By on May 31, 2019

Ford Fiesta ST and Ford Focus RS in Bark's driveway, Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars

Yes, dear readers, I’ve missed you. More importantly, I’ve missed your questions and the opportunity to provide my occasionally helpful feedback. So we’re rebooting the “Ask Bark” column, which will run approximately as often as I have time to write it (hopefully 3-4 times per month). But I’m going to be doing things a little differently than we were doing them before.

While I’m still happy to answer your “What Car Should I Buy” questions (which is, coincidentally, the name of a series on a competing site that is probably in no way, shape, or form a ripoff of the original “Ask Bark”), I also want to answer more of your “how do dealerships work” questions. A recent job change has moved me outside of the world of directly selling advertising to dealerships, so I no longer feel that I have any conflict in revealing all of my dirty little secrets to you, the people. So if you’ve ever wondered exactly how a foursquare works, or why you never seem to be able to get KBB Excellent for your trade-in, or anything like that, shoot your questions to [email protected]

And if you’re a recent TTAC convert, you’ll get the idea after reading today’s question, which comes to us from long-time reader and commenter, Sobro. Click the jump and let’s get to it.

I just turned 60 in April and I think it’s time for a mid-life crisis toy. As I thought about it during the last couple of years, I determined that I was caught up in the topless driving, wind through my hair (I am genetically blessed), open road, downshifting the corners fantasy. My dilemma was deciding between that one fantasy involved driving a Jeep with the doors removed and top off for the full open air effect and the other that involved piloting a Miata pulling actual g-forces around corners on country roads. I live in west Nashville, so the country roads part is at least reality.

Of course being a young Boomer, my other fantasy was restoring a relatively rust free Datsun 260Z or early 280Z to full mechanical reliability and disregarding cosmetics. I decided that I would end up spending more time working on it than driving it, and there’s no wind blowing through your hair when bent over or lying under a 40-year old import changing every bit of rubber tubing and plastic.

My pragmatic 60-year old self started thinking that I rarely touch the moonroof button on my wife’s Lexus ES 350 and that I’d rather have fun driving than spend time tinkering, so the full open air experience is no longer required. Which brings me to my question:

I have decided that a 4-to-7-year-old hot hatch is the answer. They seem to be fun to drive with an excellent power to weight ratio but are still practical enough to comfortably and reliably take two old-ish people and their luggage on a weekend driving trip on country roads with corners. And they all come with manual transmissions, which is the top requirement for fun driving. I just have no experience with them and no idea about the reliability of these high strung 4 cylinder turbos. Price is no object for the vintage I’m thinking of. What would you recommend?

Welllll, if it’s hot hatch information you’re seeking, you’ve come to the right place, amigo. As the internet’s most notorious rollerskate-shaped car owner, time-trialer, and daily-driver, I have plenty of opinions on the subject of using such a vehicle for all of your needs.

The answer to the “fun-to-drive” question in this segment will forever be the Fiesta ST. It might be the slowest hatch in a straight line, with a zero-to-sixty time of right around seven seconds, but the steering feel, the baked-in oversteer, and the practically perfect transmission and shifter make it the right recipe for smiles. It’s so unlike me to even think a sentence like that, but the FiST is an inspiration, even to this grumpy Gen Xer. And let us not forget that the power-to-weight ratio is roughly the same as an E30 M3.

You’ll also love the fuel economy of the FiST on those trips. I observed a combined number of somewhere around 28-29, and highway mileage was around 36. Plus, it doesn’t require 91+ octane (although it’s definitely a happier camper when you feed it premium).

However, the FiST doesn’t age particularly well. After 24 months, mine was already starting to get a bit squeaky. Underneath that marvelous skin and glorious motor, it’s still a Fiesta. You won’t love getting in and out of it, either — I’m twenty years your junior, and I didn’t love it. I banged my left knee in a painful way more than once. My mother-in-law, who’s a couple years your senior, struggled with it, as well. The back seats will be entirely useless for anything other than the occasional carry-on luggage storage. And that suspension on road trips? Hard no.

So, even though I really want to recommend a Fiesta ST…I just can’t. Ugh. It hurts. But we have to move on.

I think it comes down to the holy trinity — Golf GTI, Civic Si, and Focus ST. All of them will have the additional space you’ll need, more comfort, and they’ll be a little more stable for daily driving. Which one you’ll choose is really up to you, of course, but let me give you my thoughts (since you asked for them and everything):

GTI — The immediate and obvious first choice, given your situation. But maybe not the correct one. The GTI swings a little bit too far in the other direction for me — maybe more practical than fun. And I am among the many who think the DCT GTI is better than the manual.

Civic Si — I love the tenth-generation Si. Like, I love it. For reals. For daily driving, it’s going to be the clear winner in this group. When you aren’t driving 9/10, it feels just like you’re driving a regular Civic. But is that a good thing? Is that what you want for your mid-life crisis? Methinks not.

Focus ST — First of all, even though you said that price is no object, early Focus STs, which are pretty much identical to the ones on showroom floors in 2019, are going for a song. It’s going to be the most muscle-bound car in the class (other than the $35k+ Golf R and Focus RS) and the one that visually looks the most like a performance car. Downside is that you’re not going to love your daily ride as much — the suspension, while not as stiff as what you’d find in the FoRS, still has a bit of paint-can shaker in it. And Mrs. Sobro might not enjoy the boy-racer looks of the ST (or she might, who knows).

My recommendation? Shocker, Bark picks the Ford. But I think I’m correct in doing so. The engine answers your reliability questions, as Focus STs have been going strong for six model years now. Just be careful about getting yourself in the right gear — the Focus doesn’t like being asked to do a lot of work in lower gears. And, even though you’d rather be driving than wrenching, it sounds like you don’t mind doing a bit of work on the car yourself, which is great news for the Focus ST, because there is a vast world of aftermarket tuning available.


So, don’t forget to send your questions, comments, concerns, and rude remarks to me at [email protected], and I look forward to seeing what y’all have to say about my recommendation. See you next time!

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92 Comments on “Ask Bark: Don’t Call It a Comeback...”


  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    LOL the KBB “Excellent condition” question is easy – dealership greed.
    Why settle for profiting a thousand bucks on the trade in when you can make 4 Grand!?!

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      I can help….because by the time the dealer finds all of the things you forgot to mention that are wrong and fixes them that 1k disappears, more so when they fix the ones you did tell them about. You think windshields and tires are free? Plus new brake pads and rotors? Do you want to lay down 22k for a late model used something or other with 8k miles of rubber left and pads close to the wear bars? I didn’t think so.

      I highly recommend you purchase one of the many for-sale dealerships today and show the Internet how it is done.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        You think dealers spend a penny they don’t absolutely have to on used cars? LOL

        Around here they can’t even be bothered to CLEAN them, never mind do any repairs.

    • 0 avatar
      cdnsfan27

      Funny isn’t it, you never want to pay us what we think our car is worth but God forbid we don’t want to pay you what you think your car is worth. I have seen grown men and women have a temper tantrum on the showroom floor because we couldn’t or wouldn’t do exactly what they wanted.

      A deal has to make sense for both parties or it doesn’t happen. And very few trades turn out to be in clean condition, there is a reason you are selling it, no?

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        Of course not cdnsfan27, it is always the best car ever. Most reliable, cleanest, front ready ride.

        God forbid it is a 75k Subaru of any sort. 2k in ‘maintenance’ every single time.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    FWIW my local Ford dealer has a NEW Fiesta ST that is a model year or 2 old. Likely get a great deal on that.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Doubt you’ll get a great deal. My experience has been on vehicles with a perceived value (deserved or not) that have languished for a model year, or two, at a dealer, is the dealer won’t budge on price.

      Dude, it’s a FiST and I have 5 other people coming in today wanting to buy this.

      Ya…good luck with that.

      Not saying in the case of the particular dealer and car that is the case, but that’s been my experience.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Yep. “It’s been on the lot forever” doesn’t always translate into a great deal – the dealer’s been paying interest on the car every day it sits unsold.

        • 0 avatar
          jack4x

          My experience has been the opposite, the best deals I’ve had on new cars have been the lot poison. You never know when they will get sick of paying floorplan and just decide to fire-sale it.

          • 0 avatar
            S197GT

            how do you define lot poison though?

            i figure some kind of high profit vehicle can sit for a few months and the dealer doesn’t mind. a fusion like mine, that was sitting for 5 months, with 13 miles on the clock, is definite lot poison as they want that stuff moved asap.

            in my experience, stuff doesn’t sit on a lot for two years at low prices; salesmen know which cars the managers want moved and thus will deal on. sure, they always test how stupid you are, but if you start to negotiate they give a lot faster on those cars.

          • 0 avatar
            jack4x

            For me personally, its been both.

            I bought a Viper new with 4 miles that sat for 2 years and a Fiesta new with 10 miles or so that sat for 9 months, both for 40% or more off sticker.

            I agree that mainstream cars are more likely to have big discounts if they have sat for a while, but there are deals out there on the exciting stuff too if you’re in the right place at the right time.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Same dealer has an Ecoboost Mustang with the Performance Pack and its a brand new 2017.

        Must be something going on there.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    yawn

  • avatar
    smallblock

    Mark,
    I just can’t recommend the Focus ST. I feel that they age as poorly as the Fiesta ST. I just traded in a 2014.5 Focus ST with 79,000 miles and it was rusting in strange unexposed places I’ve never seen before, like where the door hinges attach to the body (and I’ve owned some rusty beaters over the years). This was all over the car, granted this shouldn’t be as much of an issue in Nashville as Syracuse, NY (They don’t call it the Salt City for nothing). There were numerous mystery squeaks in the interior and the carpet did not wear well. I sincerely hope the German build quality of your RS is better than the ST from Michigan. I recommend GTI / Civic SI, and if they aren’t quite rowdy enough, that’s what the aftermarket’s for.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Wow, rusting in Nashville? Do they really use that much salt? Crazy.

    • 0 avatar
      Thetruthaboutclutches

      I started to write a rant about head gasket failures and auto transmission failures. Then I realized the head gasket problems are on the RS not the ST. And if you buy a manual transmissioned car that Power sh*t auto transmission is not a problem…. So rather than calling the Focus ST a piece of junk maybe I will start shopping for one lol. Never mind, I will see myself out….

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Welcome back Mark.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    Given that OP has a bit of Z-car nostalgia, what about a 350/370Z? Granted, lower, and not the most comfortable (although at least in the ballpark of some of the other options given), but should be fairly reliable and fun. As far as luggage space for weekends away, well, my wife and I have done 2-week vacations using just carry-on luggage, so I might not be the best judge of what’s needed for a weekend, but do you really need that much?

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Yes this was going through my head as well. If you specifically mention Z-cars, why not a 370Z? Can probably swing a great deal on one right now.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      I second this. The only caveat is that it’s hard to find used examples that haven’t either been modded half to death or beaten half to death, or both. Even the ones with clean bodies seem to have been used to haul loose rebar around the Nordschleife.

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        On that note, the convertible might be the better choice, if just because it was more likely to have a mature driver.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        The Z also comes in convertible form too if the OP swings back to that. The hatchback version swallows enough stuff for a weekend easily. However its not a comfortable car, thus I wouldn’t recommend it for an older fellow.

        Pretty much all the Z’s flaws are fixed with its Infiniti twin the G39 on the used market.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      The Z’s Infiniti twin would be ideal. It also “feels” more like a “reward yourself” car than any econo-hatch can, no matter how refined its spinny bits; and reads more age-appropriate to those who care what their peers think.

  • avatar
    Willyam

    I don’t want to ask a dumb question, but why not an Eco-boost Mustang? (Not really trying to be thick, just re-read the question and didn’t see a specific reason why not, except maybe trunk-space.) I did a quick search of Nashville and brought up a gorgeous dark red, Eco-boost, manual Mustang with the Recaro seats and less than 20k miles for $18,999 or thereabouts. My wife and I rented one in our mid-40’s and drove a long stretch of Route 66 and had a blast. Would have been better if it was a manual, but you know.

    I myself bought a 6-speed Accord coupe V6 when our Odyssey lease ended and the kids got licenses themselves. They’re pretty affordable, but are more of a bigger boulevard car than the lighter sports cars you mention. The power though is really fun. This makes me think 300+ hp and a stick in a Mustang with a handling package could really be the ticket. There is a video by some popular reviewers that compares it to other sports cars for the use you describe, and it comes out pretty favorably.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I agree, why have RWD coupes been written off already? Many very livable candidates and availability of a manual transmission, just pick how hairy/hard-edged you want it to be.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Why not? Because you can get it with a V8 for a trivial price increase!

      I agree with the slightly less practical RWD suggestion if this is supposed to satisfy the need for a toy. I bought a 2011 Mazdaspeed3 a few months ago as a practicality compromise. I don’t even care about the power – I actually prefer the 2.3L MZR in my previous ’04 Mazda3 for its linear power delivery, sound, and higher revs – but I wasn’t buying something with one-wheel-drive again (it has a helical LSD, as every vehicle should). It’s fun, but not that fun. I’d love to be able to put it sideways on command with a singing V8 during the summer.

      That said, you never know how something feels until the test drive. I haven’t driven any recent Mustangs. It’s possible I’d prefer being behind the wheel of my MS3 or a GTI most of the time. Bark has the experience of owning and living with the variety of enthusiast-focused vehicles and he’s not saying Mustang. Still, if there’s a fantasy of owning a more serious sports car involved, I think it’s best to try it and then be satisfied with practical after tiring of it than to go practical and always wonder if you wanted something more extreme.

      Go drive some different vehicles. See what you think. When my buddy from another city was looking for a toy he got me to check out an RX-8 for him. I didn’t enjoy driving it. The front end needed some new parts and the engine didn’t rev well. Both due to issues but I didn’t know what they were supposed to be like. I’ve driven poorly-maintained vehicles where you could still sense the potential. That wasn’t one. Fortunately, it was the trashed interior that made it an obvious “no buy”. The next one I drove was strong and tight and had me grinning like a madman when it kicked sideways exiting the first on-ramp. It seemed to have no polar inertia at all and told me everything it was doing. Since then, he’s had three and has barely driven the 2011 S4 MT he bought new. He currently has an ’07 with only 20k miles and a Mazdaspeed intake that makes it the most enjoyable musical instrument I’ve ever played.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      The choice of a Mustang is so obvious that automotive journalists often overlook it.

      The buying public, on the other hand, can’t get enough of the Mustang.

      The only real downside to the Mustang is that it’s common.

      • 0 avatar
        Sobro

        OP here. Thank-you Mark for answering my email. And thanks to everyone here for their input. I’m glad I could help spark a lively discussion.

        I’ve always loved Mustangs. But I have a few reasons I chose the hot hatch segment instead. A Mustang is larger (and heavier) than a hot hatch. We already own an ES 350 and F-150 so why not go small?

        Back in the old days we used to judge car trunks by how many dead bodies could be stacked inside. With today’s mail-slot trunk openings you have to use a sawzall just to get a body inside so a hatchback wins. (If I have to tell you “dead bodies” is a metaphor, you need to delete all of your social media accounts and put your cell phone in the blender.)

        Hot hatches IMO are the original Mustangs of today. Economy car roots with go fast parts available straight from the factory.

        Mustangs are everywhere. Hot hatches are not.

        Z-cars are nice, but I decided on a turbo four with stick shift because it seems like it would be more fun.

        Regarding the German makes, remember I’m 60 and will soon enough be on a fixed income. GTI is of course a consideration, but Audi and BMW are right out. And I believe the Mini Cooper is serviced by the BMW parts bin, so same applies.

        I was thinking Elantra GT or Veloster Turbo, but Elantra GT’s are rare on the used market in the Southeast and the cheaper Asian hot hatches have a lower power to weight ratio.

        I think the Fiat-Chrysler hatchback design is really ugly, so Abarth and friends are not under consideration. Same for WRX.

        The Toyobaru twins aren’t hot hatches but would be fun for a weekend rental.

        For the Miata Is Always The Answer commenters, I decided that topless driving can be had at the local car rental place and I like the idea of fold down rear seats when necessary.

        So that said, it leaves me a pretty good array of fun hot hatches to choose from.

        • 0 avatar
          hubcap

          What have you test driven? Getting seat time is probably the single most important thing you can do to determine which car is right for you.

          And don’t settle for an around the block drive. Get a real one. The better to see how the car will fit into your life and don’t be surprised if you need more than one to make a final determination.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Before writing off the Miata, swing by your local Fiat store and see if a $6-8K discount on the FIAT version might change your mind.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    GTI all day long. Its more solid than the Focus ST and likely equally reliable (in my experience with 3 GTIs). The handling is a joy and the ride firm, but not harsh. Quick enough too especially once you get to 2nd gear.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      The GTI is a much nicer place to spend time in as well. I’m constantly surprised how nice my GTI is inside. The Focus interior is cheap, cheap, cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      GTI = Expensive to maintain.

      The Germans win the contest for highest priced parts. To add insult to injury, they need a lot of maintenance.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Do you own one? I do, if $60/yr for the dealer to change the oil is expensive to maintain, well, I don’t know what to tell you. Because other than that, in going on three years it has just needed a set of wiper blades – and even those lasted more than two years.

        I suppose Bark is right as a jr race car driver that the DCT is “better”, but it’s less fun and more expensive.

        • 0 avatar
          brn

          I don’t own one, but have known several people that do. They all love them until the warranty runs out. At that point, parts are crazy expensive.

          I hope yours continues to treat you well.

          • 0 avatar
            TMA1

            Luckily, the VW warranty is twice as long as Ford’s. 6yrs/72K vs 3yrs/36K. I highly doubt the VW will see more time in the shop than the Ford with it’s current cost-cutting.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    I have a FiST at work and a GTI in the garage at home. I find that I would so much rather drive my GTI. I understand your point about the GTI’s civility and practicality, Bark. I like that practicality. The icing on the practicality cake for me is that I can easily eek out 36+ mpg with my GTI. The tactile feel of everything I grip and touch makes me fall in love with the GTI. Better seat upholstery, better switchgear, far superior steering wheel, more intuitive climate and audio interface, and much larger rear seat and boot. While the Focus would be a good choice, the GTI just ticks all the boxes for me.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Good to see Bark back!

    I’d argue with the statement that Focus ST is “the most muscle-bound car in the class” – it may have more horsepower, but it’s quite a bit slower than a GTI. And these may be a deal for a reason – at the end of the day, it’s a used Focus.

    I’ll recommend something completely different: Audi A3 Cabriolet. Get one with the 2.0T and AWD, and it’ll hang right in there with a GTI. In fact, the A3 IS a GTI – same platform, same engine, same chassis, same transmission, just not quite as hard-edged, which is actually a really good thing for us old guys. Good ones can be had off-lease for around $20,000.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick_515

      2013 is the last year of the hatchback A3, and they fall just within OP’s “4-7 year old” range. Avoid the TDIs obviously. The 2.0T engines can be have with quattro, but mine (2010, FWD) doesn’t have it, and I did ok last winter in central NY. It is wonderfully (but not too) fast, gets anywhere between 26 to 30 mpg per tank, and is very practical. I’ve carried a coffee table and a full size dining table with four chairs in it. Turns heads too. I’d recommend it.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      How about another platform mate… the Audi TT? Its basically an upmarket Golf R.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    If we are looking at used, how would a Mazdaspeed 3 fit in?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Can you even find one of these that hasn’t been beaten and modded into oblivion, though?

      Besides, this guy’s 60, and speaking as someone who’s not too far behind him, there’s something to be said for a car that doesn’t beat you into submission. The Mazdaspeed 3 was a roughneck from day one.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      When was the last model year? It’s been…a while.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Honestly, he’d likely be better off just doing a 2.5L Mazda3.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      2013 was the last year of MS3.

      I bought a 50k mile 2011 MS3 in January. No mods. It didn’t appear that any of the MS3’s available on the classifieds in my area had been modded, unlike 90+% of WRX’s and STI’s.

      It’s not a significantly harsher ride than other Mazda3’s. Though I’ve only run it on my 205/60R16 winter tires and 205/55R16 pot-hole season beater steel wheels (my previous winter tires). I’ll be trying the 225/40R18 stock wheels in about a month and I expect that if I use them I’ll be putting 235/45R18 on those, and 215/60R16s on my other set of 16″ OE alloys (yes, I had four sets of wheels for my other Mazda3).

      Plenty of previous gen MS3’s in my area had 120k+ miles. That and a browse of the forums convinced me that the engines can’t be too bad. The direct injection engine does put a lot of fuel into the oil though so I’ll be using Euro 0W-40 and changing it twice as often as I did with my old Mazda3. The oil looks and smells worse after a month and 1k miles than that car would after a year and 10k miles.

      I did recommend that a buddy not buy a used CX-7 because of that engine. He bought a new CX-5 instead. We’ll see how it goes. I don’t like the oil dilution and premium fuel requirement and fuel economy and sound and non-linear power curve. Yeah, I’d pay money to just have the old 2.3L MZR in the same car instead. I chose the car for its helical LSD and ownership history (original owner, friend of a friend).

      Oh well. I’m starting to like the car.

  • avatar
    MUSASHI66

    FiST is never an answer for as long Abarth 500 exists. That sound is intoxicating.

    • 0 avatar
      NG5

      The 500 Abarth sound is truly truly great but the driving position was totally weird to me. It felt like driving an old Type 2 VW camper van. The whole experience of driving it was a riot, but not necessarily in the best way. I almost bought one.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Weird, but I found it quite comfortable, even for long distances.

        I would never have one as my ONLY car (GTI all the way for that), but they make a heck of a fun toy!

    • 0 avatar
      SoCalMikester

      id consider one, bought from someone who went through a life change that required something larger. yeah, its an italian design, built by people in mexico that make $24 a day and sold by a company with low standards. id definitely be on the forums doing some learning, though.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        And you would learn that they are pretty bulletproof. The interior is cheap – it’s a cheap car, even in Abarth form.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          They’re pretty bulletproof if your frame of reference is post-German-reunification BMWs and Triumph Spitfires. If you’ve ever owned good cars from Japan, they’re disposable diapers with wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I have to agree with that, having bought a 500 Abarth back in ’13. Way more fun than the FiST, and way cheaper.

      I can also say that a $440 exhaust back section from AutoRicambi makes a 124 Spider Lusso sound JUST LIKE a 500 Abarth. :-) I hated the interior and ride of the 124 Abarth.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Nashville? Twisty roads? Dreams of a 260Z?

    Why not a Mustang/Camaro/370Z/Genesis Coupe/BRZ? All of them should function well enough as grand tourers that can carve up a twisty road, although some might be roomier or softer riding than others. Why limit oneself to FWD hot-hatches?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I had that thought as well, but this guy’s 60, so maybe he wants something that rides a bit higher. You know how us old guys are.

    • 0 avatar
      NG5

      I agree. Even though I’m a hot hatch fan, in the US and especially the South there are probably a lot of good examples of those vehicles around. I wouldn’t restrict my search unless I had very specific needs for a vehicle below a certain size / packaging efficiency (as I alluded to in another comment here).

      • 0 avatar
        cimarron typeR

        +1 on the hot hatch -370z. Or if partial boulevarding required a g37. It’s a bulletproof powertrain and a neutral handler for the most part. This enthusiast is in the age group where a v6 mustang conv.could also fit the bill. I actually think the rag top Stang looks as good or better than the coupe .

  • avatar
    Russycle

    If you’re looking for fun, why not a MINI? Not everyone’s cup of tea, but if the looks don’t put you off you should at least check one out.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Probably the worst reliability record out of anything yet discussed, including the Fiat 500.

      • 0 avatar
        NG5

        Crazily enough, my dad drove one of the first gen MINI’s reintroduced by BMW from something like 120,000 to 220,000 miles and didn’t seem that put off by mechanical problems. But that appears to be a very isolated case, and he often takes very high mileage vehicles to extremely high mileage; currently on a WJ Cherokee over 230,000 miles I think. He may just be used to persistent problems.

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        It’s weird, I know several people with Minis and I had a 500, and none of them were troublesome. But like they say, anecdotal evidence ain’t statistics, so I’ll see myself out.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Legitimate question:

    Why are you, Mark Baruth, writing articles/essays for The Truth About Cars again?

    You and your brother set up a (horrible, IMO) alternate website after the last time you “quit” from TTAC (due to your highly offensive to women essay/screed being yanked – see https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2017/01/retraction-article-posted-january-23-2017/
    and
    Google “site:thetruthaboutcars.com time drivers march” and select cached).

    Also, Jack and you lambaste TTAC and its current staff (especially Tim Healy) at very regular intervals, stating that its articles are horrible, that it is horribly and incompetently run, that it has a mere fraction of the readership and comments as it once did, and that you and your brother’s blog is destined to crush/overtake The Truth About Cars in terms of viewership, commentators, revenue, unique site visits per day/web traffic, etc.,etc., etc., very soon.

    So, why the the return?

    Also, will Jack be along anytime soon?

    Thanks

    • 0 avatar

      As usual, everything you’ve said is wrong. Our blog, which you were addicted to, was set up in 2013.

      Please show me where I’ve said anything bad about TTAC. Thanks.

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        Not everything he said is wrong. You wrote your share of offensive garbage. I was one of your harshest critics.

        Time passed and you backed off from your constantly inciting anyone that didn’t say nice things about you. You backed off on being a egotistical jerk in your articles.

        Once you did that I let a little more time pass and gave you another chance. Now, many of us appreciate your articles and input. DeadWeight isn’t there yet. He’s allowed.

        Please don’t fall back into your old ways. DeadWeight is easy to incite, so it’s best not to feed him. I’m sure I’ll hear about that comment.

  • avatar
    ajla

    60YO, looking pre-owned, wants a manual, used the words “comfortably and reliably” in his question, other car is an ES350, doesn’t seem to love turbos, and doesn’t seem like a speed demon.

    I’m going to be a little more on the “safe” side here and recommend an Elantra GT. Not a barn burner, but it is a reasonably fun Euro chassis and should be easy to live with.

    If you can compromise on the body style I’d say look at the old Civic Si or Acura ILX with the 2.4L/6M combination.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Matrix and Corolla XR were fun too back when they were 170 hp turbo 4 6 speed manual only affairs but those will be hard to find.

    • 0 avatar
      NG5

      That sounds like a good recommendation. I would have checked these and the new Veloster out if they had been on the market when I was hot hatch shopping.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      He needs to test drive one. I have and didn’t really like it. Felt detached. I do like both this generation and the prior generation of the Civic SI.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      He needs to test drive one. I have and didn’t really like it. Felt detached. I do like both this generation and the prior generation of the Civic SI.

  • avatar
    Boff

    I’m not sure why he dismissed the idea of a Miata…interestingly I swapped an S550 Mustang GT and a TJ Wrangler for an ND MX-5…the Miata is a better sports car than the Mustang and a better convertible than the Jeep. The Miata is quite livable for moderately-long highways trips with the top down and the windows up. And if it rains drive the Lexus.

  • avatar
    NG5

    3 year, 36,000+mi Fiesta ST owner here. It’s a great car that can do everything if you can stomach a harsh-ride when you aren’t thwomping it and if you can live with a cheap and awkward interior. YMMV. For whatever reason, the harder you drive it, the smoother the ride seems. (Also, 15″ winter wheels tires with more sidewall made the ride much nicer; I might consider downsizing wheels for all-year use if the ride bothered me) It basically begs to be flogged, at which point you won’t notice the interior. I would at least say drive it if you are going to consider a GTI. I found the GTI and Focus to be dragging too much metal behind me to be as confident while driving hard, but they both were far nicer for normal driving. The FiSTs are getting cheap on the used market, too.

    After 3 great years I have no inclination to get rid of mine, except a friend might sell me an absolutely perfect NB MX-5 in my dream spec for a really good price, and I don’t need to commute like I used to. And it is hard to watch the FiST get beat up in street and parallel parking when someone else might drive and enjoy it more.

    That said, if I _do_ get rid of my FiST, I will seriously keep my eye on the used prices and consider getting another one down the line if I see a good deal in my area. Unfortunately Ford is refusing to sell the next generation in the US, so I’d be looking for another used MkVI someday. I don’t think I would consider any other hot hatch in future as long as I can just buy one of these again. (Maybe the Veloster N? Though I hate the 3 door thing.) I can’t speak to any negative reliability on the powertrain front, but I haven’t had it long enough. I think the engine is common within Ford, however, so you probably can look around there. I have had some minor problems with interior bits – an HVAC blend motor and a window switch broke.

    America is hurting for hot hatch selection. If I wanted to go bigger than the Fiesta ST, I’d probably look at something like a S550 Mustang, Camaro, E30 BMW or current 2 series BMW. I test drove the Toyota 86 and didn’t have as much fun as the Fiesta, plus it would have been more impractical and more expensive in every way at the time. Even at the same price on the used market, I still don’t think I would have gone for the 86/BRZ – and I prefer RWD.

    To me, if you’re getting bigger and heavier than ~2,700 lbs and ~160 in. total length you might as well get RWD and a fancier engine, unless you really need the wonderfully massive storage capacity offered by the larger hatchbacks.

    • 0 avatar
      NG5

      After looking over the comments here, I feel like I should make an addendum: unless you are going to be putting your foot to the floor on accelerator and brake pedals and otherwise driving hard on a regular basis, the compromises of the Fiesta ST are pretty severe. But it’s clear from the above that I love the car. If you are spending the majority of your time cruising, I’d say that something like the GTI would be much nicer to live with.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        But putting your foot down constantly is where the fun is. I have a sub 7,000 mile 2018 model, which incidentally I got last July for under 17,000 bucks new after all the incentives were applied…not sure if you can still get them, but they also applied to the Focus ST.

        I shopped way more expensive cars to include the Golf R, Alfa Giulia, Audi S3 (I think) and the 3 series BMW. They were amazing cars, but they were just cars at normal speeds…the Audi and Golf especially didn’t show you their capability until go to jail speeds.

        However, you aren’t wrong on the comfort…especially that hard console lid that occupies the space where my elbow needs to be when shifting sometimes. The GTI is more comfortable and “premium” no doubt, but The Fiesta makes me feel like a racecar driver on my daily commute. Entirely depends on what you are after on that choice.

        Mine is leased and the concerns you mention with respect to it holding up long term are why I haven’t decided to buy it yet. I know in my heart that interior is going to look like every B13 SE-R I looked at prior to getting it (like a grenade went off on the dash). That and with so many bucket list cars out there I am not sure I want to commit long term to it. Still, it is one of those cars a generation of car guys always looks back fondly on. Honestly I hadn’t felt anything like it since my mid 90’s test drive of an aforementioned B13 Sentra SE-R. It’s so good.

        If I do get rid of it I have a 90’s Japanese (probably SC3/400) and a Third Gen F body itch that both need scratched (and BMW 840/50 if I go batcrap crazy) at some point so it’ll be back to wrenching which is fun in itself but it has been refreshing to just have to worry about driving it for a change

        • 0 avatar
          NG5

          I absolutely agree. I was fortunate a few weeks ago to drive hard for 3 hours straight on quiet, high speed limit, two-lane mountain roads. When I got back from that drive I was really tired and both my legs were kind of sore, haha. The car provides so much confidence, and you can use so much of it, that it is just a pure joy to drive hard.

          If I were leasing it it would be a tough call on what to do when the time ran out. I figured that I would be driving mine into the ground, because before buying it I had looked so long for a car and had such high expectations for the driving fun and practicality that nothing sold then, or now, came close. I figured by the time I actually needed to get something else, it would be worth so little that I would keep it and find somewhere to store it and use it until it died. I didn’t expect to move on any other car because the transaction cost of me getting into basically any fun car is equivalent or worse to keeping a depreciating Fiesta ST. Now that an opportunity has come up where it actually might make some financial sense to part with the Fiesta, I am coming up with a dream to circle back after they have depreciated fully and get another one.

          I am also interested to see what happens with them in the long-term in terms of interior quality and reliability, and I’m not sure I want to stick around for the ride if I can save money and move into another car I know ages beautifully (because it’s already 20 years old). That said, if I were just using the FiST as a toy car, I wouldn’t mind taking the interior out of it. Pulling out some of the weight makes a difference in my experience of removing the spare tire and rear seats for a while. I don’t recommend doing that if you’re planning to use it as a daily though. Maybe Mark can speak to those kinds of mods better.

          (Off topic, but speaking of SC300s, I saw an absolutely perfect single owner, manual one under 80K miles go up for sale within a few hours of me several months ago and almost went to go buy it that day. I still miss the I6 E34 of my dad’s that I used to drive sometimes.)

          I hope the emailer has a chance to try a Fiesta ST. In terms of the driving experience, it’s really on its own as a balanced package hot hatchback with limits low enough to drive hard on the road. Even with the meager power it has, I find myself regularly backing off as it tops 3rd gear at around 90 or so, and on country roads it is quick to catch traffic. Driving a faster car would frustrate me even more.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    Welcome back, Mark.

    One of the best things about moving from hot, flat and crowded Florida to west Nashville has been enjoying the moderately twisty back roads west and south of town in Hickman, Dickson, Williamson and Maury counties. I don’t know that I drive like a 60 year old yet, but I like comfort, legroom, and lumbar control more than I need 300+ horses for the job. Sounds like the OP may feel similarly. The M3 was fun for these roads but definitely overkill. I think a V6 or EB mustang would be my pick if I had room and funds for another car, but in the hot hatch category the GTI is a nice place to spend time.

    If you’re still undecided, come to cars and coffee in Franklin tomorrow. There will be plenty of people in attendance to fill your head with bad ideas but also a wide selection of cars to generate ideas.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Sobro, get a 500 Abarth Cabrio. They’re robust and simple to maintain with a couple of things you can do as preventative maintenance for the few common points of attention. Super fun, super cheap, and unique!

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    very nice 318ti on Bring a Trailer right now. You won’t see yourself everywhere you go in that and while older than you are looking at, a mid to late 90’s car is downright easy compared to those old Datsuns you were looking at.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      The 318 was a great engine, but the last vehicle that had one and a manual was the 1999 Dodge Dakota.

      OH! you mean that three letter German car? That’s kind of pushing OP’s “price no object”, if not initially, then after the sale. An out-of-warranty German 318ti doesn’t qualify as reliable either.

  • avatar
    TheDutchGun

    I purchased a 2017 Focus ST about 3 months ago with 22,000 km on it for about $9,000 under MSRP ($24,900) this is in eastern Ontario. Since my trade was about equal to purchase price I paid negligible tax. No complaints from me here. I don’t feel the interior is as cheap as mentioned above. Car is plenty fun to drive and pulls nicely when in a feisty mood. There are a few creaks here and there but nothing to get too worked up over.

  • avatar
    barryfaetheus

    2014 Fiesta ST owner here. Bought nearly 3 years ago with about 17k miles, now at ~45k.

    Overall it has been a great little car, still puts a smile on my face every time I jump in and drive it. Gearchange, brakes, steering/handling are all razor sharp. Yes, the ride is a bit bumpy, but I’ve driven it several times from here in PHX to LA, SD etc and it has not been very bad. Averaging about 32 in mixed driving.

    The only minor issues I’ve had is the HVAC blend door became noisy (clicking noise on startup, common Ford problem). I just moved it into the straight ahead vent position and unplugged the connector. One of the motor mounts became squeaky, solved with some silicon grease. Yes, the interior is cheap and Tiny Tikes plasticky, but honestly that does not bother me much.

    Pretty sure it will be falling apart north of 100K or 10 years, so I think I will probably keep it another 2 years or so. I’d be tempted by a cream puff 2015 Lexus GS350 if one fell into my lap sooner, however.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Instead of a hot hatch that may not be comfy. What about something comfortable (Lexus), and fun (RWD), like, a Lexus SC300 manual?

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    When I was considering a manual transmission sporty new car, it came down to Civic Si, Toyobaru, and the Veloster N. I would also throw in an EcoBoost Mustang in the mix for this guy. If fun-to-drive and reasonably reliable are the top considerations, any of these fit the bill nicely.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Agree 75%.

      However, if one does go with the Toyobaru, make sure you include an extra grand for real tires and toss in some more money to upgrade the brakes.

  • avatar
    Sobro

    Oops, I hit reply somewhere above so my comment may be lost so herewith is that same comment:

    OP here. Thank-you Mark for answering my email. And thanks to everyone here for their input. I’m glad I could help spark a lively discussion.

    I’ve always loved Mustangs. But I have a few reasons I chose the hot hatch segment instead. A Mustang is larger (and heavier) than a hot hatch. We already own an ES 350 and F-150 so why not go small?

    Back in the old days we used to judge car trunks by how many dead bodies could be stacked inside. With today’s mail-slot trunk openings you have to use a sawzall just to get a body inside so a hatchback wins. (If I have to tell you “dead bodies” is a metaphor, you need to delete all of your social media accounts and put your cell phone in the blender.)

    Hot hatches IMO are the original Mustangs of today. Economy car roots with go fast parts available straight from the factory.

    Mustangs are everywhere. Hot hatches are not.

    Z-cars are nice, but I decided on a turbo four with stick shift because it seems like it would be more fun.

    Regarding the German makes, remember I’m 60 and will soon enough be on a fixed income. GTI is of course a consideration, but Audi and BMW are right out. And I believe the Mini Cooper is serviced by the BMW parts bin, so same applies.

    I was thinking Elantra GT or Veloster Turbo, but Elantra GT’s are rare on the used market in the Southeast and the cheaper Asian hot hatches have a lower power to weight ratio.

    I think the Fiat-Chrysler hatchback design is really ugly, so Abarth and friends are not under consideration. Same for WRX.

    The Toyobaru twins aren’t hot hatches but would be fun for a weekend rental.

    For the Miata Is Always The Answer commenters, I decided that topless driving can be had at the local car rental place and I like the idea of fold down rear seats when necessary.

    So that said, it leaves me a pretty good array of fun hot hatches to choose from.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    Please buy a manual transmission Genesis G70.


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