Car Review: 2014 Fiat 500L Lounge

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Fiat has been steadily gaining back a foothold in the North American marketplace and now looks to continue that growth with the 2014 Fiat 500L Lounge. The all-new 2014 Fiat 500L expands the Cinquecento’s appeal by offering 42 percent extra interior space with comfortable seating for five. We drove a 500L Lounge for a one week test and came away with the following impressions.

EXTERIOR

According to Fiat, the 500L was designed with the active and thrill-seeking North American customer in mind, as the 2014 Fiat 500L Trekking expands the appeal and practicality of the Fiat 500L with distinct and rugged looks. We found the 17-inch painted aluminum wheels, white roof and bi-function halogen projector headlamps to be very stylish, but the overall design was not as sharp as competitors in our opinion. There is no question that the 2014 Fiat 500L Lounge has its own look, but that look can come off as somewhat quirky. A design that could build off the cool front fascia might be the way to go here!

INTERIOR

When you enter the cabin of the 500L Lounge, there is no doubt that quality materials played a big role in the finished product. Fiat went for a “loft-like interior,” which will work for some car buyers, but there is also a feeling that you’re in a miniature school bus. With that feel comes way more room that the two-door 500, but without the sporty appeal that we loved about the 500. The power sunroof was large and the Beats premium audio system with six speakers was awesome. One thing that needs to be addressed is too much engine noise making it’s way into the 500L.

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Car Review: 2014 Ford Focus Hatchback ST

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As the Ford Focus continues posting very impressive worldwide sales figures, one need not wonder what the Blue Oval will do to continue building momentum behind this Focus nameplate. Ford has at last released the long-awaited Focus ST, which absolutely takes the compact car segment to new and wonderful heights. The all-new Focus ST is Ford’s first truly global performance car, building on the heritage of previous Focus ST models in Europe and giving drivers around the world the opportunity to share the exhilarating performance, excellent handling, addictive sound and sporty design that Ford’s ST badge represents. With innovative technologies throughout, the Focus ST will be highly fuel efficient too. Yes, the 2014 Ford Focus Hatchback ST was one of our favorite reviews in recent times for numerous reasons, and we’ll let you know why below.

EXTERIOR

From the striking one-piece design interpretation of Ford’s signature trapezoidal grille at the front, through the sculpted side skirts and dynamic rear bumper with prominent diffuser-style vents in the lower fascia, Focus ST’s design adds aggression and aerodynamic stability. The highly effective roof spoiler is optimized to deliver improved high-speed stability and reduced drag, while the unique center-exit exhaust sports a tailpipe design influenced by the exclusive hexagonal mesh of the front bumper.

The well-recognized Focus ST style extends to the iconic Y-shaped alloy wheels. Wrapped around the rado grey 18-inch wheels are high-performance 235/40R-18 Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 tires, developed after rigorous testing on all kinds of road surfaces and in all kinds of conditions. These dynamic features together play a huge role in what Ford has accomplished her, as the 2014 Ford Focus Hatchback ST truly resembles a sports car rather than a compact. The Focus ST turned heads wherever we drove the car, and we realized quickly that the Focus ST was a superstar on the road! The performance blue paint was also a real winner that just highlighted all of the muscular curves and highpoints of the ST.

INTERIOR

When you first enter the cabin of the 2014 Ford Focus Hatchback ST, the first thing you notice are the black and blue partial leather recaro sports seats that look like they would fit nicely into a track-only racing car. These seats are not for the buyer looking for bland looks and passive seating, as these ST sports seats wrap around your body and keep you nice and snug for those tight corners. The dashboard is closing in on perfection with a well laid out instrument panel and a smart center console with armrest with storage and room for two good size cups. The leather-wrapped sport steering wheel with the ST branding was super cool and again an upgrade from just about anything you can find stock from the factory. An illuminated entry, MyFord touchscreen with Sirius, dual zone electric air temp control, navigation system and one of the top stereo systems in this price range is also included. We fit four adults somewhat comfortably in the Focus ST and felt there was ample storage in the hatch area.

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Car Review: 2014 Ford Fiesta 5-Door Hatch SE

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When one looks to the 2014 Ford Fiesta, you have to expand your thoughts on the car, because Ford smartly offers many configurations of this gem. We had the chance to test drive the 2014 Ford Fiesta 5-Door Hatch SE with a manual five-speed transmission and truly appreciated what this car had to offer. The overall design is solid but not overwhelming, and for the price range you are looking to spend on a Fiesta, most will find the packaging appealing!

EXTERIOR

The major change to the exterior is the front fascia, which incorporates Ford’s global look and resembles cars that can cost thousands of dollars more that the Fiesta. Yes, the thinner headlights with built-in LED running lights with more aggressive lower intakes, a pronounced power dome on the hood and a new trapezoidal grille transform the Fiesta into somewhat of a combative little brother to the Focus and Fusion models. We thought the 16-inch painted aluminum wheels set the tone for the Fiesta, along with auto headlamps, dual power mirrors, the 5-bar chromed grille, integrated spotter mirrors and rear spoiler.

INTERIOR

The 2014 Ford Fiesta 5-Door Hatch SE is much better car when it comes to the interior space compared to the 2013 model. The center counsel and armrest between the two front seats is a huge improvement, as you don’t get the feeling that just because it’s a compact car that it has to eliminate so many things that buyers crave, and I believe that was part of why Ford built the new Fiesta in the first place, so hat’s off on a great step forward! The seats are also very comfortable and wider than some midsize sedan seats that we’ve driven, which was a welcome surprise.

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First Drive: 2013 Nissan Sentra

I traveled out to wine country near San Francisco courtesy of Nissan to test drive the all-new 2013 Nissan Sentra. I was on hand in Dallas earlier this year when Nissan unveiled the redesigned Sentra and the new design looked impressive, but now I was getting a chance to drive it as well.

Exterior

The new Sentra features an elegant design that helps it stand out in the compact car category. Some competitors in the segment have gone with edgier designs, so the more refined look of the Sentra offers a nice alternative for consumers. The new Nissan front grille fits nicely on this vehicle and the rest of the design points flow naturally. Details like LED accented headlamps and tail lamps add to the overall look of the car. As you can see from the photos I took, the Sentra looks great from all angles.

Interior

The interior of the Sentra features upgraded soft-touch materials that set it apart from other options in the compact segment. The overall feel of the interior is stylish and upscale yet understated, so it fits well the exterior. It’s also very roomy for a smaller car. The overall comfort level in all of the seats was excellent.

Like the new Altima, the 2013 Sentra offers an all-new version of the Nissan Navigation system as an option with all sorts of features. NissanConnect with Navigation includes a Hands-Free Text Messaging Assistant that reads incoming text messages and allows drivers to reply without taking their hands off of the steering wheel. In addition, it also offers Pandora, 5.8-inch touch-screen display and Google Send-to-Car functions. Other tech options include RearView Monitor and Nissan Intelligent Key with illuminated push-button ignition switch and the Tire Pressure Monitoring System with Easy Fill Tire Alert feature.

Performance

The new Sentra is 150 pounds lighter than the previous model but also has slightly larger overall dimensions and more interior room. With a lighter vehicle Sentra also has an all-new and more fuel-efficient 1.8-liter engine with a generation Xtronic CVT. Fuel economy is rated at 30 miles per gallon city, 39 miles per gallon highway and a class-leading 34 miles per gallon combined.

The Sentra features both Sport and Eco mode options, which makes the driving experience much more enjoyable. In Sport mode the Sentra accelerates nicely and zips around curves no problem. It has solid acceleration and is fun to drive. The Eco mode is a great option for slow or casual city driving. The overall driving experience was impressive for a car of this size.

Overview

Overall, the new Sentra remains an excellent option in the compact car segment. It’s very competitive on features and gas mileage, and the look of the car will definitely attract a wide variety of buyers. Pricing for the Sentra starts at $15,990 with the fully equipped SL priced at $19,760.

  

First Drive: 2012 Nissan Versa

Seattle is usually spectacular in the summer, as the gray skies and drizzle is replace by clear and crisp summer days. So I was pleased to hear we’d be driving the redesigned 2012 Nissan Versa in the Great Northwest in July. The weather cooperated for the most part and I was able to test the pre-production vehicles in both city and highway settings while taking in some of the sights around Seattle.

Exterior

Nissan has completely redesigned the 4-dour Versa for 2012, while the update for the 5-door hatchback will come a little later. The new Versa is the first Nissan model to sport the new front grille for sedans, which is a huge improvement over the previous Nissan grille. That combined with the stylish headlights completely changes the look of the vehicle. It’s more polished and elegant that its predecessor, giving off the impression of a more expensive sedan. The previous model had a more vertical feel to it, while the new Versa has a much more aerodynamic look.

The lines of the new Versa are clean and sophisticated, and this will appeal to small car buyers who are turned off by the edgier designs from competitors that are common in the compact segment. I was impressed by the look of the car from all angles as I walked around it.

Interior

The interior was roomy and comfortable. The interior comes in two colors, charcoal and sandstone, and both fit nicely with the new exterior design. Again, consumers who prefer a more elegant vehicle over an edgy design will be pleased with the new Versa. It’s also very roomy in the back seat and has best in class trunk space, making it very practical for buyers who expect to have passengers and cargo.

Performance

The Versa features a continuously variable transmission (CVT), so you won’t feel gear changes as you’re driving the vehicle and accelerating. The new Versa sports Nissan’s second-generation CVT design, improving fuel mileage over the previous model by 5 MPG. The Versa now gets 30 MPG City, 38 MPG Highway and 33 MPG combined. Nissan official stressed that the combined mileage was tied for best-in-class, as the CVT provides great mileage performance in city driving. It also features a new 1.6-liter engine with 109 horsepower @6,000 rpm and 107 lb-ft of torque at @4,400 rpm.
I liked how the Versa felt, particularly in city driving where the CVT performed nicely. It has competitive power for vehicles in this class and solid handling.

Overview

The 1st generation Versa was introduced in 2006 and was the U.S. segment share leader for the in 2010. The small car segment is growing rapidly as more buyers look for fuel economy, and with this update we can expect the Nissan Versa to continue to be a sales leader in this space. Consumers will have many choices as more brands enter this space, and the new design will appeal to many consumers drawn to a more elegant look. It will appeal to many younger buyers and consumers looking for a commuter vehicle.

The Versa has the lowest standard MSRP of any vehicle in this space at $10,990 for the S MT. This entry-level model has few options and has a manual transmission instead of the CVT but is equipped with standard air conditioning and a radio. The S CVT starts at $12,760, the SV CVT starts at $14,560 and the SL CVT starts at $15,560, and you can add a Tech Package with Navigation, XM radio and USB for an additional $700.

  

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