Category Archive:

Kia Hypermiles to Key West

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I’m really not a hypermiling type of guy – I usually drive a twin-turbocharged V6.  When the opportunity to drive from Miami Beach to Key West came up, I admit the allure of Key West was more than the chance to get the maximum fuel economy out of a Kia Optima Hybrid and new Kia Rio.  Having grown up in Florida, the northern part, I had never been to Key West – got as far as the Everglades a couple of times.

Kia Optima Hybrid and Kia Rio

The cars did not disappoint and Kia threw in the chance to attend GRAND-AM Continental Tire/Kia200 Sports Car Challenge race at the Homestead-Miami Raceway.  So how could I refuse?

Optima – Elegant Mid-Size Style With Maximum Fuel Economy The Optima is one of my favorite mid-size cars.  Its styling is great and interior is very easy to live with.  From my perspective, the Optima style is very sophisticated and European.  Coming from the “junior” Korean manufacturer, the Optima is much better looking than the swoopy Hyundai Sonata that has turned so many heads since its introduction in early 2010.  My guess is that the Optima style has more staying power than the Sonata which may age pretty quickly.

Adding the Hybrid model to the Optima lineup gives Kia a price-efficient, fuel-efficient combatant in the growing fuel economy battleground among mid-size cars.

All New Rio – Bottom-Feeder No More This was the first chance I have had to drive the all new Rio.  As the bottom entry in Kia’s lineup, the Rio has evolved from a cheap, cheap tin can to a very worthy small car.  Of course, it is not cheap, cheap any more, but it is reasonably priced.  The model we drove was priced a notch above $20,000 but had everything on it including a navigation system, sun roof and leather seats.  In previous generations, it would have been unheard of to have this level of equipment available in the lowest priced car from a mainstream brand.   With a front seat package rivaling a mid-size car in size, folks are no longer “sentenced” to drive a small car.


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Ed Kim and the Audi A3 e-tron

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Recently, Ed Kim, AutoPacific’s Director of Industry Analysis, was given a sneak peek at the Audi A3 e-tron plug-in electric.  Earlier this week, Ed’s impressions were prominently featured in Audi’s featurette about the car. This video was released in conjunction with the automaker’s official announcement about the A3 e-tron’s U.S. test program at the 2012 TED Conference in Long Beach, CA. 

The A3 e-tron will be distributed in select markets in the U.S. to help Audi get real world data about how electric vehicles are used in everyday life, ultimately aiding in the development of future plug-in vehicles from Audi.

Audi, rightly so in our opinion, believes there is no one silver bullet in the quest for greater efficiency.  As such, the automaker is exploring just about every available alternative powertrain technology out there as potential components of a greater solution.  Those can include electrics, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, diesels, or even very efficient gasoline engines.

Watch below to see Audi’s A3 e-tron in action, and Ed’s thoughts on some of the issues surrounding electric vehicles.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6b28g_o9yQ&feature=bf_prev&list=PL7DADCC3EE813305E&lf=plpp_video


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Future Feature Demand – Men and Women Are Different

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Women demand safety features.  Men want technology features.

In AutoPacific’s 2011 Future Attribute Demand Study, 73,000 respondents selected those features they want on their next car or light truck.  About 40% of these new vehicle owners were women, but we know from experience that females influence 80% of new car and light truck sales.  In analyzing AutoPacific’s data, we find that demand for many features is about equal between men and women.  For instance, nearly equal percentages want Bluetooth (75%), a rear backup camera (52%), a navigation system (46%), a heated windshield (44%), voice activated controls (36%), keypad entry system (33%).  So, what are the features that each gender demand that differentiate them?


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2012 Mitsubishi i: Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About

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Mitsubishi has been on something of a downturn over the last few years, even more so than most of the automakers during this recession.  Aging model lines and relatively little marketing have reduced the brand’s visibility over the years despite some exciting turbocharged and all wheel drive products, in stark contrast to Mitsubishi’s relatively high profile at the turn of the century due to extroverted products, catchy commercials, and creative financing.


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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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2011 Chevrolet Volt: No Fear of the B.S.O.D. with this Tech-Laden Halo

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In November of 2010, General Motors delivered on a promise they made to start producing the Chevrolet Volt.  Just after production started I had the opportunity to spend a day with a Volt.  While it was a very interesting car to drive for a day, I wasn’t sure what it would be like to drive a vehicle that had the ability to be plugged in, so Chevrolet let me drive one for a week earlier this year.


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2012 Audi A7: Don’t Call It A Crosscar

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I have a confession to make.  I was cautiously optimistic with the idea of the A7 when I first heard that Audi had green lighted the program.  Yes, I am fond of hatchbacks but one image was burned into my brain: Accord Crosstour.  The Crosstour was a great idea on paper and a gave people who worship at the church of hatchback another option.  Sadly, the final product hasn’t been much of a sales success as Americans shun hatchbacks.  I won’t mention the fact that many crossovers today are actually hatchbacks but calling them that would be a marketing faux pas.  The Crosstour is looking like another nail in the coffin of slow selling hatchback designs for the US market.  Could the company that brought us the R8 strike out like the Crosstour or hit a home run to change the hearts and minds of hatchback haters?  Read on to find out.


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EcoBoost Engines Pump Up Ford Buyer Base

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Ford EcoBoost Logo

High Tech V6 Gives V8 Power and V6 Efficiency: Several years ago at a dinner with Ford Group Vice President Derrick Kuzak we had a spirited conversation about replacing V8 engines with high technology V6 engines in Lincolns. My position was that a Lincoln could not be a REAL Lincoln without a V8. Kuzak’s position was that Ford could not wait to bring high technology, high performance, high efficiency engines to market. His strategy resulted in the Ford EcoBoost engines that have now been on the market for over a year. Based on AutoPacific’s owner data, it appears that the EcoBoost strategy is on the mark.


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2013 Toyota RAV4 EV Prototype: A Quick Spin

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I’m at Toyota’s third Sustainable Mobility Seminar at the moment, a deep dive into the issues surrounding sustainable motoring featuring excellent speakers from industry and academia.  I’ll admit, my head is still spinning from all the education I’ve received over the last twenty-four hours, but there’s one part of the event I feel compelled to write about – right now.  All of us in attendance got the media’s very first chance to drive fully working prototypes of Toyota’s upcoming fully electric RAV4 EV.  As AutoPacific’s resident treehugger, I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel of Toyota’s upcoming electric SUV.


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