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


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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?

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

The Honda and Acura Examiner Test: 2014 Honda Accord EX-L V6 vs. 2014 Camry XLE V6 and 2014 Altima SL V6


 Is there any comparison of family sedans more necessary than one between the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima? These three battle it out constantly for family sedan sales supremacy in the United States and despite increased competition from names like Sonata, Optima, Malibu, Fusion and Passat the truth of the matter stands—none of those models sell as many units.


Fortunately for us, we have had the privilege of spending a lot of time

behind the wheel of an EX-L sedan equipped with the all-new 3.5 liter 278 horsepower/253 lb. feet of torque V6 and 6-speed automatic that affords this four door sedan a class leading EPA estimated 21 city/34 highway for fuel economy. That kind of efficiency makes you question the point of buying a 4-cylinder engine in any family sedan. But we might have also been biased by this V6 engine’s bountiful thrust and intoxicatingly tuneful growl when we routinely gunned it out to redline.

Yes, we realize that most family sedans are purchased with four-cylinder engines and rumors have been circulating that in its next redesign the Camry’s V6 will get the axe—sadly the most exciting thing about that sedan. In truth, most V6 engines are being replaced by similarly powerful (but never quite as aurally pleasing) direct injected and turbocharged 4-cylinders which seem to do better on EPA fuel economy testing cycles. In the real world, we haven’t always found that to be the case. You see, a turbo 4 will only be efficient so long as you keep the motor off-boost and in

its efficiency zone otherwise you may see efficiency levels lower than a V6. So here goes, what may be the last face-off between the 6-cylinder Accord, Camry and Altima.



To read the rest of this comparison and find out who won 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!