Q. I am thinking about buying
Ford Fiesta, which goes on sale this summer. But I’ve been
told never to buy a car with a new design the first year it’s
on sale because it takes about a year for those assembling it to get
things perfectly right. – D.H., Chicago
A. Modern auto assembly plant items, such as sophisticated robots, and much more stringent quality controls at plants make it pretty much a sure bet that a brand new car (or any type vehicle) from an established automaker will be just fine when it initially goes on sale. Besides, hundreds of thousands of Fiestas have been sold in Europe and Asia and are similar in design to the upcoming American version as part of Ford’s new “global” marketing plan.
Q. I hear Volvo is introducing a radically sporty new sedan this fall that’s not like a typical Volvo. What do you know about it? – C.J., Evanston, Ill.
A. The rakish new Volvo is called the S60 and is a turbocharged 300-horsepower sports sedan aimed at driving enthusiasts. However, the S60 reportedly will have more passive and active safety systems than any Volvo ever built.The S60 reportedly will be priced at approximately $38,500, or a few thousand dollars less than comparably equipped rivals. I haven’t driven the car, but will do so at an upcoming media preview of it.
Q. Do you think pure electric cars have much of a future? – N.P., Phoenix
A. As for electrics, much depends on the price of gas and realistic driving range of such a vehicle, especially in cold weather—not to mention federal tax incentives for buying one because they won’t be cheap.
Q. How much damage can flood
do to a car? And how would I check one out? – E.C., Chicago
A. Flood waters soak the electronics and mechanics of a car, besides its interior, leaving dirt deposits, rust, mildew…and more. Flood-damaged cars often are repaired cosmetically and moved to adjacent states or other areas where they’re sold to unsuspecting consumers, says the Carstar Collision Centers repair chain, which has seen many water-damaged vehicles. Look for discolored, faded or stained interior materials. Smell for musty odors. Check the trunk, glove compartment, dashboard and below seats for signs of water damage, such as silt, mud or rust. Turn the ignition key and make sure accessory and warning lights and gauges work properly. Look for rust in wheel wells, under the hood and under the rear of the vehicle. Make sure everything works, from the air conditioner to the windshield wipers, turn signals and heater.
Q. Is the gasoline engine at the end of its rope? – G.A., Dallas
A. Far from it. The gas engine still has much potential, considering such things as direct fuel injection, turbocharging and such features as cylinder cut-off when cruising. But look for an increasing number of four-cylinder gas engines to replace six- and eight-cylinder engines largely because of upcoming stricter federal fuel economy standards.
Q. I know about the original two-seat Thunderbirds, which were 1955-57 models. But what about the modern 2002-05 two-seat version? Is it also a collector’s item? I’d rather get a modern version than one more than 50 years old. – E.H., Skokie, Ill.
A. The 2002-05 “T-Bird” two-seater wasn’t the success Ford hoped it would be. It was nicely styled and fast enough, but faults included a substandard interior. It’s not a collectible now, but may become one. The 2005 “50th Anniversary” version is the one destined to have maximum resale value. The regular 2002-05 Thunderbird is valued at $19,900 to $24,825, with the anniversary version, which isn’t much different from the regular model, at $27,275.