Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mazda MX-5 Miata: A Little Package Loaded with Fun

The Mazda MX-5, formerly and commonly known as the Miata, is like a guilty pleasure for motorists.
It's nice looking, in hardtop or softtop form, lightweight, agile and so much fun to drive.
It's just not very practical. And if you ever have the misfortune of sharing the exact same space at the same time with a larger vehicle, you more than likely will absorb a pretty damaging blow.
But for sheer enjoyment at an affordable price, the 2009 MX-5 is a winner.
The MX-5 has gotten a few refreshes for this model year, most notably a sound-enhancer system that gives the engine a better growl but doesn't raise the volume. 
Also, the transmission now has a higher top-gear ratio, which improves fuel-economy, and horsepower increases by one notch, to 167.

The exterior design took a few subtle changes and the suspension has been altered a bit for better handling.

But overall, the package is largely the same Miata that many drivers over the years have come to know and love.

It's a car that seems to really appreciate being driven in a spirited fashion.
It is capable of breaking into a sprint with little hesitation, and its 140 pounds-feet of torque might not, on paper, knock your socks off, but on the road, it is quite formidable.

The 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine loves to rev, and as a result, you'll stay busy shifting the manual transmission - up and down. The clutch is quite compliant and the shifter is a piece of cake to use, with its short, quick throws. 

The MX-5's handling is fantastic. Taking it on a twisty road will make you consider, even if ever so briefly, not driving anything else. 

Now mind you, I said briefly, because the ride can get a bit harsh at times, and you'll feel the road a little more than you would in a larger coupe or sedan.

But the overall comfort factor of the MX-5 is good, especially considering how small the car is. 

If you're a tall driver, you will have to do a bit of contortion to get into the car. But once you've taken your seat, it is comfortable enough, especially if you aren't going on a very long drive.

Be warned, though, that headroom is pretty snug. You'll feel like doing a Dino from the Flintstones cartoon - you know, popping your head through the roof.

But as an alternative, just drop the convertible roof, and you'll be more comfortable.

The dashboard is neat and well organized.

But one big-time flaw is where the fuel-door release is, hidden away in a compartment between the two seats.

Come on, Mazda, seriously. 

At least the manual convertible roof was easy to operate. Flip a couple of levers and push the thing down into the area behind the seats, and you're done.

To close, flip another lever and pull the thing back up to the windshield, lock another pair of levers, and you're done.

As mentioned above, the MX-5 is a short car that's short on practicality.

There is a trunk that is big enough for maybe a couple of gym bags, a not-too-deep center console and a glove compartment.

If you want to add some goodies to your MX-5, you can opt for the Grand Touring package, with such amenities as the power hardtop and seven-speaker audio system. 

Additionally, the Suspension Package is available, giving you a sport-tuned suspension, Bilstein shocks and traction control, as well as satellite radio.

There's a Premium Package that adds a few more things.

The MX-5's base price, with the softtop, is a little more than $22,000, with the hardtop starting at a little more than $26,000 and topping out at under $32,000.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Toyota Venza Carries the Family in Style

The 2009 Toyota Venza is one of those vehicles that, a few years ago, would have drawn odd stares and had everyone asking "What in the world is that?"

But with the recent explosion of crossover vehicles and the melding of different vehicle types (SUVs, sedans, wagons, hatchbacks) nobody really much wonders anymore. As long as it has four wheels, people just see it as a vehicle.

The Venza, Toyota says, has the best attributes of the brand's beloved Camry and Avalon sedans, while also injecting a bit of SUV flair - maybe a bit like the Highlander. 

I was surprised how luxurious it is, inside and out, and at its overall refinement. 

With its extended grille, narrowing headlamps, thick wheelwells and slender midsection, the Venza has an appearance that suggests activity and strength. 

On the interior, light colors give an open, airy feeling while a wavy texture on the dash plastic and seat leather adds a bit of artistry. Artificial, handsome Satin Mahogany woodgrain graces the dash and the top of the leather-wrapped shift knob, which angles out of the console, not the floor.

Small triangular windows add visibility to the forward leaning front pillars while hinting ever so slightly at a minivan appearance. Yet the Venza mostly feels carlike inside, and it drives like one, too. The SUV elements are the higher seating position and the rear carrying capacity - a generous 70.1 cubic feet with the second row seats dropped.
Hence, the Venza is quite efficient at carrying things.  You can drop the larger half of the 60/40 split rear seat to accommodate a large object, but still have room for a second-row passenger. The rear load-in height is lower than the Camry's and nearly as low as the Sienna van.

The Venza comes as one model only, but you can choose between two engines and select front- or all-wheel drive, and add options or option packages as you wish.

Our tester had the uplevel 3.5-liter V6, which produces 268 horsepower and 246 pounds-feet of torque to move the two-ton vehicle along easily. The V6 Venza is rated at 18 mpg city, 25 highway with all-wheel drive, or 19 and 26 with front-wheel drive, which our tester had. In mostly highway driving, we averaged about 23 mpg. 

The standard 2.7-liter inline four-cylinder engine puts out 182 horsepower and 182 pounds-feet of torque. This engine improves fuel economy by 2-3 miles-per-gallon while reducing vehicle weight by 110 pounds.

Both engines use a six-speed sequential-shift automatic transmission. It's electronically controlled with intelligence for your driving pleasure.

By using a single-grade strategy with simplified packages and stand-alone options, every Venza is well equipped. On the outside, standard features include fog lamps, privacy glass, and a roof-mounted XM satellite radio antenna.  
The 3.5-liter models get large five-spoke 20-inch wheels, while 2.7-liter models flaunt bold 10-spoke 19s.

Inside, you get dual-zone climate control with second-row vents. Besides the usual power features, there are integrated audio controls on the tilt/telescope steering wheel, as well as cruise control, an overhead console and three 12-volt power outlets.

As a family vehicle, safety is crucial, and the STAR safety system provides plenty of it. You get antilock brakes with Brake-force Distribution, Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control systems. These systems work together to keep the car on the road and moving in the right direction regardless of weather conditions or driver input. The standard Hill Start Assist Control temporarily provides pressure to the brakes while the car's stopped on a hill to prevent rollback. The Venza has seven strategically located airbags, and front passengers get active headrests to help prevent whiplash.

Pricing starts at $25,975 for the two-wheel-drive model with the four-cylinder engine. The tester's MSRP was $29,250, but the sticker price jumped to more than $37,000 with Premium Package #2, a navigation system with upgraded JBL Synthesis 13-speaker sound system, and a couple of other little things. 
That's a little steep, but you get a lot of luxury and versatility.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Camaro SS Beats Hogan's Heroes

We love Hogan's Heroes reruns. We also love great cars. Sometimes, you have to make hard choices. We've done it here. Why? We're gutsy like that.


6) With Hogan's Heroes, you always knew that Hogan and his men would outsmart the Germans and accomplish their mission. Always. 
With the Camaro SS, you never know what kind of response you'll get. Pull into a gas station - people snap photos. Stop at a red light, people give the thumbs up. Walk through the parking lot of the supermarket toward the car - girls scream and ask you to sign their T-shirts and declare their love for you.
Ok, that last one never happened to me. But you get the idea.

5) You never knew why Col. Klink was never relieved of his command at Stalag 13. I mean, come on, even the Detroit Lions, the worst team in football, fire the coach sometimes.
With the Camaro SS, you always know that you can pass pretty much anybody on the freeway, anytime.  Yep, 426 horsepower. That's right, 426.

4) We still love Hogan's Heroes. But maybe it's just the tiniest bit weird to watch it now after seeing "Auto Focus." You know, that movie that came out a few years ago about Bob Crane. Not that we judge; the guy seemed to have a good time, despite his dubious demise. But before seeing that movie, you never really thought about Bob Crane.
You don't have to think much about Bob Crane in the SS. Unless you want to. And if you do, still, you shouldn't judge. 

3)How come the German officers always spoke English, and Hogan and his boys could therefore always understand what they were saying and foil their plans?
The SS speaks the international language of engine roar, and you'll always be able to understand it. And you'll love it. 

2)Nearly every woman that came through Stalag 13 was pretty hot, and most would end up hooking up with Hogan. This is curious because: See reason No. 4 above, and What are the odds that a prisoner always gets access to the babes who visit the war prison, especially considering there probably aren't that many babes who visit war prisons?
 But for an alternative take, I guess you might consider the fact that since the guys were in prison, any woman they saw looked hot. And we saw things through the prisoners' eyes. Ergo, all the women were hot. 
So maybe in driving the SS, every woman you see will be hot. Or will think you're hot. Neither happened for me, but I'm just saying -- not beyond the realm of possibility.

1)War, despite being depicted in a few sitcoms, really isn't that fun, or funny. I have been lucky enough to have not experienced it first hand, and for those who have served in uniform and faced combat, I say I greatly admire your service and bravery. No way I could have done it.
But what is fun is driving the SS. On highways, on country roads, running hot laps in deserted parking lots behind old factory buildings (yep, did that). It's fun. 

2010 Mazda3: Did It Get Even Better?

Can it get any better?

Check out the video:
That's the question Mazda engineers had to ask themselves when they set out to make a followup version of the wildly popular Mazda3 sedan.
I've said in the past that this is one of the finest cars on the market overall, with its great looks, sportiness, exhilarating driving presence and terrific price tag.
So did it get any better?
It very well might have, but if it didn't, you can surely say that it's at least as good as the predecessor model.
The automotive marketplace was first blessed with the Mazda3 in 2004.
It offered great fuel economy, a refined interior quality and a stunning design that vaulted it into the category of luxury car, with a nonluxury sticker price.
For the 2010 version, Mazda rolls out a more aggressive design.
In fact, Mazda's sporty RX-8 coupe seems to be the design inspiration for the new model, which now has front fenders and a smiling shaped grille that are part of the most dramatic departures from the previous model.
Once again, there is the four-door sedan or the five-door hatchback to choose from.
The 3 also comes back with its strut front and multilink rear suspensions, which can be credited, at least in part, with the great ride quality.
Its dimensions are pretty similar, with curb weight up only slightly, to 3,000 pounds, wheelbase and width unchanged, overall length extended by three inches, to 181, and height up by less than an inch.
Thankfully, the stiff chassis still does a superb job of getting rid of rugged road effects, and the ride remains very quiet.
Also, on the inside, not much has changed size-wise, either.
Front seats are adequately roomy, while the rear seats are a little snug for taller passengers.
The new curved dashboard offers a nice presentation of the gauges and is well organized.
You may choose from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 148 horsepower or a new 2.5-liter that generates 167 ponies.
The smaller power plant is in the Mazda3 i and is linked to a five-speed manual transmission, but a five-speed automatic is optional. 
The larger engine is found in the Mazda3 s, and that engine is can also be found in the Mazda6, which is another awesome car.
That engine is linked to a six-speed manual, but a five-speed automatic is optional, and that's what our tester had.
Pricing is still quite reasonable, falling in the bandwidth of about $16,000 - $26,000.
If you are a Mazda fan, and it's hard not to be these days with the brand's outstanding product mix, you can't help    but appreciate the style, driving dynamics and value of something like the 3. 

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lexus Puts a Price Tag on its Hybrid Luxury Sedan

Lexus today announced pricing for its new HS 250h hybrid, which has the best combined EPA mpg rating of any luxury 

vehicle in the U.S.   

The 2010 HS 250h, Lexus’ first dedicated hybrid and the fourth offering in its lineup, is available in 

standard and Premium models.  The standard version will have an MSRP of $34,200, while the Premium 

model will carry an MSRP of $36,970.  They will arrive at dealerships in late August.  The MSRPs do not 

include a delivery, processing and handling fee of $875.   

Both models, which emit 70 percent fewer smog-forming emissions than the average new car, 

received EPA-estimated ratings of 35 mpg city and 34 mpg on the highway for a combined 35 mpg utilizing 

regular 87-octane gasoline . The HS 250h has the best combined EPA mpg rating of any luxury vehicle in 

the U.S. and its MSRP is nearly $10,000 less than one of its entry luxury sedan segment competitors. 

Friday, July 17, 2009

Nissan Cube: Anchovy ice cream or triple fudge cake?

The 2009 Nissan Cube is the most polarizing vehicle we've driven this year, and maybe ever.

On one hand, you had people who gave the thumbs up as we rolled past them, and said stuff like "Cool car," or "That's so neat."

These people were mostly younger folks, who, one might surprise, like a vehicle that could be described as funky.

But on the other hand, there were people who, upon seeing the Cube, looked like they had just tasted anchovy ice cream. "What is that?" they asked with disdain. "Ewww," a few even said.

Well, the Cube is the latest in a new breed of wagonish, small SUVish, tiny minivanish-type vehicles that have hit the market over the past few years, touting their good fuel economy, functionality, reasonable sticker prices and, yes, their unconventional designs.

Some of the others in this lot include the Scion xB, Kia Soul, Mini Cooper Clubman and Honda Element. 

They're supposed to appeal to young, hip, urban people, and in many cases they do. But they also have found a fan base among older folks who appreciate the functionality that doesn't come in as large a package as a bona fide minivan or SUV.

The Cube lives up to its name, with its nearly cubical shape. But Nissan threw in a few far out design details to make it even more distinctive. 

The rear door opens at the side and is hinged on the left; the rear window wraps around the right rear corner and right side of the Cube. 

Some people loved that. Others hated it.

The windows have a frame, and the B pillar on each side draws inward. 

In the front, there are wide-set headlights and plenty of horizontal lines.

There are numerous rounded corners that blend with, or clash with, depending on your perspective, the straight lines. 

The interior has its own individuality, but it's also functional, and whether you like how this car looks or not, you have to give it some major practicality points. 

It's a pretty tall interior, with abundant headroom up front. 

On the dash, you get a pair of scooped shelves, and other rounded shapes. 

But perhaps the most unusual touch was the circular piece of shag carpeting on top of the dash.

I think it was designed to let you put something there like a cell phone or iPod or whatever, but when I tried that out, the items still shifted around and I had to end up fetching them from the corner of the dash, where it meets the windshield. 


The Cube has a 122-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine linked to an Xtronic CVT automatic or six-speed manual transmission. 

Our tester had the manual. 

Gas mileage was good; we got about 31 mpg in mostly highway driving. 

The driving dynamic was actually a bit more spirited than we expected from this type of car. 

Maneuverability was pretty good and acceleration was solid. 

At no point did the engine feel inadequately powered. 

Braking was firm, and you didn't feel like you were riding in a little economy box that jarred you on each bump in the road. 

 The engine is easygoing, and while not library quiet, didn't make you shout over it to be heard by your fellow riders. 

As for comfort, the front seats are supportive and the back seat was quite roomy and had a center armrest. 

It also can be moved forward or back and reclines slightly. 

Cargo capacity is pretty good. The backseats fold down.

You also get little storage areas like door pockets, dash cubbies on both sides of the steering wheel and cup holder.

Visibility is great -- no surprise when you consider the ample greenhouse. The larger corner window helps when parking. 

There is good forward visibility for the driver, too. 

The Cube gives you each of the safety features that come on more expensive wagons, including six airbags -  front side airbags and side-curtain bags for front and rear occupants - and front-seat active head restraints. Add in electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist, all standard.

The Cube has four models: base 1.8, 1.8 S, 1.8 SL, and 1.8 Krōm. 

The base is well-equipped - remote keyless entry, power windows, air conditioning, a trip computer, and a sound system with auxiliary input. The 1.8 S has cruise control, map lights, and a host of upgraded interior appointments, while the 1.8 SL is only offered with the CVT and includes alloy wheels, automatic climate control, and an upgraded sound system with iPod connectivity. 

The Krōm has a roof spoiler, a chrome grille with horizontal bars, bright painted alloy wheels, interior accent lighting, aluminum pedals, and a different front and rear fascia, plus various extras, such as Bluetooth, steering-wheel audio controls, and a Rockford Fosgate subwoofer.

 The only factory option is the SL Preferred, which has push-button ignition, Intelligent Key, fog lamps, rear parking sensors, XM Satellite Radio, an upgrade to Clarion speakers, and the subwoofer.

This category of vehicles loves to tout its customization capability, and the Cube is no exception with more than 40 dealer-installed accessories to customize. 

At $13,990 for the base model, the Cube offers a compelling value. Love it or hate it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Acura Just Keeps Getting It Right: The 2009 RL

Acura just keeps getting it right. 
With its well-known quality, reliability and performance, it remains at the forefront of the luxury market. 


It's new version of the RL sedan shows why. 
The RL has a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 300 horsepower and 271 pounds-feet of torque.
 Fuel economy ratings are 16 city, 22 highway, not bad for a loaded two-ton cruiser.
Acura's styling has become more masculine and angular.
 For 2009, the RL receives new ends on its traditionally proportioned midsection. The jutting, pointed chin, thick chrome blade and eagle eyes give the car a more eager, alert look, although it couldn't be called pretty. At the tail, uplifted trunk and bumper lines create scalpel-sharp flush taillamps. 
The nicely crafted interior gets a thorough reworking. This includes changes like softer armrests and easier to use seatbelts and climate control system. The steering wheel, leather or leather with wood, imparts European style opulence, as does the cascading, thick looking genuine wood trim.
The newest technological goodie on the RL is the Collision Mitigation Braking System. This technology helps prevent crashes by warning you before one occurs so you can act.
Or the car will act for you. 
CMBS uses radar to detect if you're closing in on another car too quickly. It flashes a red warning on the instrument panel and if necessary applies the brakes while tightening up the seatbelts. 
 The system uses the CMBS radar to provide Adaptive Cruise Control. This system goes beyond the usual cruise method - it follows the car in front, and if that car slows down, the system brakes automatically to keep a safe distance. It can apply the throttle, too, so you hope that the driver ahead is paying attention. If it gets serious, the CMBS kicks in, presumably.
There is much more technology to get excited about. Super Handling All-Wheel Drive returns, but has been fine tuned to be even more responsive. It increases wheel spin on the outside rear wheel during aggressive cornering to improve handling and grip. That doesn't mean you can drive like a maniac, of course. 
The RL comes standard with the delightful 10-speaker AcuraBose system.
The big Acura comes in three trim packages. The RL starts at $47,440 with a very long list of standard features, including SH-AWD, the AcuraBose audio system and solar-sensing climate control. 
The RL with Technology Package adds the navigation system, traffic and weather features, cool ventilation to the front seats, and a nicer leather/wood steering wheel. You pay an extra $3,620 for these upgrades. The top model adds CMBS to the Technology Package. And, you get attractive, real wood trim on the dash and doors. This trim package will set you back $54,860.
The RL is fighting for customers in a very competitive area, and some shoppers have ideas about what luxury sport sedans should be and where they should come from. However, if you started with a little Civic, moved up to the family-size Accord and now want those qualities with all the extras, the RL is more than willing to accommodate you.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Nissan announces pricing on 370Z Roadster

Today, Nissan announced pricing for the all-new 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster, which goes on sale in September at Nissan retailers nationwide. 


The 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster is offered in four models.  The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Prices start at $36,970 for the 370Z Roadster 6MT and $38,270 for the 370Z Roadster 7AT.  Also offered are two Touring models, which add a 6CD Bose audio system, XM Satellite Radio (XM subscription required, sold separately), Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System, HomeLink Universal Transceiver, aluminum-trimmed pedals and power leather-appointed heated and cooled ventilated net seats.  The 370Z Touring Roadster 6MT is priced at $40,520 and the $370Z Touring Roadster 7AT is $41,820.


Two option packages are offered (Touring model only): the Sport Package, with 19-inch RAYS forged wheels and Bridgestone Potenza tires, Nissan Sport Brakes, SynchroRev Match (6-speed manual transmission only) and Viscous Limited Slip Differential; and the Navigation Package, with Hard Drive-based Nissan Navigation System, 9.3GB Music Box Hard Drive and USB connectivity.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Dream Realized: Blind Man Behind the Wheel of a Mustang

Here is the followup to the inspiring story of a blind man who is given the opportunity to fulfill his dream of driving a Ford Mustang.

View the video here:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dodge Charger Offers A Bit of Everything

The naysayers and critics of the U.S.  auto industry have to stay silent when it comes to vehicles like the Dodge Charger. The Charger offers a roomy interior and smooth ride. And with big engine upgrades and an available ultra-high-performance SRT8 model, the Charger is a serious alternative to many luxury sports sedans that cost nearly twice as much.
The Charger now comes with a 2.7-liter V6 as its base engine. 
The 3.5-liter V6 and the 5.7-liter V8 are other choices. The latter comes with multi-displacement technology that shuts down four of the eight cylinders when full power is not needed, to slightly improve fuel economy. The high-performance SRT8 is again available this year, and comes with a monster 6.1-liter V8. With 425 horsepower, it muscles its way to a 0-60-mph time under 6 seconds, which is remarkable for such a heavy car.
While a coupe body style would have been a nice nod to the past, you can't beat a sedan with a usable interior and lots of standard features. While competitors like the Honda Accord are reliable and come in performance-oriented trim levels, there is simply no substitute for rear-wheel-drive, V8-powered fun.
The Charger sedan comes in three main trim levels: SE (base), R/T and SRT8. The SE rear-wheel-drive model comes standard with 17-inch steel wheels, cloth seats, a CD player with an auxiliary input jack, a tilt and telescoping steering column and full power accessories. 
It's also available with several optional features. Most notable is the SXT package that offers a more powerful V6 engine, alloy wheels, a power driver seat, a 60/40-split rear seat and a Boston Acoustics audio system.
 Other options for the SE or SXT include 18-inch alloy wheels, heated leather seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable pedals, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, upgraded audio systems, a navigation system and a sunroof.
Charger R/Ts generally have the same equipment as the lower trims but add the V8 engine, leather seating and power adjustable pedals as standard. There are also some R/T-specific packages. The Enhanced R/T Performance Group includes suede-trimmed heated seats, 20-inch chrome wheels, performance-oriented tires and a sport-tuned suspension and steering rack. 
It also features an exhaust system that adds 10 extra horsepower to the V8's performance in the rear-wheel-drive car. The Daytona Package adds to the Enhanced R/T Performance Group by offering unique decals, paint colors and instrument panel customization.
The SRT8 comes standard with special hardware and unique interior and exterior trim to distinguish it as the high-performance model. These include a larger V8, a sport-tuned suspension, 20-inch forged wheels, more powerful brakes and sport seats. 
The SRT is the most well-equipped Charger of the lineup, though features like navigation and the rear entertainment system are still optional. The SRT8 Super Bee special-edition package adds unique graphics and a black/yellow color theme.
The Charger has three engine options. The 2.7-liter V6 produces 190 hp and 190 pounds-feet of torque and comes with a four-speed automatic transmission. The upgraded 3.5-liter V6 is good for 250 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. The 5.7-liter V8 delivers 340 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque, and delivers a 0-60-mph time of approximately 6 seconds. 
It also comes with a multi-displacement system that shuts down four of the eight cylinders when full power is not needed. Both the larger V6 and the V8 come with a standard five-speed automatic transmission. 
The SRT8's 6.1-liter V8 is good for 425 hp and propels the car to a 0-60-mph time in the low 5-second range. A five-speed automatic transmission with a specially calibrated AutoStick automanual mode is standard.
Thanks to the Charger's long wheelbase, the interior is spacious and the backseat is particularly generous. The interior styling is nothing to write home about, but does make the effort to look attractive and sporty with a two-tone color scheme, silver accents and white-faced gauges. 
The SRT8 features red accent stitching and sport seats that hold you snug in the turns.
With some serious torque and rear-wheel-drive power to the pavement, the V8-powered Charger R/T provides great fun for driving enthusiasts who appreciate the extra space. It's also comfortable as a daily driver and for picking the kids up from school. With its precise handling, head-turning color schemes and decals, not to mention that rip-roaring exhaust, the Charger Daytona is a clear winner. For those on a budget, the 3.5-liter V6 is still a decent choice, as it provides adequate power. As for the SRT8, it takes the rear-wheel-drive V8-powered family sedan to a whole new level. 
Who says one car can't be everything to everyone?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Keen on Green: The Honda Insight hybrid

Honda, the defending champion of the fuel economy league, has rolled out its 2010 Insight hybrid.

It is an entirely new vehicle, sharing only the name of Honda's previous Insight hybrid, which was discontinued after 2006.

Like the hybrid-category leading Toyota Prius, the Insight is a dedicated hyrbid vehicle, meaning it has its own styling and comes only as a hybrid.

Toyota has had success drawing affluent, environmentally conscious buyers.

With the Insight, Honda aims for younger, budget-conscious buyers who want to make an environmental statement and reduce fuel consumption.
Honda has built a vehicle that might accomplish this, yet the Insight's buyers will not have to sacrifice good looks - on the inside or out.

The Insight's interior shifts from the small-car mold, with a two-tiered, two-tone instrument panel situated quite far forward to permit a spacious feel for those in front.

Center-stack controls—except for the sound system and nav display—are angled toward the driver, and climate controls are similar to those in the Fit, centered in their own round area just to the right of the steering wheel. And the seats have a nice, meshy fabric that's grippy and comfortable.

In the rear seating area, headroom and legroom are a little snug.

There is an adequate amount of cargo space, but not an abundance, at 15.9 cubic feet.

The Insight has a 1.3-liter VTEC four-cylinder engine, helping it out during acceleration and recharging the battery system during coasting and braking. Altogether, the system produces 123 pounds-feet of torque and 98 horsepower. A start/stop system turns off the gasoline engine to save fuel at stoplights.

Unlike the system in the Prius, the powertrain in the Insight can't start up from a standstill on electric power alone, but it can maintain a 30-mph cruise with solely electric power.
The Insight is rated at 40 mpg city, 43 mpg highway.
The front-wheel-drive Insight is, relative to other hybrids, a joy to drive. There's plenty of torque to take off quickly from stoplights, along with good power for passing. The CVT automatic operates unobtrusively and doesn't hunt around at higher speeds as the Prius's transmission will sometimes do. For those who want to drive the Insight in more spirited fashion, there's a manual mode and steering wheel paddles on the uplevel Insight EX, simulating seven speeds.
Most will be pleased with the way the Insight handles. The Insight doesn't change directions as crisply as the Honda Fit subcompact, but it feels confident in all but the tightest corners, with unexpected poise in high-speed cruising. Brakes are front disc, rear drum but feel up to the task. Ride quality is good despite the short 100-inch wheelbase, and the interior is quiet and civilized except when mashing the throttle to the floor, which causes the engine to become quite raucous.
If optimal fuel economy is important—and it probably is if you're considering the Insight—you should be interested in the fancy display interfaces that come standard on the Insight. Eco Assist helps you reach the best mileage by changing the background color of the speedometer from blue to green as efficiency increases, while a bar indicator displays a thinner bar when you're conserving fuel. Meanwhile, Eco Guide keeps tabs on your daily driving, adding flower petals when you're doing well and accumulating a "lifetime score," if you care to play the game. Just to the left of the steering wheel is an Econ button, which engages fuel-conserving modes for a range of vehicle systems, including how the air conditioning and cruise control operate and how often the gasoline engine is shut off.
The Insight comes in two different trims, and there's a seemingly vast chasm between them in terms of equipment. The Insight LX weighs in at a remarkably low price, but features like cruise control, stability control, and a nav system aren't even optional. The EX model heaps on the extra equipment, including steering-wheel paddle shifters, VSA, cruise control, a 160-watt AM/FM/CD system with MP3 compatibility, a USB interface, aux inputs, and six speakers, plus a center console with armrest, more storage compartments, fog lamps, heated side mirrors, and alloy wheels—albeit at a higher price that's no longer quite a steal. It also adds a center console with an armrest and storage, map pockets, and interior lights. Major options on the EX include a navigation system with a nice, big screen and a Bluetooth hands-free interface.
Our tester, an EX, carried a sticker price of $23,770.

The Insight is an excellent choice for those who are high on hybrid technology but want a low sticker price.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hyundai Protects Buyers From Rising Gas Prices

With gas prices expected to push over $3 per gallon during peak summer travel months, Hyundai Assurance Gas Lock guarantees a year’s worth of gas at $1.49 per gallon on most Hyundai models leased or purchased between July 1 and August 31, 2009. Hyundai Assurance Gas Lock complements Hyundai Assurance and Hyundai’s 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty, and is available with special rebate and financing options on individual models.

 “Hyundai Assurance is a unique platform because it enables us to partner with consumers in ways that address their immediate concerns,” said Joel Ewanick, vice president, Marketing, Hyundai Motor America. “We’ve extended Hyundai Assurance to cover gas prices just as peak summer demand traditionally strains budgets further, guaranteeing most new Hyundai owners a year’s worth of low gas prices. It’s another way we show consumers that, in this downturn, we’re in this together, and we’ll get through it together.”

The average U.S. price for regular-grade gasoline closed at $2.64 per gallon on June 29, 59 cents per gallon higher than its price at the end of April according to the Energy Information Administration. Regular-grade gasoline prices are expected to reach their summer seasonal peak in July, with a monthly average close to $2.70 per gallon, and many local markets over $3.00 per gallon.  Hyundai Assurance Gas Lock enables consumers to save between $1 and $1.50 per gallon at the pump from current gas prices with the purchase of a new Hyundai.

For more information, visit