Now and then you run into a car that just “fits”. It’s like finding a perfect shoe, or a comfy smoking jacket. Until now I have been keeping my secret love on the down-low for several reasons. First off, I’ve always thought having a “favorite car” tends to color one’s judgment when comparing cars, so I try to avoid such statements. Secondly, my dalliance with my automotive flame was fleeting. As most of us know, one-night-stands rarely hold up to the scrutiny of a long-term relationship. And lastly, coming out as a hybrid-lover has been difficult. When folks ask me “what was the best car you drove in 2013?” and my answer is “the 2014 Accord Hybrid,” they stare at me like I have three eyeballs.
Making a “cheap” car is a tried and true formula for most auto makers. Making a car with a low sticker and a solid value proposition is tough. Not only do you have to keep the starting price low, but you have to worry about fuel economy, maintenance, insurance and everything that goes into an ownership experience. Reviewing cars that focus heavily on value is even trickier. Indeed a number of buff-book journalists were offended by the Versa Sedan’s plastics, lack of features and small engine. My response was simple: what do you expect of the cheapest car in America? Trouble is, the Versa Note isn’t the cheapest hatchback in America, so this review is about that elusive quality: value.
Outside North America, this little blue pill of an A-segment car is known as the Daewoo Matiz Creative. It may look an obsolete computer peripheral (or a pregnant roller skate), but GM claims that the Chevrolet Spark has more torque than a Ferrari 458 Italia. As a self-described technology lover, and card-carrying resident of the Left Coast, I had to check it out.
The mainstream compact car segment is the perfect example of the infamous “driving appliance.” The Corolla and Civic sell in enormous volume because they are the middle-of-the-road “white bread” option, not in-spite of the vanilla. Unlike many in the automotive press, I don’t find anything wrong with that. In fact, I love me some Wonder Bread. But sometimes you feel like a pumpernickel, and that’s where the 2014 Mazda3 comes in. Mazda was so excited about their new loaf that they invited me to spend the day with them in San Diego. Want to know if you should spend 5+ years with one? Click through the jump.
Earlier this week, as I was looking for photos to illustrate my Vision of the Future, I stumbled across a photo of the Toyota i-Road, a three wheel electric vehicle that tilts its way through corners in the same was a scooter or motorcycle might. The i-Road debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in 2012 and despite what I am sure must have been a great deal of attention at the time, I had never heard of the vehicle. As I read more about it I found information about the Toyota “Ha:Mo urban transport system” that is currently undergoing trials in Toyota city and was stunned to find that, with a few notable exceptions, the program bears a striking resemblance to the future I had laid out in my previous article. The future, it seems, is already here. Too bad it is going to fall flat on its face…
As of October, the most fuel-efficient mid-sized sedan in America is the Honda Accord. Or so Honda says. After all, Ford has been trumpeting a matching 47 MPG combined from their Fusion. Who is right? And more importantly, can the Accord get Honda back into the hybrid game after having lost the initial hybrid battles with their maligned Integrated Motor Assist system? Honda invited us to sample the 2014 Accord Hybrid as well as a smorgasbord of competitive products to find out.
While Americans are still asking whether it’s even wise to buy small turbocharged engines instead of larger naturally aspirated ones, we in Europe are slowly losing our ability to even choose a car without a turbocharged engine. Volkswagen has recently announced that it is going turbo only – but in our market, the transition is nearly complete. Except for base engines in Polo supermini and Up! city car, basically everything else has a turbo slapped on it – and it looks much the same with other VAG brands. Others are following closely – Ford eliminated most of its naturally aspirated engines, except for the base 1.6 in Focus and small engines in Fiesta. Renault is coming with new tiny turbo plants to replace small four cylinder NA motors – and is even introducing them to its low-cost brand Dacia. PSA, Fiat, Opel and others are heading this direction as well.
But, why is that? Is it that Europeans are more forward thinking, more interested in economy an environment than polar bear killing ‘murricans with their massive V6s and V8s? Is it the European driving style and road network, requiring smaller and lighter cars?
I love to smoke. That’s not a cool thing to admit; in fact it’s socially irresponsible. But there is something very satisfying about lighting up, and the sensation of that first drag. For me it’s not about nicotine. No I enjoy the act of smoking. Fortunately I also love to run and the two habits are rarely complementary. Save the occasional relapse, I quit some 16 years ago. But if smokes were only as bad for me as coffee, I would still light up, social pressures be dammed.
“Hybrid and electric cars are sparing the environment. Critics say they’re hurting the roads,” writes Bloomberg. “The popularity of these fuel-efficient vehicles is being blamed for a drop in gasoline taxes that pay for local highway and bridge maintenance, with three states enacting rules to make up the losses with added fees on the cars and at least five others weighing similar legislation.”
The EU is very stingy when it comes to financial support for its automakers, and it prohibits most monetary assistance given by EU states to their industries. Of course, there are exceptions, and one such exception makes possible a $516 million loan to Renault. (Read More…)
European carmakers, faced with greenhouse gas emission targets much stricter than America’s CAFE rules, can breathe slightly easier. According to Reuters, European politicians backed a compromise deal that keeps stringent targets in place, but that also introduces a loophole: So-called supercredits, gained by making very low emission vehicles, such as electric cars, which nobody actually needs to buy. Quota cars, here we come. (Read More…)
Want a fuel-sipping, tree-hugging sedan with stunning good looks? Ford thinks they have the answer in the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid. Can jamming a gasoline/electric drivetrain behind Ford’s sexy grille continue the love affair the press has had with Ford’s world-car? More importantly, can this Ford hybrid live up to its EPA numbers? Let’s find out.
The Geneva Auto Salon is a small show in a small city of a small country. The show is big because it is an annual confab of automakers where shoulders are rubbed, mergers are planned, policies are set. The cars are mostly decoration. A top topic in Geneva was how to meet rigid EU emission limits. “There is a growing awareness that conventional hybrids and slow-selling battery cars simply won’t be enough,” Reuters reports from Geneva. (Read More…)
Hot girls in short skirts are the first things that leap into my mind whenever anyone says anything about the Japanese. The internet has not helped to change that, in fact it may have made things worse. If you add the word “Japanese” to any noun that describes a group of people and enter it into your favorite search engine, pictures of hot young girls will always appear near the top of the results. Look for Japanese tour guides, Japanese students, Japanese beach volleyball players or Japanese anything and you will see I am right. Try it, I’ll wait.