SUBARU LEGACY | STARTING PRICE: $21,700
Subaru has always distinguished itself in a very crowded automotive landscape by being the all-wheel-drive car company. We think of them in terms of ruggedized wagons like the Outback, which by the way is a very fine vehicle. But building on that firm foundation, Subaru has leveraged its technology advantage beyond building vehicles you’d want to go camping with. Their midsize sedan, the Legacy, is a perfect example of that transition.
Though the Legacy truly is a Subaru and does come with one of their symmetrical all-wheel drive systems as standard equipment, because it’s a sedan with low ground clearance its value lies elsewhere.
The Legacy is designed and positioned to compete directly with the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion etc. In fact, current buyers might have a hard time telling some of these models apart because the basic shapes and dimensions appear to be very similar. And as much as the Legacy looks similar to the others, fundamentally it has some very unique attributes that set it apart.
The styling of the Legacy is class leading. Whereas the Outback looks profoundly utilitarian, the Legacy is a very fine piece of automotive sculpturing. The interior is precise, proportional and well executed. It’s very left-brain in its design, which is in keeping with the philosophy of the company. With a Subaru, the vehicles are designed to “function” superbly in areas like safety, reliability and road worthiness, which they do masterfully. The good looks are used to attract customers so that they will buy the car and thereby experience the superior functionality of the vehicle. With several other automobile manufacturers it’s the opposite. They build pretty cars that mask poor functionality. Owner satisfaction levels for these are predictably low.
The Legacy comes in four trim levels. The base 2.5i is a 4 cylinder sedan with a cvt automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. It’s priced very attractively and contains all the basic functional bits that the more expensive models do. The Legacy increases in price with additional optional equipment and the availability of a larger engine. The 2.5i Premium and 2.5i Limited have more equipment than the base model and the 3.6R Limited replaces the 4 with a 6 cylinder engine.
The 2.5 engine has 175 horsepower and offers a 26 city and 36 highway fuel economy rating. The 3.6 has 256 horsepower and delivers a 20/29 rating. Though the 3.6 has significantly more power, the 2.5 is very lively and has more than enough scoot for the car. Fewer than 10 percent of buyers are willing to pay the additional $3,000 for the 3.6 with its 20 percent fuel economy penalty.
So the Legacy is a totally modern svelte sedan that is good looking, roomy and attractively priced. But more than that it’s also an outstanding all-weather, all-road, sure-footed, fun-to-drive, long-legged, low-maintenance, long-lived sedan that owners tend to fall in love with and keep for a very long time.
FORD FIESTA STARTING PRICE: $13,900
It may be a surprise to some but Ford Motor Company really does build something other than trucks; they’re called cars! And as it happens they build and sell lots of them every year. The Fiesta is the company’s sub-compact car sitting below the compact Focus and midsize Fusion.
Actually the breadth of models in the Fiesta line is surprisingly broad. There is the S Sedan, which is the 4 door model; the S Hatch, which is the 5 door hatchback; the SE Sedan and Hatch; Titanium Sedan and Hatch; the sporty ST; and the newest addition, the Fiesta 1.0 or SFE.
The styling to the Fiesta is very slick and Ford benefits from the European branch of the company that has over the decades developed extensive small car design prowess. The lines are sculpted, the exterior colors are lively and fun and the car looks much like its larger siblings.
The interior of the Fiesta is also stylish and dramatic. The large center console and dramatically curved instrument panel consume scarce interior space but it’s a tradeoff that Ford is willing to take. Compared with other sub-compacts, the Fiesta is a pretty nice place to spend time.
With the proliferation of many different engine configurations in other parts of the company, Ford has wisely stuck to the 1.6 liter engine architecture in the Fiesta line… until recently. Most models have the 1.6 un-EcoBoosted engine, the exception being the sporty ST model. The base 1.6 delivers 120 horsepower but the EcoBoost produces 197 with nearly the same fuel economy.
Ford’s approach to increasing fuel economy is turbo-charging smaller engines so they have the power of a larger one when needed, yet the economy of a smaller one when you’re not in “turbo” mode.
Ford plows totally new fuel economy turf with the Fiesta 1.0 SFE. Ford is now offering an ultra-tiny 1.0 liter 3 cylinder EcoBoost engine that produces basically the same power as the un-boosted 1.6 engine. The 1.0 liter is only 62 cubic inches and is smaller than many motor cycle engines. It has improved fuel economy numbers with EPA reporting 31 city, 43 highway with 36 combined compared with 28, 36, 31 for the larger 1.6 engine.
The caveat is that the 1.0 is only offered with a 5 speed manual transmission and Ford charges an extra $995 for the smaller engine. The 15 percent fuel economy improvement is significant, but a quick calculation using the EPA average economy numbers and assuming 20,000 drive miles a year and current $2 a gallon for gas, the 1.0 would save you about $15 a month in fuel costs.
But that also means that there is only about $20 a month in fuel cost difference between the “responsible” 1.0 and the “really fun” sporty turbo ST… don’t tempt me!
The Fiesta continues to be a popular car and hats off to Ford for continuing to refine and improve the Fiesta.
For more information on these models, visit MyCarData.com