I've been thinking about this a lot lately and bikebuddha's thread on his new Focus made me think I should start a thread on it and see what you guys think.
A few points before we start:
1) I am a shameless fan of 90's Japanese cars.
2) I am speaking strictly about North America.
I drive a Subaru Impreza, a 2000 L. It's a small Japanese AWD sedan, the continuation of a chassis that was designed from the ground up by Prodrive to win world rally events. Recently I took the biggest, baddest, newest Subaru out, belonging to a friend of mine, a 2011 Impreza STI Sedan. That was my dream car, even the right color, and I was incredibly happy he let me drive it. It's powerful, it's fast, it's precise and it's comfortable. I didn't have to work to drive it fast and I found myself cornering faster than I thought I was going.
I stepped out of that car feeling sad for the future of the automotive industry.
It just had no soul. It was technically a fantastic car, but it didn't speak to me, it was just a car. Too many lights and computers and crap. I got back in my humble little 12 year old Impreza utterly convinced I already had what I wanted. My Impreza is work to drive fast-you have to be smooth, you have to know how to make it rotate or it just plows and you have to know how hard you can trail brake so you don't run into a ditch with the front tires locked up. You kind of toss it into a corner, you don't carve like the new one. There's no traction control, so the edge is up to you.
I firmly believe that if new cars had this kind of involvement and personality, people would be better drivers and roads would be safer.
If you don't believe me, go test drive something mundane and uninspiring like a last-gen Corolla. Then go get your hands on a 90's Acura Integra, an Impreza, an EK Civic or even a new Ford Focus. Make sure it's a 2012, the new Euro market one. The Corolla's fine but that's all it is. By carefully choosing your next car, you might find you enjoy driving more.