And the winner is . . .

I place the Escort at the head of the class in this test. In the time that the Escort has been on the market, such notable small cars as the Honda Civic, Saturn SL and Dodge/Plymouth Neon have come along and failed to knock it off the nation's list of top 10 selling cars. And this test shows why. Even the base model offers a nice level of standard equipment, good performance, high-qualityassembly and excellent value forthe money.

The Hyundai Accent places second. I see in this car a company on the move. Hyundai is quickly learning how to build user-friendly cars that don't fall apart.

Toyota's Tercel, the best-built car of the three, is close to undriveable in Florida's heat. The car's vinyl interior make the car unbearable. Also, its lack of equipment makes you feel like a second-class citizen. If you opt for a better-equipped DX version, the price climbs into the $13,000 to $14,000 range - knocking out many potential buyers. Even though the Toyota was, in my view, the best engineered of the three cars, it's not the one I would own.

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