The early 2000s, however, were an awful time for cars. American automakers were churning out cheap plastic and low-grade steel turds and Europe wasn't doing much better at all. The industry-wide official slogan may as well have been "eh, whatever" because the cars certainly exemplified that mindset. How else do you explain the existence of the Pontiac Aztek?
So, in honor of this wonderful automotive genre during this horrible, terrible decade, let's take a look at two of the best that America and Germany had to offer. Which one would you have?
2002 Ford Focus SVT - $6,890
The introduction of the Focus is widely regarded as a turning point for Ford. It was their entry into the global marketplace with a safely-styled, cheap, and widely acceptable economy car. However, being a Ford from the turn of the millennium, it's about as reliable as, oh I don't know, intelligence regarding Iraq's stock of WMDs.
The Focus SVT, however, seemed to right all the wrongs that the base Focus suffered from with one simple solution: MOAR POWAR. SVT and Cosworth improved the Focus's 2.0 L 4-cylinder with aluminum cylinder heads, enlarged intake ports, and many other go-fast goodies that boosted the output from 140 to 170 hp. Those improvements, coupled with the 6 speed manual from a Mini Cooper S meant this ugly little puppy had some bite to match its bark.
SVT's wizardry turned this dreary little econobox into a truly exciting little hot hatch, but is all that enough to overlook the fact that it's still a cheap-as-dirt Focus deep down? That's for you to decide.
2004 Volkswagen GTI 1.8T - $5,995
Anybody who knows me, or has actually bothered to read the introduction to this article, is well aware that I am a big GTI fanboy. I firmly believe that there are is no better car to own every single day in terms of being an all-rounder than VW's econo-car masterpiece.
That being said, the MKIV GTI is horse shit. It weighed too much, it wasn't powerful enough, and it handled like the suspension was made of boiled potatoes. Couple that with the fact that something (or everything) on the car is bound to fall off, leak profusely, or just plain declare a blitzkrieg on you for looking at it the wrong way, and you've got a recipe for a pretty miserable time.
However, in terms of appearance, fit and finish, and overall build quality, the MKIV is certainly a step up from Ford's teenage daughter special. The GTI certainly has a more buttoned-up appearance than the SVT, which screams "Step off bro! I went to Juvie once!" So if sophistication means more to you than boy racer fenders and rims, das German might be the way to go.
Which one would you have? Take the poll and let us know!
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