It is frustrating to buy a car because you know that they are all destined to become piles of crap. Here are the cars I have considered buying:
I'm not a snob and I couldn't give two squirts about keeping up with the joneses, those are just the cars (aside from the Mazdas) that have proven themselves to be the more reliable, better-crafted autos. BMW and Acura are way out of my price range.
We ended up buying a Mazda 3. I'm taking a chance on a (sort of) american car. Please don't let me down, Ford. The price was good and it has all the crazy options: tinted windows and sunroof, leather seats, a DVD navigation system that pops up out of the dashboard. It is a nice car. It rides a lot smoother and has much more room than our civic. It has a lot more power and it's only a little lower on the gas mileage.
But I think too many gadgets are just a risk. Cars that parallel park themselves or windshield wipers that turn themselves on when they detect rain are just an annoying $1000 repair waiting to happen.
My biggest complaint about the car is the stereo system. It kind of seems like the entire dashboard is the stereo. It would be very difficult to replace the stereo with an aftermarket head unit. It has a six CD changer built into the dash, which makes me imagine having six CD's lost when it breaks and I don't care to fix it. All of the speakers in the car we bought are blown. That is okay because I want to replace them anyhow.
After looking around, I discovered that Ford has a standard of using 5X8 inch speakers in most of their cars. Our car only has 5X8 speakers in it. What's up, Ford? This alone makes me think that the company would be better off using Henry Ford's dusty old corps as their CEO rather than the current living, breathing CEO (he may be just as dusty). ROUND speakers. ROUND! Egg-shaped speakers are cheap crap that flub out at lower volumes.
The worst offense of all makes me want to swear out loud, but I won't do it here because I know that teachers across the nation read my blog entries to the fresh young minds in their classrooms. The offense: Volume that automatically adjusts to the speed of the vehicle.
I don't say I hate many things, but I HATE this feature. HATE. HATE. HATE IT. Please do me the great honor of selecting the volume of my own stereo. Pleeeeease. It does me no service to lower the volume every time I hit traffic. It creates extra work, because every time I hit traffic, I also have to reach my arm up and adjust the volume BACK to where it was. Then the cars get moving again and suddenly the radio is too loud. Maybe this is why they put stereo controls on the stearing wheel. Just in case my right arm gets shot by someone with road rage, I can still adjust the volume with my left thumb.
If Ford can't come up with a decent car with a reliable drive-train then they could at least put a respectable sound system in the car. One time, I yelled at another driver "Move it, Ford Out-of-Focus!" My wife said, "That was lamer than my joke about Butt (Butte) Montana." To which I argued, "People say Butt, Montana by accident all the time. No one has EVER accidentally said Ford Out-of-Focus. Mine was at least original."
And I think that is the plight of american car makers. They need, but refuse, to keep things simple. One knob for headlights. One knob for wipers. A basic stereo that can easily be upgraded and decent speakers. Go nuts and leave an input so people can plug in their Ipods. Maybe a bench seat so you can put your arm around your honey. That's it. It doesn't have to be any harder than that. And just not completely hideous. Why is it so hard? It would be awesome and easy to put a built-in child-seat in EVERY car. It isn't rocket science but it would make a world of difference to consumers. The Jetta that comes with a guitar is an interesting idea, but please don't use a guitar from Toys-R-Us.
We like our car despite the fact that it is fancier than we need. I doubt I will ever use the navigation system and half the options bug me more than they help me. If anyone knows how to turn off the auto-volume, please tell me.