2015 Fiat 500L Trekking vs. 2015 Ford Focus C-Max


By James Hamel (Excerpts taken from Examiner.com.)

Now we do comparison tests all the time where we declare winners in categories ranging from family sedans to minivans to compact cars to luxury sedans. But what if we decided not to declare a winner but rather point out two unique and tasty alternatives to the gold standard of the subcompact class right now and most likely for a generation—the Honda Fit. It is roomy, fuel efficient, affordable, well equipped, powerful enough, nice looking and beats the snot out of the usual suspects like the Yaris, Versa and Spark. But there must be other options surely?


Why yes there are in the form of the Italian oddball meatball the five door 2015 Fiat 500L hatchback as well as the hybrid 2015 Ford C-Max which too many people overlook in favor of a Prius. Admittedly, both the Fiat 500L and the Ford C-Max have more than a few awkward styling cues but with all of that comes a tremendous amount of utility for families. Yes, space enough to rival even the Fit with the 500L just beating out the C-Max for cargo capacity due to the Ford hybrid’s batteries are beneath the cargo floor. A fix a flat sealant is located under the passenger seat. We’d say if you buy a C-Max and get a flat tire, call a tow truck.

But let’s check out the C-Max and 500L more closely now…


Ford Tries to Build a Prius, out comes the C-MAX

Now you could easily construe that as a bad thing that the C-Max is really nothing like the holy and virtuous Prius as a bad thing, we actually meant it in a complementary sense because where the Toyota is a silent, serene and numb isolation chamber you actually find handling liveliness, agility and a peppier feel off the line. Or maybe we were having fun flooring it too often. The C-Max is also down on the Prius EPA fuel economy at 42 city/37 highway. Frankly the only vehicle we have ever gotten 50 miles per gallon in regularly is with VW’s TDI on the freeway.


Now if when you hop into the 2015 Ford C-Max Hybrid and it seems familiar that’s probably because it shares much of its design and parts with the Focus. So that means you have the luxury of the razor sharp steering from the Focus in a hybrid which in and of itself should be cause for a Government holiday. What we are saying here, people, is fun to drive hybrids do exist. There is also a plug-in hybrid “Energi” variant of the C-Max but if you don’t have much access to charging stations then the regular hybrid will suit most folks just fine.


The Italian Job—(2015 Fiat 500L)

Whereas the original and admittedly rather cramped Fiat 500 coupe and Fiat 500 Abarth are undeniably cute and/or muscularly adorable, the 2015 Fiat 500L Trekking four door multi-activity wagon can take a bit of getting used to visually. People tend to love it or not so much when they first see it but in a world where people rarely turn their head when $100,000 BMW’s go by, you can bet people will be checking out your 2015 Fiat 500L Trekking which for us after options, delivery and a nice $1,500 discount came to just over $21,000 lavishly equipped. And what’s more, with the standard six-speed manual gearbox and the 1.4 liter 160 horsepower/184 lb. feet of torque Multi-Air turbocharged 4-cylinder, this endearingly odd four door hatchback is a laugh riot to drive. But more on that in a minute.


First off, let’s talk value. The 2015 Fiat 500L Trekking can be differentiated from its brethren thanks to some chunky body cladding, a slightly raised ride height, a unique yet truly well done interior treatment featuring a tan dash fascia and Morrone (brown) heavy duty cloth seats, Sirius XM, cruise control, power windows, locks and mirrors as well as some truly styling 17-inch alloy wheels all as standard for a starting price of $20,945. This also includes a generous 4 year/50,000 mile warranty with 3 years of free maintenance.


As Fiat is relatively new (again) to the U.S. market, if you purchase one of the Trekking options packs you get a back-up camera with rear sensors, a 6.5-inch dash mounted U-Connect screen with integrated USB/i-Pod integration and charge function, AM/FM/CD with 6-premium speakers, navigation, Bluetooth functionality, steering wheel audio controls, heated side mirrors, leather wrapped shift knob and steering wheel and an audio/visual impact system to alert you of possible collisions at low speeds with, perhaps, a curb. Not that you have ever done that. Neither have we.15235957499_780da9b9b5_k

Our Giallo Yellow came equipped with Trekking Group 4 which also added a stylish white roof accent, rear seat armrest with large American sized cupholders, dual zone climate control, power dimming rear view mirror, a year’s subscription to Sirius/XM (standard is 3 months), power driver’s seat and various interior appearance upgrades. Our total? Just a shade over $23,000. For all those features, that’s a steal.

For the rest of this article, click here to go to my Honda and Acura Examiner page

Honda and Acura Examiner names His 10 Best 2014 Models for Pets

We would have included Pickup trucks on this list but we fear that this would encourage too many idiots to leave their dogs in the pick-up bed as they sped down the highway. Just because your new F-150 has that convenient “man step” into the bed doesn’t mean you have to turn it into a “dog step.” That’s about as smart as using a gas powered weed whacker to floss your teeth.
But if you are responsible enough it is true what they say—dogs do love trucks. But the following list, however, doesn’t just talk about which models are easy to clean. These offer safety features, unique design elements and interior qualities that just struck us as very family friendly. After all, dogs are family. All of the following vehicles have been road tested for a week with a dog adopted from Boxer Rescue Los Angeles riding in the back seat wearing a safety harness.
2014 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI
Trust us, when your dog goes with you everywhere you are going to want to buy a

4-door. This economical VW hatch is about as fun as a GTI when equipped with the 6-speed manual and has seat upholstery that is the definition of “dog proof.” It’s the perfect economy car for the single person with a dog and honestly any station wagon like the Acura TSX Sportwagen or new Volvo V60 make for perfect dog cars.

2014 Scion tC
You don’t want a dog and a two door coupe, unless of course, it’s the 2011 Scion tC. We have tested many coupes in our time but none have offered as wide an entry point for your dog to hop in on either side of the car. Then, both seats return to their original position! And this is all for just about 20,000 nicely equipped! If you require a two door coupe this is your best choice.
2014 Subaru Outback 3.6R
Sturdy, faithful and loyal—the Subaru Outback is the automotive equivalent of a 13 year old Golden Retriever. Just like that breed of dog this wagon really never goes out of style. The cargo area is positively commodious, the materials are sturdy and the standard all-wheel drive affords you go anywhere capability anytime.
Since most automakers are abandoning wagons, the Outback really is your best

choice. Also, the interior feels like it was designed to take 10 years of abuse and come out the other side looking good. There is nothing flashy, just that time tested Subaru build quality. This wagon is also available4 with a 2.5 liter 4-cylinder that is deathly slow and has an obnoxiously noisy CVT automatic. Even dogs have standards and like to get to the park before sunset.

2014 Mazda CX-9 : This is the only three row SUV, or SUV for that matter, that offers a light tan leather interior option that is seemingly impervious to scuffing or paw marking after trips to the park or dog beach. Usually grey or black is a smarter interior color choice but in the CX-9 you can take your pick. All interior plastics are of very high quality (above average for a mainstream brand), the back seat is very roomy with easy to access safety buckles and most importantly it is actually very fast and fun to drive.
To learn who else made the list of best cars for your pet click here

Convoy Auto Repair Lists Most Pet Friendly 2013 New Vehicles

There was a time when the family car was the preserve of only the family dog. Only he or she would be invited out to sanguine family picnics, trips to the park and the most exciting place of all—the Pet Store Parking Lot! But now even the family cat can ride along thanks to modern pet carriers and restraints. Regardless of that, these following 2013 models finished out the year as our most pet friendly as listed on the the  Convoy Auto Repair website!
  1. Most Pet Friendly Sporty Car—2013 Hyundai Veloster/Veloster Turbo: The

    reason the Veloster sport coupe is so pet friendly comes down to one simple and unique engineering feature—its highly useful third, human sized door. No dog likes to hop into the back of any sport coupe and you try restraining a cat in the back of your Porsche 911 without throwing out your back. Well, it’s impossible. We also love the fact that the Veloster boasts a very large 16 cubic foot cargo hold that is deep enough for plenty of pet supplies.

  2. Most Pet Friendly Luxury Sedan over $40,000—2013 Lexus GS350: After a week spent chauffeuring two 75 pound boxer dogs in the backseat of this Lexus GS the place looked just as it did when brand new. No wonder so many do owners looking for luxury cars turn to one place and one place only—Lexus. Looked a lot better than the light mocha colored interior of the 2013 Audi A6 these two road testing dogs tested the week after.
  3. Most Pet Friendly Entry Level Luxury Car—2013 Volvo S60: Not only is the

    interior of this lovely Scandinavian sport sedan very stylish but it adheres to the needs of pets as well with features like rear seat air conditioning vents and some of the most comfortable seats found in any automobile. There’s also Volvo’s commitment to safety with systems like City Safe which will stop the car if a pedestrian (or a large enough animal) gets in the way of the vehicle as you are driving.

  4. Most Pet Friendly Compact Family SUV—2013 Honda CR-V: Solid build

    quality, proven reliability and efficiency as well as the lowest ride height of any compact SUV(for those old and more arthritic pets who can’t jump up into tall SUVs) the 2013 Honda CR-V is the no brainer choice when it comes to affordable pet transportation. Oh yeah, and your less-furry family too.

  5. Most Pet Friendly Luxury SUV—2013 Lexus RX350: Again, sit inside a Lexus RX SUV and compare it with the albeit luxurious interiors of a Cadillac SRX, Audi Q5 or Infiniti FX35 and it is easy to see that this vehicle not only is built to withstand any wayward pet claws but will also clean up like new after one trip to the car wash. Luxury is nice but you want that luxury to be durable if you plan on bringing your pet along with you everywhere. 
  6. Most Pet Friendly Car Starting Under $15,000—2013 Chevy Spark: Sure, you can buy a base Honda Fit for just barely under $15,000 but after taxes and

    any options the price goes up considerably. That’s why we recommend the exemplary foor door 2013 Chevy Spark which is not only peppy with the manual transmission but also plenty roomy in the back even for a large breed dog. Or a really, really fat cat. Prices for the Spark start at just $12,185.

  7. Most Pet Friendly Family Sedan—2013 Honda  AccordThe first family sedan to nab the coveted new IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) Top Safety Rating Plus award, the 2013 Honda  Accord also impresses for its best in class interior quality and design, ample trunk space and the usual Honda resale value. It’s also fun to drive but your pet will no doubt favor the fact that Honda designed the greenhouse and rear seats with dogs in mind so that they could get a good view out of the road. No one wants a car sick Doberman in the back seat.
  8. Most Pet Friendly Full Size Sedan—2013 Dodge Charger: These full size

    sedans have amazing handling capabilities and are always top rated in the impact safety ratings. But this award goes to a special Dodge Charger SXT who helped this author and his 80 pound dog miraculously steer around a piano sitting in the middle of a very, very busy road.

  9. Most Pet Friendly Pick-Up Truck—2013 Toyota Tundra: In a recent test of Double Cab Pick-Up trucks (not the full size models with four doors), we found that pets found entry and exit into the back of the Tundra to be easiest thanks to a modicum of legroom in the low footwell and also that having the seat near their owner gave even a newly adopted rescue dog a feeling of serene comfort in the back perch. Also, the back half doors have windows that roll down as well for that wind in your fur feeling. Not to mention the trailing capacity for your hooved pets and all their equipment.
  10. Most Pet Friendly “Green” Vehicle—2013 Toyota Prius V/2013 VW Golf

     TDI: One is a diesel (the VW) and the other is a hybrid (the Prius V) but both share one thing in common—they are both essentially modern day wagons with all of the space and utility that provides you. EPA estimates for the Golf  TDI are 42 city/30 highway and the Prius V promises returns of 44 city/40 highway. Both boast plenty of cargo room, tie down hooks for pet restraints and tons of SUV rivaling cargo room. But the Golf TDI with a manual transmission manages one other feat–it’s fun to drive!

2013 Chevy Equinox LTZ AWD 3.6 V6

DriveApart Overview
So what’s the big news about the Chevy Equinox’s recent engine swap from an optional 3.0 liter V6 to this newer and Cadillac derived 3.6 liter 292 horsepower/258 lb. feet of torque V6 which means this little baby crossover can now tow a healthy 3,500 pounds. That’s plenty for most people’s motorcycle towing needs and also manages to give this SUV somewhat of a hot rod status with a 0-60 time of just 6.7 seconds. Not bad for a family utility.

What We Like
The 2013 Chevy Equinox is on the larger end of the mini-SUV spectrum affording it a unique space in the market and plenty of legroom and cargo space thanks to a sliding rear seat system. This allows owners to choose how much cargo space or rear seat legroom they want. Oh yeah, did we mention the awesome new 3.6 liter V6 which makes this SUV more flight of foot than any of its similarly sized competition. Imagine a 100 horsepower added to a CR-V and you might see how cool this extra oomph is to possess.
What’s not to Like
The center stack on the dashboard has too many similarly sized, poorly marked

buttons set in a manner that makes little to no logical sense. You can master it after time and practice but if you just hop in the car it can be a little hard to figure out easily. Otherwise, the rear cargo area’s width is compromised somewhat by two cargo cubbies which can be handy for small objects but not when trying to slide in something like that elliptical machine you bought but never use.

Tow and Haul
Again, the big news here is the addition of the 292 horsepower/258 lb. feet of torque 3.6 liter V6 which lifts manufacturer tow ratings to 3,500 pounds as opposed to 1,500 pounds with the previous 3.0 liter V6. You can also get this engine with the slightly more expensive GMC Terrain Denali which is based on the same platform. Adding the 3.6 liter V6 to our Equinox LTZ cost very little to our pocketbooks as it is just a $1,500 stand-alone option.
As far as cargo hauling inside the Equinox goes, its capacities are pretty much average for an SUV of its size and pricing. With the second row of seats in place there is 31.5 cubic feet of cargo space with that figure growing to a maximum 63.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. One thing Chevy has over the competition is a rear seat that slides back and forth so you can adjust how much legroom to give rear passengers as opposed to cargo volume. It’s just another way to make it easier to haul your cargo—both human and otherwise.

The Drive
Refined, serene, quiet and peaceful. That is one way to describe the driving

experience behind the wheel of this 2013 Chevy Equinox with the 3.6 liter V6 thanks to a very quiet ride and very low levels of wind, tire or engine noise at cruising speeds. Push the pace a little bit and the Equinox will take the bait, up to a point, as the steering is playful and offers more feel than most of its foes in this class. It may not corner like it’s riding on rails but no SUV does. This is an excellent vehicle for hauling your bike, your family and your stuff wherever you want to go. What more do you want?

Engine and Drivetrain
How many times can we say that we adore GM’s 3.6 liter 292 horsepower/258 lb. feet of torque V6 in this application as it offers up boundless acceleration around town or even at highly illegal freeway speeds. It also makes inspiring growls and barks as you rev it out to redline, something most SUV engines aren’t prone to do. 
The six-speed automatic was seamless in operation most of the time even if occasionally it was too eager to drop too many gears when it sensed we wanted more power than we actually did. But once we got used to the touchy throttle we quite enjoyed having all this power under our feet. Literally.

Interesting Vehicle Features
According to the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) the 2013 Chevy Equinox is a “Top Safety Pick” which is impressive but not their top score which now stands at “Top Safety Pick Plus.” Currently no other midsize SUVs (the Equinox is just bigger enough than the Sportages and RAV4 to stay out of small SUV status) on the market have a “Top Safety Pick Plus” rating and no doubt getting the Equinox that rating will be high on the priority list for any impending updates.

Gas Mileage
The EPA estimates that the 2013 Chevy Equinox LTZ AWD with the 3.6 liter V6 will return 16 miles per gallon in the city and 23 miles per gallon on the highway. This SUV runs on regular unleaded and were pleasantly surprised to find it returning 21 miles per gallon over the course of a one week stay with us.

Interior and Exterior
Our tester was bathed in a gorgeous hue of deep red called Crystal Red Metallic which really accentuated the lines of this compact to midsize SUV very well. It kept the vehicle looking sporty and worthy of its mid-$30,000 MSRP. It just looks sharp from all angles and will no doubt appeal to more people than a GMC Terrain which looks like a tank. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
As for the interior, this is still one of the best feeling and looking interiors in the segment even with our earlier complaint about too many difficult to decipher buttons on the center stack. Everything from the fit and finish to the materials choices speaks to this SUV lasting and looking good at least through the life of your loan. But we would wager you could get a good decade out of this SUV’s interior before it started looking raggedy.

The top of the line 2013 Chevy Equinox LTZ AWD stickers starting at $32,265

and comes standard with leather seating, power adjustable and heated front seats, automatic climate control, power windows, locks and mirrors, a back-up camera, USB/i-Pod integration, Bluetooth, an adjustable power rear tailgate that allows you to set how high it will raise in the air (therefore avoiding crashes into your garage door), an 8-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with Pandora, Stitcher and Bluetooth audio streaming via the easy to use ChevyMyLink system 7-inch center touch screen.

To this we added the aforementioned 3.6 liter V6 for $1,500, 18-inch chrome clad aluminum alloy wheels for $1,000, navigation for $795 and the special red paint set us back $325. These are all options well worth buying and they bring the MSRP to a reasonable $35,885.

Click here to go the DriveApart.com website and read our final thoughts and conclusion for this compact Chevy SUV. 

First Drive Impressions of 2013 Acura ILX Lineup (Autobytel)

Acura was not only the very first Japanese luxury auto brand in this country but it also has managed to bring a number of other firsts to the U.S. market over the 25 years it has been in business. Acura was the first to introduce an in-dash navigation system, third row seating in a luxury suv, the first company to build a supercar (NSX) with an aluminum monocoque body. They also brought enthusiast performance to the common man and woman with the iconic and affordable Integra.

Fast forward to 2012 and the entry level luxury car is again a hot concept in the market as older baby boomers downsize and Gen-Y is expected to start coming into some money (though we doubt anyone with mountains of college loans to pay off could afford the ILX’s $25,900 starting price on a Starbucks Barista’s salary).

Still, Acura is wise to lower the point of entry into its brand as this so often leads to customers returning to buy TL’s and MDX’s or RDX’s as their needs and wants change over time. But with a hope for 40,000 sales a year, did Acura play it a little bit too safe with the styling of this new entry level luxury model based on the Civic platform? Part of the answer to that question will depend on what you look for in a new car and your perception of what an Acura should be. The only thing we are sure of is that the ILX, for better or worse, is not the rebirth of the Integra. Maybe someday.

To Read The Rest About the Hybrid, 2.4 and 2.0 ILX Click Here to go to Autobytel

My Picks for 15 Compact Family SUVs from Best to Worst!

2012 Kia Sportage

As a rule I get to test a whole lot of compact family SUVs which to many auto journalists is looked upon as a negative experience. However, I seek out afforadble family SUVs whenever I can so that I can let you know which ones are dogs (sorry Daisy Mae) and which ones are great. No, there may be no Ferraris in my future but as long as families need affordable crossovers I will be there to road test them. 

 This may not be as glamorous as testing an expensive luxury sport coupe but in this economy not many people need help with that kind of new car purchase. Sensible, affordable, efficient and relatively compact SUVs are the vehicles that American families actually need.

Forester XT! Yummy!
The following  family SUVs may not share the exact specification, engine design, vehicle layout or MSRP but they are all undeniably mainstream.  Hence, no Lexus, Audi or Mercedes entrants on this list.

Since I spent so much time with these family favorites over my many weeklong car reviews, I learned a lot more than you can glean from one short test drive. Don’t get me wrong, test drives are important when you are buying a new car. But when I get an SUV for a week I am reviewing it in depth for families who are going to rely on it with near religious devotion for years to come.

I quickly realized that during a test drive there is no way for a person to uncover all of the annoying, inconvenient and terrifying weaknesses that can become glaringly obvious after 7 days and nights with an SUV.  Quite tellingly, I rarely feel the same way about a test SUV on both the first and final day I have it.
Ah, take the family or haul junk?

So where do I find problems? To start with, SUV interiors are afforded more  abuse and damage than Alanis Morissette heaped onto the word “ironic” in the lyrics to her 1990’s hit song of the same name. Ah yes, many SUV engineers underestimate the sweet tyranny of children. They also forget about the destructive power of a canine who doesn’t like strangers walking by the family SUV in the parking lot of a grocery store.

Also, if your SUV is going to be a chariot for your family pet then you absolutely must consider how to safely transport them in a buckled harness, crate or other similar option. Different SUVs have differing levels of pet friendliness. For more information about SUVs and pet safety check out the BarkBuckleUp.com website.

But there is more to an SUV than its interior. There’s also cargo space, passenger comfort, fuel efficiency, cost of ownership and the all-important value for dollar quotient. I can’t think of many American families who aren’t scrimping and saving nowadays, so who wants to spend too much on their next family SUV?
Now, here in an updated form is my current list of the best (and worst) compact crossover SUV Suburban crawlers for sale in 2012. And to be quite honest, the last three vehicles at the bottom of the list are the only ones that I absolutely would NEVER allow a friend to purchase. Sure, the Liberty rules off-road as I found at a Jeep event on dirt trails but as for on-road comfort it is really lacking.

My  Current Picks for Best Compact Family SUV  from Best to Worst
2012 Honda CR-V
2012 GMC Terrain
2012 Kia Sportage
2012 VW Tiguan
2012 Subaru Forester
2012 Kia Sorento
 2012 Nissan Juke
2012 Hyundai Tucson
2012 Toyota RAV4
 2012 Toyota Highlander
2012 Ford Edge
2012 Jeep Patriot
 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander
2012 Nissan Rogue
2012 Jeep Liberty
And deservedly dead last…
2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara (yes, it’s still for sale…only now with an odd quad-color leather seating design that makes the insides of this SUV look like a pimp exploded.)

Aren’t you dead yet?

2012 Honda CR-V Put to the Test by Daisy Mae the 80 Pound Dog!

The author Daisy Mae Hamel
No matter what you think about Honda and its line-up of family friendly coupes, sedans, hybrids, SUVs and trucks, there is no way any dog or lover of dogs could spend a week with the 2012 Honda CR-V and not feel confident that this company is just crazy for the four legged set? It positively screams “designed for hounds then humans” with the true accomplishment being that the 2012 CR-V is perfect for both man and his best friends.

People have accused “moi,” Daisy Mae Hamel of loving Honda’s lineup too much but really, isn’t it the other way around? Evidence can be found all around the 2012 Honda CR-V’s easy to access and very solidly built interior be it in the class leadingly low step-in height which allows “older” dogs like me to step into their owner’s vehicle with grace and dignity no matter how many years have passed by according to their “Dog-ometer.” Sorry, bad dog pun. Even we have off days.

CR-V in Suburbia!
Also, we found the CR-V’s front interior roof mounted sunglass holder and built-in rear seat monitoring mirror design to be both brilliant and chilling at the same time. Not only could my owner watch what I was doing in the leather lined rear seats of our test 2012 CR-V EX-L AWD model, but he could also then easily store their sunglasses when they got out of the SUV. That was, perhaps, my only niggle with the vehicle as I am a girl who likes a bit of privacy when riding in her harness in the second row of seats. I might meet a cute Bassett Hound.

Daisy doesn’t ride up here!
The 2012 Honda CR-V is also great for any owner who not only hauls the family dog but also has to haul lots of stuff in the cargo area. If you need more room during your travels in your 2012 CR-V all you need to do is just flip a handle in the cargo hold and the second row of seats folds flat in one fluid and mechanically brilliant motion. With those seats down, the CR-V sure felt like it was easy to load full of kibble bags and I was told that it offered around 79 cubic feet of cargo space. Too bad I don’t know what numbers mean but it sounds impressive.

Our test 2012 Honda CR-V was a top of the line EX-L model with navigation and all-wheel drive yet the sticker price barely creeped past $30,000 which is very impressive considering you also get automatic climate control, Bluetooth, power everything, leather seats, USB/iPod integration, Pandora internet radio, a power moonroof, stylish 17-inch alloy wheels, power 10-way driver’s seat, a back-up camera, tinted windows (so I can avoid the “Dog-arazzi” in LA), heated front seats and a premium AM/FM/CD 7-speaker audio system with subwoofer. Honestly, Honda threw in everything but a color matching restraint harness for me when they built this all-new CR-V.

With its easy to access cabin, wealth of solid feeling interior materials, generous features specification, newfound style and zippy Honda-style driving experience, I whole heartedly recommend the 2012 CR-V if your family is looking for a new SUV. It’s almost like Honda designed it with dogs needs in mind. Imagine that, a car company thinking beforehand about who in the family might most often be riding in the SUV? Honda must be full of geniuses. Or every other car company is run by idiots. I’ll get back to you on that last one.
Daisy Mae can be reached by clicking this link to reach her personal Dogbook Profile!

Also Check out some of Daisy Mae’s other work at her favorite website BarkBuckleUp.com!

2012 Kia Optima SX Road Test and Review | Autobytel.com

We think rather highly of the 2012 Kia Optima, made obvious by its recent win as the Autobytel Sedan of the Year. In just one model cycle, the little South Korean underdog went from tailing most of the entire sedan pack (barring your sister’s ’84 Mitsubishi Galant) in style and sophistication to all but domanitating the entire segment.

Though the Optima itself delivers an overall rewarding experience for most economical buyers, the real crowd pleaser is the Optima SX turbo. New for 2012, the Optima SX is powered by a special 2.0 liter twin-scroll, which pumps out 274 horsepower/269 lb. feet of torque. The unit is mated to one of Kia’s own 6-speed automatics and boasts EPA estimates of 22 city /34 highway – which is an incredibly optimistic figure given how tempting it is to really work the spirited four-banger. In real-word testing, we averaged around 19 mpg.

Click here for full review!

2012 Kia Optima SX Road Test and Review | Autobytel.com

Comparison Road Test: 2012 VW Tiguan vs. 2012 Nissan Juke

At first glance, this may seem like an odd SUV comparison to make, considering the fact that the Juke is perhaps the wildest looking vehicle of this type ever built while the 2012 VW Tiguan remains as Teutonic as ever with a restrained yet tasteful new front corporate front end easily noticeable whereas the much improved six-speed automatic now returns 2 miles per gallon more on the highway with EPA ratings of 22 city/27 highway. As the Juke was all-new last year, the vehicle needed nothing more than detail changes and our front-wheel drive manual transmission tester returned EPA figures of 25 city/31 highway. So, again, why the comparison?

This VW motor is one of the best in any vehicle at any price.

First off, both of these SUVs come standard with high revving, quick and quite addicting turbocharged 4-cylinder engines that still manage to return decent fuel economy in real life situations. Also, as Nissan and VW don’t sell these SUVs in Honda, Chevy, Ford or Toyota numbers, you won’t have to suffer the ignominy of seeing your exact same SUV always parked in the Home Depot lot every Saturday right next to you. Not that the Juke or Tiguan were meant for extreme cargo duties, although the VW has the Nissan easily licked in this department. With the Juke, you are buying a style statement to a degree so you take the small sacrifices in substance.

While both aren’t exactly overflowing with legroom in the second row, the big difference comes in how much cargo room is available in the Juke and Tiguan. The Juke, what with its cute and pert rear end design, sacrifices a cargo hold for what amounts to the inside of a teenager’s backback what with this SUV’s paltry 10.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. Fold those down and you can squeeze in about 35 cubic feet of your junk.

The Tiguan, on the other hand, gives buyers a much more useful 23.8 cubic feet behind the rear passengers growing to over 56 cubic feet when those seats fold (relatively) flat. Seriously VW, should the back seat fold with a giant lump in the middle of it because you didn’t worry about where the cupholders would go during such an occasion? Also, the Tiguan’s cargo hold feels tall and not very deep with the Jetta Sportwagen topping it as a cargo hauler for extreme duty.To read the rest click this sentence.

Consumer Road Test: 2012 Hyundai Tucson GLS

Nowadays it would be very easy to say that Hyundai, as a car manufacturer, is on a very serious and very long roll when it comes to introducing very successful new models. Not only have these new vehicles been competitive but many have been called the best in their respective classes. A Hyundai? Surely this can’t be the same company that brought us the Hyundai Excel compact which is best remembered as being “not quite as bad” as the Yugo hatch that came to market around the same time.

The Value Equation

As is still always the case with most every Hyundai product, the 2012 Tucson is a terrific value for money. And just because our GLS tester was relatively inexpensive at $22,295, it definitely didn’t lack for features. Spend a few grand more for a Limited model and you can even add leather, cooler looking alloys, navigation and an upgraded premium audio system. But to our way of thinking the GLS is the smartest buy in the Tucson lineup and even the standard 6-speaker audio system does a terrific job in its attempts to sound “premium.”

Standard features on the 2012 Hyundai Tucson GLS includes power windows, door locks and mirrors, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD 6-speaker audio system, USB/iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, a 2.0 liter 176 horsepower/168 lb. feet of torque 4 cylinder, a 6-speed automatic, tinted glass, alloy wheels, keyless entry and a whole lot more. It is, in short all of the compact family SUV that most people really need.

To find out more about how we really felt about the 2012 H:yundai Tucson you can go to Yahoo! Automotive Voices by clicking here;

1 2 3 Ten Best 2012 SUVs for Commuting Which Can Still Handle Family Duties

When it comes to picking out the best new SUV for you and your family, there are a lot of different things to consider besides sticker price and whether or not you think the car salesman you are working with was hired simply because his polyester suit matched his polyester hair. You see, there can be bad salespeople at any dealership and paying the right price for your next SUV will come down to doing your homework when the time comes and then being prepared to be doing a bit of negotiating.

But before you jump ahead to the actual process of “buying” your next 2012 SUV, you must first go out and “shop” for one first. And if you hadn’t noticed lately, there are a lot of choices out there for the average consumer. Admittedly, a 2012 Range Rover might be nice to dream about but can you afford $90,000, a tenacious thirst for premium unleaded and the possibility that something might go wrong with this most complex SUV ever built once it’s out of warranty?                               

Don’t answer that if you have a house in the Hamptons, have live-in help who raise your children, or don’t have the slightest clue why 99% of a population would resent the top 1% of money earners in the populace. While there are some luxurious and upscale choices on this list, even the top level models here lack the showy ostentation that is never popular in a recession.

For the full top ten list, click this link to my Yahoo! article.
Seriously, click here for the top ten list!

2011 Honda Accord vs. 2011 Kia Optima

It’s no secret but the Honda and Acura Examiner is crazy about the 2011 Kia Optima and thinks it stands and the biggest competitor for the 2011 Honda Accord. Well, not yet with driving dynamics but we’ll get to that later. (the Kia is Audi-like, the Accord is nimble like a BMW), both have intuitive electronic systems like navigation and voice activation as well as the best leather trimmed interiors in the family sedan class. It is funny, however, that even though our test Optima EX had more “ooh-aah” type features that it cost nearly $28,000 and the Accord SE $23,370 nicely equipped for most people’s desires. Really, is every Optima buyer going to demand the (admittedly awesome) dual pane power moonroof, ventilated/heated front seats, the back-up camera and an 8-speaker Infinitiy sound system (the Accord SE’s 6-speaker unit was perfectly adequate barring its lack of USB/iPod integration which is available on Accord EX models and above.)

Picture by Todd M. Allen

Quite honestly, the only reason we wouldn’t buy the 2011 Honda Accord SE is because it doesn’t a USB/iPod integration port which lessens driver distraction as it moves song/album/playlist control to your radio faceplate or even sometimes the steering wheel mounted audio controls. Both Honda and Kia are experts are USB/iPod integration and the Accord really needs to catch up on that game especially considering the hi-tech i-MID super in-car electronics system now in every 2012 Civic. But even priced similarly to the Honda, the Optima doesn’t have much of a feature advantage besides the longer warranty and perhaps dual zone climate control. The Accord makes do with regular air conditioning knobs so if things like that sway you, well, that’s an insult to the Kia. Because finally it’s good enough to be purchased solely on its own many merits. And we are saying that as staunch Honda fans, we just think Kia deserves that same respect from owners when they buy their cars. It’s finally their time to get more respect.

To Read the Full Comparison Click Here NOW!

2011 Hyundai Genesis vs. 2011 Acura RL

Road Test: 2011 Acura RL vs. 2011 Hyundai Genesis 4.6 V8 on Examiner.com

 Yes, it’s finally time for you to call the men with the funny white coats for the Honda and Acura Examiner as he is trying to compare a V8 engined, rear drive Hyundai luxury sedan with Acura’s top of the line SH-AWD RL which stickers for about $10,000 more, How is that an even competition when the new Equus could have no doubt sat it’s gargantuan hind quarters on the similarly priced RL to keep it from escaping its disturbingly corpulent South Korean grasp.

But after listening to countless pundits claiming the Hyundai Genesis looked like a Lexus, Mercedes, Volvo or Infiniti, I realized that there is only car that looks almost exactly like it barring differences in grille and tail-lamp execution. Yes, the 2011 Acura RL has a very similar side silhouette and body frame design as that upstart whipper snapper known as the Genesis. Doesn’t Hyundai know that Acura invented the whole idea of Asian luxury car brands? Well, I guess makes sense to copy the originator.

But after listening to countless pundits claiming the Hyundai Genesis looked like a Lexus, Mercedes, Volvo or Infiniti, I realized that there is only car that looks almost exactly like it barring differences in grille and tail-lamp execution. Yes, the 2011 Acura RL has a very similar side silhouette and body frame design as that upstart whipper snapper known as the Genesis. Doesn’t Hyundai know that Acura invented the whole idea of Asian luxury car brands? Well, I guess makes sense to copy the originator.

Although Hyundai just recently introduced a new 2012 Hyundai Genesis sedan with a more powerful 5.0 liter V8 engine and 8-speed automatic, there are still plenty of 2011 Genesis models on dealer lots with the very capable 4.6 liter V8 and ZF 6-speed automatic. In fact, given the eminent launch of the 2012 model, now might just be the best time ever to get a terrific deal on a brand new Hyundai Genesis sedan with a mighty impressive 385 horsepower/333 lb. feet of torque V8 motor that returned a very impressive 18.4 miles per gallon given the power on hand.

Now, the 2012 version of the Genesis is going to be offered with the same basic 3.8 liter 333 horsepower/291 lb. feet of torque V6 along with the same 4.6 liter V8 tested here. But the new range topper (known as the 5.0R) tops the power charts with 429 horsepower/376 lb. feet of torque. Both V8 engines require premium fuel but the V6 motor does not so consider that in your budgeting for the lifetime cost of your new Genesis. And remember, the 3.8 liter V6 engine isn’t exactly low on power despite its “base model” billing so it remains a good bargain. That is, until you go faster than 70 miles per hour. Yes, you read that right. For 2011, the only big change that the RL underwent was the addition of a much needed 6-speed automatic which really transformed how this biggest of all Acura sedans performs.

To read how each fared in a number of categories, click here for full review!


2011 Ford Edge SEL Review

The Ford Edge midsize family SUV was thoroughly overhauled for the 2011 model year and for starters it can easily be said that this kiddie hauler is now a real looker. The interior also was given the full mommy makeover treatment with a high tech electronic gauge display and the addition of Ford’s controversial MyFordTouch system.

My SEL model was equipped with that system which adversely affected Ford’s quality rankings recently and included the newly updated Sync system that works much better in models like the Flex, Fusion and Taurus. While the connectivity and voice activation functionality of the system is still top notch, controlling song selection functions via the USB/iPod integration plug-in is less straightforward via the center mounted touch screen.

More specifically, the arrow for scrolling through song playlists on your iPod is so small that it is hard to hit accurately as you are driving. A small niggle but one that could seriously irk you over time. The MyFordTouch system has two individual LCD electronic pods where you can display navigation, phone, audio functions or even program it to display an electronic tachometer. Unfortunately, this tachometer was about as realistic as something you would fine in a 1980s arcade driving game. Either fit a real tachometer or one that looks like one, Ford. Please.

Click here for the rest of this SUV review. It just takes you back to my original on Yahoo! and is how I get paid partially. Nothing dangerous. And if something bad happens talk the Yahoo and don’t forget the ! at the end.

Ten Best Car for College Bound Kids in 2011

It’s always scary when your child finally grows up and actually takes the giant leap from living at home to living far away only to turn into a “know it all” college freshman. While those of us who have attended college know there is still a whole lot life teaches us in the always turbulent years of 18-29, young people rarely know the difference between a car that they “want” and one that they should buy. This is why giving college kids credit cards is always about as smart as loaning Lindsay Lohan any jewelry or anything you’d like to get back. It never ends well.
So while your little baby may have grown up to want a 2011 Subaru WRX STi, tell him or her that this is a car whose car insurance rates would bankrupt the family and that they can buy one for themselves after they turn 25. (Note: Auto insurance rates plummet once anyone turns 25.) But you don’t want to damage your kid’s fragile self-esteem by forcing them to drive Aunt Bertha’s 2002 Ford Taurus off to college now do you? Pretty much any car with a front bench seat holds no appeal for young drivers.

Acura TSX squeezes under $30,000!

So here is a list of ten of the best new cars for young people and why they are such wise buys. If the car is on this list it means that the current generation version and even the last generation model were both standouts so no matter what your budget there should be something here you can afford.
Some of these vehicles, however, have only been on sale for a couple of years so used prices might not yet be at their optimal level of depreciation. But none of the following models truly break the bank cost-wise when new as they have great residual value levels, rank high in safety tests and are at least relatively easy on gas.