The Strippers of 2012

Compact cars can go either way

The compact car segment has gone upscale in the past couple years. Cars like the Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, and Mazda 3 have added luxury equipment previously reserved for bigger cars. Cars in this class are creeping ever closer to the $30,000 mark and offering technology high-end luxury cars barely offered just ten years ago. Despite this upmarket trend, the compact class still ties pickup trucks for the largest number of offerings that lack air conditioning or power locks, mirrors, or windows. There are ten of them here. What gives?

One answer is the need to keep costs down on the price leader model. A price difference of just $500 can take a car in this class from one of the cheapest to one of the priciest (as what happened to the Volkswagen Jetta from 2011 to 2012). The compact cars on our list are:

  • 2013 Dodge Dart - no A/C; $16,900 (estimated)
  • 2012 Honda Civic - no A/C, manual mirrors; $16,575
  • 2012 Hyundai Elantra - no A/C; $16,120
  • 2012 Kia Forte - crank windows, manual locks; $15,950
  • 2012 Kia Soul - manual mirrors; $14,650
  • 2012 Mazda 3 - no A/C, manual locks; $15,995
  • 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer - no A/C; $16,490
  • 2012 Nissan Sentra - manual mirrors; $17,030
  • 2012 Suzuki SX4 Sedan - no A/C; $16,240
  • 2012 Volkswagen Jetta - manual mirrors; $16,645

The most interesting entry on this list is the Honda Civic. At $16,575, the base-level Civic DX comes in only two exterior colors (silver and blue), and air conditioning and power locks are not available. To add those creature comforts, buyers must step up to the Civic LX that costs $2050 more. However, Honda buyers have another option: forego the trunk and 23 hp and pick up a Honda Fit. The subcompact hatchback does not make our list (it has a/c and power windows, locks, and mirrors all as standard) and rings it at just $15,945 for a base model. Even with the seats up the Fit has almost double the cargo space as the Civic, despite its 15.7-inch shorter length.

Honda isn't the only one looking to have the lowest-possible base price to advertise: Toyota is doing it too. While its Corolla compact sedan may have all four of the listed amenities as standard, its midsize best-selling Camry does not. Part of the reason Toyota can offer the Camry for the low starting price of $22,715 is due to the omission of power locks.

Pure-mission strippers

The remaining cars on our list have one thing in common: they are all fairly purpose-built, and they aim to provide some of the purest driving experiences in their segments. Mazda's MX-5 Miata is the essence of a roadster and one of the most fun-to-drive cars on the road; so who cares that the $24,265 base model doesn't come standard with power locks?

Similarly, the Jeep Wrangler is the ultimate off-roader. To traverse dunes and scramble over rocks, are air conditioning, power window, locks, or mirrors needed? We say no. In fact, the doors on the $22,945 Wrangler Sport can even come off. Talk about back to basics. The other two SUVs on this list are also hardcore off-roaders: the Nissan Xterra and Toyota FJ Cruiser. At $25,715 and $26,875, respectively, neither cars offer power mirrors.

The lack of power mirrors is actually the most surprising thing here: most people would expect crank windows to take the cake as the most common old-school amenity, but there are twenty-one different cars that come without power mirrors. However, the lack of power windows is a close second, with nineteen. These stripper cars also span a fairly wide price range. The Nissan Titan is the most expensive, at almost $29,155; and at $11,770, the Nissan Versa is the cheapest.

Here is the full table of the 33 cars and which amenities their base models are lacking:

No A/CCrank WindowsManual Locks Manual Mirrors
Chevrolet Colorado WT X X
Chevrolet Silverado WT X X
Chevrolet Sonic LS X
Dodge Dart SE X
Ford F-150 XL XXX
Ford Fiesta S X
Ford Transit Connect XL XX
GMC Canyon WT X X
GMC Sierra WT X X
Honda Civic DX X X
Hyundai Accent GLSXX X
Hyundai Elantra GLSX
Jeep Wrangler SportXXXX
Kia Forte LX XX
Kia Rio LX XX
Kia Soul Base X
Mazda 3i SVX X
Mazda MX-5 Sport X
Mitsubishi Lancer DEX
Nissan Frontier S XXXX
Nissan Sentra 2.0 X
Nissan Titan S XXX
Nissan Versa Sedan 1.6 XXX
Nissan Xterra X X
Ram 1500 XXX
Smart ForTwo PureXX X
Suzuki Equator RWDXXXX
Suzuki SX4 SedanX
Toyota Camry L X
Toyota FJ Cruiser X
Toyota Tacoma XXX
Toyota Yaris L X X
Volkswagen Jetta S X
Totals 11191321
2 of 2
I once factory-ordered a new vehicle to get it with a manual transmission and without power windows, locks, or mirrors. I drove it for more than 200,000 miles, and when I finally sold it, EVERYTHING still worked. If you read about automobiles, you know that today it is not primarily mechanical failures that plague autos; it is electronic failures.
Why would anybody want or need power windows or doorlocks on a Jeep Wrangler. The thing is build to take the doors off. Unless you are talking about the new ones that really aren't Jeeps in my mind (4 doors and all that). I'd want the a/c but the rest of the stuff would be superfluous.
When I buy a car (never new and always small), I always look for a few things: manual windows, manual locks, and a manual transmission. More complex electrical items mean more to go wrong. How many window motors in electric windows go bad? How many older cars have you seen with the electric windows stuck up or down? What about older locking mechanisms that lock and unlock at will? I run cars to past 300,000 miles and appreciate simplicity. I will say that I like to have A/C . . . though it's not necessary. I much prefer to drive everywhere with the windows down. Air conditioning is great for getting rid of moisture (foggy windows) however.
The writer seems to have the opinion that it's a bad thing that all of these cars lack the features listed, but I think it's great that there are vehicles out there that aren't loaded with junk a person might not want or need. In a car as narrow as the Miata, what is the point of power locks? Just reach over and lift the button!

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