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  • First Drive: 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

    Subcompact aimed towards driving enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

    2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

    This summer an all-new hatchback replaces the Corolla iM: a car developed for Europe and initially sold in the US under the Scion nameplate. The new hatchback reflects a serious commitment stateside to a segment currently dominated by Honda and Mazda, delivering a product that goes head-to-head against the Civic and Mazda3.

    “Our competition, especially the Civic, has a unique family story. We’re doing the same thing,” explained Jordan Pauly, vehicle marketing for Toyota.

    “In this diverse segment, we are looking at buyers aged 18-35, multicultural, half male and half female. Not one vehicle fits all. The group is interested in utility but does not want the size or higher price of a SUV,” he continued.

    Toyota hopes buyers will see the new hatch as an affordable, fun-to-drive alternative, and is developing aftermarket parts under the TRD brand to encourage customizing. The automaker is campaigning a Formula Drift car based on the production car built by Stephan Papadakis and driven by Fredric Aasbo, to whet the appetite of driving enthusiasts. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SE with Technology

    Three-row crossover geared towards active families

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    The midsize Atlas three-row crossover that debuted last year shares the same basic underpinnings as the Golf hatchback. Both are built on the automaker’s MQB modular platform, enabling engineers to share technology such as laser clamp welding that contributes to a more rigid body structure between various models.

    Buyers can choose between a turbocharged four-cylinder block or V-6 engine and front or all-wheel drive. The test car is the front-wheel drive V-6 SE with Technology starting from $35,940 excluding the $925 destination charge.

    Standard comfort and convenience features include keyless entry and start, leatherette seating, three-zone climate controls, heated side mirrors, roof rails, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlamps, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, power liftgate, an eight-speaker sound system with high definition and Sirius XM radio and eight-inch touchscreen display. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Volkswagen Golf TSI

    Compact hatchback is big from the inside out

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Volkswagen Golf

    2018 Volkswagen Golf

    The Volkswagen Golf isn’t a very big car, with a wheelbase measuring 104-inches: about 8-1/2 feet. Don’t let its compact dimensions fool you; the front-wheel drive Golf has an amazing amount of space inside.

    Fold the second-row seats flat and it can hold skis, snowboards, and camping gear. With pricing for the base S automatic model starting at $22,010 sans destination, it might leave something in the bank for that new eTAP bicycle you’ve been thinking about, or at least some component upgrades.

    Mechanically 2018 models are carryover, but with a refreshed exterior that includes LED daytime running lamps, LED tail lamps and some chrome accents. Standard convenience features on the base S tested include alloy wheels, keyless entry, eight-speaker sound system, rearview camera, cruise control, automatic windshield wipers and Bluetooth interface. The S grade comes with cloth upholstery and manual seat adjustments that include lumbar support. Destination is $850. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 2.0T S

    Affordable open-air fun

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible

    2018 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible

    Convertibles have come a long way since the time when they were fair weather friends, since the tops lacked the insulation to keep interiors warm in the winter. The Volkswagen Beetle convertible combines iconic styling inspired by the Karmann Cabriolets of the late 1940s and 1950s, with four-season versatility and new for 2018, a more powerful four-cylinder engine.

    The turbocharged, TSI engine develops 174 peak horsepower and 184 foot-pounds of torque at engine speeds as low as 1500 rpm: a tip of the throttle. A Tiptronic six-speed automatic transmission is standard. There are four grades- S, Coast, SE and Dune. Pricing for the base S model tested starts at $25,440 excluding the $850 destination charge.

    Standard comfort and convenience features include keyless entry, single-zone manual climate control, leatherette seating surfaces, 16-inch alloy rims, heated and foldable side mirrors, intermittent wipers, power soft top, 50/50 split folding rear seat and adjustable ambient lighting. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Nissan 370Z Coupe Heritage Edition

    Affordable sports car stays true to its roots

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Nissan 370Z Heritage Edition

    2018 Nissan 370Z Heritage Edition

    The Z two-seat sports coupe is Nissan’s most iconic model, with roots dating back to the Fairlady and 240Z. The 2018 370Z sees some exterior styling refinements, a heritage edition (tested), and a new high-performance clutch on the six-speed manual gearbox.

    The Z has always been, and remains a niche car. But with pricing starting below $30,000, it’s possibly the best bargain on the market for buyers wanting a true, affordable sports car.

    Power for the test car comes from a 3.7-liter 332-horsepower V-6 engine and six-speed manual transmission. Standard convenience features include 18-inch alloy wheels, tilt steering column, keyless entry and start, automatic temperature control, bi-xenon headlamps, six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth interface, eight-way adjustable driver’s seat and tilt steering column.

    The heritage edition package adds $790 to the $29,900 base price. Final MSRP including carpeted floor mats and $885 destination is $31,795. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0T S

    Compact crossover with three rows of seating

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

    2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

    The Tiguan is the smallest member of Volkswagen’s crossover family, and one of the few crossovers in the compact segment to offer both three rows of seating and all-wheel drive. Like the larger Atlas, the Tiguan is built on the automaker’s new global modular transverse architecture. The second-generation Tiguan is ten inches longer than the original model creating room for the optional third row of seating with a small cargo area in back. Both second and third rows fold flat to extend the cargo floor. Buyers in four-season climates can also opt to add all-wheel drive for better traction on wet roads.

    The test car is the base S front-wheel drive model with the optional third row of seating, priced from $25,195 excluding destination. Power comes from a two-liter turbocharged direct injection gasoline engine rated at 184-horsepower and an eight-speed automatic transmission.

    Standard convenience features include 17-inch alloy rims, halogen headlamps with daytime running lamps, roof rails, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, manual climate control, rearview camera, Bluetooth interface, six-speaker audio system, cruise control and electronic parking brake. Final MSRP is $26,095. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Honda Civic Type R Touring

    High-Performance Compact Sedan Lands Stateside

    By Nina Russin

    Honda Civic Type R

    Honda Civic Type R

    When Honda introduced the 10th-generation Civic to the US last year, it opened-up an opportunity to bring with it the Type R: a high-performance variant first introduced in Japan two decades back.

    The Type R is far more than a Civic Si on steroids. It’s a completely different animal, powered by a 306-horsepower iVTEC turbocharged engine with a six-speed manual gearbox. The Type R’s magic goes beyond its powerful engine and crisp, short-throw shifter. With improvements to torsional rigidity and suspension design, the Civic Type R is a high-performance sport sedan that needs to be taken seriously by European car aficionados.

    Pricing for the upscale Touring grade starts at $33,900 excluding the $875 destination charge. That might seem expensive for a model with pricing that starts below $20,000, but then again, this isn’t just an ordinary Civic, which is why dealerships are charging over MSRP for the few they can get their hands on.

    Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, 20-inch alloy wheels with summer performance tires, LED headlamps and tail lamps, an extremely large rear spoiler, special racing seats, premium audio system with navigation, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth interface, USB ports, satellite radio, Pandora, 60/40 fold down rear seats, triple outlet exhaust and ground effects. Final MSRP is $34,775. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4 SEL AWC

    Value-focused subcompact crossover

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

    2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

    It’s no secret that Mitsubishi has struggled to maintain its foothold in recent years, and as-a-result has shifted its focus from high-performance vehicles such as the Evo to bread-and-butter models including the Outlander and Outlander Sport crossovers. In-an-effort to lure customers back into the fold, the automaker adopted a value strategy that goes beyond pricing to include one of the best warranties in the industry that, unlike many competitors, is fully transferable.

    Still potential customers want to know if the cars Mitsubishi is producing are worth the investment. While the Outlander Sport’s $20,000 starting price is a bargain by anyone’s standards, it’s still a big chunk of money in a post 2008 economy where customers are still spending carefully.

    Mitsubishi has always had a reputation for producing sturdy engines and cars that can go the distance. Decades back, the now-discontinued Montero was a popular choice among off-road racers, including the grueling Paris-Dakar rally. The automaker continues in that tradition today. The 2.4-liter engine and continuously-variable automatic transmission that power the five-passenger Outlander Sport are well-engineered and well matched for years of good service.

    2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

    2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

    The test car is the all-wheel drive SEL, priced from $25,895 excluding destination. Being the upscale grade, the SEL comes loaded with comfort and convenience features including keyless entry and start, high intensity discharge headlamps, LED daytime running lamps and tail lamps, roof rails, eight-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, 60/40 split folding rear seat, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, USB ports, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather seating and automatic climate control.

    A touring package on the test car adds lane departure warning, forward collision mitigation, automatic headlamps, Rockford-Fosgate premium audio system and a panoramic sunroof. Final MSRP including destination is $29,110. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 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 »