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  • 2018 Toyota C-HR

    Crossover combines versatility and affordability for young buyers

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Toyota C-HR

    2018 Toyota C-HR

    The all-new C-HR that debuts for the 2018 model year targets millennials with a combination of stylish exterior, versatile interior and affordable pricing. In a sense, the C-HR is to the current generation of young buyers what the Matrix was for their parents: a car that can take them through those quantum changes of life that happen right after college: new job, new home and perhaps a new family.

    The term, C-HR stands for ‘Coupe-High Rider’. The subcompact concept for the production vehicle originally debuted at the 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show as Scion’s competitor to the Nissan Juke. Post-Scion, the production model carries the Toyota nameplate, but its edgy styling with an elongated front end, huge wheels and sharply angled roof reflects Scion’s youthful spirit.

    A contrasting white roof adds pizzazz to the test car’s aqua-colored exterior. Base price is $22,500 excluding the $960 destination charge. Options on the test car include the white roof, removable crossbars, tablet holder, carpeted floor mats and cargo mat, mudguards, emergency assistance kit, rear bumper protector and wheel locks. Final MSRP is $24,969. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Hyundai Elantra

    Sixth-generation sedan offers more value

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Hyundai Elantra

    2017 Hyundai Elantra

    The Hyundai Elantra has evolved from humble beginnings competing against the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla in the early 1990s to one of the most popular sedans in the US market.

    There is some debate as to the current model’s size classification. Its compact exterior puts the Elantra alongside the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus, but its larger interior makes it a midsize passenger car according-to the EPA. Either way, the Elantra offers customers looking for a bargain exactly that, thanks to a 2017 Value Edition priced at $21,360 including destination.

    Power comes from a two-liter engine producing 147-horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque, mated to a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions. Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, satellite radio, Android auto and Apple CarPlay, dual-zone temperature control, Bluetooth interface, heated front seats, automatic headlamps and a 3.5-inch thin film transistor information display in the gauge cluster. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Nissan 370Z Coupe

    Iconic sports car for driving enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Nissan 370Z Coupe

    2017 Nissan 370Z Coupe

    With roots dating back to the 1970 240Z, Nissan’s Z series is one of the most enduring nameplates on the American highway. As with its predecessors, the current 370Z sport coupe is not a car for everyone, nor was it ever intended to be. The clutch is stiff, and because the driver sits deep inside the car’s frame, access and egress isn’t particularly easy. But for those whose love of driving eclipses such practical considerations, it is pure heaven.

    The 2017 model is essentially carry-over from prior years, powered by a 332-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6 engine and six-speed manual transmission. Base price is $29,990: a bargain for a car you can take names with at the track. The test car adds one option- carpeted floor mats. Final MSRP including the $835 destination charge is $30,955. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport SV FWD

    Peppy compact crossover for active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

    2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

    Although the Nissan Rogue Sport shares the same platform as the larger Rogue, it feels like a completely different car. Not only are the Sport’s overall dimensions smaller, the car is considerably lighter: close to 200 pounds for the Rogue Sport SV compared to the Rogue SV.

    The Rogue Sport’s two-liter engine lags-behind the Rogue’s 2.5-liter block by 29-horsepower and 28 pound-feet of torque, yet it still feels peppier and more agile than its big brother. Bottom line: it’s affordable, fun to drive and big enough to hold the gear we active types like to keep close at hand. As with the Rogue, the compact Rogue Sport is available with front or all-wheel drive.

    2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

    2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

    Base price for the front-wheel drive test car is $23,020 excluding the $960 destination charge. Standard convenience features include roof rails, LED daytime running lamps, keyless entry and start, automatic on/off headlamps, dual-zone climate control, power driver’s seat, 60/40 split folding rear seat with Nissan’s Divide-N-Hide cargo system, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, USB port, Bluetooth interface, satellite radio with Siri Eyes-Free and a rearview camera.

    Options add heated front seats, steering wheel and outside mirrors, remote engine start, NissanConnect with navigation, apps and services, around-view monitor, seven-inch color touchscreen, navigation with traffic and travel alerts, blind spot monitoring and cross traffic alert. Final MSRP is $26,535. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Honda Civic Si HPT

    Compact sport coupe raises the bar

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Honda Civic Si Coupe

    2017 Honda Civic Si Coupe

    Honda has a talent for creating cars that are as practical as they are fun to drive, while at the same time delivering exceptional value. The newest iteration of the automaker’s compact sport coupe and sedan- the Civic Si- is a case in point. With pricing starting well below $25,000 and 32 mile-per-gallon average fuel economy, the newest Si is a performance car for the real world, with a five-star federal crash test rating adding peace of mind.

    For the all-new 2017 model, engineers modified the 1.5-liter turbocharged engine used in the EX-T, EX-L and Touring Civics, adding 31-horsepower and 25 pound-feet of torque. Turbocharging gives drivers access to maximum torque between 2,100 and 5,000 rpm for exceptional acceleration off-the-line, merging into high-speed traffic and passing slower vehicles on the highway.

    2017 Honda Civic Si Coupe

    2017 Honda Civic Si Coupe

    All grades come with a six-speed manual gearbox with short-throw shift lever and reverse gear lockout.

    The test car is the mid-grade HPT coupe priced from $24,100 excluding the $875 destination charge. Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, 10-speaker audio system with satellite radio, HD radio, USB port and Pandora interface, 18-inch alloy wheels with summer performance tires, power moonroof, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, dual-zone climate control, rearview camera, Honda LaneWatch, heated front seats and 60/40 split folding rear seats. Final MSRP is $24,975. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 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 »