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2012 Nissan Frontier Most Satisfying Mid-Size Pickup

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Best In Class 2012 Compact Pickup:  Nissan Frontier

2012 Nissan Frontier Wins AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

Owners of the class-winning 2012 Nissan Frontier give the trucks top ratings in eight of forty-eight characteristics measured in AutoPacific’s 2012 Vehicle Satisfaction Award research.  The Frontier gets top marks for Ease of Getting In and Out, Driver’s Seat Comfort, Feel of Interior Fabrics and Materials, Power and Acceleration, Braking, Ride, Easy to Understand Controls and Cupholder Design and Size.  Ratings for characteristics in the Compact Pickup Class are a bit lower than for some other categories of vehicles, so considering that a perfect score for an attribute is 5.0 rating points, a rating of 4.2 or higher can be considered more than competitive.  Frontier owners rate the truck at 4.2 or higher in:  Overall Satisfaction, Exterior Size, Seating Capacity, Driver’s Seat Comfort, Ease of Loading Cargo, Vehicle’s Reputation, Brand’s Reputation, Exterior Color, Exterior Styling, Power and Acceleration, Braking, Handling, Fun to Drive, Reliable/Dependable, Ride, Easy to Use Controls, Instrument Layout, Visibility, Tire Brand/Size/Appearance, Dealership Experience, Feeling Safe While Driving, Safety Features, Safety Ratings, Overall Quality and Durability.  The lowest ratings were for Range, Recyclability and Fuel Economy.


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2013 Nissan Altima Mid-Size Game Changer

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Going on sale in July 2012,  the new Nissan Altima joins the most competitive car class in the market.  Representing the second largest car segment (after small cars), the mid-size car class is critically important to each manufacturer in the class; volume, profits and image are on the line.

It is hard to believe that the AutoPacific 2010 President’s Award Winner, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, is about to be the oldest major competitor in the class.  The 2013 Nissan Altima joins the new Toyota Camry (new for the 2012MY) and Chevrolet Malibu (2013 Eco model is on the market now) and awaits the launches of the upcoming 2013 heavyweights – Honda Accord and Ford Fusion in Fall 2012.

First seen at the 2012 New York International Auto Show in April, the Altima drew “WOWs” from the media at its unveiling.  The management of some competitors gulped and looked a bit nervous.  Most were very complimentary; the new Altima has gone upscale in a big way without adding much to its price tag.

Traditionally, the mid-size car class has been noted for its relatively bland styling.  That changed with the launch of the 2011 Sonata in early 2010 where over half of the buyers indicated that exterior styling was extremely important in their selection of the car.  Sonata’s swoopy styling broke the mid-size car mold.  The 2011 Kia Optima that followed the Sonata is strikingly handsome in its own Euro-Korean way.  Toyota stayed very conservative with its new 2012 entry and Honda is rumored to have continued its very conservative streak with the next generation Accord coming this fall.  The 2013 Ford Fusion is another game changer in the mold of Sonata and Optima, but even with Fusion’s advanced styling, Altima may have pushed the envelope the farthest.  Nissan calls it “Altimaness”. 


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AutoPacific’s 2011 Plug-In Car Supertest

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Without question, one of the most buzzworthy topics surrounding automobiles this year has been plug-in cars.  Issues like fuel price instability, dependence on foreign oil (or oil of any sort!), and the environment have stirred the imaginations of many people.  Could we really rid ourselves of oil-powered transportation?  Could America really free itself of its addiction?  At the very end of last year, the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf went on sale (retailing at $41,000 and $32,780, respectively, minus a $7,500 Federal tax credit), finally bringing plug-in transportation to the masses and, plug-in fans hope, heralding a new era in automotive history.


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Volt Wins Among Today’s Hybrids and EVs

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Two new, completely different high efficiency cars entered the American car market earlier this year – the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt – and AutoPacific set out to find out how different the owners of those cars were from owners of hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight.  We also are looking at how satisfied buyers are with the cars and what they would like changed.

Think of these four cars as being purpose-built for their technology.  They did not simply adapt their new powertrain technology to an existing vehicle such as the Ford Fusion Hybrid or the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.  The Chevrolet Volt is an Extended Range Electric Vehicle.  The Nissan Leaf is a pure Battery Electric Vehicle.  And the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight are pure Hybrids.

Based on AutoPacific’s annual New Vehicle Satisfaction Survey which has a total of almost 73,000 new car and light truck owner responses to a comprehensive questionnaire about the car buying and ownership experience, the comparison finds some interesting and insightful results.

Leaf and Volt Owners are Dramatically Different from Prius and Insight Owners: Volt owners paid $43,000 for their new car.  Leaf owners paid $34,500.  Prius and Insight owners paid $25,000 and $21,000 respectively.  Given the price points, Volt and Leaf owners are the most affluent with incomes of $150,000.  Prius owners have an income of $100,000 and Insight owners have an income of $80,000.

Leaf and Volt owners are much more likely to be male and much more into the technology of their new car.  They are very similar to early buyers of hybrids who were enamored with the new innovative technology of their vehicle.  The Leaf and Insight owners are the youngest of the group at 53 and 54 years of age respectively.  Owners of the much more expensive Volt are 58 as are owners of the Prius.

Leaf owners have the highest level of education.  About 90% have a college education.  About 70% of Volt, Insight and Prius owners have a college education.  Leaf owners are much more likely to be retired (almost 50%).  Only 17% of Insight owners are retired.  About a third of Leaf owners are in a technical profession as are 20% of Volt owners.

Leaf owners are most likely (24%) to have owned a hybrid before.  Prius owners are almost as likely to have owned a hybrid (23%) as Leaf owners.  Volt (8%) and Insight (8%) owners are newcomers to the world of alternative fuel vehicles.  Volt owners are most likely to have previously driven a compact car (18%) or mid-size car (14%), Insight owners were most likely to have previously driven a compact car (23%) or a mid-size car (23%).

Satisfaction – Volt Wins: About 86% of Volt owners are very satisfied with their vehicles compared with 80% of Leaf owners, 70% of Prius owners and 54% of Insight owners.  Among these four cars, Volt owners are most satisfied by a substantial margin.  Leaf and Prius owners are about equally satisfied.  Insight owners are the least satisfied among the four cars.  Out of 48 satisfaction categories in the research,  Volt owners are the most satisfied in 38 of the categories… an overwhelming win.


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2012 Nissan Versa Sedan Lowest Price New Car, or Is It?

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There are no bad cars.  It’s been years since I’ve seen a really bad car to be sold as new in the USA.  Maybe the not lamented Chrysler Sebring came close before it evolved into the Chrysler 200 for 2011.  So, as the new V-Platform Nissan Versa is poised to be launched for the 2012 model year as the lowest price new car available in the USA you wonder if a new car priced so low is a bad car?  The answer is a resounding no.  But with the Versa and new Hyundai Accent arriving almost concurrently on the market it begs brief comparison.

2012 Nissan Versa Sedan

2012 Hyundai Accent Sedan


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2011 Nissan Quest: VIP Transit for the Whole Family

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The fourth generation Nissan Quest launched for the 2011 model year, marking a dramatic departure from the prior model.  The last Quest was developed and conceived specifically for North America (and built here too), riding on a version of the Altima sedan’s platform.  While a very able minivan, it never truly caught on.  Perhaps its was styling, both inside and out, that was too aggressive or avant garde for traditional minivan customers.

With the latest Quest, Nissan stepped away from the traditional American minivan template and moved production back to Japan, commonizing it with the Japanese-market Elgrand people mover, albeit with revised front and rear styling more in line with American tastes.


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2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet: Crossing Over into Unchartered Territory

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As the owner of a 2011 Murano, I was very skeptical of the Murano CrossCabriolet and the ability to deliver on the ‘cross’ bit of the name with only two doors and four seats.  After a brief test drive in Del Mar, CA, I realized that the word crossover was being redefined right before my very eyes.


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2011 Nissan Juke: Here’s to the Real SE-R Successor

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Long ago, back in 1991, Nissan launched what many thought of as the spiritual successor to the BMW 2002: the Nissan Sentra SE-R.  It was a lightweight and tossable compact car that was inexpensive and an absolute blast to drive.  Since then, Nissan has kept the SE-R name alive in subsequent generations of Sentra, but each one has gotten less and less thrilling.

Fast forward to 2011.  Around the world, automakers are bringing small and sporty crossovers to the marketplace, addressing younger and more style-conscious consumers’ need for entry level vehicles with space and standout style.  Nissan has jumped into the fray with the Juke, a product designed first and foremost for the European market.  The U.S., which seems to prefer its crossover products big and bulky, is a secondary market.  However, given that today’s younger Americans are expressive, enjoy technology, often accept miniaturized products, and value standout design, Juke has found its way across the pond nonetheless.


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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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Nissan LEAF – Finally, a High Volume EV

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Nissan is poised to launch a full electric vehicle, LEAF (Leading, Environmentally friendly, Affordable, Family car), in the United States that it plans to sell in very high volumes. Does the product stand up to its high volume plans?
Styling Just Short of Weird Nissan North America Director of Product Planning, Mark Perry responded to a question concerning the styling of the new Nissan LEAF as “unusual without being weird. Our stylists wanted a distinctive car but not one that was so weird looking it would put off people.” Finally, a company admits that people driving an alternative fuel vehicle want to be noticed. They want for their friends and neighbors to give them credit for being on the cutting edge, being environmentally conscious and taking an innovative risk.
Nissan Leaf SV VehicleVoice.jpg
Huge Pricing Incentives to Stimulate Sales Offsetting the risk is the price of the LEAF. Starting at around $32,500, early buyers qualify for a government tax credit of $7,500. If you lease the LEAF (more on that later), the tax credit goes to the lessor and effectively becomes a cap cost reduction. If you buy the LEAF, you get your tax credit the next time you file your income taxes. If you live in any one of several states, you get a tax rebate. In California, for instance, you get a $5,000 rebate – they’ll send you a check in the mail. If you are lucky enough to live in Fresno, you can get another $4,000. That brings the price of the down to around $16,000 – about the price of an equipped Versa. You end up getting the battery system, navigation system, etc essentially for FREE.


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