Tag Archives: EPA

2019 Volkswagen Jetta R-Line

VW Jetta offers high value, driving fun … 2019 VW Jetta

With all the trucks, SUVs and crossovers crowding showrooms these days it’s refreshing to come across a sporty sedan like Volkswagen’s Jetta, that also represents high value.

Jetta was restyled for 2019 and mostly that’s all good news. First, it continues the lean European look that VW has mastered over the past decade, second, the starting price is phenomenal, and third, the tested R-Line model (intended to be a bit racier), is an absolute blast to drive. Continue reading 2019 Volkswagen Jetta R-Line

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2017 Honda Civic Si

Honda’s Civic Si returns and it’s still an economical sportster! …2017 Honda Civic Si

If you can get beyond the new Honda Civic Si’s odd Transformer-ish rear-end you’ll find one of the finest, and most economical, sporty coupes on the market.

There’s a lot to like here, even if eye candy is not one of them.

The souped-up Si model has been missing from the Civic lineup for a couple years, so its return is welcomed by entry-level sporty car buyers whose options have been limited since the Si’s demise.

The Si links performance and economy unlike most other cars. It starts at a highly affordable $24,100 while boasting a turbocharged 1.5-liter I4 engine that creates a peppy 205 horsepower.

For a coupe weighing less than 3,000 lbs., that turbo will jack it up to highway speeds quite smartly. Firing up, or down, freeway entry ramps is fun and quick. There’s not much turbo lag with the Civic and its smooth shifting 6-speed manual allows the driver to put as much muscle into acceleration as needed, or desired.2017 Honda Civic Si

A Sport mode button may help that a little, although I didn’t feel it was needed or provided much extra boost.  Mainly the Sport mode firms up the steering wheel, or more to the point, makes steering effort much heavier than when that mode isn’t engaged. I found the normal driving mode just fine and steering response fairly precise without the added steering weight of Sport mode. Continue reading 2017 Honda Civic Si

2017 Fiat 500 Abarth

Fiat 500 Abarth pumps up the low-cost fun … 2017 Fiat 500 Abarth

Few cars are pure joy to drive, yet cost less than $30,000. I’d put the Mazda Miata at the top of those, and a few models of the Mini Cooper would slot into this price range. But Fiat’s 500 Abarth is a relative newcomer and blows the others away on price.

The Abarth starts at about $21 grand, including delivery, and that’s down about $2,500 from a year ago. That doesn’t happen often!

There’s no getting around the fact that the Fiat 500 is a tiny car. It rides on just a 90.6-inch wheelbase, is a wee 144.4 inches long and weighs just more than 2,500 lbs.2017 Fiat 500 Abarth

But in its size, like the Miata, lies the Fiat’s fun, nimbleness and, well, joy.

You can toss this around, zip through corners, slip into seemingly impossible parking spots and flat out drive it like you stole it. It’s fun. This is a driver’s car. You smile a lot in a 500.2017 Fiat 500 Abarth

In its lower lines, the Pop and Lounge models, the 500 carries a mild 1.4-liter Multi-Air I4 that generates just 101 horsepower, leading to superb gas mileage. Well, the racier Abarth, which Fiat says is pronounced AH-bart, bumps that up substantially to 160 horses thanks to dual intercoolers, turbos.

Now you have some pop when you slip the 5-speed manual through the gears. Second and third punch up the torque (a 170 rating) and by fourth you feel like you’ve had a little mini vacation. Five speeds keeps it all simple, but adding a sixth would allow its small engine to bring the revs down and quiet the interior some.

Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed the grumbling burble of this little turbo as it was amplified via dual exhausts. But I kept wanting to shift to sixth on the freeway as its continued grumble made listening to the radio nigh to impossible. Continue reading 2017 Fiat 500 Abarth

2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE Premium

Hybrid Avalon comfy big sedan, easy on the gas …2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Sadly big comfortable sedans are about as popular these days as a new Nickelback album or The Dixie Chicks at a Texas veterans fundraiser.

Too bad because as passé as big sedans are, they can move a family of five in smooth, quiet comfort and also beat the exhaust pipes off a big SUV or Crossover for gas mileage. This week’s test car, a beautiful Parisian Night Pearl (dark metallic blue) Toyota Avalon Hybrid is a sparkling example.

The Avalon does basically everything well. Its ride is near perfect, comfortable and well controlled. This is no floaty boat as in olden days when sedans seemed to ooze down the highway. Avalon’s four-wheel independent suspension handles rough roads with ease. Yet the car is responsive enough to feel well connected to the road.

Steering is on the light side in the car’s normal setting, but switch it to Sport and steering effort is firmed enough to feel more like a luxury sport sedan without requiring six-pack abs.2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

That Sport setting, engaged via a button on the console, also brings to life the silky smooth 2.0-liter I4 that’s coupled with a hybrid system that powers an electric motor at low speeds when gas engines are at their least efficient. Like other hybrids that electric power comes from batteries that are juiced up by a regenerative braking system. Continue reading 2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE Premium

2017 Ford Escape Titanium FWD

Ford refines its Escape crossover . . .2017 Ford Escape

For 2017 Ford has restyled its popular Escape inside and out, plus developed two new engines for the entry-level sport-utility, er crossover.

There’s no mistaking the Escape for something else as its profile remains much the same, but there’s a new hexagonal grille, LED trim headlights and revised tail-end styling. Overall the look is a bit more upscale, which is ironic because Escape remains very much a low-end to mainstream crossover for a family of four.

It’s roomy and comfortable and the new 1.5-liter I4 EcoBoost engine in the tested top-tier Titanium model is stellar. Pricing and gas mileage also are in Escape’s plus column.2017 Ford Escape

Let’s start with acceleration, which is excellent with the new turbo I4 that delivers 179 horsepower and a similar 177 torque rating. Escape is quick from a standing start and the fine 6-speed automatic shifts easily and smoothly.

The turbo is standard on the Titanium model, but the base S model starts with a 168-horse 2.5-liter I4 and an incredibly peppy 2.0-liter turbo I4 is available for $1,295 extra. It boasts 245 horses and a 275 torque rating. For most of us, the smaller turbo will do. Continue reading 2017 Ford Escape Titanium FWD

2016 Toyota Prius Four Touring

New Prius Four looks better, drives better too …prius

Prius’s nerdy look is gone, so if you were one of those kids, like me, who had the mechanical pencil and pocket protector in high school, well, you’d best reconsider buying the hybrid.

Toyota has jazzed up the Prius in looks and performance. The bright “hypersonic” red ($395 extra) test car nearly glowed in the parking lot, plus it looks more trim and sporty than past models. Like other Toyotas the nose uses creases for styling that bring it to a noticeable point and the taillights feature sharp angles previously saved for sports cars. The profile is more that of a sporty hatchback now.

So if you’re looking for a hybrid that gets great gas mileage, and don’t mind looking a little trendy, instead of nerdy, the Prius Four Touring could light your fuse.

2016 Toyota Prius Four TouringThe newest Prius isn’t bulbous and chubby looking like past models, but it’s still a gas mileage champ. I got a fantastic 57.6 mpg, while the EPA rates this model at 54 mpg city and 50 mpg highway. I spent more time in town and driving in the 40-45 mph range. Continue reading 2016 Toyota Prius Four Touring

2016 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line

VW’s CC a fine handling sedan with a stick! …2016 Volkswagen CC

Why Volkswagen doesn’t advertise its CC sedan is beyond me. This sporty family sedan has been on the market seven years and is nearly invisible in the marketplace. I’ve never seen a magazine or TV ad for it.

That’s particularly weird at this time when VW is looking for good news to wash the bad taste of diesel from its corporate mouth. The CC is a performance gem. I tested one, the R-Line model, on a roundtrip to Louisville, Ky., and the sedan was a delight on the highway, and around town.2016 Volkswagen CC

First, it looks good with a sleek profile and low rounded roofline that puts most other family sedans to shame from a styling perspective. The only drawbacks are somewhat limited headroom in back, although a 6-footer rode in the car and fit, but admitted he’d like a tad more air over his noggin. The other is a slim trunk opening, yet the CC has a deep trunk overall and yes, the rear seats split and fold down to create additional storage.

But it’s the CC’s performance that puts it cams and pistons ahead of most sedans. The CC is light, just 3,358 lbs., and its eager 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 generates a healthy 200 horsepower and slightly more torque. The result is a car that feels fast getting onto a freeway and nimble overall. Continue reading 2016 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line