers below, the incremental difference between 30 and 40 MPG is 125 gallons.  The difference between 15 and 20 MPG is 250 gallons.  As I see this two things stand out.  For average drivers (15k miles) 20-30 MPG is the sweet spot.  If you put more like 25-40k a year on your car, then shoot for the 35-40 MPG car.  In my case, at around 7-8k miles a year, the numbers below are cut in half and a 40 MPG car saves very little fuel over my 328xi.
    Assuming 15000 miles:
    15 MPG consumes 1000 gallons
    20 MPG consumes 750
    25 MPG consumes 600
    30 MPG consumes 500
    35 MPG consumes 428.5
    40 MPG consumes 375

  • avatar

    Statement?  Proclamation? Info or opinion request?  or E: Advice seeking?  L: All the previous?
    IF a possible trend arises and gas “guzzlers” decrease greatly in value and ample human herd members decide to sell their Chevy or Ford (maybe Dodge as a 3rd choice for me) full-size cargo (not passenger nor minuscule van) carrier van-type van and the price fits parameters I have yet to ascertain but cheap it will have to be.
    Would prefer a 6 cylinder.  Generally prefer stick shift but will accept auto tranny.
    Non-trashed with reasonable wear & tear okay.
    Prefer long wheel-base.
    Towing not required.
    Etc etc.
    IF a grand or so to “bring it up to at least semi-snuff” is okay.
    Minimal rust but, of course, none preferred.
    Goal; maximum living comfort if ever required.
    2004 Silverado very well-maintained with good-plus appearance (very minor mini-dent from rebounding root-laden shrub pull-out, a few not all-that-noticeable hail dings) At most I subjectively guess potential truck buyer would want $500 discount. Well-documented maintenance much pro-done at local shop and verifiable.
    Locally, expect trucks to retain value fairly well, especially compared to other vehicle-types. Large blue-collar laboring cohort hereabouts with all types of construction/repair/etc a very large percentage of local economy. Thus the truck will likely lose less value than most (all?) other vehicle types
    [4.8/Auto 4spd/ Eaton locker, 4×4– very popular this area. Aluminum camper-shell. Work Truck model. Manual vice power this and that.
    If this query worthy of own post encourage moguls to move location.
    Oh, van:
    Manual all best.  Opinions for anything that comes to mind welcomed. Engine size, rear end ratio, anything but remember only that coming to market is grab-able; limiting choice.
    Perhaps warnings of what to AVOID may be best advice!!!!
    Remember, intent is an, at least, eventual nice condition reliable conveyance to reside in as economy crumbles… my prediction, even if a long-term eventuality.
    Do not HAVE to buy now. Just use truck until whenever but prior proper planning prevent piss-poor performance or so said the snipe’s printed poster within the boiler room.
    Let ‘er rip!!!!!
    Deluge me with advice, opinions, etc that will be retained for whenever required.
    Thanks in advance and…..
    stay away from MY dumpster.
    Or, after dentist makes my gappy semi-toothed smile even more gappy, I will be available for paid work not requiring the speed, strength or agility I once semi-possessed.
    Tough times expected to become tough, even rough.
    For a possible preview view:
    Chuck Bronson pummels opponents for bucks. Not the greatest movie in the world but I enjoyed it.
    Thanks in advance!!!!!!!!!

  • avatar

    Jack, have you forgotten about the Jetta TDI?  It certainly slots well in this class, and get 42 MPG highway with an automatic.  I’d rather have one of these over an Elantra any day, but I would be tempted to hold my breath for the new Focus.  If I needed to buy a new car in this segment today however, I’d get the TDI.

  • avatar

    Talk about rampant “Get off my lawn”-ism!!
    Why would anyone get their shirt in a knot because a compact car gets good fuel mileage? I am astounded.
    Personally, I’d rather that combined mileage was promoted since that reflects my driving conditions, but I’m not getting mad that 40mpg highway is possible.

  • avatar

    The world is not running out of fuel.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      The problem is the price of fuel.  At some price oil is just too expensive to use as fuel.  Still cost effective for making plastic, but too expensive to burn.
      Interesting to watch supplies of unconventional natural gas increase separate from oil.  Not sure how natural gas gets converted into mobility, but pretty sure it will be part of our near-term future.  Already have dual-fuel LNG/diesel trucks, CNG cars, gas-to-liquids synthetic fuels, and natural gas fueled electric power for electric cars present in the marketplace.

  • avatar

    phff, in Canada we rate our cars’ MPG in imperial gallons.. well the less-than-scrupulous dealers do anyhow.  We’ve already got whole lots full of midsize cars that get 40MPG! 

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