Monday, January 28, 2013

VW Beetle Convertible review coming up.

This will be my ride for the next few days.

A turbo model. Unfortunately, paired with the usual DSG.
So far, I think it looks great, inside and out. Feels much heavier and solid tan the previous generation.
And the 2.0 Liter Turbo still sounds like a diesel in the morning...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Nissan Sentra Test drive

The Sentra is all-new for 2013. Looking a bit like a baby Altima.
But I am not sure it works. Squeezing the Altima design onto a smaller platform isn’t the best idea. It does look weird and heavy from some angles.
To make matter worse, my SR test car had horrible looking side skirts and spoilers.
Reminding me of a 1980’s Pontiac more than an all-new 2013 design.
And the horrible looking “Metallic blue” (No fancy names here) didn’t help.

My personal opinion: the new Sentra is one of the ugliest cars in its class. 

 Inside, things are much better. Even though there is quite a bit of wannabe carbon fiber plastic around in the SR version.

The dash design flows very nicely and is very pleasant to look at. Everything is solid and well made.
The Bose stereo sounds very good. The worse part is the seats. They are too flat to be comfortable. And the lower back is pushing you out too much.

 As I mentioned before, the 1st thing I noticed was how rough and noisy the engine was when I picked the car up right after returning the smooth Jetta Hybrid.

It is not horrible, I mostly got used to it after a couple of days. Still, not as smooth and quiet as the previous generation.

I usually like Nissan CVTs, but not this one. It is exactly what people don’t like about CVT . Slow to react, the engine revs up but nothing much happens.
The car does feel slow. 
The problem is mostly corrected by using the “sport” setting. (The switch is oddly placed under the dash to the left of the steering wheel). But then, the revs are really noisy.  The Sentra is best driven as a slow car. Don’t push it (at all) and things are smooth and quiet enough.

The power train is really not as good as what you can find in the Jetta, Cruze or most of the competition. Plus, at idle, you do feel vibrations through the driver seat. You can even see the passenger seat shake a bit when empty. Not the best feeling…

The Sentra is rated at 30/38 MPG.
Which is pretty much what I got. And those are good numbers.

My test SR model with a few options (Driver package, GPS, Premium package) was about $22 500. Which is pretty average.

And that’s what you basically get. An average car. Which will be good enough for many. Over 200 000 people every year I am sure.

For me, I feel life is too short to drive cars like these on a regular basis....

Kia Pro Cee'd GT

The coupe version of the Euro Cee'd is getting a GTI fighter.

And it looks quite nice. Looking more like a cross between a GTI and a Scirocco.

Not sure of the specs yet, but you can bet it will be more powerful than the GTI. Although, as they say, power isn't everything.
Still, a good sign.
As usual, this is not due in the US...

Friday, January 25, 2013

VW Golf electric and hybrid versions

VW will release an all electric version of the new Golf next year.
Which should be priced at a bit under $40 000 before incentives.

The blue car is the hybrid version. Using the fantastic new powertrain now offered in the Jetta Hybrid.
And it should be great. The hatchback will make it a better competition to the Prius.

Although by that time, an all new improved Prius will be coming out...

2014 VW GTI

Here it is. The GTI version of the Golf VII.
Now with a small pump to 230hp.

The Golf will be on sale in the US about a year from now. We will get the mexican built version.
The GTI should come over here at about the same time.

2014 VW Golf/Jetta Wagon

This is the wagon version of the all new Golf presented late last year in Europe.
The Jetta Wagon we have in the US is basically the wagon version of the previous Golf.
Now that the Golf and Jetta are very different cars, I wonder what they will call it in the US.

Will they call it what it is: a Golf Wagon. Or will they still try to cash in on the "more popular in the US" Jetta name.
No matter what they call it, it is good to see a compact wagon over here.
The TDI is great and will be joined by a hybrid version as well.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Questions for YOU.

As always, I am trying to improve this site. And what better way than asking people who actually read it...
I have a couple of questions:

-Are you checking the site on a computer or a mobile device. Phone or tablet.
-Are you seeing the same site on the computer and the phone.
-My phone doesn't seem to show me a specific mobile version of the site. Does yours?

Thanks for the help.
And mostly, thanks to all of you who are reading and checking the site on a regular basis.
You have no idea how much I appreciate it!

2014 Nissan X-Trail/Rogue?

The X-Trail is a compact Nisan SUV that has never been sold in the US.
And, as you can see, an all new one is on its way. 
The X trail is more of a real off roader than the Rogue sold here. 
But there were some rumors that the X Trail Qashqai (The Rogue's Euro Cousin) would merge into one for the next generation. Which means this could be our next Rogue as well...

 This is last year's Hi-Cross concept. Which looks almost exactly like the patent designs for the new X-Trail posted above. So despite what Nissan was saying, this wasn't a "pure concept".

They also were calling the Hi-cross a Crossover, NOT an SUV. Which also means it could be a replacement for the Rogue.

As a new Rogue, I must say this would look just fine.
And could do really well against the CRV and all new RAV4 in the US.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2013 Nissan Sentra test drive

I must say, this is quite a different experience than the Jetta Hybrid I just returned...

So far, hard seats, numb steering and a rough/noisy engine aren't something I am looking forward to drive for the next week.
Maybe things will get better....

Rolls Royce Wraith

Here is the 1st picture of the all new "small" Coupe from Rolls Royce.
Quite a different shape for them. Seems very modern.

We'll know more and see the whole thing early March.

Monday, January 21, 2013

VW Jetta Hybrid test drive

I have driven most versions of the new Jetta over the past year, and was really curious about this new Hybrid. 
It is one of these "invisible" Hybrids. It has a slightly different front end . And a few badges here and there. Most people will never know the difference between this and a regular Jetta.
A car you basically buy for yourself, and not so much to make a statement.

 Inside, few differences also. The dashboard is the same. It has the soft plastic used in the GLI.
The shifter is the same as other DSG models. Nothing futuristic here.

 The trunk is, as expected, quite a bit smaller.
 The 1st thing I noticed is how quiet and smooth the small 1.4 Liter is. Much more so than the rough 2.0 Liter turbo in the GTI/GLI.

The new 7 speed DSG is also wonderful.
Everything works like it should. Again, unlike the 2.0 Turbo/6 speed DSG combo which always surprises me by how rough it is. And the painful "Turbo/DSG" delay experienced in the GLI is not there either.
Here, the DSG is quick to downshift, and invisible when upshifting.

The switch from all electric to gas is also super smooth. You mostly can't hear of feel anything.
It can go pure electric until about 20MPH, if you don't push it. And while coasting/cruising, you can get to almost 50MPH before the gas engine turns on.

The most surprising part is how quick, and fun it is to drive. Power comes almost instantly when you push it.
And again, always in a smooth, quiet and refined manner.
The steering and suspension are both great and have that satisfying German feel.
None of these can be said a bout the numb and slow Prius.

But as we know, people don't seem to buy hybrids for driving fun, so does it deliver in the MPG department?
The Jetta Hybrid is rated at 42 in the city and 48HWY.
I did get 42 in the city, and got 50 on the highway. I averaged 46. So yes, it does deliver.
My test car was the SE model, which costs about $27 000, without GPS or Sunroof.

 I would consider the Hybrid a sport version of the Jetta.
Much more fun to drive than the GLI and about as quick.
Think of it as a GLI that gets 46 MPG. With a smoother engine and a much better transmission.
You get numbers that are very close to the Diesel model, but are using much cheaper regular gas.

The Jetta Hybrid is really a blast to drive and I was sorry to see it go.
Something quite amazing to say about a hybrid.

New Chrysler design language coming up.

They claim the all new 2014 Chrysler 200 will feature Chrysler's new design direction.
One that has nothing to do with current models.

Above is a pic of the 2009 200C Concept. Still a good looking sedan. Something Chrysler should have had years ago in the showrooms.
Is this it? The new design language?
Or is it the wild looking 700C Minivan Concept from last year?

What do you think? What does a new Chrysler need to look like?

Mini Paceman short

I must say that, after seeing it in person, the Paceman is actually my favorite Mini.
A bit larger, it sits a little higher. And it is a newer shape than the one we've seen for years.

Something you don't see every day.

A Spanish Seat Leon on the 101 freeway.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Honda Gear Concept

I usually do not post often about crazy concepts that are just teasing us.
But this. .. Well, I do like it a lot.
I think it is quite a nice design, and a nice surprise from Honda. The front end is especially original. Something I haven't seen in quite a while.

And I do think this, or something close to it, would make a great Fit.
Which is due for a redesign really soon.

So let's hope this is a little preview of things to come...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

VW Jetta Hybrid test drive coming up...

I am getting a brand new Jetta Hybrid for a week.
Which should be really interesting, as I have driven a few versions before.
It is rated at 42/48MPG city and highway. Which sounds pretty amazing.
The TDI version I test drove earlier got 31MPG in the city, but over 50 on the highway.
So we will see if the Hybrid is worth the extra cash. (about $2000 more than the TDI)

One sure seems pretty sure, it should be a lot more fun to drive than the Prius...

2014 Lexus CT Hybrid

This should be their last model to be updated with the new front grille.
And on this one, it kind of works. Like I think it does on the RX.

Not sure about other improvements inside or out.

I see a lot of these around, and they always look pretty nice.

(Thanks to a reader for the pic)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Chevrolet Spark Test Drive.

The Spark might be familiar in other countries, but it is all new to us .
And it is quite amazing that a US manufacturer offers such a small car in the US, as it is only about 3 inches longer than a Fiat 500. And it has 2 more doors.

It looks just fine. Like a little bulldog to some. It seems that most people who saw it liked it.

 The fun  personality carries over inside. Where things look modern, are well laid out and feel pretty solid.
This is no Audi interior, but at a about $12 000 to start, it is no Audi price either.
The main things missing are a sunroof or GPS options.
Even though an oversized sunroof is available in other markets.

The upgraded stereo system in my 2LT test car sounded OK. But not great.
The bluetooth audio worked fine.

 As you can see,, the back seat is surprisingly roomy for a car that size.
 The small trunk was also just fine for the size of the car. And of course, you can fold down the rear seats.

With only 84hp, I was expecting the worse. But unlike some other small cars with not much power (Like the painfully underpowered Fiesta), the Spark never felt bad. With the 5 speed manual, it was actually a lot of fun to drive.
With plenty of power in the city. And things were just fine on the freeway as well.

The ride is very firm, maybe too much for some. The steering is light and has quite a bit of that, now common, video game feel. But it's pretty accurate. And I got used to it.

It is not the best freeway cruiser. There is enough power, but the firm ride and light weight can make the ride feel a bit twitchy at times. 

One thing I noticed on a sunny day was a pretty bad case of reflections on the windshield. From the top of the rather shinny dashboard. Which gets quite annoying once you notice it.

I must say that I really enjoyed my week with the tiny Spark. Parking and driving it around town is always fun. Especially with the smooth shifting 5 speed manual.
And that little engine sounds nice too when you push it a bit.

It is pretty quiet, has a nice interior and feels super solid over bumps.

It is officially rated at 32city/38HWY. Which doesn't seem that great for such a small car.
But my real life driving resulted in better numbers. I got 35 in the city.
And a really good 45 HWY. Without trying really hard.

I really would recommend the Spark. It tops out at about $16 000, which is where the Fiat 500 starts.
It is a roomy, well built little car that gets great mileage.

And best of all, I couldn't wait driving it around every morning.

2014 Kia Cadenza for the US

After a few years, Kia finally decides to sell the Cadenza in the US.

I guess they see a future for the Hyundai Azera cousin. The Azera is always a rare sight, even the new model. I am not really sure why they would offer 2 models in that same small segment.
It will also have to do battle with the all new Avalon. Which is now a really good looking car and even offers a hybrid version.

I do like the Cadenza (even with its stupid name), but I am really not sure this makes much sense...

More pictures of the 2014 Lexus IS

It's not a nightmare, but I still think it looks like it's trying too hard.
Plus, the interior doesn't seem nearly as luxurious as the all new Infiniti Q50.

We'll see...