New (to me anyway) car. 2009 Kia Spectra LX (the base model) 2.0L I-4 engine with a 5 speed manual transmission. It was relatively lively during the test drive, at least as far as an economy coupe goes. (0-60 is probably comparable to my old Miata’s but the handling…not so much.)
The ride was very soft (which has its good and bad sides–that makes handling less precise, but more comfort on the road). Brakes were solid and controllable. The engine has more than enough power to break loose the front wheels (FWD, of course) in first.
Big advantage over many cars I’ve driven, right off the bat, was that it fits. I have odd proportions–really short arms and legs and a long torso. To give you an idea, I stand 5′ 9″ but I had a roommate back in the Air Force who was 6′ 1″. Sitting side by side on a bench, the tops of our shoulders were dead even. Usually, I have to lean the seat back for headroom, move the seat up close to reach the pedals, and that leaves the steering wheel practically within kissing distance of my gut–which has my shoulders at the right position for good steering wheel control. From driving autocross, I like to have about a 90 degree bend in my arms when my hands are at 10 and 2. In the Kia, I had a much more comfortable seating position with easy reach to the steering wheel and the pedals.
The one “fit” problem was that the clutch pedal was closer to the brake than I’m used to. That will take a bit of getting used to.
The gear shift had a much longer throw than I’m used to, but I quickly adapted to it. Shifting was smooth and easy. The AC blows cold. A previous owner removed the stereo (probably installed a higher end unit and pulled it when selling the car so I’ll need to install a new one. I checked and the harness is in place, so it should be a simply drop-in project. (Dash kit, adapter harness, and the unit itself.)
Unlike my old Explorer, it does not have power locks or remote control for the mirrors. That’s a minor inconvenience so long as I’m the only one driving it. I only need to set them once. Plenty of storage room for things like Athena’s cello. It might be a little packed for some of my bigger road trips (like LibertyCon). There are advantages to a trunk that’s distinct from the passenger compartment.
Now, provided it doesn’t just decide to crap out on my a dozen miles down the road (and considering my luck lately, I can’t eliminate that possibility), we should be good.