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Short Take: Volkswagen Golf blue-e-motion

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Volkswagen is excited with the work they have completed thus far on the Golf blue-e-motion battery electric vehicle.  So excited, in fact, that I was recently able to drive one in Germany.


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2011 Hyundai Elantra: Breaking the Paradigm of Econoboxes

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First we had the Sonata and now we have the Elantra.  The Sonata was the direct hit to the gut but the Elantra is the uppercut that no one saw coming.  Gunning for the respect of Hyundai naysayers, the Elantra delivers the quality, fuel economy, and price tag that will change minds and make believers.

While other automakers have raised the price of their new c-segment vehicles to make them in America with a profit, Hyundai has changed the game again.  Hyundai seems to be bucking the trend these days of lofty price tags.  The Elantra is a stylish value package assembled in the good ol’ U.S. of A. that needs to be at the top of your test drive list.


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2011 Infiniti QX56: No Longer Just For Oil Sheiks

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Crossovers are all the rage these days.  What’s not to like?  Car-like handling, decent fuel economy, room for the kids?  One trend I’ve noticed in crossovers is the move towards limited visibility.  Beltlines have gotten so high that kids have trouble seeing out of the windows and backing up requires an extensive use of all three mirrors and a NASA satellite to see what lurks behind you.  And if you don’t have a back-up camera you can pretty much count on hitting something at some point in time.  Well, how refreshing the 2011 QX56 was to drive.  The QX56 isn’t a car-based crossover.  It is Infiniti’s truck-based answer to the Escalade.  Based on the Nissan Patrol, which has been a huge sales hit in the Middle East because of its rugged construction and reliability, the QX56 can shuttle you around in the same comforts as a cash-stuffed Saudi oil mogul.  With 20 MPG on the highway, you won’t need to personally know a sheik either.


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2011 Cadillac SRX: A Star in an Increasingly Crowded Class

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Ever since the Lexus RX300 first hit the streets thirteen (!) years ago, the sensibly-sized luxury crossover has been hugely desirable among the upwardly mobile.  Over time, the segment has grown by leaps and bounds, not just in terms of sales but more recently in terms of the sheer number of players.  Over the past couple years, the Europeans joined the fray with the Mercedes-Benz GLK, Audi Q5, and Volvo XC60.  And last year, Cadillac ditched the slow-selling and somewhat cumbersome three-row SRX with the smaller and more pert SRX seen here.  Wait a minute, don’t we Americans always want bigger?  What’s the deal here?


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2011 Kia Sportage – No ‘Sport’ but lots of ‘Edge’

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You know the world has changed when Kia can price a normally aspirated 4-cylinder compact crossover at $30K.  Buying a Kia Sportage used to mean that you needed the cargo capacity and/or wanted the image of an SUV but were prepared to settle for the lowest common denominator (read: Least expensive option).  After explaining to your family, friends, neighbors and the occasional gas station patron why on earth you purchased a Kia another debate came up… What about resale? You could usually sit back and watch a Kia depreciate like gallon of unrefrigerated milk on a warm summer afternoon.  But times have definitely changed… and Kia’s star is on the rise…

Posted in: Auto News & Reviews, Kia

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2011 Nissan Quest: Does It Pass the Mom Test?

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Yes…and no. Of course it would be nearly impossible for a minivan to score 100% on the mom test, but the Quest comes pretty close. I’m just happy that Nissan has decided to embrace the family side of the minivan rather than attempting to market it on sex appeal or driving fun. Try as you will to make it turn heads in a positive way, once someone has given in to having a minivan parked in their driveway their decision to purchase will be less on exterior appearance and more on comfort, convenience and features.


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2011 Buick Regal: Gen Y Please Buy

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Buick is in the midst of an identity crisis. According to GM executives, the average age of a Buick buyer is 64 years old and they aren’t getting any younger. With Gen Y kids being the biggest group of consumers behind the Baby Boomers, how can Buick move from grandparents to grandchildren? The 2011 Buick Regal is the answer.
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A Rising Tide Lifts All…

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As little as a few years ago, a vehicle in this segment might sit the weekend at AutoPacific, with few takers interested in trading their personal rides for a weekend in an econo-box. But times have changed, and economy compact cars have changed with them. The 2011 Mazda 2 in AutoPacific’s fleet was signed out long before it arrived.
Over the past decade, we’ve seen drastic improvements in vehicles in general, and small cars have improved with the rest of the market. B-Segment cars in international markets have developed past the basic econo-box Americans remember. We are just beginning to see these improvements on vehicles here in the states and the 2011 Mazda is a great example.
Probably the most stylish exterior in the segment, the Mazda 2 has a rising beltline that gives the car a mildly aggressive look. Our Touring model included an upgraded seat fabric with red piping, alloy wheels, fog lights, rear roof spoiler, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, trip computer, and two extra speakers.
On the road the Mazda 2 rivals the Honda Fit for fun, and is certainly more fun to drive than others in this segment, including the Toyota Yaris. Mazda will get stiff competition from platform competition, the Ford Fiesta. In addition, the segment is exploding with activity, including the Chevrolet Spark and Aveo. For Mazda, however, this influx of players will likely increase consideration in the segment overall, which could help the Mazda 2.
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The Future of US Motoring?

Unloading the Mazda over the weekend, a neighbor commented, “The future of US motoring, huh?” While we’re not forecasting a European embrace of the economy compact segment, AutoPacific sees cars like the Mazda 2 increasing in sales over the coming years. More offerings are coming from various players who are hedging that fuel price instability will continue to push consumers towards the segment. While common in Europe, we have yet to see a steady migration of US buyers to this segment. We generally see US consumers temporarily jump to this segment in a knee-jerk reaction to fuel price instability, only to retreat back to larger vehicles when the growth in fuel prices is less volatile.
While we see this reaction when studying consumer segment intention and vehicle sales, we have yet to see what converts to this segment will do over time. There is a lot to be said for the style, comfort, economy and yes, fun, that the Mazda 2 offers. Perhaps vehicles like the Mazda 2 will be more than a fad.


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2010 Motorist Choice Awards: And the Winners Are…

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IntelliChoice and AutoPacific Announce Motorist’s Top Picks in both Popular and Premium Categories

Irvine, Calif. (September 21, 2010) – There is only one annual automotive award handpicked by active consumers in the marketplace that goes beyond the editorial and performance test data and provides a window into the wants and needs of motorists. This year’s Motorist Choice Awards highlight a collection of 15 unique buyer categories covering both market segments – Popular and Premium. Both reflect the purpose and perception of the consumer and illustrate the results of practical analysis, like total cost of ownership, fuel economy and resale value.
The fifth annual awards, announced today, are the result of exhaustive national value data and consumer lifestyle studies performed by the consumer-driven automotive analysis of IntelliChoice and automotive market research firm, AutoPacific. A first for this year, the awards were broken up into popular lifestyle categories that shoppers easily identify with, rather than the alternatives based on vehicle size, price and other such factors.


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Chevrolet Aveo Premieres in Paris

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VehicleVoice got a sneak peek on Wednesday before the Thursday world debut of four Chevrolet Vehicles at the Paris Auto Show: the Cruze Hatchback, Orlando MPV, Captiva SUV, and Aveo compact. The Aveo captured most of our attention, since it is the only one of the foursome that we will see here on US roads. The new Aveo will be built in Orion Township, Michigan, utilizing the global Gamma platform.
The outside The Aveo RS show car was shown at Detroit and Geneva earlier this year. We like the fact that the production model shown here in Paris and due in US showrooms next summer carries a lot of the concept with it. Unlike historical Chevrolet small cars, the Aveo has a pretty bold stance with large headlamps that don’t look cute, a rising beltline and short overhands. While the c-pillar door handles aren’t novel, we like the way it cleans up the overall look of the vehicle.
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The inside The new Aveo is longer and wider than the current model, giving it a fairly spacious interior. In recent years, General Motors has proven that it is more than capable of delivering nice interiors. We’ll give our final opinions when we get some seat time, but he overall look of the vehicle here is Paris was nice. Better materials, fit and finish than the current model, which is pretty nice in its segment. The interior of the Aveo incorporates a motorcycle-inspired instrument binnacle with an analogue tachometer and a digital speedometer. The interior includes blue backlighting, a nicely styled center stack with a symmetrical appearance and easy to read and understand controls. A dual cockpit setup gives it a sporty feel. The audio system incorporates USB, aux-in and Bluetooth functionality.
How will it drive? While we have yet to get behind the wheel, Chevrolet promises an improved experience, as the new Aveo has been engineered to provide better handling with improved torsional rigidity. Chevrolet claims the new Aveo will be among the stiffest in the small car segment. Electronic power steering (EPS), Electronic stability control (ESC) and ABS brakes will be standard.
Under the Hood We expect the U.S. Aveo to be offered (at least initially) with a 1.6L gasoline engine and most of those to be equipped with a six-speed automatic. A 138HP 1.4L turbo may be offered later as a performance model. Electronic power steering and stability control are expected to be standard.
The Challenge Chevrolet hopes the Aveo will appeal to younger customers with its sporty hot-hatch look. AutoPacific data show that the current model has median age of 58, which is 6 years older than Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa and Honda Civic. In addition, the current Aveo buyer has a median household income of $50,000, which is a full $20,0000 less than the Fit. Improving both of these key metrics will be an important role for the Aveo. We’d agree that a smartly priced Aveo could be compelling the US market. Now it’s up to Joel Ewanick and Chris Perry to get the word out.


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