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Dec 112009
 

As 2009 winds down, here’s our look back at what we deem as the top cars of 2009. Despite the complete meltdown of the automotive industry, or “carpocalypse” as some have deemed, manufacturers still managed to unveil some strong offerings, packed with value, performance and style. Without futher ado, here are our picks for the top cars of 2009.

Nissan 370Z – Editor’s Top Sports Car & Overall Best of 2009

nissan370z

We love cars that put a smile on our face no matter what we are doing. Whether it’s undertaking the usual, boring commute or pushing the edges of grip on a backcountry road, we love cars that can do it all. The new 370Z delivers in every facet possible – incredible value starting at under $30,000, a V6 with gobs of torque and horsepower available at all revs and style that catches even the untrained eye. Throw in the available SynchroRev system, and you’ll look like a racecar driver with every

downshift. As if this isn’t enough, there is an almost unlimited level aftermarket support to satiate the need to personalize. Considering this overwhelming list of credentials, the Nissan 370Z deserves our pick as the top sports car & overall best car of 2009.

Visit Nissan’s 370Z website

Honorable mention – Mazda RX-8 R3

Audi TT-S Roadster – Editor’s Top Convertible of 2009

audi_tts_roadster

When Audi launched the second evolution of the TT, we absolutely embraced the new styling. Whereas the previous iteration leaned very heavily toward softer lines and, frankly, offered more estrogen-driven appeal, the 2nd generation went the other way. With harder bodylines, the signature LED daytime driving lamps and more powerplant options, the new TT became a more legitimate contender against the likes of the BMW Z4 and Mercedes SLK.

With the TT-S, even greater power was squeezed out of the 2.0 FSI turbo engine. With the retractable top, it became something even more. The open air driving experience is quite awesome and the style is just sexy. We desperately want one in our garage.

Visit Audi’s TT-S Roadster website

Honorable mention – Mazda MX5 PRHT

Infiniti FX50S – Editor’s Top SUV of 2009

infiniti_fx50s

What do you get when you combine the a car known as the “Atomic Catfish,” a myriad of technology and drop in a 380bhp V8 engine under the hood? You get the Infiniti FX50. Let’s face it. Our expectations from SUVs are rather low. Sure, you can carry cargo and passengers in relative comfort, but you give up pretty much everything else – agility, acceleration and, most importantly, fun. The FX50 changes the equation altogether with performance that gives many sports cars a run for their money. Sure, the cost of entry is not cheap, as the FX50 starts at $58,000, but nothing ever worth having is ever cheap.

Visit Infiniti’s FX website

Honorable mention – Audi Q5 3.2 Quattro

Acura TSX V6 – Editor’s Top Sports Sedan of 2009

2010 Acura TSX V-6

By taking a very successful and sporty platform and giving it the engine it really deserves, Acura has elevated the popular TSX into a completely different segment. An excellent and silky engine, typical Acura fit & finish and tremendous value for the dollar, the TSX V6 gives the BMW 3-series, Audi A4-series and Lexus IS-series a run for their money.

Visit Acura’s TSX website

Honorable mention – Nissan Maxima

Honda Fit Sport – Editor’s Top Compact of 2009

2010 Honda Fit Sport

Why pay a premium for a hybrid when you can get a fully equipped and ROOMY subcompact for less than $20,000? That’s the question we asked after experiencing the wonderful Honda Fit Sport. With well over 30 miles to the gallon on regular (87 octane) unleaded, navigation, interior space that belies its exterior dimensions and a very high level of fit and finish, we can’t think of a subcompact that comes even close in terms of value.

Visit Honda’s Fit website

Honorable mention – Mazda3

Chevy Camaro – Editor’s Top Domestic Car of 2009

2010 Chevrolet Camaro LT with an RS Appearance Package

While the Ford Mustang may have reignited interest in the domestic hot rod, the Chevy Camaro takes it over the top. As witnessed at the recent SEMA Show in Las Vegas, the Camaro is set to take over the Mustang and Dodge Challenger for modern hot rod supremacy.

Visit Chevy’s Camaro website

Honorable mention – Ford Taurus SHO

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Oct 212009
 


2010_TSX_V6_leadin

 Introduction

Let’s be honest. We can be a jaded bunch at times. Having the privelidge of driving various makes and models of cars goes a long way in not being impressed by a lot of things automotive. But every so often, an unexpected surprise arrives at our doorstep and we find ourselves wondering why a certain manufacturer hadn’t done something earlier. This was certainly the case with the 2010 Acura TSX V6. We’ve had plenty of exposure to the TSX – our Feature Editor Daniel Lewis owns a 2004 edition – and although it is a dependable, well-built car, the 200hp K24 engine in stock trim does not elicity the kind of rise in blood pressure we relish.

The 2010 Acura TX V6, however, is a completely different kind of vehicle. Whereas the inline-4 version is in the same segment as many of the most popular mid-sized 4-door sedans in the market, the addition of the bigger engine elevates the TSX into a completely differentsegment altogether. We’re talking about Audi A4 3.2, BMW 328 and Lexus IS350 territory. So does the V6 have what it takes to compete head to head with these luxury sport sedans?

First Impressions

2010_TSX_V6_leadin2

Whereas the previous generation TSX possessed bodylines unlike any in sister brand Honda’s line up – although it was known as the Honda (Euro) Accord on the Continent – the current generation’s design bear closer resemblance to the very popular Accord. Dimensions have increased as well, providing a much more spacious cabin than the previous generation. Leg room, shoulder room and head room all have gone up, coming close to the dimensions of the previous generation Acura TL.

  • The interior space seems cavernous by the previous generation TSX standards and fit two 6+ footers in the front quite comfortably with decent leg room left for rear passengers

2010_TSX_V6_interior1

  • The dash, instrument cluster and center console were constructed of quality materials; fit and finish was excellent and really on-par with those of Audi, a make that’s well known for their excellent interior finishing
  • One of the biggest changes is the steering wheel – gone is what seemed like a 380mm unit in the previous generation TSX; the new steering wheel is smaller – probably about a 350mm from what we could tell – thick and solid, really communicating a very sporty vibe

2010_TSX_V6_interior2

  • Our tester, with the optional technology package, offered virtually every in-car convenience known to man – satellite radio, satellite-based traffic routing & information, Bluetooth hands-free calling, Bluetooth A2DP stereo output (so that you can play tunes directly from your iPhone without using a cable) and more
  • The short-side to all that technology is that you have a pretty steep learning curve involved in figuring out the controls – there is a button practically for every control, making especially the center console look more like the Kennedy Space Center
  • We did appreciate the matte, slightly textured finish on all the buttons – great tacticle feedback – but wondered if that finish would wear off with use
  • We would have appreciated a keyless entry and start system to elevate the level of convenience – and frankly, a car at $38,760 should come with one
  • The sound system is GREAT – as Feature Editor Daniel Lewis noted; unlike TSX’s of the past, the new generation seems to have gotten it perfect according to him
  • Speaking of the sound system, we appreciate having the thin strip of LED-based radio and temp control information that is separated from the navigation screen; not having to switch back and forth between the navi and radio just to figure out which song is playing is a great idea

Driving Impressions

2010_TSX_V6_engine1

The TSX’s 3.5L SOHC V6 is silky smooth even under wide open throttle conditions. Stoplights are disposed with ease with a stab of the throttle, eliciting an acceleration that is quick but not abrupt nor harsh. Even with the right foot buried deep under the dash, there wasn’t any noticeable torque steer or drama through front wheel hop. We surprised more than a few drivers with quick getways and passing speed. Perhaps they should have taken greater notice of the discrete V6 badging out back.

It’s safe to say that the addition of the V6 has completely changed the character of the TSX. Whereas we would have viewed it as the now-defunct RSX’s 4-door brother in the past, the bigger engine changes things completely. Smaller displacement Honda / Acura engines have been traditionally known for their high-revving nature, producing horsepower figures that belie their displacement, but the weak link has always been torque. But with an available 254lb-ft of torque on tap, the TSX doesn’t need to rev very high to attain the level of acceleration to put smiles on our faces.

The 5-speed automatic transmission with sequential shifting is a perfect compliment to the V6. Although we have never been big fans of automatic slushboxes with wanna-be manual shifting, the TSX’s unit does an admirable job with quick shifts and engagement, even blipping the throttle on downshifts. The paddles on the steering wheel reminded us of those found in DSG-equipped Audis with its feel and design. Imitation, in this case, was a great call to make.

Taking the V6 around bends and corners was pretty eventless. Although it is a front-wheel drive car, we never noticed any significant understeer that took us outside of where the steering wheel was pointed. We suspect that most TSX V6 owners will never take their cars to the limit, but it’s certainly reassuring that there is a margin of error built into the car.

odometer

On the fuel economy end of things – sure to come up when you consider the large difference in displacement between the standard 4 cylinder engine and our TSX V6 – we achieved a combined average of 21.8mpg, which is slightly above the EPA estimate 21mpg. When we took our lead foot off the throttle and practiced smooth acceleration with minimal braking , however, we were able to generate 30.8mpg on freeway-only driving. Even a V6 can be quite the gas miser when driven efficiently.

Conclusion

There’s really not much to say. The 2010 TSX V6 handily beat our expectations and solidly convinced us that something good is going on at Acura. When stacked against its primary rivals from Europe, we feel it stands up pretty darn well. Sure, Audi might edge ahead slightly in brand cache, but Acura is honestly darn close. Putting product against product, the TSX V6 represents a pretty convincing argument and we consider it a legitimate contender for your purchase and ownership consideration.

Sourcebox

Acura
A Division of Honda American Motor Co., Inc.
700 Van Ness Ave.
Torrance, CA 90501-2746
(800) 862-2872

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Oct 212009
 

Honda CR-Z Concept 2009

Honda CR-Z Concept 2009 Interior

Here’s some news that will have Honda enthusiasts jumping for joy – the Honda CR-Z will launch at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in January 2010, following the debut of the CR-Z Concept 2009 in Tokyo today.  The CR-Z, positioned as a “stylish, sporty hybrid coupe,” will join the Insight and the Civic Hybrid in the Honda hybrid line-up.

Surely, the name alone will remind many of the classic Honda CRX of yesteryears. Much like the CRX, the CR-Z will be a 2-seater hatchback, but whether the new car will match the fun & performance of the old platform is up to anyone’s guess. Here’s our fingers crossed that this is indeed the case.

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Oct 182009
 

370z_leadin001 
Introduction

Although the very last letter of the alphabet, the letter “Z” is certainly not the last when it comes to automotive performance. The Z car has long held the imagination and fancy of car enthusiasts for countless years. Launched in 1969 as the Datsun 240Z (S30 chassis), it introduced Americans to the notion of the affordable sports car and never looked back.

After the demise of the 300ZX with the venerable VG30DETT turbocharged engine, the Z went away for a while. But things were set in motion to bring the it back thanks to, of all people, a Brazilian-born French-Lebanese CEO of French car company Renault. Yes, Renault (in case you’ve been living under a rock for a while, the French car maker has a cross share-holding alliance with Nissan). The fifth generation Z, dubbed the 350Z, was launched in 2002 to wide acclaim. Just one look at cars on the road will immediately reveal the public’s uptake of the Z.

With the 2009 370Z (the nonclementure referring to the displacement of the 3.7L V6), Nissan aims to up the ante established by the 350Z. Although there are few changes visible at first glance, there’s much to see and explore once in the driver’s seat. Our 370Z with Sport Package is really the enthusiast’s models with no bells and whistles but that suited us just fine. We wanted the unadulterated Z experience and we got it in spades with our “Monterey Blue” tester.

First Impressions

370z_leadin01

The basic body lines of the previous Z carry over to the new version – the sloping roofline, high beltline and basic form – but every dimension under the sheetmetal skin has been revised. Wheelbase, width and track have all been improved for the better. There is also a reduction in overall height by 0.7 inches. Even interior cargo room has been improved, due to the elimination of that hideous integrated rear strut bar seen in the previous model.

The front fasica takes a little bit of getting used to as it immediately reminded us of a catfish. But surely enough, you quickly get used to the unique look of the front end and revel in what Nissan engineers have done for the interior.

  • Whereas the previous generation 350Z’s stock seats left very little head room for 6′ and taller occupants, the 370Z seemed more accomodating to those north of 72-inches

nissan_370z_interior01

  • The interior design and materials really belie the affordability of the 370Z, with fit and finish that is really top notch (Touring model w/ navigation shown above)
  • Whereas the 350Z’s interior felt more plastic, the 370Z steps it up a notch with a softer and more luxurious vibe throughout the cabin – but don’t get us wrong – modernity definitely does not mean the 370Z has gone soft

370z_gauges

  • The upper center column gauges have been redesigned for an integrated look, whereas the 350Z left you feeling as if they were an afterthought
  • The instrument cluster features a large tachometer placed prominently in the middle as all sports cars should have

370Z_Fuel_Gauge

  •  If there’s one complaint we can make about the 370’s interior is the new fuel and water temp gauge – rather than simple and functiona needle indicators, they have been replaced by a row of dots that light up to indicate respective parameters; they’re hard to see in bright sunlight and the only thing detracting from a great instrument cluster

Driving Impressions

As with pretty much all Nissans these days, starting the 370Z requires just a simple push of the start button. Doing so brings the VQ37DE to life – thankfully, Nissan has decided to tone down the rather annoying exhaust note from the previous generation Z. The sound the muscular V6 produces is nothing unlike the infamous RB26DETT in the previous generation Nissan GT-Rs, reminding you of the Nissan’s sporting heritage. It’s a good indication of things to come, especially considering the 332bhp and 270ft-lbs of torque on tap for your right foot.

370z_engine2

Acceleration from a dead stop is impressive. It pulls solidly through every gear, in a relentless pursuit of the 7500RPM rev limit. And having that aforementioned tachometer smack dab in front of you, with a built-in shift light, makes things easier. It’s quite a feat that such a large engine just loves to rev all day long, but it does suffer from some excessive vibration and noise at higher RPMs. This is a characteristic carried over from the 350Z / VQ35DE. We wish that Nissan would do a better job of isolating these two minor details – if they can manage to do so, the VQ would truly become the benchmark in production sports car engines.

What will quickly become a benchmark is the new SynchroRev-equipped 6-speed transmission. The 370Z’s transmission feels much more refined than its predecessor’s. Throw in the new rev-matching technology that basically eliminates any need for heel-tose downshifting, even the most amateur of performance drivers can shift like a professional. The SynchroRev system just does not let ANY downshift perform or sound incorrectly. Even while humming around in a parking lot, the 2nd to 1st downshift was match perfectly, quickly putting the revs right where it needs to be. We fancy ourselves as pretty good drivers, but this system is 100% accurate whereas we would be 70% accurate on a very good day. The 370Z owner is going to be very well served by this awesome technology, even more so if he intends to track his Z on occasion.

The chassis and suspension carry on this fine-tuned level of performance by offering just the right about of stiffness without being too harsh. Blasting down rough city streets without worries of bouncing around and hitting our head on the headliner is a sure sign that Nissan got it right. Point it toward the apex of a corner and the Z telepathically guides you to it, aided by the standard limited slip differential and massive, gummy Bridgestone tires. Although there is some tendency toward throttle-induced oversteer, as most rear wheel drive sports cars tend to have, it’s very controllable and certainly easy to either power through it or pull back the reins. Quite simply, it’s an amazingly fun car to drive.

Braking for the 2009-and-up models are courtesy of the typical sliding caliper set-up or the multi-piston set up found on our base 370Z with the Sport package. From what we could tell, Nissan has potentially lowered costs by moving away from the Brembo-based braking package to an unbranded package made by Akebono, but this certainly has not hurt braking performance.

Conclusion

The Nissan 370Z delivered miles and miles of smiles and thrills for us. It’s such a great package out of the box that we feel it’s the closest thing anyone can come to the GT-R without paying GT-R prices. Sure, it may be impractical for some people considering it holds only 2 people, but the 370Z isn’t a car for someone who’s looking for practicality. It’s truly a car for those looking for performance, fun and an outlandishly high satisfaction of ownership. At a tad over $32,000 for our Z with the Sport package, it’s a steal and offers everything a car lover wants. And there’s such a huge level of aftermarket suppot, upping the ante in performance is easily within reach.

Buy a Nissan Cube for your commute. Own a 370Z for everything else.

Now… how can we get one from Nissan for a long term test…?

Sourcebox

Nissan North America
P.O. Box 685003
Franklin TN 37068-5003
(800) NISSAN-1

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Oct 172009
 

feature_by_johnchoi2

hyundai_genesis_coupe_leadin

Introduction

When we reviewed the Hyundai Genesis Sedan back in June, we were incredibly impressed with the performance, quality and comfort afforded by the Korean maker’s premium sedan. Heck, the price factor doesn’t even come into play in considering the Sedan as one of the very best offerings from across the Pacific. Needless to say, we were excited to get our hands on the Genesis Coupe, with high expectations based on the experience we had with its 4-door luxury brethren. The Coupe we received for evaluation was the 3.8 Track model, equipped with a 3.8L 24-valve V6 engine and ZF-sourced 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters.

With keys in hand to the more powerful variant of the Coupe, we set out to find out whether the Hyundai could offer a competitive package against the all-too-natural competitor, the Infiniti G37 Coupe. When all was said and done, we came away wanting more… much more.

First Impressions

hyundai_genesis_coupe_leadin2

The Genesis Coupe is certainly a handsome vehicle. At first glance, you can’t help but to be reminded of the Infiniti G37 coupe – the sloping bodyline that starts from the trunklid to the hood, the sharply raked windshield and rear window and bulging fender wells draw direct comparisons to the Nissan-made sports coupe. But the differences really end there as Eric Stoddard and the rest of the Hyundai Kia America Design Center team put their own touches on this handsome coupe, such as the dip in the rear quarter windows, an aggressive front end fascia that’s far more finished in looks than the G37 and a rear spoiler that looks like it actually belongs there than the afterthought-like whale tail on the G37.

While the exterior of the Coupe is quite well put together, the same can’t be said for the interior. As we discovered, the prevailing theme to describe the driver and passenger environment is cost-cutting:

  •  Inside, all passengers and driver are welcomed by leather-covered seating surfaces; considering the $32,000 price tag, however, the quality of the leather seems to be on the low end lacking any smoothness or silkyness found in higher quality leather

hyunda_genesis_coupe_dash

  • The entire dash is covered in hard plastic with an abrasive texture; rather than applying some sort of padding underneath a vinyl-covered surface, Hyundai seems to have taken the easy (and cheaper) way out
  • Amazingly enough, the same hard plastic material covers the steering wheel, providing an uncomfortable driving interface; considering our tester was dubbed the “Track” model, shouldn’t it have a steering wheel covered in leather?

hyundai_genesis_coupe_shifter

  • The cheap look-and-feel theme continues with the shifter mounted in the center console – it looks cheap, feels cheap and does’t have any weight to it whatsoever
  • As with most other makes that don’t quite get it right, the shifter action for up and downshifts are reversed – rather than forward for downshifts, the Genesis Coupe offers upshifts with this action, literally translating “upshifting”
  • The paddle shifters for the ZF 6-speed transmission are mounted to the steering wheel which prevents shifting off of the apex of a turn unless you have your arms completely crossed and glued to the 3 and 9 o’clock positions
  • Speaking of the paddles, they are made from – again – cheap plastic; Hyundai would have served themselves well by mimicking the magnesium paddles shifters offered by Nissan / Inifiniti in the GT-R and G37 coupe, respectively

hyundai_genesis_coupe_windowswitch

  • What might be deemed as the strangest, most un-ergonomic placement of controls in a car, the side mirror adjustment / door lock / window controls are laid flat against the door on both sides, forcing you to turn the hand in a weird angle to use these controls
  • Most cars have either automatic lights or do away with them altogether in vanity mirrors – in the Genesis Coupe, the light is built into the headliner but you have to flip a switch to turn them on

Driving Impressions

hyundai_genesis_coupe_engine

Fire up the 3.8L V6 and you immediately realize the powerplant means business. With 306bhp and 266ft-lbs of torque on tap, opening up the throttle elicits an aggressive bark out of the twin exhaust out back. Off the line, there’s good acceleration from a standing start, although the Genesis  Coupe doesn’t seem as hurried as the G37. But unlike the Nissan powerplant, there’s none of the noticeable vibration or noise at the upper end of the rev spectrum.

While on the go, you can leave the shifter in “D” mode, or slide it left to sport mode. Utilizing the paddle or the shifter itself, running up the gears is smooth and precise. On the downshift side, however, things go in a bad direction. First off, the transmission DOES NOT rev match when going down the gears. So instead of a smooth transition from, say, 4th to 3rd, the tranny catches the lower gear after some hesitation and you are immediately subject to engine braking. Again, for a car dubbed with the moniker “Track,” it doesn’t seem very track-like. Second, as mentioned before, there’s some hesitation on downshifts. Imagine our surprise when the car was downshifted from 2nd to 1st for a slow turn and the gear was engaged mid-corner. We were thrown against our seatbelts as a result of the engine braking and what should have been a smooth journey through the tight corner turned into a very messy one. Based on this experience, we recommend anyone considering the Track model to consider the standard 6-speed manual instead. The automatic variant just isn’t worth the extra cost nor the disappointing shifting performance.

Braking, courtesy of calipers and rotors by Brembo, was predictably good and solid. There’s nothing to fault here.

In terms of cornering performance, the Genesis Coupe held its ground very well. It was easy to drive the car at its limit, with militd oversteer, and bringing it back into line required just a quick lift of the throttle. The chassis is solid, without any noise or flex that takes away from sheer exhiliration. We did notice, that the suspension could use a bit milder dampening on the compression side. Although cornering on smooth pavement is great, the outside front wheel has a tendency to hop / bounce cornering through a rough patch of tarmac. This effectively decreases the contact patch the 225-width tire has with the ground and a bit of drama ensues. We would definitely like to see more compliance to combat this problem.

Fitted with virtually every electronic safety feature available – stability control, traction control, electronic brake distribution, anti-lock brakes, et al. – you are assured a pretty safe ride inside the Coupe. Traction control was a bit on the intrusive side, as travel over expansion joints and security gate rails immediately kicked in the system and lit up the dashboard. We would like to see this scaled back a bit so that the driver has a bit more control over the drive.

 Conclusion

At $32,000, the V6-equipped Genesis Coupe is a relative bargain considering its great looks, tight chassis, smooth engine and cornering performance. But the the myriad of what are evidently cost-cutting measures really detract from making the vehicle a true value. There are just way too many characteristics that undermine its designation as a “Track” model. We would love to see the moonroof taken away as a feature – considering it adds weight to the highest point in the car, hence raising the center of gravity – and using the cost involved to a better dash and steering wheel treatment, including the shifter paddles. With these and other tweaks, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe would come so much closer to fulfilling its promise as a genuine competitor to the Infiniti G37 coupe. Until such changes happen, however, we feel we’re just going to be left wanting more from the Korean manufacturer.

Sourcebox

Hyundai Motor America
P.O. Box 20850
Fountain Valley, CA 92728-0850
(800) 633-5151
consumeraffairs@hmausa.com

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Sep 132009
 

feature_by_johnchoi

versa01

Introduction

With so much talk about the environment, the recent “cash for clunkers” program and the health of the car industry in general, the products themselves get lost in the brouhaha. The focus on function and overall value for money is getting lost in the flood of talk about prices and rebates. With that being said, some cars are worth a deeper look for their intended purposes. The Nissan Versa happens to be such a vehicle.

Let’s just get this out of the way. The Versa isn’t going to win any beauty contests and it isn’t going to set hearts aflutter with excitement. Rest assured, however, that Nissan offers other models which will do exactly that – the 370Z and GT-R, to name a couple. But what may be lacking in the excitement department is made up for in the utility department, with a deceptively spacious cabin and a hard-working 1.8L 4-cylinder engine that delivers good fuel economy.

Positives

versa_at_speed

  • The CVT (constantly variable transmission) works well and always seems to be in the right gear at the right time
  • Although the 4-banger produces only 122bhp & 127lb-ft of torque, it FELT faster on freeway on-ramps and getting away from stoplights than vehicles with more power

versa02

  • The interior is spacious, able to hold four 6′ adults with ease
  • Options added to our tester included XM satellite radio, Bluetooth hands-free calling and keyless entry / ignition; all added up to a level of civility that we normally expect from higher priced vehicles
  • Crash safety is addressed through airbags all around, including side curtain airbags for rear passengers
  • Standard tire pressure monitoring system takes all the guesswork out of wondering if the tires are up to proper pressure
  • EPA fuel economy is stated at 27mpg city / 33mgh highway, we achieved a solid 29mpg with lots of stop-and-go city driving thrown in for good measure

Negatives

  • Under full throttle, the engine and tranny seemed to groan & strain, with an accompanying level of noise; the Honda Fit’s engine / tranny combination feels smoother and quieter in comparison
  • Our SL trim level tester starts off at $16,333 and comes in at $19,110 as equipped, including destination & handling charges, which is higher than what we’d normally pay for a vehicle in this class
  • Fit and finish compared to the Honda counterpart doesn’t seem up to par
  • Yes, there is a trunk / cargo area but it’s not really big enough to hold a week’s worth of groceries
  • There’s decent on-center feel in the steering but overall steering feel is a bit lazy

Overall, we feel the Nissan Versa makes a good commuter or a first time car. We must point out, however, the premium one must pay for the SL trim seems high, especially when comparing it to a comparably equipped Honda Fit – and at $18,000, the Honda comes equipped with a navigation system. If you opt to take a look at the Versa, we recommend the S trim level. Sure, it doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles of its more expensive brother – the 15″ alloy wheels, for example – but it comes with the same 1.8L engine, same 6 airbag safety system and a 6-speed manual transmission (the 4-speed automatic is optional) for $13,110. If you want an even  more economical alternative, then the Versa sedan is worth a look (starts at $9,910), although we feel the price premium for the hatchback is well worth it from an aesthetic standpoint.

Sourcebox

Nissan North America
P.O. Box 685003
Franklin TN 37068-5003
(800) NISSAN-1

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Sep 132009
 

feature_by_johnchoi

ZDX

It’s coming. What we can only surmise as Honda / Acura’s foray into an unestablished product category, the crossover sedan, is coming to Acura dealer showrooms this winter. If someone can identify a clear competitor to this new model, we’d love to hear from you because we’re scratching our heads trying to figure it out ourselves.

acura_zdx_02

Regardless, the vehicle sounds pretty good on paper. We’ll be testing the new Acura TSX V6 in a short while so getting into the ZDX will be a good follow up. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the ZDX will offer a fun driving experience and value regardless of polarizing opinions on its looks.

Click on for all the technical details on this new Acura offering.

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