Car Review: 2015 Honda Fit EX-L

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The Honda Fit EX-L is larger for 2015, and somehow added more power while also increasing fuel efficiency. We took the Fit for a one-week spin to find out how great a compact car can be these days. Prices start at around $16,000, but can climb significantly when adding features and moving up trim levels.

EXTERIOR

When Honda took to redesigning the Fit, you can quickly see that style was going to play a large role in the new car. The new Fit sports a fresh and dynamic exterior design with slimmer headlights that integrate into a solid grille design and an aggressive lower intake. Chiseled sides emphasize the wheels and the dynamically tapered roofline that terminates in a color-matched spoiler. Eight colors, including several new and vibrant options, accentuate the fresh exterior styling. From some views, the 2015 Honda Fit EX-L can resemble a shrunken minivan, but when you are reaching for practicality, there is only so much room to thread the needle in regards to design.

INTERIOR

Inside, the increased interior room and visibility create a sense of airy spaciousness, which is complemented by upgraded, soft-touch materials that raise the feeling of quality. The rich and sophisticated black with silver accented design of the interior surfaces and controls, and blue backlit instrument dials, are stylish and functional. The available Display Audio touchscreen interface and first-ever leather seating (on EX-L models) further increase the premium feel of this new Fit. New standard features on all Fit models include auto on-off headlights, LED brake lights, Bluetooth HandsFreeLink and a center storage console with armrest. Items such as Smart Entry Push Button Start, a one-touch operated moonroof, 7-inch touchscreen Display Audio with next-generation HondaLink, and heated leather seats are among the upgrades available for the first time in Fit.

We did find the driver seat to have relatively limited room to slide back to make room for taller drivers. There is also a feeling of tilting into the long windshield where you get that minivan feeling, and not in a good way.

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Car Review: 2014 Lexus ES 300h Sedan

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As Lexus continues to advance the styling of their products, they continue to lead with impressive hybrid offerings. The first luxury brand to introduce a hybrid vehicle nearly 10 years ago, Lexus continues its hybrid leadership by offering the 2014 Lexus ES 300h sedan powered by the innovative Hybrid Synergy Drive. We spent a fun-filled week driving the luxuriously appointed 2014 Lexus ES 300h sedan and can appreciate why folks just flat-out love this car!

EXTERIOR

The ES 300h cuts a striking figure, highlighted by the Lexus spindle grille dramatic L-themed LED daytime running lights and coupe-like profile. The car’s shape cheats the wind with a low 0.27 coefficient of drag (Cd), which helps reduce fuel consumption and minimize wind noise. The ES 300h conveys its hybrid status in subtle ways, with specific split-five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels, lip spoiler, hidden exhaust pipe and blue hybrid badges. The cerulean blue metallic paint stood out on the road and is one of the cleanest colors when it comes to maintaining that clean look. The striking looks are enhanced by the new generation ES 300h gains LED fog lamps with HID headlamps.

INTERIOR

There is no mistaking a Lexus when you enter the cabin space, as top of the line materials and ergonomically placed controls are right at your disposal. The original ES sedan upended the entry luxury category nearly 25 years ago by making a V6 standard in a category populated by four-cylinder models, and by offering more interior room and more standard luxury amenities. Lexus continues to set the trend in the entry-luxury category by virtue of a unique two-model strategy. The front-wheel drive ES models emphasize roominess and comfort, and the sport-minded IS models, which are built on a different platform, offer a choice between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. In contrast, other brands try to mold one model series to fit both roles.

The ES 300h is built on the sixth-generation ES platform, which grew slightly in external size over the previous-generation model and added a significant 4.1 inches in rear seat legroom to offer 40 inches. That compares favorably with legroom in some larger sedans All told, the Lexus ES continues to belie the term “entry luxury” by offering sumptuous accommodations. The ES 300h comes standard with 10-way adjustable power front seats, automatic climate control, NuLuxe interior available in parchment, light gray or black and with elegant piano black trim for instrument panel, doors and upper console. Other interior trim options include espresso bird’s eye maple or bamboo. Also available, 12-way heated/ventilated power front seats allow the seat cushions to extend by 1.4 inches for added leg support.

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Car Review: 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX

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The 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX rides on the redesigned Optima from back in 2013 and debuts a super-jump in mileage with the new hybrid version. We tested the 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX for a week and the range on one tank of gas in more than impressive. Simply put, Kia’s Stylish hybrid midsize sedan returns with improved aerodynamic design and technological enhancements that take this car up a few notches.

EXTERIOR

Taking a great looking car like the Optima and improving on those looks while also making it more fuel efficient is not easy. The dynamic and sporty design upgrades on the gasoline-powered 2014 Optima are retooled for the Hybrid to increase fuel efficiency. Contributing to improved aerodynamics is a series of additional vents in the Optima Hybrid’s unique front bumper, increasing airflow and reducing drag. Newly designed and more aerodynamic 17-inch alloy wheels as tested (LX and EX, respectively) reduce weight and drag, while superbly integrating with the Optima’s eye-catching new design elements.

In addition to those elements designed with fuel efficiency in mind, the 2014 Optima Hybrid also boasts a unique new front grille design, Hybrid-exclusive front LED lighting, new Hybrid fender badges and an attractive and upscale optional white leather package. The smoky blue paint was crisp and very easy to keep a clean appearance.

INTERIOR

The roominess is noteworthy because often with sleek-looking designs, interspace can sometimes be compromised, but not in the 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX. The white leather package in our test model was very luxurious. Technological improvements to the gasoline-powered 2014 Optima carryover within the cabin of the Optima Hybrid, as drivers are greeted with more upscale and high-tech amenities. Activating the Optima’s push button ignition brings two displays to life: a 4.3-inch TFT LCD instrument cluster and optional high-resolution 8-inch navigation and telematics screen, featuring UVO eServices, an eight-speaker Infinity sound system, HD Radio , SiriusXM Satellite Radio and SiriusXM Traffic4. One of the interior highlights was the enormous panoramic sunroof, which brought in as much sunlight and fresh air that one could expect from anything but a convertible.

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Car Review: 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE

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The Mitsubishi Outlander has been in the market for a few years now, and the one thing that you can count on is this vehicle getting better with every model year. We tested the redesigned 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE and really didn’t know what to expect at first, but after a week behind the wheel, we found a solid vehicle at a reasonable price.

EXTERIOR

The new 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE has sharp looks with an edgy design. Our rally red test model looked uncluttered and sleek for a SUV that is generally better known for utility advances. The 18-inch alloy wheels, super-wide HID headlights, chrome front grille surround, chrome belt line molding, fog lights, rear LED tail lights, rear spoiler and exhaust finisher spiced up the overall appearance. The look of the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE is practical and smart.

INTERIOR

Don’t look for luxury to be in the vocabulary when you’re driving a $25,820 as tested SUV, but roominess will fall right into place. Standard features such as climate control, air conditioning, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, high contrast meters and full color multi-information display were well thought out and placed. We also thought the 710w Rockford Fosgate Premium sound system with nine speakers was high quality and powerful. Cabin and utility space are solid without needless gadgets that can get in your way.

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Car Review: 2014 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Premium

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As the list of serious 4×4 SUVs dwindle away, the 2014 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Premium is just what the off-road, truck-loving folks ordered. Currently in its fifth-generation, the 4Runner continues as one of the few fully capable mid-size SUVs. The redesigned 2014 4Runner receives a rugged new exterior design and interior refinements that add comfort and convenience without sacrificing its hallmark performance capability and excellent value. We drove the 4Runner enough to realize this is one tough customer!

EXTERIOR

The refreshed 4Runner features a redesigned front fascia that conveys a more rugged and aggressive appearance. This includes a muscular front grille and edgier smoked headlamps for a more forceful look. The headlights have also been changed from halogen to projector beam and the redesigned rear combination lamps now feature LED lights. The SR5 as tested and Trail grades feature a color-keyed grille insert and front bumper that is surrounded by fog lamps set in sharply cut inlays that extend from the headlamps down to the bumper. In addition to the distinctive new grille, the premium Limited’s front design stands apart with a chrome-plated grille insert and chrome front bumper that extends to the fog-lamp bezels. The side molding, roof rack and rear bumper are also chrome trimmed.

Both the SR5 and Trail grades ride on 17-inch alloy wheels with a new and unique wheel design to both, while the Limited continues to ride on 20-inch alloy wheels, which are now painted black prior to machining to add contrast. All grades continue to come standard with a full-size spare. The look of the 2014 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Premium is very distinctive on the road, commanding attention with the aggressive front end.

INTERIOR

There are plenty of full-size pickups that would crave the cabin space of the 4Runner with the well thought out spacing, touches of refinement and made-for-work toughness. The SR5 and Trail grades add standard Soft Touch door trim and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather shift knob provide a premium feel and atmosphere. The SR5 receives a new bright and highly visible Optitron instrument panel that houses speedometer, tachometer, voltage, fuel and coolant temperature gauges, plus a multi-information display that offers multiple functions. An Eco-Driving feedback system allows the driver to monitor fuel consumption in real time. On the 4Runner Trail, an overhead console within easy reach organizes the off-road control switches into one location. A compass indicator and outside temperature display add functionality. A manually controlled air conditioning system is standard on SR5 and Trail grades, while the Limited features an automatic dual-zone climate-control system.

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