Saturday, January 1, 2011

Don't Let Your Car Make You Poorer

This post is written at the request of my old FoMec (Ford Malaysia Enthusiast Club) buddy Nagai, on whether buying the Kia Forte is really a step-down from the Ford Focus. The following are my thoughts on the matter.


Back in the late 80s, when Malaysia was experiencing a severe economic recession, my family was struck by poverty. My father's business failed because of the recession and we were forced to make ends meet by scraping by - including eating rice with only soy-sauce.

One thing we didn't do, however, was sell off my dad's old Volvo 244GL. Why? Well, it was mainly because of sentimental value - my dad bought that car for my mom. While we sold almost everything else, my dad couldn't bring himself to sell the car.

The result was that the Volvo became an unreasonable burden, as it ate into my dad's tiny income severely. The car needed expensive repairs almost on a monthly basis. And with so much debt to clear, it made my poor family even poorer.

From that experience, I've grown to hate any car that makes me poorer, including my old Ford Focus S2.0. With expensive spare part prices, the Focus made me decidedly poorer, with the last repair being a whopping RM14,000 transmission overhaul (for which I had to take a bank loan with oppressive repayment terms - I was desperate).

While I miss my Focus sometimes, I don't miss paying off its repair bills, thanks to my Kia Forte 2.0SX. Yes, I sold off the Focus and made next to nothing for all my troubles, but at least I don't have to worry about repair bills.

And it's not because my Forte is still under warranty. It's because the Forte is turning out to be the reliable car I expected it to be - it's been six months since I bought the Forte and nothing needs repairing.

By contrast, my Focus started having problems within the first six months of owning it. Nothing serious at first, but then, later, things like faulty brake calipers and burnt out headlight dishes came to the fore.

While my Focus was still under warranty, expensive repairs like these were covered (whether fully or in part). But once the three year warranty was over, the bills really started taking a toll.

So, is the Forte a step-down from the Focus? Well, the Focus takes corners better than the Forte and the Focus' shocks are especially good for racing about.

But compared to the Forte, the Focus is a little under-powered. No way could I keep up, let alone overtake, a Honda Civic 2.0 with my old Focus.

With my Forte 2.0SX, the Honda Civic 2.0 is surprisingly easy to catch up with and even overtake. At 3rd gear, my Forte would do 170Km/h at 5,500RPM and could still accelerate with vigour.

But that's not why I bought the Forte. Apart from a better engine and reliability, it has many contemporary features that the Focus lacks, like push-button ignition, cruise control, traction control system, six airbags (driver, front passenger, rear passengers and side-curtains), and a bass-thumping sound system.

Above all, from the very important aspect of spar parts, the Forte being a much more popular car than the Focus means that spare parts will be cheaper due to economies of scale. At the same time, since the Forte is being assembled in Malaysia, the supply chain for spare parts should be better than that of the Focus, hence reducing the cost of spare parts further.

Add that to the Forte's overall reliability and the Focus appears to me like a wrong purchase from the start.

In short, I need a car that won't make me poorer and, in most respects, is better than my old Focus. And I found it in the Forte.

Some of my old FoMec buddies may not be happy with my views and may have been luckier with the Focus than I had been. Well, God bless and may their luck hold out.


  1. Thanks Bro Grinner for the special update;just for me. :D . Happy 2011 Bro.

    I like my FF. I drive it hard. Hardly use the AT and am always using the MT. Usual habit is to down shift to slow down the car after speeding. But of course within the rev meter limit to avoid engine from blowing out. Curious what exactly happened to your transmission.. Must read properly in Fomec.

    I have not encountered the issues you highlighted with ur former far.My only complaint with mine is when it broke down at Seremban RnR. I couldn't engaged the car into gear. The selector cable bush had worn out and the cable dropped off. Had to tow the car all the way to PJ and it was at 10pm! Cost me RM250!

    That wasn't the worst part. The fact i had to replace the entire cable and not just get the bush replaced. That cost me RM1400! I was so mad with Auto Connexion. That was the last straw for me going there.

    Found a more friendlier service center in Meru instead. But for some parts..price is still the same..yes..i admit.

    Coming back to my dilemma. To be fair, I haven't test driven the Forte yet. Will do that. But saw in NST CBT this morning review on the new Toyota Altis.. not bad. Decisions..decisions.

    Price does play a part too..of course! Less headache paying monthly installment with the Forte compared to other makes I'd mentioned here; Heck! Even cheaper compared to what I'm paying now.

    Thanks again Bro.

  2. Lucky for me, my Focus' transmission cable broke while under warranty. Otherwise, I'd be cursing Ford even more. RM1,400? %^&%&^*#^&!!

  3. It’s sad that you and your family had to go through all that. I know how it feels to let go a car that has significant sentimental value, but I think it’s just right that your dad sold it, since it was a considerable financial burden. All that aside, I’m glad you’ve finally found a good and reliable car that suits your needs. The forte has racked up some very good scores from some of the more respectable car reviewers. In fact, it garnered an overall score of 8 from the U.S. News Automotive Section, which is quite impressive!

  4. Thanks for your comment Carson.

    I'm driving a Mazda 6 2.5 S-VT now. It's a much better car than the Kia Forte, but it's also more expensive to run and maintain.

    Sigh! Looks like I didn't take my own advice because I was tempted by luxury.

    On the upside, I still have the Kia Forte, sorta... I've handed it over to my teenage son. He loves the car as much as I do.

    Meanwhile, I'm seriously considering buying another car that's cheaper to run and maintain than my Mazda 6.

    What will I do with the Mazda 6, then? Keep it under a car cover and under the porch most of the time :P



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  7. Thanks for writing such an interesting article. I'm gonna buy a Kia this year and when I do, I'll customise it to the fullest. I think the best website to look for the parts is For anyone who also owns a Kia or a Kia enthusiast like me, here's the link to the Kia parts in;-