Car Shopping Saga

by Natalie P.

January 13, 2007 | Filed Under Lifestyles of the Heartlessly Bitchy | No Comments

Back to the Ford Dealer…

At this point it was agonizingly difficult. The Ion 3 was the closest match, but still no bumwarmer seats, or heated mirrors, or map lights. It was a sedan, and the lease rates from GMAC were around 4.5% at the time (they appear to have since gone down).

So it was back to Ford to see what my dealer could do for me. They offered me a Focus ZX5 (5-door hatchback). With a 2.0L engine and 136 hp (@6000rpm), it had the passing power I wanted on the highway, and decent pickup off the line. It’s basically my same engine in a slightly smaller, sportier car (and pretty much the same engine used in the Mazda 3). And I LIKE the way it handles – hugging the road, passing with ease. Cornering at speed is no problem! The traction control comes in handy on both winter roads, and the rough road to the cottage after the spring rains. If you can’t get four-wheel-drive, Ford’s integrated traction control is the next best thing.

The Focus fuel consumption was one of the best, and only beat out by the Fit’s. But what really sealed the deal was that it came with *almost* everything I wanted. It came with remote keyless entry, power windows and doorlocks, a security system, heated seats, traction control, ABS, heated mirrors, map lights, 60/40 fold-down split rear seats with the “fold flat” option if you flip up the entire back seat base. It came with nice little options that I like about Fords – a hatch release latch on the dash, a “lock all doors” button both inside and on the key fob, that you can set when a door is open (the Element won’t let you lock all doors unless ALL of them are closed), an indicator that tells you which side of the car the gas tank is on, and an auxiliary power jack (the cigarette lighter) that actually still runs power when the ignition is OFF.

Why would the latter be important? Because I have lost count of the number of times I have had to charge my cellphone overnight in the car because I forgot my wall charger at work. The ZX5 also comes with A/C, stereo controls on the steering wheel, front-passenger airbag sensors, cruise control, and water-bottle holders on the front doors in addition to coffee cup holders in the center console. The car had EVERYTHING I wanted and then some….. BUT…. it didn’t have an auxiliary input jack for my iPod. Ford REALLY missed the boat on this one. I mean, who is this car targeted at (other than cheap-assed 40-somethings)? It’s targeted at the 16 to 25-yr-old market. It’s an entry level starter car for all intents and purposes. And what does virtually EVERY young person have (and a few of us older ones) if they have money enough for a car? Some kind of MP3 player. So why oh why did they not include a stereo with an AUX jack????

I explained that this was a show-stopper to the sales rep, and that I would have to be able to put in an after-market stereo without voiding my warranty. Putting in a new stereo might mean that the steering-wheel mounted audio controls wouldn’t work. Certainly I’d expect compensation in price as a result. My sales guy suggested Ford’s “Trip Tunes” add-on to allow me to use my iPod in the car. I had already researched that. I looked him in the eye and said, “It’s an FM-Modulated transmitter, and those are CRAP. I already HAVE an FM-transmitter for my iPod and you can’t use them in the city and the sound quality sucks. Why would I pay $250 for another one?” He just stared back and then muttered about not being sure what the technology was behind it. I then told him that the whole way they mount it (in the glove box) was ridiculous, because I’d have to keep the glove box open when I am using the iPod. It seemed dumb and ill-conceived and nobody at the dealer seemed to have any real clue about the unit, other than seeing a part number in a book. I suggested he look into it and get back to me the next day with a way to resolve the show-stopper that DIDN’T involve an FM transmitter.

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