Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ford Fares Poorly, Japanese Brands Dominate in Consumer Reports Reliability Survey

A high-profile survey of automobile reliability has found that Japanese brands dominate this year's rankings.

The annual Consumer Reports survey had Japaneses brands occupying the top seven spots. Toyota's Scion brand, Toyota and Lexus, Toyota's luxury marque, were the top three. They were followed by Mazda, Subaru, Honda and Acura.

Of Toyota's 27 models, 16 earned the highest rating. The Toyota Prius C hybrid, a car Consumer Reports has criticized for a stiff ride, noisy cabin and cheap-looking interior trim, appears to be well built. It had the magazine's top reliability score overall.

Ford, which as recently as two years ago scored very highly in the survey, ranked next to last this year. The source of Ford's problems, according to Consumer Reports, was the MyFord/MyLincoln Touch electronic entertainment and information system. A Consumer Reports spokesman said the survey received a large number of complaints about the system, citing its difficulty of use and malfunctioning, according to news reports.

The worst brand was Jaguar, which traditionally fares poorly in the survey.
Consumer Reports bases its survey on the responses of vehicle owners who subscribe to the publication and uses the most recent three model years of data, except for models that have been redesigned for the most recent year.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Versatility, Safety Combine Nicely in Honda CR-V

 Honda's CR-V small crossover SUV has been a winner among consumers since hitting the market years ago, and with a redesign for 2012, those winning ways continue.

The exterior design doesn't get a radical makeover, just a freshening up of sorts. The front fascia has a larger grille and headlights, and the rear is more angular and less round, with the rear lights going higher up the tailgate.

The transmission and engine are virtually unchanged, but fuel efficiency is a bit better. The engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes 185 horsepower and is linked to a five-speed automatic transmission. Optional is an all-wheel drive system.

Honda has added an "Econ" button to the dash that can boost fuel efficiency when it is pressed by altering the acceleration response. The result is the CR-V getting 23 mpg city, 31 highway (or 22 and 30 with AWD), 2 mpg better than the previous model.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

2012 Honda Civic's Changes Give It A Sportier Flair

The venerable Honda Civic continues its run as one of the most popular small cars, and for the 2012, the Civic gets a redesign.

The Civic is still recognizable next to its predecessor, but is a bit sportier, thanks to the front fascia's mesh grille and changes to the headlights and taillights.

The Civic Coupe, which we have not yet tested, also picks up the changes that give it an especially sporty look compared with the past version.

If you drive the Si performance version, you'll notice the rear spoiler and front air dam, which enhance that model's sportiness.

No changes were made to the regular Civic's power plant, however, as the 1.8-liter four cylinder that makes 140 horsepower remains. There is a five-speed manual or automatic transmission.

But fuel economy grows because Honda installed fully electric power steering and better aerodynamics. So now, the Civic with the automatic tranny gets 28 mpg city, 39 highway, 3 mpg better than before. 

The Si, the performance model, does receive a larger engine - a 2.4-liter four-banger that makes 201 horsepower.
Honda says it also has introduced a trim called the HF, that aims for even better fuel economy through aerodynamics and specially designed wheels. It gets 29 and 41.

On the inside, the biggest change is how the center console skews more toward the driver now and is a bit larger.
It shows speed of the car and Honda's i-MID information system (on LX models and above), which gives you audio information, Bluetooth and turn-by-turn navigation directions. It can be controlled by steering-wheel mounted buttons.

If you want to further monitor fuel economy, look at the Eco Assist feature, which shows bars changing from blue to green on either side of the speedometer as you drive more fuel economically. And you can depress the "Econ" button to alter the acceleration response and aid fuel efficiency.
Honda's list of safety features for the Civic is solid, such as antilock brakes and an electronic stability system with traction control.

The Civic is still priced affordably, starting at a little over $16,000 and ranging to around $27,000.

With its good fuel economy,sportier looks and nice technology touches, the venerable Civic remains a big fish in the small car pond.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

When to Buy? A Few Tips

Looking to buy a new car, but wondering when the "right" time to do so is?
Here are a few tips that might give you a better shot at getting your best deal.

-- The second half of the year

Dealers are trying to unload the past year's models starting around July and running through October, so if you don't mind not getting the newest of the new, why not lend your dealer a hand and take some of his or her inventory?

-- The end of the month

There usually are a few stubbornly lingering bits of inventory on dealer lots at the end of the month, and the dealers need to move them so that they can meet their targets. This presents a sweet buying opportunity.

-- The beginning and middle of the week

Everybody goes car shopping on weekends, so if you swim upstream a bit by shopping, say, Monday - Thursday, you'll get much more attention from salespeople, who are also then more willing to make deals that are good to you.

-- The end of a model cycle

When automakers are about to unveil a newly redesigned version of one of their models, there is often excitement among buyers. There is also, in some cases, a bit of anxiety on the part of dealers, who must clear out the last units of the outgoing model style. You can relieve them of their worries and their inventory, if you're willing to not have the latest, greatest version of the model.