Automotive
Ford Focus Descends from ’60s’ Falcon | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 21 November 2014 15:59

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The 2014 Ford Focus four-door sedan and hatchback models share Ford’s kinetic styling, which emphasizes the car’s athletic stance.

By Steve Schaefer • San Leandro Times

The compact car is an American concept. As full-size cars grew ever longer, lower and wider in the 1950’s post-war boom, the brave Rambler offered them. For 1960, Ford, GM and Chrysler responded with the Falcon, Corvair and Valiant. Since then, when you talk about a brand, you know there are going to be choices, not only in configuration or feature level, but in size.

The Ford Focus is a distant descendant of the extremely successful Ford Falcon of the 1960s. Large enough for four or five, with an efficient and modern engine, the Focus is perfect for almost anyone who doesn’t need more passenger or cargo space. More than 10 million Foci have found homes since the nameplate debuted in 1998 (and as a 2000 model in the U.S.).

I’ve driven the sporty ST hatchback recently, but this week, I tested the Titanium sedan model. As always, you have choices, and for the American version of the Focus, that means sedan or hatchback, manual 5-speed or automatic 6-speed transmission, and equipment level. All Focus models other than the ST share a non-turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which sends out 160 horsepower and 146 lb.-ft. of torque through the front wheels.

As manual-transmission options fade away in the marketplace, you can still get one here, even in the top-level Titanium model. My Ruby Red Tinted Clearcoat tester had the six-speed PowerShift automatic, which ran smoothly and quietly.

Combined with the 2.0-liter, the EPA awards EPA numbers of 27 City, 37 Highway, 31 combined. I averaged 26.2 mpg. The manual-equipped model is rated at 2 mpg lower, which means the auto box upshifts sooner than you do. EPA green scores are a laudable 7 for Smog and 8 for Greenhouse Gas.

Compact cars mostly are bread-and-butter transportation units, and many buyers really opt for them because they are affordable and economical, not exciting. However, the Euro-derived Focus platform has received favorable reviews from the car magazines over the years, and this current model delivers a bit more driving enjoyment and road feel than you might expect.

During several freeway and local trips, I felt the drivetrain in a good way through the steering wheel, the engine made pleasant sounds, and the 160 horsepower felt like plenty. There is no barebones, bottom-of-the-line price leader. Even the least expensive S sedan gets the same 160-horsepower engine.

112014a2Ford’s “kinetic” styling is derived from its European studios, and manifests itself in other Fords, like the Fusion sedan and Escape crossover. It can translate into a little bit of “frenetic” inside the car. The dash and doors have lots of “interesting” lines and curves and folds, and there is a dizzying mix of textures.

For example, the hood over the instrument panel has two prominent folds in it that you see as you’re driving. In the Titanium, there’s a little more of an upscale feeling, perhaps from the subdued gray metallic trim, and the leather-wrapped bucket seats are firm and attractively stitched together in a German luxury sedan way.

Ford’s SYNC system connects your devices and gives you a nice home page at dash center. It’s an electronic “dashboard” with four quadrants for audio, climate, navigation and Bluetooth phone connection. Touch the outer corner and a more detailed screen for that function displays. In the instrument panel, you can view a succession of screens for fuel economy, distance to empty, average speed and other information — or keep it at a quartered rectangle, like the center-dash one, only with that information displayed all in one view.

Steering-wheel-mounted controls, a common feature today, make audio selections and phone use easy while you keep your eyes on the road.

The basic S comes as a sedan only, but the SE, SE Sport and Titanium also offer the hatchback model. The tail ends are different, but the interior and front halves are the same, in Ford’s current look. My 2014 tester’s look changes with the 2015 models to the “open mouth” grille of the newest Fords, such as the larger Fusion.

Prices start at $17,105 for the S, and move up to the Titanium. My tester base-priced at $23,515, and with $1,190 worth of options, including premium paint color and navigation system, it came to $25,510. Both prices include a $795 destination charge.

There is plenty of tech for your Focus. Get Active Park Assist, which helps you parallel park automatically with the touch of a button if the right size space is available. There are active grille shutters for slightly better fuel economy.

The compact car is still with us, but a lot has changed since the 1960s. Today’s Focus serves the needs of the vast majority of drivers, providing some driving enjoyment, reasonable fuel economy, and European design, too.

 

 
Ford Offers Hybrid Alternative | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 13 November 2014 15:39

111314aBy Steve Schaefer • San Leandro Times

Despite the recent drop in gas prices, there is still a push for more choices in alternative vehicles. With the C-MAX, Ford is hoping to establish a new nameplate that’s indentified completely with the green driving experience.

While the C-MAX is available with a conventional internal combustion engine only in Europe, its original home, you can only get two versions — a gas/electric hybrid like my White Platinum Metallic test car, or the plug-in hybrid C-MAX Energi — in the U.S.

Hybrid vehicles automatically combine multiple propulsion methods, normally a gasoline engine with an electric motor, to increase fuel economy and raise environmental green-car scores. Their performance is enhanced with the driver’s care in avoiding extremes of acceleration or braking.

A plug-in hybrid like the Energi comes with a jack and a cord, so you can add electricity to drive without gas at all, like a pure electric vehicle. The C-MAX Energi I tested last year gave me about 21 fuel-free miles.

Compared to the Toyota Prius, the biggest selling hybrid, the C-MAX is arguably better looking, and is certainly more fun to drive. The Toyota is still the mileage king, but the C-MAX has a kind of eagerness and tautness on the road that the Prius lacks. The tall proportions actually resemble the Prius V wagon more than the standard Prius hatchback, with more than 50 cubic feet of storage behind the front seats when the second row is folded. With the rear seat’s 60/40 split, you can gain a lot of cargo space and still leave room for a rear passenger.

My tester was rated at 45 City, 40 Highway, and 43 Overall. I earned 40.5 mpg, which is about as good as it gets, short of the Prius and perhaps the new Honda Accord Hybrid sedan, which I recently tested at 42.8 mpg. The green scores for the C-MAX Hybrid are 7 for Smog and a top-level 10 for Greenhouse Gas.

The C-MAX blends a 2.0-liter gasoline engine with an electric motor to generate a total of 188 horsepower. The car runs in full electric “EV” mode part of the time, especially on level streets in town, but can still run in pure battery mode up to 62 miles per hour. It all flows through an electric continuously variable transmission (CVT). CVTs search for the best ratio for the current conditions, using belts rather than gears, so they sound a bit different.

You can see where the power is originating when you look at the customizable instrument panel’s left side. There, SmartGauge with EcoGuide is configurable in several different views. I liked the Engage view, which shows a bar graph for gasoline and electric usage, and indicates with an “EV” when the car is functioning as a full electric. You can see when regenerative braking is charging the battery, too. I tried to fill the battery with my careful road habits. On the right side, you can watch Efficiency Leaves fill in or fall depending on your driving behavior.

The C-MAX is quiet, but especially so when cruising on battery power. The car uses lithium-ion batteries, which are 20 to 30 percent smaller and 50 percent lighter than the traditional nickel-metal-hydride type. Batteries still need a lot more development to become much lighter and smaller.

111314a2Ford’s SYNC system lets you connect your phone and music devices using Bluetooth. My phone was easy to use on-the-go, with voice commands working properly from the first time. SYNC can be confusing for some consumers, but kudos to Ford for trying something new. Once you get used to the new tools, it becomes as easy as using a cell phone app.

In the Hybrid, you can choose from the SE or SEL model. My SE tester had a base price of $25,995, including destination charges. The SEL costs $2,000 more, and includes leather seating and satellite radio. My tester also came with Equipment Group 203A, with power liftgate and rear parking aid (a distance warning system rather than a rear camera), as well as ambient interior lighting, SYNC and Ford MyTouch — the configurable instrument panel. It also charged me $595 for the special paint color. Interestingly, the 2015 SE model is listed online at $1,000 less than my 2014 model. That may be Ford’s attempt to make it more attractive to buyers, as sales have been slow.

Built in Wayne, Michigan but with stylish European roots, the C-MAX is an appealing alternative to other hybrids, but is no longer the latest model out there. During my test week, it felt completely comfortable and did everything I asked of it. Roomy, but maneuverable in town, smooth and quiet on the highway, it will save you money at the gas pump and, in today’s market, is a good deal.

 

 
Jeep Cherokee Forges a New Path | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 06 November 2014 15:35

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The all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee provides a choice of three innovative 4x4 systems.

By Steve Schaefer • San Leandro Times

The Jeep Cherokee is a look at the future of the Jeep brand. Jeep is nearly 75 years old — dating back to the indestructible little WWII combat units. The CJ (Civilian Jeep?) kept things going postwar, eventually becoming today’s Wrangler. However, the other stream of Jeep, from the family-oriented Wagoneer to today’s Grand Cherokee, is oriented to serving the needs of families, some of whom may want to go off road — or not.

The Cherokee replaced the Liberty, which served as Jeep’s midsize contender from 2002 to 2013. The Liberty itself replaced the original Cherokee, which ran for two decades. A two-box, no-nonsense product, the original Cherokee became obsolescent, but certainly looked like a Jeep. The Liberty was a bit softer, especially the first generation. The 2014 Cherokee is completely new, although the familiar styling cues are there — updated for the 21st century.

The new Cherokee is based on a platform from parent Fiat. Aimed at being the leader in the 2-million-cars-a-year midsize SUV/crossover segment, it is a very appealing and versatile package. As usual, you can equip it basic or fill it with comfort or serious off-road features.

Choose from two new engines: the standard 2.4 MultiAir four-cylinder or the 3.2-liter Pentastar V6. The 2.4 generates 184 horsepower and 171 lb.-ft. of torque, and is about 45 percent more efficient than the base Liberty engine it replaces. The V6 ups that substantially, to 271 and 239 respectively.

Both engines run through a nine-speed automatic — the only transmission available — and the first use of the nine-speed in the midsize SUV segment. Benefits of this gearbox are more aggressive launches, smoother power delivery, and greater fuel economy.

It wouldn’t be a Jeep without the availability of four-wheel drive, but as has been the case for a long time, you can also get two-wheel drive if you don’t need off-road ability. There are three levels of 4WD, including Active Drive I, Active Drive II and Active Drive Lock. Active Drive I has a single power transfer unit, and works without driver intervention, as needed. This is handy for improved traction in normal driving. Active Drive II adds a driver-selectable low gear, which locks the axles for low-speed power and towing, as well as enhanced climbing ability. Active Drive Lock adds a locking rear differential.

Choose from four ascending levels: Sport, Latitude, Limited, and Trailhawk. My tester was a Latitude model, in Granite Crystal Metallic Clear Coat paint, with the optional V6 and Active Drive II. It also contained upgraded interior electronics and a rear-view backup camera. The Sport is your entry point, starting at $23,990, while the Limited offers more luxurious accommodations. My Latitude started at $27,490, but with options came to $31,020. All prices include delivery charges.

The Trailhawk is the Cherokee for serious off-roaders — it’s even Trail Rated, and gets Active Drive Lock standard. It wears unique styling, with improved approach and departure angles, an extra inch of height, skid plates and tow hooks. This is the one for the Rubicon Trail.

My two-ton test Cherokee had the optional 3.2-liter V6, which made driving effortless and quick. It’s the first use of this smaller V6 based on Chrysler’s award-winning 3.6-liter V6. I averaged 21.1 mpg, which matches the EPA’s 21 Combined rating (19 City, 26 Highway). The 2.4-liter four with two-wheel-drive earns 22 City, 31 Highway and 25 Overall. EPA green numbers are 6 for Smog and 5 for Greenhouse Gas.

My tester had the Selec-Terrain system — a console-mounted dial where you can decide how you want the car to behave on different surfaces. Choose from Snow, Sport or Sand/Mud — or leave it in Auto and let the car decide. There is also a button for engaging the 4WD low gear, and hill descent control — useful when climbing down a hill using that low gear.

110614a2The inside of the new Cherokee blends some traditional elements with a softly contoured, high-quality design that feels substantial but is very pleasant to look at. It integrates the Fiat Chrysler Auto touch screen which, with the upgraded UConnect 8.4 inch display, makes it easy to control entertainment, climate and other features with large, colorful buttons and easy-to-read displays.

Offroading, like war, is a serious business, but today, Jeep delivers luxury too. Enjoy its Limited models for pleasant daily motoring, or go for serious off-roading with the rugged Cherokee Trailhawk.

There’s even some whimsy too, such as the “easter egg” design features. Along the black windshield trim edge, dash center, is a tiny silhouette of a classic Jeep CJ climbing a hill. It, along with the “Since 1941” embossed into the lower steering wheel spoke, reminds you of where Jeep has been, while the fresh Cherokee design and technology tells you where Jeep is going.

 

 
MINI Makes Driving Fun | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 30 October 2014 14:52

103014aBy Steve Schaefer • San Leandro Times

MINI has introduced a new, third-generation Cooper hardtop for 2014. If you don’t notice the changes at a glance, that’s understandable, but it is a thorough reworking of the original premium subcompact.

All of the MINI characteristics are still there, from the upright windshield, big oval headlamps, vertical taillamps (although they get wider with each generation), and short front and rear overhangs. This car is actually larger: 4.5 inches longer, 1.7 inches wider, and even .3 inches taller. Passengers get a little more room and there is three cubic feet of additional cargo space. A 1.1 inch longer wheelbase and slightly wider track add stability to an already great-handling package.

There are two new engines, both running through your choice of a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. My Deep Blue Metallic test car was a Cooper — the lower level model — so it had the new 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder. Yes, only a three, but it generates 13 more horsepower than the previous four, and with the turbo, it scoots from 0-60 in 7.3 seconds.

The Cooper S gets a new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that sends 189 horsepower and 207 lb.-ft. of torque to the front wheels. That’s good for a 6.4-second 0-60 time.

The regular Cooper doesn’t feel at all wimpy, and has a respectable EPA fuel economy rating of 29 City, 41 Highway, and 34 Combined. I averaged 30.1 mpg, but (too) much of my driving time was spent commuting.

I would order a manual transmission in my own car, but this automatic does the job, and you can select your own gears by pulling the lever to the left and rowing it back and forth. Steering wheel paddles are also available. The automatic includes a stop-start mode; the car shuts off at stoplights. It’s unnerving if you’re not expecting it, but it saves gas, and the car starts up the minute you lift your foot off the brake. You can disable this feature if it bothers you.

I drove my tester on about 60 miles of fine winding roads through the trees of coastal Northern California on the weekend. MINIs are some of the best handling, fun-to-drive cars out there, with quick reflexes, cornering stability, instant-response steering and an overall sense of road-going well being.

You get sports car handling but still can take your stuff with you. On my aforementioned trip, I was the second car in a two-MINI convoy carrying musical gear to a blues band gig. In front, the gray Clubman carried guitars, mike stands, speakers, amplifiers, and two band members. I brought all my own gear in my little hatchback. For the entire trip I could see the little double-door Clubman’s back right above my MINI dashboard.

103014a2With this third generation, owner BMW has upped the quality and materials of the interior, and made some substantial design changes. For one, the giant central speedometer is now the home of the information screen — a necessity in today’s driving. It’s controlled by a BMW-style dial between the front seats. The speedometer is now relocated to its natural spot behind the steering wheel, but it’s still a separate gauge binnacle, motorcycle style. Also, the window and lock controls move from the center stack to the doors. The entire presentation is more upscale while still retaining the MINI appearance.

The center dash circle has a new color ring that changes depending on your actions. The most significant is when you select from the three driving modes available with the automatic: Green, Mid and Sport. Green shows you green, Mid, blue, and Sport, red. Mid, the “standard” setting, is where I lived most of the time, but I switched to Green on freeway commutes. It lowers your energy use for the A/C, upshifts sooner, and actually shows you how many extra miles you get from driving that way (I got it over to 8). I tested the Sport mode briefly — it would be perfect for the racetrack.

As with MINIs since the beginning in 2001, you can equip your car to suit you. My car began as a basic Cooper at $19,950 (plus $795 shipping), but ended up at $33,095, with the presence of many extras. The Premium Package added a panoramic moonroof, automatic climate control and premium sound. The Sport Package contributed 17-inch alloy wheels, sport seats, LED headlamps and white turn signals. The automatic transmission cost $1,250, and the list goes on. The MINI Yours interior, with “Cottonwood” dash trim ($350) was handsome and unusual. Visit miniusa.com to configure yours.

Coming soon is a new four-door version of the MINI Cooper hardtop, essentially replacing the Clubman wagon. MINI is always changing and improving, but still retains the stylish, economical and fun-to-drive character that makes it unique.

 

 
Challenger Brings Back the ’70s | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 October 2014 14:24

102314aBy Steve Schaefer • San Leandro Times

Despite the growing popularity of fuel-economizing hybrid and electric cars, there is still a segment of the population that wants to drive fun, powerful cars. In 2014, you can buy a new Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and a Dodge Challenger — three of the original muscle cars.

The Challenger was Chrysler’s response to the 1965 Mustang and 1967 Camaro. Although late to the party, it offered another kind of experience, including the famous Hemi V8 engine. The car, however, didn’t last past the early 1970s. The latter-day version is based on Chrysler’s 300/Dodge Charger, which itself started life on the old Mercedes-Benz E-Class platform.

Using a larger platform gives the Challenger more room inside, and that means it will carry a bass in the front passenger seat. If you can find an old Challenger, park it next to the new one and you’ll be astounded not only by how much bigger the 21st-century version is, but also, by how the stylists translated much of the beloved shape onto the modern platform.

My tester arrived in Sublime paint, with emphasis on the “lime.” As a further retro touch, while the recent Challenger has been modeled after the 1970 model, the 2015 version is updated to the 1971 styling, so you get a split grille and taillamps — just the kind of  annual model change that distinguished cars of the 1950s and 1960s.

The 2015 receives an all-new, and much nicer, interior. Apparently the stylists kept an actual 1971 dash available; much of its trapezoidal shape is referenced in today’s materials and requirements. The gauges are beautiful dials, while in the center of the dash is an eight-inch touch-screen display for selecting entertainment choices and vehicle configurations. The genuine stamped-aluminum trim and nicely assembled components provide an upscale, retro ambiance.

There is a new Hellcat 701-horsepower version of the Challenger out, but it’s a very special and expensive reputation enhancer for the brand. Most folks will choose from the three more common levels, defined by their powertrains. My tester was the R/T Scat Pack, with a 6.4-liter V8 that sent 485 horsepower and 475 lb.-ft. of torque to the rear wheels. It’s good for zero-to-60 runs in the mid four-second range, and the quarter-mile in the low 12-second area. Top speed is 182 mph.

EPA environmental numbers for the 6.4-liter V8 engine are 5 for Smog and 4 for Greenhouse gas. The fuel economy numbers are 15 City, 25 Highway and 18 Overall with the automatic, and 1 mpg lower with the stick. I averaged 15.4 mpg.

Below the 6.4 is the 5.7-liter V8, with “only” 375 horsepower and 410 lb.-ft. of torque. The “entry-level” Challenger has a 3.6-liter V6 with 305 horsepower and 268 lb.-ft. of torque.

I had to feather the accelerator so I didn’t leave patches of rubber at every stoplight. Checking the Super Track Pack screen, I discovered that I had been driving in “Sport” mode the whole time. Dialing back to “Normal” moderated some of the car’s urge to leap forward at every opportunity.

With the two larger engines, you can order either a six-speed manual or a remarkable eight-speed automatic. My tester had the latter. You can let it work or use the small steering wheel paddles to choose your own gear.

102314a2The Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Fiat user interface is one of the easiest to learn and use. The colorful eight-inch center screen is sensibly laid out. It was easy to connect my phone for calls and music streaming. The climate adjustments are intuitive, and the audio system sounds nice. My favorite, though, is the back-of-the-steering-wheel adjustments for the audio system; switch from satellite radio to FM or Bluetooth with the push of a button, and select stations and modulate volume easily, too.

The Challenger contains all the safety features you could want. These include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning light/buzzer, and Forward Collision Warning. My tester also boasted more than $10,000 worth of upgrades, including leather/altantara seating, the eight-speed transmission, and upgraded sound. The Scat Pack appearance package adds heritage bumble bee striping on the tail and 2014-style 20-inch black alloy wheels with low profile rubber.

Pricing for my Scat Pack with the automatic and the extra equipment came to $47,860, including $995 for destination charges. A plain V6 SXT model begins at $27,990, and will deliver much of the looks and still provide an exciting driving experience.

Built in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, the thoroughly updated 2015 Dodge Challenger offers all the fun of a traditional muscle car, updated for today. This segment of the car market is predicted to grow, and as long as it does, you will be able to relive some of the excitement of days gone by.

 

 
Ford Gives Fiesta an EcoBoost | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 16 October 2014 15:02

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The redesigned exterior of the 2014 Ford Fiesta boasts a sporty new grille that reflects the new face of Ford.

By Steve Schaefer • San Leandro Times

Today, hybrid and electric cars are the poster children for fuel saving, but they are not volume sellers. Another way to improve fuel economy is to make cars — and their engines — smaller, lighter and more efficient.

Ford is addressing this with its EcoBoost engines. By improving the energy efficiency of a smaller-displacement engine, it can, for example, substitute a turbocharged four-cylinder for a V6, and put a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine into a midsize Fusion sedan. In the case of Ford’s European Fiesta, the smallest car it sells in the U.S.,  it means replacing an already compact Brazilian 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with a Romanian-built 1.0-liter three-cylinder.

Don’t confuse this high-tech mighty mite with the pokey 1.0-liter engine in the unlamented Geo Metro from years ago. As it sits tidily under the stylish hood of the Fiesta, it puts out 123 horsepower and 148 lb.-ft. of torque, versus the 1.6-liter’s 120 and 112 respectively. Fuel economy is rated at 31 City, 43 Highway and 36 overall for the EcoBoost engine against 28 City, 38 Highway and 32 Overall for the 1.6. I averaged 33.4 mpg during my test week. EPA Green numbers for the EcoBoost are 6 for Smog and 9 for Greenhouse Gas.

Even though it’s a turbo, the baby of the EcoBoost family uses regular gas. It is, as you might expect, no rocket. If you want that kind of performance, opt for the Fiesta ST. This SFE version has a few quirks. You really can’t start from a stop in second because without the turbo spooling, it sounds like it could stall. The three doesn’t sound quite like a four-cylinder, either, but it’s not annoying, and there is no noticeable vibration, thanks to some careful shaping of the moving parts to maintain balance.

Fiestas come with a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, but the SFE with EcoBoost is manual-only. It helps to have the manual gears to goose the little powerplant along, but it also means it will not be the volume seller here, because Americans like automatic transmissions. So, you get a true European driving experience with this car.

We may not realize it, but small four-door hatchbacks like the Fiesta are family cars in much of the world. This little runabout accommodated adults in the rear seat, and with the back seat folded, passed the bass-carrying test easily.

101614a2The Fiesta was reintroduced to the American market just a few years ago. The ones in the U.S. are built in Mexico, but the design is definitely Continental. The body wears creases and curves from the European design studio, and the interior does, too. Oblong gauges poke out of the dash surface, and the central controls are angled in like the keyboard buttons on an old cell phone. The doors and lower dash are hard plastic, but the upper surfaces are padded and wear a random raw silk pattern. It’s mostly black and silver inside the Fiesta, but that balances off the profusion of angles and shapes. At night, the footwells and a slice of the passenger side of the dash are illuminated, and the cupholders flaunt lit rings.

For the full-European experience, opt for the hatchback. In America, Fiesta shoppers can select a slightly longer sedan version that offers a private trunk, but no other advantage, and loses the utility of the spacious hatch.

The Fiesta may be small, but it has all the basic safety technology you need. There is AdvanceTrac, anti-lock brakes, a full complement of airbags, and the rest. My tester, at the bottom of the market, did not have blind-spot monitoring or some of the high-end electronic nannies, but it did score high enough in the IIHS tests (all Good ratings — their top score) to be a Top Safety Pick Award Winner. Although it’s compact, it doesn’t induce claustrophobia.

Pricing for 2015 models starts at $15,190 for the Fiesta S hatchback. The absolute cheapest is the Fiesta S sedan, at $500 less. The SE hatchback starts at $16,420. My 2014 SFE tester, in Race Red, came to $18,190, including the EcoBoost engine ($995) and Comfort Package ($290 for heated front seats, power heated outside mirrors and automatic climate control).

If you’re shopping at the bottom of the market, you can bring home a nice car for less than $20,000 today. The Ford Fiesta is fun to drive, big enough to take care of nearly any task for four people (five in a pinch), and offers its remarkable, tiny little engine. Yes, some motorcycles have more power, but they don’t offer the utility! And while development of alternate auto technology speeds along, there’s no reason not to maximize existing engine technology. That’s what EcoBoost does, from the bottom up.

 

 
Fiat 500 Pops Like a Peep | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 09 October 2014 14:22

100914aBy Steve Schaefer • San Leandro Times

Is there a cuter new car on the road today than the Fiat 500? My 2014 yellow (Giallo) test unit stood out in traffic like a large, motorized marshmallow Peep. Boasting a five-speed manual transmission with black cue-ball shifter, it was loads of fun, too.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is a huge European automotive corporation that sells cars around the world. Fiat bailed on the American automotive market decades ago, unable to compete with higher-quality Japanese cars. The brand’s return came in spring 2011 with the 2012 500.

The 500 is closely modeled on the original 1950’s version, which was to Italy what the VW Beetle was to Germany and the Mini was to the U.K. — personal and affordable transportation. All three of those cars are now available on American roads in updated forms.

Although the driving experience of narrow European centuries-old roadways is not much like a California interstate freeway, my little tester cruised along, even with three people in it, with no problem.

Acceleration from the 1.4-liter MultiAir engine, with its modest 101-horsepower and 97 lb.-ft. of torque, was leisurely, particularly on uphill grades. However, the tight reflexes, small dimensions, and immediacy of the driving experience made it amusing to zip about in this modern-day city car.

When you buy a Fiat 500, you had better like the body color, because it is spread across the dashboard and upper door frames as well. I realized at one point that one reason I liked this car so much was that it reminded me of the original Honda Civic from the 1970s, a car I coveted… in yellow.

The 500 is small, but you can fit two average-sized adults in the back seat. Pop the rear hatch and the car will swallow an upright bass, or other sizeable objects, so despite being less than 12 feet long, the 500 is practical. And with EPA fuel economy numbers of 31 City, 40 Highway, and 34 overall, it’s economical, too. I averaged 31.7 mpg in mixed driving. The EPA rates Smog as 5 and Greenhouse Gas at 8.

100914a2The retro look on the outside, complete with “whiskers and logo” front and fastback tail, carries over to the interior. Besides the swath of yellow plastic that replicates the 1950’s metal dash, are control panels of “ivory,” with old-style but modern-function climate and audio knobs. A few chrome “buttons” on the dash emulate the old-school look. The shifter sprouts out of an extension of the dash panel, with a short lever wrapped in a vinyl bag for a traditional look and feel.

The single round instrument panel has concentric speedometer and tachometer, with the fuel and temperature gauges simple red LED bands. A leather-wrapped steering wheel is standard in all 500s. The combination of yellow and the ivory trim brightens the cabin; the doors and dash are dark.

Despite its retro look, the 500 is modern, with appropriate electronics, including BLUE&ME Bluetooth connections, a USB port, steering wheel audio controls, vehicle information in the center of the instrument panel, a full set of airbags, and more. My Pop entry-level tester did not have SiriusXM satellite radio, but you could order it.

Step up to the Sport model for an enhanced suspension and some styling upgrades. You get unique 16-inch alloy wheels, too, and a manual transmission is also offered at this level. The top-level Lounge model comes only with the six-speed automatic transmission and has some extra styling flair.

If you want more power, you can opt for the Turbo, which bumps horsepower up to 135 and torque to 150. That may not sound like a lot, but the Turbo model weighs only 2,500 pounds (just 2,366 for the non-turbo), so that moves you along more aggressively.

The 500 starts at just $16,995 for the Pop with manual transmission. My tester also included an $1,100 power sunroof (with translucent shade) and sparkling $500 15-inch alloys, bringing the grand total to $18,595. The Sport and Lounge models of the hatchback move up in small steps, at $18,300 and $19,300 respectively. The Cabrio, with its roll-back cloth top, starts at $20,745 for the Pop version, and $23,300 for the Lounge model.

For extra fun, check out the 1957 Edition, with retro trim and styling elements, which tops out at $21,200. Adding options makes those numbers larger, but pricing still comes in under the MINI Cooper and VW Beetle, its most obvious competition. All prices shown include an $800 destination charge.

Fiat is back, and in my Northern California stomping grounds, the little cars seem to be everywhere. The new 2015 500s have minimal changes, and the larger, but less cute 500L is still around. For fun on a budget, the Fiat 500 is fantastico.

 

 
Honda Accord Houses Earth Dreams Engine | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 02 October 2014 18:18

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Extensive use of under-covers improve the aerodynamics of the Honda Accord for increased fuel efficiency.

By Steve Schaefer • San Leandro Times

The automotive industry offers hundreds of choices every model year, but there are some certified hits. The Honda Accord is one of them.

Currently the best-selling midsize car in the marketplace (retail registrations), this perennial favorite has been around for 11 generations, spanning nearly 40 years. For decades, Americans have bought Accords built in the Marysville, Ohio factory by American workers. Like the Ford Model T, 1960s Chevrolet Impala, and 1970s Oldsmobile Cutlass, the Accord is today’s car to own.

I recently tested the Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid versions of this latest generation Accord, but this week, I had a “regular” model, with the Earth Dreams 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine under the hood, connected to a continuously variable automatic transmission. This is the version most people will buy.

The original 1976 Accord had a tiny four-cylinder engine, enough for a quite small car. This new four-cylinder puts out a generous 185 horsepower and 181 lb.-ft. of torque, and drives like a six, despite its four-cylinder sound. Official fuel economy numbers are 27 City, 36 Highway and 30 Overall. I averaged 26.3 mpg in my usual mix of freeway commuting and in-town errands. The EPA Smog score is a mid-pack 5 but the Greenhouse Gas number is an excellent 8.

The newest Accord sedan is a 3,536-pound midsizer, so front and rear legroom, as well as trunk space, is generous. With a BMW-derived look outside and an upgrade in style and materials inside, this current version is in its third year, as a 2015 model now arriving in showrooms.

My 2014 Basque Red Pearl test vehicle was an EX-L with navigation, at the top of a range of choices. Start with the LX, move up to the Sport, then the EX. EX-L connotes leather on the seats, and it’s soft and great-looking. My tester’s tan interior made the car feel airy. The bottom edge of the windows feels a little lower than in some current vehicles, and the dash has more flow, so it feels a little more spacious.

100214a2Honda’s previous generation Accord, like the Civic, felt a little low-rent, so this latest model has those little touches in the interior that create a feeling of high quality. Plastics are nicely grained, and the satin-finish trim gleams. Oddly, the shiny trim around the transmission lever and cupholders is mirror-like chrome, unlike the rest of the interior. The dash panel features a dark pseudometallic strip that was subtle but a bit mysterious.

The steering wheel offers luxurious leather around the rim and a center panel that evokes the older, traditional Accords — surely intentional. The original 1970s and 1980s Honda interiors always felt like they were higher quality than you would expect at the price, and this feels like a return to those virtues.

Driving the Accord is just as you would hope. It’s smooth and quiet most of the time, although I detected some road noise on rough surfaces, and the four-cylinder engine, with the CVT, can whine a little during strong acceleration. The doors slam with a nicely damped thud, the switchgear feels substantial, and the seats are supportive. I took my family for a drive along curving roads to scenic Half Moon Bay, and the handling, while not as taut as a sports car, had immediacy and was moderately entertaining. Nobody got carsick.

One of my favorite things about the Accord is the LaneWatch display. Many cars have rear-facing cameras for when you’re backing up, but the Accord uses it to provide a view of what’s on your right side whenever you flip on the right turn signal. It keeps you from pulling over to turn when someone’s in your blind spot. My tester also had an approach warning light and buzzer in the dash to alert the driver of slowing or stopped cars ahead. The downside was that on a curving road, it sometimes mistook parked cars for obstructions, but as a commuter, I truly valued the warning.

Pricing, as always, starts low and moves up. My EX-L top-of-the-line sedan came to $30,835, including the $790 destination and handling charge. You can pick up an LX with a six speed manual transmission starting at $22,895. That manual six-speed is available in the LX, Sport, and EX models, but the EX-Ls are automatic-only. I’m guessing that Accords with clutch pedals are in the minority, but having that choice is a bonus.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Accords are coming home to happy families every year. My friend Jerry, who keeps and maintains his cars carefully and for a long time, recently replaced an aging Saturn with a modestly equipped LX sedan. It was the obvious choice — affordable, economical and attractive. And, with hybrid versions, it’s a good choice for the environment, too.

 

 
Meet the Hyundai Azera | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 25 September 2014 21:37

092514aBy Steve Schaefer • San Leandro Times

Have you met the Hyundai Azera? It’s likely you haven’t, and that’s understandable. There are a lot of brands out there, and the name Azera doesn’t connote much. In Hyundai’s ascending steps of sedans, it’s the fourth of six.

Count with me from small and inexpensive to large and pricey: One — Accent; Two — Elantra; Three — Sonata; Four — Azera; Five — Genesis; Six — Equus. Another way is to take the very popular Toyota Camry and compare the premium step up — Avalon — to the Azera. Hey, maybe that’s where the name that starts with “A” comes from.

In any case, spending a week with a Silver Frost Metallic Azera Limited was a very pleasant time. If your concept of a Hyundai is basic transportation, think again. Even the base Azera has standard leather seating, and there is class-leading legroom up front and room to stretch out in back.

Positioned one level below luxury, this premium auto has evocative styling inside and out. The shape, especially as it rises over the rear wheels, is bold and always in motion. Hyundai calls it “fluidic sculpture.” This flow manifests in the cabin, where the curves over the dash and around and through the door panels convey motion and elegance. As befits the Azera’s role, it’s covered in soft, padded, matte-finish high-grade plastic, leather and trim.

092514a2The electroluminescent dash, while not as fanciful as some animated ones found in high-level luxury models, is clean, colorful and easy to decipher. The cabin employs ambient lighting to create a subtle mood, including light emitting from the trim under the doors and dash.

Perhaps the greatest luxury item is the piano tune that welcomes you in and sends you on your way when you press the start/stop button. I’m not sure, but I think that cars sold in Asian countries are expected to make this kind of ceremonial greeting. Make fun of it if you must, but you get used to it and even expect it after a few days.

The Limited model includes some extras that justify its price boost, but the overall goodness is the same for all Azeras. All are powered by a 3.3-liter gasoline-direct-injection engine. Direct injection allows Hyundai engineers to spec out a smaller engine than the competition yet deliver top level horsepower, in this case, 293 horsepower and 255 lb.-ft. of torque. As the 3,605-pound car is lighter than some competitors by as much as 300 to 400 pounds, this adds efficiency in a car that is by no means compact.

The engine delivers EPA ratings of 19 City, 29 Highway, and 23 Combined. My mileage varied, and the gauge reset with each fill up, so I got 18.6 mpg on the first tank, 22.1 on the second, and 20.1 on the third. I’d say I averaged about 20 mpg — a good but not great number. The Green scores are 6 for both Smog and Greenhouse Gas — a little above average.

Hyundai has given this larger than average car a lightness and ease of control that you might not expect. This year, they improved the steering feel, and the front MacPherson struts use coil springs and a 24mm front stabilizer bar; there’s a multi-link independent suspension in back, and Sachs Amplitude

Selective Dampers enable careful tuning for just the right feel.

Like GM’s Onstar system and other electronic connections, Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics program is packed with features to make life easier and safer. Assurance Connected Care includes automatic collision notification, enhanced roadside assistance, automatic diagnostics of the electronics system, and much more. The Blue Link system makes it easy to hook up your cell phone and music player without a wired connection to explore and communicate with the outside world as you motor along.

Prices start at $31,895 for the standard Azera; it’s hardly standard with its high level of equipment. The Limited jumps to $34,645, and includes numerous extras, such as the 550-watt Infinity Logic 7 Surround Sound audio system. It helped shorten the inevitable daily slog of commuting.

If you want more, order the Premium Package ($2,150). That adds a bump to 19-inch instead of 18-inch silver-alloy wheels, a huge panoramic sunroof with split shade, a power rear sunshade, and manual rear window shades.

How can it be that Hyundai, the company that offered a basic $4,000 sedan in the mid 1980s, is competing with premium midsize sedans from the U.S, Japan and Europe? It comes down to making a commitment to continuous improvement and staying focused. The Azera is significantly nicer than the 2012 version I drove just a few years ago. Now, with Sonata’s growing popularity, there’s room for a little bit of a step up before climbing into luxury territory.


 
Kia K900 Hits the Big Leagues | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 18 September 2014 14:08

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The 2015 Kia K900 comes with a three-year, 37,500-mile complimentary scheduled maintenance program at participating Kia dealerships.

By Steve Schaefer • San Leandro Times

The brand-new Kia K900 is a full-size, rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan that plays in the big leagues, going grille-to-grille with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S Class and BMW 7 Series, and Lexus LS models. It does a great job of matching the class leaders right out of the gate.

The K900 is quite attractive, borrowing the expected proportions and styling cues of its competitors, while still looking original. While it’s a real challenge to replicate the instant recognition of a BMW twin-kidney or Mercedes-Benz radiator grille, the Kia tiger nose shape, here decidedly upright and rounded, is beginning to express some identity.

The headlamps stretch way back on the front fenders, as is today’s style, and 16 LEDs stare out from under clear covers. There’s a chrome vent ahead of the front doors, like on a Jaguar. The taillamps curve around the sides as on most cars today. There is some side definition, but it’s not too sharply drawn, just nice.

091814a2Inside is where the K900 really impresses. It is not a handmade car, but the quality of the leather, walnut, metallic trim, switchgear, seats and headliner seems inspired by Rolls-Royce or Bentley. The leather and wood steering wheel is heated. The door surfaces above the armrests are all padded and stitched and look like leather, even if they are matching vinyl. The wood gleams, and the 12.3-inch instrument panel screen creates a totally faux set of handsome chrome-rimmed gauges, much like in a Jaguar.

These gauges work fine, but the best part is how they are “assembled” when you turn on the car. Two plain circles enter from stage left and stage right, bounce off each other, and then receive their markings. With this system, of course, anything can be shown, so it’s possible that you could at some point be able to configure the screen exactly the way you want it.

The center screen is used for the climate, navigation, and the fabulous 900-watt, 17-speaker Lexicon premium audio system. It is not a touch screen, but works with the Driver Information System (DIS), through a center-console-mounted dial, as in a BMW or Audi. This takes a little getting used to, but it eliminates a lot of looking and reaching.

Once I learned how to program audio presets I was happy using the system. Notable are the subtle little bar controls on the steering wheel spokes for the Bluetooth phone. When you hear the ring, just nudge it up slightly and you’re talking. The hands-free voice commands that I used went smoothly.

The car is blissfully quiet and smooth, as you’d expect. I spent a lot of time on the freeway, but it is just as friendly in town. I had a chance to drive on a narrow, curving highway for a while and the K900 handled like a smaller car, feeling more agile than its 4,555 pounds. Steering has some feedback and feels natural.

You can select a 3.8-liter V6 or 5.0-liter V8 model. My tester had Kia’s first V8, putting out 420 horsepower and 376 lb-ft. of torque, making for effortless acceleration with near silence inside the cabin. The downside is fuel economy, with EPA numbers showing 15 City, 23 Highway, 18 Combined for the V8. I averaged about 17 mpg in mixed driving, but some wide open freeway driving on the weekend got it up to nearly 23 mpg. The V6 delivers a 3 mpg improvement. Green vehicle numbers are 6 for Smog and 4 for Greenhouse Gas, pretty good for a large engine.

Naturally, as a top-level model, the K900 has everything imaginable for electronic safety. There is Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning System and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. These all help you know where you are when moving in traffic and especially in a crowded parking lot. The system knows when you’re approaching the car in front too quickly and warns you.

The V8-powered K900 starts at $59,950. My tester had the $6,000 VIP package, which adds a plethora of niceties, including extra coddling for rear-seat passengers, including the ability to recline. The driver’s seat becomes much more adjustable. There’s Surround View Monitor, which shows you various views of the car and its surroundings. Advanced Smart Cruise Control and Advanced Vehicle Safety Management add more electronic assistance.

The real issue here is whether buyers of large luxury sedans are too brand conscious to buy a Kia. By moving steadily upward from the modest 1994 Sephia through 21st-century Optimas and Cadenzas, the Kia has been educating and enticing a wider and wider swath of the marketplace. Now, with the K900, Kia is going for the top, while adding a premium cachet to the entire lineup.

 

 
Genesis Leaves a Lasting Impression | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 11 September 2014 11:41

091114aBy Steve Schaefer • San Leandro Times

Since they began selling cars in the U.S. in the mid 1980s, Hyundai’s mission has been to offer competitive products for a better price. Although the initial Excel wasn’t competitive with contemporary Toyotas, the company worked diligently to bring the products up to speed, and with each generation of every model, quality, styling and features have been steadily upgraded.

In 2009, the Genesis arrived, as a midsize luxury sedan and a compact sport coupe. The sedan was aimed boldly at Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5-series, Audi A6, and Lexus, Infiniti, and the others. For 2015, Hyundai has once again upped its game.

Hyundai has chosen not to offer a separate channel for its luxury models, which include the even larger Equus. This not only saves a lot of investment in separate showroom and marketing, but some of the greatness of the highline models can rub off on the Accent, Tucson, and other bread-and-butter models. There is a handsome winged Genesis logo on all surfaces except the trunk lid, which displays a chrome Hyundai H.

The new sedan is a very handsome car. The Fluidic Sculpture design, which created distinctive, swooping lines on the Sonata, Elantra and SUVs, has been tamed a bit; the original Genesis preceded this development. Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 is balanced and attractive in the way Mercedes-Benz and Audi design used to be, before it became so expressive. Park the Genesis next to an E-Class and you won’t feel in any way lesser.

Today’s trend toward higher front ends is also manifesting in more edgy grilles, and the massive hexagon on the nose of the Genesis makes a bold statement. The LED taillamps, at night, show beautiful internal forms. The car is a pleasure to approach from any angle in the parking lot.

My Casablanca White test car was the upper of the two models, and featured a 420-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 engine, running through an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifting. There’s a 3.8-liter V6 offered, too. This matches up closely with the competition. The V8 is satin smooth, and with generous sound insulation, you really can’t hear it at all. The Genesis is a classic rear-wheel-drive sedan, but all-wheel-drive is available with the V6.

Fuel economy numbers for the V8 are 15 City, 23 Highway, and 18 Overall. I averaged 16.9 mpg. The V6 betters the Overall number by 4 mpg. Per fueleconomy.gov, the Smog number is 5 and the Greenhouse Gas is 4.

091114a2The inside of any car is where owners spend most of their time, and Hyundai has really gotten it right. While some cars overwhelm with too much detail, the Genesis is supremely elegant, with simple, but not plain design. The dash bows out towards the driver and passenger, as in a BMW, with padded surfaces and low-gloss wood trim with a visible grain. I thought it must be artificial at first, but it’s not.

Hyundai is on a mission to create bright, glare-free interiors, so every surface gleams, but there is no shiny chrome — all of it is a matte finish. Every plastic button wears a soft coating, and the overall arrangement is easy to use.

As a high-end car, the Genesis is loaded with premium electronic safety features, too many to list here, but you will know if there’s someone in your blind spot, if you’re approaching the car in front too quickly, if there’s someone approaching from the side as you’re backing out, and much more.

The car is packed with every conceivable extra, from window shades to sophisticated climate control to sublimely comfortable, yet firm, seats. If you really want the works, add the Ultimate Package. For $3,250, you get heads-up display, a premium navigation system, a Lexicon 17-speaker super-audio system, power trunk lid, continuous damping control system, and a CO2 sensing system that keeps the level high enough to keep the driver alert (really). The trunk, by the way, opens automatically if you stand in front of it for three seconds with the key in your pocket.

The heads-up display shows not only your speed but the posted speed limit (a tiny sign) and the blind spot warning; the navigation system worked flawlessly; the audio was sublime; the damping control system kept the car stable, delivered firm control, yet was always comfortable.

The rear-wheel-drive V6 model starts at $38,950; the V8 at $52,450. My tester, with the Ultimate Package, came to $55,700.

If the specific badge on your car is important to you, you’ll probably stick with the German, British and Japanese offerings. But look at the extensive list of content and drive the Genesis — you’ll come away impressed. The only thing I could find to criticize was the industrial rubber/plastic aroma in the trunk. But otherwise… what a ride.

 

 
Accord Hybrid Wins Many Accolades | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 September 2014 11:57

090414aBy Steve Schaefer • San Leandro Times

The Honda Accord Hybrid is the latest model in Honda’s popular midsize sedan line-up. The gas/electric-powered car is based on the substantially redone 2013 ninth-generation model.

Despite Honda’s overall fuel efficiency as a brand, Toyota has always been ahead with its hybrid technology, particularly the Prius. Now, the Accord offers nearly the same efficiency, at 50 City, 45 Highway, 47 Overall EPA mileage numbers. And, the Accord is supremely comfortable, spacious, and, frankly, more attractive than a Prius.

I received my Obsidian Blue Pearl sample vehicle after a weeklong test of the brand-new Honda Fit subcompact. It was like stepping into a luxury car from an ordinary one, (realizing it’s nearly twice the price!), but it shows that Honda knows how to build both efficient, basic transportation and family-pleasing daily drivers.

090414a2The Accord has sometimes seemed too bland, despite its many fine qualities. This latest one, with its BMW-derived styling, may be the best yet. Like other new Hondas, it enjoys upgrades in perceived quality, with finer accommodations inside the car. The dash trim panels in mine were made of a mysterious pseudo metallic wood (?) pattern not found in nature, but the textures and panel fits were excellent otherwise. The leather in my top-level Touring model felt upscale, and the general flow of the shapes wasn’t busy or overstyled.

The standard Accord offers an inline 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine, while the Hybrid comes with the Two-Motor Hybrid Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) System. It mates a new 2.0-liter 141-horsepower four with an efficient electric motor, and generates in total 196 horsepower. The 122 lb.-ft. of torque from the gas engine gets help from the electric motor’s instant torque, so despite sounding mousy during acceleration, the 3,600-pound sedan pulls out with authority when you step on the right-side pedal. It all flows through an electronic continuously variable automatic transmission.

As in any hybrid or electric car, you can continuously monitor your fuel and electricity use, and see when you’re consuming or generating power. The dash has a simple power/charge vertical gauge on the left and fuel/battery gauges on the right. You can monitor the flows either in mid-instrument panel or on the larger center console screen.

I sometimes could cruise down a level freeway at 67 miles per hour using only electricity. When in electric mode, the car is essentially silent; only under strong acceleration is the sound of the engine apparent. The CVT makes the usual groan under load, but helps to keep fuel economy numbers high by using the best ratio under all conditions.

I averaged 42.8 miles per gallon — a little off the EPA numbers, but it’s still a great number, and beat the smaller Fit by about 7 mpg.

When it came out in 1976, the Accord was just bigger than the original Civic, which was tiny by today’s standards. Today’s Accord is exactly in the heart of the midsize field, which is where most family sedan purchases are made. There’s plenty of room to stretch out in back, and I found out how useful the trunk is — even with the front section taken up by the hybrid battery, when we schlepped a load of family treasures that all fit.

Pick a base, EX-L or Touring version, starting at $29,945. My test car, with no options listed (or needed), came to $35,695. This is a bit higher than the price of a non-hybrid Accord, but on the window sticker, you’ll see, “You save $6,000 in fuel costs over 5 years compared to the average new vehicle.” And, the green scores are 7 for Smog and a perfect 10 for Greenhouse Gas — despite the presence of the gasoline engine. You can also opt for the Plug-In version of the Hybrid. I tested one last year, and besides getting up to 15 miles of pure electric driving, it averaged nearly 51 mpg. (EPA ratings, using the special MPGe ratings for electric vehicles, give it 124 City and 105 Highway, 115 Combined. EPA Green Vehicle ratings boost the Smog rating from 7 to 9.)

The new Accord Hybrid is built in Honda’s long-established American plant in Marysville, Ohio. It uses Honda’s “Earth Dreams Technology” powertrain architecture, which it shares with the Plug-In. Numerous other efficiencies are part of the package, including replacing some steel parts with aluminum to offset the additional weight of the electric batteries.

The new Accord Hybrid has received numerous accolades. Kelley Blue Book named it to their annual list of the 10 Best Green Cars. The entire Accord lineup is one of Automobile magazine’s All-Stars, the only midsize sedan to qualify. The biggest award, though, is in the high sales figures, which the Accord has achieved for nearly 40 years.

 

 

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