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  • First Drive: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

    EV boasts extended range, versatility and connectivity features

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

    2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

    Chevrolet has entered the EV world with both feet in, following up on the success of the second-generation Volt extended-range vehicle with the Bolt: a pure electric small crossover with 238-mile driving range according-to the manufacturer.

    The Bolt doesn’t have quite the interior space or driving range of the larger Volt since there is no gasoline engine in reserve, but its well-configured interior, enhanced connectivity and fun-to-drive character should hold lots of appeal for buyers who have been considering an electric car, but were deterred by pricier competitors, or vehicles with significantly less range.

    EVs by their nature are rocket ships off the line, since electric motors develop peak power at very low speeds. The Bolt has the distinction of offering the most powerful electric motor in the segment: 150kW, making the car capable of sub-seven second zero-to-sixty acceleration.

    Pricing for the base LT model starts at $37,495 before the federal rebate while the upscale Premier model starts at $41,780. The car becomes available in 48 states this August. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Fiat 124 Spider

    Millennial tribute to a classic roadster

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Fiat 124 Spider

    2017 Fiat 124 Spider

    Fiat’s new two-seat convertible is a tribute to its most enduring model: the 124 Spider that debuted at the 1966 Turin auto show, produced through the mid-1980s. While the newest Spider takes styling cues such as its long sculpted hood, hexagonal grille and horizontal tail lamps from the original, there are some important differences.

    The 2017 model is a global car: a joint effort between Fiat and Mazda, based on the MX-5 Miata platform. The Spider is slightly larger than the MX-5 and has a bit more room inside. It also has a different engine: Fiat’s 164-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder block. The MX-5 comes with a two-liter naturally aspirated engine rated at 155-horsepower. Despite being smaller, the Fiat engine also develops more torque: 184 pound-feet as opposed to the Miata engine’s 148.

    2017 Fiat 124 Spider

    2017 Fiat 124 Spider

    A high-performance Abarth edition adds four more horsepower to the Fiat engine.

    Base price for the Classica model is $24,995 excluding the $995 destination charge. Standard comfort and convenience features include keyless start, Bluetooth-compatible radio, tilt steering wheel, 16-inch alloy wheels, daytime running lamps, power side mirrors and dual exhaust. Final MSRP is $25,990. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

    Redesigned compact crossover with enhanced performance

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Mazda CX-5

    2017 Mazda CX-5

    Mazda’s redesigned compact crossover builds off the original formula as a practical, yet fun-to-drive vehicle with new performance, active safety and convenience features. The base front-wheel drive model starts at $24,045 excluding destination. Nothing in that price range can out-class it. The CX-5 is a fuel-efficient, peppy vehicle with exceptionally good ride and handling with an interior versatile enough to meet the needs of buyers with active lifestyles.

    The top-of-the-line Grand Touring all-wheel drive model starts at $30,695. Standard convenience features include keyless start, 19-inch alloy rims, heated side mirrors, LED headlamps, fog lamps and daytime running lamps, leather upholstery, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, eight-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bose audio system, Bluetooth interface, heated front seats, navigation and more.

    Options on the test car add a cargo mat, special exterior color, cargo area cover, driver’s seat memory, six-way power passenger seat, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, heads-up display and windshield wiper deicers. Final MSRP is $34,085. Read the rest of this entry »

  • First Drive: 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SE

    New model gains power, performance and versatility

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

    2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

    This year, Volkswagen introduces an all-new Tiguan compact SUV, building on the original model’s formula of European performance with some significant improvements. The 2018 model is built on the automaker’s modular MQB platform: the same front-wheel drive chassis used for the Golf and midsize Atlas crossover. While the Tiguan is considerably smaller than the Atlas, it’s larger than the car it replaces- about 11-inches longer- and available for the first time with third-row seating.

    Pricing for the front-wheel drive S-grade starts at $25,345 excluding destination; the 4-Motion all-wheel drive variant starts at $26,645. There are four grades, including the volume-leading SE, upscale SE and SEL Premium. The top-of-the-line Premium with all-wheel drive costs $38,450 including the $900 destination charge, and includes LED exterior lighting, roof rails, a panoramic sunroof, heated side mirrors, keyless entry and start, leather seating, dual-zone climate control, power liftgate, Fender premium audio system, VW Car-Net security and infotainment services and more.

    Sealing the deal is a new fully-transferrable factory warranty protecting buyers against repair costs for any manufacturing defects up to six-years or 72,000 miles. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

    Two-seat sports car gets dramatic new styling

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

    2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

    No vehicle in Mazda’s line-up embodies the brand’s mission of affordable performance more than the MX-5 ‘Miata.’ Designed by car enthusiasts for their kindred spirits, the MX-5 delivers spirited performance both on and off the track at a price that won’t break the bank.

    This year Mazda ups the ante with the RF retractable hardtop, building on the MX-5’s current styling for more dramatic presence on the road, plus the convenience of a top that deploys in thirteen seconds.

    Pricing for the upscale Grand Touring grade starts at $32,620 excluding the $835 destination charge. Standard convenience features include 17-inch alloy wheels with R-rated performance tires, LED exterior lighting, remote keyless entry and start, heated side mirrors, Bluetooth interface, Bose audio system with HD and satellite radio, navigation, leather upholstery and heated front seats. The metal flake red exterior is an option. Final MSRP is $33,885. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Chevrolet Trax Premier AWD

    Compact crossover gets exterior restyle

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Chevrolet Trax

    2017 Chevrolet Trax

    The compact Trax is the smaller sibling to the Chevrolet Equinox. Available with front or all-wheel drive, 2017 models get an exterior refresh with a new grille, headlamps and tail lamps for the upscale Premier model that replaces the LTZ. The Premier model also comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels.

    Inside drivers will find a new gauge cluster and reconfigured cockpit. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard- part of Chevrolet MyLink infotainment. All 2017 models get keyless entry and start.

    Power for the Trax comes from a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 138-horsepower and six-speed automatic transmission. Zero-to-sixty for the all-wheel drive model tested is 10.08 seconds.

    Base price for the Premier AWD test car is $27,600 excluding the $895 delivery charge. Standard convenience features include a six-way power driver’s seat, storage area under the front passenger seat, air conditioning, heated seats, automatic headlamps, Bose audio system with XM radio, OnStar with automatic crash response, 4GLTE WiFi hotspot and Bluetooth interface. An active safety option package adds forward collision warning and lane departure alert. Final MSRP is $28,790. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Ford Escape FWD

    Compact crossover features enhanced safety, better MPG

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Ford Escape

    2017 Ford Escape

    The Escape was one of the first compact crossovers when it hit the US market in 2001, and remains a staple of the segment. For 2017, Ford has refreshed the Escape with new active safety features and improved fuel economy with automatic shut-off at idle.

    Pricing for the front-wheel drive SE grade starts at $25,100 excluding the $895 destination charge. Options on the test car include a technology packages that includes the newest version of Sync, reverse sensing, roof rack side rails and Sync Connect; a two-liter EcoBoost engine; power liftgate; voice-activated touchscreen navigation system; 18-inch alloy rims, and a comfort package including heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and power side mirrors with blind spot monitoring. Final MSRP is $33,660. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8 SEL Premium

    Midsize sedan adds active safety and infotainment

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Volkswagen Passat

    2017 Volkswagen Passat

    If you’re looking for a German sport sedan but don’t have a German sport sedan budget, consider the 2017 Volkswagen Passat, priced from $22,440: stylish and solidly built with a full roster of active safety features such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure assist, blind spot monitoring and park assist. Power comes from a 170-horsepower 1.8-liter turbocharged engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Buyers wanted more power can opt for the 280-horsepower V-6.

    The Passat is front-wheel drive, but it’s extremely well balanced front-to-back. Drivers needn’t worry about a floating rear end.

    The test car is the 1.8T SEL model priced from $30,995. The upscale grade comes loaded with comfort and convenience features including 18-inch alloy wheels, LED automatic headlamps, power folding heated side mirrors, keyless entry and start, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated seats, leather upholstery, a 6.3-inch touchscreen with navigation, Bluetooth interface and satellite radio.

    VW Car-Net is standard on the SEL, adding smart phone apps, navigation and emergency roadside assistance. Final MSRP including the $820 destination charge is $31,815. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Kia Niro Touring

    New hybrid crossover melds versatility and value

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Kia Niro

    2017 Kia Niro

    To compare the new Kia Niro gasoline/electric hybrid to the Toyota Prius is apples and oranges. In terms of fuel economy, the Prius beats the Niro hands down. But buyers wanting a more conventional crossover with the versatility for active lifestyles and excellent gas mileage will find a lot to love in the Niro.

    Kia continues to offer exceptional value throughout the product lineup, including convenience features such as Harman Kardon audio system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth interface, leather seating and keyless start in a vehicle priced below $30,000. Pricing for the base model starts at the $22,890 while the upscale Touring model tested starts at $29,650. Pricing excludes an $895 delivery charge.

    Available active safety features include autonomous braking, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control lane departure warning. Final MSRP on the Touring model, including the aforementioned-safety features is $32,840. Read the rest of this entry »

  • First Drive: 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

    Rogue’s new sibling is a city-friendly compact crossover

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

    2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

    The all-new Nissan Rogue Sport is a smaller, lighter version of Nissan’s popular compact crossover, competing against the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and Toyota C-HR. Because the Sport is twelve inches shorter and has a lower roofline than its big brother, it loses some cargo space, rear leg and head room. Bottom line: growing families should think Rogue while singles or childless couples go with Rogue Sport.

    Since Nissan was one of the first players in the subcompact segment with the turbocharged Juke, some might wonder why the automaker is bringing out a second entry. According-to Nissan spokespersons, the Sport’s more conservative styling and lifestyle-friendly features such as the divide-n-hide rear cargo system should give the baby Rogue a bigger net to cast in the pond.

    Power for the Rogue Sport comes from a two-liter inline four-cylinder engine rated at 141-horsepower with 147 pound-feet of peak torque and continuously variable automatic transmission. Pricing for the base front-wheel drive model starts at $21, 420 excluding delivery while the upscale all-wheel drive SL starts at $27,420. Read the rest of this entry »