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.

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By on January 20, 2016

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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?

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By on October 15, 2015

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

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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.

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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.

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By on December 14, 2013

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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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