Toyota’s puny Prius C passes the pumps

Toyota Prius C Three All photos by Gerry Miles

Toyota Prius C Three
All photos by Gerry Miles

BY GERRY MILES

Officially, the C in the Prius’ name stands for “city” where the smallest and most affordable aka cheapest edition of Toyota’s famed hybrid car line will provide the most dividends.  DSC_1764Perhaps, though, it should be an “e” for economy to get an EPA-rated 50 combined mpg is the prime factor folks will buy one.

As the runt of the four-model Prius litter, the C is also the smallest and the least expensive ($19,080) or cheap, but the C could also stand for the compromises needed to achieve the feat in this subcompact.

Compared to its larger midsized Prius – the only car introduced at the NY Auto Show where a hall full of auto journos in 1997 actually went silent to hear its intro price $19,995 – the C is 19.1 inches shorter (157.3 vs. 176.4 inches) and 542 pounds lighter (2,500 lbs. vs. 3,042 lbs.) to achieve its fuel efficiency.

That diet helps boost the fuel economy but it compromises the C in several other ways: the seats are supportive but relatively thin and best for short, city commutes and not visiting Aunt Bessie in Philadelphia; there’s a lot of plastic on the dash – the better to save weight with, and those hoping for a responsive time behind the wheel are shopping for the wrong car.

Bathed in 2014’s newest color – a retina-searing yellow called Sun Fusion – the C shows off a funky, wind-cheating style so common on many smaller cars today. It’ll appeal to the younger groups but still provides reasonable room up front.

DSC_1783The overall interior is clean, simple, and uncomplicated except for the number of options displayed on the information screen. The main dash features are centered, electronic and display a myriad of the car’s functions as well as tracking your prudent pedal pushing with each trip. However most controls are touch screen with only the temperature as the largest knob and the other climate controls as small buttons.

There’s plenty of leg and headroom up front, less so as expected in the back. The wind-cheating wedged-shape of today’s cars leaves little cargo or head space for adults in the back. Although the hatch opens wide, remember this is a subcompact built to sip gas and not perform weekend duty as a cargo mule.

A spare tire is included, housed under a two-piece large foam-like structure underneath a trunk mat that comes with the carpeted floor mats ($225) and a cargo net ($49). I wonder if the spare will be eliminated, as it has been in most cars these days, for an additional battery pack.

DSC_1762Power tops out at 99 horsepower with the 1.5-liter DOHC that boasts variable valve timing – just like Toyota’s Yaris – but produces just 73 hp compared to the 106 hp in the Yaris. The Hybrid Drive is tucked into the engine well while the battery is optimally placed under the left rear seat for weight distribution.

Output can be regulated in three modes: Eco, Normal and EV. To use the EV or battery mode, the shifter slides next to a large “B” however this mode requires one to drive under 25 mph for less than a mile.

Under way, the C is, as a certain coach is known to say, is what it is: an economy car that’s not meant to leave rubber from its 15-inch wheels behind. Even during city commutes the C’s motor protested too much when pressed for additional power before responding. At highway speeds the noise ratio rose, as did the wind noise and road noise. Passing a car becomes a planned event requiring time and distance. Merging onto the Spaulding Turnpike in Dover, N.H. was a tad frightening waiting for the automatic CVT trying to accumulate enough speed to stake out some pavement in the right lane before the oncoming traffic rushed upon the sawed off hatch’s backside.

Tradeoffs and piercing colors fade when your normal days to fill up are passed as the tank gauges shows plenty of petrol to keep motoring. When you can get 51 mpg, the C almost makes you want to slow down, watch the dashboard gas numbers rise, switch into Eco and be as stingy as Silas Marner.

Its diminutive size makes it easy to park in the city. Handling is somewhat light despite the thick steering wheel that’s meant to imply sturdiness and sportiness. Braking is reasonable, not that you’ll go that fast, and returns power to the battery in its regenerative form, as shown on the dash’s display.

At a time when gas prices are still fluctuating, the C offers an entry-level price into the hybrid market from the famed Prius lineup. Going green usually costs about $5,000 more green backs than a conventional model in many car lines. One has to consider if it’s mainly city stop-and-go driving where the benefit will be realized or not. A $5,000 hybrid tag can purchase more than 1,400 gallons of gas figured at $3.50 per gallon and provide a smaller monthly payment.

In comparison, the Yaris has nearly the same footprint as the C, more horsepower, a smaller suggested price that’s about $5,000 less and still owns EPA numbers in the 30s. It’s nice to have options.

The Prius C meets its mission as an affordable, non plug-in hybrid from the first family of hybrid technology. For a city commuter looking to max out the mileage and not the payment at the pump, the C is worth a look and a test drive.

Toyota Prius C Three

Toyota Prius C Three

2014 Toyota Prius C Three

THE BASICS

Price, base (with destination): $21,765 ($810)

Options: $743

As Tested: $23,318

Fuel economy: 53-mpg city/46-mpg highway.

Globe observed: 51.0 mpg

Drivetrain: 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder, Hybrid Synergy Drive, Automatic CVT

Body: Four-door hatch

THE SPECIFICS

Horsepower: 73 hp

Torque: 82 lb-ft @ 1,850 rpm

Overall length: 157.3 inches.

Wheelbase: 100.4 inches.

Height: 56.9 inches

Width: 66.7 inches.

Curb weight: 2,500 lbs.

THE GOOD

Not stopping at gas stations. Fuel economy. Rear hatch, folding seat augments cargo space. Spare tire.

THE BAD

Awful color, dash gauges too busy, thin seats.

THE BOTTOM LINE

A non-plugin hybrid that meets its mission of providing superb economy for city commuters.

Also consider: Toyota Yaris, Scion iQ, Ford C-Max Energi, Honda CR-Z, Ford Fiesta, Mazda 2

VW releases 2015 model info

2015 Golf TDI

2015 Golf TDI

MODEL YEAR 2015: NEW GOLF FAMILY, REDESIGNED JETTA, AND NEW TDI® CLEAN DIESEL ENGINE HEAD THE CHANGES

In a busy year, Volkswagen will also add a new Golf SportWagen, an all-new Golf R, a redesigned Touareg SUV, and the company’s first U.S.-market EV, the e-Golf

  • All-new Golf is bigger, lighter, and more fuel-efficient than the previous model, seats five, and has a larger trunk than any midsize sedan
  • New Golf GTI has 210-horsepower engine, with improved fuel efficiency and performance
  • e-Golf is Volkswagen’s first full Battery Electric Vehicle for sale in the U.S.
  • Redesigned Jetta offers a better value, more available driver assistance features, and refreshed exterior and interior
  • All-new Golf R, with 292 horsepower, will go on sale during the 2015 model year
  • Jetta SportWagen will be replaced by bigger, even more spacious Golf SportWagen early in 2015
  • Touareg is replaced by a refreshed model that offers new front and rear styling, an even more refined interior, and new available driver assistance features
  • Passat, Beetle, Golf, and Jetta TDI® Clean Diesel models all receive new, more fuel-efficient EA288 engine, with 10 more horsepower

Herndon, VA  – The 2015 model year is momentous for Volkswagen. First of all, the Jetta, Volkswagen’s best-selling car, is redesigned, with new styling and driver assistance systems, as well as improved fuel efficiency and enhanced content. The newly available driver assistance systems include Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Traffic Alert, the Forward Collision Warning system, and Park Distance Control. The Jetta 1.8T model offers improved fuel efficiency thanks to revised aerodynamics, while the TDI® Clean Diesel model also benefits from fitment of the new EA288 diesel engine. In the case of the manual transmission TDI model, EPA estimated highway fuel economy is now rated at 46 mpg, an improvement of 4 mpg.

This model year also marks the introduction of the seventh-generation Golf and Golf GTI models, which are bigger, more fuel-efficient, and better equipped than ever before. The new Golf is available in two forms: powerful and efficient TSI® gasoline and TDI Clean Diesel, powered by the new EA288 turbocharged and direct-injection engine. The Golf GTI comes standard with a 210-horsepower, 2.0-liter TSI engine, with the option of a 220-hp engine with the Performance Package that is available late in the calendar year. Golf and Golf GTI models fitted with the optional Driver Assistance Package have been awarded the coveted TOP SAFETY PICK + from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

In addition, Volkswagen will introduce its first fully electric vehicle to the U.S. market, the e-Golf. Due to go on sale in select markets in November of 2014, the e-Golf has more standard torque and more versatility than any of its closest EV rivals. When it goes on sale, it will have a standard 7.2kW onboard charger and Fast Charging Capability, which allows for 80 percent charge within 30 minutes at select DC fast charging stations. The car should provide an everyday driving range of between 70 and 90 miles, with a maximum range of approximately 115 miles.

Later in the model year, Volkswagen will introduce the all-new Golf R and the Golf SportWagen. The Golf R will feature a 4MOTION® all-wheel-drive system and a turbocharged and direct-injection TSI engine that makes 292 horsepower. The car will only be offered in four-door form for the U.S. and will initially be available only with a six-speed dual-clutch DSG® automatic transmission. A six-speed manual will be added to the lineup at a later date.

The Golf SportWagen replaces the Jetta SportWagen early in 2015. Like the all-new Golf, it is based on the Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) architecture and offers better fuel economy, greater versatility, and more interior room than the previous model. It will be offered in two forms: 1.8-liter TSI gasoline engine with five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions; and the latest EA288 TDI Clean Diesel engine with the choice of six-speed manual or dual-clutch DSG automatic transmissions.

All Volkswagen models fitted with the 2.0-liter TDI Clean Diesel engine—Passat, Beetle, and Beetle Convertible in addition to the Golf and the Jetta—benefit from the introduction of the EA288 engine. Despite the similarity in basic specifications, this is an all-new engine that produces 150 horsepower—10 more than before—at 3,500 rpm, as well as 236 lb-ft of torque at 1,750 rpm. The engine offers fuel economy benefits for all the cars in which it is offered, as well as reduced emissions.

At the beginning of 2015, halfway through the model year, the Touareg will be replaced by a refreshed model that features new front and rear styling, a refined interior, and a host of available new driver assistance features. These include Lane Assist, Side Assist (which monitors blind spots) and ACC adaptive cruise control plus Front Assist with City Emergency Braking.

CARS

Beetle

  • New, and limited-edition Classic trim joins the Beetle lineup
  • New EA288 four-cylinder TDI Clean Diesel engine

For 2015, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine TDI Clean Diesel engine will be replaced by the new 150-hp EA288 2.0-liter diesel engine, which makes 10 more horsepower than the outgoing model. The TDI Beetle equipped with the optional six-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission improves EPA estimated highway fuel economy from 39 to 41 mpg compared with the previous TDI Clean Diesel engine.

In addition, a new limited-edition model enters the Beetle lineup. The Beetle Classic will offer unique seat fabric; front lumbar supports; leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and parking brake; three-color ambient lighting; RNS® 315 navigation; and a six-speed automatic transmission. Available wheels on this trim include17-inch “Circle” aluminum-alloy wheels in white or black (depending on exterior color).

Beetle Convertible

  • New, value-oriented and limited-edition Classic trim joins the Convertible lineup
  • New EA288 four-cylinder TDI Clean Diesel engine

Like the Beetle, the 2015 Beetle Convertible also receives the new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine TDI Clean Diesel engine, improving the EPA estimated highway fuel economy on the automatic transmission model by 3 mpg, to 40 mpg.

In addition, the Convertible also gains the Classic trim level, offering unique seat fabric, RNS 315 navigation, and a six-speed automatic transmission. Wheels available for this trim include 17-inch Circle alloy wheels in white or black (depending on exterior color).

CC

For 2015, the CC incorporates only minor changes over the 2014 models.

  • New optional 18-inch St. Louis wheels
  • Available 18-inch Shanghai wheels (new design, late introduction)

Eos

  • New “Final Edition” trim replaces Sport
  • New Flash Red available on Komfort and Executive trims
  • New Pure White exterior color available on all trims

For the last production year of the Eos, the Sport trim is replaced for 2015 with the Final Edition. Based on the Sport trim, the Final Edition offers added value at the mid-level trim with18-inch Vicenza wheels, unique Cornsilk Beige and black two-tone Vienna leather seating surfaces, contrast stitching, silver net interior trim, a rearview camera and rain-sensing wipers.

e-Golf

  • Brings zero-tailpipe emissions to the fun-to-drive Golf family
  • Drivetrain consists of 24.2 kWh lithium-ion battery and an electric motor with 199 pound-feet of torque; 7.2 kW onboard charger is standard
  • Three driver-selectable regenerative braking modes
  • Standard fast charging capability allows 80 percent battery charge within 30 minutes at select DC fast charging stations
  • Roadside Assistance Plan helps take the anxiety out of “range anxiety”
  • First U.S.-market Volkswagen to be fitted with all-LED headlights

The e-Golf is available in four-door form only and is immediately recognizable by its unique aluminum-alloy wheels and LED headlights, the first VW to be equipped with the technology in the U.S.-market. Featuring a signature C-shaped design, the efficient LED daytime running lights are a distinguishing feature of all Volkswagen electric vehicles and come standard on the e-Golf. The e-Golf features more torque (199 pound feet) than its main rivals and is also more versatile, with seating for five and more cargo space than any mid-size sedan.

Golf

  • Pricing starts at $17,995 for the two-door Golf Launch Edition model with manual transmission
  • New TDI S model reduces Clean Diesel entry pricing by more than $3,000
  • First U.S.-market vehicle using the new Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) platform
  • Room for five with a larger trunk than any midsize sedan
  • Standard 5.8-inch touchscreen infotainment center is among the new premium features
  • IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK + when equipped with the optional Driver Assistance Package

The 2015 Golf will be available with two or four doors and with two powertrains: the EA888 1.8-liter turbocharged and direct-injection four-cylinder TSI engine mated to a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission; and the new EA288 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injection four-cylinder TDI Clean Diesel, fitted with a six-speed manual or a six-speed DSG® dual-clutch automatic transmission. This is the first time the entire Golf lineup will feature powerful and efficient turbocharged engines. The Golf 1.8T now has an EPA estimated highway fuel economy rating of 36 mpg when equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission, an improvement of 6 mpg over the outgoing 2.5-liter Golf. The manual transmission model achieves 37 mpg on the highway.

The all-new Golf is better equipped than its predecessor, no matter the trim level. The limited-availability entry Golf Launch Edition two-door with manual transmission starts at $17,995 (plus $820 destination and handling) and adds the following over the outgoing Golf 2.5L: a turbocharged and direct-injection four cylinder as the base engine, along with a standard 5.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Bluetooth® connectivity, a Media Device Interface (MDI) with iPod® integration, and SiriusXM® Satellite Radio. The Automatic Post-Collision Braking System is standard on all Golf models, while available new comfort and convenience features include the Fender® Premium Audio System and Climatronic® automatic air conditioning.

Fans of the Volkswagen TDI Clean Diesel engine will be thrilled that the price of the base TDI model has been reduced by more than the $3,000 compared with the previous-generation Golf TDI model.

Golf GTI

  • Seventh-generation Golf GTI is bigger, lighter, faster, and more fuel-efficient than previous generation
  • Increases of 10 horsepower and 51 pound-feet of torque from new EA888 TSI engine
  • $700 price decrease on content-adjusted comparison with previous GTI
  • EPA estimated highway fuel economy improves by 3 mpg with the manual transmission
  • Standard 5.8-inch touchscreen infotainment center among new premium features

The all-new Golf GTI features a highly sophisticated EA888 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injection TSI engine that makes 210 horsepower and a healthy 258 pound-feet of torque, figures that are 10 hp and 51 lb-ft higher than in the previous-generation GTI model. The optional Performance Package, which goes on sale later in the model year, ups the ante with 220 horsepower, as well as a torque-sensing electronically-controlled limited-slip differential and larger brakes. All 2015 Golf GTI models have a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic that has a launch control feature.

This new-generation Golf GTI is better equipped than its predecessor, regardless of trim level. The Golf GTI S, which starts at $24,395 (plus $820 destination charge) for the two-door model with manual transmission, adds the following over the previous entry-level GTI: standard 5.8-inch touchscreen infotainment center, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, VW Car-Net® connected services, ambient and footwell lighting with LED reading lights, LED foglights, and a new Driving Mode Selection feature. For the first time, American Volkswagen enthusiasts will be able to order the DCC® adaptive damping system as an $800 option on Performance Package-equipped SE and Autobahn models.

Golf SportWagen

  • Thrifty TDI Clean Diesel and 1.8-liter turbocharged TSI Golf SportWagen models will be offered
  • Uses the new MQB architecture, like the 2015 Golf and Golf GTI
  • Golf SportWagen will go on sale in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2015
  • New Golf SportWagen offers increased cargo volume, matching compact SUVs for size and versatility

The VW SportWagen has long been a top choice for customers who want a car that’s fun-to-drive and offers a large cargo area that is truly versatile. This new Golf SportWagen is even more appealing, offering nearly 10 percent more cargo room with the rear seats folded than the outgoing model. Essentially, the Golf SportWagen provides a sportier alternative to compact SUVs.

The new SportWagen will be offered with two powertrains. The first is a 170 horsepower, 1.8-liter turbocharged and direct-injection four-cylinder TSI engine, mated to five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions. The TDI Clean Diesel model will be powered by the new EA288 2.0-liter common-rail, turbocharged and direct-injection diesel engine that makes150 horsepower, an improvement of 10 hp over the current SportWagen model, and 236 pound-feet pf torque. The TDI model will have a choice of six-speed manual or DSG dual-clutch automatic transmissions.

Golf R

  • Most powerful production Golf ever for the North American market
  • All-new car has 292 horsepower, but is more fuel efficient than previous Golf R
  • EA888 TSI 2.0-liter engine propels DSG-equipped Golf R from 0 to 60 mph in approximately 4.9 seconds
  • Golf R features new 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system
  • Golf R will go on sale in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2015

The 2015 Golf R will be the most powerful version of the Golf ever to be sold in this market. With 292 horsepower, the all-new Golf R has 36 horsepower more than the previous version, which was sold as a 2013 model. Despite the additional horsepower, the new R model is expected to be considerably more fuel-efficient than its predecessor with a manufacturer-estimated highway fuel economy rating of 31 mpg with the six-speed manual transmission, up from 27 mpg.

Like all three previous Golf R models, the all-new model transfers its power to the road via a permanent all-wheel-drive system; in this case, the latest version of the 4MOTION system with a fifth-generation Haldex® coupling. To help ensure great chassis dynamics, there’s a new sport suspension, a new variable-ratio steering system, and a stability control system which can now be deactivated for track driving. Other highlights include the optional DCC adaptive damping system.

The all-new Golf R is equipped with an extensive package of exclusive features. Along with specially designed bumpers, side skirts, and 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, the Golf R also has standard Bi-Xenon headlights with newly designed LED daytime running lights (in a dual-U design) and a two-branch exhaust system with four chrome tips. The most powerful and fuel-efficient Golf R will be launched in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2015 in four-door form only.

Jetta

  • New front, rear, and interior styling enhances the Jetta’s clean and timeless design
  • New available driver assistance systems: Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Traffic Alert, Forward Collision Warning system, and Park Distance Control
  • New 150 hp 2.0T TDI Clean Diesel EA288 engine returns an EPA estimated 46 mpg on the highway, with manual transmission
  • Improved aerodynamics and reduced rolling resistance help increase efficiency across Jetta lineup
  • Bi-Xenon headlights with LED Daytime Running Lights and Adaptive Front-lighting System now available on select models

Following the updates that arrived with the 2014 model, which included a new 1.8-liter turbocharged EA888 engine that replaced the 2.5-liter five-cylinder unit, the 2015 Jetta brings with it a fresh new face and some important updates underneath. The subtly redesigned exterior not only provides the Jetta with a crisp new look, but also helps increase the overall efficiency of the car by improving aerodynamics: the 1.8T models gain a 1 mpg improvement on the EPA’s estimated highway fuel economy, to 37 mpg. Additionally, the 2015 Jetta features an updated interior, the new EA288 2.0-liter TDI Clean Diesel engine (with 10 additional horsepower), and a host of newly available driver assistance systems.

Passat

  • S and Wolfsburg Edition trims now offer an optional Technology Package
  • SE with Sunroof trim removed from 1.8T lineup
  • New EA288 four-cylinder TDI Clean Diesel engine

The S and Wolfsburg Edition trims now offer an optional Technology Package that includes a rearview camera and the Premium VIII sound system with eight speakers. On S trims, this package includes SiriusXM Satellite Radio, which is standard on Wolfsburg Edition models. The SE with Sunroof trim is removed from the 1.8T lineup, while the SE with Sunroof and Navigation trim adds chrome bumpers and door trim, comfort sport seats and front foglights. SEL Premium trims receive rain-sensing windshield wipers.

The new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine EA288 TDI Clean Diesel engine makes 10 more horsepower than the outgoing engine and improves the Passat TDI’s EPA estimated highway fuel economy rating to 44 mpg for the manual transmission model (+1 mpg) and to 42 mpg for the automatic (+2 mpg). The manual transmission TDI model now has a range of up to 814 highway miles on one tank of Clean Diesel fuel. Thanks to the use of new all-season optimized rolling resistance tires, the EPA estimated highway fuel economy on the 1.8T models is improved by 1 mpg, to 35 mpg on the manual transmission model and to 36 mpg on the automatic version.

MINIVAN, SUVs

Routan

For 2015, the Routan will no longer be offered.

Tiguan

  • Standard rearview camera, roof rails, and SiriusXM Satellite Radio on all trims
  • Standard Premium VIII touchscreen audio system on S and SE trim lines
  • Panoramic sunroof on SE with Appearance

Although the Tiguan receives minor additions for 2015, the emphasis for this year is adding value by bringing even more content into the lower level trims. The entry-level S trim line adds a rearview camera, Premium VIII audio system with SiriusXM Satellite Radio and Mobile Device Interface (MDI) with iPod® cable, roof rails, and VW Car-Net connected services. Heatable front seats, with heated washer nozzles, are now optional on the S and SE trims, while the panoramic sunroof is now standard on the SE with Appearance trim. A stylized rear bumper is added to the top level R-Line model.

Touareg

The facelifted Touareg is coming in early 2015 as a MY15 vehicle.

  • Refreshed styling and interior enhancements
  • Host of new driver assistance systems
  • More details will follow closer to launch

Kiplinger’s recommends lower priced models with high end features in annual car issue

press release 

Washington, DC (January 22, 2014)—  Kiplinger’s Personal Finance unveiled its annual car buyer’s guide: a comprehensive review of hundreds of vehicles that reveals the best values among the newest models. The annual buyer’s guide, “Let’s Make a Deal,” appears in the March issue, available on newsstands February 4 and online now at Kiplinger.com/fronts/channels/cars/.

The report finds that American cars are back in a big way, with GM and Chrysler introducing impressive new models in an attempt to play catch-up with Ford and the foreign competition. Across the board, high-end car makers are luring buyers with lower-priced models while mainstream brands are loading their vehicles with features that used to be found only on luxury models. Sales are at their highest levels in six years and automakers are fighting for market share, making the new 2014 models ripe for a deal.

With such a large selection of vehicles and fierce competition for consumers’ attention, buying a new car can be overwhelming. Kiplinger’sbuyer’s guide sorts the 2014 models by price and category and ranks them for performance, safety and value. In addition to Best Value Awards for Best In Class and Best New models,  Kiplinger’s also names the Most Fuel-Efficient and Best Resale Value winners in each category.

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Best Value Awards for 2014:

Cars Under $20,000

  • Best New Car: Mazda3. From design to driving dynamics, the new Mazda3 takes the compact upscale. The 2.0-liter engine delivers performance as well as fuel economy, managing 40 miles per gallon on the highway. Optional safety features include forward collision warning.
  • Best In Class: Subaru Impreza.  Precise handling, thanks to standard all-wheel drive, gives the Impreza an edge over the entry-level competition. It also boasts high resale values, a roomy interior and a choice between sedan and hatchback. And it wins the prized Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Cars $20,000-$25,000

  • Best New Car: Mazda6. The sharply carved exterior of the Mazda6 beckons you inside, where you’ll find premium materials and features such as Pandora Internet radio and SMS text messaging. Sporty handling accompanies plenty of power and a thrifty 38 mpg on the highway.
  • Best In Class: Ford Fusion. Fusion keeps comfort and safety top of mind while providing a host of engine options for optimizing your power to economy ratio. Available features include cooled seats, a heated steering wheel and inflatable rear seatbelts in a collision, they distribute the force over a larger area, reducing the risk of injury.  Equipped with standard forward collision warning, Fusion also receives a Top Safety Pick + designation from IIHS.

Cars $25,000-$30,000

  • Best New Car: Chevrolet Impala. Looks and features befitting a Lexus put luxury makers on notice. A roomy and quiet interior is complemented by an easy-to-use voice-recognition system. Safety options include rear cross-traffic alert and forward collision warning with automatic braking if a crash is imminent.
  • Best In Class: Honda Accord.  A Best New Model winner in 2013, Accord tops its price category with stellar resale values, a roomy interior and a standard rearview camera. Standard features also include Pandora Internet radio and SMS text messaging. It gets a Top Safety Pick + from IIHS, too.

Cars $30,000-$40,000

  • Best New Car: Mercedes-Benz CLA. With taut lines and muscular front end, the CLA looks both menacing and inviting. The turbocharged engine growls out 208 horses, but it gets 38 mpg on the highway. Agile handling encourages your darker side, while active safety systems watch your back.
  • Best In Class: BMW 3 series.  As upscale brands vie for a near-mass-market price point and mainstream makes add bells and whistles, the entry-luxury space is getting crowded. But one constant remains: BMW’s 3 series is an unbeatable combination of power, precision and bang for the buck. We think the diesel is tops, compensating with mpg and torque what it lacks in horses.

Cars $40,000-$50,000

  • Best New Car: Cadillac CTS. Shedding weight along with some of its iconic edges, CTS proves as dynamic as the foreign luxury rides in looks as well as behind the wheel. You can choose such features as automatic braking to avoid front and rear collisions and remote start that activates climate control.
  • Best In Class: Lexus GS. The GS won a nod last year for Best New Model, with its impressive blend of sportiness and luxury. For 2014, it adds refinements such as an eight-speed automatic transmission to improve fuel economy and Siri Eyes Free Mode, which works with an iPhone to call contacts, play music and more.

Cars $50,000 and Over

  • Best New Car: Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Beneath its traditional façade, the redesigned Mercedes flagship is a study in futuristic technology. It’s lit entirely by LEDs, boasts an elegant 12-inch dash display and features a smart suspension system that anticipates bumps in the road ahead to keep you comfortable.
  • Best In Class: Tesla Model S. Model S breathes the rarefied air of expensive European luxury sedans—and raises the bar. While the horsepower numbers are on the level with the competition, the acceleration is mind-boggling, thanks to instant torque typical of electric vehicles, and “fuel” economy beggars belief, too. It’s also eligible for a federal tax credit of $7,500.

Sports Cars

  • Best New Car: Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Though it hooks you with a modern design inspired by the ’63 Sting Ray and a deep, throaty growl from the 6.2-liter, 455-horsepower engine, the all-new Corvette has features that appeal to your head, not just your heart. The 21st-century Stingray features an aluminum frame, carbon fiber throughout, direct injection and active fuel management—all of which help boost fuel economy to a responsible 29 mpg on the highway without losing an ounce of the thrill.
  • Best In Class: Ford Mustang GT.  In its 50th year of production, the always affordable Mustang ups its game with features such as SelectShift automatic transmission with full manual mode and Hill Start Assist. Taking it to the track? In addition to 420 horses, you also get an in-dash LCD screen with apps to measure g-force, 0-60 and quarter-mile acceleration and braking times.

Wagons*

  • Best In Class:  Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen. Grippy handling—complements of German engineering—makes VW’s wagon more than just a grocery getter. Whether equipped with the 2.5-liter gasoline engine or the 2.0-liter turbodiesel, SportWagen boasts great fuel economy, loads of cargo space and six airbags–to keep your precious cargo safe.

Minivans*

  • Best In Class: Honda Odyssey. Honda’s reputation for reliability pairs well with a penchant for safety to push the Odyssey head and shoulders above the competition. The only Top Safety Pick in the minivan brood includes a rearview camera as standard equipment. It also takes honors for most fuel-efficient.

Small Crossovers

  • Best New Crossover: Subaru Forester. The fourth-generation Forester is more family-friendly than ever. It boosts legroom to a segment best, increases cargo space and adds a rearview camera to all but the base model. A driver knee airbag and suite of optional safety features complete the package.
  • Best In Class: Mazda CX-5. Mazda was firing on all cylinders when it introduced the CX-5 last year. The base model has class-leading highway mileage of 35 mpg, resale values are strong across the board, and while you have the view from an SUV, it drives like a sport sedan. Plus, CX-5 is one of only four small crossovers to be named a Top Safety Pick + by the IIHS.

Midsize Crossovers

  • Best New Crossover: Jeep Grand Cherokee. Whether you’re in the concrete jungle or off the beaten path, the Grand Cherokee will capably carry you in style. Leather and wood interior appointments meet rugged features such as the Selec-Terrain traction-control system, which allows you to choose settings for every situation.
  • Best In Class: Mercedes ML. With four models, you can pick your performance with Benz’s M-Class. We prefer the 350 BlueTEC’s combo of 240 horses and 28 mpg highway (plus more torque than the V8 ML 550). Attention Assist, which reminds you to take a break when it detects drowsiness, is standard, as is forward collision warning. When you add optional auto-braking, M-Class gets a Top Safety Pick + from IIHS.

Large Crossovers

  • Best New Crossover: Acura MDX. Acura’s cushy crossover boosts fuel economy for 2014—with help from a new powertrain and the first front-wheel-drive model in the vehicle’s lineup. LED lighting graces the MDX inside and out, acoustic glass keeps the cabin quiet, and a sliding second row of seats makes passenger space customizable. The MDX boasts more standard features than before, and it’s safe, too; when it’s equipped with the optional forward collision warning system, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates it a Top Safety Pick +.
  • Best In Class: Ford Explorer. For 2014, Explorer adds improvements borrowed from the top-of-the-line Sport model. Bigger brakes improve stopping distance and towing performance, while an electric-assisted power steering rack gives more responsive handling. Available features include heated second-row seats and adaptive cruise control.

Truck-based SUVs*

  • Best In Class: Toyota Sequoia. From carpooling to heading to the lake with the boat, the Toyota Sequoia can handle all your family’s needs. It seats up to eight, tows up to 7,400 pounds and offers plenty of technology, including a Blu-ray entertainment system.

To search and sort complete data on over 1,000 2014 vehicles, visit Kiplinger.com.  For the 2014 model year, Kiplinger’s categories for Sports Cars and Truck-based SUVs appear only online.

* No new vehicles in this category for the 2014 model year.

Accord hybrid a treat and no tricks at the pump with EPA 50 mpgs

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

BY GERRY MILES

With the current trend of dropping gas prices – let’s hope they continue – customers might enjoy the EPA-rated 50 mpg given to the  2014 Accord Hybrid when it goes on sale nationally Halloween day on Oct. 31.

The Accord carries an MSRP from $29,155 up to $34,905 for the upscale Accord Hybrid Touring model, plus a destination and handling charge of $790.

“With advanced technologies standard on every Accord Hybrid we’ve given customers an incredible combination of fuel efficiency, technology and value,” said John Mendel, executive vice president of sales at American Honda. “The addition of the Accord Hybrid to the lineup will further advance Accord’s position as America’s most popular passenger car with individual buyers.”

Every new 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid is equipped with numerous standard features including Honda’s exclusive LaneWatch™ blind spot display system, a premium feature not even available on any competitive hybrid models.

Additional standard features include:

  • a rearview camera
  • LED daytime running lights (DRL)
  • Expanded View Driver’s Mirror,Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink®
  • USB/iPod® integration
  • Pandora® compatibility
  • SMS text message function
  • dual-zone automatic climate control
  • alloy wheels
  • driver’s seat with 10-way power adjustment
  • 160-watt AM/FM/CD audio system.

The Accord Hybrid EX-L gets  Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) along with leather-trimmed and heated front seats and the HondaLink™ cloud-based media and connectivity system featuring Aha® compatibility. Power driver’s seat memory, front passenger seat with 4-way power adjustment and one-touch moonroof are also standard on the EX-L trim.

The Accord Hybrid Touring adds the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System with voice recognition and FM traffic data, LED headlights with blue tinted chrome bezels, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and hard disk drive (HDD) audio memory.

With EPA fuel-economy ratings1 of 50 mpg city / 45 mpg highway / 47 mpg combined, the 2014 Accord Hybrid is the top rated 4-door sedan in America in the EPA city cycle. Highlighting both form and function, it blends the sophisticated exterior styling and spacious interior packaging of the Accord Sedan with a highly efficient two-motor hybrid system from Honda’s Earth Dreams™ Technology advanced powertrain series.

The 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid is the first Honda hybrid vehicle produced in Ohio, at the company’s Marysville Auto Plant, and joins the Greensburg, Indiana-built Civic Hybrid as the second Honda hybrid model built in the U.S., using domestic and globally sourced parts.

The Accord Hybrid is covered by a 3-year/36,000-mile Limited Vehicle Warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile Powertrain Limited Warranty, and a 5-year/unlimited-mile Corrosion Limited Warranty. The hybrid battery pack is covered by a 8-year/100,000-mile or 10-year/150,000 mile limited warranty, depending on the state of purchase/registration.

2014 Accord Hybrid Pricing:

TRIM MSRP2 EPA Fuel Economy Ratings1(city/highway/combined)
Hybrid $29,155 50/45/47
Hybrid EX-L $31,905 50/45/47
Hybrid Touring $34,905 50/45/47

1Based on 2014 EPA mileage ratings. Use for comparison purposes only. Actual fuel mileage will vary depending on driving conditions, how the vehicle is driven and maintained, lithium-ion battery age/condition, and other factors.

2MSRP excluding tax, license, registration, $790 destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

® The Bluetooth word mark and logos are owned by Bluetooth SIG, Inc., and any use of such marks by Honda Motor Co., Ltd is under license.

® iPod is a registered trademark of Apple, Inc. All rights reserved. iPod not included.

® Pandora, the Pandora logo and other Pandora marks are trademarks or registered trademarks of Pandora Media, Inc. or its subsidiaries worldwide.

Ford lowers mpg figures on C-Max hybrid

Ford C-Max Hybrid

Ford C-Max Hybrid

From Edmunds.com
Earlier today Ford announced that it will reduce the stated fuel-economy rating of its C-Max Hybrid. Edmunds.com has been tracking this story closely ever since consumers on our forums complained late last year that the vehicle does not come close to the advertised 47 mpg.
Edmunds.com Green Car Analyst John O’Dell offers the following take:

“Ford wouldn’t take such a drastic step if it didn’t feel that it was absolutely necessary, even if it’s just a move to protect its image. Edmunds.com’s own testing found that the 47 mpg mark is achievable in the C-Max, but that was under controlled driving conditions. As we all know, our own driving styles rarely reflect the perfect behaviors needed to reach peak fuel economy. Additionally, hybrids perform best in slow, stop-and-go city traffic while for many people the daily drive is spent mostly on the freeways. These are two areas where the disconnect between EPA testing and real-world driving experiences come into play.”
Just last month Edmunds.com worked with KNBC in Los Angeles to test a C-Max Hybrid that one local couple claimed fell far short of its advertised gas mileage, and over the course of a 105-mile loop, Edmunds.com achieved a rate of over 50mpg. Watch more on this test at http://www.nbclosangeles.com/video/#!/on-air/as-seen-on/Hybrid-Owners-Find-Gas-Mileage-Isnt-As-Expected/215939001.
Edmunds.com offers more detail into why real world MPG doesn’t match EPA ratings at http://www.edmunds.com/fuel-economy/heres-why-real-world-mpg-doesnt-match-epa-ratings.html.

Corvette Stingy-ray most fuel efficient sports car with 29 highway MPG?

The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, equipped with the available Z51 Performance Package, is capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, braking from 60 to 0 in 107 feet, and sustaining 1.03 g in cornering.

The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, equipped with the available Z51 Performance Package, is capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, braking from 60 to 0 in 107 feet, and sustaining 1.03 g in cornering.

2014 model unmatched in combo of 455 hp and EPA-estimated 29 mpg highway

BY GERRY MILES

Sure, we’ve heard muscle car owners bragging about who has the faster car off the line, more outright power and how their rig can hang in the corners while others can only spring in a straight line.

When was the last first time you ever heard anyone say my Vette’s better at the pump than yours? Perhaps never, right?

If you’re lucky enough to score a 2014 ‘Vette you just may announce that to someone, and with gas prices climbing (again), it’s not a bad thing now, is it? I didn’t think so.

“The Corvette Stingray establishes the benchmark for modern performance cars by using technologies to deliver more performance and more miles per gallon,” said Tadge Juechter, executive chief engineer for the Corvette. “We expect more and more performance cars will follow Corvette’s example.”

The EPA estimate of 17 city/ 29 highway is for the Vette with the new 7-speed manual transmission with both the default “Tour” mode, which delivers 28 mpg highway, and driver-selectable “Eco” mode, which delivers 30 mpg highway. The Eco mode utilizes  Active Fuel Management, which disables four of the cylinders for improved fuel economy during light engine loads such as cruising along the highway.

For Stingrays with the 6-speed automatic, Active Fuel Management is active in all drive modes until the driver engages the manual-shift mode via the steering-wheel paddles. Epa numbers for the automtic 6-speed aren’t finalized yet.

Further notable economy boasts include an 11-percent increase in highway fuel economy over the previous Vette, while the all-new 6.2L LT1 V-8 delivers 455 horsepower, a 6-percent increase over the previous Corvette. The LT1 delivers 460 horsepower with the available dual-mode exhaust.

By comparison, the Porsche 911 Carrera S delivers 400 horsepower, and an EPA-estimated 27 mpg highway.

For example, the Jaguar F-Type S offers 495 hp and 23 mpg highway while the Audi R8 V10 offers 510 hp and 19 mpg highway.

Sports cars that deliver more than 29 mpg highway based on EPA estimates typically deliver significantly less engine output. For example, the Porsche Cayman offers 30 mpg and 275 hp while the BMW Z4 sDrive28 delivers 34 mpg and 241 hp.

Beyond turbos, what car technology works to boost mpg?

BY GERRY MILES

Do you want to know, in detail, what works to boost or harm fuel economy? Can a turbo really boost power and economy? Does that certain brand name air filter really increase your car’s mpgs?

Sorting it all out is Consumer Reports auto writer Eric Evarts, who provides a look at everything from the reported or purported successes of hybrid cars to boost mileage, whether CVT transmissions are working, and more. Read on and learn!

http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2013/03/beyond-turbos-what-car-technology-works-to-boost-mpg.html

The past few years have shown dramatic fuel economy improvements in all types of cars in our testing. Rather than exotic technology, such as hybrids and vehicle electrification, most of the improvements have come the old-fashioned way: through conventional technologies applied to gasoline engines.

Following our reports on turbocharged engines and hybrids that don’t live up to their fuel economy claims, we decided to take a look at the technologies employed by cars that did show significant fuel-economy improvements in our testing. Among them: direct injection, continuously variable transmissions, conventional automatic transmissions with multiple ratios, and electric power steering. Some models have added more than one of these technologies simultaneously, most typically during redesigns.

We have collected examples with fuel economy data from our tests to illustrate the potential benefits from various technologies, understanding that in some cases, there may be other subtle changes at play. Here’s what we found:

Continuously variable transmissions
CVTs have proliferated in recent years. They boost efficiency by keeping the engine working at its optimum rpm for power and fuel economy at all times. While some CVTs accentuate engine noise obnoxiously, we’ve found that not all of them do. And based on our testing, they can deliver significant improvements in fuel economy and improve acceleration, as well.

The Subaru LegacyOutback, and Impreza, as well as the Nissan Sentra and Versa, and Honda Accordswitched to CVTs with their latest redesigns. Gas mileage improved 3-5 mpg over their predecessors. Acceleration was also quicker in all but the Versa. With the Impreza, the CVT allowed Subaru to use a smaller engine and gain 3 mpg.

More gears
More automakers have recently been introducing conventional automatic transmissions with six, seven, and eight speeds. Two automakers are even reportedly set to introduce models with nine-speed automatics this year.

Looking at the Audi A4, which switched from a six-speed automatic to an eight-speed in 2011, showed a that that change alone boosted fuel economy by almost 14 percent, from 22 mpg to 25 mpg and slightly improved acceleration.

Direct injection
As the name implies, direct injection squirts fuel precisely where it’s needed in each cylinder’s combustion chamber in gasoline and diesel engines, rather than into the cylinder head outside the cylinder. This allows the engine to deliver the same power on less fuel. It’s becoming common in all kinds of cars.

When Toyota added direct injection to the Lexus RX SUV in 2007, gas mileage increased by one mpg, even with a larger engine displacement. Plus, the powertrain upgrade produced significantly quicker acceleration. The same engine swap in the 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid helped boost fuel economy from an impressive 23 mpg for this large, 7-passenger SUV, to an almost sedan-like 27 mpg. The slightly larger, direct-injected engine was the only change in both SUVs.

Combining improvements
Several automakers have boosted fuel economy significantly by combining more than one of these technologies. The new four-cylinder Honda Accord gets an impressive 30 mpg by combining a smooth-and-unobtrusive CVT with direct injection and electric power steering. That figure marks a 20-percent improvement over the old Accord’s respectable 25 mpg.

Several other automakers have combined direct injection with additional gears in their conventional automatic transmissions, including Hyundai, Kia, and Mazda. Mazda even has a name for this combination: It markets cars that use direct injection and the company’s new six-speed automatic (up from five) as SkyActiv models. When Mazda added the SkyActiv powertrain to the Mazda3 for 2012, the combination boosted mileage by 14 percent and improved acceleration.

Kia did the same with the Soul for 2012, gaining 1 mpg and significantly improving acceleration.

Other technologies
Electrically assisted power steering has virtually become the norm in the industry with significant fuel economy improvements. Most often electric power steering systems are introduced with complete redesigns of a vehicle. Thus, they’re typically coupled with other technology improvements.

Looking at new models as technology is introduced can be a little misleading, because other factors can change during a redesign. For example, the new Honda Accord is slightly smaller than the old one, while the current Subaru Outback is significantly taller than the previous model. But we’ve tried to keep examples here as close to equivalent as possible. The Audi A4, Kia Soul, Lexus RX, Mazda3, and Toyota Highlander had no other changes.

The fuel economy improvements are real. According to a University of Michigan study, the average EPA fuel economy of all new vehicles has risen from barely 20 mpg at the end of 2007 to 24.6 mpg in January 2013. But not all technology implementations make the promised gains, underscoring the importance of checking our test findings before buying—especially if hitting a high fuel-economy benchmark is a key motivator.

—Eric Evarts