GirlDriver, USA

GirlDriver, USA
Look! It's GirlDriver, USA.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Can boxy be cool? 2011 Scion xB

I was feeling the need to connect to my inner twenty-something, which is buried beneath a few extra years, so I borrowed the Scion xB from Toyota. Certainly, this car, in a color named sizzling crimson (my people call it burgundy), intended to appeal to a younger generation, would dig into my psyche and pull out that wild and crazy girl I really am.

To be honest, I was expecting not to like it, but you know, this boxy little brat is kinda cute. In a boxy, little car kind of way.

It's got a 2.4 liter 4-cylinder engine that puts out 158 horsepower. Mine was paired with a 4-speed automatic transmission (a 5-speed manual is standard). With the technology built into the powertrain and transmission, the ride is satisfying and pugnacious, though it can be a little shy of go. Driving position is upright--something I've always found comfortable. All my stuff--a lot--packed neatly into the roomy interior, so there I was booking up the Taconic singing over a fair amount of road and wind noise, along to the XM Broadway channel, my constant companion.

The centrally placed gauges--speedo, fuel, tach--pop up out of the dash. I like the pop because it keeps your eyes closer to the road and eyes on the road is a major key to safe driving. The central location of the the gauges is not ideal. The large round heating and AC controls are joy to operate. The radio, less so, though it is not thoroughly mind boggling the way some are.

My vehicle, with premium sound and upgraded alloy wheels came in at $22,213 including destination charge. The base model is very well equipped for a small car and for the enthusiasts, there are hundreds of after market add ons. (The Scion is that kind of car--it has fans who want to add and add.) Fuel economy is listed at 22 city/28 highway, not the 30 or even 40 claimed by other small vehicles. I'm not sure why the fuel economy is so lackluster, but these days when the government is going for a corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) of 54.5 by 2025, this small car isn't doing us or Toyota any favors. (In car development years that's not a long time.)

To be brief, I did touch base with my inner twenty-something and over all I do recommend at least giving this burgundy brat a drive around if you are considering a new vehicle. You might think, uh-uh, at first glance, but look again. It comes in other colors, too.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

2012 Honda Civic EX

At $21,255, the 2012 Honda Civic 4-door EX is slightly more expensive than the Hyundai Elantra, which runs MSRP from $17,445 to $20,445. These two cars are being compared more as shoppers start to shed their notions about Hyundai being a cheap car. The Elantra is moving fast off the showroom floor, it's residual values are up and it did outsell the Civic in May and June of this year.

The enthusiasts are unhappy with the new Civic. They don't like the styling, feel that the interior has been cheapened both in materials, fit and finish. Some don't like the two-tiered instrument panel. I don't think the two-tiered instrument panel is the most elegant solution for an IP, but I do like the fact that I can check gas and mileage and keep my eyes closer to the road. Other welcome eyes-on-the-road features are the large knobs to operate the AC and heat. Also I didn't find operating the audio system daunting and distracting.

Critics feel that the ride and handling is bland compared to previous generation Civics (this vehicle is in its ninth iteration!), which were driven and driven and then turned over to young tuner guys and gals who added their favorite after market parts and made that Civic baby famous as a tuner car. I'm not one to measure every 100th of a second it takes from 0-60, but I love to drive. I had a fun, sporty, spirited ride on the Taconic Parkway twisties. I like this ride. The wheelbase is shorter than the previous gen and that helps with responsive handling.

We got decent gas mileage--averaging about 35.5. EPA estimates for the Civic are 28 city/39 highway, which is pretty close to the Elantra that is rated at 40. These improvements in mileage come from aerodynamic improvements and reductions in rolling resistance.

The Civic has a 1.8 liter, 4-cylinder engine that puts out 140 horsepower and 128 lb.-ft. of torque. My vehicle had a six-speed automatic.

Plenty of room--leg, body and cargo in this vehicle.

Everyone's complaining about the hard plastics and yes, Honda, they have to go.

According to Kelley Blue Book, one of the top websites where buyers do their research on cars they are thinking about buying, the Honda Civic is the number one researched sedan. But guess who's number 2? The Hyundai Elantra.

If you don't know what Hyundai is up to, you are so far behind. They are marching toward the top and you do want to look at their cars. Honda also faces some other stiff competition--the new Chevy Cruze, which is hotcakes right now, the Ford Focus and the Volkswagen GTI. I'd be nervous if I was in a race with these guys.

Still, this Civic be on my shopping list. Definitely.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Juke, Juke. Shoop, Shoop.

There's something about the Nissan Juke that makes me feel like an insect goddess with special powers. It has to be the combination of quirky design and the plucky powertrain. Do insects fly sideways? The fruit fly does for sure. And scientists have discovered that an insect, with its bulky body and delicate wings, stays airborne because its motor works the same way a piston engine works--once it's turned on it keeps running until you turn it off.

The Juke has very comfortable seats and it is very spirited on the road so we had a lot of fun trekking around in this car. My northern friends could consider buying it, because it has available AWD. Someone wants a little car like this 5-door hatchback but they need good winter traction for a steep driveway--this'll do it. It gets 27 miles per gallon city and 32 highway, not spectacular but decent.

The MSRP for the AWD that I had starts at $20,570 and goes to $22,880. The engine is a 1.6 liter, 4-cylinder turbo combined with a CVT automatic. A 6-speed manual is available.

There are some very nice styling details including trim that matches the exterior color (mine was Cayenne Red) and snappy looking cloth seats. There's an iPod input right near the driver.

I don't take the entire apartment with me when I travel, but I do have a suitcase, a work bag and about 4 bags for groceries. With the back seats up, I was hard put to fit all my stuff into the car.

The back seat has limited headroom. The styling is--well as I said--insect with special powers.