Paying today’s crazy-high gas prices bring on some pretty serious reactions and a certain amount of denial. Many wonder when this will end. Some get angry. Others suck it up and just pay the price, figuring it will return to a reasonable cost at some point. Many are considering electric cars for the first time. But what can you do about it right now to cut your gas bill, in real time, with the car you’re driving?
The thought of boycotting your local gas stations is a pleasant thought but won’t work unless you’re already driving electric. You still need to get the kids to school, go grocery shopping, and get business done. You need some real options that make sense and can be done pretty easily.
Here are some strategies that come to mind. None involve dumping your car and getting a new one. We know that’s not always possible, especially today with unreasonably high car prices due to current conditions. You need to keep driving your everyday ride but just have to do something about the high gas costs that are wrecking your budget. So, consider giving these tips a shot.
YOUR ACTION PLAN
1. Start here: Don’t drive as much. Really, this isn’t as painful as it sounds. We’ve grown accustomed to our cars providing mobility on demand. That’s a good thing when it isn’t hurting our wallets or contributing to growing oil dependency. It’s not so good today. So plan ahead. Combining your day’s errands into sequential trips one after another is a great strategy. This is an easy way to save fuel, cut your gas bill, and lessen your carbon footprint. It will also decrease tailpipe emissions by eliminating unnecessary cold-starts when your car’s emissions control system is least effective.
2. Ease off on the pedal. Okay, maybe you’re not really hot rodding your way down the street. But chances are good you’re not thinking about taking it easy from one traffic light to the next. Light accelerator pressure and a conscious effort to avoid quick starts and stops do make a difference in fuel economy, sometimes a pretty big one. Give it a try. While you’re at it, smooth out your pedal pressure at highway speeds as well by using your cruise control whenever appropriate.
3. Feeling the need for speed? Let it go. It’s easy to creep past posted speed limits without thinking about it. That’s especially on urban highways where traffic often tends to move well beyond 65 mph. We’ve found some freeways regularly flowing at 80 mph and sometimes more. The problem is that fuel efficiency diminishes rapidly above 60 mph. The EPA points out that each 5 mph driven above that speed has the net effect of costing you about 20 cents more per gallon.
4. Do you need premium? If you’re filling up on mid-grade or premium fuel, check to see if you really need to do this. Some high-compression engines do require higher octane fuel to run properly. In fact, serious engine damage could result from using a lower grade fuel than is specified in your owner’s manual. But if you don’t need premium fuel you shouldn’t be filling up with it. Premium fuel costs about 20 to 40 cents more per gallon but doesn’t provide better performance in engines designed to run on regular. If you’re fueling up with premium and don’t need to, you’re essentially pumping cash out your tailpipe. Not a pleasant thought, is it?
MORE MONEY SAVING TIPS
5. Pressure can be a good thing. Check your tire pressure weekly and keep your tires aired up to the recommended psi. This is so simple you’d assume everyone does this regularly. Not so. And that’s too bad since tires with low pressure create greater rolling resistance that can cost you up to 3 percent in fuel efficiency. Tires heat up while you drive, so checking pressure while hot will give an artificially high reading. Make a habit of checking tire pressure before driving when your tires are cold. You might also consider buying more fuel efficient low rolling resistance tires the next time your car is ready for new treads.
6. Cash or card? This is an obvious one. Gas stations typically have prices posted for regular, mid-grade, and premium fuel. Two sets of prices are often shown, one for cash and one for credit/debit cards. You’ll often note that the cash price is significantly lower, often 20 cents per gallon less than if you use a card. So, you know what to do.
7. Shop around. Like any business, gas stations have competition. It’s often the case that gas prices can vary by as much as 50 cents per gallon, maybe more in a geographical area. We’re not suggesting that you waste gas by trolling for the lowest price, but do pay attention to posted prices as you go about your daily drives. You’ll see which stations tend to offer the lowest gas prices. One of the best ways to price shop is with a free service like GasBuddy that allows you to search online for your area’s lowest gas prices. Make the process even easier by downloading the app so you can check on price fluctuations on your phone whenever it’s convenient during your travels.
Efficient and innovative, the Honda Civic has always dared to be a little different. A look back at the first generation shows a diminutive two door hatchback that fit the subcompact mold. It was light and nimble, making it ideal for around-town duty. On the green technology front, early Civics featured Honda’s innovative CVCC (Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion) cylinder head. Unlike its competitors, the CVCC engine ran so clean the Civic passed then-new emissions standards without the need for a performance-robbing catalytic converter or other emissions devices.
Honda added a three-door hatchback model shortly after the Civic’s introduction. As many cars do, Civic grew in both size and weight over the years, an issue Honda solved with the introduction of the subcompact Honda Fit to fill the void in that class. An important ‘green’ milestone was the launch of a gasoline-electric hybrid version of the Civic to the U.S. market in 2002, as a 2003 model. This expanded the company’s hybrid efforts and provided Honda buyers a more mainstream choice than the Honda Insight hybrid that had entered the lineup in late 1999. The hybrid Civic was offered through the 2015 model year but discontinued after the launch of Honda’s larger Accord Hybrid.
Now in its 11th generation, Honda designers gave the 2022 Civic a clean design with a low hood and fenders for a sportier silhouette, exuding more of a European attitude. To keep the Civic line in tune with young and active buyers, an all-new and sportier Civic Hatchback with a Euro-inspired design is also offered.
Civic is powered by either a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder or a 1.5 liter turbocharged powerplant. The 2.0-liter four produces 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft torque, with the 1.6-liter engine delivering 180 horsepower and 177 lb-ft. torque. Power transfers to the road via a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) with paddle shifters. The hatchback offers the same engine choices and CVT transmission as the sedan, but adds a six-speed manual gearbox option that adds to its sporty nature.
For improved handling and overall vehicle dynamics, the new Civic was designed with a 19 percent improvement in torsional rigidity compared to previous models. The Civic has a strong following with the tuner crowd and the stiffer chassis will lend itself to suspension mods.
Civic’s cabin is upgraded with sporty bucket seats up front that offer generous side bolsters. As you might expect, the 2022 Civic is offered with a full complement of tech features including a seven-inch color touch screen that pairs easily with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto devices. A nine-inch touch screen comes with the Touring trim package. A premium 12-speaker Bose sound system is optional. Civic drivers benefit from Honda Sensing, the automaker’s sophisticated suite of driver assist and active safety technologies.
One of the truly notable features of the new Honda Civic is its fuel efficiency, which has always been high throughout the years. For 2022, the Civic nets up to 42 mpg on the highway and 33 mpg in the city, achieved through its 1.5-liter turbocharged engine and without need for electrification. That efficient, straightforward approach helps keep Civic’s base price at $21,700, low enough for entry-level buyers in large numbers to benefit from high fuel efficiency and commensurately lower carbon emissions.
In fact, Civic has distinguished itself as the best-selling vehicle of any type with first-time buyers in America for the past seven years, with more than 1.7 million sold over the past five years alone. Civic has been built in North America for the past 35 years and the all-new 2022 11th generation model is no exception, coming from Honda’s Indiana assembly plant.
Toyota presents a reimagined, bullet train-inspired minivan in its all-new 2021 Sienna. The fourth-generation Sienna family hauler boasts greatly improved drive dynamics, interior comfort, and a Toyota estimated 33 combined mpg, an impressive efficiency number thanks to its standard gas/electric hybrid powertrain. An all-wheel drive option is available in all trim offerings.
Taking design cues from the Toyota Avalon, Sienna’s dynamic bodyline lends an aerodynamic elegance generally reserved for premium sedans. Longer, wider, and visually lower to the pavement, in any trim level Sienna gives the competition a run for the consumer dollar. This is especially true since a standard hybrid drivetrain means Toyota effectively broadens Sienna’s market appeal.
Built on Toyota’s TNGA-K world car platform, the 2021 Sienna blends the latest technology with much-improved ride comfort in five available trim levels. Toyota Safety Sense is standard, offering a comprehensive active safety suite that includes Automatic High Beams, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Lane Trace Assist, Pre-Collision with Pedestrian Detection/Low Light Detection, and Road Sign Assist. Additional active safety and driver assist technologies are available throughout the trim walk.
Innovations for the new Sienna include kick-open and closing sliding side doors and rear gate, a four-zone climate control system, optional heated captain’s chairs with ottomans and a super-long adjustment range in the second row, plus an onboard vacuum and refrigerator. The Sienna LE and some XLE models come equipped with eight seat configurations overall. Some XLE models, as well as the XSE, Limited, and Platinum, afford comfortable seating for up to seven and feature the Super Long Slide second-row captain’s chairs, with the Limited and Platinum FWD models further equipped with ottomans.
Sienna offers a segment-first power tilt and telescoping steering column with a heated steering wheel, along with a digital rearview mirror, 10-inch color heads-up display, and a 12-speaker JBL Premium Audio system. Minivan buyers wishing for more of an all-weather SUV utility experience will appreciate that the 2021 Sienna is available as an all-wheel-drive variant with a stated towing capacity of 3500 lbs.
For the adventurous, 2021 Sienna comes to market with a full line of dealer-available accessories designed and manufactured by Yakima, including a rooftop carrier, cross bars, bike rack, and more. Also offered is an available tow hitch and factory optional, 1500-watt inverter with 120-volt AC outlets to power camping equipment.
The fourth-generation 2021 Toyota Sienna is a milestone for Toyota. It blends minivan utility with SUV all-weather capabilities and premium sedan ride and drive comfort. Plus, its standard hybrid power provides for a fuel-efficient minivan ownership experience, further representing Toyota’s commitment toward fleet-wide electrification to reduce carbon emissions and environmental impact.
Hyundai has unveiled a major refresh of its best-selling Elantra compact sedan this year, bucking the industry’s trend of dropping cars in favor of crossovers and SUVs. It’s not that sport-utilities aren’t important to this automaker. In fact, Hyundai has half-a-dozen crossover SUVs in it stable. It’s just that with 3.4 million Elantras sold in the U.S. since the model’s introduction and its continuing popularity, there’s every reason for Hyundai to go all in with this compact sedan.
An extended hood and low roofline present a lower, wider, and more aggressive stance compared to the previous 6th generation Elantra. Design cues include a hard chiseled wind deflecting hood, a wide cascading grill, integrated turn signals, projector beam LED auto dim headlighting, and full width tail lights. Looking to Elantra’s grillwork, one is reminded of Hyundai Genesis design, quite intentionally. Gloss black and chrome body accents add nice touches. Elantra offers 15, 16 and 17 inch alloy wheel options to accentuate its appealing look.
Inside, Elantra buyers discover a driver-centric design delivering a much improved cockpit experience, with everything in easy reach and eyeshot. Among its features are an available side-by-side 10.2 inch digital instrument cluster, IMID display, and a 10.2 inch center dash navigation monitor. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capability is standard. Smart steering wheel controls are intuitive. For audiophiles, Elantra is optioned with a Bose premium audio upgrade.
Hyundai’s comprehensive SmartSense active safety and driver assist technologies are standard equipment across the trim walk. An enhanced natural-language voice recognition system – a Hyundai first – features Speech-to-Meaning and Deep Meaning Understanding technologies. Buyers will discover yet another first for the segment, Hyundai Digital Key. With this feature the Elantra can be unlocked and started from a compatible smartphone or key-card, no key required. The electronic key application is shareable to other smartphone users.
The gasoline model is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft torque. Elantra Hybrid’s motivation comes straight from its Ionic cousin. It pairs a direct-injected 1.6-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine with a 43 horsepower motor and lithium ion battery, delivering a combined 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft torque. Power is transferred to the front wheels via Hyundai’s 6-speed Shiftronic transmission with select drive modes. It features electric assist power steering, 4-wheel disk brakes, Macpherson struts up front, and multi-link rear suspension
Hyundai Elantra and Elantra Hybrid prices will be announced closer to when the models go on sale later in 2020. EPA fuel efficiency ratings have yet to be disclosed.
First making its appearance in 1966, the Corolla has proved to be a serious mainstay for the Toyota brand. To date it has sold over 46 million copies worldwide, along the way becoming the best-selling nameplate in the world. Its sales have far surpassing that of the original Volkswagen Beetle, the ubiquitous everyman’s car that was seemingly everywhere for years on end, but in actuality sold less than half the number achieved by the Corolla. Unlike the Beetle that remained true to its unmistakably simple form over its lifetime, Corollas have seen many major redesigns over the years and this year’s 2020 Corolla sedan features the model’s most compelling redesign in decades.
As with previous models, the 2020 Corolla’s strengths are its affordability, reliability, and notably high fuel economy. Now, it can add style to that list of strengths…along with the title 2020 Green Car of the Year®.
The latest Corollas use Toyota's New Global Architecture (TNGA). This brings a stiffer platform with an independent multilink rear suspension that replaces the previous torsion beam setup. The standard base engine on lower-end L, LE, and XLE trims is the long-used and dependable 1.8 liter four-cylinder engine, rated at 139 horsepower. Stepping up to SE and XSE trims bring a 169 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder powerplant to bear. Both are quite fuel efficient, with the 1.8-liter delivering 30 city/38 highway mpg and the 2.0-liter 31 city/40 highway mpg.
Power is delivered to the road through a 6-speed manual on the SE and an electronically controlled, continuously variable transmission on lower end models. Upper trims get a continuously variable transmission with intelligence. Shift Mode starts out with an actual first gear and then shifts to a CVT operation. Paddle shifters allow selection of 10 simulated gear ratios.
For optimum fuel economy there’s the new Corolla Hybrid LE model that features a 121 horsepower, 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle four cylinder and a pair of electric motors. This highly efficient hybrid system achieves an impressive, Prius-like EPA estimated 52 combined mpg. Energy is provided by a 1.3 kWh nickel-metal hydride battery pack positioned under the rear seats, so trunk capacity is not compromised. Importantly, the Corolla Hybrid LE is priced at just $23,100, about $3,500 more than the base gasoline-powered model. Its high fuel efficiency, affordability to the masses, and huge worldwide sales means this model has an outsized impact on decreasing gasoline use and carbon emissions reductions.
In addition, this affordably-priced car offers a a full complement of driver assist systems that rivals those found in much more expensive vehicles. All versions have Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 as standard equipment. This package includes Toyota’s Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Road Edge Detection and Sway Warning, Automatic High Beams, Lane Tracing Assist, and Road Sign Assist. Full-Speed Range Dynamic Cruise Control and Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist are also part of the package.
Our time behind the wheel of a Corolla Hybrid LE proved this vehicle to be a great daily driver. It’s roomier than you would expect, quite comfortable, and delivers a satisfying driving experience while achieving its pretty amazing fuel efficiency. Acceleration is decent though not particularly quick, but then, buyers of the Corolla nameplate in its many forms are not shopping for high performance. They are shopping for value, durability, connectivity, safety, and efficiency, and with the 2020 Corolla they get all this in abundance.
Plus, of course, they now get an all-new Corolla with surprisingly attractive styling. While that might not have been the tipping point for buyers looking for top value and efficiency over the years, it’s sure an important addition that will draw even more interest in this enduring nameplate. And let’s not forget that with today’s greater interest in environmental performance – including significantly lower carbon emissions – the Corolla Hybrid becomes even more compelling as a champion for the cause, all the while sporting more mainstream appeal than many hybrids that came before it.
The ever-popular Mazda 3 is available as both a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback to fit differing tastes. Completely redesigned last year and built on an all-new platform, the sedan and hatchback have distinctly different rear side profiles and rear styling.
The Hatchback is available in Standard, Preferred, and Premium packages, with the sedan adding a Select package at the lower end. Both variants feature a prominent grille accented by slim LED headlights and daytime running lights. Adaptive headlights are offered on the top Premium package. All models are available with either two-wheel- or four-wheel-drive.
Power is delivered by an efficient 2.5-liter, 186 horsepower SKYACTIV-G2 engine featuring dual overhead valves, variable valve timing, and cylinder deactivation. This four-cylinder engine connects to a SKYACTIV-Drive 6-speed automatic transmission with sport mode. A 6-speed manual is available only on the hatchback with the Premium package. All-wheel-drive models use Mazda's i-ACTIV AWD all-wheel drive system. The model also offers the automaker’s latest-generation G-Vectoring Control Plus system that slightly reduces engine torque to sharpen steering feel.
Mazda's long-awaited SKYACTIV-X spark-controlled compression ignition (SPCCI) engine is now available in Mazda3 models Europe and expected to be offered here later in the model year. This innovative engine combines the best features of spark-ignition (gasoline) and combustion-ignition (diesel) engines without either of their disadvantages, while offering greater horsepower, torque, and fuel efficiency.
All 2020 Mazda trim levels now come standard with i-ACTIVSENSE driver-assist features that were previously standard only on higher trim levels. These include Lane Departure Warning, Lane-Keep Assist, Mazda Radar Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Driver Attention Alert, Blind-spot Monitoring, and Automatic Emergency Braking.
The Mazda3’s driver-focused cockpit includes a 7.0-inch instrument cluster screen and an 8.8-inch infotainment screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. A head-up display is optional. The Mazda3 offers an entry price of $21,500 for the sedan and $23,700 for the hatchback variant.
Chevrolet introduced its efficiency-enhancing Active Fuel Management (AFM) cylinder deactivation system in 2005 and has now followed up with even more sophisticated Dynamic Fuel Management (DFM). While AFM alternates between eight- and four-cylinder operation, DFM features 17 cylinder patterns that constantly determine how many cylinders are required to meet real-time driving needs.
Dynamic Fuel Management uses a sophisticated controller that continuously monitors every movement of the accelerator pedal, running a complex sequence of calculations to determine how many cylinders are required to meet the required torque. It makes this determinations 80 times-per-second to optimize efficiency and power delivery at all speeds. with only the cylinders needed to provide this torque in play…down to a single cylinder.
An electromechanical system controls all 16 of the engine’s hydraulic valve lifters, using solenoids to deliver oil pressure to control ports in the lifters that activate or deactivate the lifters’ latching mechanisms. When a cylinder is deactivated, the two-piece lifters effectively collapse on themselves to prevent opening the valves. When the cylinder is reactivated, solenoids send an oil pressure signal to the control ports on the lifters and the latching mechanism restores normal function, allowing the valves to open and close.
The first application of GM’s Dynamic Fuel Management emerged in the 2019 model year, available on the all-new Chevrolet Silverado’s optional 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V-8 engines. This efficiency-enhancing system will certainly find its way to additional models across the GM line. Chevrolet says DFM improves fuel economy by about 5 percent.
Toyota is no stranger to high efficiency vehicles, having successfully blazed new trails for nearly two decades with its mega-mpg in all its various forms. Rather than resting on its laurels, the automaker has continued to move the efficiency numbers of its models upward as well to appeal to a broader market.
The fifth generation Avalon Hybrid is one such example. Readily identified by its massive grille and large air intakes, the 2019 Avalon Hybrid rides on the latest Toyota New Global Architecture platform shared with the smaller Toyota Camry. Its wheelbase is nearly two inches longer and overall length three inches greater than the previous Avalon model. Avalon Hybrids come in base XLE, sporty XSE, and loaded Limited trims. The XSE has features like steering wheel paddle shifters, sunroof, black honeycomb mesh inserts in the grille. and sport-tuned suspension. The latter includes tweaks to the springs, anti-roll bars, and shocks to enhance performance.
Power is delivered by the automaker’s Toyota Hybrid System II (THS II) that integrates an updated 2.5-liter, Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine, a pair of electric motors, and a 1.6 kWh nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. One motor assists the engine when maximum power is needed while both feed electrical energy back to the battery during coasting. The Dynamic Force engine is more fuel efficient, runs cleaner, and is more powerful than previous versions. The battery pack now resides beneath the rear seat rather than in the trunk like the previous version, lowering the car’s center of gravity while providing additional trunk room.
The Avalon Hybrid’s continuously variable transmission has six simulated gears that can be shifted by the gearshift, or via steering wheel paddles in the XSE. EPA rates the Avila Hybrid at 43 city and 43 highway mpg, quite impressive for the largest sedan in the Toyota lineup. The combination of the gasoline engine and twin motors produces 215 horsepower, 15 more than the previous version. The Avalon Hybrid has Sport, Normal, and Eco modes, the latter adding power from the hybrid system for improved acceleration.
Smart and connected technologies are a matter of course for the 2019 Avalon. The model comes standard with Toyota’s Entune 3.0 infotainment system using Apple CarPlay displayed on a standard 9.0-inch center screen. It can integrate devices with Alexa-enabled voice connectivity and offers a Wi-Fi hotspot. The instrument panel features a 7.0-inch driver’s display showing vehicle information, navigation instructions, safety information, and alerts.
The Avalon’s standard Toyota Safety Sense P includes a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and Automatic High Beams. Additional standard safety systems include a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Back Guide Monitor. Also available are a Panoramic View Monitor with Alert and Intelligent Clearance Sonar, which now includes a Rear Cross Traffic Braking system.
All 2019 Avalons have Toyota’s Star Safety System, which includes enhanced vehicle stability control, traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, anti-lock braking, backup camera, and smart stop technology. A surround-view camera system, front and rear parking sensors, and automatic reverse braking are optional.
The price of entry for the Avalon Hybrid is $36,550, just $1,000 above the price of the standard, conventionally-powered Avalon model.
In today's all-cars-look- alike world, the Cadillac’s 2019 XT4 takes exception. This upscale compact crossover features distinct features like sharp angles, a wide mesh-textured grill with a floating wreath and crest, prominent standard LED daytime running lights, plus unique headlights and large vertical taillights that will not be mistaken for another brand. The XT4 comes in Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Sport trims. The Sport trim gets a black mesh grille, body-color door handles, and black window trim, features that are chrome on other trims.
The XT4 is the first Cadillac to be powered by the brand’s new 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which uses what Cadillac calls a ‘tripower’ system featuring variable valve lift and cylinder deactivation. The smooth and refined engine produces 237 horsepower and 258 lb-ft torque, so this four-cylinder is quite capable of handling the two-ton XT4. A nine-speed automatic transmission is standard. It achieves an EPA estimated 30 highway mpg.
An available twin-clutch, all-wheel-drive system like that used on the XT5 is able to decouple the rear axle to improve fuel economy. This part-time all-wheel-drive system requires a double tap on a button to activate. Electro-hydraulically assisted brakes also help fuel efficiency by reducing parasitic losses from one crankshaft-driven belt. EPA numbers are 24 city and 30 highway with front-wheel-drive and 22 city, 29 highway mpg with all-wheel drive.
Optional Sport trim gets an Active Sport Suspension with adaptive dampers that react quickly to road conditions without being too stiff. The other models retain struts up front and a multilink setup at the rear. Eighteen inch wheels are standard, with 20 inch wheels optional on Premium Luxury and Sport trims, each with their own design.
Standard equipment includes blind-spot monitors, a rearview camera, and traction control systems. Optional are forward-collision warning with low- and high-speed automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic headlights, active lane control, and reverse automatic braking. A surround-view camera system, automatic parking assist, and a camera-based rearview mirror are also available. Cadillac’s highly advanced SuperCruise driver-assistance features are not offered on the XT4.
The XT4’s dash is dominated by an 8-inch touchscreen for infotainment and features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Cadillac’s CUE interface for its infotainment system adds a new dial-type controller. A near-field communication system simplifies the process of phone pairing, while wireless inductive charging pads boast faster charge times. The XT4 has 22.5 cubic feet of cargo room with both rows of seats in place. The back seat folds down for 48.9 cubic feet of storage.
Nissan's all-new, sixth-generation Altima has been extensively redesigned with greater refinement and efficiency, along with a more aerodynamic body boasting an impressive 0.26 drag coefficient. Distinctive styling cues include a more aggressive front facia with a V-motion grille and streamlined boomerang lights.
Inside there is a standard 7-inch driver display and a NASA-inspired zero gravity seat that enhances comfort and fights fatigue. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. Every 2019 Altima also comes equipped with a standard 8-inch multi-touch color display, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, streaming audio via Bluetooth, hands-free text messaging assistant, and Siri eyes free voice recognition. Some remote features are also accessible through NissanConnect Services’ Amazon Alexa Skill and Google Assistant Action.
Power is provided by a naturally aspirated, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 188 horsepower. There’s also an all-new, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 248 horsepower on tap. The world’s first production variable compression engine, this 2.0-liter powerplant enables compression ratio to adjust from 8:1 to 14:1 by continuously raising or lowering piston reach for performance or greater efficiency. Both engines connect to an Xtronic continuously variable transmission. Paddle shifters are available with the SR grade.
Every 2.5-liter Altima is now available with Intelligent All-Wheel Drive with a 50:50 torque split in most situations, a first for a Nissan sedan and something that remains a relative rarity in this segment. Front-wheel drive 2.5-liter models are rated at 28 city/39 highway mpg.
Unique in the class, Nissan’s ProPILOT Assist helps drivers stay centered in the lane, navigate stop-and-go traffic, maintain a set vehicle speed, and maintain a set distance to the vehicle ahead. To activate the system, a driver simply pushes the blue ProPILOT Assist ON button, then sets the Intelligent Cruise Control when the desired speed is reached, similar to a conventional advanced cruise control system. It uses a forward-facing camera, forward-facing radar, sensors, and an electronic control module.
Along with ProPILOT Assist, also new for 2019 is Rear Automatic Braking that helps a driver by detecting and warning of objects while backing up, and if necessary applying brakes to help avoid a collision. Other safety and convenience features include standard Automatic Emergency Braking, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, and Intelligent Driver Alertness 3 on all grades.
Intelligent Around View Monitor is standard on the Altima Platinum. Safety Shield 360 includes Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Rear Automatic Braking, Lane Departure Warning, radar-based Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and High Beam Assist (HBA). A new Traffic Sign Recognition system provides the most recent speed limit information.
The 2019 Nissan Altima offers a base cost of $23,900, a point of entry approachable for a great many buyers seeking a fun-do-drive, stylish vehicle offering laudable fuel efficiency and some of the most advanced technology available in its class.
The all-new 2019 Jetta is a major step forward in the evolution of VW’s highly-popular sedan, the ninth generation for this high-quality, great driving compact. With smooth styling, a longer wheelbase, and standard LED lighting, the car emerges a model of elegance and efficiency.
Of particular note is the model’s transferable bumper-to-bumper, 72,000 mile/6-year warranty. Knowing that German cars are often expensive to repair, this all-new warranty should by a major plus to Jetta sales. With a base price of only $18,545 and a Driver Assistance package that adds many high-end safety features, that means the new Jetta can be purchased for under $20K, less than 2018 Jetta models.
The Jetta’s 1.4-liter, turbocharged gasoline engine provides 147 horsepower and 184 lb. ft. torque, delivering smooth acceleration with an impressive powerband. The 8-speed automatic we tested exhibited smooth shifts and put the torque where we wanted it at all times. Mileage is quite good at an estimated 30 city/40 highway mpg.
Interior convenience is impressive with state-of-the-art connectivity. Apple CarPlay is provided and a nine-speaker BeatsAudio system with 12-channel, 400-watt power and digital signal processing is optional. Seating is very comfortable even after several hours behind the wheel. The Jetta’s Dual-Zone Climatronic climate control was one of the best we have experienced. SEL models feature an MIB II 8-inch touchscreen, with a 6.5-inch screen found in other levels. All use a new reactive capacitive touch sensor technology that makes the touchscreens very easy to operate.
The all-new Jetta is built on VW’s MQB platform – the same one used in the Atlas SUV – which means the ride is extremely smooth regardless of terrain. The Jetta’s front strut-style suspension uses lower control arms and long-travel coil springs, while a torsion beam rear suspension with telescopic dampers balance the ride. Electric power assisted rack-and-pinion steering provides good feedback and the 11.5-inch diameter front and 10.8-inch diameter rear disc brakes are excellent.
Packed with technology and wrapped in an advanced exterior design, this car is much more than just a youth-oriented vehicle. While younger buyers will be attracted by the low price, the Jetta is all grown up and offers welcome fuel economy, good looks, and solid handling that anyone looking for fun, reliable, and efficient transportation needs to consider.
Ford’s Police Responder Hybrid provides a high-profile way for police departments across the country to dramatically increase the efficiency of their fleets while reducing their carbon footprint. Based on Ford’s efficient Fusion Hybrid, this first-ever pursuit rated hybrid police car has been rigorously tested by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and the Michigan State Police, the two agencies that rate pursuit vehicles for police departments across the country. It is distinguished as Green Car Journal's 2018 Commercial Green Car of the Year.
The front-wheel drive police vehicle is powered by a 141 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine combined with an 88-horsepower electric motor. The Atkinson-cycle offers higher fuel efficiency at the expense of some conventional power loss at low speeds, although the electric motor makes up for lost low speed output. The Police Responder Hybrid is expected to earn an estimated combined 38 mpg.
A total of 188-horsepower is available when top performance is required. After five seconds of hard driving, the car automatically shifts into pursuit mode for maximum acceleration. It can jump 8-inch curbs and railroad crossings at speed, ford 18 inches of water at 15 mph and 10 inches at 40 mph, and handle Hollywood-style J-turns. The Police Responder Hybrid is intended mostly for urban use.
The electric motor runs on power from an advanced lithium-ion battery that enables electric-only driving at up to 60 mph. The motor also serves as a generator during braking and coast-down to feed energy back to the batteries. The Police Responder Hybrid features an electric-only stealth mode capability, although this is limited to a just a few miles by its 1.4 kWh lithium-ion battery. Hybrid operation brings another significant advantage for law enforcement duty. When parked, the battery pack allows the engine to shut off for brief periods while keeping all the car’s electronics running, which saves fuel and decreases emissions.
Ford’s Police Responder Hybrid has upgraded suspension, wheels, tires, and brakes to be pursuit rated and has also met vehicle dynamics and safety standards such as 75 mph rear-end crash testing. It features better engine cooling, an upgraded electrical system, center console pre-drilled holes to accommodate police equipment, and skid plates underneath to protect mechanical components. The interior has been modified for police use with front seat cushions shaped to accommodate equipment belts and gun holsters.
There are other modifications including anti-stab plates in the front seatbacks, a movable rotary gear shift dial that can be relocated within the car depending on department needs, a certified speedometer, additional power distribution in the trunk, and heavy-duty front door tethers. The back seat area has been designed without seatback or door pockets where a suspect could hide contraband or weapons. Upholstery is easy-to-clean vinyl.
In addition, Ford is now offering its new police Special Service Plug-In Hybrid Sedan for non-pursuit use, an application that could be ideal for detectives, police chiefs, and other government personnel. The model uses a 7.6-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery that delivers up to 21 miles on a charge, plus the ability to drive up to 85 mph exclusively on batteries. Its overall range on battery and internal combustion power is over 500 miles. Given the typical use of a detective or police chief vehicle, the Special Service Plug-In Hybrid Sedan is the first Ford police vehicle with the potential for working a full shift without using any gasoline.
Next up is Ford’s Police Interceptor Utility hybrid that’s due to go on sale next summer. At a projected 24 mpg, the electrified model is expected to deliver at least 40 percent better fuel economy than its existing 3.7-liter V-6 Police Interceptor Utility counterpart, with the hybrid offering quicker acceleration and a higher top speed. Fuel economy gains and reduced idling time are expected to save police departments an estimated $3,200 per vehicle over the course of a year, plus significantly decrease carbon and tailpipe emissions.
Those who want the excitement of a Mustang fastback or convertible but are interested in good fuel economy can opt for the model’s EcoBoost 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine. The Mustang’s V-6 engine is no longer offered. Opting for the more efficient four banger doesn’t mean drivers have to live with mediocre performance or style. Featuring a refreshed appearance in 2018, the Mustang offers a slightly lower hood and a more aggressive front fascia. Add in an available Performance Package and there’s also a new decklid wing and new lower rear diffuser to make this pony car even sportier.
The 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine can be mated to either a 6-speed manual transmission or a new 10-speed automatic. This transmission promises much quicker shifting and can handle more torque than the previous 6-speed automatic. All 2018 Mustangs now have MagneRide magnetorheological adaptive dampers for improved handling. Performance-oriented drivers will appreciate the Mustang’s line lock feature for performing easy burnouts regardless of engine choice.
Standard equipment includes a 4.2-inch center screen, Ford Sync multimedia system, a rearview camera, two USB ports, keyless entry/start, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Options include navigation, Shaker premium audio system, Recaro seats, racing stripes, 18 to 20-inch alloy wheels, a heated steering wheel, two-tone leather upholstery, and a reconfigurable 12-inch LCD cluster. An array of available active safety features includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, and automatic high beams.
The EcoBoost Performance package adds 19-inch alloy wheels with summer performance tires, a Torsen limited-slip differential, larger brake rotors, heavy-duty front springs, unique chassis calibration, and a large rear anti-roll bar. It also includes specially-tuned stability control, electric power steering, and anti-lock brakes. A rear wing is added on fastbacks.
A 12-inch digital gauge cluster replaces the traditional analog speedometer and tachometer. It offers configurable modes and display patterns for personalization, plus a drag racing mode that displays an NHRA-style starting light – or "Christmas tree" – for practicing launches.
Ford claims a 0-to-60 time of about 5 seconds for its 310 horsepower 2.3-liter powered Mustangs. Surprisingly, this kind of performance comes with EPA fuel economy numbers as high as 21 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. The Mustang EcoBoost has a starting price of $25,680.
Ford has unveiled its redesigned 2019 Transit Connect Wagon, a popular compact delivery van that's widely used by tradesmen, small businesses, and delivery services. The updated model features all-new powerplants to maximize efficiency and functionality, including a standard 2.0-liter, direct-injected four-cylinder engine with Auto Start-Stop connected to all-new 8-speed automatic. In addition, a class-exclusive 1.5-liter EcoBlue diesel engine and 8-speed automatic is available that’s expected to achieve a highway EPA rating of 30 mpg.
The new Transit Connect comes in two available wheelbases to handle five to seven passengers. Two sliding side doors make entering and exciting the vehicle very convenient. The seating can be easily reconfigured so the wagon can readily switch over to cargo duty,
Drivers will appreciate the Transit Connect’s handy suite of driver-assist technologies that includes standard Automatic Emergency Braking, Pre-Collision Assist, and Pedestrian Detection. Optionally available are a Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert plus a Lane Keeping System that alerts a driver if they are wandering outside of a lane and can gently provide steering input to stay in a lane. Available Adaptive Cruise Control enables detecting and pacing the car ahead while on cruise control, slowing as necessary so the car ahead is not overtaken.
Inside the Transit Connect, a new instrument panel features a digital driver information center in the cluster and an available 6.5-inch touch screen. Standard 4G LTE connectivity is provided that can connect up to 10 devices to the Internet, along with available SYNC 3 with Ford+Alexa functionality.
The Kia Niro, Green Car Journal's 2018 Green SUV of the Year™, joins an increasingly crowded compact crossover SUV market but does so with some significant accomplishments in its corner. To begin with, the Niro is comfortable, nimble, and fun to drive, all important considerations even to drivers looking for ‘green’ and efficiency. It's also offered in hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and soon-to-come battery electric versions, so drivers have some pretty compelling options within the Niro family of vehicles. The Niro is a handsome model, and while we could quibble that many might view the Niro more a highly functional five-door, five-seat wagon than an SUV, there’s enough blurring of the lines between crossovers, hatchbacks, and wagons these days to enable classifying this in the crossover SUV category.
And what about efficiency, you ask? Well, prepare to be impressed. This crossover excels in that department with the Niro FE hybrid delivering an EPA estimated 52 mpg in the city and 49 mpg on the highway. Other variants in the line also offer very impressive fuel efficiency, with the LX/EX Niro rated at 51/46 mpg and the Niro Touring achieving 45/40 mpg. The Niro Plug-In Hybrid nets a combined 46 mpg.
The automaker’s first dedicated hybrid crossover is powered by a 1.6-liter, direct-injected 16-valve DOHC engine producing 104 horsepower and 109 lb-ft torque. An aluminum block is used for lightweighting and thus additional efficiency. A 43 horsepower, permanent-magnet synchronous AC electric motor/generator is integrated between the engine and a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transaxle. Maximum power output of the combined system is 139 horsepower with a total torque rating of 195 lb-ft. The engine uses the highly-efficient Atkinson combustion cycle, and with its exhaust-heat recovery system can achieve an impressive 40 percent thermal efficiency under certain circumstances. The new engine has dual cooling circuits for quickly warming up its aluminum cylinder head.
Energy for the electric motor is provided by a 1.6-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack located beneath the rear seat. Beyond the Niro’s highly efficient hybrid mode, this battery allows the vehicle to travel short distances under all-electric power at gentle speeds. Efficiency is enhanced by a Coasting Guide that helps direct a driver when to coast and when to brake.
Niro offers confident ride and handling with independent MacPherson struts and a stabilizer up front, and independent multi-link suspension at the rear. Vented solid disc brakes are used front and rear along with regenerative braking to generate electricity for the battery during braking and coast down. The Niro uses electric power-assist steering.
The Kia Niro is offered in four trim levels –base FE, mid-level LX and EX, and high-end Touring. Compared with the LX, the EX model has more interior comforts, adding standard heated front seats, rear A/C vents, upgraded trim, and an available sunroof. Touring models come with an eight-speaker Harman/Kardon system and also get power front seats and leather upholstery.
A rearview camera and 7-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are provided. Loads of safety technologies are standard or optional including blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and autonomous emergency braking. Although this is a compact crossover, plenty of gear can be hauled along with 54.5 cubic feet of space available with the rear seats folded down.
The Niro PHEV has a much larger 8.9 kWh battery pack with a portion of this pack located in the spare tire well beneath the load floor. The plug-in’s electric motor is more powerful and delivers an EPA estimated 26 miles of all-electric range before reverting back to hybrid power, for a total driving range of 560 miles. Enhancing this range is a Predictive Energy Control function that evaluates the route chosen by the optional navigation system to maximize energy conservation, picking when to recharge the battery and when to use stored energy based on the speeds and topology ahead. It can also direct the powertrain to shunt electricity to pre-charging the battery in anticipation of long uphill grades. Rounding out the line will be a Niro battery electric variant coming next year, which was unveiled as a concept at this year’s CES Show in early January.
Kia continues to impress with the sophisticated styling of its new models and an eye for what American consumers are looking for, at affordable prices. The Kia Niro continues this tradition in a very big way by delivering style, functionality, and connectivity in a handsome and compelling compact crossover package.
Introduced as a completely redesigned model in 2016, the Honda Civic has been available in both sedan and coupe choices to fit varying needs. Civic fans have an additional choice in the 2017 model year, the Civic Hatchback. Honda has long sold hatchbacks in other markets where they are quite popular, but not so much with American consumers in recent times. That said, it was time for a return to the U.S. after a multi-year hiatus. The 2017 hatchback comes at a reasonable $19,700, about a grand more than the Civic sedan.
Civics are powered by a 1.5-liter, direct-injected and turbocharged four-cylinder engine or a 2.0-liter VTEC engine. The Sport and Sport Touring get a 180 horsepower version of the 1.5-liter engine while the others get 174 horsepower. The more powerful variants use a dual-outlet, center-mounted exhaust and are designed to benefit from premium unleaded fuel. The engine can be mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) on all trim levels. A quick-shifting 6-speed manual transmission can also be ordered on the LX and both Sport models. The thriftiest version, the LX with the CVT, is rated at 31 city and 40 highway mpg.
The styling of the new Civic Hatchback leans more toward that of a four-door sedan than the previous hatchback model. It has a more rigid and lightweight body with a sophisticated chassis design, featuring a fully independent suspension system, liquid-filled bushings, sport-tuned electronic power steering, and powerful four-channel anti-lock disc brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Hill Start Assist.
Importantly, the Civic is very well-connected for such an affordably-priced car that starts at under $19,000. Available optionally on LX, EX and EX-L Navi and standard on Sport Touring is the Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver-assistive technologies. This includes Collision Mitigation Braking System, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Road Departure Mitigation, Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow, and Auto High-Beam Headlights.
Other available features include Honda Display Audio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (standard on EX and above trims), heated seats, power driver and front-passenger seats, remote engine start, and more. The all-new Sport Touring features textured aluminum sport pedals, red-accented instrument illumination and a 540-watt 12-speaker premium audio system, the most powerful ever offered in a Civic.
The Honda Civic has long been a popular choice for those who want a feature-laden small sedan at a truly affordable price point. With the latest generation’s cutting edge style and available on-board electronics – plus the addition of a hatchback to the Civic sedan and coupe offerings – there’s even more reason for buyers to consider this fuel-efficient and popular model.
At its introduction, the 2017 Jaguar XE became this luxury automaker's new entry level model, but don’t let that 'entry level' distinction fool you. Available as XE 25t turbocharged and XE 35t supercharged gasoline variants plus a 20d turbodiesel, this sedan delivers a lot for its reasonable price of entry. The latter is offered at $36,400, an approachable price for a highly-efficient sport sedan from a luxury brand.
Somewhat smaller than its XF sibling, the XE features a fluid and pleasing design that fits in well with Jaguar's modern lineup. Its muscular, coupe-like exterior and signature J-Blade daytime running lights show that Jaguar’s sophisticated DNA is ever-present in the model. Through design and execution, Jaguar’s intent was to reinforce that its entry-level model is a driver’s car, and they’ve done this quite well.
Beneath the skin, the XE features an all-new, modular aluminum architecture shared with the Jaguar F-PACE and XF mid-size sports sedan. Its bodyshell uses high-strength 6000 series aluminum alloy to save weight without compromising durability, all the while providing high torsional stiffness to support precise handling. Featuring a low 0.28 Cd drag coefficient, the aluminum-intensive XE is the most fuel-efficient Jaguar to date with the XE 20d EPA rated at 32 city/42 highway mpg and a driving range of 533 miles.
Jaguar’s 20d Ingenium diesel engine develops 180 horsepower and 318 lb-ft torque to provide sprightly performance. A low 15.1:1 compression ratio – at least by diesel engine standards – allows use of an all-aluminum engine to reduce weight. This engine connects to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. The XE is equipped with smart regenerative charging that uses kinetic energy from braking to charge the battery for maximum economy. It also features a stop/start system in bolster fuel efficiency, though we found the XE 20d's automatic start-up a bit rough for our tastes. Rear-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel-drive optional.
Variable exhaust valve timing shortens the emission system’s catalyst light-off phase to treat exhaust gases quicker after a cold start, while also improving diesel particulate filter regeneration. A cooled, low-pressure exhaust gas recirculation system reduces combustion chamber temperatures to inhibit NOx formation and selective catalytic reduction technology further cuts NOx emissions to very low levels. Computer controlled adaptive engine cooling only engages as required. A variable geometry turbocharger maximizes peak power for uniform low-speed torque and responsiveness that’s progressive and avoids turbo lag.
Driver and passenger are provided an inviting and accommodating cabin featuring comfortable seating, with leather upholstery accented by contrasting twin-needle stitching. A handcrafted feel is reinforced by a choice of textured aluminum, gloss black, and wood veneers. The interior can be further enhanced with available ambient lighting in 10 colors.
Advanced driver assistance systems provide convenience and enhanced safety. Standard are lane-departure warning and autonomous emergency braking that provide audible and visible warnings if a potential collision is detected. If the driver takes no action, the system applies brakes to help reduce the severity of a possible impact. Optional are lane keep assist and driver condition monitor, blind spot monitor and reverse traffic detection, park assist, surround camera system, adaptive cruise control with queue assist and traffic sign recognition, and adaptive speed limiter.
Jaguar’s XE delivers a premium driving experience at a surprisingly affordable price for luxury buyers. Add in the impressive 42 mpg efficiency of the XE 20d and it’s a combination that’s hard to beat.
Standard half-ton pickup or heavy-duty variant? That’s the question often faced by those needing a pickup for commercial use, combined personal/business activity, or heavy-duty towing. It’s a tough choice because heavy-duty pickups really do offer levels of functionality that typically exceed that of light-duty pickups, but they’re also costlier, more cumbersome to maneuver, and usually less fuel efficient.
Nissan’s fully-redesigned Titan XD aims to solve this conundrum by combining the capability of a heavy-duty pickup with the fuel economy and affordability of a half-ton model. It delivers welcome functionality with a 5.6-liter Endurance gasoline V-8 or a notable 5.0-liter Cummins turbodiesel that delivers 310 horsepower and a formidable 555 lb-ft torque. The latter is capable of carrying a 2,000 pound payload or towing up to 12,000 pounds.
A half-ton 2017 Titan variant introduced just this summer shares the Titan DNA but is distinguished by a unique chassis some 14.7 inches shorter than that of the XD. No diesel powerplant is offered with the lighter-duty Titan, which is powered by the same 390 horsepower, 5.6-liter Endurance gasoline V-8 and connected to a seven-speed automatic transmission. An as-yet undisclosed V-6 will also be available for the half-ton Titan.
Titan XD benefits from the first application of the new Cummins M2 two-stage turbo system, which helps reduce turbo lag through precision balancing between high-pressure and low-pressure turbos. The engine’s Rotary Turbine Control provides solid performance across the powerband and manages exhaust gas temperatures. Efficiency-enhancing weight reduction is achieved with a compacted graphite iron cylinder block, high-strength aluminum alloy heads, and composite valve covers. The CGI block, along with the dual overhead camshafts, contributes to Nissan’s goal of delivering excellent noise, vibration, and harshness characteristics.
The XD features an extended 151.6-inch wheelbase to handle the higher towing and payload potential of the Cummins diesel while maximizing stability, handling, and ride comfort. It also uses a new heavy-duty, highly stable suspension design. Titan XD buyers can choose between several available hitches including an integrated gooseneck hitch engineered into the frame that’s easily accessible in the bed. It is also snow plow-capable.
Clearly, the Titan XD is the right size pickup for many chores. Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to overall driveability. The step up to a traditional heavy-duty pickup is more than many drivers care to deal with on a daily basis. Titan XD simply doesn’t feel as cumbersome as a bigger and heavier HD truck. We wouldn’t call it nimble, but it is certainly easier to maneuver, especially around town. Overall ride and handling is quite pleasant and on par with most half-ton pickups. We drove the Titan XD loaded near maximum payload capacity and it performed without complaint.
The Titan XD is offered in Crew Cab, King Cab, and Single Cab versions with three available bed lengths. A work truck version is also available. All are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The Titan XD is offered in several trims including a rugged-looking Pro-4X model and a top-of-the-line Platinum Reserve. All except the Pro-4X can be had with two- or four-wheel drive. Inside, The Titan XD’s instrument panel integrates both analog and digital gauges and a 5-inch color display, plus diesel monitoring and maintenance displays. A 7-inch color monitor includes NissanConnect with navigation, mobile apps, and service.
While fuel economy estimates are not required for heavy-duty pickup models, expect the XD's Cummins diesel to provide about 20 percent better efficiency than a gas-powered V-8 while towing full loads. Our driving experience in an XD with a fully-loaded pickup bed realized a mpg average of just over 20 mpg…pretty impressive for an HD pickup.