INTERIOR

The inside is where some of those surprising features I mentioned earlier make themselves known. First off is the sporty red piping that lines the black seating upholstery. It comes standard in the Touring version I tested. It's just a little extra touch that, for its price, seems like a real bonus stylewise. The front seats adjusted manually, and the driver's seat also adjusts up and down.

On top of that, I was surprised by the standard leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise control buttons mounted on it. The steering wheel tilts up and down but doesn't telescope.

Other surprising features at this price include remote keyless entry, air conditioner with a pollen filter, and an MP3 jack. The open center console design had two cupholders for the front passengers and a third intended for rear passengers. Four open cubby-like spaces in the center console helped to contain clutter. The front doors featured a storage bin that was wide enough for the latest novel I'm reading (Carl Hiaasen's "Star Island") while waiting in the carpool lane, with room left over for a bottle of water.

With such a small car, clearly there isn't tons of space in the backseat. However, for just two kids it was doable as long as I stashed their backpacks in the cargo area rather than on the floor near their feet. I put three kids in the backseat at one point. Although they all fit and nobody complained, they were definitely packed in like skinny little sardines. So much so that they had to stagger their seat belt buckling; the outer two buckled first, and then the third wiggled into the middle seat to buckle up.

The rear seats are split 60/40 and fold to create some extra cargo space. Even with the seats up, there was just enough cargo space for a full week's worth of groceries.

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