By on January 18, 2017

2017 Toyota Corolla XSE – Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

So you say you want to understand Toyota. You want to look the company in the eye and get a sense of its soul. Without spending hours studying kaizen and poring over 2000GT imagery and learning the significance of the number 86, you want to know why Toyota is different from, say, Porsche.

Allow the 2017 Toyota Corolla to be your tutor. In LE Eco guise, the fuel-sipping Corolla’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder produces 140 horsepower. In “sporty” SE and XSE trims, the 1.8-liter produces eight fewer horsepower.

No kidding.

With nothing more substantive than rear disc brakes, bigger wheels, and wider low-profile tires, the 2017 Toyota Corolla XSE and its less luxurious SE sibling hardly bring performance to the Corolla lineup. The loss of eight horsepower — and the gain of two pound-feet of torque – compared to the more efficient LE Eco aren’t performance-altering characteristics, either.

Think then of this Corolla XSE as just a Corolla, as merely a Corolla, as only a Corolla, as perhaps the most prudent transportation-oriented purchase a North American car buyer can make this year.

Or as the most joyless way to spend $24,130 on a new car. (Read More…)

By on June 17, 2016

2016 Ford Focus EV Front 3/4, Image: © 2016 Jeff Voth/The Truth About Cars

The debate about the relative merits of electric vehicles is certain to be ongoing for years to come. For some, it represents the new frontier in automotive engineering and design. Electric powered vehicles for the masses; no more oil taken from the ground and clean air for all. It’s an interesting concept, but I am not fully convinced at this time in history to throw all my gasoline-powered chips in that pile and call.

Companies such as Tesla have made significant waves in the industry and I do think they’ll continue to experience success going forward. In my opinion, Elon Musk is a true automotive pioneer in the same vein as Karl Benz and Henry Ford. I don’t dispute the idea of EV’s for all; I just see a balance between gasoline, diesel, electric and possibly hydrogen-powered vehicles as a better alternative; at least for now.

It appears Ford is hedging its bets on this combination as well. I recently had the chance to test drive the 2016 Ford Focus EV for a week. In short, I was very impressed for the most part. It was comfortable, quick to accelerate, looks un-EV-like and turned a surprising number of heads, which to me is always a good thing.

But is it a car I would buy? On that question, I am keeping my cards to close to my chest.

(Read More…)

By on April 27, 2016

2016 Chevrolet Cruze rear 3/4

Based on internal platform codes, sources are telling us Cadillac is working on a Delta-based Mercedes CLA rival.

General Motors has spent significant time and effort refining the Delta platform – as noted in our Cruze review, this platform is well worthy of premiums above the Cruze’s $17, 495 MSRP.

Based on what sources are sending our way, it looks like General Motors is planning exactly that, a premium vehicle based on the new D2XX platform. (Read More…)

By on April 25, 2016

2016 Buick Cascada Front 3/4 Top Down, Image: © 2016 Jeff Jablansky/The Truth About Cars

After years of covering the automotive industry, I’m still amused by the enormous gulf between auto enthusiasts and “real people.” (I’m talking to you, B&B!) We get excited when Honda decides to offer a manual transmission in the V6 Accord, despite the tens of buyers who will come running for it, or General Motors’ confidence to sell the Chevrolet SS here at all. “Real people” like it when there’s a less expensive way to get into a BMW M product, as well as the ability to go into a showroom and walk out the same day with the same nameplate they know and trust.

A great example of this chasm/schism is the Buick Cascada. Here’s how we imagine the reaction of each affinity group:

Auto enthusiasts/press: “Buick’s decided to rebadge an aging Opel and try to pass it off in the United States as The New Thing in the segment abandoned by the Volkswagen Eos and Chrysler 200 convertible?”

Real people: “There’s a convertible Buick now?”

(Read More…)

By on April 12, 2016

2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited, Image: © 2016 Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars

Sometimes, circumstance hands you a perfect metaphor.

While driving Hyundai’s redesigned and all-around updated 2017 Elantra, a brand-spankin’-new Honda Civic bolted out from a side street, led me for a short while, then put the hammer down before it took off into the distance.

Up ’till that moment, the electric blue Elantra tester (in option-heavy Limited form) had proven itself a comfortable, roomy, good-handling compact by soaking up the worst potholes, frost heaves and patches that early spring could throw at it. But here, all of a sudden, was its main competitor — the award-winning Civic, the car to beat in the compact class — and I could almost feel the worry emerge from the Korean plastic and steel that encased me.

No car exists in a vacuum (thank you, capitalism!), so the Elantra’s mandate can’t simply be to improve on its own past — it must present a compelling argument against the Civic. Is it up to the task?

(Read More…)

By on February 1, 2016

2016 Nissan Sentra-006

Traditional car shoppers are moving away from small sedans and toward compact crossovers. That’s the conventional wisdom used to explain the slowing sales we see in some models. But could there be another reason? Could it simply be a lack of focus and attention to the compact segment?

There is one model that’s seen a meteoric rise in sales since 2013: the Sentra. Nissan’s complete overhaul three years ago and aggressive pricing doubled Sentra sales since then, moving it from a “top 15” player in sales to number five in 2015.

In an effort to maintain the trajectory, Nissan opted for a major refresh after just three years on sale. (Sounds like the Honda plan with the Civic, doesn’t it?) Perhaps the key to compact success is a combination of frequent updates and more gadgets for shoppers to choose from. That sums up the 2016 Sentra perfectly.

(Read More…)

By on January 20, 2016

20160111_211232

Once more into the breach, dear friends / Or close up the segment with our heavily-rebated dead.

This is the third time I’ve encountered this generation of Ford Focus SE, having enjoyed the car on its press preview and suffered through an overheated PowerShift sedan in Florida traffic a year later. Now I return once again to this vaguely-Germanic ground, this time for a 448-mile odyssey through the Michigan winter.

Since we last met, the Focus SE has been given a thorough and comprehensive revamp, from the new global front end to what looks like an all-new interior. The price has also been favorably adjusted. Is it enough to put the aging Euro-compact back on your personal radar screen?

(Read More…)

By on October 15, 2015

2014-Chevrolet-CruzeRS-010-medium

There was a time when the word ‘cockroach’ was the best way to describe any old Chevy compact.

(Read More…)

By on September 9, 2015

All-New Elantra_1

Hyundai’s compact model, the Elantra, will arrive with the brand’s newly adopted trapezoidal grille, new engines and a number of enhancements to improve perceived quality.

The automaker, who looked at the Dodge Dart and said, “Yeah, that looks good but needs more grille,” revealed the sixth-generation Elantra on Wednesday in South Korea.

(Read More…)

By on March 27, 2015

2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front.CR2

It has been two years since we last looked at the ILX, and my conclusion went like this:

The 2.4L engine needs an automatic and some infotainment love, the 2.0L engine needs more grunt and the hybrid needs to be euthanized. Without changes like these, the Acura ILX will remain a sensible Civic upgrade but as a competitor to Buick’s new-found mojo, Acura has some catching up to do.

2016 brings what I was expecting: a mid-cycle refresh with a new nose and new rump to keep the photos fresh. What I didn’t expect was for Acura to also address the major mechanical systems that we all complained about. Neither did I expect the ILX to be so transformed by a “simple” heart transplant. Can the ILX live up to the legendary Acura Legend? I snagged the keys to a “A-Spec Technology Plus” model to find out.

(Read More…)

By on December 14, 2013

ku-xlarge (2)

Our friends at Jalopnik have an interesting history on the Renault Twingo, a car that is about to celebrate its 20th birthday, and has arguably entered the “small car hall of fame” alongside cars like the Mini and the Volkswagen Golf. You can read about its origins as a Polish people’s car and see how its strayed further and further away from the ideal. The next Twingo is slated to share a platform with the upcoming Smart Fortwo replacement, and that means a rear-engine, rear drive layout.

By on October 14, 2013

2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Calling the Corolla “Toyota’s most important car” would be an understatement. This single model accounts for 38 percent of all Toyotas ever sold in the USA and they expect to shift 330,000 next year alone. If the sheer quantity wasn’t amazing enough, ponder this reality: 75% of sales will be split between just four different configurations. If you’re in a 2014 Corolla, the odds are about one in five that the Corolla next to you is identical save for paint color. Often derided by the automotive press as a “driving appliance,” is there more to the 2014 Corolla or is it just a toaster with wheels? Let’s find out.

(Read More…)

By on August 27, 2013

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On paper and in person, the 2014 Kia Forte looks like a Very Good Car™. Is it really, though? The outgoing Forte pulled the same trick, looking all the world like it was going to keep the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus up at night, an illusion that fell apart upon driving. Oh sure, the Forte has always been very good looking, and Kia is known for offering a lot more equipment for less money, but you can’t just strap styling and stuff to a base-model-1992 driving experience and call it a day. And that is why there’s a 2014 Kia Forte, with great new looks and a price-to-equipment ratio that would please even the crustiest quartermaster. Fine, newly-minted college graduates (at least those with jobs) and equally-new AARP card holders looking to downsize will still be thrilled, but what about the enthusiast?

(Read More…)

By on August 2, 2013

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

By pure happenstance I ended up with an Elantra GT immediately after reviewing the 2014 Kia Forte sedan. As I said last week in the Forte review, the Elantra and Forte are related, but this isn’t a case of Korean badge engineering. It’s far more complicated. The Forte is the new kid on the block while the Elantra has been around for a few years. At this stage in life, Hyundai is trying to inject vitality into the Elantra name by adding new models. First we got the four-door sedan, then a two-door coupé followed by the Veloster which is just a four-door hatchback Elantra (yes, I know Hyundai calls it a three-door, but I know better). If you’re confused by door counts, the new Elantra GT is a five-door. Say what?

(Read More…)

By on July 26, 2013

2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

When Kia started selling the ’94 Sephia in America, nobody was worried. Not the American car companies still adjusting to the market share lost to the Japanese competition, and not the Japanese who used cheap and reliable cars to take the market share in the first place. The laissez-faire attitude to the Korean upstart was understandable, the Sephia was a truly horrible car. In 1997 Kia filed for bankruptcy protection and the big boys patted themselves on their back for not worrying about the Asian upstart. When another unremarkable Korean company purchased 51% of Kia, nobody cared. They should have.

(Read More…)

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