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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review: 2012 Nissan LEAF SV

The Nissan LEAF is the first all-electric mass produced car. The LEAF was introduced back in 2010 and just recently celebrated its 2nd birthday. Since its release Nissan has sold more than 46,000 LEAFs. I was really excited to get the keys to the LEAF because it was going to be my first time in an electric vehicle. The Nissan LEAF competes against the Chevy Volt and Mitsubishi i-MiEV. There are two LEAF models to choose from, the SV and the SL. My tester was the LEAF SV that came in at $36,220.

Exterior
The Nissan LEAF has been called ugly, hideous, and unattractive but I have to say I love the look of the LEAF. I do not have a problem with quirky designed cars (I drive a JUKE). I think the design of the LEAF is futuristic and perfect for the type of vehicle it is. The LEAF receives standard chrome door handles, 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, and a rear spoiler. Moving up to the SL trim will get you a solar panel rear spoiler and fog lights. My tester's exterior color was Glacier Pearl.

Interior
The LEAF offers a very airy and inviting cabin. Before getting into the LEAF I read a lot of reviews and comments about the quality of materials used. There is a mix of soft-touch materials and hard plastics throughout the cabin. The hard plastics did not bother me because I very rarely came in contact with any of those areas. The seats in the LEAF are comfortable and supportive. For those who are eco-conscious the cloth material used on the seats are made of recycled materials. The rear seats offer plenty of headroom and legroom even with the raised seating position due to the battery pack. The rear seats have a 60/40 split-folding set up which allows for more storage. For a hatchback design the 11.7 cubic foot of cargo room is disappointing. The controls and buttons in the LEAF operated no differently than in any other vehicle. The touchscreen was responsive and did not give me any problems.

Tech
The SV trim of the LEAF comes well equipped for an entry level model. SV buyers get Bluetooth connectivity, SiriusXM satellite radio, push-button start, LED lights, a 6-speaker stereo system, Navigation system with a 7-inch display, and heated front & rear seats. SL trim buyers will gain a rearview camera.

Safety
The LEAF is equipped with front airbags, driver and passenger front side impact airbags, and front and rear roof-mounted side curtain airbags. Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), ABS with Electronic Force Distribution, Tire Pressure Monitoring system, and the LATCH child seat anchoring system are also standard.

Charging
120-volt: 20 hours to fully recharge a depleted battery
240-volt: 8 hours to fully recharge a depleted battery (Standard)
DC "quick": 30 mins to charge the battery to 80%. In order to get this option buyers will have to shell out $700 extra when buying or leasing a LEAF SL.

Behind the Wheel
Under the hood you will find a 80 kW electric motor that produces 107 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. Power from this motor is sent to the front wheels. Once inside of the LEAF I was able to get a comfortable seating position but was annoyed that the steering wheel could only tilt and not telescope. This is for all automakers please make your steering wheels tilt and telescope from now on! I was really interested in using the shifter and thought it was unique and simple to use. Pushing the start buttons turns on the LEAF which emits a chime to let the driver know the vehicle is on. At the beginning of last week it was in the high 60's which allowed me to start off with a range of 106 miles. The starting range dropped to 96 miles towards the end of the week due to the colder weather. The visibility out of the LEAF was really good but I did not like the split A pillar towards the bottom. All of my daily driving is in the city which this car was made for. I did have range anxiety because the last thing I wanted to be was stranded on the side of the road. The feeling of range anxiety did go away the more I drove the LEAF. The battery pack sit under the floor and gives the car a low center of gravity. The low center of gravity allows the LEAF to handle extremely well. While driving the torque was always available when I needed it. This was my first time experiencing regenerative brakes and I adjusted to them in no time. The LEAF's ride is comfortable, smooth, and sporty. Driving the LEAF felt weird because there was no engine noise. I am not a fan of grey colored interiors so I hope that Nissan will have other interior colors for the LEAF in the future. My favorite feature which definitely came in handy during the cold weather was the heated steering wheel.

Overall
My time in the Nissan LEAF was very enjoyable and exciting. I was able to drive the LEAF for a week just on two full charges. The LEAF does have a few setbacks which include price and range. A 2012 Nissan LEAF starts at over $36,000 but there is a tax credit of $7,500. Also next year Nissan will release a less expensive version of the all electric vehicle.  I drive a Nissan JUKE and I thought that it was going to be a huge difference once I started driving the LEAF. While the LEAF is an electric vehicle it drives and behaves like a normal car. The Nissan LEAF is not for everyone and that pretty much goes for every car. I would recommend the LEAF for anyone who does city driving and is looking for a fuel efficient vehicle. Those who are worried about the battery pack should know that it is warranted for 8 years/100,00 miles. There is no doubt the LEAF is expensive but as the technology becomes less expensive the price of electric vehicles will fall. In a few years I could see myself leasing or buying a Nissan LEAF.


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Monday, December 17, 2012

Infiniti's New Naming Strategy

Infiniti vehicles will now begin with Q for the 2014 model year. The first Infiniti model that will wear the new names is the next generation G, which will now be called the Q50. The new Q50 will be unveiled in January at the North American International Auto Show.

Infiniti sedans, coupes, and convertibles will start with Q and end with a 2 digit number. SUVs and crossovers will start with QX and end with a 2 digit number.

The G coupe and convertible will now become the Q60. While the M will now be named the Q70. The EX will take on the QX50 name, and the JX will be named the QX60. The FX will become the QX70, and the super-sized QX56 will be the QX80.

The Green Light: I have to say that I do not agree with this change at ALL! I think this name change is going to be really confusing. If you are going to bring back the Q name then it should only be used for a new flagship sedan. I do not think this name change will change people's views on the Infiniti brand. I think what keeps Infiniti back is its lineup and advertisements. This is such a bad decision! What people at Infiniti thought that this was a good idea? Infiniti's Johan de Nysschen stated "Over the past few months, we have talked at length with our retailers, our customers, and our business partners about our brand". Obviously they did not talk to people with common sense or LOVE for the Infiniti brand. The people that came up with this idea need to be fired! I am a big Infiniti fan and I do not think this is a good idea.

How do you feel about Infiniti's name change?

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

LA Auto Show: 2014 Kia Sorento

The Kia Sorento receives a refresh for the 2014 model year. The Sorento is Kia's second best-selling model right behind the Optima. The Sorento receives a refreshed exterior, interior, and mechanical changes.

The 2014 Kia Sorento will continue to offer two engine choices: 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder. The 2.4L engine produces 191 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. The 4 cylinder engine is standard on the LX and EX trims. The new 3.3L V6 engine produces 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Kia will offer a limited trim for the Sorento. The Sorento Limited will offer three color choices (white, black, or silver), HID headlights, 19 inch chrome wheels, red-painted brake calipers, and Nappa leather seats. The Sorento will be the first Kia model to use a blindspot monitoring system.

The Green Light: While it is not a big departure from the current model I still think that the refreshed Sorento looks good. It will be interesting to see how well the Sorento Limited does.

Do you like the look of the refreshed 2014 Kia Sorento?


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LA Auto Show: 2013 Toyota RAV4

The 2013 Toyota RAV4 was revealed today at the LA Auto Show. I just have to start off by saying that I am really impressed with the exterior and interior designs of the new RAV4. The 2013 RAV4 will come in three trim levels: LE, XLE, and Limited. The RAV4 will still use a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine that now produces 176 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque. This engine will now be paired with a new 6-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy for the RAV4 is 24 city and 31 hwy for front-wheel drive models; all-wheel drive models achieve 22 city and 29 hwy. AWD models now have three drive modes: Auto, Lock, and Sport. In Sport model 50% of power can be sent to the rear wheels.

Standard options include Bluetooth connectivity, 6.1 inch  display, backup camera, and steering wheel audio controls. Toyota has decided to drop the V6 engine as well as the 3rd row option. The 2013 Toyota RAV4 will go on sale in the Spring of 2013.

The Green Light: I have never been a huge fan of Toyota's car designs but the RAV4 certainly has me interested. I think I am more excited about the interior of the RAV4 than the exterior. Just on looks alone I have to give Toyota credit for creating a vehicle that isn't so bland!

What are your thoughts on the design of the 2013 Toyota RAV4?


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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Interview: Suzuki Files for Chapter 11

I recently interviewed Tim Healey, Senior Writer for Web2Carz.com. Tim became a freelance automotive journalist, contributing to High Gear Media, The Detroit Bureau, Autoguide.com, About.com, ChicagoNow.com, and other sites. As a writer for Web2Carz.com, Tim writes about the auto industry, reviews cars, and covers major auto shows.

American Suzuki Motor Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and will stop selling cars. Suzuki will only focus on manufacturing motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, and marine equipment.

Were you surprised by the bankruptcy decision?

I am not surprised by Suzuki's decision to file for bankruptcy. But I am surprised about the timing. I thought that Mitsubishi would be first out of the two to exit the United States. I figured that with the automotive market picking up in the States, Suzuki would benefit from it.


What went wrong at Suzuki?

I think a number of things went wrong. The first being the strong Yen. The big Japanese brands, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan are able to deal with those added costs. Suzuki does not have a big presence here so they are impacted by the value of the Yen more than the other Japanese brands. Another issue was that consumer liability wasn't up to par compared to the competition.  Suzuki did not commit to their products as they should have. Their vehicles got pretty stale and fell to the back of their classes. The advertising campaigns for their vehicles wasn't as strong either. Marketing was an issue that was not dealt with very well at the company. Most people did not know that Suzuki still made vehicles.

How did you feel about Suzuki's model lineup?

Driving wise the SX4 was really good. The Kizashi was the best product in the lineup because of its design and fun to drive nature. But the entire lineup suffered from bad interior quality. I would say their vehicles offered a decent value proposition but not a great value. I feel that even if Suzuki wasn't building a lot of cars they could have focused on building good cars. Subaru is a prime example of a smaller Japanese automaker that doesn't build as many cars as Toyota, Honda, or Nissan but they build great vehicles. By building good quality cars Subaru is setting sales records.


What are your thoughts on the Suzuki Kizashi & Swift?

I think in terms of enthusiast buyers the Swift could have been a huge hit. I doubt that it would have caught on with mainstream buyers but it is hard to say. The Kizashi is a great vehicle that many consumers really didn't care about. I think some people just did not care that it was fun to drive. Those buyers were more into interior space and fuel economy. The Kizashi was classified as a midsize sedan but was smaller than the competition.    The Swift could have been a missed opportunity for the brand. The Kizashi just suffered from the lack of advertising.


What will happen with the current dealer network?

Suzuki is going to continue honoring warranties through the bankruptcy. Many of those dealerships already exist to service other Suzuki products. Some people will definitely lose jobs. But I don't see it having a huge impact on the market. This cannot be viewed in the same way of Chrysler's bankruptcy process in which many dealerships closed.

Did the partnership with Volkswagen have an impact on Suzuki?

I think that the partnership between these two could have worked out well for Suzuki. They could have been able to cut costs on future vehicles and products. something that could have done well to them. I'm still not a 100% if the partnership would have kept them from filing for bankruptcy in the U.S.

Will Mitsubishi be next?

Their marketing is just as bad as Suzuki's. It has some name recognition but not enough to win over many buyers. There is a small percentage of enthusiasts who enjoy the Evo. I do think that their product line needs a major overhaul. Pricing is a big issue that Mitsubishi needs to address. It is evident that they are at a crossroads. Mitsubishi needs to put some effort into their products. They will have a fight on their hands if they are serious about staying in the U.S. market.

Is it smart that Mitsubishi wants to solely focus on EV vehicles?

It might be the short term solution. I think they are better off revamping their lineup. I think they made a mistake with the MiEV. It doesn't get quite the same range and build quality as the Nissan Leaf. Overall the Leaf is a much better product. I think Mitsubishi made a huge mistake axing the Eclipse from their lineup. That car had a huge following and Mitsubishi just did not give it the attention it deserved.


I want to thank Amanda Batista for setting up this interview. I also want to thank Tim Healey for taking the time to answer my questions and chat with me about the auto industry. Be sure to check out Web2carz.com.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Nissan Titan Off-Road

Chad Hord rises from the mud in the TORC Off-Road Series at the Crandon International Raceway.




Do you wish you could have been the one behind the wheel?


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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: 2013 Kia Soul Base

The 2013 Kia Soul is in a category of it's own. I have been a fan of the Soul since it was first introduced. The 2013 Kia Soul competes against the Nissan Cube, Scion xB, and just about every other sub-compact car on the market. The Soul comes in three models: Base, Soul+, and Soul!. I was finally happy to get the keys to the hot selling Kia Soul. My tester was a Kia Soul Base Automatic that had a price tag of $18,085.

Exterior
The exterior of the Soul is definitely different than any other vehicle out there. The Soul did get a lot of looks from curious onlookers. There were a few exterior changes to the front and rear of the Soul to give it a cleaner look. I really like the addition of LED lights which makes the Soul standout even more. My tester's exterior color was Moss.

Interior
At this price range and for a base model, I think the interior is really nice. Anyone who is familiar with Kia's latest interiors will not be disappointed. There is a mix of good quality materials and hard texurized plastics throughout the cabin. The seats in the Soul are firm but comfortable. At 5'9" I had enough legroom and headroom in the backseats. From the position of the driver's seat the knobs and buttons were easy to reach. I was happy that Kia gave the Soul a tilt and telescoping steering wheel because I hate steering wheels that only tilt. When I first got in the Soul I was looking for the power buttons to move the side-view mirrors and realized they are manually adjusted (I'm so used to power everything).

Tech
My Soul came with an auxiliary audio input, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, A/C, key-less entry, and steering wheel audio controls. If you're looking for more technology then you will have to step up to a Soul+ or Soul!.

Safety
The Soul's safety features include a Tire-Pressure Monitoring System, Side-Impact Door Beams, and 4-Wheel Anti-Lock Brakes. Other features include Child Safety Locks, Front Seat-Belt Pretensioners, Full-Length Side Curtain Airbags, and Lower Anchors & Tethers for Children (LATCH), Downhill Brake Control & Hill Assist Control, Traction Control System, and Electronic Brake-Force Distribution.

Behind the Wheel
The 2013 Kia Soul is powered by either a 1.6L 4-cylinder engine or a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine. The 1.6L engine produces 138 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque. The 2.0L engine produces 164 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. You can only get a manual transmission on the base model, all other Souls can be paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels.  I spent majority of my time in the Soul driving around the city which I assume most people with Souls will be doing. Kia's are known for their firm suspensions but I could not sense that in the Soul. The 1.6L engine produces adequate power but I would probably go for the bigger 2.0L engine. I found the Soul to be more lively when the transmission is manually shifted. The Soul has 19.3 cu.ft of storage in the back. My time spent in the Soul I averaged about 23 mpg around town.

Overall
The Kia Soul is a great vehicle for people who want something small and good on gas. This vehicle is for the buyer who likes to standout from the rest of the crowd. I am always a fan of quirky vehicles (I drive a Nissan Juke) because they offer styling that is far from boring. I didn't really have many complaints about the Soul. At this price range I felt the Soul offers a lot for the money.  The base Kia Soul starts at $14,400 and achieves 27 city and 35 hwy (1.6L), 26 city and 34 hwy (2.0L). I can see why the Soul has been so successful for Kia. The Soul is now on my list of favorite vehicles. If you are in the Eastern Carolina area please stop by and visit the wonderful people at Lee Kia of Greenville to check out the '13 Kia Soul.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Review: 2013 Kia Optima SX-Limited

The Kia Optima has to be one of the best looking sedans in it's class. New for 2013 is the Optima SX-Limited. The 2013 Kia Optima competes against the Nissan Atima, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Toyota Camry, Dodge Avenger, Honda Accord, Chevy Malibu, VW Passat, and Chrysler 200. The Optima comes in 5 models: LX, EX, SX, SXL, and Hybrid. The last time I reviewed the Optima was back in 2011 which was the LX model. This go around my tester was a top of the line Optima SXL that had a price tag of $36,500.


Exterior
The Optima has a very premium look to it. Many people were amazed that the car I was driving was a Kia. The exterior of the Optima is still refreshing to look at. The addition of LED lights makes the Optima standout even more, along with the red brake calipers. My tester's exterior color was Titanium Metallic.

Interior
The interior of the '13 Kia Optima SXL is very luxurious. The SXL's interior is my favorite out of the midsize sedan category. There is a mix of soft-touch and good quality materials throughout the cabin. The stitching on the dashboard and doors is a nice touch. I really fell in love with the Nappa leather seats. The seats in the Optima are firm but comfortable. There is more than enough legroom and headroom in the backseats. I love that Kia decided to tilt the center console towards the driver. I found it easier to reach the touchscreen, knobs, and buttons. The steering wheel definitely gets 2 thumbs up from me. I am a big fan of paddle shifters but I wish Kia would have put them on the steering wheel column instead of on the steering wheel.

Tech
My Optima SXL tester came with Navigation, Bluetooth audio streaming, backup camera, Sirius satellite radio, heated and cooled front seats, powered seats, memory driver's seat, remote power start, an electronic parking brake, and a Infinity sound system. The large touchscreen was responsive and worked well. It is still hot here in North Carolina so I did have on the cooled ventilated driver's seat.

Safety
The Optima's safety features include a Tire-Pressure Monitoring System, Side-Impact Door Beams, and 4-Wheel Anti-Lock Brakes. Other features include Dual Front Advanced Airbags, Front Seat-Belt Pretensioners, Full-Length Side Curtain Airbags, Lower Anchors & Tethers for Children (LATCH), Front & Rear Crumple Zones, and Electronic Brake-Force Distribution.

Behind the Wheel
The 2013 Optima is powered by either a 2.4L 4-cylinder engine or a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine. The 2.4L engine produces 200 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. The 2.0L engine produces 274 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. My tester was powered by the 2.0L engine which is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The Optima rode really well on the streets and roads here in North Carolina. I am not a fan of the steering in Kia vehicles but for some reason I thought the steering in the SXL was better. The 2.0L engine had more than enough power which made it easy to zoom in and out of traffic. The brakes used in the SXL trim were really good but I would have to drive the other Optima trim levels to really see the difference. I had no problem with the Optima's firm suspension but I'm sure if I was back on NYC roads my thoughts would be different. Majority of my time behind the wheel I used the paddle shifters which allowed me to be more connected to the Optima. The Optima has a huge trunk that can fit about 15.4 cu. ft of items in it. My time spent in the Optima SXL I averaged about 20 mpg combined.

Overall
The Kia Optima is a great choice in the midsize sedan category. This vehicle is for someone who wants to be seen in a car that is stylish and not a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. I didn't really have many complaints about the Optima other than the paddle shifters position. When I first found out about the Optima SX-Limited I was concerned about the high price tag. I wasn't sure if people would be willing to shell out that kind of money on a midsize sedan. For that price tag buyers could get in a Hyundai Azera, Ford Taurus, Nissan Maxima, Chevy Impala, or Toyota Avalon. I think the sales of the SXL have proved me wrong about what people are willing to pay for. The base Kia Optima starts at $21,200 and achieves 24 city and 35 hwy. The SXL achieves 22 city and 34 hwy. If you are in the Eastern Carolina area please stop by and visit the wonderful people at Lee Kia of Greenville to check out the '13 Kia Optima SXL.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

MINI USA's "Not Normal" Test Drives

As part of their Motor-Tober celebration, MINI USA has surprised several unsuspecting test drivers with some left-field antics, and they've caught it all on video.

Watch as unsuspecting test driver is visited by a knight mounted on a majestic steed. The other video, a particularly well-trained dancing bear emerges from the rear of a MINI Countryman. Here are the links to the videos on YouTube:

MINI NOT NORMAL PRANKS: GIRL AND KNIGHT -



MINI NOT NORMAL PRANKS: BEAR -



For more info, or to find a NOT NORMAL SALES EVENT near you, visit MINIUSA.COM


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Friday, October 19, 2012

Review: 2013 Kia Sportage LX

I remember when I first saw the redesigned Kia Sportage back in 2010. I was interning at Nissan in Tennessee and my jaw drop after seeing a red Sportage. I could not believe that it was a Kia and that it looked that good. Two years later and the Sportage is still a good looking vehicle. The 2013 Kia Sportage competes against the Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tuscon, Toyota Rav4, Honda CR-V, and Chevy Equinox. The Sportage comes in 4 models: Base, LX, EX, and SX. My tester was a Sportage LX FWD that had a price tag of $24,495.

Exterior
The 2013 Sportage is definitely a looker. The Sportage is probably the second best looking Kia after the Optima. The looks of the Sportage and Sorrento are very different which I think was a good idea. The addition of LED lights adds to the premium look of the Sportage. My tester's exterior color was Clean White. I just love vehicles in white.

Interior
The interior of the '13 Kia Sportage is a nice place to be. I wouldn't say the Sportage's interior is at the top of the class but it is surely not at the bottom. There is a lot of hard textured plastics throughout the cabin but there is soft touch and padded materials where it matters. The seats in the Sportage were firm but comfortable. The driver will have more than enough room upfront. The backseats offer a lot of legroom and headroom. I found the buttons and knobs to be of good quality and easy to reach from the driver's seat. The touchscreen is a little on the small side for me. My only real problem with the interior was the steering wheel. It was a little to hard for my liking. I would probably pay extra for a leather wrapped steering wheel.

Tech
My tester came with the convenience package which brought along Kia's UVO system and backup camera. There was also Bluetooth connectivity which is very important to me. I really like the UVO system. I thought that it worked well and was easy to use.

Safety
The Sportage's safety features include a Tire-Pressure Monitoring System, Side-Impact Door Beams, and 4-Wheel Anti-Lock Brakes. Other features include Dual Front Advanced Airbags, Front Seat-Belt Pretensioners, Full-Length Side Curtain Airbags, and Lower Anchors & Tethers for Children (LATCH), Downhill Brake Control & Hill Assist Control, Traction Control System, and Electronic Brake-Force Distribution.

Behind the Wheel
The 2013 Sportage is powered by either a 2.4L 4-cylinder engine or a 2.0L Turbocharged DOHC 4-cylinder engine. The 2.4L engine makes 176 hp and 168 lb-ft of torque. The 2.0L engine makes 260 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. My tester came equipped with the 2.4L engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The base model Sportage comes standard with a 6-speed manual. All other models are paired with a 6-speed automatic. The Sportage sits higher than some of the competition, so make sure that is not a problem for you. Driving around town I found that the 2.4L engine produces more than enough power. The suspension is on the firm side which wasn't a problem for me. The steering is a bit vague but the average person would not notice. I decided to take the Sportage on small roads, busy streets, and the shopping mall parking lot. I felt that the Sportage handled really well, it didn't feel bigger than it is. I was able to move in and out of spaces and lanes easily without any problems. The Sportage has 26.1 cu. ft of cargo room with the seats up and with the seats down has more than 54 cu. ft of cargo room.

Overall
I think that the 2013 Kia Sportage is a great crossover for a young family or for someone who wants to start off with a small crossover. If you're a buyer who doesn't want to be seen in a Toyota Rav4 or Honda CR-V then the Sportage is definitely worth a look. I know that I had a few issues with the Sportage but I do believe Kia to address those problems with the redesign. The little problems I had most people will not even notice. Kia is doing an amazing job with offering quality products with good value. The base model Sportage starts at $19,000 and achieves 22 city and 32 hwy.  If you are in the Eastern Carolina area please stop by and visit the wonderful people at Lee Kia of Greenville to check out the Sportage.

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Review: 2013 Kia Rio 5-door EX Eco

I have never been a fan of sub-compact cars until now. The 2013 Kia Rio EX has surely changed my mind about sub-compacts. The '13 Rio competes against the Nissan Versa, Hyundai Accent, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta, and Chevy Sonic. There are three Rio 5-door models to choose from, LX, EX, and SX. My tester was a Rio 5-door EX Eco that came in at $19, 465.


Exterior
The 2013 Rio 5-door to me is the best looking car in it's class. The Kia designers have done an amazing job at crafting attractive vehicles. The Kia Rio definitely resembles and falls in-line with the rest of the Kia family. I showed some of my family members the Rio and they thought it was a very good looking car. My tester's exterior color was Platinum Silver.

Interior
The interior of the '13 Rio 5-door really shocked me. I wasn't expecting the interior to be as nice as it is. There is a mix of soft touch materials and hard plastics throughout the cabin. I found the seats in the Rio to be firm but comfortable. My uncle who is 6'2" got in the driver's seat and said it was spacious enough for him. The backseats offered plenty of legroom and headroom. The buttons and knobs are easy to reach from the driver's seat. My tester came with a leather wrapped steering wheel.

Tech
My tester came with the convenience package which brought along Kia's UVO system and backup camera. There was also Bluetooth connectivity which is very important to me. I really like the UVO system. I thought that it worked well and was easy to use. I really appreciated the Rio's power folding outside mirrors.

Safety
The Rio 5-door safety features include a Tire-Pressure Monitoring System, Side-Impact Door Beams, and 4-Wheel Anti-Lock Brakes. Other features include Dual Front Advanced Airbags, Front Seat-Belt Pretensioners, Full-Length Side Curtain Airbags, and Lower Anchors & Tethers for Children (LATCH).

Behind the Wheel
The '13 Rio 5-door is powered by a 1.6L GDI 4-cylinder engine producing 138 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque. My tester's engine was mated to an Electronically Controlled 6-Speed Automatic transmission. I thought that the 6-speed automatic worked well with the engine. While driving around I kept the Rio in driver but once I got on twisty roads I preferred to manually shift the Rio. The Rio is by no means a sporty car but I did have a little fun while driving. The power from the engine moved the Rio smoothly. The city that I live in here in North Carolina has really smooth streets so the Rio didn't experience any rough roads or potholes. While driving I didn't even realize that my tester came with the Idle Stop and Go System. It was not until I looked down and seen the Idle Stop and Go Icon. From most reviews I've watched and read, the reviewers thought the system worked really well. I really liked the Stop and Go system and at no time did I turn it off. The Rio 5-door with the seats up has 15 cu. ft of storage and with the seats down has 49.8 cu. ft of storage.

Overall
I really enjoyed my time behind the wheel of the 2013 Kia Rio 5-door. I think that the Rio is a great city car and people should definitely take a look at it. With the high prices of gas this is a vehicle that should be at the top of buyer's lists. One thing that makes the Rio a winner is the overall value. When I was telling my family about the price of the vehicle and the features it came with, they were all surprised. They could not believe all the features that came with it at the price. By the way one of those people who was surprised was my grandmother who drives an Infiniti EX35. I can do nothing else but recommend this vehicle! A base Rio 5-door starts at $13,800 and delivers 30 city and 40 hwy.  If you are in the Eastern Carolina area please stop by and visit the wonderful people at Lee Kia of Greenville to check out the Rio 5-door.

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Monday, October 8, 2012

VW Values: A Day in the Life of Five Unique Owners

The series, VW Values, focuses on a triathlete, a professional skydiver, a sculptor, a chef and an environmentalist. These five owners share a day in their life and how their VWs serves them.

Volkswagen wanted to know: Why VW? The auto giant collected owners' stories, and made videos out of the five owners' experiences. Each video highlights a brand value: performance, design, quality, environment and safety. Check out two of the videos focusing on Performance and Safety:

  • Training with Andy, a VW film about Performance: Andy, a triathlete and VW GTI owner, helps train and guide physically challenged athletes. Watch Andy's story to find out how he guides his athletes to perform at a higher level, and how his GTI fits into his life: http://why.vw.com/values#performance
  • Jumping with Claudia, a VW film about Safety: Safety and protection are key when jumping out of planes- as a professional skydiver, Claudia knows this first hand. That's why she drives a VW- safety should be given, not a last minute decision: http://why.vw.com/values#safety

Watch all of the videos and share your own story here- from time to time, Volkswagen will reward the most popular stories with special perks: http://why.vw.com/values



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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Interview: Generational Differences Among Car Buyers

I recently interviewed Jeff Campana who is Sr. Vice President of GfK Automotive. Jeff has more than 26 years' experience in automotive marketing research and consulting. Before joining GfK in 1997 he spent 10 years at General Motors. GfK Automotive conducts research for the global automotive industry.

"New GfK research shows that Generations X & Y represent 63% of new vehicle "intenders"- those who plan to buy a car in the next 12 months"

"Exciting" is #7 for Gen Y, versus #21 for Boomers; and "Technologically Advanced Features" ranks at #12 for Gen Y compared to #22 for Boomers"

"Looking just at small cars, the GfK study found that 29% of Gen Y consumers are small car intenders, versus 19% of Generation X and 19% of Baby Boomers.

My interview with Jeff Campana focused on generational differences among car buyers. Check out the interview below:

When it comes to car buying what differentiates Gen X & Y from Baby Boomers?

What we saw is that Gen X & Y are still interested in buying cars. Just like Baby Boomers they still want quality and value. We thought they placed a higher priority on safety and technology, not on price. Gen X & Y want to have those technology devices in their vehicles. Another interesting thing we saw despite fuel prices over the past two years their demand isn't just based on fuel economy.


Why do you think interest in small cars has increased across the board?

It is not a bare bones car. Based off of our research the compact car segment demand is strong. Gen X & Y felt subcompacts were not acceptable to them. The compact car segment is a decent size and good compromise for them. They are not trying to go for the small and cheapest car but something that is in their price range.


It's obvious that technology in vehicles are important to Gen X & Y. But does the price of these added features turn away the buyers?

You have to be careful. They still have a price point they want to hit. Car companies need to offer technology innovations at reasonable prices. What we see is that Gen X & Y buyers like to have the latest technology in their vehicles. Luxury car buyers want the new technology because of status. For Gen X & Y buyers, the benefit has to be clear to them. These buyers are not car people. These Gen X & Y buyers are not hardcore car enthusiast. It is important to have technology that is easy to understand.


What vehicles are attracting Gen Y and X? Midsize sedans? Crossovers?

What we see in our data is that the midsize sedan category is the largest segment. When you look at Gen X and Y it is still a segment that is of high demand. Gen X has an interest in both the compact and midsize sedan categories. The midsize sedan category for Gen Y is the number two segment of interest for them. It is a case bsaed on the price point trade off. Gen X has more of an interest in crossovers than Gen Y. The crossover segment is the number three segment right now. We've seen that buyers who look at small cars also look at small crossovers.


Is driving as important to Gen X & Y as it was to Baby Boomers?

I've seen a lot of articles about whether driving a car is important to younger people. Those buyers are interested in fun to drive and exciting vehicles. The demise of the car among young people is misstated. It is still subject to debate about whether or not cars are as important as they once were. We've asked people to prioritize purchases, and noticed that cell phones and computers are rated more important than cars. But cars are still important to young people.


Based off of car sales I would say that younger car shoppers are focused on excellent gas mileage. Is this true?

We do see that people are looking at fuel economy. A lot of manufacturers are offering better fuel economy. A lot of people are gravitated towards those vehicles. Once people focus in on which segment they want to buy in the reason for buying a car is economic rather than environmental. The movement for hybrids was based more on pocket book issues. I think manufacturers are being smart about producing higher fuel efficient vehicles.

What are your thoughts on the semi-luxury category? Acura ILX & Buick Verano?

I am glad you asked that question. We do see interest in that market around younger people. If manufacturers move down to a lower price point do people still feel it is true to the brand? Some of the luxury manufacturers are bringing the cars they build in Europe over here. In order for Gen X & Y to pay that higher price they have to believe that it is true to the luxury brand name. If I pay more for a luxury brand it has to be a better overall car compared to the non-luxury brand. Buyers ask "Is it the same thing I can get with a midsize car?", "In terms of performance and quality of materials does it still feel like a luxury car to me?". Gen X seems to have more of an interest in luxury cars.

Is having AWD a factor when it comes to buying a car among Gen X & Y?

These buyers are not big car enthusiasts. Is it something that is important? To be honest we haven't really seen it as a purchase motivator. AWD techonology is offered and. It might appeal to them. There is a big price step-up that some people aren't willing to make that trade-off. For most manufacturers its been a huge price difference compared to a non-AWD model. The price of choosing AWD has to come for it to catch on with Gen X & Y. If the AWD trend continues from the higher segments to the smaller segments it would help create demand for cheaper systems. I agree that there is a performance aspect to choosing a vehicle with AWD. But fuel economy has the biggest impact on whether a person buys a vehicle with an AWD system. Having AWD does affect the car a lot in terms of fuel conomy, weight, and handling. Subaru has done an excellent job at offering vehicles with AWD systems at a reasonable price and that have good fuel economy.

I want to thank David Stanton for setting up this interview. I also want to thank Jeff Campana for taking the time to answer my questions and chat with me about the auto industry.


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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2013 Ford Fusion Lineup MPG Figures

Ford has announced that the 2013 Fusion Hybrid will have an mpg of 47 in the city and 47 on the highway. The Fusion Hybrid will use a 2.0L inline-four engine producing 141 hp and a electric motor producing 118 hp. Fusion's equipped with the 2.5L inline-four producing 175 hp will return 22 city and 34 hwy. Customers that opt for the 1.6L EcoBoost turbo four producing 178 hp will return 25 city and 37 hwy. The big 2.0L EcoBoost turbo-four producing 240 hp will return 22 city and 33 hwy. The 2013 Ford Fusion starts at $22,495 and will be available this fall.

The Green Light: Ford has really done a great job with the new Fusion so far. The new Ford Fusion has to be one of the best looking midsize sedans and with it's impressive fuel economy I'm sure it will sell well. The biggest achievement for the Fusion is the Hybrid model which returns 47c/47hwy. These mpg figures definitely beat out the current competitions Hybrid models. I can't wait for the figures of the new Honda Accord Hybrid and Nissan Altima Hybrid to see how well they stack up to the new Ford Fusion Hybrid. Overall I think that midsize sedan market is more competitive than it has ever been. Ford has a hit on it's hands with the new Ford Fusion.


Are you more compelled to buy a Ford Fusion over the competition?

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Early Reveal: 2013 Mazda CX-9

Mazda's "smiley face" design is finally leaving it's current lineup! The 7 passenger seat CX-9 now receives the new KODO design. The '13 Mazda CX-9 will makes it debut at the Australian International Motor Show next month. The only detail released about the new CX-9 is that the 3.7 V6 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission will be carried over. More details should be released when the '13 CX-9 is revealed in October.

The Green Light: I think that Mazda is doing a great job with their new designs. The 2013 CX-9 is beautiful and to me is one of the best looking 7 seat CUVs. The front of the CX-9 looks very similar to it's siblings the CX-5 and Mazda6. The side profile of the vehicle reminds me of the current CX-9 as well as the Infiniti JX35. I definitely get a luxury feel from the new CX-9 which is not a bad thing. While the exterior is quite attractive I want to see what the interior looks like. Mazda is slowly becoming one of my favorite automakers when it comes to designs.

Do you like the look of the 2013 Mazda CX-9?

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Nissan Innovation Garage



 The Nissan Innovation Garage, is a unique opportunity that invites people to submit innovative ideas for a chance to win a $50,000 grant, a 2013 Altima, and help unleashing their winning ideas on Kickstarter. Check out the introductory video:





Here’s how the Nissan Innovation Garage works:

  • Visit the Innovation Garage microsite at nissaninnovationgarage.com and finish the statement, "Wouldn't it be cool if..." The microsite provides an immersive experience that uses Facebook Connect to pull information from your profile, including photos, to generate a custom video that re-imagines what the world would be like if you were behind the greatest innovation ever.

  • Two innovators' submissions will be chosen by Nissan's panel of engineers for a $50,000 grant, a 2013 Altima, and help unleashing their winning ideas on Kickstarter, the world's largest funding platform for creative projects. Winners will also be featured on The Daily Brink, an online publication that showcases innovative minds with uncommon drive and passion. The fan favorite entry (decided by votes) also wins a new 2013 Altima, Nissan's most innovative Altima yet. 

  • Nissan is a company of innovators who want to facilitate further innovation in all categories, not just automotive. Through the Innovation Garage, Nissan is embracing the idea that everyone is an innovator, they just need the right tool to take their everyday idea and run with it. 
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Monday, September 10, 2012

2013 Honda Accord

The Honda Accord has been "redesigned" for the 2013 model year. The 2013 Honda Accord receives an updated design, new set of transmissions, and engine choices. The 2013 Accord competes against the redesigned Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata, VW Passat, Chrysler 200, Dodge Avenger, and the soon to be released Ford Fusion and Mazda6.

Two engines are offered on this generation Accord: a direct-injection 2.4L I-4 and a 3.5L V6. The 2.4L I-4 makes 189 hp and is mated to a 6-speed manual or CVT. The 3.5L V6 makes 278 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The 2.4L engine when mated to a manual achieves 24 mpg city and 34 hwy. The same engine when mated to the new CVT achieves 27 city and 36 hwy. The 3.5L V6 engine achieves 21 city and 34 hwy with the 6-speed automatic.

The 2013 Honda Accord will come in many variations to satisfy buyer's needs. Those variations include a sedan, coupe, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid. The base model Accord starts at $22,470, including a $790 destination charge. Buyers who want the V6 engine will have to shell out $30,860. The 2013 Accord sedan will go on sale later this month while the coupe will go on sale in October.

The Green Light: I will say that I am not a fan of the new design, I really expected to see something revolutionary. While this generation model to me is bland, it does look better than the outgoing model. I can definitely see styling cues from the last generation Acura TL. The last Honda Accord I was in was a 2005 model which I really enjoyed. I am used to CVT transmissions so it doesn't bother me that Honda has decided to use one. I really want to get behind the wheel of one to see how well it competes against Nissan's new Xtronic CVT transmission.

How do you feel about the 2013 Honda Accord?

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Friday, August 31, 2012

Revealed: 2013 Nissan Sentra

Today Nissan revealed the next generation Sentra. The 2013 Nissan Sentra now follows the design elements of the new Altima and Pathfinder. The exterior of the new Sentra is more upscale and luxurious than the outgoing model. The Sentra's headlights now come standard with LED running lights. Also standard are a 60/40 split rear seats, keyless entry, power windows, and a tilt & telescoping steering wheel. Options include NissanConnect, 8 speaker Bose audio system, backup camera, and Bluetooth connectivity. The Sentra competes against the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla, Kia Forte, Mazda3, and Ford Focus.

Nissan managed to make the '13 Sentra 150 lbs lighter than the outgoing model. Powering the new Sentra is a new 1.8L 4-cylinder engine producing 130 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque. The new engine is mated to the next generation Xtronic CVT that is found in the '13 Altima. Fuel economy is rated at 30 city and 39 hwy. Nissan has decided to ditch both the SE-R and SE-R Spec V models. The all new Sentra will go on sale this fall.

The Green Light: I think that the 2013 Nissan Sentra is definitely the best looking compact sedan out (it will definitely have competition when the redesigned Kia Forte arrives). The interior is greatly improved which was a sore spot of the last generation Sentra. I am quite disappointed with the engine choice and fuel economy. After driving the new Altima (Check out my review here) the weight loss does make a difference with power but I think that 130 hp is quite low. I expected the Sentra's fuel economy to be class leading. It only does the Altima up by 3 mpg in the city and 1 mpg on the hwy. I was surprised that Nissan decided to get rid of the SE-R models which have been around for quite some time. There will be a "sporty package" which will have the same 1.8L engine which to me doesn't make sense. But overall I think that Nissan finally gave the Sentra the attention that it needed.


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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: 2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV

The 2013 Nissan Altima is "all-new" for this year. I have never been a fan of the Altima because it looked too much like the Maxima, and was around the same size. I've driven the last generation Altima sedan and Coupe which weren't a favorite of mines. But the 2013 Altima has really changed my mind. The '13 Altima competes against the Toyota Camry, Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata, redesigned Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, and Mazda6. There are three Altima models to choose from, 2.5, S, SV, and SL. My tester was an Altima SV that came in at $26,095.

Exterior
The 2013 Altima is the best looking Altima EVER!!! It is apparent that the Altima got it's design cues from the Maxima, Ellure concept, and the Infiniti M. The front of the Altima is bold and definitely makes a statement when you drive up. While driving throughout North Carolina I got many looks and stares but that could have been the Cayenne Red exterior color. Red has never been my color but I think the Altima looks best in this color. 17'' alloy wheels are standard as well as dual exhaust outlets.

Interior
The interior of the '13 Altima is a huge improvement over the last generation. There is a mix of soft touch materials and hard plastics throughout the cabin. The seats in the Altima are extremely comfortable and supportive. My passengers also thought the seats were some of the best seats they have sat in. In the backseat there is plenty of legroom and headroom. I had no complaints coming from my aunt who was sitting in the back. The buttons and knobs are easy to reach from the driver's seat and are of great quality. My tester came standard with a leather wrapped steering wheel which was easy to grip.

Tech
For a mid-level Altima there is quite a bit of tech. The '13 Altima comes with the Advanced Drive-Assist Display, Bluetooth hands-free and streaming audio, dual zone automatic temperature control, remote engine start, a 5" color display and Rearview monitor.

Safety
The Tire Pressure Monitoring System is a great addition to have. The horn will beep when you have reached the optimum pressure. The Altima comes with 6 airbags, ABS with Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with Traction Control System (TCS).
The LATCH System was simple and easy. I had no trouble attaching and removing my cousin's car-seat.

Behind the Wheel
The '13 Altima is powered by either a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine producing 182 hp or a 3.5L V6 producing 270 hp. My tester was the 2.5L 4-cylinder engine mated to Nissan's new Xtronic CVT driving the front wheels. For all of the people that complain about CVTs you all need to drive the new Altima. Nissan's engineers did a hell of a job making the CVT flawless. I may get flack for saying this but at times I thought I was in a car with an conventional automatic transmission. The majority of my time behind the wheel I had the Altima shifted to Ds which made the Altima drive sportier. I did miss paddle shifters which would have been nice to have. I was in the '12 Altima a few months ago and the '13 Altima accelerated quicker and smoother. The Active Understeer Control worked really well. The '13 Altima was fun and enjoyable. I did not even think of wanting the bigger V6 engine. At one point my grandmother (who drives a '11 Infiniti EX35) said "is this a V6?" I achieved a combined 24 mpg during my time in the Altima but I expected it to be a little higher.

Overall
I now have a little soft spot in my heart for the '13 Altima. As much as I like the new Altima, the Maxima will always be my favorite Nissan sedan. But with high fuel costs I would definitely pick the Altima due to it's impressive MPG ratings. People should know that the Altima is not and I repeat is not a "sports sedan" but it is a sporty sedan. Having only driven the recent Kia Optima, and new Altima I am falling in love with the midsize sedan category. If you are in the market for a new midsize sedan then you should take a look at the new Altima. But for those who like the look of the upcoming Ford Fusion and Mazda6 I would suggest waiting until you drive both of those models. A 2013 Altima 2.5 base model starts at $21,500 and delivers 27 city and 38 hwy.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Revealed: 2013 Fiat 500 Turbo

The 2013 Fiat 500 Turbo will slot under the hot selling Fiat Abarth. The 500 Turbo will be powered by a turbocharged 1.4L engine producing 135 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. A 5-speed manual will be the only available transmission. The Turbo will receive upgraded CV joints, thicker half-shafts, and 11.1-inch front brake rotors. The 500 Turbo will resemble the Abarth's exterior, and come with 16-inch aluminum wheels.

Consumers can choose between 7 exterior colors. Cloth seats are standard, while leather is optional. The 2013 Fiat 500 Turbo will carry a base price of $19,500. Expect to see the 500 Turbo at dealerships this fall.

The Green Light: This was a great idea by Fiat to give consumers more options with the 500. With the 500 Abarth selling like hotcakes, I expect the Turbo models to sell well.

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Review: 2012 Chevy Impala LT

The 2012 Chevy Impala is the first GM product I have driven. The Impala competes against the Nissan Maxima, Toyota Avalon, Hyundai Azera, and Ford Taurus. My tester was an Impala LT which stickers for a little over $28,000.

Exterior
To be honest, there is nothing attractive or eye-catching about the current generation Impala. The exterior is bland and does not hold its own against the competition. I am extremely happy that the next generation Impala is on its way. My tester came in Imperial Blue Metallic which is not one of my favorite colors.

Interior
After being inside of the 2014 Chevy Impala, I was very disappointed with my tester's interior. The interior definitely resembles the "Old GM". The materials throughout the cabin were mostly hard plastics. The seats in the Impala were comfortable and supportive. The most impressive aspect of the Impala was the amount of legroom and headroom. The knobs and buttons are dated but were easy to use. But for a vehicle that cost close to $30,000 I expect more luxurious touches.

Tech
The only tech in my tester was Bluetooth hands-free calling.

Behind the wheel
The Chevy Impala is powered by a 3.6L V6 engine producing 300 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. The engine is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Driving from NYC back home to North Carolina I wanted to see how the Impala would drive and handle. The power came on smoothly and was there every time I needed it. The Impala is not by any means sport and it showed due to the lack of steering feedback. The car soaked up the bumps in the road well. Visibility was good but having a Blindspot monitoring system would have helped.

Overall
I have never been interested in the Chevy Impala mainly because of it's exterior and interior design. After seeing the next generation Impala I am very excited for that vehicle. The next generation Impala can be competitive against the new competition. The V6 engine in the Impala was greatly needed and adds some life to the car when driving it. If you are interested in a vehicle with a strong engine, decent ride, good fuel economy, and don't care about exterior designs then check out the 2012 Chevy Impala. The base model 2012 Chevy Impala starts at $26,585 and delivers 18 mpg/city and 30mpg/hwy.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Teased: 2013 Nissan Sentra

A teaser of the 2013 Nissan Sentra has been released. The Nissan Sentra in my opinion has fallen out of the spotlight for quite some time. I am loving what I see so far and think that Nissan wants to get back in the game. The compact sedan segment is just as important as the midsize segment and every automaker needs to bring their best product. The look of the Sentra looks similar to the '13 Altima and Versa. It looks more stylish than the outgoing model. It also looks like there will be an SR model as well for those Sentra SR fans.

Check out the teaser on the Nissan website:
http://www.nissanusa.com/all-new-sentra/

What does the 2013 Nissan Sentra need to have to be competitive?

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Review: 2012 Nissan 370Z Coupe Touring

The 2012 Nissan 370Z is the second time I've been in a 370Z. My first time is when I drove a 2010 Nissan 370Z NISMO on the roads of Tennessee. My time in the 370Z NISMO was fun and challenging because it was my first time in two years driving a manual (I'm still learning how). But this time around my tester came equipped with a 7-speed automatic, YAY! There are three Z's to choose from, including the coupe, the roadster, and the NISMO. My tester was a 370Z Touring that came in at $42,535.

Exterior
In my opinion the 370Z is the best looking vehicle in the Nissan lineup. A lot of the Z
s design elements have trickled down over the years into the Maxima, Altima, and Murano CrossCabriolet. The Z features claw-like shaped headlights, plenty of curves, and a tooth in the grille that is going away for the 2013 model year. I am not a big fan of black cars but my tester's Magnetic Black Metallic color really stood out.

Interior
The 370Z is a small vehicle and sits EXTREMELY low. The interior of the 370Z is a big improvement over the 350Z. I am happy that the Z has no rear seats! This allows more room for the driver and passenger to adjust their seats. There is a mix of good quality and soft touch materials throughout the cabin. The seats in the Z are very comfortable and supportive. I do think that at $42,000 power adjusting seats should be standard. The knobs and buttons are of good quality and are easy to reach from the drivers seat.

Tech
There was little to no tech in my tester. The 370Z does have push-button start, and an eight-speaker sound system. Buyers can step up to a hard-drive based navigation system, 9.3GB of music storage, XM satellite radio, Bluetooth audio streaming, and a much needed rear-view camera.

Behind the wheel
The 370Z is powered by Nissan's 3.7L V6 engine producing 332 hp and 276 lb-ft of torque. Unlike the rest of the Nissan lineup the Z's engine is mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission. The transmission works really well and power comes on when needed. A lot of reviewers complained about the engine noise but I did not find it that annoying. But it could be that I was having too much fun on the roads of North Carolina. Majority of the time I had the car in manual mode and used the paddle shifters which to my liking are mounted to the steering wheel column instead of the wheel. Visibility in the 370Z is really limited. Driver's will have to pay attention to their blind spots. The ride of the 370Z can be pretty harsh and Nissan needs to find a way to improve ride quality.

Overall
I have always had a fascination with the Z going all the way back to the Datsun days. The 370Z is a blast to drive and is a great value. I think the biggest problem facing the current generation Z is price. The 370Z is in the same price field as the Infiniti G37 coupe and convertible. There have been talks that the next generation Z would feature a smaller engine which I hope is not true. The V6 is a staple of the Z and should not be replaced. If you're in the market for a sports car be sure to check out the Nissan 370Z at your nearest dealership (If you're in NC be sure to visit my friends at Greenville Nissan). You may be able to get a good deal because the 2013 370Z model is getting ready to roll out. A 2012 Nissan 370Z base trim starts at $32,280 and delivers 19 mpg city and 26 mpg hwy.

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