Buy/Drive/Burn: Basic American Compacts From 2008

We continue our 1990s-then-2000s series today, following up the last post that featured compact American two-doors from 1998. By the late 2000s, the Escort, Neon, and Cavalier were all dead. In their place were the Focus, Caliber, and Cobalt, and not all of those had a two-door variant. That means we focus on four-doors today. Let’s go.

Dodge Caliber

The Caliber is in its second model year this year, as the crossover replacement for the Neon. Front-wheel drive with optional all-wheel drive, the Caliber rides on the Chrysler-Mitsubishi PM platform with things like the Mitsubishi Outlander. The only body style is this four-door with hatch. There are four trims this year, SE, SXT, R/T, and SRT-4. Today’s base SE uses a 1.8-liter inline-four good for 148 horsepower. It’s front-wheel drive, and has a five-speed manual transmission provided by Magna. Yours for $14,965.

Chevrolet Cobalt

The Cobalt is in its fourth model year after it replaced the ancient Cavalier for 2005. Cobalt uses the Delta platform which also sees use in the Saturn Ion and Chevrolet HHR. Unlike the Caliber, all examples are front-wheel drive. With two- or four-doors, there’s always a traditional trunk on the Cobalt. Four different trim levels are available at dealers this year: LS, LT, Sport, and SS, the latter with turbocharging. Base LS models are powered by a 2.2-liter inline-four that wrestles up 148 horses. The five-speed manual here is a Getrag box carried over from the Cavalier. Cobalt asks $14,410.

Ford Focus

The Focus is in its second generation for 2008, and is a car specific to North America. The first generation global Focus was part of Ford’s world car plan, but that idea was dropped. In 2008 customers choose from a two- or four-door Focus with trunk, as the hatchback option is no more. All Focii are front-drive, and all use the same 2.0-liter Duratec inline-four. Customers choose from four trims: S, SE, SES, and SEL. The cheapest S has the same 140 horses as the other models, and uses a five-speed manual. The Focus is in your drive for $14,395.

Three four-doors of Ace of Base persuasion, all wearing fantastic late 2000s styling. Which one’s worth the Buy?

[Images: GM, Ford, Dodge]

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