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

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 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

Daisy Mae Hamel’s 2012 Civic Sedan and Si Coupe Review as Penned by an 80-Pound Dog


Any dog who has gone to a dog park knows about the concept of piling on a weaker dog which is part of our inherent nature as pack animals. Whether or not we participate in the melee, if some dogs detect even the slightest weakness in another dog there will be more wild growling and paw bitch slaps than you would see during your average episode of “The Jerry Springer Show.” Jerry Springer? I wonder with that last name if he is related to any Springer Spaniels? Just wondering.

The reason I mention this is that the 2012 Honda Civic line has been the victim of a lot of dog park-like media piling on thanks to a variety of factors. There was, of course, the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan that cut off parts supplies just when production was set to ramp up in large numbers. Also, people complained that the 2012 Civic’s redesign wasn’t as revolutionary as it should have been which wouldn’t have been an issue if radically improved offerings like the Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus and Chevy Cruze (used to be the Cobalt) were released around the same time.

To read the rest of Daisy Mae’s insightful review of the new Civic, click here for a link to her reviews on BarkBuckleUp.com. Or Check out James Hamel’s in depth weeklong road tests of this vehicle on 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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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

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.

To complete article follow link here:

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!

Ten Unique Family Cars Priced Under $30,000


Most new car buyers, especially those who have the needs of their family at the forefront of their mind, go out car shopping with frugality and utility at the forefront of their minds with styling, features and safety coming further down the list. But what if you have a family but you still want to enjoy driving your car, don’t want to lose it in mall parking lots and most definitely DON’T WANT A MINIVAN!?
It’s alright, we definitely understand the need to still enjoy shuffling the kids to soccer practice and driving is one of the few times in a parent’s life when they get to enjoy a little bit of “me time.” This is especially true if you order rear seat DVD entertainment screens for your kids in the back seat. Those things work like a charm thanks in large part to hypnotic cartoon phenomenon like “Dora the Explorer.”

Now, these may seem like odd choices for the family man or woman but they are all capable family haulers that for some reason or another stuck out in my mind during road tests as excellent alternative choices. So before you buy an F-150 for your Costco runs, check out this list of ten models to see if there is something else out there that might be more your speed.

Pickup trucks are not for posing or scaring other shoppers in the supermarket parking lot, they are for hauling, working and getting bad gas mileage. A vanity pickup with no dents in any of the body panels is also inherently wrong in a Universal manner akin to the thought of Paris Hilton starting her masters in Chemical Engineering. And since pickup trucks are everywhere, they won’t make you get noticed or qualify under this “unique vehicle” concept. To finish the point-pickup trucks are not family cars!

To see the list click on this link “here.”

2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid Road Test


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.”

Click here to read whole review

Mazda2 vs. Honda Fit


As the Honda and Acura Examiner, I compare Hondas with their natural competition. Usually they do quite well but look what happens when a manual transmission Mazda2 meets an automatic transmission Honda Fit. Is this a fair fight? Turns out it isn’t.

Exterior
There’s something about the gentle sweep of the tail and the grinning front end that makes people like you and the car instantly. To my eyes, the Honda is cool in a boxy bread van kind of way but the Mazda just was more endearing to look at. (Advantage: 2011 Mazda2)

For results click this sentence!

Full Comparion test!

2011 Hyundai Elantra road test


Thanks to models like the 2011 Chevy Cruze, 2012 Honda Civic, 2012 Ford Focus and 2011 VW Jetta it is simply unacceptable to roll out a “mediocre” fuel efficient, small family sedan.
Proof of this can be seen just if you look at the fact that the 2011 Chevy Cruze just toppled the Toyota Camry as the best-selling car in the United States. Hyundai is also experiencing record breaking demand for this new 2011 Elantra as it has also been selling like the proverbial steaming stack of hotcakes but is held back somewhat in overall sales figures by an Alabama factory that has a limited manufacturing output capacity.

So, having driven the 2011 Hyundai Elantra Limited, a 2012 Honda Civic, the Jetta and the Cruze do I think that the Elantra has what it takes to be the best-selling car in the country? With the nation downsizing and Hyundai’s brand now more appealing to consumers than ever it very well could happen one day. But would you REALLY want to drive and own one?

No doubt you have also read all of the glowing press reports about this new 2011 Hyundai Elantra and its exemplary 29 city/40 mile per gallon highway EPA fuel economy rating. But what can you really learn about a car you may wind up owning for ten years from an article that just reports facts taken from a press release? This is why at the Consumer Road Test articles in the automotive section of this website are always reports taken from seven day, every day road tests. There are no around the block “test drives” here.