2017 Kia Niro: Crossover Value!

It seems that every automotive manufacturer is unveiling a new Crossover in their lineup, with Jaguar recently joining them. While it used to be the goal to have one crossover in your stable, now to be in the show you must have one in every size category. Even the junior mint sizes need to be fully equipped with all of the latest gadgets. One of the new entries in the subcompact field is the stunning, all-new, 2017 Kia Niro.

The Kia Niro began hitting dealerships in early 2017 and is available in five trim levels – FE, LX, EX, Touring, and a limited production Launch Edition.

The Niro FE, has a starting MSRP of $22,890 and 50-MPG (combined), and is equipped with an extensive list of standard features, including: 16-inch wheels, 6-way front seats, power windows, keyless entry, cruise control, 7-inch touchscreen display with rearview camera, UVO3 with Apple CarPlayTM3, Android AutoTM4 and a six-speaker audio system with steering-wheel-mounted controls.

Next up is the $23,200 LX trim, which adds Smart Key with push button start, roof rails and LED rear combination lamps. Among the extras added to EX, priced at $25,700, are: heated combination cloth and leather seating, leather-wrapped steering wheel, LED daytime running lights, heated power folding mirrors, front fog lamps, and Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and Lane Change Assist (LCA) and driver assistance features.

The Launch Edition is available in Snow White Pearl or Aurora Black Pearl exterior colors. Drivers are offered an exclusive look via the unique Hyper Gray 18-inch alloy wheels with Michelin tires, unique metallic color grille, 10-way driver’s seat, 8-inch touchscreen navigation system, 8-speaker Harman Kardon® 6 premium audio—all for $28,000.

Touring trim, at $29,650, is equipped with an amazing array of additional features, including: power tilt/slide sunroof, front and rear park assist, heated and ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, 10-way power driver’s seat with memory and 8-speaker Harman Kardon® premium audio.

The Niro is a front-wheel drive crossover that provides 6.3 inches of ground clearance. Its SUV styling cues are in full force including simulated front and rear skid plates and gray plastic lower body and wheel arch trim. Thanks to the increased ground clearance, the driver and passenger do experience an elevated seating height–one of the trademarks of an SUV/Crossover.

The 2017 Niro is dressed with the sporty Kia grille and headlights that look like raised eyebrows. The outline of the body projects a shadow of a boxed figure with smoothed sporty edges.

One of the best features of the Niro in this time of rising gas prices and threats of a new 50-cent gas tax, is the combined 50 miles per gallon. The Niro was engineered from the ground up as a hybrid as it delivers the mpgs, and creates that green statement buzz.

The Niro combines an Atkinson-cycle, direct-injected 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine with an electric motor and lithium-polymer battery pack that generates 139 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. It might not sound like much, however, that’s what it takes to get 50+ mpg. Honestly, it still had good get-up-and-go. The Niro bypasses the usual CVT in favor of a 6-speed dual clutch transmission with a Sport-Drive mode.

The interior was comfortable in its two-tone trim. Like most Kias, it was loaded with high-tech features including: push button start, front heated and cooled seats, navigation with an 8-inch screen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smart phone integration, SiriusXM satellite radio and more. The stitching and trim around the air vents are colored in blue indicating a hybrid. The cargo space ranges from 19.4 cu-ft. to 54.5 cu-ft. with the second seats down.


Cool Features:

  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • Push-button start
  • Front heated and cooled seats

The 2017 Kia Niro is well-equipped with safety features including: dual front advanced airbags, dual front seat-mounted side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, driver’s knee airbag, rollover sensor, ABS brakes with Brake Assist System, Electronic Stability Control, Hill-Start Assist Control, rear camera, blind spot detection and lane change assist available on EX-and-up trims, and more. Optional safety features are Forward Collision Warning system, Lane Departure Warning system, Smart Cruise Control, and Front and Rear Park Assist system.

In Summary – The 2017 Kia Niro is a fun little crossover that is only missing an AWD version. It is equipped with plenty of room, a fair amount of power, and solid steering and handling. The style is young, and cute with a touch of sophistication. Standard features and optional features mimic those on more upscale vehicles. Kia has introduced a test-worthy little crossover offering that’s worthy of your time.


2017 Kia Niro Touring


Base price:                  $29,650as driven: $30,545 (including destination & optional

Engine:                       1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine with an electric motor

Horsepower:             104hp @ 5,700 RPM and 43hp

Torque:                       109 @ 2,200 RPM

Transmission:            6-Speedautomatic

Drive:                          Front-wheel Drive

Seating:                       5-passenger

Turning circle:           17.4 feet

Cargo space:              19.4 cubic feet

Curb weight:              3,106 pounds

Fuel capacity:             11.9 gallons     

EPA mileage:              City 51/Hwy 46

Wheel Base:                 106.3 inches

Warranty:                    10 years/100,000-miles powertrain limited

Also consider:              Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Nissan Juke, Toyota   



2017 Volvo S90: A Lesson in Elegance!

Around 25 years ago, my parents gave me their old Volvo 240. At the time, my daughter, Cayla, was born and we needed to replace one of our coupes with a four door sedan. I can’t say much about the 240’s shape – it was rectangle and boxy, but, it drove well, was considered one of the safest cars in its price range, and was reliable. With a new baby on board, safety was the ticket. Well, the years have passed way too quickly. My daughter is now 27-years old and Volvo today produces vehicles that continue to be leaders in safety. They are still reliable, and drive well. The biggest difference is that the styling is outstanding and the all-new 2017 Volvo S90 is proof that safe vehicles can also be beautiful!

The 2017 Volvo S90 sedan replaces the outgoing S80 in the Swedish-made product line; however, this isn’t a simple upgrade or minor change with a new name. This is a start-from-scratch; a fully re-engineered effort that delivers what I would consider to be the best Volvo ever. The S90 is the fully-reconceived flagship sedan that is built on a new platform launched last year on the XC90 crossover. It includes a new engine, a beautiful new design concept and not a single carry-over part from its previous model.

Under the permission of its new owners, China’s Geely Holding, Volvo has been allowed to completely rethink and redesign its largest sedan as well as its company’s overall design theme. Instead of chasing after the German sport sedans specification list, Volvo was encouraged to express itself by conceiving an elegant design, spacious and beautifully crafted interior, and a driving and performance experience that is second to none.

The 2017 Volvo S90 is produced in Sweden and available in four configurations: T5 Momentum ($46,950), T5 Inscription ($49,650), T6 AWD Momentum ($52,950), T6 AWD Inscription ($55,450). The T5 models are equipped with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged generating 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The upgraded T6 2.0-liter 4-cylinder adds a belt-driven supercharger to pump more forced air into the turbo stream. This increases the horsepower to 316 and the torque to 295 lb.-ft. My test car was the S90 T6 AWD Inscription and I can tell you, it performs like a rocket.

The exterior is carved with the smooth outline of a coupe and elegance is infused into the curves and swoops of its shiny steel skin. The profile boasts bold and luxurious authority as it stands tall on its 19-inch wheels. The T-shaped headlights are themed as Thor’s Hammer and are laid in concert with the classically long Volvo hood, uniquely- shaped side glass and the scalloped grille. Sensors and cameras are place on all four poles creating a 360-degree aerial view when the transmission is requested to backup. I must admit, I have driven other cars that have this 360-degree view option and the Volvos for some reason take the items parallel to it (cars, bushes, etc.) and stretches them with giant height proportions which created an uneasy sensation when backing up.

The interior is truly worthy of praise. With plenty of room for four adult passengers and a smaller rider (in the center of the back seat), all will enjoy the blending of a living room couch, while having form-hugging seats that will keep you in place during the curviest of roads. Beautiful wood trim is decorated throughout the cabin. Every element of the interior is designed as a work-of-art, from the shifter to the speaker covers. The nine-inch center screen works in part like a tablet as you swipe from page to page to engage your adjustments. I am a guy who enjoys gadgets, but, I must admit, the screen replaced most of the typical control buttons, and attempting to drive and swipe at the same time was very distracting. I would prefer to have buttons which I can quickly access for the common functions.

The T6 trims are engineered with air suspension delivering a comfortable smooth ride or as Volvo coins it “a relaxed confidence.” The suspension loads up evenly and unloads out of a corner with the grace of a ballerina. Passengers will be pleased as there isn’t much bobbing or bouncing over imperfections in the road and the ride is extremely quiet, thanks to its active noise cancellation technology.

Cool Features:

  • Volvo’s Pilot Assist
  • 360 Aerial View in Reverse
  • Rear seats temperature control and heated seats

As we know, Volvo is known for being a leader in vehicle safety and the 2017 Volvo S90 is bursting at the seams with safety features. The S90 will be the first automobile with semi-autonomous driving technology standard across the line. The Pilot Assist system blends active cruise control with forward collision warning and lane-keep assist. This system lets the driver remove his or her hands from the steering wheel sporadically, for up to 15 seconds each time. Blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert systems are optional. There is also a Large Animal Detection system that tracks the movement of creatures like moose and deer, warning the driver, as it takes evasive action as necessary.

In Summary –The 2017 Volvo S90 is comparable to German sedans in comfort, performance and safety, but, at a much better price. It’s better-equipped than many luxury sedans and is loaded with technical features. The styling of the S90 hits the mark and creates a new standard for Volvo. The S90 is a beautiful and luxurious vehicle both inside and out.


2017 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription


Base price:                  $52,950as driven: $66,105 (including destination & optional

Engine:                       2.0-liter 4-cylinder Super and Turbo charged engine

Horsepower:               316 @ 5,700 RPM

Torque:                       295 @ 2,200 RPM

Transmission             8-Speedautomatic

Drive:                          AWD Drive

Seating:                       5-passenger

Turning circle            36.7 feet

Cargo space:              13.5 cubic feet

Curb weight:              4222 pounds

Fuel capacity:             15.9 gallons     

EPA mileage:             City 22/Hwy 31

Wheel Base:                115.8 inches

Warranty:                   4 years/50,000-miles powertrain limited

Also consider:            Cadillac CT6, Lexus GS, Jaguar XF, Mercedes-Benz E-Class


2017Acura MDX

Utility meets High-Tech!

Sales of cars have been steadily been replaced by SUV’s as people want and need more space. Is that because our population is becoming more overweight? I don’t know. Maybe we just want as the late great George Carlin use to say, “when we go somewhere we take part of our stuff.” Maybe we are taking too much of our stuff and simply need a way to carry it, or maybe we are super-sizing too many things. These days SUV’s come in all sizes and levels of luxury and performance. One of Acura’s offering in the luxury packaging is the 2017 Acura MDX.

In 2014 Acura launched the third generation MDX and for 2017 it received a major refresh. Upgrades and improvements for 2017 include refreshed exterior styling and a bold new diamond pentagon grille. New features for 2017 begin with the high-tech AcuraWatch™ suite of safety and river-assistive technologies, electric parking break with automatic brake hold, auto high beam headlamps, Sirius XM Radio™ , USB charging ports and more. Plus, Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ body structure and a comprehensive list of active and passive safety features to deliver intelligent safety and confident driving performance.

The 2017 Acura MDX comes in Front Wheel Drive and All Wheel Drive with a base model and Technology package, Technology and Entertainment packages, Advance packages, and Advance and Entertainment packages. Prices start at $44,890.

The 2017 Acura MDX leads its class with its combination of power and fuel efficiency. Power comes from an advanced 3.5-liter direct-injected i-VTEC™ V-6 engine rated at 290 peak horsepower and 267 lb.-ft. peak torque (both SAE net). It incorporates a range of advanced friction-reducing technologies that help boost fuel efficiency and power output, and features a crossflow magnesium intake manifold, special “tumble” type intake ports, special piston-crown shapes, and an 11.5:1 compression ratio.

The restyled 2017 MDX’s distinctive diamond pentagon grille represents the new face of Acura. Integrated with a more sculpted hood, front fascia, front fenders and revised Jewel Eye headlights, the result is a more “executive athletic” appearance for the Acura’s class-leading luxury SUV. Additional styling updates include new chrome rocker panel trim, a revised rear bumper and skid garnish, and new dual exhausts with bright finishers.

The 2017 MDX offers a high level of luxury, convenience and technology in a spacious cabin graced with high-end appointments including standard leather seating surfaces and available new genuine Olive Ash Burl or Black Limba wood accent trim (Advance Package). The MDX comes with standard three-row, seven-passenger seating.  Advance grades accommodate six passengers with new second-row captain’s chairs and a center console. Smart interior packaging provides usable and versatile passenger and cargo space, including an Extended Slide feature for the second-row seats and convenient One-Touch Walk-In access to the third row. While up front, a large storage area in the center console can accommodate a purse and even tablet computers. New seat styling with contrasting piping and stitching and perforated Milano premium leather seating surfaces elevate the luxury look and feel of the Advance Package.

Cool Features:

  • The MDX with Advance Package also features a new Surround-View Camera System with six selectable viewing angles.
  • Millimeter wave radar and a monocular camera to detect other vehicles as well as lane markings
  • AcuraLink™ includes media channels available through Pandora™ and Aha™ mobile, delivered via the owner’s internet-linked smartphone and data plan

From the safety side, for 2017, every MDX model and trim level includes the AcuraWatch suite of advanced safety and driver-assistive technology, including Collision Mitigation Braking System™ (CMBS), Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow (LSF) and Road Departure Mitigation (RDM).

In Summary –The 2017 Acura MDX is loaded with useful and powerful high-tech features throughout. These technology benefits create a driving experience that inspires one to avoid the shortcuts and chose the open road. Acura’s modifications for 2017 keep the MDX looking fresh, confident and Silicon Valley competent.


2017 Acura MDX AWD Advance


Base price:                  $56,400 as driven: $57,340 (including destination & optional

Engine:                       3.5-liter direct-injected i-VTEC™ V-6 engine

Horsepower:               290 @ 6,200 RPM

Torque:                       267 @ 4,700 RPM

Transmission:              9-Speedautomatic

Drive:                          AWD Drive

Seating:                       7-passenger

Turning circle:           38.7 feet

Cargo space:              15 – 68.4 cubic feet

Curb weight:              4001 pounds

Fuel capacity:            19.5 gallons      

EPA mileage:             City 19/Hwy 26

Wheel Base:                111 inches

Warranty:                   4 years/50,000-miles powertrain limited

Also consider:            Buick Enclave, Ford Explorer, Infiniti QX60, Lexus RX, and

                                      Lincoln  MKX


2016 Mazda MX-5 Top Down and Fun Up!

It’s hard to believe that 25years have blown by since the first Mazda MX-5 Miata rolled off of the assembly line. The little two-seater convertible from Mazda ignited years of fun for some and unlike many roadsters that are locked in the garage in preparation of the next sunny weekend mid-day drive, the MX-5 became a multi-use vehicle from work to the windy roads. To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Mazda completely re-engineered and redesigned the MX-5.alive-media-magazine-december-2016-mazda-mx-5-passing-lane-charles-donaldson

For 2016, Mazda has improved the Miata to include some modern safety and technology expectations while preserving its uniqueness that has run true with all MX-5’s keeping it different from anything else on the market. Measuring in at about 154-inches, the new Miata is a bit shorter than last year’s model, while growing wider to about 68-inches. Plus, it has an extended the wheelbase to 91.1 inches.

The MX-5 was designed around its driver and is lightweight, nimble and fun to drive. It was a blast to cruise around the curved roads in the Dublin hills. On the freeway, if the road wasn’t smooth, you felt every bump…typical of low-to-the-ground cars. Nevertheless, it was the most fun MX-5 that I have driven to-date.

Now in its 4thgeneration, the 2016 MX-5 carves a path that is thoroughly modern, packed with high-tech features and has a strikingly-designed based on the KODO-Soul of Motion which is defined by a long hood, short overhangs, a cropped cabin pushed far back on the body and large wheels moved as far as possible towards all four corners. The new look produces a lower and sleeker profile.alive-media-magazine-december-2016-mazda-mx-5-passing-lane-charles-donaldson-interior

The 2016 MX-5 comes in four trim levels, Sport ($24,915), Club ($28,600), Grand Touring ($30,065) and a Limited Launch Edition. Standard on all MX-5 models are air conditioning, push-button start, a manual cloth convertible top, power door locks, USB input, Bluetooth® wireless phone pairing and audio streaming, leather shift knob and CD player. Entry MX-5 Sport and upper trims MX-5 Club and MX-5 Grand Touring all come with the option of a SKYACTIV-MT six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The 2016 MX-5 Launch Edition comes in Soul Red with a Sport Tan leather interior — an exclusive color combination for the 2016 model year in the U.S.

The interior is clean and comfortable with red stitching. The info-screen at the top of the center dash houses your navigation, radio and other operations. The control knob is next to the shifter and if you aren’t careful while you are shifting you can accidentally change the radio station. There wasn’t a backup camera on my test model.

The SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter engine powering the MX-5 delivers 155 horsepower at 6,000 RPM and 148 ft-lb. of torque at 4,600 RPM. It comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission that has a city EPA-estimated 27 mpg. Also available is a 6-speed automatic transmission for $1075.

Cool Features:

  • Bose speakers in the headrest
  • Push button start

Safety on the 2016 Mazda MZ-5 includes the following: dual front airbags, side impact airbags, tire pressure monitoring system, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and lane departure warning system.

In Summary –The 2016 MX-5 Miata is a blast to drive and the redesign is absolutely beautiful. The lines flow throughout the body and give the feel of motion. The portions are balanced and the MX-5 looks great with the top up or down. Raising and dropping the convertible top can be maneuvered with one hand.Mazda did an incredible job inside and out with its little roadster. If you take it for a test drive, I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up in your garage.


2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club


Base price:                 $28,600 as driven: $32,820 (including destination & optional

Engine:                       2.0 Liter 4-cylinder SKYACTIV-G

Horsepower:             155 @ 6,000 RPM

Torque:                      148 @ 4,600 RPM

Transmission:           6-Speedmanual

Drive:                          RWD Drive

Seating:                      2-passenger

Turning circle:          30.8 feet

Cargo space:              4.59 cubic feet

Curb weight:              2,332 pounds

Fuel capacity:            11.9 gallons  

EPA mileage:             City 27/Hwy 34

Wheel Base:               90.9 inches

Warranty:                   3 years/36,000-miles powertrain limited

Also, consider:           Audi TT Roadster, BMW Z4, Mini Roadster, and Nissan 370Z  Roadster 


2017 Kia Cadenza

Upscale Comfort and Style!

Comfort, style and performance are the makings of what so many of us want in a sedan. We are not looking for a car that looks like the vehicle next door; instead, a car that makes the neighbors fill with envy. There are many options in the mid-size sedan class, yet in the large car category, there is only a handful. One make and model that is rising up on the charts is the 2017 Kia Cadenza.

2017 CadenzaKia created the Cadenza for their customers who longed for a vehicle that was slightly larger than their very successful mid-size Optima model. The Cadenza was originally launched in 2010 and remodeled in 2016. With the redesign, the Cadenza has grown in both wheelbase and width which results in a roomier cabin.

For 2017, the Cadenza is available in three flavors: Premium, Technology, and SXL. Underneath the hood is a revised version of Kia’s 3.3-liter V6 engine, which has been retuned for improved fuel economy.  With an estimated 290 hp on tap (about three horses less than last year), the engine sends power to the front wheels via Kia’s first FWD-based 8-speed automatic transmission.  

The newly-developed transmission is highly efficient, making up for the few clicks down in horsepower, and provides quick and crisp shifts for a more enjoyable driving experience.  Despite having two extra cogs, the 8-speed transmission, which was designed in-house, is lighter than the one in the outgoing model.

The styling of the 2017 Cadenza really stands out from its rivals with a single contour line that runs the full length of the car, helping to create a couple-like profile. The updated design incorporates Kia’s trademark quad-LED setup with the lower front grille. A walk-around of the vehicle has you taking notice of the sharp attention to style presented in all forms of lights, from the headlights to the taillights.

The interior is crafted for luxury, with high quality materials and high-tech features. Soft-touch interior surfaces, real stitching available (Nappa leather with quilted seat bolsters accented by diamond-shaped stitching) dresses up the Cadenza’s already-attractive cabin. The driver’s seat has been lowered for a sportier, more stable feeling, while engineers extended the seat cushion slightly and developed an innovative cushion extension mechanism that slides and rotates, making it easier for drivers to find their comfort zone behind the wheel.  The heating elements used for the seat warmers have been reengineered to more evenly distribute warmth, and as a Kia first, the seat heaters now utilize a smart control system to automatically lower the heater-operating mode after a certain period of time.

2017 CadenzaCool Features:

  • Heads Up Display which shows key driver information such as speed and turn-by-turn navigation directions on the windshield directly in the driver’s line of sight
  • Surround View that gives the driver a clearer birds-eye view of the area around the vehicle
  • Smart Trunk, which conveniently opens the trunk lid if the sensor detects the key fob for more than three seconds
  • Wireless smartphone charger
  • Available Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™

Safety on the 2017 Kia Cadenza is built upon a strong foundation with a body structure composed of more than 50 percent Advanced High Strength Steel. Cutting-edge driver assistance features include an Advanced Smart Cruise Control with stop-and-go functionality, Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking, and Lane Departure Warning.  Another Kia first is the Smart Blind Spot Detection System which senses unintentional drifting toward an adjacent vehicle and automatically brakes the opposite side front wheel to help maintain the vehicle’s intended course.

In Summary: The 2017 Kia Cadenza blends the features of a sports sedan with the comfort of a luxury sedan. It carries on the beautiful styling of its little brother, the Optima, while adding technology features found in more expensive vehicles. It is comfortable, handles well, and delivers the performance you need to propel a large vehicle. Kia has paid attention to what buyers want in styling, features and reliability. It is definitely worth placing the Cadenza on your list of purchases to make.


2017 Kia Cadenza SXL

Base price:                  Expected range: $32,000 – $44,000

Engine:                       3.3 Liter V6-cylinder DOHC

Horsepower:             290 @ 6,400 RPM

Torque:                       253 @ 5,200 RPM

Transmission:            8-Speedautomatic

Drive:                          FWD Drive

Seating:                       5-passenger

Turning circle:           37.2 feet

Cargo space:              16 cubic feet

Curb weight:              3633 pounds

Fuel capacity:             18.5 gallons     

EPA mileage:             City 20/Hwy 28

Wheel Base:                112.4 inches

Warranty:                   10 years/100,000-miles powertrain limited

Also consider:            Buick La Cross, BMW 5 Series, Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus,

                                      and Toyota Avalon


2016 Honda Civic Coupe: A Civic’s Lesson

I’m not sure if the driving force for me to trade in my 2-door for a 4-door was when we began toting my daughter, Cayla’s, friends around or if it was the daily back-breaking task of moving the car seat in and out via maneuvering it through the tight crevasse leading to the back seat! Either way, my 15 years of owning only coupes and convertibles took a hike. The truth is, I did not know how much I missed the sportiness of a coupe until I slipped behind the wheel of the 2016 Honda Civic Touring.

Even though this article focuses on the Coupe model, I should mention that the 2016 Honda Civic comes in both 2 and 4 doors both with LX, EX and Touring trims.

2016 Honda Civic CoupeNow in its 10th generation, the 2016 Honda Civic is a ground-up revision of the 9th generation, and according to Honda, it’s their most comprehensive and ambitious new-model development ever undertaken.

The development of the Civic Coupe and Sedan was led by Honda’s North American team—a first for Honda. The Civic is a major part of Honda’s legacy and the first car for many kids and young adults. Luckily, the Civic has grown-up in both features and size, compared to the original, cute, tiny box on wheels.

Virtually everything about the 2016 Civic Coupe is new. It has an all-new vehicle architecture, sporty and sophisticated interior and exterior styling, a more spacious and high-quality cabin, two advanced new engines, and a host of new premium features and technologies.

Further, with the addition of Honda Sensing™ safety and driver-assistive technologies on the Touring trim and the first application of Honda turbo engine technology applied to Civic on the EX-T and above trims, the 2016 Civic Coupe offers buyers a wider range of options than ever before. Civic models powered by the new 2.0-liter i-VTEC™ engine are designated as the Civic LX and LX-P trims. Civic models powered by the new turbocharged 1.5-liter engine are designated as the EX-T, EX-L (with leather-trimmed interior) and new line-topping Civic Touring, which reaches higher into the upper end of the compact car market than ever before.

Class-leading EPA fuel economy ratings of 31/41/35 mpg (city/highway/combined) for models with a zippy 1.5-liter turbo mated to a CVT and 30/41/34 mpg for models with the 2.0-liter engine tagged with the CVT and 26/38/31mpg for the LX with the 2.0-liter engine and manual transmission. Not bad at all!

Sporty truly describes the coupe with its swoop-like sheet metal. The roof has been lowered approximately an inch, while the shoulder line below the rear windows rises up a few inches. The tail and rear overhang have been tucked in another five inches. Since the Coupe and Sedan share a wheelbase, the Coupe’s shadow becomes more aggressive, with the wheels pushed out to the ends of the car, sports-car style.

2016 Honda Civic CoupeThe interior feels upscale with techy features throughout. The seats are comfortable and the seating position is low. It has gained more rear legroom now totaling 37.4-inches and the trunk space is 11.9 cubic feet (Coupe). The dash lights up like a video game and the controls are easy to operate. There is no radio volume knob, however, instead, a touch-slide bar. I preferred the old fashion knob for ease of use.

The handling of the 2016 Civic Coupewas very sporty and confident, thanks in part, to the new multi-link independent rear suspension and larger stabilizer bars with bonded bushings for a more refined body control. The Civic Coupe is agile thanks in part to the assist brake torque vectoring for cornering precision and stability. A dual-pinion electric power steering with variable gear ratio helps improved steering feel and maneuverability delivering a fun-to-drive experience.

Cool Features:

  • Push Button Start
  • The Honda LaneWatch feature, which uses a camera on the right-side mirror to put a picture of your right-hand blind spot on the display screen whenever the right turn signal is activated
  • Available Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™

Safety on the 2016 Honda Civic features the Honda Sensing™ safety and driver-assistive technologies, next-generation ACE™ body structure, new crash stroke front frame design, and ultra-rigid high-strength steel floor for enhanced collision performance. Ranked highest-available collision performance safety ratings – a 5-star Overall Vehicle Score in the NHTSA’s NCAP, a TOP SAFETY PICK from the IIHS for the LX through EX-L trims and a TOP SAFETY PICK+ from the IIHAS for the Touring trim. Airbags include dual-stage front airbags, front side airbags, and side curtain airbags with rollover sensor.

In Summary –The 2016 Honda Civic Coupe is a blast to drive. Honda set out to prove it could still build a conventional compact vehicle that leaves its competition in its shadow. The touring is loaded with high-tech features, performance and handling, and a beautiful, sporty interior and exterior that is fun to drive. The passenger-side seat button creates the easier loading of both children and car seats in the back too!


2016 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring Coupe


Base price:                  $26,125as driven: $26,960 (including destination & optional

Engine:                        1.5-liter Turbocharged DOHC4-cylinder

Horsepower:              174 @ 6,000 RPM

Torque:                      162 @ 5,500 RPM

Transmission:            CVT automatic

Drive:                          FWD Drive

Seating:                       5-passenger

Turning circle:           35.7 feet

Cargo space:               11.9 cubic feet

Curb weight:               2888 pounds

Fuel capacity:             12.4 gallons

EPA mileage:              City 30/Hwy 41

Wheel Base:                106.3 inches

Warranty:                   3 years/36,000-miles powertrain limited

Also consider:             Kia Forte Koup, Scion tC, Mini Hardtop 2 Door, and the Fiat 500


2017 Mitsubishi Mirage

Under 20K for the Under 20 Crowd!

Are you looking for an affordable car for the newest driving member of your family or just a very fuel-efficient commuter vehicle? Well, there are a few options to choose from in the sub-compact car category; however, which one holds the claim as the most fuel-efficient, non-hybrid gasoline-powered vehicle available in America? That would be the 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage!

2017 Mirage GTThe Mirage is the smallest car in the Mitsubishi stable. It was refreshed for the 2017 model year which may be why they decided not to produce a 2016 model. It hasn’t been hot on the buyer’s list when searching for a sub-compact car with sales dropping for the past couple of years. I’m sure one of the goals of the redesigned 5-door Mirage was to help re-spark interest in this little hatchback.

The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage is available in three trim levels: ES ($13,830), SE ($15,630) and GT ($17,330). Prices include a destination fee of $835. The U.S. version of the Mirage is built in Thailand.

Power comes in the form of a 3-cylinder, 1.2-liter motor with only 78 horsepower. The fuel economy isn’t bad at all with 37 City and 43 Highway. It’s not a rocketship at 78 horsepower and there definitely isn’t a warp drive, however, on flat roads it doesn’t get in its own way. The ES and SE come standard with a 5-speed manual transmission and an optional CVT automatic transmission that is also standard on the GT.

Mitsubishi claims to have made significant improvements to the handling and it does have a great turning ratio. I did experience wind noise and if you don’t give the doors a decent push, they will not close tightly.

The Mirage is one of the smallest five-door hatchbacks sold in the United States, yet it is longer than a Fiat 500. The styling is smooth and cute. New changes for the 2017 model include new front and rear bumpers and lower-body treatments, different headlights, foglamps, a new grille, new 14 and 15-inch wheels and a new spoiler.

The interior is simple and clean with offerings that include air conditioning, full power accessories, keyless entry, steel wheels and a four-speaker 140-watt sound system. Bluetooth compatibility is an option on the ES. In addition, a new available 300-watt Rockford-Fosgate™ audio system with EcoPunch™ is available with Smartphone Link Display Audio, Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™–the first Mitsubishi model to feature this popular infotainment system in the States.

2017 Mirage GTSome new features for 2017 include new front and rear seat materials, 4-way adjustable driver’s and front passenger seat, keyless entry with panic feature, new front fascia with chrome upper/lower grille, new hood design, LED tail lamps, rear spoiler, color-keyed front and rear bumpers, folding side-view mirrors, door handles and tailgate handle, new 14-inch alloy wheel design; 15-inch alloy wheels (SE/GT), HID automatic on/off headlights (SE/GT), and beveled fog lamps (SE/GT).

Room for improvement:

  • The dash and door pieces are hard plastic
  • The rear camera image is a bit fuzzy

Cool Features:

  • Push Button Start
  • Available Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™

Safety on the 2017 Mirage has improved from previous poor ratings to mostly good ratings by the Institute for Highway Safety. The Mirage’s safety features include seven airbags—driver and passenger front and side bags, side-curtain bags over the front and rear windows, plus a knee airbag for the driver. For an inexpensive vehicle, the Mirage still includes stability control, traction control, and all of the typical anti-lock braking systems.

In Summary –The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage is a decent vehicle for getting around town without putting much of a dent in the gas tank. Mitsubishi has truly improved the looks and style of the vehicle as it continues to move in the right direction. Let’s not forget that you get a fair amount of features for nearly under $14,000.


2016 Mitsubishi Mirage GT

Base price:                  $16,495as driven: $17,330 (including destination & optional

Engine:                         1.2-liter MIVEC DOHC3-cylinder

Horsepower:               78 @ 6,000 RPM

Torque:                        74 @ 4,000 RPM

Transmission:                5-speed CVT automatic

Drive:                          FWD Drive

Seating:                       5-passenger

Turning circle:            30.2 feet

Cargo space:               17.2 cubic feet

Curb weight:               2117 pounds

Fuel capacity:               9.2 gallons

EPA mileage:              City 37/Hwy 43

Wheel Base:                 96.5 inches

Warranty:                    5 years / 30,000 miles powertrain limited

Also consider:             Chevrolet Spark, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, andToyota


2016 Acura RDX A Responsive Crossover!

Lately, my weekly test vehicles have been a string of good looking and well-performing crossover SUV’s. The popularity of the crossover is attributed to their high seating which creates a better birds-eye view, plus the storage flexibility and overall seating convenience. Crossovers come in all sizes and shapes and are available from nearly every manufacturer. Needless to say, competition has become fierce and car companies are doing everything they can to get interested parties into dealerships to see their offerings. This review features the luxury compact submission from Acura – the 2016 RDX.

The RDX entered the field with the 2013 model and has received an update for 2016 including a new, V-6 motor and subtle styling improvements. The front and rear fascias have been reshaped and the back now includes LED taillights. The headlamps display a level of luxury with a string of five LED lights strung like a row of diamonds on a bracelet. The upside down, pentagon-shaped center grille creates a look of movement even while standing still. The fender arches are pronounced with flattened half circles that surround 18-inch wheels.

2016 Acura RDXThe 2016 Acura RDX is available as one trim level in both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, along with three packages: AcuraWatch Plus ($1300), Technology ($3,700), and Advance ($6,650). The standard FWD base model has an MSRP of $36,310, while the AWD is $37,810. You can order the AcuraWatch Plus and the technology packages together if your wallet will allow! The AWD with intelligent control, as termed by Acura, has been returned in the 2016 models, sending more power to the rear wheels under acceleration for improved stability.

The cabin is comfortable and designed with a rich feel for both the eyes and touch. The left and right sides of the dash are arched like bird wings with the center body housing having one large screen for the entertainment center and one for the operational controls. The front seats conform to eight-way adjustability, while the rear seats are snug and more suitable for smaller people. Don’t forget, the RDX is a compact crossover.

The rear cargo compartment delivers 26.1 cubic feet with the rear seat up. Levers on both sides of the rear cargo compartment allow for easy flattening of the 60/40 split-second row seats to expand the rear storage area to 61.3 cubic feet. Four tie-downs placed at each corner allow you to securely anchor your contents in place. A large speaker provides great sound for those fun tailgate parties.

2016 Acura RDXPower is generated from a 3.5-liter V-6 that generates 279 horsepower at 6,200 rpms and 252 foot pounds of torque at 4,900 rpms. The 3.5-L produces plenty of muscle both off the line and on the freeway. To improve fuel economy, three of the six cylinders smoothly deactivate under lighter loads without the drive ever knowing of the transition. The fuel economy ratings are 20/city and 29/highway for the FWD and 19/18 for the AWD. The V-6 is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with sequential SportShift paddle shifters just in case you feel sporty.

Cool Features:

  • Cylinder Deactivation
  • Rear Cross Traffic Monitor
  • Multi-View Rear Camera
  • Acura Navigation System with 3D View

Standard safety features on the 2016 Acura RDX include multi-view rear camera with guidelines, advanced compatibility engineering body structure, dual-stage multiple-threshold front airbags, front side airbags, side curtain airbags with rollover sensor, vehicle stability Assist™ with traction control and motion adaptive steering, ABS brakes and hill start assist. Optional safety items available with certain package levels are a forward collision-warning system, collision mitigation braking system™, lane departure warning, blind spot information system, and rear cross-traffic monitor system.

In Summary –The 2016 Acura RDX is a well-styled compact luxury crossover vehicle that is great for an individual, couple or starter family.The RDX delivers decent power and is available with many high-tech features we have come to expect from Acura. The ride is smooth and the handling is confident. If you find yourself in the market for a compact luxury crossover, then the RDX is worth a test drive and your consideration.


2016 Acura RDX AWD Advanced


Base price:                  $43,420as driven: $44,340 (including destination & optional features)

Engine:                       3.5-liter SOHC i-VTEC6-cylinder

Horsepower:             279 @ 6,200 RPM

Torque:                       252 @ 4,900 RPM

Transmission:            6-speed automatic

Drive:                          AWD Drive

Seating:                       5-passenger

Turning circle:           38.9 feet

Cargo space:              26.1 cubic feet

Curb weight:              3,774 pounds

Fuel capacity:             16 gallons

EPA mileage:             City 19/Hwy 28

Wheel Base:                105.7 inches

Warranty:                    4 years/50,000 miles powertrain limited

Also consider:             Audi Q5, BMW X3, Buick Envision, Cadillac SRX, Infiniti QX 50, Lexus RX,

Mercedes-Benz GLC, and Volvo XC60


2016 Mazda CX-5

I was talking yesterday with a young lady in her late 20s and the next vehicle on her shopping list needed to be an SUV or Crossover. She wanted to be free to take off camping or on a road trip with confidence knowing she could handle most terrains. Women, and quite honestly, I too, enjoy the extra seating height that you get with SUVs and Crossovers. That said, let’s not forget the extra versatility and cargo capacity. One excellent choice in this very competitive market is the 2016 Mazda CX-5.

The Mazda CX-5 is heading into its fourth year and for 2016, this Mazda has been slightly updated with styling improvements and touches of refinement. Some of the changes for 2016 include a new grille, new 19” alloy wheel design on the Grand Touring trim, electronic parking brake replaces hand brake, and Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio on the Sport model. The mid-size crossover segment is crowded with fellow class mates including the Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4.Alive media magazine july 2016 Mazda CX-5 passing lane 2

For 2016, the Mazda CX-5 is featured in three trim levels: Sport ($22,083), Touring ($25,400), and Grand Touring ($28,316). The Sport is now equipped with the SKYACTIV-G 2.5L engine that replaces the 2.0L on the Sport automatic transmission FWD model, where the manual transmission models keep the 2.0L. All other models come with the SKYACTIV-G 2.5L engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission. All trim levels come standard with Front Wheel Drive and are available in All Wheel Drive. Only the Sport trim is available with a 6-speed manual transmission.

Mazda is known for taking the sporty design elements of its sedans and incorporating them into their crossover vehicles. The CX-5 is no exception with its bold lines and athletic stance, big wheel arches, and a rising window line. The roofline runs similar to the recently unveiled CX-3 model – raised at the front as it melts into the rear hatch.

The interior is layered in soft-touch surfaces and premium materials that adorn the cabin. Cloth upholstery is standard; however, real leather is an available option. My test model was the Grand Touring in two-tone white and black with luxury seats. Other manufacturers have a tendency to overload a vehicle with low-end materials like replica- wood trim. The CX-5 does not follow this trend which helps contribute to its upscale interior. Mazda upgraded the CX-5’s info-tainment system for 2016, which includes a new 7-inch touch screen.Alive media magazine july 2016 Mazda CX-5 interior passing lane

The 2016 Mazda CX-5 seats four adults and one child comfortably. In the back seat, the middle bench is best reserved for smaller individuals. A child might fit best here. Behind the rear seats, the CX-5 can hold up to 34.1 cubic feet of cargo and with the rear seats folded, the capacity increases to 64.8 cubic feet.

The CX-5 engages the road as it controls winding roads with precise steering and good feedback. The ride is comfortable; however, I would give higher marks to its competitor, the Chevrolet Equinox.

Cool Features:

  • Bose® AM/FM/CD/SAT radio
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Push Button Start

Safety on the 2016 Mazda CX-5 has very good ratings earning the best possible grade of Good in all five crash tests of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, and forward collision warning with low-speed automatic braking are available in both CX-5 models.

In Summary –The 2016 Mazda CX-5 is a great crossover for the money. Many of its competitors come with more features, but at a higher price. The reworking of this Mazda for 2016 helps to elevate the CX-5. It is worth taking a test drive and having a little fun while you’re at it.


2016 Mazda CX-5 Touring FWD

Base price:                  $28,220as driven: $32,660 (including destination & optional

Engine:                       2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G 4-cylinder

Horsepower:             155 @ 6,000 RPM

Torque:                       150 @ 4,000 RPM

Transmission:            6-speed automatic

Drive:                          FWD Drive

Seating:                       5-passenger

Turning circle:           36.7 feet

Cargo space:              34.1 cubic feet

Curb weight:              3,212 pounds

Fuel capacity:            14.8 gallons

EPA mileage:             City 26/Hwy 33

Wheel Base:                106.3 inches

Warranty:                   6 years/60,000 miles powertrain limited

Also consider:            Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Nissan

Rogue, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4


Honda Takes Flight!

It seems that every automotive manufacturer assumes that when they redesign a vehicle, it has to grow in character and size. Some versions, however, end up lacking in character. In most cases, their footprint gets closer to the mammoth Big Foot, or, at least, sprouts enough so that he feels a little less cramped in the back seat! This month’s featured vehicle is the all-new, redesigned 2016 Honda Pilot, emerging with elevated character and a growth spurt.

In 2009, Honda reskinned the Pilot with a thicker and more squared-off body. This ended up being a misstep in styling as other manufacturers were edging into a softer-smoother curvy body sculpturing. Seven years later, we have a rebirth of the Pilot. In 2016, we are introduced to new sheet metal that carries softer corners resembling an overgrown Honda CRV. When the Pilot was delivered to my home, I had to take a second look, as it looks so impressive and formidable.2

The 2016 Honda Pilot is a three-row crossover SUV that comes in three trim levels. It enters with the LX front-wheel drive for $31,045. It follows up with the FWD EX starting at $34,480, then as a FWD-Touring 9-speed automatic transmission for $42,070 and finishes up the top of the line, All-Wheel Drive Elite with navigation for $47,470. The LX, EX and Touring are also available in All-Wheel Drive.

Power for all models comes in the form of a 280 horsepower V6 347-cc engine. The EX and LX models mate the V6 to a 6-speed automatic transmission, where the Touring and Elite are teamed with an unheard of 9-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The LX and EX FWD generates 19 City and 27 Highway miles per gallon. Decrease that by one mile each for the AWD versions. The Touring FWD (20/27) and AWD (19/26) and AWD Elite spits out 19 City and 26 Highway MPG.

The new Honda Pilot is longer in length, narrower and lower than its previous generation, and is also 300 pounds lighter. As noted earlier, the newly-styled Pilot has lost its hard lines and replaced them with elements of well-balanced curves. The low front-end and horizontal grille mesh well and begin the flow.

The eight-passenger interior is very well-finished and appointed with attention to detail. You can see and feel the influences of the Honda Accord and CR-V. New soft-touch points have elevated the interior to a near-luxury level. The front seats are comfortable and carved with better bolsters and more support. The driver seating position is not too high while delivering raised visibility, and the step-in is relatively low for a Crossover.

2016 Honda PilotThe second and third row seats fold down easily and support adult bodies with ease. The large panoramic sunroof creates an open and airy feel allowing in a great deal of light inside. Cabin space is plentiful with 18.5 cubic feet with seats up, or 56 cubic feet with the third row folded down. Need more space? When you drop the second row seat down, you will increase your cargo capacity to a total of 109-cubic feet.

Cool Features:

  • Panoramic Sunroof
  • Rear Entertainment System complete with Blu-ray player and HDMI input
  • Paddle Shifters
  • Push Button Start
  • Remote Engine Start

Safety on the 2016 Honda Pilot begins with many standard safety features, including:  side curtain airbags, even for third row seating, front seat-mounted side airbags, Vehicle Stability Assist, ABS Brakes, Electronic Brake Distribution, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Tire Pressure Monitoring System, LED daytime running lights, rear camera, Road Departure Mitigation System, Forward Collision Warning, and Lane Departure Warning. Note some of these items are available as an option.

In Summary –Honda has upped the value-benefit proposal on the new 2016 Honda Pilot with its new interior and exterior styling, high tech features, smooth ride and safety features. If you are looking for a vehicle with plenty of storage and cargo area, you will not find many other vehicles that exceed the Pilot. This notable vehicle offers confident power and steering, while the 3.5-liter V6 surprises you with great MPG.


2016 Honda Pilot AWD Elite


Base price:                 $46,420 as driven: $47,300 (including destination & optional

Engine:                       3.5-liter I-VTEC SOHC 24-valve V6

Horsepower:             280 @ 6,000 RPM

Torque:                     262 @ 4,700 RPM

Transmission:          9-speed automatic

Drive:                        AWD Drive

Seating:                     8-passenger

Turning circle:         39.4 feet

Cargo space:            16 cubic feet

Curb weight:            4,317 pounds

Fuel capacity:          19.5 gallons

EPA mileage:           City 19/Hwy 26

Wheel Base:             111 inches

Warranty:                 3 years/36,000 miles powertrain limited

Also consider:           Ford Explorer, GMC Acadia, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan
Pathfinder, and Toyota Highlander