Thursday, November 30, 2017

Can Devon find a Spark in a micro-sized Chevy? (Used)

File:2010 Chevy Spark LS (4359987176).jpg

Gas prices are high and the cost of owning a vehicle is going up. Chevy figured this would be the perfect opportunity to launch the Chevy Spark. It's a subcompact hatchback that has real potential to go toe to toe with the Fiat 500 and Toyota iQ. Even though Americans haven't really warmed up to small cars yet, will the Spark be able to spark something in this steadily trendy segment? Let's find out! 

Performance: There's only one engine available with the Spark and that's a 1.2-liter four-cylinder producing 84hp. It's not the peppiest engine and won't spark any excitement. Fuel economy however is the main concern here and that's where the Spark really sparks. It's at home around town where the little horespower it has is peppy and can catch up to traffic with ease. On the highway you may want to plan out your overtaking because it will take a while to get up to pace with the rest of traffic. We suggest sticking with the manual gearbox as it works better with the small amount of horsepower the engine has to offer. 

On the road: The Spark has a comfortable ride for a city car. Around town the suspension copes well with bumps and helps the Spark dart around tight urban areas with little to no effort needed. Venture outside of the city limits and the Spark's composed ride often feels unsettled. Most city cars feel out of their element outside of the city, so the Spark isn't too far off from its main rivals. 

Refinement: You'll have to work the engine hard to get any momentum out of it. The manual gearbox is better suited with the small engine size and output. Wind and road noise will intrude in the cabin at higher speeds making the Spark feel less refined than its rivals. 

Behind the wheel: The dashboard has a very user-friendly with most of controls and dials easily labeled and easy to reach from the driver's seat. The instrumental panel has a motorcycle like gauge which helps spark a little flare inside the cabin. There's plenty of adjustments for the driver's seat, but the steering wheel doesn't adjust for reach. This isn't a deal breaker but can compromise the driving position for taller drivers. 

Space & Practicality: Even though the Spark is small, the interior is roomy and offers plenty of space for four adults. There is plenty of headroom and legroom for front and rear passengers if the passengers are willing to share out the space. The boot space won't wow you but it's pretty decent compared to most rivals, you'll have to push the front seats forward to fold the rear seats down to extend cargo space. 

Equipment: The Spark starts at the right price tag but the base trim loses out on cd-player, keyless entry and a few other bits that you'd desire. You'll have to step up to the mid-range trim to add these features which we highly suggest. Top of the range trim adds leatherette seating surfaces, Chevy's MyLink, alloy wheels with roof rails. 

Buying & Owning: The Chevy Spark running costs should be low thanks to the ultra efficient engine under the hood. You may lose some of the fuel economy benefits due to the fact that you have to work the Spark's engine harder on faster paced roads. Starting prices for the Spark are below $13,000 which should appeal to the tight budget minded buyers. We however suggest sticking with the mid-range trim which adds keyless entry and few other bits that you'll want on your daily drive. 

Quality & Reliability: The Spark's interior is very nice but is surrounded by hard and cheap looking plastics. You can tell that this car was built to a price. It's a shame because the Spark has such a fun loving character. 

Safety & Security: The Spark comes with front and side curtain airbags standard. Hill start assist and electronic stability are standard across the range as well as traction control. The base trim loses out on a theft alarm and keyless entry which leaves the Spark vunerable to break-ins. 

The Chevy Spark is a spacious and roomy city car that benefits from an extra pair of doors for added versatility. It's stylish and quite a joy to drive around the city. Venture outside of the city and everything goes down hill from there. The engine doesn't offer enough momentum to really get you off the line and you'll have to plan out your overtakings. The rear seats are very difficult to fold down and the base trim feels rather short on kit. If you need a small urban runabout that can seat up to four and is cheap to buy and run. The Spark really does spark up these and shows that it is indeed a great car to consider.

Devon's Pick: The 1LT trim makes the most sense. You get air-con, keyless-entry, cd-player and cruise control standard. You still get the same 1.2-liter engine as the base trim but you're not losing out on comfort features. 

Likes: Fuel efficient, fun to drive around town, roomy for four adults. Stylish exterior looks and a well thought out interior design. 

Dislikes: Obvious sign the car was built to a price. Overwhelmed outside city limits. Rear seats fold down feature is fiddly to use. Color choices won't appeal to all. 

Devon M 

(Used) Devon test drives a Chevy Impala

Chevrolet Impala -- 12-26-2009.jpg
Likes: Roomy interior for five, large roomy trunk, decent fuel economy, ride comfort is smooth.

Dislikes: Bland styling, forgettable driving experience, poor build quality and low-grade interior, four-speed automatic soaks up the engine's power, and the handling is lackluster at best.

Large front wheel drive sedans are slowly being replaced by more fun to drive rear-wheel drive vehicles.  There are plenty to choose from. So where does the Chevy Impala fit in that formula?

Performance: There are two six-cylinder engines to choose from. The base 3.5-liter six-cylinder produces 211hp, and a 3.9-liter six-cylinder with 230hp. The pick of the bunch is the 3.5-liter six-cylinder. Its smooth, provides quick acceleration and decent fuel economy. Not that there's much of a difference between the two engines in terms of gas mileage. But both engines have to make do with a old four-speed automatic. This ruins the potential that the engines have to offer. The shifts often feel delayed and unresponsive at times. Leaving you with no oomph when you desire it the most.

Ride & Handling: The suspension is set towards comfort. It irons out bumps, and handles well if not pushed to its limits. This is where the Impala feels cheap. The ride and handling often feels loose and uncontrolled at times. Making the vehicle feel unsettled when pushed hard. Even the top of the range feels more geared towards a Sunday drive.

Refinement: The six-cylinder stays hused until pushed hard. However, the noise is far from intrusive. The Impala feels like a comfortable on long journeys. The driving experience is very forgettable.

Behind the wheel: There's plenty of adjustment for the driver's seat. The steering wheel adjusts for both reach and height. There's a sense of logic to the interior. It doesn't feel high quality, but it serves its purpose well. All the controls are easy to reach, and there's even power adjustments to the seats for added luxury.

Space & Practicality: The boot is very massive, something you'd expect from a sedan that's so big in size. The seats fold down to increase cargo space. You can sit up to five passengers in comfort.

Equipment: The base engine is well equipped for the money. There's automatic headlamps, cruise control, keyless entry and six-way power driver seat. The top of the range adds luxury tuned supsension, 18-inch alloy wheels and a sunroof.

Buying & Owning: The Impala seems like a good deal on paper. This however changes when you come to selling the vehicle. With steep depreciation, your investments aren't well protected. There are rivals that offer better value for the money all-round. The Impala does get decent fuel economy, but has to make do with an ancient four-speed automatic. Rivals offer six and even seven speed automatic gearboxes.

Quality & Reliability: The interior feels and looks well put together. There's no indication for the gears on the automatic transmission. One will have to look into the instrument panel to see what gear they are shifting into. This can get annoying at times, especially when parking. The whole cabin feel is on the cheap side. Even in the top of the range, there's a sense of low-rent quality to the cabin. The Impala has scored low in JD power survery for reliability.

Safety: The Impala comes well equipped in safety. There's front and side curtian airbags. ABS and ESP are both standard across the range. However, the construction of the vehicle feels cheap. You may want to consider this before buying one. There are deadlocks and a theft alarm to guard against theft.

Overall: The Impala is one of the few large front wheel drive sedans that offers plenty of space, and decent equipment for the money. However the negatives seem to outweigh the positives, and there are far better rivals that are better value for money and offer much more than the Impala.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

(Remember) Helping Ms. Indecisive: Hyundai Elantra Variants

Picking a car can be quite challenging. The first thing you always want to keep in mind is your needs vs your wants. You always want to pick a car that will meet your demands. Never pick a car that you know down the road will be too impractical or won't fit your daily livestyle. I am here to help Ms Decisive pick which vehicle will suit her best. 

Photo provided by
Raul Gonzalez

Hyundai Elantra Sedan 
There's no getting around the alluring style of the newest generation Elantra. Long gone are the days in which you'd buy a Hyundai because they were cheap and that was it. The new Elantra is stylish, and still offers tons of value for money. In sedan form, the Elantra offers tons of room and practicality. It's not as spacious or versatile as the hatchback form, but it does have a more spacious rear seat if you want to carry extra passengers. In standard form you get air-con, power windows, keyless entry and cd-player standard. You'll have to step up to the top of the range to get keyless start, 17inch alloy wheels and navigation system. These features however you'll have to pay extra for. 

Compared to the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla the Elantra sedan is a better choice. You get more power and extra luxury bits that both vehicles don't offer. Plus it's not as bland and dull to drive. 

Likes: Spacious interior for four, stylish exterior looks with plenty of value for money. 

Dislikes: Feels like it trades style for substance, road noise at highway speeds. 

Photo provided by
Raul Gonzalez

Hyundai Elantra Coupe 

The Elantra Coupe is the sleek and stylish offering in the Elantra range. Compared to the Honda Civic Coupe and Volkswagen Golf. The Elantra Coupe has a sleeker profile and the overall image gives the impression that this is sportier than a GTI. However, you'll be surprised that the level of excitement doesn't really match the sporty looks. The engine is geared more towards fuel economy rather than sport. So your trade off is that you get great gas mileage but no excitement behind the wheel which is disappointing. 

Picking the Elantra Coupe is a no brainer here. If you want a sleeker version of the Elantra and don't really care too much about passengers, than this is obviously the better choice. It's just disappointing that it isn't fun to drive like the looks suggest. 

Likes: Much more sleeker looking than the sedan form, still carries the value for money factor well. 

Dislikes: Looks sporty but feels like it's aimed towards fuel efficiency. A turbo version would broaden it's appeal even more. 

Image result for 2013 hyundai elantra gt no copyright image

The Hyundai Elantra GT isn't shaped like the funky fastback of the previous generation. Instead it switches to a more conventional hatchback that is similar to the Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit. All three versions come with the 1.8-liter four-cylinder 148hp which is pretty zippy for what it is. In hatchback form the Elantra GT offers a roomier interior for extra luggage. Compared to the coupe and the sedan it costs more than both. If you need the extra practicality and space the Elantra GT is the perfect choice. 

Likes: Extra space for utility and practicality. Fuel efficient and stylish. 

Dislikes: Extra premium over the coupe and sedan. 

Devon M 

Devon test drives an odd-ball Mini (Used)

Mini Cooper S Clubman Facelift front 20100508.jpg
The Mini Brand offers tons of quirky niche vehicles that are fun to drive. But what if you want the quirkiest of the bunch? The Clubman is the Mini that will appeal to you the most.

Performance: The Clubman comes with the same 1.6-liter engine the rest of the Mini Range comes with. There are three variations to choose from; the Cooper trim offers 122hp. Cooper S offers a turbo which pumps out 180hp. Top of the range JCW offers the potent 208hp version of the 1.6. Pick of the range is the Cooper S trim, which offers the most engaging driving experience all while offering decent fuel economy which is a win-win over the base trim.

Ride & handling: The Clubman is just as fun to drive as the hardtop Mini. Even though the Clubman has a longer wheelbase, the overall feel in the corners and bends is still spot on. Ride comfort however isn’t as disappointing as the Countryman. Although the fun to drive character is still there, it still leaves a lot to be desired when compared to the hardtop Mini.

Refinement: The engines sound sporty and are fun to rev. The turbo versions offer the more engaging driving experience. Wind noise can be heard in the cabin at higher speeds but it’s far from intrusive. Some road noise will sneak into the cabin also. The manual gearbox gear pattern shoves the reverse gear in front of first gear, which makes it very easy for you to select reverse instead of first gear.

Behind the wheel: Even though the Clubman is bigger than your standard Mini hardtop, the seating position and overall view out of the car is still spot on. Only problem we have is the barn doors styled tailgate. It creates an awkward blind spot when parking and looking through the rearview mirror. The dashboard like other Minis is just fussy and fiddly to operate. Many of the controls are jammed in where ever there’s space, which makes it awkward and overly complicated to navigate through.

Space & practicality: This is where the Clubman shines. Thanks to the added length and wheelbase, there is plenty of space for actual passengers in the rear. Two adults can sit comfortably thanks to added headroom, legroom and even hip room. The club door is placed on the passenger side of the car which means that rear passengers won’t have to exit into traffic. The boot is also well sized and shaped. The barn doors styled tailgate adds a touch of quirk to the overall appeal of the car.
Equipment: All three trim levels are equally equipped with the same level of kit. You’ll have to pay extra for desired features that should be standard. The Cooper S trim and JCW trim adds special body-kit trim and few other touches to separate them from the Cooper trim. If price is a concern for you, we’d suggest sticking with the Cooper trim and stay clear of the options list.

Buying & owning: The Clubman is slightly more expensive than the hardtop Mini, but in return you do get more space for rear passengers and a distinct image all round. Running costs shouldn’t be too bad thanks to decent fuel economy, while resale value won’t be a problem at all thanks to strong demand for the Mini Badge.

Quality & reliability: The Clubman and all other Minis have a premium small car image. It’s a shame that the interior quality is a big let down. Some switchgear and controls are iffy in terms of quality. Mini Customers are a happy bunch and rate Mini high in customer satisfaction, even though the company’s reliability record is patchy.

Safety & Security: Front and side curtain airbags are standard across the range. As well as traction control, electronic stability program, anti-lock brakes and a tire pressure monitor. An engine immobilizer is standard as well as deadlocks; you’ll have to pay extra for an alarm.

If you want the most distinct and quirky Mini of them all, the Clubman is clearly the choice hands down. It may not be as roomy as the Countryman, but it’s not as disappointing to drive and overall driving satisfaction is right there next to the Mini hardtop. If you don’t mind paying the premium for the options that you’d most likely want, the Clubman is the perfect car for you.

Devon's Pick: Mini Clubman S is the most fun to drive of the range without being overly expensive like the JCW trim. You still have to pay extra for bits that you may want, but it's still entertaining to drive and the most popular form of the Clubman. 

Likes: Fun to drive with roomy interior for four passengers. Decent running costs with quirky club doors and tailgate.

Dislikes: Some controls are fiddly to operate. Desired options push price sky high, while standard kit is considered stingy. Reverse gear too easily selected instead of first gear.

Devon’s Pick: The Cooper S is the best trim to pick. You may have to pay the premium price for it, but it offers the most engaging driving experience. All while offering decent running costs.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Devon drives a seven-seat Ford (Used)

Times have changed and the urge for truck based sport utility vehicles are slowly fading away. Car based sport utility vehicles are all the rage. The benefits is they are lighter, safer and much more fuel efficient. While the Explorer has always been a truck based sport utility vehicle, will Ford be able to retain their loyal fan base of the vehicle? Or is it another case of new trend nothing new? 

Performance: The Explorer comes with three engine choices. A 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 240hp, a 3.5-liter V6 producing 290hp and the top of the range 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 producing 365hp. We have yet to test drive either 3.5-liter engines. Our tester car came with the 2-liter turbo engine which is good for around town driving and highway driving. However, if you desire extra oomph we'd say go for the 3.5L V6 with front wheel-drive which is slightly cheaper. You'll have to pay extra for the four-wheel-drive system which is only available on the 3.5-liter engines. 

Ride & Handling: The Explorer rides very securely and feels smooth around town. Handling isn't great but it does respond well when you need it to. Most drivers won't really care too much about handling, but ride comfort has to be good and the Explorer will not disappoint. 

Refinement: On the highway the Explorer felt smooth and quiet. The cabin is well insulated and the overall refinement of the interior is very good. The turbo engine can get a little gruff at times, but this can be easily drained out by the radio. 

Behind the wheel: The driver seat feels very comfortable and all the controls and dials are within easy reach of the driver's seat. The trim of the base vehicle doesn't feel as expensive or eye appealing as those of the higher trims, but the overall feel of the materials do impress. 

Space & Practicality: There's plenty of space for five adults, with a third row seat that's best left to the kids. When you lower the third row seat, the boot becomes very spacious. There's enough space for five adults luggage for a weekend vacation. 

Buying & Owning: The 2-liter turbo engine makes the most sense, but the only downside is you'll have to pay more than the 3.5L V6 with front-wheel-drive. Also the 2-liter engine doesn't offer four-wheel-drive which makes its appeal limited. But if you drive mostly around town and need the extra two seats, we'd say look else where. Your running costs will be high, while resale value is unknown because the Explorer is still too new to determine. 

Equipment: The Explorer comes well equipped for the money. Base trim comes with CD-player, stability control and hill-start assist. You'll have to step up to XT trim for the leather wrapped steering wheel. Top of the range offers 20-inch alloy wheels, upgraded sound system and unique sporty grille. 

Quality & reliability: Ford has drastically improved their products over the years. The interior of the Explorer is very impressive, all the materials feel long lasting. However, the question still remains if the Explorer mechanicals will hold up well as Ford's relaiblity record is still rather iffy. 

Safety & Security: The Ford Explorer received high scores for both front and side collisons. Rollover protection is four stars which is also very good. All trims come with stability control and traction control. Anti-lock brakes are standard as well. Front and side curtain airbags are standard across the range as well as knee airbags for front passengers. 

The Explorer is a good crossover but has limited appeal. The 2-liter turbo engine is good if you don't need to tow or carry seven passengers on a daily basis, but costs more than the 3.5-liter V6 which makes no sense. Also if you're going to buy a $30,000 vehicle alloy wheels should be standard without a question. Overall if you like the style of the Explorer and don't mind the little annoying faults, then this is a great car to own. However, we suggest looking at some of its rivals first. There are a few that can do the same tricks better for less money. 

Devon's Pick: Most people won't really use their Explorer for off-road use and towing. This is why I suggest getting the 2-liter EcoBoost engine. It feels like an allround better deal than the 3.5-liter.

Likes: Stylish inside out, roomy interior with impressive quality, turbo four-cylinder surprisingly punchy, smooth ride comfort. 

Dislikes: 2-liter turbo four costs more than the 3.5-liter front wheel drive. No alloy wheels on base trim, and the overall packaging of the base trim is rather disappointing. 

Devon M  

(Look-back review) Devon test drives a Mercedes ML

Mercedes-Benz ML 350 BlueTEC 4MATIC (W 166) – Frontansicht, 8. September 2013, Bösensell.jpg

If you’re looking for a luxury sport utility vehicle that’s stylish and well rounded. You might first think of the BMW X5 which in fact is a great choice. But what if you want something a bit more posh and slightly more comfortable? Then the Mercedes ML may tick all the right buttons.
Performance: The standard ML350 has a 3.5-liter six-cylinder producing 302hp. You can step up to a ML350 Blue-TEC which has a 3-liter turbo-diesel producing 240hp. ML550 uses a 4.6-liter bi-turbocharged eight-cylinder with a massive 402hp while top of the range AMG has a handcrafted 5.5-liter bi-turbocharged eight-cylinder producing a staggering 518hp. Pick of the range is the standard ML350 which will satisfy most buyers. The diesel engine option also makes sense if you do tons of highway driving.

On the road: You may think that the ML is cushy thanks to the soft suspension set up. However, this is not the case here. The ride feels harsh over rough surfaces and does very little at faster pace. The X5 feels more composed. If you option for the air suspension system things will improve. The AMG fitted models have an overly firm ride but improves handling quite a bit. The engines including the diesel feel smooth in operation. Road nose won’t be an issue however it’s sad that wind noise enters the cabin at speeds above 50mph.

Behind the wheel: The only complaints we have with the interior is the single stalk that is used for the turn signal and windshield wipers. Also touch screen infotainment system has too many menus that can be distracting to use on the go. Other than that the driving position is spot on. Interior for the most part is user friendly and visibility all round is decent.

Equipment: ML350 gets leather seats, LED daytime running lamps, 19 inch alloy wheels and dual-zone auto climate control. You’ll have to step up the ML550 to get unique body-kit, power tailgate and heated front seats. Top of the range AMG gets eco stop/start system. 20 inch alloy wheels, active ventilated leather seats with bi-xenon headlamps as well as AMG body-kit.

Buying & owning: The ML is slightly cheaper than the X5 but it isn’t really cheaper by much. You’ll have to pay for optional kit such as bi-xenon headlamps, power folding mirrors and keyless start which most will likely want and of course will push the price higher than we can say is not justifiable. If you pick and choose your options wisely you’ll walk away with a decently priced ML with good resale value thanks to the Mercedes badge.

Quality: The cabin feels well-crafted with much of the controls and dials feeling sturdy. However you’ll want to be mindful of the fact that Mercedes has consistently scored below Audi, BMW and Mercedes when it comes to reliability of its products.

Safety: The standard safety kit extends from seven airbags, attention assist which monitors driver fatigue and pop up bonnet for pedestrian safety. An anti-theft alarm system comes standard but Mercedes rejects deadlocks on the grounds of safety reasons.

The Mercedes ML is a great choice if you want something other than the X5 and Range Rover Sport. It’s stylish and offers plenty of kit for the money. But you’ll have to pay for the features that you’ll most likely want and these options aren’t cheap. It will push the ML price steep pretty quickly. If you can ignore these few negatives you’ll find the ML is a well-rounded luxury sport utility vehicle with plenty going for it.

Likes: Stylish inside out with generous cabin space, strong range of engines to choose from.

Dislikes: Add on the options watch the price sky rocket. Bi-xenon headlamps should be standard across the range rather than limited to just the AMG trim. Disappointing drive without air suspension fitted and that’s optional.

Devon’s pick: The ML350 is the most logical choice thanks to it being the cheapest to buy. But we feel that you’ll get a better deal with the ML350 Blue-TEC. It may cost a bit more than the ML350 but it makes the most sense especially if you do lots of highway driving.

ML350 ***
Likes: Smooth and flexible six-cylinder. Clearly the most logical choice if you stay clear of the options list.
Dislikes: So many options and so many of them are expensive.
ML350 Blue-TEC ****
Likes: Smooth and sophisticated diesel engine. Massive torque at low revs makes it more flexible with higher towing ratings.
Dislikes: Running costs almost similar to ML350. At this price point some options shouldn’t be optional.
ML550 ***
Likes: It’s the closest thing to an AMG without going overboard.
Dislikes: Running costs will be steep. Why are Bi-Xenon headlamps only optional?
ML63 AMG *
Likes: Outrageously fast. AMG crafted interior and exterior.
Dislikes: Outrageously expensive to buy and run.

(Used) Devon test drives a Chevy Cruze

2011 Chevrolet Cruze LS -- NHTSA 2.jpg

The Cavalier never really stacked up to its Japanese rivals. Neither could the Cobalt, but all this is going to change with the Cruze. Chevy's newest answer to the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. It's bigger, roomier and has a more classy interior. But is this enough to lure American buyers back to Chevy?

Performance: The Cruze comes with two four-cylinder engines. A 1.8-liter four-cylinder with 138hp and a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 138hp. Picking between the two clearly depends upon taste. If you desire more oomph on the highway, the turbo version makes the most sense. The 1.8 offers good fuel economy too and is the only version offered with a manual gearbox, unless you choose the Eco trim that has the turbo engine.

Ride & Handling: The Cruze doesn't offer sharp handling like some of its keen rivals. The ride has a jiggly quality, some bumps and potholes can easily upset the ride comfort. Handling is a mere acceptable, there isn't much body roll in corners. However, it doesn't feel as sporty as the Volkswagen Jetta. The steering is quick and light, but has very little feedback. Feeling almost numb at times.
Refinement: The engines don't offer much in terms of power. Both provide good pace around town, the turbo version feels more punchy thanks to the extra torque at low revs. At higher speeds the engine sends a loud sound track into the interior. Wind noise is well supressed, but some surfaces can kick up a bit too much road roar than desired.

Behind the wheel: There's adjustment for reach and height for the driver seat and steering wheel. Many drivers will find it easy to get comfortable. Some may not find the front seats comfortable. They're strangely shaped and are short on lower back support. All the controls are within easy reach of the driver's hand. Everything feels easy to use and operate. Rear visibility isn't great, but it isn't bad for a small sedan.

Space & Practicality: The rear seat offers plenty of space for two. The large center tunnel and narrow cabin means trying to carry three in the back is best avoided. The boot is fairly large, but the trunk uses an old fashioned hinges that eat into cargo space. The split folding rear seats increase cargo space.

Equipment: The Cruze comes with air-conditioning, cd-player with MP3 compatibility and tire pressure monitors all standard. You'll have to step up to the higher trim levels to get alloy-wheels, cruise control and heated front seats. Top of the range offers climate control, rear reverse camera and keyless start.

Buying & Owning: The Cruze doesn't seem much of a value compared to its rivals. But you do get plenty of kit for the money. Fuel economy is decent, and resale value should be average. Some may be put off by its bland styling.

Quality & Reliability: The interior looks and feels like a major leap forward for Chevy. The dash materials are hard to the touch, but look smart and are well textured. However, there are signs of cost cutting in some areas of the interior. Reliability for the Cruze is too soon to say.

Safety & Security: ESP, ABS and six airbags are all standard. An engine imobiliser and deadlocks are fitted on every model to keep theft at bay.

Likes: Roomy interior, a major improvement over the Cobalt, interior feels up to par with Japanese rivals, available turbocharged engine, decent fuel economy.

Dislikes: Two engines with the same output doesn't make much sense, the front seats lack support, some trim levels don't seem like much of a value for the money, exterior looks are on the dull side.

Overall: The Cruze is a major leap forward for Chevy. The interior feels high much improved, and there's plenty of kit for the money. If Chevy offers a more powerful engine, the value for the money factor will be well justified in the top of the range trim.

Top rated cars of 2017 (with our critique of course!)

File:2016 Toyota Prius (ZVW50R) Hybrid liftback (2016-04-02) 01.jpg

Toyota Prius 
Likes: It costs peanuts to run and has ultra-low emissions. Interior is much roomier and it isn’t a chore to drive thanks to improved powertrain.

Dislikes: It looks so odd compared to other hybrids.

Overall: It’s the benchmark hybrid and the go to hybrid for those who want the world to know you’ve gone ‘green’.

Volkswagen Golf 
Likes: Zippy turbo engine and low running costs, the boot space is generous for size and the overall interior is roomy. Simplified trim levels yet each trim level is stuffed with kit.

Dislikes: You can no longer option for Bi-xenon headlamps. We miss the SEL trim despite it being pricey.

Overall: This is quite literally the best hatchback money can buy. Power hungry crowd have the GTI and Golf-R, while those who may want an all-electric car can pick the e-Golf.

Kia Soul
Likes: Easy to drive and live with. Driving position is similar to that of a crossover with decent kit standard. Optional turbo engine is a welcome addition to the range.

Dislikes: It's not as engaging to drive as some rivals, and it may depreciate faster too. Despite having a turbo, steering feedback is still numb and there’s no all-wheel-drive option.

Overall: It’s an interesting proposition in the compact crossover segment. It may not be the best but it certainly does have a lot going for it in terms of value for the money.

Honda Accord 
Likes: Low-running costs with four-cylinder engine. Standard kit is decent. The 3.5 six-cylinder is the sweet spot of the range and is actually cheaper than you’d think.

Dislikes: Infotainment system is frustrating to use. This is the last year of the six-cylinder engine.

Overall: The Accord continues to impress but the Mazda 6 is dynamically superior.

Chevrolet Cruze 1.4T LTZ 2017.jpg

Chevy Cruze
Likes: It has plenty of torque at low revs. It’s much lighter than previous generation and the ride quality has improved dramatically.

Dislikes: It's not the sharpest car to drive and it’s not as refined as the class best Volkswagen Golf.

Overall: You can get a diesel hatchback but the premium makes it a questionable buy.

Pathological goes to Rio with Kia

Image result for 2017 kia rio 5 no copyright image

The Kia Rio for a while carried the image of being a budget car nothing more. Those who needed a cheap means of getting around considered the Rio because of it's ultra-low base price. Now times have changed however, and the Kia Rio is far from the cheap car that it used to be. It's still affordable and offers much new technology for such a low asking price. Has Kia finally stepped up their game? Or is it a case of all style no substance?

Performance: The Kia Rio only comes with one engine and that's a 1.6-liter four-cylinder producing 138hp. There's plenty of pace for city and highway driving, and fuel economy is really good as well. The engine is paired with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a six speed automatic gearbox. Picking between the two depends on your tastes.

Ride & Handling: The Kia Rio ride often feels firm and never settled over bumps and potholes. If you get the top of the range trim with the low profile tires, the ride comfort will suffer a bit more. Handling is okay, it's not as sporty as a Fiesta but it does offer a secure feeling. The only downside is the steering can often feel numb at times.

Refinement: Wind noise is well suppressed but very little else. Engine noise is often joined by tire noise slapping on the road. The gearshift is a bit notchy too. On long journeys this can make things a bit tiresome unless you turn the radio up a bit to drain out the noise.

Behind the wheel: This car is very easy to get comfortable in because the driving position is adjustable and should suit everyone. The seats are flat and firm. The controls are simple and well placed. The big problem however is the small rear window and thick pillars, which restrict rear visibility.

Space & Practicality: The Rio offers an impressive amount of space for four adults. There's plenty of headroom and legroom to go round. The boot offers plenty of space for its size and the rear seats fold 60/40 for added versatility.

Equipment: The base trim level misses out on power windows and power door locks. But you do get air-con and a CD-player standard. You'll have to step up to the EX trim to get power door locks, windows and Bluetooth connectivity. SX trim adds 17-inch alloy wheels, power folding exterior mirrors, auto headlights with LED day time running lamps and a sports tuned suspension.

Buying & Owning: The Kia Rio is one of the most affordable cars on the market. However, the value factor slowly disappears when you climb up the trim levels. The base trim loses out on features that should be standard, while the top of the range seems rather overpriced for what it is. Running costs should be low thanks to good fuel economy, while resale unknown.

Quality & Reliability: The Kia Rio overall interior quality feels good. The quality of the materials used feel sturdy and long lasting. A huge step forward for the brand. Reliability has been average for the Kia brand.

Safety & Security: All Rios come equipped with front and side curtain airbags. Anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control are standard as well. It should also be as thief-proof as other contemporary Kias.

The Kia Rio has really stepped up its game since it was first released in the U.S. No longer is it the car you'd choose because it’s the cheapest to buy. The new generation of the Rio is stylish, practical and even offers good fuel economy. However, the only disappointing factors are the kit level for the base trim and the disappointing driving experience compared to the Ford Fiesta. If you can ignore these few little faults, you'll find that the Rio is a great car with good value for the money.

Devon's Pick: SX trim may be the most expensive of the Rio range. It's the only version of the Rio that offers the most attractive features such as those LED daytime running lamps and flashy alloy wheels. It's worth spending the extra but it loses the value for money factors.

Likes: Good fuel economy, stylish exterior looks, practical and offers good value for the money.

Dislikes: Not as comfortable or fun to drive as a Ford Fiesta, the base trim is very disappointing.

Monday, November 27, 2017

(Used) Devon figures out the Cube of Nissan

Nissan Cube (Z12) – Frontansicht, 25. August 2013, Düsseldorf.jpg
The Nissan Cube is a funky little hatchback that's been sold in Japan for years. It's not the most stylish of Nissan cars, but it surely does stand out. With rivals from Kia and Scion, will the Nissan Cube manage to keep up? Or will it be another case of all style and no substance?

Likes: Roomy interior, generous kit, low running costs, distinctly designed inside out.

Dislikes: Sloppy handling, sluggish engine, odd-ball styling, too much wind noise on the motorway.

Performance: There's only one engine available for the Cube. It's a 1.8-liter four-cylinder with 122hp, although the engine is fuel efficient. It doesn't feel up for the job. It offers decent pace around town, but on faster paced roads you'll struggle to get up to speed. The CVT-transmission really does bring the buzz out of the engine, and often robs you off valuable revs when you need it most.

Ride & handling: The Cube feels comfortable because the suspension is set towards comfort, so there's plenty of body-roll in corners. You'll think the car wasn't attached to its chassis. On the motorway, you'll often feel like you're being blown about by cross winds due to the tall body.

Refinement: The cabin is roomy and airy, with very little road noise. Wind noise however will be an issue. The Cube's tall body makes it as aerodynamic as a tower block. So wind noise rushes into the cabin at high levels. The CVT transmission brings the buzz out of the engine. This makes long distance driving a bit tiresome.

Behind the wheel: The front seats are comfortable, but they lack lateral support. The dashboard is easy to navigate. Everything feels user friendly. Forward and rear visibility will be an issue. You'll feel like the windscreen is miles away from you, and those thick B-pillars create massive blind spots.

Space & Practicality: There's plenty of head and legroom in both the front seats and the rear seats. The tall body does give you an airy feel in the cabin. The seats fold down 60/40 to increase cargo space. While the boot isn't massive, it's awkward shape makes getting things in and out a breeze.

Equipment: The Nissan Cube comes well equipped. The base trim comes with air-con, cd-player, 6-way adjustable driver seat and a nifty trip computer. Top of the range models add automatic headlamps, sporty body-kit, and navigation system.

Buying & Owning: The Nissan Cube comes with a low asking price. It's not the most stylish car on the block, but it does offer loads of kit for the money. Discounts are available, and resale value should be good. Running costs are low too, thanks to decent fuel economy.

Quality & reliability: The interior feels well put together. Many plastics feel sturdy and long lasting. Nissan has a solid reliability record. The Nissan Cube should prove to be just as reliable.

Safety & Security: The Cube offers side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control all standard, even on the base trim. Deadlocks, engine immobiliser and an alarm are standard across the range to keep theft at bay.

The Nissan Cube isn't the most stylish car on the block. The interior is roomy, and the kit is generous for the money. However, the Cube's handling is sloppy. The engine isn't really up for the job, and there's too much wind noise on the motorway. It may seem like the Cube is all style and no substance. Even with all the negatives, the Cube still has a market for those who want something out side of the box. Before you consider a Cube however, we highly suggest you look at its rivals first. They're priced the same, but exceed in what the Cube falls short in.

Devon M 

(Used) We test drives a Volkwagen Golf


The Volkswagen Golf is one of the classiest hatchbacks you can buy. It offers an excellent blend of comfort and sporty handling. All this with a decent sized boot and massive kit level. The Golf pushes all the right buttons, but can it lure the sedan loving U.S. buyers?

Performance: There's two engines available for the Golf. A 2.5-liter five-cylinder with 170hp, and a 2-liter turbo-diesel with 140hp. The pick of the bunch is the 2.5-liter engine. Although it doesn't have the fuel economy benefit of the diesel. It's not as expensive, and finding one won't be difficult.

Ride & Handling: The Golf is in a class of its own. Handling is excellent as well as ride comfort. There's plenty of grip, and the steering is well weighed. The Golf is a doddle to drive. Around town the ride is smooth and well composed. On the highway the suspension soaks up bumps well.

Refinement: The Golf's cabin is hushed, making it a great vehicle for long journeys. The engines are smooth and quiet. There's very little wind and road noise.

Behind the wheel: Driver's can easily get comfortable behind the wheel. The steering wheel adjusts for reach and height. Visibility is good all round, allowing for more confidence when squeezing around tight urban areas. The dashboard has a minimalistic approach, with everything within reach of the driver's hand.

Space & Practicality: The Golf has plenty of passenger space. There's plenty of head and legroom for four adults. There's plenty shoulder room so a fifth passenger isn't out of the question. The boot is big and well shaped, but the rear seats don't fold flat.

Equipment: Every Golf comes well equipped for the money. There's air-conditioning, cd-player and remote central locking. Automatic headlamps, speed sensitive headlamps and optional rear curtian airbags. The top of the range adds a body-kit, alloy wheels and bluetooth connectivity.

Buying & Owning: The Golf isn't the cheapest in its class, but its definitely worth the money. Reasonable discounts are available, and your purchase will be secured thanks to Volkswagen high resale value. Running costs are low thanks to decent fuel economy.

Quality & Reliability: The Golf is the best in its class. The interior is up to par with Volkswagen quality. All the textures used are excellent in quality. They look and feel well put together. Build quality is generally solid and reliability has been rated above average by owners from JD Power customer satisfaction surveys.

Safety & Security: Every Golf comes with an extensive safety kit. ESP, ABS and side curtain airbags are all standard. There's a theft alarm and deadlocks to keep theft away.

Likes: Upscale interior, roomy interior for four, benchmark handling and ride comfort, frugal diesel engines.

Dislikes: Five-cylinder engine droan, diesel engine commands premium price, no manual gearbox on five-door 2.5 trim.

Overall: The Golf is the benchmark in its class. An extensive safety kit with plenty of equipment for the money. If you're willing to dish out the extra cash, the Golf will provide you with German quality for a low asking price.

Devon M

Sunday, November 26, 2017

(Used) Devon test drives a Volkswagen Icon

The Volkswagen Beetle has always been seen as a chick car. The next generation Beetle is going to address this issue with more muscular curves, and a shape to follow more closely to the original Beetle. However, a final verdict of a Beetle must be given before the new - new Beetle arrives.

Performance: There's only one engine available for the Beetle. It's a 2.5-liter five-cylinder with 150hp. It's peppy and offers decent pace in town and on the highway. Fuel economy is decent, but the five-cylinder has a droan that is only heard when revved hard. It's not intrusive, but can make long journeys tiresome.

Ride & Handling: The Beetle's handling isn't the best, its chassis is based on the pervious generation Golf. So there really isn't distinct handling here. It's comfortable and competent, and the steering feel is merely okay.

Refinement: Wind and road noise is well supressed. You'll drive around in the Beetle with comfort and ease. The major controls have a substaintial feel to them, but the engine droan will spoil things a bit.

Behind the wheel: The curvy roof makes things a little bit weird in the interior. You'll feel like you're sitting miles away from the windscreen. Visibility is poor, and the driving position isn't great, even if the steering wheel adjusts for reach and height. You'll like the single stylish fascia and instrument pod.

Space & Practicality: In theory the Beetle is a four-seater, in reality it's only a two-seater. The roofline means the rear is only for kids. The boot is tiny, so you'll have to fold the rear seats down to carry bigger and longer items.

Equipment: All Beetles come with alloy wheels, remote central locking, power windows and a Cd-player. There aren't many options available, as most features that you'll want are already standard. Leather seats, and other goodies are optional.

Buying & Owning: The Beetle's resale value is good. You'll recoup more than 40% of the list price after three years and 36,000 miles. Servicing costs will be a bit of a worry. Fuel economy is decent and emissions are pretty good.

Quality & Reliability: The interior feels well put together. Many plastics feel sturdy and long lasting. It's no surprise that the Beetle lives up to Volkswagen standards. Although the Beetle has respectable scores in JD Power customer satisfaction surveys. Reliablity is still a worry after the warranty expires.

Safety & Security: High crash safety scores, and a long list of safety features help keep the Beetle at the top of its game. There's plenty of security back-up. An immobiliser and deadlocks are fitted as standard, as well as an alarm.

Likes: Iconic design, offers decent pace and decent fuel economy, well equipped and fun to own.
Dislikes: Style over practicality, more of a two-seater with a tiny boot, long-term reliability a bit of a worry.
The Beetle will be replaced by a newer more masculine shaped variant. There will be more power, and more appeal to a broader audience. However, the retro fitted styling and curvy chick design still remains desirable. There's not many cars out there that can age gracefully, and still have a fan base with more than 15 million cars sold worldwide. The Beetle is iconic and still worthy of a test drive, even with the newer variant coming next year.

Devon M

Devon test drives a Mini Crossover (Used)

Mini Cooper D Countryman (R60) – Frontansicht, 11. Februar 2013, Düsseldorf.jpg

Have you ever considered a Mini but was turned away because they were too small for you taste? Well cheer up, the Countryman is the newest and biggest Mini ever produced. It's nearly as large a Volkswagen Golf and is designed to appeal to a broader audience. With that said, does Mini have what it takes to draw those buyers in? Let's find out. 

Performance: There are three versions of the 1.6-liter engine available. All three share their roots with the rest of the Mini line-up. Price conscious buyers will most likely choose the Countryman with the standard 1.6 with 122hp. There's plenty of pace around town, while on the highway you'll have to rev it harder to get up to pace. Mid-range turbo form produces 180hp and is available with all-wheel-drive. Top of the range is the JCW trim which offers a more potent 208hp. Pick of the range depends on what you desire most from your Countryman. We suggest sticking with either the Cooper or Cooper S trims. 

Ride & Handling: Handling is agile with plenty of grip corners, but it isn't as fun to drive as the standard hardtop or a Volkswagen Golf. The ride never really feels settled on rough surfaces and the steering weights up way too quickly when entering corners. 

Refinement: The engines rev smoothly and sound sporty, but too much engine noise can be heard at cruising speeds. Wind noise isn't the problem here, road noise intrudes into the cabin at high levels and makes long journeys feel tiresome. Both transmissions work well with the Countryman. The manual gearbox reverse gear is placed in front of first gear. This makes it very easy to accidentally select reverse instead of first gear. 

Behind the wheel: The Countryman follows design before user-friendliness, and you'll see it in the dashboard layout. The switches and controls feel like they are jammed in where ever there's space and the controls that you do need to operate the most feel fiddly to operate. It will take some time to get used to everything. The view out of the Countryman is spot on, with plenty of adjustments for the driver's seat and steering wheel. 

Space & practicality: There is plenty of room for four adults in the four seat configuration. The standard five seat configuration is just as roomy too but the limited shoulder room and foot room makes it feel like an over glorified four-seater. The boot is a decent size and offers plenty of room, but the seats don't fold completely flat which ruins the potential for versatility. 

Equipment: The Mini Countryman has a decent amount of standard features, but you'll have to pay for the extras such as Xenon headlamps, key less start, rain sensing windshield wipers and other little goodies. Roof rails and Bluetooth and HD radio are standard on the Cooper trim. You'll have to step up the the JCW to get the unique body-kit and larger alloy wheels. 

Buying & Owning: The Countryman starting price is attractive, but keep in mind that the base trim is rather stingy on equipment. You'll have to pay the extra if you want the luxury features no matter what trim you choose. We highly suggest keeping the options list light if you want to keep the cost of your Countryman down. Fuel costs shouldn't be too bad if you stick with the front wheel-drive versions. Resale value should be strong as demand for the Countryman has been strong. 

Quality & Reliability: The Countryman has a premium image, but it is let down due to some very iffy looking plastics used inside the cabin. Some of the switchgear quality is so-so and the overall impression is mixed. Reliability record for Mini has been rather patchy. Mechanical reliability has been average. 

Safety & Security: Across the range you'll find traction control, electronic stability program and anti-lock-brakes. Some trims add all-wheel-drive which adds an extra leg in safety for winter driving and slippery surfaces. All trims come with front and side curtain airbags as standard. An engine immobilizer with deadlocks are standard, but an alarm system is only offered as optional. 

The Countryman is roomy for four and makes the most sense if you want something larger than the Clubman. However, compared to the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus. The Countryman seems a tad bit overpriced. The interior quality is iffy and the equipment level is just down right stingy. If you like the Mini Brand but wanted something a bit more practical. The Countryman is for you, otherwise we strongly suggest looking at some of its more sensible rivals. 

Devon's Pick: Mini Countryman Cooper S adds everyone's favorite turbo engine at a decent price that's hard to pass up. You can add Mini's all-wheel-drive system for a slightly hefty premium. The Mini with just front-wheel-drive combo more than enough for most drivers. 

Likes: Spacious interior for four passengers. Turbo versions offer the most rewarding driving experience. Available all-wheel-drive system. 

Dislikes: Mini is stingy with equipment. The options you'll most likely want will push the price sky high. Ride comfort is rather disappointing. Dashboard layout is confusing with too many fiddly controls. Not as fun to drive as the Hardtop Mini.

Devon's Pick: There are several versions of the Countryman to choose from. Those who seek the Countryman but want it at a reasonable price, we strongly suggest sticking with the standard Cooper trim which seems to be the most reasonably priced. It may not be as engaging to drive as the Cooper S or JCW, but it does its job well. Running costs should be respectable too. The Cooper S is the more fun to drive trim thanks to the turbo engine, but you'll have to remember that Mini is rather stingy when it comes to equipment. So you'll have to pay a pretty penny to get one up to your desired specs. This is why we strongly suggest looking at the Countryman rivals first before settling with it. 

Devon Test drives a Toyota Matrix (Used)

2009 Toyota Matrix S -- NHTSA.jpg

The days when buying a small wagon are becoming less and less common these days. No longer are people buying wagons, but instead optioning for crossovers that sit higher off the ground like the Nissan Juke and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. However, what if you need a small wagon that's just as versatile and slightly more fuel efficient? Look no further the Toyota Matrix may just push some of the right buttons.

Performance: There are two engines available for the Matrix. A 1.8 liter four-cylinder with 132hp, and a 2.4 liter four-cylinder with 158hp. Both engines provide swift acceleration, but the 2.4 liter engine provides more punch at highway speeds. There really isn't much of a price difference between the two engines. The top of the range model gets all-wheel-drive.

Ride & Handling: Ride comfort is excellent for a small wagon. The suspension soaks up bumps really well. Some bumps may upset the ride. Handling isn't inspiring, and doesn't urge you to push the Matrix to its limit. There's bodyroll but not a lot. You may want to look at the sporty trim for a sports suspension.

Refinement: Toyota's reputation for quality doesn't come short of the Matrix. Road and wind noise is well supressed. The engine can be heard when revved hard, but its far from annoying. Around town the Matrix is nippy and easy to manuever. At highway speeds, the Matrix is quiet and refined. However, there's very little feel from the steering wheel. This is a let down because the Matrix looks sportier than its Corolla counterpart.

Behind the wheel: The dashboard has a nonsense free layout. Everything is within reach of the driver's seat. The materials used look and feel high quality. However, the interior looks a bit dull compared to some rivals.

Space & Practicality: The interior is roomy for five passengers. The floor in the rear seat is flat. This gives more space for three people. There's plenty of head and leg room in the back. The boot space is somewhat disppointing compared to rivals. The rear seats fold flat creating a cargo van like roominess.

Equipment: Each Matrix comes well equipped. Air-conditioning, power windows and central locking all come standard. There's an MP3 compatible stereo, with top of the line trims adding upgraded stereo system.

Buying and Owning: The Matrix is priced reasonably with other small wagons. There's not much of a price difference between the base and top of the line trim. Most buyers will pick the base trim, its priced reasonably and comes with enough kit to satisfy most buyers. Running costs should be low, and resale value will be average.

Quality & Reliability: Toyota's reputation has been soiled by the recall. However, the Matrix has always gotten high remarks by its owners. Build quality is excellent, and the mechanicals have been proven to be trouble free.

Safety & Security: Each Matrix comes with deadlocks, and other anti-theft systems to guard out theft. There's ESP and ABS standard across the range. There's also side curtian airbags and day time running lamps to add to safety.

Likes: Excellent fit and finish, very fuel efficient, loaded with value for the money.
Dislikes: Dull driving experience, play it safe styling inside out.

The Matrix is a dependable and reliable vehicle that offers extra cargo space and versatility. The legendary build quality of Toyota and fuel efficient engines are also some of the benefits. However, the driving experience is rather dull and styling inside out is bland. If you can overlook these few little faults the Matrix is a great car to own.

Devon M

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Devon test drives his top pick in compact crossovers

Image result for nissan rogue no copyright image

This will be the shortest intro ever. The Nissan Rogue is our top pick in the compact crossover segment. Here’s why.

Performance: The only engine choice offered with the Rogue is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder producing 170hp mated to a continuously variable transmission. This engine is all you’ll ever really need. There’s plenty of pick up around town and on the highway. Plus fuel economy is actually really good too. We’d personally prefer a diesel engine option but that would be nitpicking.
On the road: The Rogue isn’t as sharp to drive as a Volkswagen Tiguan or Ford Escape but it does its intended job well. Around town the ride comfort can be a bit jittery but it’s far from annoying. On the highway the ride comfort smoothens out. Steering is communicative and weighs up nicely. Refinement is one of the Rogue’s strong points. Road and wind noise are well suppressed. You’d think that you were in a more expensive luxury crossover. The CVT transmission often at times makes the engine sound buzzy but this is far from intrusive.

Behind the wheel: There’s plenty of adjustment for the driver to get comfortable behind the wheel of the Rogue. Everything in the dashboard is easy to reach and logically placed. The infotainment screen can be distracting at first but once you get used to it, it becomes a breeze to operate. The Rogue is the best choice for small families that need versatility. There’s plenty of space for five with a spacious boot. If you need to carry two extra people you can option for a third-row seat. Although it is nice that Nissan offers this. The third row is best left for kids or short journeys for adults.
Equipment: The Rogue is well equipped for the money. Standard S trim has Bluetooth, rear-view parking camera and LED daytime running lamps. SV trim adds push button start, 17inch alloy wheels and dual zone automatic climate control. Top of the range SL trim adds 18inch alloy wheels, navigation system and leather appointed seats. All-wheel-drive is optional across the range.

Buying & Owning: The Rogue is priced roughly with its competition which may seem a bit pricey. But with strong resale value you will be reassured of your investment. Fuel economy is actually best in class so your running costs should be low if you stick with the two-wheel-drive form. We think the all-wheel-drive option is best avoided unless you really need the extra traction.
Quality & safety: Everything feels so solid and well built in the cabin. Many of the materials used feel classy and long lasting. Nissan has scored very well in reliability as well. All versions of the Rogue have six-airbags, stability control and emergency brake assist. Lane-departure warning as well as collision warning systems is offered as an option. Immobilizer helps protect against thieves.

The Nissan Rogue is a compelling option in a sea of compact crossovers. If you are looking for the most sensible choice with good fuel economy, snazzy looks and is well put together. The Nissan Rogue is the perfect choice. So it’s no wonder why it is our top pick for compact crossovers.
Likes: Fuel economy is best in class. Exterior and interior are classy and well put together. Third row seat can be had as an option for the Rogue.

Dislikes: A diesel engine option or a more powerful engine option would be nice. But these are just nitpicks really.
Devon’s Pick: SV trim offers keyless start, 17inch alloy wheels and automatic climate control. You may have to pay extra for this trim. But we feel that this one offers the best overall compared to the S and SL.

Devon tests drives a Subaru XV (Used)

If there were ever a vehicle that blended go-anywhere all-wheel-drive, a roomy interior and fuel economy that is almost similiar to a small family car. You'd say we were crazy, but what if that vehicle existed? It would be the Subaru XV.

Performance: There is only one engine choice for the XV and that's a 2-liter boxer four-cylinder producing 148hp. Acceleration around town is decent and highway passing power is okay. The XV only weights 3,100lbs so this is actually quite enough. In some situations however, the engine leaves us wishing there were a more powerful output to choose from.

Ride & Handling: The XV comes standard with all-wheel-drive which provides oodles of grip and traction when you need it the most. The ride comfort however isn't the greatest. On some surfaces the ride quality feels a little bit of a let down, especially on the highway. You'll feel an unrelenting tremor which is too bad because it handles very well.

Refinement: The engine doesn't really have to be worked hard if you aren't in a rush, but if you are you'll hear it. Wind and road noise are well supressed most of the time. You'll hear the suspension struggling to soak up the bumps at low speeds. On the highway road noise will be a unwelcome visitor.

Behind the wheel: The driving position is good thanks to an elevated height, which means an overall good view of the road. The steering adjusts for reach and for height and the seats offer plenty of support. All the controls are within easy reach of the driver's hand.

Space & Practicality: The XV offers oodles of leg and headroom for rear passengers, even if the exterior shows a differ story. The boot offers plenty of space for luggage. Roof rails are standard on both trims which adds to the versatility of the vehicle.

Equipment: The XV comes well equipped even in the base trim. You get all-wheel-drive, stability control, Bluetooth hands free connectivity for your mobile phone. Top of the range trim adds leather trimmed upholstery, automatic climate control, six-speaker sound system and standard automatic transmission.

Buying & Owning: The XV has an attractive starting price of only $21,995, while the top of the range is only $24,495. There are options to choose from and can push the price a bit dearer than you'd like. The biggest complaint we have is that even though the engine is up for the job, we'd want a more powerful engine or a diesel possibly. Running costs should be average thanks to decent fuel economy. Resale value should be strong too.

Quality & Reliability: The interior may not have the classy materials used in some of its possible keen rivals, but there is a sturdy quality and feel. Subaru has enjoyed strong reliability record and its reputation for that is spotless.

Safety: The XV has performed well in crash tests and even scored a full five-star rating. Stability control is standard across the range which will help you avoid accidents.

The XV is a great alternate to a much larger and less efficient 4x4 and other crosovers that may costs more. If you desire a go anywhere vehicle, with decent running costs at a decent price. The XV clicks all the right buttons. If you can ignore that lack of power and the somewhat disappointing highway ride quality. The XV is a good car and worth the consideration.

Devon's Pick: 2.0i Premium is the pick of the XV range. It's the cheapest and will fit most needs really well. In my opinion you don't want to pay any more for the top of the range trim.

Likes: Standard all-wheel-drive with decent fuel economy. Stylish exterior looks with great off-road manners. Raised driving height gives good view of the road.

Dislikes: Low speed ride comfort, road noise at highway speeds. A more powerful engine or diesel engine would be nice.  

Devon M

Friday, November 24, 2017

(Look-back review) Devon goes lux in a Land Rover

File:2011 Land Rover LR4 -- 12-31-2010 2.jpg
The Land Rover LR4 is one of those vehicles that can fit up to seven passengers and still offer plenty of luxury that you’d expect from a Land Rover. It can be used as a workhorse and has legendary off-road capability. So does this mean that this Land Rover is a real jack of all trade?

Performance:  The only engine on hand with the LR4 is a 5-liter eight-cylinder producing 375hp. Acceleration is smooth and brisk on the highway and even around town it doesn’t feel overpowered. This is highly due to the fact that the LR4 weighs 5,600lbs. It won’t feel like a sports car but it at the same time it will never feel underpowered once up to speed.

Ride & Handling: The LR4 won’t defy the laws of physics as well as a BMW X5 would, but it does a good enough job of staying composed and taut feeling through bends. Highway driving is where the LR4 shines. The air suspension does an amazing job of ironing out bumps and road imperfections providing a smooth supple ride all will enjoy. The Land Rover isn’t aerodynamic but it does filter out wind noise quite well. There is however some wind noise that can be heard from the chunky side mirrors. This can be drained out by the radio.

Behind the wheel:  The LR4 has a very good view of the road ahead.  The driver’s seat has tons of adjustments and there are plenty of storage compartments too. The controls and dials on the dashboard are easy to navigate but a tad fiddly to operate. The LR4 can seat up to seven, however it can’t do the seven passengers and their luggage trick as well as a Mercedes GL. There’s plenty of room when you fold down the third row seat. The tailgate opens in split that can serve as a seat or viewing platform.

Equipment: All LR4s come well equipped including air-con, four electric windows, Bluetooth and keyless entry. You’ll have to pay extra for Xenon headlamps and satellite navigation system. Our pick would be the mid-range HSE which comes well equipped and is still offered at a decent price. Top of the range adds more features but is harder to justify the higher price tag.

Buying & owning: The LR4 isn’t a cheap car to buy or run. Your fuel bills will be high due to the thirsty eight-cylinder engine. We think that a diesel engine option would really help cut some of the sting out of the running costs, as well as make the LR4 even more desirable. Resale value should be pretty strong when it comes to selling too.

Quality & Safety: The materials used in the cabin show that much detail were given. It feels classy and solid but the biggest question still remains is the reliability record. Our tester car suffered its fair share of electrical issues. The Satellite navigation system completely shut off and took nearly five minutes to restart and car failed to start after a brief stop fuel stop. Stability control and hill decent control all come standard to help aid in on-road and off-road. Thieves won’t bother with the LR4 as it comes standard with an alarm, immobilizer and deadlocks.

The LR4 is a classy well rounded sport utility vehicle that seats up to seven. There’s plenty of comfort in on-road and off-road capabilities with a luxurious cabin that can lives up the Land Rover standards. However with all this comfort and refinement reliability has been a bit of an issue. Our tester car suffered a few glitches on the test drive. If you can ignore these bits the LR4 is a rewarding vehicle to own and a fantastic car to have if you need seven seats or just want the Land Rover badge. However, there are better alternates out there that are much better in terms of quality and running costs.

Likes: Luxurious ride on road and off-road with commanding view of the road ahead. Can seat up to seven yet doesn’t feel its size when you’re on the road.

Dislikes: Running costs will be high. Electrical issues questions long term reliability. No diesel engine option.

Devon's Quick Summary.

Performance: Eight-cylinder pulls well but is very thirsty.
Ride & handling: Isn't as sharp as an X5 but does a good job.
Behind the wheel: Excellent visibility with superb driving position.
Equipment: Well equipped but lacking a few items that should be standard.
Buying & owning: Isn't cheap to buy nor cheap to run.
Quality & Safety: Reliability is very questionable.

 Devon M