Comparing my first car and my current car -- strangely similar:
(I wrote this a few years ago; I'm now driving a V70 and the Focus is for sale!)
My first car was an 1966 Volvo Amazon wagon, which I drove off to college and then across country -- it overheated while crossing the desert, and lost the bakelite timing gear crossing the Rockies.
Many cars later I find myself driving a 2007 Ford Focus ZXW SE, five-speed, pzev with abs, moonroof and side airbags. I had been looking for a domestic wagon that got good mileage, offered chair height seating and a manual transmission -- oh yea, and a moonroof. All preferably without bakelite timing gear. The car has been a surprising joy.
I ran across the stats on the Amazon recently and was stunned to see how similar the cars are in overall dimension -- I'd thought of the Volvo as a much larger car. In fact, despite all the drama at the Focus' introduction about its height, the Volvo was both taller and narrower, riding on the same wheelbase. According to manufacturer stats, the Ford has much greater interior cargo space, though that may be a difference of calculation more than reality.
What the ZXW trades to the Amazon in robust durabilty and all the loveliness that came with the Amazon's Ponton genre styling -- the Focus gains in New Edge, Control-Blade rear suspension, made-in-Wayne-Michigan goodness: quite excellent handling, much better performance and mileage... and almost all the safety features of today's cars, albeit with an interior rendered in plastic rather than steel and with interior fittings more K-mart than Target.
I love the Amazon Estate so much I later drove a 65 sedan -- despite the fact that both cars were near constant headaches -- leaky fuel smells, master cylinders, and when the temperature guage bit the dust, the repair operation required removing the guage, sending unit and connecting three foot long copper tube, all as a single piece. Good Times, those seventies.
It was fun to study the differences and similarities. I guess I like a certain prosaic wagonliness.
PS: The Volvo retailed for about $2700 bucks, which in 2007 was worth about $17,000. The SE wagon without options (in my case moon, abs and side airbags) retailed for $ 17,420 with freight.
For the $420 higher cost of the Focus... you get a fairly radical improvement in fuel mileage, far less emissions (pzev!), air conditioning, fuel injection, a third more hp, five speed vs. four speed transmission, fully independent rear suspension, front disk brakes (power), platinum spark plugs, radial tires, energy absorbing bumpers, 15 inch wheels vs. 14, face level fresh air ventilation, front airbags, inertia reel three point seats belts at all five positions with pretensioners, cruise control, four-speaker stereo with CD and MP3 capability and with antenna (!), tilt telescope steering wheel, intermittant windshield wipers, center console with armrest, glovebox (!), power windows, power door locks, remote entry, solar tinted glass, an interior release for the tailgate, power steering, power mirrors (the Volvo came with only an exterior drivers side mirror), halogen headlights, roof rack, rear windshield wiper, hazard lamps, interior map lights, theater style interior lighting, interior day night mirror, split rear seating, LATCH system for child seats, ... CUPHOLDERS (five!).