Leading up to my recent purchase of my 2nd Focus Wagon in a row, I’ve been thinking about the 5 different cars I spent some meaningful time with over the past 3 years... and how each of them compared to each other and how I would rank them.
2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser... base model... which meant no A/C, but still had power windows, cloth seats and a 150HP 2.4L 4cyl mated to a 5 speed manual.
2012 Buick Verano... Rental special with the base 180HP 2.4L DI 4cyl engine mated to a 6 speed automatic.
2007 Ford Focus ZXW SES... Loaded model with power sunroof, heated leather seats, ABS, traction control, aftermarket Clarion stereo, power windows, power mirrors and a 136HP 2L 4cyl mated to a 5 speed manual
2014 Chevrolet Cruze 1LT... Mid range model with the 138hp 1.4L DI 4cyl.
2005 Ford Focus ZXW SE... Base model... which means while it still has A/C, it has manual crank windows, no ABS/Traction control, No sunroof, No tachometer and the base CD stereo with no AUX output.
How they stack up
Power: The Buick Verano was easily the most powerful with good power off the line and good power when passing at highway speeds. It’s also the 2nd smoothest and quietest of the bunch.
The next best would be the PT Cruiser. The PT’s 2.4L 4cyl has good low end torque for a non-turbo 4 cyl. While it can rev up to 6000 rpm, it’s happiest below 5000. It comes in 3rd in terms noise/vibration. And with the 5 speed manual, it’s quite peppy.
Next is the 2005 Focus Wagon. It doesn’t have as much low end torque, but it likes to rev... and it feels like it’s designed to be run up to 7000 rpm. But this engine doesn’t have a balance shaft making it noisy and vibrate more... ESPECIALLY if the OEM hydralic engine mount was replaced with a conventional/cheap assed rubber one. The 2007 Focus ZXW SES Wagon is like the 2005, but with more weight, making it slower.
In last place is the 2014 Chevy Cruze. Turbo lag and not much happening below 2500 rpm. When on the highway and you want to pass, not only do you get the usual lag from the automatic, you also have an extra second of lag for the turbo to spool up. Between 2500 to 4000 rpm, there is a nice bump in power and then it seems to drop off.
Fuel Economy *updated*: The Chevy Cruze is the winner by a very small margin (got around 6.8L/100km). And it would likely have been the winner by a bigger margin if it had the manual. Next comes the 2007 Ford Focus with a 1 year average of about 7L/100km. After that, the 2005 Focus... which has been getting just under 8L/100km. The higher mileage (has 80,000km more on the clock) may be a factor in this. The PT Cruiser is next with a 2 year average of around 8.2L/100km... uses about 15% more fuel compared to the 2007 Focus. And in last place is the Buick Verano... It used a little bit more fuel than the PT (8.4L/100km), but not much more. Not surprising given that it’s automatic and has the most power.
Roominess/practicality: The 2005 Focus comes in first. No sunroof means more interior space compared to the 2007 Focus. After the 2007 Focus is the PT. The Cruze is the next best and the Verano is in last. Even though the Cruze and Verano are on the same chassis, the Cruze is a little bigger in a few areas.
Comfort/Seats - Verano/Cruze had nice comfy cloth seats. In 2nd, the 2005 Focus has somewhat worn cloth seats that are okay. The 2007 Focus with leather seats comes in third. I don’t like the type of leather this Focus has... feels like glorified vinyl... cold in the winter, hot/sticky in the summer. Even though they’re heated and the seats in the 2005 Focus aren’t, I still like them less. And last place is the PT Cruiser... Chrysler seriously cheaped out on the seats with the PT. Stupidly designed headrest, cheap quality cloth that stains really easy and not that comfortable... but still comfortable enough for me. Still way more comfortable than sitting on a park bench or a church pew.
Build/solidity: The Verano and Cruze both feel nice and solid... and they should since they’re substantially newer. So they’re tied for first. The PT Cruiser comes next. It felt quite solid with hardly any squeaks or rattles in spite of its age/mileage. The 2005 Focus in 3rd. Has a few rattles here and there, but just doesn’t have as solid of a feel as the PT. And in last is the 2007 Focus. I’m not sure why the 2007 had so many squeaks and rattles, but it did.
Toys: I like the Verano the best. It had a bit of a better stereo and nicely located USB ports for my iPhone... and interfaced with it seamlessly. Aside from that, it had similar features compared to the Cruze, which I’d put in 2nd place. In 3rd, the 2007 Focus. It’s the loaded SES model. Next... the 2005 Focus. It has wind up windows, but at least it still as A/C and a cargo cover. In last, the base model PT. No A/C, no cargo cover and the power window switches are in a stupid location. Though I do like the analog clock.
Annoyances/dislikes: The Focii have two common issues... The wiring that goes into the hatch door cracks with age and causes things like blown fuses, not functioning rear wipers/hatch door lights and stuff like that. And Ford OEM tie rods suck. And the shifter in the 2005 Focus is showing some wear in the form of it being difficult to get into first gear when it’s really cold (I bet it needs a tranny fluid change). The PT cruiser has a difficult to access timing belt and a fragile cooling system. Also the clutch slave cylinder is designed in a way that makes it hard to bleed. The 1.4L turbo in the Cruze is gutless and peaky. The Verano, according to the EPA, should get better fuel economy compared to the manual PT Cruiser, but in reality, it doesn’t.
Overall ranking with no budget factored in: If money was no issue, I wouldn’t get any of these cars... LOL... for a daily driver, I’d get the Telsa Model S.
Overall ranking with money factored in: 2005 Focus ZXW SE. Cost me less than $2000... and that includes the safety certification, e-test and tax.