Five Gas Sippers

Five Ways To Go Economy Class

None Need To Be Plugged In

By Ron Amadon

DAMACUS, MD. – Continuing concern over world oil prices may have you wondering if the time has come to consider a smaller set of wheels for your daily commute.

While world oil prices stabilized a bit late in the week, experts said that could quickly change depending on the situation in Syria. With all that in mind, here is a look at five cars that sip gas, haul stuff, and in many cases, are fun to drive.

2014 Mazda3


 2014 Mazda3

With a complete redesign, the fun to drive 3 emerges as one of the sharpest looking compact cars on the market. It is lighter and slightly shorter, but with a longer wheelbase that adds rear seat leg room. The base engine is a 2.0-liter, 155 horsepower four with a combined EPA fuel economy of 33 mpg. Move up to the 3s model and you get a 2.5-liter four with an estimated mpg of 39 combined. Mazda claims if you add the capacitor-based regenerative engine braking system that can increase to 41 mpg highway. Prices start at $16,945. Sedan and hatchback models are offered.

Honda Fit


 Honda Fit

Moving into the subcompact field, the Honda Fit not only delivers good gas mileage, but there are enough sporty touches engineered in to make it kind of fun to drive. For hauling there is 57 cubic feet of space out back with the 60/40 seats folded, rather surprising for a car in this class. A 1.5-liter four with 117 horsepower resides under the hood with the best EPA gas mileage coming with the 5-speed automatic – a combined 31 miles per gallon. Pricing starts at $15,425 on up to $19,790. Of course you get Honda’s reputation for long life and excellent built quality. The Fit makes ordinary run around town errand days actually enjoyable.

Kia Rio


 Kia Rio

If you are looking for major bang for the buck in a slick looking sedan or hatch, the Rio is a model that should be on your shopping list. A 138 horsepower, 1.6-liter four mates peacefully with a six speed automatic with steering wheel mounted paddle shifts. Step up one notch above the base model to the EX and you add keyless entry, power windows, cruise control, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, upgraded audio system, and Bluetooth connectivity among other goodies. EPA fuel economy is 28 to 36 mpg. Pricing starts at $13,600 on up to $17,700 for the SX model. You may also want to look at its brother, the Hyundai Accent.

Toyota Prius


 Toyota Prius

Hands down in terms of comfort, fuel economy and long life the Prius has run up an enviable record in the time it has been on the market. How does 50 mpg on a long interstate trip sound? That’s what I got on a Maryland to Florida run. The test car hummed along nicely at I-95 speed and was all day comfortable while neatly packing away all the stuff that Mrs. Auto Writer and I wanted to bring along on vacation.  Consumer Reports said that reliability has been “well above average.” Dealer prices seem to fluctuate with gas prices so buying one is like entering the stock market. You want to buy low and sell high, hopefully.  Suggested prices start at $24,200 and wind their way to $30,005 for the model Five Liftback.

C-MAX Hybrid & C-MAX Energi


 Ford C-Max Hybrid

Powered by an inline four good for 141 horsepower it is very quiet on the interstates. While no sports car, the C-Max handled better than expected for this class of vehicle. Fuel economy wise, the Ford is rated at a lofty 47 mpg in both city and highway operation. In a week long test, I rang up a respectable 37.6 mpg. A screen full of information in the instrument cluster will tell you if you have been naughty or nice, economy wise. C-MAX will haul 52.6 cubic feet of stuff out back with the easy to fold seats in the down position. Prices start at $25,200. Upgrade to the SEL model and you will have a nicely equipped easy to drive hybrid that can also haul five passengers.

What is interesting here is that there are so many quality gas sippers on the market now for consumers to choose from. It may come down to which model fits your fancy and which dealer makes the best offer.

Auto News for Aug. 30

Auto News for Aug. 30
If you are stuck in bumper to bumper traffic over the holiday, cheer up, this one day might be the norm, according to a new study. The U.S. Travel Association studied 16 key interstate corridors nationwide and concluded that without added investment and policy changes, average daily car volume will equal that of Labor Day – within a decade in some places. The group is sounding the alarm now noting that major highway improvement programs can take 15 years to complete. Two of the affected corridors are I-95 from New York to Washington and I-5 from L.A. to San Diego. The association is a non-profit organization representing the travel industry.

The IRS said a Bentley owned by Michael Jackson is worth $250,000, according to Bloomberg.

For the first time “Made in the USA” is a tag that can be attached to the Ford Fusion. The car has been manufactured at a Ford plant in Mexico but it was unable to keep up with demand. With a $555-million investment, Ford is now also cranking out the Fusion at its Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Michigan.

Volvo has released pictures of a concept coupe that the company said “reveals how we could shape our cars from now on.” The concept car is said to be a plug-in hybrid with a 2.0-liter four with a supercharger and turbo and a total output of about 400 horsepower.

volvo concept coupe

Volvo concept coupe 2volvo concept coupe 3

Auto News for Aug. 29

Auto News for Aug. 29
Toyota said it will introduce 15 new or redesigned hybrid vehicles globally between now and the end of 2015. That would include a new Prius that Toyota hinted it would have about a ten percent improvement in gas mileage over the current model’s 50 mpg all the while using smaller electric motors. Further, Toyota is working on a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle with further details coming in 2014.

Stand by for “Super Cruise.” GM said it is a system that will allow a car to one day drive itself on the freeway using cameras and radar. Yet, it should be pointed out, the system can be quickly be overridden by the driver. Don’t get too excited about this, because there are years of testing that must be conducted before these systems hit the market. However, both Nissan and GM think we will see them by 2020 or so.

Honda is experimenting with technology that it says could reduce collisions between automobiles and pedestrians and autos and motorcycles. One would use an individual’s smart phone to send out a warning to both a driver and a pedestrian of a potentially dangerous situation. The second system would sense the presence of a motorcycle even when it is obstructed from a driver’s view.
Kia announced a starting price of $14,700 for its 2014 Soul, without hamsters of course. There will be three models, Base, Plus and Exclaim with the top of the line model starting at $20,300. That compares to 2013 prices of $14,400 for the bottom of the line model to $19,900 for the top of the line Soul Exclaim. Kia said the 2014’s come with additional standard equipment.

2014 Kia Soul & Mates

Auto News for Aug. 28


The end is near for the VW Bus. While they have been gone for years here in the U.S., the bus has been made at a VW plant in Brazil. To mark the end of production, VW will produce 600 commemorative editions in blue and white paint, white wall tires and a rather ugly grille up front. The bus fell shy of safety regulations in Brazil by putting the driver ahead of the front axle. Peace and Love, Bus!!!

Customer satisfaction with their new wheels is on the decline, according to the latest American Consumer Satisfaction Index. And the satisfaction gap between Detroit and imports is now at its widest point in five years. Of the eight nameplates above the industry average, only two are domestic, Cadillac and GMC. Mercedes leads the satisfaction index followed by Lexus, Subaru, Toyota and Honda.

Ford has unveiled the big brother to the C-Max. An updated S-Max will be displayed at the Frankfurt Auto Show next month. Roughly the size of the Mazda 5 and with a very modern design update, the S is not likely to show up on these shores. Car & Driver notes that one feature is a heart rate monitor as well as a glucose monitor, both of which can alert doctors if the situation warrants.

Polk reports that used commercial vehicle transactions are up 9.1 percent in the first half.



Auto News for Aug. 27

Fort Collins, Colorado, is “America’s Safest Driving City,” according to the ninth annual Allstate Best Drivers Report. The company bases the report on claims data. Boise Idaho, Sioux Falls South Dakota, Brownsville Texas, and Madison Wisconsin round out the top five finishers. For the ninth year in a row, Phoenix topped the list among cities with one million people followed by San Diego and San Antonio.

Infiniti has released a first look at the Q30 Concept that will make its world debut at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show on Sept. 10. The maker said this is “not a coupe, not a hatch and not a crossover but a fusion of the three body styles.”



Nissan, meanwhile, is increasing its production capacity in the Americas to more than two million units by early next year. It said the move will protect the company from volatility in global currencies. Production of four cylinder gas engines for Infiniti and Mercedes will begin early next year at an all new plant in Decherd, Tennessee.

The new Chevy Silverado is now the official truck of the Texas Longhorns and the team’s mascot. If someone asks, the mascot’s name is Bevo.

Auto News for Aug. 26

Subaru has announced pricing for its 2014 BRZ sports car. Prices are up only slightly to $25,595 for the base model to $28,695 for the Limited Edition with automatic transmission.

If you watched the MTV Video Music Awards last night you saw the latest ad for the Kia Soul and the return of hamsters. The “Totally Transformed” campaign was set to the new single, “Applause” from Lady Gaga. If you missed it, the ad can be viewed at:

NFL teams are still in training camp, but Chevy is looking ahead to the Super Bowl this fall. After sitting out last year’s game, advertising wise, the bow tie will return to the 2014 contest to promote its new car and truck models.

You have to admire 102-year-old Floyd Pullin of Pennsylvania. He just bought his 16th new Ford – an F-150 pickup. According to USA Today, the dealer threw a party for one of its model loyal customers and he was presented with a video of the event.

Nissan said production is underway in Cuernavaca, Mexico of its so-called “Taxi of Tomorrow.” After all, Crown Vics are only going to run for so long. Nissan’s is based on the NV200 compact cargo vehicle and you may remember that the Taxi and Limousine Commission of New York City selected it as the exclusive taxi for the city. Nissan hired city cab drivers to test drive the vehicles around Gotham, and they, undoubtedly. gave their unabashed opinions.




Saturday Road Test -Toyota Tacoma

Tacoma & Mazdaspeed 018


2013 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab

Tough Dude in a Smaller Package

By Ron Amadon

DAMACUS, MD – Mid-sized trucks seem to be staging a bit of a comeback these days with GM announcing it will bring back the Chevy Colorado and its near twin brother, the GMC Canyon.

Production will begin next year at a plant in Missouri as the Nissan Frontier soldiers along with this weekend’s test vehicle, the Toyota Tacoma.

Like the Frontier, the Tacoma will be virtually the same truck in the 2014 model year, and that is not a bad thing based on a week behind the wheel on all kinds of road conditions, and in some cases, where there was NO road per say.

A wide variety of cabs and options are offered in the Toyota lineup, from very bare bones with a four cylinder, no A/C, and a stick shift to a top-of-the-line luxury truck – the version that seems to be catching the eye of owners these days.

The test truck was a “Double Cab” Tacoma and that is the model you should select if you hope to haul some adults in the back seat. In the double cab, two can get rather comfy back there and various folding of the seats will open up some private storage space for keeping valuable cargo out of sight.

tacoma inrerior


Unlike it’s bigger brethren, the Tacoma does not offer a big V8 as an engine option, but gets along quite nicely with a 236 horsepower 4.0 liter V6 that produces 266-lb-ft of torque and is an especially refined unit. It gets along rather nicely with the standard 5-speed automatic transmission, with the combination rated at 16-21 miles per gallon of regular gas by the EPA. I checked in at 19 mpg.

An extended off road trip in West Virginia revealed what a solid build this truck is and how convenient it is to have an easy to reach dial that allows you to quickly go four wheelin’. The automatic limited slip differential and the 9” of ground clearance, along with a tough suspension front and rear demonstrated that the Tacoma was ready for bigger challenges off road than I was able to muster along historic trails where whistles of old Western Maryland steam engines once echoed off the hills on still nights.

Inside during all this, the A/C purred away the very hot and humid weather outside, and the “SofTex” sport seats proved comfortable with just a few minor adjustments during a 300-mile drive. It was great to have three big knobs on the center stack and not on a touch screen to adjust the ventilation, the blue ringed instrument panel  was a classy touch, and, no surprise, fit and finish was excellent.

Tacoma cruised nicely at 70 on the interstates, with plenty of pep to pass slow moving semis on the somewhat steep mountain grades. Visibility was good, as it is with most pickups, but I am aware that those of shorter stature feel the seating position is too low in the Tacoma.

Tacoma & Mazdaspeed 019

Look down the price sticker of the test truck and your eye will first catch a rather major option package, totaling a wallet grabbing $7,210. The “Limited Extra Value Package” brings 18” chrome clad alloy wheels with P265/60R mud and snow tires, various trim pieces, fog lamps, leather trimmed steering wheel, outside mirrors with turn signal indicators, and steering wheel mounted audio controls, among other items.

A $650 Tow Package allows the Tacoma to handle up to 6,500 pounds. There was a mat cover and lots of D Ring tie-downs in the truck bed.

With transportation, the test truck carried a price tag of $37,157. A fair amount for a mid-sized truck but owners can check fewer options and reduce the monthly payment accordingly. It should be remembered that if you click a lot of option boxes on a full size pick up the price can hit the upper $60k region or more.

With the Tacoma you will end up with a tough, long lasting, well-built truck that is roughly 22 inches shorter than a full size pickup and therefore easier to handle when assigned to around town chores.

Toyota offers a 2-year, 25,000 complimentary maintenance plan for all normal factory scheduled service with 24/7 roadside assistance. Given the truck’s reliability, you may never use it.

Auto News for Aug. 23

If the forecasters are correct, August auto sales should maintain their current robust pace. J.D. Power and LMC Automotive predict sales will increase 12 percent when the official figures come out early in September. Kelley Blue Book is predicting even stronger sales – an increase of 13.6 percent.

Chevy said small and compact car sales are up 229 percent from the second quarter of 2010 to the same quarter this year. It said the increase was driven by demand for the Cruze, Sonic and Spark mini car. The Cruze, it said, was the top selling Chevy among buyers under age 25.

The Nissan Quest and the Ford Expedition XLT carry the biggest discounts these days according to It said the Cadillac SRX, BMW X5, and Dodge Durango SXT round out the top five.

You probably won’t fall out of your chair to learn that Motor Trend has named the Porsche Carrera 4S as the Best Driver’s Car of the year.

Nissan has released a teaser photo of the redesigned 2014 Rogue that it says “will push the envelope” of cross over vehicles. It will be unveiled Sept. 10 and appear in showrooms later this year.

2014 Nissan Rogue

Auto News for Aug 21


Widely praised in Europe, the Ford Fiesta ST will arrive in this country by the end of summer as a five-door hatch. It packs in a 1.6-liter turbo four mated to a six speed manual (!) transmission. Output is measured at 197 horsepower with 202 lb-ft of torque and owners can specify Recaro seats. European car mags have rung up a 0-62 time of 6.9 seconds.

VW has upped the horsepower of its Golf R. The new car has 30 more ponies for a total of 296 and the maker claims a 0-60 time of 4.9 seconds with the DSG dual-clutch automatic and a top speed of 155. The 2.0-liter is tied to an all-wheel drive tranny and VW claims fuel economy increases by 18 percent for a combined 34 mpg. The new “R” launches in the fourth quarter.

By now you know that Porsche and Corvette are celebrating birthdays, but VW wants us to remember another and much slower car, the Karmann Ghia. The first prototype appeared at the Paris Motor Show 60 years ago. For those who don’t remember, it was a sporty car that seated two and, for mechanical purposes, was a Beetle. VW made 450,000 of them over the years, a few of which made it into my driveway as an inexpensive but very dependable sporty car. Production ended in 1974.

Karmann Ghia

A Cummins V8-turbo diesel will be among the engine options on the 2015 redesigned Nissan Titan pickup. Cummins said the engine is good for 300 horsepower and about 550 lb-ft of stump pulling torque.

GM said its new Silverado/Sierra pickup has scored a five star rating in government crash tests. As in hotels, five stars is the highest possible rating.

This year’s Woodward Dream Cruise in Michigan attracted a few folks – 1.3 million of them according to the Detroit Free Press.



Auto News for Aug. 20

Triple A projects 34.1 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home over the Labor Day holiday. That is a 4.2 percent increase from last year due to increased consumer confidence tied to the improving housing market, it said. Eighty percent will make their move by automobile and the average traveler is expected to spend $804 on what could be their final family getaway of the summer.

Automotive News and Forbes are reporting that Toyota has told dealers they can drop the Scion brand without penalty due to sagging sales. Forbes reports Scion sales are off 9 percent on a year-over-year basis. How many of the approximately 1,000 Scion dealers will take Toyota up on its offer remains to be seen.



TransUnion reports that average monthly auto loan balances are up 4.5 percent, yet many consumers are keeping up with payments. It said the delinquency rate actually dropped a fraction in the first quarter.

If you are thinking about new wheels, said this may be the time to make a move. Dealers now have a large inventory of 2013 models and are anxious to move those vehicles as the 2014’s start rolling off the trucks.

Kelley Blue Book said a survey of thousands of consumers reveals that “women car shoppers are much more financially conscious than men.” That translates to more women shopping Honda, Kia, and Mazda “for more bang for the buck,” the survey showed. It said men are more likely to consider a vehicle from an American maker or European luxury brand such as Audi.