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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Do Fuel Prices Really Affect Vehicle Purchase Intentions?

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Drivers today are shelling out nearly $4/gallon, on average, to fill up their vehicles, about 25 cents more than this time last year. But this added expense is not persuading consumers to ditch their SUVs for more fuel efficient small cars. Results from AutoPacific’s latest Fuel Price Impact Survey (FPIS) actually show SUVs being the top vehicle replacement choice, with small cars coming in third. In addition, 76% surveyed would replace their current vehicle with a similarly sized one, whereas only 18% say they would go smaller.

Only Minor Vehicle Segment Shifts: In general, US drivers would not shift to a different vehicle segment when time to replace their current vehicle. Differences from replacement vehicle segment choice and what respondents currently own range between 0-2 percentage points, according to survey results. For example, 28% of respondents own an SUV, and that same percent would choose one for their replacement as well. About 19% would choose a small car, which is two percentage-points higher than current respondent ownership. This is a stark contrast to the July 2008 fuel price spike when the top replacement choice was small cars at 32% of the sample, 12 percentage points higher than current ownership at that time.


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2013 Acura RDX – Familiar Territory

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The previous generation Acura RDX was a moderately successful contender in the small crossover SUV (XSUV) wars.  The RDX was a bit pricey – almost $33,000 – coming from a premium Japanese brand.  It was heavy.  It was powered by a very thirsty turbocharged 2.3L 4-cylinder engine.  Competition had left the RDX behind and with its source vehicle – the Honda CR-V – being updated for 2012, 2013 is the obvious time to re-do the RDX.

2013 Acura RDX

Honda is expecting sales on the order of 30,000 units per year for the new RDX.  This is not an unreasonable number for a product selling in one of the growth segments in the American car and light truck market.  In fact, this sales volume seems a bit timid for a brand forecasting a 45% increase in sales for the 2012 calendar year.


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Abarth – Fiat 500 for Guys

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After driving the Fiat 500 and 500c (cabriolet), I was ready to relegate it to the ranks of “chick car”.  Its high-style accents and accoutrements scream “feminine”.  But, now there is a Fiat a guy can be proud to drive – the Abarth model.  Abarth Fiats have been high performance versions of Fiat car lines for decades since Austrian Karl Abarth began modifying them in the late ’50s.  This is America’s chance to have the most up-to-date Abarth available.

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth

Scorpions Anyone? At a glance you can tell the Abarth is something special.   Starting with the Fiat 500 Sport, the Abarth adds a unique front fascia that is actually functional making room for the 160HP 1.4L MultiAir 4-cylinder turbocharged engine.  The Abarth is not shy about shouting what it is.  The Abarth scorpion logo is found on the quarter panels, on the decklid, on the grille and on centers of the wheels.  There is also a lower bodyside stripe shouting “ABARTH”.  The outside mirrors sport contrasting colors depending on the interior color selection and matching the Abarth bodyside stripe.  The mirror caps and Abarth stripe are a $350 option.

Fiat Abarth Scorpion Shield


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North American International Auto Show: Ford Fusion is Serious

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Last week George asked us to share our pre-NAIAS thoughts on what the show might hold for each the VehicleVoice staffers. One of my interests centered on the reveal of the 2013 Ford Fusion, as it represents one for Ford’s single most important vehicles in maintaining momentum with US consumers. Ford’s last mid-cycle refresh of the Fusion, brought considerable attention to the vehicle and increased sales significantly. At NAIAS this week, VehicleVoice got the chance to review a completely updated model, which takes the Fusion to a new level.


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Jealous George – No Detroit Auto Show This Year

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North American International Auto Show Logo

An annual pilgrimage for the auto industry is to attend the press days at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit each January.  Unfortunately, this year I cannot attend because my physicians caution that I should not be heaving carry-ons into and out of overhead bins and baggage carousels.

So, I’m jealous.

One of the primary businesses of AutoPacific is to keep on top of what is the latest in the auto industry worldwide, so AutoPacific will still be well represented at Detroit.

I asked each of our staff members to remind me why I should or should not be jealous of them attending instead of me.  Read below the break for their input.


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Audi e-tron Spyder

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Sometimes things start out great and end up only OK, or perhaps worse. The smell of coffee in the morning. Most Superbowls. A full bottle of Patron. We recently had the opportunity to experience the Audi e-tron and came away excited by the vehicle, but wondering why we got to see so much of it.


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2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee: One More Gear Tames the HEMI

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It was about a year ago when I first got my hands on the new-for-2011 model year Jeep Grand Cherokee.  Looking bigger, better and more refined than ever, the Grand Cherokee had a few nit picks that could have made it just the teensiest bit better.  For 2012, Jeep decided to make a few of these changes.  Let’s check ’em out.


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2013 Lexus GS … Less Kinder… Less Gentler

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For more than a few years Lexus has been working towards creating a more exciting driving experience. The LFA and IS F are certainly worthy vehicles for those inclined to a vehicle that generates passion. But those two vehicles are certainly the Lexus exceptions. While the LFA and IS prove that Lexus can make engaging vehicles, they don’t prove that Lexus is about engaging vehicles. The 2013 Lexus GS is designed to change that. With the age of a Lexus buyer knocking on sixty’s door, it makes sense that this move could help the brand in the long run. We had the opportunity to see first hand if Lexus’ mainstream GS could move the needle towards automotive passion.


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NHTSA Unfairly Burns the Volt’s Reputation

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If there is one thing that bothers me is the notion of guilty until proven innocent.  Go and visit other countries and this is the way of life there.  Not so in the U.S., unless you work for NHTSA.  Recent headlines have said that the Volt is basically a tinderbox on wheels…when you have a side impact with a light pole or tree.  Statistically unproven and contrary to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety findings that the Volt is a safe vehicle for the masses.


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