Wednesday, April 9, 2014

2014 Chevrolet Cruze Sedan


The Newest, Fastest and Most Frugal Cruze All in One

2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel
Even though advanced technology has made contemporary diesel engines more powerful and refined, the number of diesel-powered models available in the U.S. make up a miniscule portion of the car market.
Chevroet wants to do something about that (not to mention break in on Volkswagen's monopoly on the affordable diesel-car market) with the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel.
Chevy sold nearly a quarter-million Cruzes last year, so it has the potential to make an impact that reaches well beyond the Volkswagen diesel faithful, while at the same time tempting even Volkswagen true believers with a sedan made by a company other than VW.
Are You a Numbers Kind of Person?
Let's say you like the idea of buying the quickest Chevy Cruze available. That'd be the new 2014 Cruze Diesel. Its 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine develops 151 horsepower and 264 pound-feet of torque. Combined with its standard six-speed automatic, the Cruze diesel will go from zero to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds, according to Chevrolet. That's a half-second faster than the Cruze equipped with the turbocharged gasoline 1.4-liter.
Yeah, 8.6 seconds doesn't sound that quick, but when you've got as much as 250 lb-ft of torque available at just 1,750 rpm and an overboost feature that delivers as much as 280 lb-ft for 10 seconds, it feels markedly quicker. There's a bit of turbo lag, but wait out that half-second and you get more than enough power to sprint past the larger-engine gasoline cars still gathering steam to find the meat of their torque curves.
2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel
Now let's say you want the car with the segment's single highest fuel-economy number, but you don't want a hybrid. That also would be the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel with its rating of 46 mpg on the highway. And if a hybrid guy wants to bet pink slips based on what you're really getting out of a gallon of fossil fuel, the diesel's likely to come out ahead there, too, unless you're talking strictly stop-and-go city driving, where the Cruze is rated at 27 mpg.
Fuel's Errand
Not everything is ideal with the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel. It weighs about 250 pounds more than the next heaviest Cruze, and that kind of extra weight is never easy to accept, particularly in the name of greater efficiency.
Owners probably will never know it, but they'll be carrying around a tank of urea to cleanse the Cruze Diesel's emissions, and the car's spare tire is sacrificed to place the 4.5-gallon tank that holds the stuff. Refills take place during scheduled maintenance (Chevy says at least 10,000 miles before the tank would be drained); you decide what you think about a can of compressed flat-fixing goop in place of a spare.
The most glaring ice patch on the road to diesel acceptance, however, might come from Chevy's own price strategy. The Cruze Diesel sits near the top of the Cruze model range and although it's rather generously equipped, it's a good $5,000 dearer than the well-regarded, gasoline-engine Cruze Eco, which gets a markedly lower 39-mpg highway rating but at 33 mpg combined, is just 2 mpg in arrears of the Cruze Diesel, thanks in part to the Diesel's 27-mpg city rating.
2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel

Highway Cruzer
We weren't particularly bothered by those details in our 600-mile round trip behind the wheel of the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel. Instead, it underscored why modern-day diesel engines are such an attractive proposition. For most trips, fill up before you leave and forget about what the fuel gauge says until you return.
You can breeze along with the engine barely nudging past the 2,000-rpm mark with the cruise control set just south of 80 mph. Trouble with dawdlers? Tickle the accelerator and erupt to 95 mph without even troubling the transmission for a downshift.
Forget about diesel clatter, too. Contemporary diesels have largely quieted the clamor, but Chevy engineers also took the extra precaution of borrowing a special sound-absorption package from the 2013 Buick Verano to keep this Cruze quiet. The Cruze Diesel also borrows goodies from the Cruze Eco, including its active grille shutters, 17-inch wheels and low-rolling-resistance tires.
Otherwise, the 2014 Cruze Diesel is mostly like other Cruzes, only better performing. You get four-wheel disc brakes that are enlarged to account for the diesel's extra weight, and that six-speed automatic transmission is an Aisin unit that feels quicker-witted than the GM-made six-speed auto the gasoline Cruzes employ.
2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel
The low-friction tires do occasionally slip more than we'd like, and although engineers claim a suspension retuning, in many situations the front dampers don't quite feel up to the job of holding up the mass of the iron-block 2.0-liter diesel engine. We noticed this particularly on jarring impacts such as a transition from the highway surface to a bridge surface, when the front end's damping and rebound both felt overtaxed.
A Well-Positioned Competitor
It's hard not to take a shine to the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel. Big-torque performance and hybrid-baiting efficiency is an alluring combination, while the Cruze's intrinsic goodness continues to impress three years after its launch.
For now, Volkswagen has to be curiously looking over its shoulder at its new competitor, and for good reason. The Cruze has more horsepower (151 hp to 140 hp), more torque (264 to 236) and better highway fuel economy (46 mpg to 42 mpg).
And as a final kicker, the Cruze is less expensive, too. At $25,695, the Cruze Diesel undercuts the automatic-transmission Volkswagen Jetta TDI by about 500 bucks. Not a huge difference, but enough to make it worth giving the Chevy a look if all the rest of its advantages weren't enough to convince you already.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.

Monday, March 26, 2012

2012 Civic Si Review

  • Smooth, powerful and high-revving engine
  • Incredible transmission
  • Nimble, responsive handling
  • Strange RPM behavior when shifting
  • Schizophrenic interior
The Honda Civic first appeared in 1973 as the no-frills economy car Americans needed due to climbing gas prices. In the mid 80’s Honda offered a spiced-up version called the ‘Si’ which added horsepower and handling improvements to the lightweight Civic, proving that a practical car could also be fun to drive. It turned out to be a winning formula and the Si badge has been in Honda’s line ever since. The 2012 Si showcases 30+ years of evolution in the breed, and as we had hoped, this is the best Si yet.
Driving Impressions
The Civic Si has two sides. Most of the time it’s a smooth, quiet and no-frills economy car for spinning around town and commuting. But give it more throttle and let the RPM’s spin up past ‘VTEC’ to redline and you’ll find the Si’s dark, aggressive side that hunts down and slaughters lesser sport compact cars. There’s a light, effortless feel in the steering, pedals, shifter and motor that serves both the Si’s personalities well. But the suspension belies the Si’s true colors; ride quality is on the firm side. The Si is dialed for corners first and rough roads second.
The Civic Si displays the quality we’ve come to expect of Honda—it’s well made with an apparent sense of quality throughout, but not exceptionally plush. Slam the doors or trunk on a German sedan or a more expensive Japanese car and you’ll get a muted, airless ‘thunk’. The Si’s doors and trunk feel thin in comparison; not necessarily cheap, but perhaps lacking some sound deadening material. This observation echoes throughout the rest of the car—overall the Si feels like a well-made car but there’s no denying its economy car genetics.
Interior Comfort and Ergonomics
Honda chose a several materials, textures and colors for the Si dash and door panels. It’s all quality but the variety gives a somewhat disjointed feel to the design. Worse than that, the split-level dash and gauge design looks like someone’s overdone impression of futuristic. Honda has several sub-screens showing random bits of info, including a power gauge showing how far VTEC is engaged on the left side, and on the upper right there’s a user-configurable screen that shows percentage of power used, audio system display, clock, or nothing. This format is used on the rest of the Civic line and it does a fine job of displaying a lot of information at a glance, but it doesn’t match the SI’s personality. We’d like it better if Honda chose classic sports car dual analog speedometer and tach gauges, or the F1-inspired digital gauge from the S2000.
Front seats are well-bolstered and grippy, something you’ll appreciate when flicking the Si into tight corners. Our test drivers are not tall people, yet all noticed that head room both front and back was not exceptional. Tall drivers and those with a penchant for big hats may find this to be a problem. Also, the rear seats fold down, though it’s a cumbersome process. The switches are conveniently located at the edge of the trunk, but you may need to crawl into the trunk to push the seats forward. We managed to stuff a mountain bike into the back of the Si, but it was not as easy as it should have been.
Honda’s F1-inspired naturally-aspirated motors are legendary for their smooth, high-end power thanks to what’s known as VTEC, a sophisticated variable valve timing and cam positioning system that allows a small motor to act like a larger one past a certain RPM. This is where the Si’s dual personalities come from. Stab the throttle and the motor spins up effortlessly, but really comes to life past %555 when VTEC kicks in to deliver 201 horsepower, which is more than enough to get the lightweight Si hauling up to ticket speeds in a blink.
But Honda’s brilliant VTEC motors have always been anemic on the torque side. The 2012 Si has more torque at a lower RPM than any previous version (170ft/lbs at %555) thanks to the upsized 2.4 liter motor stolen from the Acura TSX. Still, the Si lacks the instant low-end kick that you get from turbocharged competition from the likes of Volkswagen, Mini and Subaru. If you’re cruising along and feel the urge to accelerate, a mere mash of the gas pedal won’t be enough—-you’ll need to downshift at least one gear.
Shifting is excellent, with a slick, precise shifter and smooth clutch engagement. But the light and lively motor seems to hold RPM’s for an unusually long period of time between gears. This works out well when driving hard, holding the motor up in the power band even if your shifter hand is slow, but when driving casually, it gives the impression that you’re a manual transmission noob. It’s distracting until you adapt.
It’s a car that’s easy to drive, and it begs to be driven hard. The Si feels fast, possibly faster than it really is, considering the 0-60mph times in the mid 6-second range still put it behind the competition. But unlike many of those faster gars, the Si still gets over 31mpg after a week of angry test driving during which spins up to redline were the norm. Impressive.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

2012 Ford Focus Hatchback Review

The all-new 2012 Ford Focus Hatchback
By contributing editor David Colman
Vitals Statistics:
$19095      Focus 5dr HB SE
4-Door Front Wheel Drive , 160 bhp, 146 lb-ft, 5-sp Manual, 26/36 mpg
5 passengers, 2900 lb, 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine, 18.1 lb/bhp
  • Euroslick styling
  • Gem-like interior fittings
  • Razor sharp handling
  • Eager engine that is happy to work hard
  • Hatchback model has added utility over sedan and looks great
  • Long list of upgrades and high-tech options

  • Lack of paddle shifters for dual clutch automatic
  • HVAC dials where radio controls should be and vice versa
  • Driving concentration distracted by Ford Synch GUI
If you think of the Focus as Ford’s VW Golf beater, you’re aiming too low. Golf was just the low hanging fruit in Ford’s quest to redefine the sport compact sedan. The real target was Audi’s A3, a loftier goal indeed. Has Ford succeeded in outdoing the A3? Not quite, but close enough to give Audi reason to be concerned. If you want to build a better sport sedan than Audi, you’d best hire Germans to design it, and that’s just what Ford has done. The Focus was conceived in Germany, and has been on sale across Europe for more than a year. It has already established a successful track record in World Rallye competition as well as World Touring Car track contests. While Focus may be new to the US, it is by no means an unproven entity abroad.

2012 Ford Focus
Looking at this svelte sedan from outside, you are first struck by the clean-lined ethos of its design. The snout sits low while the butt remains slightly elevated to impart a feline rake to the static posture. Horizontal detailing around the front grill is handsome without being fussy. The side view looks racy and succinct, with windshield A pillars so extravagantly flattened that the sedan version posts a stellar wind tunnel coefficient of 0.297. Although the Cx of the five-door hatchback we drove is slightly higher than that, the hatch chassis is stiffer because the five door openings require added structural chassis reinforcement. The solidity of the platform, which Focus shares with the European C-Max minivan, is indisputable. Over the worst road irregularities, the Focus evinced no squeaks, groans or deflections. The interior remains ethereally silent no matter what racket the road surface beneath promises to impart.
Ford Focus instrument cluster

Handling of the base model Titanium hatchback is responsive and predictable. The steering is perfectly weighted, with lots of road feel passed back to you through the fat rimmed, two-tone steering wheel. Continental SportContactPro tires measuring 215/50R17 are standard, but if you wish to upgrade handling, the Titanium handling package, including stiffer anti-sway bars, springs and 18 inch wheels and rubber, is available for an extra $595. Even without that package, the handling of the Titanium Focus is strong enough to justify sticking with the base suspension system.
Performance of the 2.0 liter Duratec four cylinder motor is hardly scintillating, especially when coupled to the slow-shifting 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox. If you want more pop underhood you should wait for the 247hp turbo motor, coming sometime in the next year. In the meantime, opt for the 5 speed manual gearboxmodel to coax the most performance out of the Duratec base motor.
2012 Ford Focus high-contrast Titanium model interior
Where Focus really shines is inside the cabin. All 4 seats are Posturepedic, with the fronts luxuriously supplied with multiple electric positioning controls. Even the fixed rears are acceptably comfortable for long day trips. The interior of our test Focus, finished in a pleasing medley of burgundy and black, mimics the cabins of much more expensive vehicles like (no surprise) the Audi A3 or the BMW 1 Series. If you’re in the market for a small sedan with fit, finish and handling comparable to cars costing twice as much, be sure and give the new Focus a test drive. You’ll be amazed at how far Ford quality has come since they hit bottom several years ago.
  • ENGINE: DOHC, 16 valve in-line 4, aluminum block and head
  • HORSEPOWER: 160 @ 6,500 rpm
  • TORQUE: 146 lb.-ft. @ 4,450 rpm
  • TRANSMISSION: 6-speed Powershift automatic transmission
  • FUEL CONSUMPTION: 25 City MPG/ 36 Highway MPG
  • PRICE AS TESTED: $23,490

Ruling: The redesigned Ford Focus comes out with impressive changes to its exterior and interior styling. And it is also more fun to drive than the previous generation.
The 2012 Ford Focus has been completely redesigned and it looks good. The interior redesign was first on the list and it now features more high tech options that assist the driver and keep them connected to their electronic devices. Available with the 2012 Focus are the MyFord and MyKey systems. MyFord integrates entertainment, navigation, and communication into a touch screen console. MyKey is a safety feature that restricts vehicle speed and stereo volume while your teen drives.
Looking sportier and more aggressive than a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, the exterior updates for the 2012 Focus move far away from the vanilla sedan look and is much more satisfying to drive.
Standard engine for the entire Focus line for 2012 is an all-new 2.0-liter direct-injected four cylinder engine that makes 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with either a 5-speed manual or six-speed PowerShift dual clutch automatic. Fuel economy with the automatic transmission is 28 city / 38 highway /31 combined mpg. The sedan outfitted with the SFE package is estimated to get 28 mpg in the city, 40 mpg on the highway, and 33 mpg combined.
A Focus five-door hatchback model is also available.
David Colman has been writing vehicle tests for 25 years. His work has been featured in AutoWeek, the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, and Marin Independent Journal. In 1987, he helped start Excellence, The Magazine About Porsche, which he edited for many years. He has been an active participant in racing and Solo events since 1961. More car reviews written by Colman can be found at

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fourth Generation 2012 Honda CR-V Ready for U.S. Late 2011

2012 Honda CR-V concept

This is the all-new, fourth-generation CR-V that is set to go on sale in the U.S. by the end of 2011 and in Europe in Autumn 2012
The new Honda CR-V goes for a distinctive new design and bold styling direction. Compared to the previous generation CR-V, the concept model has a more aggressive stance with deeper sculpting of the body lines and a bolder front grille. Overall the lower front bumper design integrates more smoothly into the fascia for improved aerodynamics and curves upward to convey off-road capability. There are also five-spoke alloy wheels and bolder fender flares.
Powertrain details haven’t been released, but the new CR-V is expected to be outfitted with a more efficient engine and deliver improved fuel economy. Also look for more interior room and reduced curb weight.

The Five Ugliest Cars of All Time

Raise your hand if you’ve owned an ugly car. Scream out loud if you actually loved your ugly car.
1975 AMC PacerLet’s face it—for every great car we produce on this planet, they’re bound to be a couple of real duds. Unfortunately, failure is just a fact of life. These vehicles probably looked really good on the drawing board, but in reality they were design disasters that are best forgotten.
1.) 1975 AMC Pacer: One of the lowest points in the history of car making, the AMC Pacer was a disaster of great proportions on many levels—from the 95hp inline 6-cylinder engine all the way to the terrible fuel economy—18mpg. So, not only did it not turn heads (except in shock), this vehicle rode like a covered wagon with one bad wheel. The design reminds me of something you’d see in a 1950’s “B” sci-fi film. Consequently, the Pacer has become the poster child of 1970’s bad automotive design. If there are any of these cars left out there, they should be destroyed, for the good of the race and the culture. When other civilizations look back on us 1,000 years from now, the Pacer will undoubtedly be cited as the beginning of the end.
VW Thing2.) 1974 VW Thing: Aluminum siding meets bad design, the Thing looks like a Sear storage shed on wheels. Originally designed by Volkswagen for the German military, this piece of rolling junk must have had Hitler rolling over in his grave. The German Army had a lot of success overtaking their enemies driving this vehicle–they essentially laughed themselves into submission. The Thing didn’t last long in this country, when it was deemed unsafe by U.S. standards. Some people actually thought this car was “cute”, which goes to show you that there’s a fine line between pretty and ugly. (Just look at Cameron Diaz in the wrong light and you’ll see what I mean.)
3.) 1974 Ford Mustang II: After the oil embargo of 1973, Detroit starting making ugly cars featuring poor performance, all in the name of cost savings. This Pinto-ish car is the one Ford would love to forget. Mustang has had a great run with some awesome models along the way, but they can’t all be winners. The 1974 Mustang is the Dopey of the Seven Dwarves. The best motor you could get with this car was a 171 cubic inch V6, generating 105hp and getting from 0-60mph in 14.2 seconds. A lot of people aged rapidly while waiting for this car to get up to highway speed.
1988 Citreon 2CV4.) 1988 Citroen 2CV: Why are French people always frowning as a rule? Maybe it’s because they can’t get this ridiculous car out of their minds. Literally meaning “two steam horses” this vehicle drove more like “two lame mules.” French designer Pierre-Jules called the Citroen 2CV a “low-priced umbrella on wheels.” Described as “rugged” and “reliable”, traveling in this car was like riding a roller coaster from hell. It had the amazing ability to swerve on a perfectly level, straight road.
5.) 1986 Yugo GV: Over-priced at $3,990, the Yugo GV came as close to being a disposable car as anything before or since. With a 1.1 litre motor generating 58hp and featuring a terrible transmission, if this car wasn’t on the road it was in the shop, keeping the auto repair industry busy for more than a decade.