Saturday, September 30, 2017

We enjoy the Ford Fiesta ST


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The Ford Fiesta ST is best pocket rocket that money can buy.

The 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder produces 197hp and is mated to a super slick six-speed manual gearbox. You desire oomph this engine won’t disappoint. Acceleration is more than just brisk it’s downright bonkers on the highway. Even when you are not driving like a total hooligan the Fiesta ST is still a refined enough for daily commutes. Steering and handling are among its sweet spots. You can hurl it into a corner and feel virtually no torque steer. The engine exhaust is contagious and wants you to keep the revs high and demands to be pushed harder. Wind noise won’t be an issue, road noise will thanks to the low profile tires. But it’s far from annoying.

Interior space is decent with plenty of space for both front and rear passengers. Taller passengers in the rear seats will find legroom and headroom slightly cramped. The boot offers decent space too. The dashboard is just too fiddly to navigate through at glimpse. There’s just way too many similar looking buttons and the SYNC MYFORD touch screen display is just too confusing to navigate through. 17 inch alloy wheels, blind spot warning system and temperature control all come standard. You’ll have to pay extra for a sunroof, navigation system and heated front seats. For the money though the Fiesta ST is well equipped.

The Ford Fiesta ST is worth every single penny. Unless you want to have the few add on options we strongly suggest sticking with the standard kit because you’ll be pretty satisfied with what you get. What makes the ST even more appealing is it still offers decent running costs and strong resale value. However it won’t be as strong of a Mini Cooper S but it should be strong thanks to popular demand of this vehicle.

The Fiesta ST is a great all round hatchback with plenty of zip for very little money. If you want to most fun to drive hatchback for very little cash the Ford Fiesta is the most compelling option you can have. It may not be a Mini Cooper S but it does what it’s designed for better plus it’s more practical than the Mini.

Likes: Thumping turbo engine and excellent chassis makes this Fiesta a win-win.

Dislikes: Fiddly infotainment system but that’s just nitpicking.

Jaguar XF is a great Jag


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You've suddenly outgrown your BMW 3-series and well the next step logically would be to climb into the 5-series. However, what if the new promotion allows you to sort of treat yourself to something even nicer. You'd think a nice 7-series would tickle your fancy? How about a Jaguar XF? You won't regret it one bit.

20d trim comes with or without all-wheel-drive and a decent four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. 180Hp for many many not sound like much but it is enough for most buyers who desire luxury and also somewhat respectable running costs. The new 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 247hp is a sweet spot in the range. It has plenty of torque at low revs and feels so much more flexible when you want it the most. What's a Jag without the option of a six-cylinder engine? Well you get two of them to choose from, both 3-liter supercharged with 340hp and 380hp. Our tester car wasn't any of the gasoline engines, we had the diesel engine with all-wheel-drive and a R-Sport package. Exterior styling is great and well the larger alloys seem to compliment the XF style more. Driving the diesel engine in the XF isn't like what you'd expect because we surely expected a smoother engine. It's not all bad just not as smooth as it should be, but at relaxed speeds it's fine. Besides, most people aren't going to flat out flog it at every given opportunity and with the low running costs you get with this car it's a home run. Diesel fueling stations are hard to come by but if you find one and you desire this particular XF we'd say go for it. You won't find a Mercedes E-class diesel until 2018 and you also won't find a 5-series diesel anywhere either. Jaguar pretty much owns this segment.

Long gone are the days when you'd say Jags are for those who are more into luxury and very little sport. The new XF has steering feedback that was sent from the gods and the chassis can pretty much handle every twist and turn tossed at it. You'll appreciate that the diesel engine doesn't have much horsepower because you can really see what the car is capable of achieving without feeling like you're going to overpower each turn and flog it when it isn't needed. 319Lb-ft torque at only 1750rpm is a lot. Road noise is decently suppressed as well as wind noise. The engine does have more clatter than we'd like, but we still would choose this happily over the 2-liter turbo four.

The interior has a minimalistic feel to it. Most would feel there should be buttons where there are none at all and well we are fine with that. It makes you appreciate the space that you have around you and the attention to details is stellar. We just wish that it had a bit more spice to it, more refinement in certain areas where you'll be greeted with cheap plastics. They do feel sturdy and long lasting but for the price that our tester car had we were expecting a bit more. The front seats do offer decent comfort but some may find the seats are a bit narrow and the cabin is also feels narrower than a 5-series. The rear seat can seat four comfortably but a fifth person will find themselves straddling the center transmission hump and sharing out the foot space.

Out tester car came kitted with every single option that you could possibly ask for. Adaptive Xenon-headlamps, lane keep assist, 825 watt sound system and 20-inch alloy wheels. You'll have to pay extra for ventilated leather front seats, upgraded infotainment screen and 360 view camera. These features all came with our tester car and yes while it is nice, many of them we hadn't had the chance to try them due to time. One feature that our tester car didn't come kitted with was the Adaptive Dynamics Package which we did find a bit strange.

The Jaguar XF is a great sedan that you should short list if you aren't impressed with the latest Audi, BMW and Mercedes offerings. Driving dynamics are spot on excellent and you won't regret the diesel engine for it's low running costs. Everyone else will find the 2-liter turbo four offers good flexibility. Power hungry will be very satisfied with the supercharged six-cylinders offered. The only letdown that Jaguar still needs to work on is reliability.

Likes: The XF was sent from the gods. It's dynamically the best sedan we've ever driven. Classic British luxury inside out. Diesel engine has low running costs. There's an XF for everyone.

Dislikes: Jaguar isn't known for having reliable products. Resale value is a bit scary. Be careful with the options as it may induce sticker shock, our tester car certainly did.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Volkswagen products we wish were sold here

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Volkswagen Polo
What is it? The VW Polo is a small hatchback about similar in size to the Ford Fiesta.
Why should it be sold here? It should be sold here as an alternate to the Ford Fiesta and Mini 5-door hardtop. The Fiesta ST doesn’t have a proper rival other than the Mini and that one is pretty expensive in the Cooper-S trim, so Ford pretty much dominates it because of its horsepower to price ratio. Also, this would be a great way to have a volume seller for dealer lots and move the Golf upmarket slightly.
Engine choices: A turbocharged 1.4 from the Jetta detuned between 130hp – 145hp would be a great start for the more mainstream forms while the GTI should push at least 200hp from the same 1.4 turbo. Pricing should be similar to the Ford Fiesta’s.
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Volkswagen Golf SV
What is it? Just think of the Golf SV as a roomier more practical version of the Golf without being as large as a Golf wagon.
Why should it be sold here? The TDI Emissions scandal really did give a huge blow to Volkswagen’s green image. Hybrids are the next option for them and a Ford C-Max rival would be a great start. Many people want minivan-like space but in a smaller package. This would be a great space for VW to enter using the old-Jetta Hybrid powertrain. Maybe update it to offer plug-in feature and improved fuel economy.
Engine choices: 1.4tsi with plug-in technology to improve fuel consumption and lower emissions. Pricing should be on point with the Ford C-Max.
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Volkswagen Passat Alltrack
What is it? It’s been on sale in Europe for a while now and it is a lifted version of the Passat wagon (just think German Subaru Outback). It would be a great option for anyone considering the Subaru Outback or even Volvo V60 CC. It’s much more spacious than the Golf Alltrack and it is a crossover. Crossovers are red hot right now and this could give VW some extra showroom traffic and leap into Subaru territory with the outdoorsy types who may want a more premium vehicle without having to pay the premium price. If VW can keep this under $40k it would be a great option.
Engine choices: The 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder from the GTI would be a great engine option and/or an optional six-cylinder from the Passat would be a nice addition. It may tiptoe a little into Audi Allroad territory but the price points would keep people from cross-shopping the two.
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VW Beetle Dune (4-motion)
What is it? The Beetle Dune is a lifted version of the standard Beetle with off-road appearance package. It would be nice if VW offered 4-motion all-wheel-drive or a cheaper application to the Beetle Dune to rival the upcoming X2 and or even just provide a niche vehicle for those who love the way the Beetle looks and add light off-roading capabilities. Rememeber VW crossovers are red hot these days and you do want as much showroom traffic as you can get. This one may not happen however because 4-motion application would make the Beetle Dune even more expensive and will fail to catch on when Audi is pretty much almost the next step up.
Engine options: Since we’re still dreaming of an AWD Beetle Dune, the 2-liter turbo four found in the standard Beetle would be good or even an upgraded form from the GTI would be great. Heck since we are on the subject of the Beetle, a R version of the Beetle would even be great. Add some spice to the Beetle line-up and become a real poor man’s Porsche.

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VW Gol Sedan or Polo sedan 
What is it? Chevy Sonic, Toyota iA sedan look at your possible new rival that could make them both run for their money. We’d love to see the Gol sedan here even if it has just one engine and is priced below $18K. The same engine from the base Jetta would be perfect for the sedan; also the Gol could add some showroom traffic seeing that Americans love their sedans. Best part is the Gol is built in Mexico so this would make it far cheaper than the Polo, if costs are a concern for VW (TDI Emissions Scandal).
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VW Scirocco
What is it? Look at it as a two-door GTI that everyone has been begging for here. We don’t have a two-door Golf or GTI anymore, why not just bring the Scirocco here offer both 1.8t and 2.0t engines and spice up the line-up? I don’t see how this would catch on here in the U.S. It would go perfect toe to toe with the Toyota GT86 even though it would be front-wheel drive instead of rear-wheel drive, also the upcoming Civic Si coupe would have some stiff competition as well.
Engine: 1.8t 170hp, 2.0t 210hp/220hp would be great and even a R version with 300hp from the S3.

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VW Phideon
What is it: Just think of this as the ultimate Passat, it could even be a long-wheelbase version of the Passat? We just want it sold here case closed. It would be a great alternate for the Toyota Avalon and even Nissan Maxima. VW should price it at least $35k - $40k to make it more appealing in that segment and offer a hybrid option also to entice those away from Toyota and improve VW’s shattered image. Plus with the most legroom in its class it would be even more appealing than most BMWs and even Audis out there.
Engine: 3.6-liter VR6 280hp with standard all-wheel-drive. It should provide a valid reason to consider one other than style.
It’s kind of sad that VW gave up on the Phaeton which was such a great vehicle, just a tad overpriced. This could redeem the Phaeton and provide a more affordable alternate to the more classy and expensive. VW really should consider this one.

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VW Cross-Polo
What is it? A crossover version of the Polo hatch (that we wish were here). This version doesn’t come with all-wheel-drive but it would be a nice feature to add. The Cross-Polo could bring in much wanted buyers who are considering small crossovers such as the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V. Most in this segment don’t care too much for all-wheel-drive but desire the raised driving position and low running costs. This would fare well as a soft-roader for those who want the looks but don’t care about the off-road prowl.
Engine: I know we keep using the 1.4 turbo engine from the Jetta but this would be a good engine for a base form of many new products here in the U.S. Mate it to VW’s amazing DSG gearbox and the Cross-Polo could be a winning formula. Price it well and it will be a hit.

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VW Caddy

What is it? Look at it as a Ford Transit Connect rival and you’ll get the picture. Ford pretty much owns this segment and again why not offer something to rival that and compete in that field? VW doesn’t need to put any fancy engines in so the 1.4turbo and 1.8turbo engines would be enough. Optional all-wheel-drive could entice the deal even more. We don’t know much about the cargo van or even just a seven seat wagon option; it would be perfect for our ever increasing desire to downsize. Mercedes jumped into this with the Sprinter so maybe VW should consider an offering as well. I mean come on Europe has several options in the commercial van segment. 

Devon goes Italian Retro (Used)

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Likes: Decent fuel economy, fun to drive around town, stylish inside out, small size means parking is a breeze.

Dislikes: The ride is jittery and handling isn't up to par with the Mini Cooper, limited boot space and no turbo engine yet available.


Urban city cars are becoming more and more trendy. There's the Smart Fortwo, Mini Cooper and now the Fiat 500. A retro throwback of the original 500. It's small, dinky and cheeky looking. But is that enough to win over hipsters and fashionettes?

Performance: There's only one engine available for the 500 and that's a 1.4-liter four-cylinder with 100hp. It may not seem like a lot, but the 500 is small. So there's plenty of pep around town. On the highway you may struggle to get up to speed, and the automatic gearbox hesitates off line. Making power delivery not as smooth as you'd expect.

Ride & handling: The 500 is a doddle to drive. It's nimble and quite fun to toss around in urban areas. The steering is light, and makes parking a breeze. Outside of the city limits, the 500 doesn't feel as composed as a Mini. Handling isn't as sharp, and the ride feels jittery.

Refinement: Living with the 500 won't be too tiresome. Although wind and road noise is evident when you pick up speed. However, it never gets to an irritating level. The engine is smooth and the transmission once up to speed works seamlessly with the engine.

Behind the wheel: There's no reach adjustments for the steering wheel, but there is height adjustments to help you get comfortable. The simple design of the dash means its easy to use than a knife and fork, and there's all the style you could ever ask for. Look down, and some of the retro appeal goes away. Some of the plastics look cheap, and cost cutting. But you can customize the interior color and styling combinations to suit you.

Space & Practicality: The 500 is smaller than the Mini and it has a bigger boot, but the Mini can fit four more comfortably than the 500. Those in the front seat will be comfortable. There's plenty of head and legroom for front passengers, while the rear seats are best left for kids.

Equipment: Entry-level 500s get air-con, cd-player and electric mirrors. You'll have to step up to the sport trim to get alloy wheels and sports suspension. Top of the range offers glass roof, leather wrapped steering wheel and handsfree Bluetooth connectivity for your mobile device.

Buying & Owning: The 500 seems well priced among its rival the Mini Cooper. Even though the turbo form isn't available yet, you can still get a nice 500 for a decent price. Fuel economy is good, so your running costs will be low. Discounts are hard to come-by due to limited supply. Resale value will be high, as the demand for the 500 has exceeded Fiat's expectations.

Quality & Reliability: The plastics used in the cabin feel upscale. They feel sturdy, and match the retro look. Fiat doesn't enjoy the best reliability record, and the 500 has been rated a mere average by JD Power Customer satisfaction survey. With many complaints of the Blue&Me hands-free system and windscreen wipers malfunctioning.

Safety & Security: The 500 comes with front, side, curtain airbags as well as knee airbags. Traction control, anti-lock-brakes all come standard across the range. Deadlocks and alarm system come standard as well to keep theft at bay.

The 500 is trendy and stylish. It's small size makes it a doddle to drive around urban areas. Venture outside of the city limits and the 500 struggles to stay composed. The Mini is a better car all round. It's stylish, fun to drive and a hoot to kick into corners thanks to the BMW tuned suspension. Unlike the Mini, the 500 is cheaper to buy and offers more boot space in a tiny package. If your driving evolves mostly around the city the 500 is for you. Anything more, we'd say stick with the Mini.

Devon M 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Devon test drives a Mini Hardtop


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The Mini Hardtop is our favorite of the entire Mini Range. It's retro styling and fun to drive nature makes it the best small car to own. Plus its resale value will stomp any small car and leave it in its dust. But is the Mini all the car you'll ever really need?

The previous generation Mini Hardtop we really didn’t care too much for the all style no functionality approach for the interior. The toggle switches were fiddly to operate and felt cheap. This generation Mini Hardtop has somewhat changed it but some switchgear remain the same. At least they are much easier to use and navigate through. Plus the infotainment system is the best fitted in any small car. Those in the front seats will enjoy the space while rear passengers will struggle to find comfort. It’s still cramped but not as cramped as before. The boot space is decent but not great.

Alloy wheels are standard on both the Cooper and Cooper S trim. You also get keyless entry and push button start. Bluetooth, a digital radio and air-con are also standard. LED headlights are optional as well as parking sensors and power folding exterior rearview mirrors. Picking one of the several packages will reduce costs of several options but we strongly suggest keeping options light because it pushes the Mini Hardtop price very steep quickly.

The 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder powering the Cooper is a real gem of an engine. It is also the pick of the range. It’s still affordable and has the lowest running costs all while being as fun to drive as a Mini should. The Cooper S offers a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 189hp. It’s faster and much more fun to drive. The manual gearbox with both is the best way to enjoy the driving experience. The auto gearbox is smooth too but it’s not as fun.

Steering and handling are what you’d expect of a Mini. Standard suspension is fine but if you want the sweet handling that Mini can offer we strongly suggest opting for the sports suspension. Only tradeoff is that you’ll have to deal with an overly firm ride which can be unforgiving at times. Steering is very fluid and direct but tends to follow the groves in the road.

If you are looking for a small car that’s fun to drive offers low running costs and is cheeky looking. The Mini Hardtop is the way to go. If you stay clear of the options list you can walk away with a decently priced Mini. However its small size may count against it. There are better options out there but none of them have the charm of a Mini.

Likes: Most fun to drive small car you can own. Resale value is strong too. Dashboard design isn’t as fiddly as previous generations.

Dislikes: Options can sky rocket the price quickly. There are so many other cars that are more practical for similar money.

Devon’s Pick: The Cooper trim offers decent performance with decent running costs at a decent price. It’s really hard not to consider one unless you just have to have the more powerful Cooper S. The Cooper trim is the way to go.

Devon test drives a Volvo wagon



It was a sad day when Volvo decided the only wagon it was going to offer here in the U.S. was the XC70 which was more of a crossover rather than a wagon. Now those days are long gone and the new V60 is here. Can Volvo bring the popularity back of the wagon?

There are three engines to choose from. Drive-E trim uses a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 240hp. T5 AWD gets a 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder producing 250hp while top of the range T6 uses a 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder producing 325hp. Pick of the range is the T5 AWD. All-wheel-drive is standard and it's not really that much more than the T5 Drive-E trim. Plus it's still less expensive than the 3-series touring.

Sadly the V60 just isn't as much fun to drive as a 3-series touring. Body control and handling are good but not great. The ride can be firm a bit on some road surfaces, but this is far from annoying. We strongly suggest avoiding the top of the range T6 trim with sports suspension. It really does make the V60 feel more sporty but the ride comfort is way too firm. Steering is often vague and leaves us wanting a little more especially in corners where we find ourselves re-adjusting. Wind and road noise won't be an issue with the V60. It's quiet and smooth even on the highway. The turbo engines are smooth at relaxed speeds around town and on the highway.

Volvo knows a thing or two about interior decor. The floating center console is classy and well designed. Plus all the controls are logically laid out and very user friendly. The seats offer plenty of support and comfort with plenty of adjustment for the steering wheel. Some could say Volvo seats are the best in the industry. Passengers in the rear will have plenty of space too. Although the middleman will find it rather cramped for foot space due to the large transmission tunnel. The boot space is decent too but trades space for style.

At least all V60s come a nice array of standard kit. Alloy-wheels, cruise control, climate control and Bluetooth are standard. Automatic headlights and wipers are standard as well. You'll have to step up the the top of the range trim which adds body-kit unique exterior styling and interior treatment. You'll find yourself wondering is the V60 worth paying for when you can buy cheaper crossovers? The answer is simple, if you want something more engaging to drive and really don't want to pay the running costs associate with most crossovers. The V60 is the way to go plus resale value should be decent too as Volvo has been on an upswing in popularity.

It's classy and well crafted. Plus it's the best form of a Volvo you can buy. The Volvo V60 has it all. It may not be as engaging to drive as the 3-series touring but it really does offer a convincing case. It's cheaper, offers more kit and arguably the better buy. Volvo does know a thing or two about wagons and it's great to see the wagon is back in the U.S.

Likes: Array of turbo engines to choose from. Safety is top priority. Swedish excellence inside and out.

Dislikes: Steering feedback is on the numb side.

Devon's Choice: The T5 AWD is the best pick. The standard all-wheel-drive and turbocharged five-cylinder offer an compelling reason to consider this. Plus its price makes it hard for us not to pick this one.

Devon takes a look at an overlooked compact sedan (Used)


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The Mitsubishi Lancer EVO has a strong cult following with it's rally bred heritage and amazing all-wheel-drive system. But for those who can't afford the premium of an EVO can choose from the more mainstream Lancer. But with more heavy hitters in the compact sedan segment can Mitsubishi still provide a valid reason to consider the aging Lancer?


Performance: There are four trim levels and three engines to choose from. Standard ES comes with a 2-liter four-cylinder producing 148hp. GT and SE AWC comes equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder producing 168hp. Top of the range Ralliart comes with a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 237hp. Pick of the range is the GT which makes the most sense. It has all the features you'll want and has the sporty looks that are hard to ignore.

On the road: The Lancer is very entertaining to drive as long as you stick with the GT trim or Ralliart. Both make the Lancer feel as engaging to drive as it's keen rivals the Ford Focus and Mazda3. However it isn't as sharp or poshed as both. Steering feel is decent and overall response of the 2.4 makes it well worth spending the extra cash for. While those who couldn't afford the EVO will be satisfied with the Ralliart. The CVT transmission feels like it saps the engine power leaving you cold when you need it most and overpowering when you don't need it. Thus the manual gearbox we feel is the safest way to go. Disappointingly the Ralliart does not offer a manual transmission. Wind and road noise are at acceptable levels.

Behind the wheel: There's plenty of adjustments for the driver's seat but sadly the steering wheel doesn't adjust for reach. Interior quality doesn't feel up to par with it's competition. The touch screen display feels dated and not as refined as we would like. Passenger space all round is decent and the boot offers enough space to satisfy most buyers needs.

Equipment: Standard ES trim offers keyless entry with anti-theft security system, cd-player power windows and an AUX input for your MP3 player. SE AWC offers heated front seats, digital HD radio and electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system. GT trim adds 18 inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler and Bluetooth connectivity for your mobile phone. Range topping Ralliart offers a sportier exterior trim, full time all-wheel-drive system and a twin-clutch auto gearbox.

Buying & Owning: The standard Lancer seems like a good deal but we highly suggest going for the GT with the sporty looks and added features such as touch screen display and 18 inch alloy wheels. The premium isn't too much and overall impressions of it are good. The SE AWC is best avoided unless you just have to have the traction. Lancer running costs should be about average among its competition but resale value is something to consider.

Quality: Mitsubishi has good quality cars. Reliability isn't going to be much of an issue. Only real issue here is locating a Mitsubishi dealership for repairs if you do come across such a problem. Interior quality isn't great although it does feel sturdy and long lasting. There are rivals that offer the best of both worlds and you really don't have to pick between the two.

Safety: Front and side curtain airbags come standard. As well as a traction control, anti-lock brakes with brake force distribution to help reduce braking distance in the case of an emergancy braking situation. Also a host of anti-theft aids come standard to keep theft away.

The Lancer is an attractive sedan that is often over looked by competition. It does offer an compelling package and is priced right with the heavy hitters such as the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra. However the styling inside out is dated and there's quite a few short comings with the Lancer that others seem to have mastered. If you want the Lancer for it's generous kit and reasonable price then this is the car for you. However keen rivals have all passed it by and it seems that the only logical reason to buy one is for the discounts.

Likes: Stylish exterior looks. Ralliart is just as good as the EVO but cheaper! Generous standard kit.

Dislikes: Overdue for a redesign. Not sure if the Lancer offers an compelling enough reason to consider over the already better competitors.

Devon's pick: The GT form has the looks and is just as fun to drive as the Ralliart minus the turbo engine. This isn't a bad thing because running costs will be slightly improved and you won't have to pay the premium for the Ralliart.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

We test drive a Honda Accord


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Despite the popular trend in crossovers, the Honda Accord still has its place in the market of family vehicles.

The standard 2.4 four-cylinder is what majority of Accord buyers will go for. It has a nice blend of flexibility and low-running costs. The top of the range 3.5 six-cylinder is best left for the power hungry and those willing to pay the premium. Our tester car was the 3.5 six-cylinder and it never felt overpowered even when we pushed it on the highway, around town the six-cylinder is smooth and easy to live with. The only gripe we have with this engine is that it feels like it would be better paired with all-wheel-drive because at moments the front-wheels often do feel like they get overwhelmed by the amount of horsepower being pushed to them. Steering feedback is decent and the overall driving experience while it isn’t as thrilling as a Mazda 6, it is comfortable and does offer a bit of excitement. Road noise and wind noise is nothing to complain of and the overall refinement of both engines is actually quite good.

The interior has good space for five people. The front seats offer decent support and visibility outward is good as well. Boot space is generous too but not as flexible as a wagon. The infotainment system is what we hate the most about the interior, the touch screen display is too fiddly to operate and the fact that there’s no actual volume knob makes it even more of a hassle to operate on the go than it should. Honda definitely needs to thoroughly redesign this because it’s just a disaster to operate.

There’s a dizzying number of Accord trims to pick from so bear with is us here. Standard LX trim gets Bluetooth for your mobile device, dual-zone climate control and multi-angle rearview camera; sport trim adds more powerful 2.4 engine (189hp), 10-way power driver’s seat and 19-inch alloy wheels. Sport Special Edition has leather-trimmed seating, heated front seats and special edition badging. EX trim adds Smart Entry and push button start, sunroof and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. EX-L adds leather-trimmed seating surfaces, power front seats with two-position memory driver’s seat. EX-L V6 adds the 3.5 six-cylinder and dual-exhaust. Top of the range Touring trim gets Navigation system, LED headlights with heated rear seats.

The ever popular crossovers may be what most buyers are turning to as their family vehicle, but for those who don’t want a crossover the Honda Accord is worth the consideration, we just wish that the infotainment system more refined and of course it gets quite expensive the higher up the range you travel. Also, the Mazda 6 is more fun to drive if you do care about driving experience.

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.

Devon’s pick: The Sport trim seems to offer the best value. You still get the smooth 2.4 but upgraded to 189hp and few extra bits that makes it worth the consideration. Our money however would go to the EX-L V6 which comes with that excellent six-cylinder engine that’s actually more affordable than you’d think.

Acura TSX Wagon (Look-back review)


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The Acura TSX sport wagon is designed and aimed at at those tempted to buy a BMW 3-series touring and Cadillac CTS wagon. It's a better option compared to most crossovers, but is it enough to convince people to consider? 

Performance: There is only one engine available for the TSX sport wagon and that's a 2.4-liter four-cylinder producing 201hp which is the same engine used in Civic SI. It may not offer the same blistering performance as the SI but it does offer decent pace around the town and on the highway. It's a shame that there is only a five-speed auto gearbox offered. A six-speed automatic or manual gearbox would help performance and fuel economy even more.

On the road: The Acura TSX feels comfortable and smooth on the highway. Venture into the city on uneven road surfaces, you'll be greeted with a firm and unsettled ride. Handling is great but is a let down due to the numb steering which ruins the sporty nature of the engine. You won't hear too much wind or road noise thanks to a pretty insulated cabin. The engine feels smooth even when revved hard.

Behind the wheel: The front seats provide comfortable support with good visibility. The dashboard layout isn't very easy to navigate. There are too many similar shaped switches and controls. This makes it impossible to tell apart at a glance. The TSX doesn't have a large boot compared due to the low slung roof and intruding rear suspension. With the seats folded down there's bundles of space to spare.

Equipment: The TSX sport wagon comes with plenty of kit standard. Automatic climate control, Bluetooth and HID headlights are standard. You'll have to step up to the top of the range trim to get navigation system, power tailgate and perforated leather seats.

Buying & owning: The Acura TSX wagon is cheaper to buy than a 3-series Touring and Cadillac CTS wagon. Running costs are also lower thanks to the fuel-efficient engine. Finding one should be a lot easier than both the Cadillac CTS wagon and BMW 3-series touring. If you are considering one you need to act now as the TSX wagon may not be available for long.

Quality & Safety: Acura and Honda share most of their mechanicals. This means that the Acura TSX wagon also has a spectacular reliability record. Interior quality is very good and feels long lasting. Customers have rated the TSX below average for interior quality. This is a let down because it's keenrivals offer much better and classier interiors. Electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and six-airbags come standard across the range. A lane-change warning system and cruise control that brakes in emergancies are optional. Deadlocks and an alarm system keep theft away.

The TSX wagon offers a fuel efficient engine and tons of equipment standard. It may be cheaper than the BMW 3-series touring and Cadillac CTS wagon, but it doesn't offer a more powerful engine option and/or all-wheel-drive option like the CTS and 3-series. You'll need to act fast if considering one because the TSX wagon may not be in production for long in the U.S. 

Devon's Pick: The base trim of the TSX Sport Wagon is all the TSX you'll ever need. There's enough kit to justify not having to climb into the top of the range which adds a technology package. Unless you desire the navigation system and power tail gate. I highly suggest sticking with the base trim which is pretty much great value for money. 

Likes: Decent peformance with impressive fuel economy. High standard equipment level at a reasonable price.

Dislikes: No turbo or V6 engine option. All-wheel-drive isn't offered either. Acura may discontinue it after 2013.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Less Cruze more SS please! (Used)


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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: The diesel engine can't be had with the fancy body-kit or alloy wheels. It's not even close to being as sharp to drive as a Jetta and the most desirable versions are the most expensive.

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.

Devon Focuses on a New Ford (Used)

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If you considered a Ford Focus in the past, most likely you'd pick one because there were massive discounts or you were given one as a rental car. The new Focus is a breathe of fresh air in the crowded compact car market. It's stylish, affordable and offers tons of technology that can rival some of the more expensive luxury brands. 

Does the new Focus have what it takes to shake off the rental car image and be a serious contender in the compact car segment? Or is this another "all style no substance" vehicle? Let's find out.

Performance: The Focus can be had with two engine choices. There's a 2-liter four-cylinder producing 160hp and a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 252hp at the top end of the range. The more mainstream 2-liter 160hp engine is the pick of the range. It may not offer the fire breathing turbo engine from the ST, but it's quite enough for what it has to offer. Acceleration is decent around town and on the highway. Fuel economy isn't bad either. 

Ride & Handling: The Focus is quite a joy to drive around twisty bends and even on the highway. The ride comfort and overall handling is one of the sweet spots. Body control is good and steering feedback is very communicative. It may not be as sharp as the Volkswagen Golf, but it does it's job really well. The ST has a firmer suspension which results in a firmer ride. The trade off is the handling is spot on good, but still lags behind the Volkswagen GTI finesse. 

Refinement: Wind and road noise are so well suppressed in the Focus that you'd think you were in a larger more expensive vehicle. Both engines operate smoothly even at highway speeds. The ST turbo engine racy exhaust note makes it more addicting to push harder on the highway. The manual gearbox is the better choose with slick gear change and overall feel of the clutch makes it easy to deal with as a daily driver. The six-speed automatic offered is smooth but often hesitates between gears, making it feel rather jerky at low speeds. 

Behind the wheel: The driving position in the Focus is spot on. There's plenty of adjustments for the driver's seat and steering wheel. Visibility is good thanks to nicely sized windows and exterior mirrors. The dashboard is too button busy for our tastes. Many of the controls are rather fiddly and can be somewhat distracting. 

Space & Practicality: Although the Focus is small on the outside, space for four adults in the inside is possible. Leg and headroom is decent all-round. The boot isn't massive, but for the amount of space that it has most will find it quite enough to meet their needs. 

Equipment: The Focus comes well equipped even in base trim. Air-conditioning, stability control, CD-player and air-con all come standard on the base trim. Mid-range SE trim adds alloy wheels, cruise control and auto headlights. Top of the range Titanium trim adds leather trimmed seats, reverse sensors and a dual-zone climate control. ST adds turbo engine, unique ST grille and fog lights with a six-speed manual gearbox. 

Buying & Owning: The Focus base price is competitively priced with the Golf and Civic. The higher the trims you climb the more kit you get, but the higher the price will climb. Running costs will be decent thanks to good fuel economy, while resale value should be good thanks to strong demand. The ST trim will be slightly more expensive than the mainstream Focus, but the thumping performance makes up for the price. 

Quality & reliability: The quality and feel of the cabin materials are very good. This is a step up for Ford because in previous generations of the Focus, many of the plastics felt cheap and scratchy. Reliability of the Focus has been a mixed bag. Many owners have complained about the radiator and also the automatic transmission. 

Safety & Security: All Focus trims adds front and side curtain airbags standard. Traction control, anti-lock brakes and stability control are also standard. Tire pressure monitors are standard across the range as well. Anti-theft system is standard while anti-theft alarm is optional. 

The Ford Focus is a vastly improved vehicle overall. The interior has been improved and the overall image of the vehicle is no longer a rental car or the bland unappealing Focus of the previous generations. Ford has finally stepped up its game and given a Focus that's worthy of consideration in the small car segment. However, the dashboard is button crowded with fiddly operation and the reliability record is iffy. Overall the Focus is a step up in the right direction but needs some improvements in areas that matter to buyers the most. 

Devon's Pick: The SE trim is all the Focus you'll ever need. It offers decent kit and the engine offers enough oomph for both city and highway driving. Low running cost and decent asking price makes this trim ideally the pick of the range. 

Likes: Fun to drive with sharp steering and excellent body control. Thumping turbo engine in ST trim. Plenty of luxury options for very little money. 

Dislikes: Iffy reliability record, dashboard is rather button crowded with fiddly operation. MyFord Touch system is fiddly to operate and distracting to use. No engine to pick between the mainstream Focus and ST trim. 

Devon M 

Kia tries to sell its Soul to Pathological Hate (Used)


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The Kia Soul is one of those cars that tries to something for everyone. It has a commanding driving position that makes you feel like you are in a crossover and it's small and dinky enough to squeeze around tight urban parking spaces. It really is a jack of all trades but what has it mastered?

The 1.6 in the entry-level Base trim comes standard with a six-speed manual gearbox with a six-speed automatic as an option. We wouldn't bother with the Base trim if you want an auto gearbox; instead we'd opt for the Plus trim which adds an automatic standard and comes with a smoother 2-liter engine.

The Soul won't turn through corners and bends as well as a Focus or Golf but you'll forgive it when you see how comfortable it is to drive around town and on the highway. Both engines provide decent turn of pace but the 2-liter feels more relaxed at highway speeds. Steering feedback is good and the ride comfort is also good too. Plus and Exclamation trim both suffer from a firmer ride due to the larger alloys that are fitted as standard. Wind and road noise are both at respectable levels.

The driver's seat offers plenty of comfort and offers an array of adjustments for drivers of all sizes to get comfortable. There is plenty of headroom and legroom for both the front rear passengers. The infotainment system we had out tester car (Plus trim) was easy to navigate through and everything was within easy reach of the driver's hand. Boot space is decent too and with the rear seat folded down its more than generous.

Base trim gets decent kit for the money but the automatic gearbox is what makes the this trim rather pointless because you can easily step up to the Plus for similar cash. Air-con, Cd-player, bluetooth and keyless entry all come standard on all trims. You'll have to step up to the Plus and Exclamation to get larger alloys and the top of the range gets the LED headlights and larger infotaimnet display.

Kia is known for having rock hard reliability and the same can be said about the Soul. The interior feels well put together and all the controls and dials feel long lasting. Kia was once considered the budget brand for those who couldn't afford the more popular options, that's all changing because the Soul is a desirable alternative to even the best such as the Golf or Ford Focus.

Overall: It's hard to fault the Kia Soul. It's good but not great.

Likes: Easy to drive and live with. Driving position is similar to that of a crossover. Decent kit standard.

Dislikes: It's not as engaging to drive as some rivals, and it may depreciate faster too.

Devon's Choice: Skip the entry Base unless you want the manual gearbox. Everyone else who wants an automatic will have to pay a hefty premium which pushes the price closer to the Plus trim (which is our pick of the range). The top of the range is a bit expensive, which leaves you with the most sensible trim the Plus. It offers decent kit and comes with the smoother 2-liter engine standard.

(Note* We have yet to test drive the new turbo engine option on the Soul.)


Monday, September 25, 2017

Toyota Prius-C [Short-take review]


Performance: The 1.5-liter four-cylinder produces 73hp but with electric motor the total output raises to 99hp. With these numbers the Prius-C isn’t a rocket between traffic lights, but it does get you to point B very efficiently.

Ride & handling: The steering doesn’t really offer much feedback which is typical in a Toyota. Ride is comfortable for the most part but the suspension is more aimed towards comfort so there will be plenty of body roll in corners and those eco-tires don’t offer much grip either on slippery surfaces. Thankfully ESP is standard because things would’ve been a lot worse.

After you’ve decided to not drive like a hooligan in a vehicle not designed to be driven that way. The Prius-C is quite comfortable commuter car but again there are cheaper rivals that are more engaging to drive and are as efficient; unless you have to have a hybrid look elsewhere.

Buying & owning: Pricey but it would work well if you do tons of driving and can make up for the purchase price. However, trying to get the best gas mileage means you’ll have to drive it a certain way which can be tricky. Luckily in eco-mode it helps you alter your driving habits, but again if highway driving is what you do the most of a diesel engine would suit you best.

Reliability: The interior feels a bit disappointing in some areas. You can tell there was some cost cutting in the plastics which feel cheap and drab. But at least you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that it will last forever thanks to Toyota’s rock solid reliability record.

Final Verdict: Picking this over a Ford Fiesta, Nissan Versa Note and even the Toyota Yaris is all a mere matter of taste. The rivals listed above may not offer hybrid tech but they feel more engaging to drive and are just as efficient. They are even cheaper to buy than the Prius-C which begs the question is it really worth considering? As a company car it is a quite compelling option which will do tons of miles a year. However, as a privately owned vehicle it’s quite hard to justify.

We want to like the hybrid but for the premium and the fuel advantage we’d rather stick with either a diesel engine or one of the many cheaper rivals that offer similar running costs and even a more compelling package for less cash.

 Likes: Hybrid tech at an affordable price, compact size yet offers plenty of practicality. Low running costs.

Dislikes: There are cheaper rivals that are just as efficient and more engaging to drive. Interior quality is a bit of a letdown. Exterior looks are on the bland side. You’ll have to climb all the way to the top of the range trim to get alloy wheels fitted standard.

Devon test drives the new 320i sedan

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If you considered a BMW 3-series in the past, most likely you were turned away because of the BMW price tag. The new 320i however knocks $3,000 off the price tag and a much less powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This all sounds good on paper, but are you really buying a 320i because of the badge? Let’s find out.

Performance: The 320i comes with the same 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder but only produces 180hp instead of 248hp. Most will think it’s too watered down, but in our opinion we found this engine to be quite enough. City and highway driving never felt underpowered and the overall impression of the engine itself is quite good. Fuel economy isn’t too much different than the 330i which is a little disappointing considering the decrease in horsepower.

Ride & Handling: The 320i rides and handles the way a BMW is supposed to. Sharp handling, precise steering and excellent body control. The all-wheel-drive version has oodles of grip, but the sweet spot is the rear-wheel-drive configuration. You can really kick the car into corners and it feels much lighter and more engaging to drive hard.

Refinement: Some wind noise will sneak into the cabin at highway speeds. This however can be drained out when you turn the radio on. Road noise and suspension noise are well suppressed. The turbo engine has an addicting turbo whirl that adds a bit to the overall sporty nature of the car.

Behinid the wheel: Drivers will be greeted with plenty of adjustments for the driver’s seat and steering wheel. The instrumental panel has a minimalistic approach in terms of how the controls are laid out. Most are hidden away in the standard iDrive system. BMW has vastly improved the interface and made it less fiddly than the previous version.

Space & Practicality: There is plenty of space for both front and rear passengers. Headroom and legroom are plenty. The boot offers a decent size too, although you’ll have to pay extra for split folding rear seats.

Equipment: The 320i comes well equipped considering that the price drop between it and the 330i. Automatic climate control, iDrive interface, and an eight-speed automatic are standard. You’ll have to pay extra for leather seats, xenon headlamps and a sunroof. Considering the amount of kit you get already, the only option that makes sense would be the Xenon headlamps. The cool corona ring day-time running lamps are definitely worth the extra money.

Buying & Owning: The 320i doesn’t really offer much of a fuel advantage over the 330i, which is disappointing because it would broaden the appeal. The price between the two trims isn’t that significant to really make this version of the 3 series a real bargain. Running costs should be decent if you keep a light food on the accelerator pedal, resale value should be strong as with all BMW Cars.

Reliability: The quality materials used inside the cabin are up to par with the price tag. Everything feels high quality and long lasting. Although some plastic around the glove compartment look rather cheap, reliability is reasonable for the 3 series.

Safety: Front and side curtain airbags are standard as well as knee airbags for front passengers. Adaptive brake lights, anti-lock brakes with traction control and electronic stability program should help aid in traction. An engine immobilizer and anti-theft deterrent keeps theft at bay, an anti-theft alarm is optional.

The 320i is the cheapest way into the 3-series line-up. It may skip a few of the desirable features that you’d want, but for the price and what it offers it’s quite enough. However, like all cars there are downsides. The fuel economy benefits aren’t significant compared to the 330i. Some may view it as a watered down 3-series, while others will say there are rivals that offer much more for this price. If you like the BMW badge but couldn’t afford a 330i, this maybe your new way in. Otherwise we’d say go with the 330i.

Likes: Attractive starting price should lure new buyers. Sharp steering and handling, turbo engine is smooth and doesn’t feel underpowered. Halogen headlights are weak.

Dislikes: Some will see it as a watered down 3-series. No fuel economy benefit compared to the 330i which has 68 more horsepower. Add on the options and this entry-level is about as expensive as the 330i. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

It's still classy but some rivals are even classier.




You'll be surprised that not everyone will find the BMW 5-series entertaining and the Mercedes E-class a bit too boring for their taste. What else could one consider? Well the Audi A6 certainly has the looks and the charm, but is that enough of a reason to buy one?

The standard 2-liter turbo four-cylinder offers decent flexibility around town and on the highway. It never feels short on pull thanks to loads of torque at low revs. You can option for a 3-liter supercharged six-cylinder that has all-wheel-drive fitted standard. Pick of the range goes to the 2-liter turbo with all-wheel-drive. Audi is known for it's Quattro all-wheel-drive system so it only makes sense to option for one with it, and of course that 2-liter turbo does such a good job that the 3-liter supercharged six-cylinder seems a tad bit pointless in our books. However, if you are willing to pay the premium for it then by all means go ahead because it is such a lovely engine.

The A6 doesn't feel as sharp to drive as the 5-series. It does handle quite nicely but you're constantly reminded that this is a front-wheel-drive chassis unlike the 5-series and E-class. You won't be tossed about as much on rough surfaces as the A6 ride comfort is smooth, the only other car that has the A6 beat on that aspect is the S90. You won't have too much to complain about with wind and road noise, as both are well hushed thanks to a well insulated cabin.

The interior feels classy and well sorted. The only car that may have the Audi sleepless at night is the Volvo S90 which has a far classier approach to its overall interior layout. The infotainment screen swings out of the dashboard and all the controls and dials fall right into your hand. The quality of them are top notch. You shouldn't expect anything less from Audi, especially at this price point. The front seats are comfortable and offer plenty of support, while those in the back may feel a bit shortchanged on foot room due to the large transmission tunnel. The boot space is decent but nothing really compares to a traditional wagon when it comes to versatility.

Premium Trim gets a navigation system, rearview parking camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as a 7-inch driver information system. You'll have to step up to the Premium Plus trim to get Full LED headlights, power tilt and telescopic adjustable steering column and four-zone automatic climate control. Top of the range Prestige gets the 3-liter supercharged six-cylinder engine, head-up display, power trunk open & close, and surround view parking camera. Our tester car was the middle of the range Premium Plus trim which had an amazing Bose surround sound system and also large 20-inch alloy wheels. The overall package did seem a tad bit expensive considering there are so many options that are more compelling to look at and to drive.

You'll love the A6 as it is comfortable to drive and easy to live with. The styling is a bit on the boring side and the interior is lavishly designed with top notch build quality. It's hard trying to find fault in the A6 but it certainly is hard to find anything to like about it, especially when you look at rivals from Volvo and Jaguar. The A6 is a good car but we just expected a little more from it considering how far ahead some of its keen rivals have leaped. It's still a great choice but for how much longer?

Likes: Both engines are silky smooth, and the all-wheel-drive helps the A6 live up to the reputation Audi is known for. The interior is top notch and elegant. We love those LED headlights.

Dislikes: You're constantly reminded that it's front-wheel-drive bias. The exterior styling is a tad bit too dull when you look at the Jaguar XF and Volvo S90.

Pathological test drives a rear-wheel-drive Subaru


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You can choose the Volkswagen GTI, Ford Focus ST, Mini Cooper S and even a Fiat 500 Abarth. So why on earth would anyone choose the Subaru BRZ?

The sole engine in the BRZ is a 2-liter BOXER four-cylinder pumping out 205hp, up 5hp from last year. We didn’t really care too much for the engine output as there are so many rivals that are more practical, faster and costs almost the same as the BRZ. The new update still fell on deaf ears between us. It seems as though it makes all the right noise and is fairly quick if you keep the revs high (sort of like the previous Civic SI) but when you lose the momentum - you lose it and feel it. Driving the BRZ around town is actually fairly easy thanks to responsive steering, and a transmission that isn’t totally on another planet. We managed to sneak a few laps around a ring curved on-ramp and well the handling is spot on good. We even got to kick the tail out a little bit before the end of the off-ramp. It really is a hoot to drive and well the horsepower figures are easily forgotten as the BRZ does feel peppy and quick on its feet. We just wish that it had more horsepower to really exploit the chassis more. It’s like the chassis is begging for the extra horsepower.

You’ll love the way the BRZ drives as it is engaging to drive and never feels sluggish. The ride comfort is so-so it’s not the best but it isn’t entirely uncomfortable. It’s more tolerable than many sportier rivals. Wind and road noise are respectable.

The interior is a mixed bag.  It’s not stylish but is easy to navigate through. The touch screen infotainment system is just an absolute mess and is very sluggish to respond. The overall fit and finish seems sturdy and long lasting, we just wish it didn’t have to look as boring as it does. We know the whole point of this vehicle is the driving experience but there are plenty of options out there that do both well, we promise. The driving position is good and there is plenty of space for the front passengers, while the rear seat is just absolutely useless. The boot space is okay as well.

Premium trim comes with sport-tuned suspension with limited slip differential, LED headlights, rear spoiler, leather-wrapped steering and shifter handle. You’ll have to step up to the Limited to get push button start, fog lights, automatic climate control and optional six-speed automatic. We’d stick with the Premium Trim which makes the most sense here, unless you have to have an auto gearbox.

The BRZ is one of those cars you’d buy with your heart rather than your brain. It’s fun to drive but hot hatches do the same and are easier to live with.

Likes: It’s a hoot to drive and it has running costs that are actually lower than you’d think. Rear-wheel-drive means you can really kick the tail out in corners and bends.

Dislikes: Rear seat is useless. We know horsepower isn’t everything but 220hp would do a world of good for this car.

Our pick: Stick with the Premium Trim and learn how to drive stick shift. It’s the best combo here. The automatic sucks!!!  

We love the Subaru Outback


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If you wanted a car with all-wheel-drive you'd have to buy a bulky 4x4 that was inefficient and cumbersome to own. Now a days you can buy just about any car with all-wheel-drive and they come in array of shapes and sizes. The Subaru Outback should be on your short list though if you want all-wheel-drive on the cheap.

The 2.5-liter four-cylinder produces 175hp and is all you'll ever really need with the Outback. Even though it is nice that you can still option for the 3.6-liter six-cylinder which has 256hp on tap. Those looking for the best value and lowest running costs will be much happier with the 2.5 which is also our pick of the range.

Previous generations of the Outback weren't really known for their driving dynamics. It has always but utilitarian first and refinement last. But with this generation of the Outback you'll be surprised at how improved the on road dynamics have become. It still won't be as sharp to drive as the sedan couterpart but it is still engaging to drive and is quite frankly enough for what it is. Handling is secure and the steering offers decent feedback. You'll never hurl this thing into tight corners and bends so for the smooth ride it offers it exceeds our expectations.

The interior has been improved dramatically over the years. Now it controls and dials are attractively designed but are very user friendly. We do love how easy it is to navigate through the infotainment system without all the fussy dials some of its keen rivals have. The front seats are comfortable and offer plenty of support. Rear passengers won't feel short changed for legroom or headroom, both are very good. The boot is massive and when you fold the rear seats down there's even more space. If you run out of space with this you don't need a car you need a transit van.

The 2.5 premium trim is the pick of the range. It offers extra kit the standard 2.5 doesn't have and is still within reason in terms of pricing. Although all forms of the Outback offer decent kit but for our money we'd stay closer towards the middle which offers the best of both worlds. Air-con, CD-player, keyless entry and daytime running lamps are standard. Those wanting leather will have to pay extra or step up to the top of the range 3.6 engine.

Buying one shouldn't break the bank too much and resale value will be through the roof because most Subaru owners don't sell their vehicles as quick as other automakers making the second hand market for Subaru a small catalog to search through.

It's standard all-wheel-drive means that it can make nasty weather feel safe and secure. It handles with confidence and is one of those cars you'll love taking on a camping trip or to the ski resort. It really is a jack of all trade and is our top pick for all-wheel-drive vehicles on the cheap. No other car can blend utilitarian and functionality quite well like Subaru. With the new updated styling and improved quality. It may even be harder not to resist taking a closer look.

Likes: Vastly improved over previous generation. Cheap all-wheel-drive yet its functional, cheap to run thanks to a efficient power-train.

Dislikes: Overly sensitive headlights. The rest are nit picking so we decided not to even bother.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Crossovers we can't wait to test drive (Part one)

Volvo XC40

Volvo XC40 

The XC40 is just a smaller version of the XC90 and we absolutely love the way it looks from every angle. The engine that will be offered at launch will be a T5 pumping out 248hp and standard all-wheel-drive. We haven't heard much information about whether or not front-wheel-drive will be the standard form, but the starting price is very attractive ($35k) and competitive towards the Audi Q3 and BMW X1. 

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Jaguar E-Pace 

Jaguar/ Land Rover have been on a bit of a design home run marathon. The new Disco and Velar are both outstanding looking 4x4s. What we loved the most is the F-Pace which took elements of the F-Type and made it work in the form of a crossover. The E-Pace, which will compete with cars like the BMW X1 and Volvo XC40 will have a very heavily competitive segment to fight in, but the 2-liter turbo four standard with 248hp and 296hp should have no trouble luring buyers who seek performance and still care about style. 

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BMW X3 

The next generation of the X3 has finally made an appearance. It's been quite literally seven-years since the second generation appeared and it's been long overdue despite the few updates the X3 has received over the years. The new X3 will use the updated 2-liter turbo four pumping out 248hp (this seems to be the average horsepower) and an optional 3-liter turbo six-cylinder pumping out 355hp which will be dubbed the M version of the X3. We love the way the M-package looks on the new X3 and can't wait to test drive one when it goes on-sale. 

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Maserati Levante S

We still haven't had the opportunity to test drive this crossover. We are working with someone (sources we can't name) to get our hands on the Levante. We've been told to wait for the new 3.8 twin-turbo eight-cylinder that should be arriving sometime next year. However, our goal is to test drive the more mainstream versions first prior to the high performance so we can see what buying a cheaper Levante would be like. We love the sleek styling and the interior seems to be a hit and miss on quality (we've only been able to sit in one). 

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Porsche Cayenne Turbo/ Turbo S/ GT-S 

We'd love the opportunity to test drive one of the high-performance versions of the Cayenne. We've only managed to get our hands on a entry-level Cayenne with a 3.6 six-cylinder pumping out 300hp. It seems very hard to find places willing to let us test drive one, even if it's just around the corner and back. The next generation of the Cayenne is around the corner, and it looks light years better inside out. We hope that it lives up to the hype that we've read about in several reviews. 


Ford Eco Sport 

We know that it's just a crossover version of the Fiesta, but we do find the styling rather cute. The 1-liter ecoboost three-cylinder engine is the one that sparks our curiosity the most. It has less horsepower than an HRV but running costs should be lower also thanks to a turbo and high torque at low revs. This pint sized crossover should be urban friendly and has a very attractive starting price under $20k. (Sourced from Ford USA website.) 

We test drives the two-seat Mini Roadster (used)


If you wanted a two-seat roadster but didn't want to pay much money. Your only option would be the Mazda MX-5 Miata. It's not a bad option but what if you wanted something a little different from the MX-5. Well your prays have been answered! Mini has a new Roadster which can go toe to toe with the MX-5 in both fun to drive and affordable price, but is it a winning argument? 

Performance: There are a familar range of 1.6-liter engines that all Minis offer. The Standard Mini Roadster uses a 1.6-liter non-turbo four-cylinder with 122hp. Cooper S trim uses a turbocharged form with 181hp, while the top of the range JCW gets pumped up to 208hp. Pick of the range is simple and yet the best form of a Mini you can buy the Cooper S. It's quite flexible and simply the most fun to drive and the more sensible choice of the range. The base trim feels a little underpowered while the top of the range is excellent but rather priced a little steeply.

On the road: The Mini Roadster has a rather firm ride, it's not nearly as firm as the Mazda MX-5. At highway speeds the ride surprisingly feels settled, even at low speeds the firm ride is forgiving. The Mini feels sharp and balanced through bends and corners with well weighted steering that has sharp response. With the roof down ther'es a lot of wind buffeting in the cabin. Road and engine noise can be heard at highway speeds. The exhaust emits an appealing pop and bangs.

Behind the wheel: Finding a driving position that suits you best won't be hard to find. The dashboard is a differ story however. It's funky retro design looks good but functionality is poor. Many of the controls feel fiddly to operate and confusing in layout. Rear visibility is very limited with the roof up. It's not as bad in the Mini Coupe. Compared with most two-seat roadsters, the Mini Roadster is very practical. The boot offers a decent size with a pass through for skis.

Equipment: All the roadsters come with the basic specs which includes alloy wheels, air-con and parking sensors. A part-electric roof is also standard as well. For those who wants to customize their Mini to their tastes, there are plenty of customizations to choose from.

Buying & Owning: The Mini Roadster costs about the same as the Mazda MX-5. The Mini Roadster is more fuel-efficient and offers better storage and resale value. The news gets even better when you pick the Mini Cooper S over the Mazda. Not only do you get a more powerful engine, but it's cheaper and more still more efficient.

Quality & Safety: Cabin materials are very iffy in quality. Some areas look down right cheap. Mini does well in reliability and customer satisfaction, but still we question Minis long term reliability. Mini comes with stability control and anti-lock brakes to keep you safe. The brakes are sophisticated and there's plenty of airbags to keep you safe in the event of a crash.

The Mini Roadster is very pratical and sensible option compared to the Mazda MX-5. It's quite fun to drive and offers much value for the money if you stick with the Cooper and Cooper S forms. Howver, the Mini Roadster suffers from a stingy equipment level and isn't as fun to drive as the Coupe form. If you are looking for a two-seat roadster that's practical and affordable the Mini Roadster should be on your list. 

Devon's Pick: Mini Roadster Cooper S is the sweet spot of the range. It's not as expensive as the JCW but is just as fast and is more fuel efficient than the JCW. 

Likes: Go-kart handling. Surprisingly comfortable despite firm suspension. Very practicla for a roadster also.

Dislike: Dashboard controls are fiddly to operate. Options can send the price soaring. Not as sharp to drive as the Mini Coupe.

Devon M