If you ask me, I think within the next 25 years (maximum) the government is going to mandate we no longer be allowed to drive ourselves, for reasons I outlined years ago. In fact, the Federal Government recently has pretty much all but mandated exactly what I had predicted in that article. So the age of the driver’s car is almost at a close. We can talk a lot about that issue but what we need to talk about in the meantime are cars, particularly DD-practical cars, that are worth driving.
First let’s get this out of the way, what isn’t worth DD-ing. ‘Nuff said.
Ok, so, we get it, hatches are probably going to be the most practical DD-worthy cars upon the death of the car. I agree because I for one love cars with short wheelbases (I hate driving long-wheelbase cars). But I also hate ugly hatches, or ugly cars period. Pictured above is not an example of that. The Focus is one of the best looking hatches in the American market, it at least looks like a car I want to drive, good job Ford. And just to be clear we’re not talking the RS, because the point is mass-market cars most people will actually end up buying.
So let’s now talk about stupid-looking hatches. The Impreza hatch is blocky and stubby-looking with very stupid-looking wheel arches and all the while it still looks anonymous and boring and indistinctive. It’s better than ugly but I would in no way feel proud to drive one with aesthetics were the over-riding criterion. The upcoming ‘17 refresh more or less fixes this (though the sedan still looks better) but still, less of this, more of like the Focus.
But the most frustrating thing is that the sexy yet cheap hatch is rare in NA. There’s the Focus, the Mazda3, there’s hopefully the upcoming Impreza...and that’s it. The Corolla iA if you’re in to that (it’s not necessarily bad looking I guess...?) The Civic hatch has been dead for years, and in it’s current form barely resembles what a Civic hatch should be anyway (it’s a great sedan, it’s a great-ish coupe but it’s too bloated to be a great hatch anymore). Yay, we’re getting the Cruze hatch, but again, it’s too bloated to be a really great hatch even if it is still in the “compact” category. The VW Golf fits the bill perfectly without even trying - except for that whole VW baggage to go along with it, even without Dieselgate. In order to sell a hatch, Mazda had to ruin it by trying to make it a crossover, and it pretty much fails at everything in the process. Seriously. Park one side-by-side a Mazda3 hatch and they more or less have the same ride height. If you’re looking for a sporty car, why compromise with the CX-3 instead of just getting a Mazda3 hatch with snow tires? If you want an efficient crossover, why compromise with the CX-3 instead of getting the more practical, less derpy-looking CX-5? The CX-3 exists for one reason and one reason only: for teens with parents who are willing to foot the bill for a new car but insist it must be a crossover because lol teens and safety, and this is how they get a compromised Mazda3 hatch instead of an actual Mazda3 hatch (ask me how I know of this scenario, also this is why having your own job that doesn’t suck is pretty damn rad).
And speaking of crossovers, even crossovers can be made into DD’ers worth driving on a daily basis, but not without effort (and it pretty much means the compact/subcompact category only). I wrote about how Mitsubishi virtually obligates itself to make such an SUV now. The only such SUV in non-luxury territory that I can think of that even approaches that is the CX-5 (and I guess technically the CX-3 but see above) and there’s just no effort to even try to give it a true “enthusiast” trim (the 184 HP engine comes close I guess but 200-210 would be nice, and not a single HP more is necessary unless you’re looking for a true Focus ST competitor in true SUV form). It also doesn’t hurt that the CX-5 is one of the best looking compact SUVs out there. As much as it begrudges me to say it...the Hyundai Tucson is nice looking I guess but the driving configuration of that car, and quite frankly the brand baggage, makes it hard to get consumer respect (let alone street cred). The CR-V is a bloated lump, and the HR-V is, well, just no. The RAV4 and pretty much everything else...’nuff said. The Forrester XT I guess is another close one but I feel like it’s just too high to really take advantage of other than in straight-line performance without rollover risk (at least that’s the impression I get when I look at one - it’s a bit taller than the SUV in Subaru’s lineup that’s supposedly the next biggest size and in fact the biggest car Subaru sells in the US now, the Outback).
So, yeah. Is it too hard to ask for a DD-worthy cheap car to be proud of while we can still drive?