Amazingly Excellent Family Four Doors: 2016 Mazda6 iTouring v. 2015 Volkswagen Passat vs. 2016 Chrysler 200C AWD


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Written by James Hamel (and the conclusion can be found by clicking here onto Examiner.com)

Not everyone lives and dies by the rule that you have three choices in the family sedan segment and they are Accord, Camry or Altima. Really, you rent an Altima you don’t buy one for your family. That car could use a mid-life refresh as badly as if it was one of Bravo’s “Real Housewives” who routinely plump, alter and tinker with their looks. You see, there are cool family sedan options and here are three of the best—the 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL, 2016 Mazda 6 Touring and the 2016 Chrysler 200C AWD.

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Exterior Styling

The latest Mazda6 has always visually tickled us in all the right spots and is more dynamic looking than Accord or the latest Camry. We’d say it’s downright handsome but once the 200C AWD walks in the door you understand the difference between that and sexy. And the Passat, well, its lines have aged very well and in burgundy it looks like a million bucks. If you want your car to look German, that is your family sedan. Still, we can’t believe Chrysler of all brands managed to bring “Sexyback” to family sedans. (1st Place: 2016 Chrysler 200C AWD 2nd Place: 2016 Mazda6, 3rd Place: 2015 VW Passat TDI)

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Interior Layout, Comfort and Materials Quality

Whereas the Passat admittedly is the king and champion when it comes to rear seat roominess (it really the only one suitable to carry five adults) and simply enormous trunk space, sometimes its generosity bordered on overkill. If your groceries rolled all the way forward in the trunk you practically have to climb in just to retrieve them from this VW’s Grand Canyon of cargo capacity. It’s perfect if you are a hoarder. We just wish the interior felt a bit less Spartan and featureless. And the cheap plastic clock on the dash has to go.

Here is where the 2016 Chrysler 200C’s interior shows up the competition and that is in the high quality feel of the leather, plastics and carpets as well as “wow your friends” features like a transmission gear selection knob that looks quite a lot like the one you find exclusively in Jaguars and Range Rovers. A stylish dual pane panoramic sunroof much like the one that really is the cherry on top of the equally sexy Kia Optima also featured in our Chrysler 200 tester and helped it to inch past the Passat and stylishly sporty feeling interior of the 2016 Mazda6 with its new and much improved infotainment system for the win. (1st Place: 2015 Chrysler 200C AWD, 2nd Place: 2016 Mazda6 Touring, 3rd Place: 2015 VW Passat TDI)

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Fuel Economy

Well first off let’s just say the 2015 VW Passat TDI simply walked away with the fuel economy win being that we put 680 miles on the odometer and never had to fill the tank once. And yes, we returned it with just under a quarter tank left. The 2016 Mazda6 with its SkyActiv technology, however, also impressed us for its efficiency given that it has an EPA estimate of 28 city/40 highway and we averaged 38.9 miles per gallon over the course of a week.

Our 200C may have recorded the lowest fuel economy numbers here but it is also the only one equipped with all-wheel drive (the other two don’t offer it) and a far more powerful 3.6 liter 295 horsepower V6 which thankfully does run on regular unleaded. Over the course of a week the 18 city/29 highway rated 200C averaged nearly 22 miles per gallon. Do note there is a more fuel efficient (36 highway) 2.4 liter 184 horsepower 4-cylinder engine available. But what is the fun in that? (1st Place: 2015 VW Passat TDI, 2nd Place: 2016 Mazda6, 3rd Place: 2016 Chrysler 200C AWD)

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Value for Money, Features and Pricing

All three sedans here have starting prices in the low $20,000 range but their as tested prices varied wildly based on how lavishly equipped they were with the latest gadgets and gizmos. But keep in mind our 2016 Mazda6 Touring stickered for just over $23,000 yet still featured dual zone climate control, 19-inch alloys, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, keyless go and push button start as well as very convincing faux cowhide seat upholstery. The 2015 Volkswagen Passat SEL Premium TDI was priced just over $34,000 and given its higher feature count the 2015 Chrysler 200C AWD rang up to just over $37,000 once the Chrysler Group LLC had finished lavishing every possible option imaginable onto our test vehicle. Yes, we see that’s a big gap.

If you can live with some of the more over the top features like, oh, say the Chrysler Parallell and Perpendicular Park Assist system which can automatically parallel park and guide you into a regular parking spot for you as well should you one day be rendered utterly incompetent. It’s too bad that feature is lumped into a package with very helpful safety advances like collision advance brake assist, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beam headlights. In fact, only the Volkswagen lacked adaptive cruise control which can automatically maintain a set speed for you on the freeway regardless of traffic. It just slows you down then speeds you up again. That used to be the preserve of Lexus models but now even family sedans boast the latest gadgetry. (1st Place: 2016 Mazda6, 2nd Place: 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI, 3rd Place: 2016 Chrysler 200)

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Do any of these Sedans Stir the Senses? (Fun to Drive)

First to go down in this fight is a car that boasts impeccable road manners and noise suppression all while managing to always feel like the faster you drive it the more nailed down you are to the road. This car is, of course, the German Engineered and Tennessee built 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI. This frugal family sedan is a pleasure at a relaxed cruise and can also manage to capably tackle windier roads if the need arises.

The only problem is that the 2016 Mazda6 Touring has the cheetah-like ability the more comfort oriented VW lacks thanks to the most buttoned down suspension tuning of any car in this test and steering that is not only communicative but never feels overly heavy during tight cornering maneuvers. The 2015 Chrysler 200C AWD’s steering felt lighter and somewhat more detached but the car made up for it with the tenacious grip during even the most insanely tight freeway onramp cornering maneuvers. Not that we would test a car in such a way but Southern California where we are based has little need for all-weather traction as a rule but the 200’s system manages to aid grip even in the dry.

As you would imagine, the Chrysler’s 3.6 liter 295 horsepower V6 offered up the most thrilling straight line experience but a funny thing happened on the way to the forum when the roads got twisty and the 200C’s weight problem compared to the Mazda6 became easier to notice. So despite only packing a 2.5 liter 185 horsepower Sky-Activ 4-cylinder, the 6 always felt like a feisty performer thanks to its enthusiastically growling engine note and the slick shift action of the six-speed manual gearbox.. And never once did we wish the Mazda had more horsepower when we took it for some blasts on our favorite back roads. Face it, Mazda knows how to make even a family sedan go “Zoom-Zoom.”

And while we are always enthusiastic about Volkswagen’s 2.0 liter 140 horsepower/236 lb. feet of torque TDI diesel motor, we always feel that particular engine makes for a more engaging drive hen equipped with the manual gearbox. Really the only car priced like the 2016 Mazda6 that will soon have an infotainment system possibly as good as the one in the Mazda will be the soon to be released 2016 Honda Accord EX four door which should feel just as rewarding to drive. (1st Place: 2015 Mazda6, 2nd Place: 2016 Chrysler 200C AWD, 3rd Place: 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI)

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BUT WHO WON? Click here to go to Examiner.com. 

All Chrysler 200C Photos by MaryAnne Wendt Founder and Editor in Chief of WhyThisRide.com

The All-New (sort-of) 2016 Volkswagen Passat still makes a splashy Debut


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Written by James Hamel

It was supposed to be a rather standard event, the recent unveiling of the 2016 Volkswagen Passat which received a well conceived mid-life refresh for the new model year. While not as radical a mid-cycle visit to the plastic surgeon that the 2015 Toyota Camry received, VW did manage for 2016 to leapfrog most all of the competition when it comes to in car active safety features plus infotainment availability and ease of use. Otherwise, there wasn’t much wrong with the 2015 Passat as it remains both an excellent motorway cruiser and capable back road curve carver in the true German tradition. Plus, Volkswagen held the line on price while adding content.

The event was held in New York, Brooklyn to be more exact, with the shimmering Freedom Tower visible from the waterfront location FullSizeRender (5)VW had no doubt chosen months ago for this occasion. For some reason, Lenny Kravitz performed a short concert late in the evening, sadly without any wardrobe malfunctions. Volkswagen of America president Michael Horn introduced the Passat but not before giving a long, honest apology about the emissions scandal where he admitted Volkswagen had done wrong to its customers and that they would pay all fines and cooperate to make everything right.

What more do people want exactly? Apparently they want to see you almost fall off stage because while going over the subtle changes to the car he nearly fell off the side of the stage no doubt due to nerves after getting such an icy reception from the media. And because he was on a spinning platform and put one foot where the floor wasn’t moving but that’s not the point. It was only after his goofy pratfall that the crowd softened somewhat and by the end of his presentation the audience applauded his frank approach to a rather tricky situation.

The 2016 Volkswagen Passat in all trim levels (unlike Accord) has mirror play which hooks up to Apple’s Car Play or Google Android Auto with the touch of a button and it comes with Bluetooth sync speed capability and USB port music importing speeds that are unmatched by any car we have ever tested. And we were not told that, we experienced it first hand.

As for the exterior, the lines look even more taut and muscular overall as the roof makes a stronger half-hofmeister kink down towards FullSizeRender (6)the more angular rear tail lamp design. The only point of contention was the enhanced top chrome lip on the front grille which to some appeared too much like a fat upper lip. Maybe its appearance hits too close to home to those who have experienced the personal embarrassment of having their collagen lip injection go wrong and had to live with a larger upper lip for 8 to 10 months. The VW is not that noticeable in person so it shouldn’t be looked upon as a candidate for the next cast of the “Real Housewives” franchise.

If the grille bothers you, check out the new sportier R-Line trim level which makes that design element less noticeable and is a welcome addition to the line-up. At launch the Passat will definitely be available with Volkswagens excellent 1.8 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder and the velvety 3.6 liter VR6 engine with the one question mark being when the 2.0 liter TDI will be back on sale. We imagine a company the size of Volkswagen has enough engineers to figure out a solution to the issue sooner rather than later.

Lastly, we also quite impressed with the generous array of advanced safety features now available with the Passat including the usual blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, a self-parking feature, adaptive cruise control, automatic braking assist that works autonomously and a first—something called post collision braking which if you have an impact with either a vehicle or object the car will attempt to keep the driver from losing control by overcorrecting through braking controlled by the onboard computer. That might help put an end to the 15 car interstate pile-up.

Now everyone please try to remember to breathe, relax and remember that the 2016 Volkswagen Passat will not sneak into your home at night, kidnap your children and try to turn them into gingerbread cookies. Not that we know of anyway. But then we do have a herd of magical unicorn so who are we to judge.

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To read the rest of this take on the Volkswagen saga, click here to go to Gaywheels.com. 

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

When the Jetta Returned: 2014 1.8 Liter Turbo Version of Volkswagen’s perennial favorite


Written by James Hamel 
At a recent (well, it was recent in 2014) full line VW drive event that we here attended in Napa, we started our morning grabbing the keys to the vehicle that we expected the least from as far as thrills and surprises go. We chose to drive a manual transmission equipped 2014 VW Jetta
 in midlevel (and very affordable) SE trim with the all new VW 1.8 liter base corporate turbocharged 4-cylinder motor. But there is nothing basic at all about this new 170 horsepower/184 lb. feet of torque engine, dear readers, and no longer is the Jetta a bargain basement, built to price economy car with a faint hint of German sportiness about it.
No, the 2014 VW Jetta is born again as a value price European sport sedan with no qualifiers needed. Yes, after a couple of years with a solid rear axle, some nasty interior plastics and a boat anchor of a base engine in the form of a geriatric 2.5 liter 170 horsepower 5-cylinder base motor the Jetta has reconnected to its mojo in more than just TDI and GLI trims. The 2014 VW Jetta also boasts the return of an independent rear suspension to all models sold in the U.S.A. as well as the addition of electrical power steering that in a surprising turn actually adds to this car’s feeling of connectedness to both the driver and road.
For the rest of this review click here for a link to GAYWHEELS.COM!
 

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

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

Consumer Road Test: 2012 Kia Soul


Now, you might think that the new 2012 Kia Soul got us so excited, what with its “Alien/Kermit the Frog Green” exterior, that we’d decide to punctuate every sentence like a peppy cheerleader. No one can be that excitable and nice all of the time, however, not even cheer happy sorority girls.
But when you are driving the 2012 Kia Soul you find yourself smiling to yourself a little bit more than usual. Not many cars can pull off this exterior paint scheme and even fewer can pull off the odd splashes of color that Kia throws seemingly willy-nilly across the otherwise staid and straightforward cabin. On Sport models, a bright red plastic and cloth/leather motif is the order of the day and makes the inside of the Soul look like a bordello run by vampires. You know, after dinner.

We preferred the Soul ! with its offbeat “houndstooth” (sort of a gray/white interlocking pattern) mixed with beige trim on the seats which in our tester came equipped with very well finished leather seats that really help dress up the interior of this delightfully odd boxy hatchback. But the Soul avoids the wacky appearance of the Nissan Cube or the soullessness offered by the current Scion xB all the while still offering cargo carrying capacity of 23.7 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 53.4 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat.

Our test Soul ! model also came equipped with a pricey but well appreciated Premium Package (new for 2012) which adds the aforementioned leather, heated front seats, push button start with a smart key, automatic climate control and an in-dash navigation system. The total for all this? Just $22,850 including destination charges meaning Kia really hasn’t lost touch with its value for money roots with the 2012 Soul. Standard goodies include 18-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, an excellent Infinity AM/FM/CD/USB/MP3 audio system, a back-up camera, steering wheel mounted audio controls, a sunroof and tinted windows.

Click Here for the Rest of this Review on Yahoo! Voices

Road Test: 2012 Honda Civic vs. 2012 Hyundai Elantra vs. 2012 Toyota Corolla S


Who would have ever thought that just in one year’s time the Hyuandai Elantra would be a big name player challenging the likes of industry stalwarts like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla S. Recently we were able to road test two fully loaded Civic and Elantra automatic models and compare it with the surprisingly delightful 2012 Toyota Corolla S with a five-speed manual transmission. All we can say is that when you equip a Corolla with a stick shift, you truly set its spirit free. Yes, it actually has one.

Although I did discover one very shocking and disappointing truth about the 2011 Elantra during my one week road test, overall I found it to be truly fun to drive, refined, and powerful, thanks to its new 1.8-liter, 148-horsepower/131 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder engine that is Hyundai’s best in-house design yet.

The 2012 Honda Civic comes equipped with a carryover 1.8-liter, 140 horsepower 4-cylinder engine that seemed to be perfectly sufficient a year ago but now is apparently terribly outdated. In reality, this Honda engine is as eager to rev and punchy as ever so take a lot of the media bashing it has received of late with a grain of salt. It’s still a Civic.

We had very low expectations for the 2012 Toyota Corolla S but over the course of a week it truly charmed us thanks to its no nonsense style, easy to understand interior layout, supreme interior comfort and lastly we loved the rev-happy 1.8 liter 132 horsepower/128 lb. feet of torque 4-cyiinder that when connected to that sweet manual transmission made every around town errand a delight. It also returned 32 miles per gallon without any real attempts to be frugal.

For more, check out my Honda and Acura Examiner page by clicking here.
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Alternative Energy Alternatives: 2012 VW Passat TDI vs. 2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid


When compared to the current generation Toyota Camry Hybrid that is soon going to be replaced with an all-new 2012 model, the 2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid is actually the superior vehicle with better power, a longer battery range and a more appealing interior with plenty of hi-tech goodies. But no market segment in the car world sits still for long and a 2012 Camry Hybrid looms on the horizon as does the new menace in the high mileage family sedan market known as the 2012 VW Passat TDI.

So will the Fusion Hybrid be able to handle all of the challenges it will face in the coming model year? As we have already driven the 2012 VW Passat TDI already, we can safely already say that the diesel engine VW with the 795 mile range is not only more fun to drive but also competitively fuel efficient with 31 city/43 highway readings to the Fusion’s 41 city/36 highway EPA figures. Either way, both the Fusion Hybrid and 2012 Passat TDI impress in their own unique ways-the VW mainly if you have trouble with the usual “hybrid quirks.”

To read more click here/
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Ten Things You Should Know about the 2012 Honda CR-V | Autobytel.com


Ten Things You Should Know about the 2012 Honda CR-V Autobytel.com

A great overall look at the 2012 Honda CR-V written by me for Autobytel. Click here or above to read it!

The Truth About the 2012 Ford Focus vs. the 2012 Honda Civic


Introductions taken from Autobytel.com and links to both separate reviews are below. I suggest you read them before you do any car shopping. Or believe the media.

Ford Focus Titanium Sedan Road Test

It is a not very well-kept secret in the auto industry that Ford Motor Company used to suffer from “quality glitches” with its new models as a routine matter of course during their first year on sale. But given how consistently innovative and successful it has been in recent years at maintaining Toyota and Honda levels of vehicle quality in surveys, it came as a bit of a shock to see its customer satisfaction ratings plummet dramatically in just the last few months.

Given our experience with the 2012 Ford Focus it’s clear that a lot of the blame lies in a few teething problems with their most recently launched models. To say our test car had “issues” would be to understate the matter quite a bit. Still, the Fusion, Flex, F-150, Taurus, Mustang and many of the Blue Oval’s best sellers, do continue to maintain excellent quality rankings.

So what’s the problem with the 2012 Ford Focus? We are sure that time and little bit of engineering hard work, Ford can fix every wrong thing we experienced. But given the number of problems our 2012 tester suffered from it is very hard to recommend that anyone buy this model at least until Ford gets these quality control issues ironed out.

There were small niggles like a trunk that routinely liked to pop open as you crossed speed bumps and it definitely didn’t help matters that the standard six-speed dual-clutch automatic hesitated for at least five seconds when going from park to reverse and then would only do so with a jarring clunk. This gearbox also routinely shook the car with such abrupt judders through the entire body during various downshifts that it made you wonder if in fact you were piloting the Titanic and had hit an iceberg. No transmission with only 4,500 miles on the odometer should behave that way.

To read on….click here.

2012 Honda Civic EX-L Review

As far a new car launches go, the 2012 Honda Civic’s introduction to the North American market couldn’t have been any bumpier or more badly timed. First off, soon after the Civic’s press introduction in Washington, D.C., Japan was devastated by the most costly natural disaster the world has ever seen when an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant meltdown put the country into chaos. Honda, unfortunately, has its headquarters in Tochigi, Japan which means it was the closest Japanese automaker to all of the devastation.

Although most Civics are manufactured at plants in North America and only 20 percent of their parts are sourced from Japan (the rest are purchased locally), the company found itself with assembly lines full of partially assembled vehicles that should have already been on dealer lots. Thankfully, things have been steadily improving and Honda tells us that production has returned to near normal levels so if you want a Civic you should be able to find the trim level, body style and color you want at your local dealer.

As if that wasn’t enough, for some reason many in the automotive media decided that Honda’s misfortune was the perfect opportunity to begin relentless and rather misguided attacks on the Civic which has dominated American compact sedan buyer’s hearts for decades. So what, exactly, is wrong with the 2012 Honda Civic? Has Honda, as so many headlines have proclaimed, lost its way with the Civic?

Before we look into that we’ll just make one thing very clear. To paraphrase a sentiment uttered by the similarly iconic author Mark Twain, “rumors of the Honda Civic’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.”
To check out this or any of our awesome reviews on Autobytel just click 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!

The 2011 Smart ForTwo Cabrio and Losing My Religion


Starting in the 5th Century A.D. there began a new religious movement known as “self-flagellation” where certain Christian sects would actually inflict wounds upon themselves (usually with whips) so that they could feel closer to understanding the pain Jesus went through on the Cross. Spiritually, it was the ultimate way to show reverence to Jesus and while you won’t find many Christians who whip themselves regularly today, there are apparently plenty of people looking for some pain and torture in the new automotive “Green Movement.” But what is the cost of going “green” and will it ever work for you?

As long as there are humans on Earth, we will continue altering our environment and ravenously using up our precious resources. But there are some answers out there. Let’s just say that, as far as we can see, the 2011 Smart ForTwo Passion Cabriolet which we recently test drove for a week was sadly much like a car without a purpose or a punch line without a joke. We had trouble figuring out what it was doing in the United States when clearly our roads are not built for this skittish, jittery and generally unpleasant to drive car.

It may not be quite like “torture” but if you buy a 2011 Smart ForTwo Cabriolet Passion it can only serve as a method of “self-flagellation” for those with serious eco-guilt. And if you have that kind of psychosis then perhaps this is the vehicle for you as Smart claims the car in 95% recyclable which is odd since so much of it feels like it’s made out of Styrofoam.

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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.
The see the FULL LIST ON YAHOO! CLICK HERE!