Saturday Road Test – Mazda CX-3

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Mazda CX-3

Good Fun in a Small Crossover

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – When Mazda was totally redesigning the CX-3 for 2016, someone forgot to tell them that vehicles this size are not supposed to be fun to drive. Utilitarian, yes, fun to drive no!

But this is Mazda, a smallish car builder that believes you can have your cake and drive it too.

Fortunately, the CX-3 Grand Touring model with All-Wheel Drive arrived before the big blizzard hit greater Washington, D.C. with at least two feet of snow in these parts. Look closely at the snow picture accompanying this story – there’s a Mazda there somewhere!

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As the storm was still building energy in the Gulf, I was able to have a delightful afternoon on curve laden back roads with the CX in Sport Mode and the fast acting paddle shifts extracting all the Skyactiv 2.0 liter, 146 horsepower four with 146 lb-ft of torque had to offer. No CVT here, the tranny was a conventional six speed.

While the four can get a tad raspy above 4,000 rpm on its way to the 6,800 redline, the powertrain delivers lots of spunk, Lou Grant notwithstanding. It felt more responsive than the roughly 8.5 second run to 60 that many testers have reported.

What you have is a suspension, engine, transmission, steering, and even front seats that join together in perfect harmony that is smoother than Scat Man Crothers. Make no mistake, this is not a sports car, but you will have more fun driving this one than all of its competition.

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Inside, there is sufficient room for two adults up front with great seats that will hold your bod in place on the curves mentioned above. Right where it where it belongs, immediately ahead of the driver, is the easy to read tach. Speed reading comes in two forms. A digital read out at the lower right of the tach, and in a head up display that is a piece of clear plastic that pops up from the upper dash board upon ignition.

There is also a 7” color touch screen center dash that can be controlled by a large knob located on the center console. It can be rotated to select whatever function you desire.

However, there are some downsides here. You cannot use the console mounted front arm rest and the cup holders at the same time. The arm rest folds over them, and due to space restrictions, it will be an awkward arm twist to the rear to grab your beverage of choice.

Second row leg room will be limited especially if there are two six footers up front and there is not an abundance of storage space even with the second row folded. But these are things you will face, to one degree or another, in all the baby crossovers. Those desiring to haul more stuff should take a serious look at the CX-5.

Of course, its size does make the CX-3 easy to maneuver whether that is parking in a small spot surrounded by snow banks, (OK, I will stop referring to the storm) or in and out of big city traffic.

EPA mileage is 27 mpg city, 32 highway, for a combined 29 mpg. Because I loved Sport Mode, I came out with 25 mpg.

On the interstates things were not totally quiet inside, but wind and road noise were on par with the CX-3’s brethren.

Our top-of-the-line Grand Touring edition came with a long list of standard features, actually two of them on the price sticker. For $1,920 there was an optional I-Activesense Package with a number of safety features such as Lane Departure Warning, automatic braking and a forward collision mitigation system. Add in mobile start for $550 plus a rear bumper guard, and the well-equipped Mazda carried a reasonable MSRP of $29,690.

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That included 18” alloy wheels, excellent LED headlights, heated front seats, Navi, and automatic climate controls that were adjusted via three large, believe it or not, KNOBS!!! Hurray!

A rear view camera, blind spot monitoring, traction control, and rear cross traffic alert were also on board.

Warranty? 60 months or 60,000 miles on the powertrain and 3 years, 36,000 mile bumper to bumper coverage.

If you want a nimble, fun runabout in the crowded small crossover pack, do check out the CX-3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Auto News for Jan. 29 – NSX & the Super Bowl

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Here is a Super Bowl ad that should catch your eye and ear. Acura will used Van Halen’s “Runnin’ with the Devil” to promote its NSX super car. This marks the first time the song has been released for advertising use. Acura will start taking orders for the mid-engine, very fast NSX on Feb. 25.

A 2005 Maserati Quattroporte V, once owned by Sir Elton John, will be auctioned off in Great Britain on March 19th. Included in the sale will be the original Maserati welcome letter, a leather covered key tray, tool kit, gloves and car cover. It only has 28,000 miles on it and in this country would qualify as a “certified” used car.

As reported here yesterday, Ford reported hefty earnings and as a result 52,900 United Auto Workers Union members will receive profit sharing checks totaling $9,300. The Detroit News reports they have already received $1,500 of that.

The high cost of the Takata airbag recall has taken toll on Honda’s profits. In the company’s latest quarter, profits fell 19 percent to $1 billion even with up sales up 3.4 percent. Honda is sticking with its forecast of a profit increase of 3 percent for its fiscal year that ends in late March.

General Motors is putting together a team, not to take on the Detroit Tigers, but to focus on the creation of autonomous vehicles. Executive Doug Parks will head the team as vice president of autonomous technology and vehicle execution.

JD Power is forecasting a 4.5 percent decline in U.S. auto sales this month due to the big blizzard. Other forecasters have predicted a 3 per cent setback. We will get official figures next Tuesday.

As a follow up to a story that appeared here yesterday, Toyota has made it official – It will spend $3 billion to acquire the rest of small car maker Daihatsu. The move is designed to improve Toyota’s sales in emerging markets.

 

 

 

Auto News Update for Jan.28 – Ford’s Earnings

Auto News Update – Ford Earnings

Wall Street should love these figures and Ford should love North America and the F-150 truck.

Before the markets opened this morning, Ford reported fourth quarter earnings of 58 cents a share, well above the 51 cents that many analysts had forecasted. The company benefited from months of strong consumer demand new SUV’s and trucks, especially the F-150 that remains the nation’s top selling vehicle. It has been on top of the best seller list for 34 years, more than “Gone with the Wind.”

A good chunk of the earnings came from North America, but demand is on the rise in Europe now, and in fact, Ford made money in every region except South America.

For all of 2105, the company reported a pre-tax profit, excluding special items, of $10.8 billion, a gain of $3.5 billion from a year ago.

“We promised a breakthrough year in 2015, and we delivered. In 2016, we will continue to build on our strengths and accelerate our pace of progress even further, while transforming Ford into both an auto and a mobility company and creating value for all of our stakeholders,” said Mark Fields, Ford President and CEO.

 

 

 

 

Auto News for Jan. 28 – Two Models on Short Leash

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Fiat Chrysler wants to clear more production space for hot selling Jeeps and Ram Trucks, so “over a prolonged period of time” it will discontinue the Dodge Dart and the Chrysler 200 models, CEO Sergio Marchionne has announced. In revising the company’s business plan, he acknowledged current sales patterns for the Detroit three that overwhelmingly show customers want crossovers, SUV’s and trucks. He called that a permanent shift in sentiment and predicted that low gas prices, that help maintain that trend, will be with us for a long time. Marchionne left open the possibility that FEC could partner with someone to replace the two cars once they are discontinued. Further, FCA will reduce its investments in Alfa Romeo and delay plans to expand the lineup with eight new models by two years to mid-2020. Wall Street reaction to this and FCA’s earnings announcement? The stock closed down 13 cents or 1.74 percent.

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Callaway will announce a Chevy Camaro with the shaker hood and more than 600 horsepower on Feb. 18, according to the Detroit News. Simply put, when the supercharger was added to the Camaro V8 there was no room to close the hood. So the shaker was added. The new offering will be known as the Callaway Camaro SC600. It will be a limited edition model and sold through select North American Chevy dealers. Callaway said the SC will offer “serious horsepower”!

The big East Coast blizzard is expected to take a bite out of January car and truck sales, but analysts believe things will rebound in February and March, weather permitting of course. Automakers will report January 2016 sales on Feb. 2 and Kelley Blue Book predicts sales will be off 3 percent.

Heads may roll at Takata with Reuters reporting that the company is laying the groundwork for the ouster of CEO Shigehisa Takada and other officials. The company, as you have heard, has been under fire for faulty airbag inflators in almost 50 million vehicles that maybe linked to 11 deaths. Reuters quoted two unnamed Takata officials.

Oregon has a law that generally requires that an attendant pump gas at service stations, but that could change. A new survey of drivers shows that 51 percent like the idea of full service stations, but 41 percent think it’s time for a change. The poll was conducted for PEMCO Insurance. Twice as many men compared to women favor changing the law. Roughly one quarter of those surveyed were not sure they were putting the proper octane in their vehicle.

 

 

 

Auto News for Jan. 27

For the fourth year in a row Toyota was the top selling brand worldwide in 2015, beating out VW and GM. Toyota sold 10.151 million vehicles and that figure even topped company projections. To help it remain in first place, Toyota may make an offer to acquire the 49 percent it already doesn’t own in Daihatsu but it denied a report out of Japan that it might go after Suzuki.

Fiat Chrysler profits fell last year even with a good showing here in North America thanks to continued strong demand for its Jeeps. Recalls, slowing markets in Brazil and Asia, along with investment charges reduced the profit figure down to about $410 million, or about a 40 percent decline. The company is expected to have more to say about all this during a conference call with Wall Streeters later today that may include what CEO Sergio Marchionne has called a significant realignment of products in North America.

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Say hello to the GMC Sierra All Terrain X designed for rugged off road experiences thanks to 4WD with an Eaton locking rear differential and Rancho monotube shocks among other goodies. An inclinometer is situated in the driver information center to keep things on the up and up. Traction should be aided by 265/65R18SL Mud-Terrain Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires that carry a name almost as big as the tires themselves. The package will be offered on the Sierra 1500 4WD crew cab/short box models with SLT trim.

Auto News for Jan. 26 – Vibrating Gas Pedals!

Get ready for the active gas pedal. It is a device developed by Bosch that will deliver a vibration to the driver’s foot in various circumstances such as entering a sharp turn at a high rate of speed. It can also alert drivers if they are exceeding the speed limit. Bosch claims the device can improve gas mileage by 7 percent. On hybrids, it can let the operator know when the gas engine is about to fire up and take over from the electric moor, so they can lighten the amount of pressure on the gas pedal.

Ford is expanding its recall of vehicles with defective Takata airbag inflators. It will now cover 391,395 Ranger trucks manufactured from 2004 to 2006.

Baron’s is reporting that Tesla’s 2015 fourth quarter earnings will be affected by the slower than expected roll out of the Model X. It said that J.P. Morgan has lowered its fourth quarter earnings estimate for Tesla to a dime per share from 26 cents. After the announcement, Tesla shares dropped to their lowest price since April of last year.

Honda announced it will start leasing its fuel cell sedan, the Clarity, in California before the year ends. Retail sales are expected to follow soon thereafter. The new Clarity will be smaller than the current model and more powerful.

Auto News for Jan. 25 – Snow up to …

The lights are on, the snow has piled up 26 inches deep, but we are back with the day’s auto news! We were lucky.  One location in West Virginia received 41 inches!

Detroit was not touched by the Blizzard of ’16 so attendance at the big auto show totaled 815,575, or well above last year’s turnout. The Washington D.C. show was scheduled to open Saturday, the 23rd, but now will open to the public until tomorrow. Officials in the District, Maryland and Virginia are still urging people to just stay home as the cleanup operation continues. Governments, including the Fed are closed, as are virtually all schools.

Saying there is no reasonable path to profitability; Ford is shutting down all operations in Japan and Indonesia this year. GM halted production of its vehicles in Indonesia last year. In Japan, Ford sold about 5,000 vehicles last year with a slim 1.5 percent of the market. It will shutter 52 dealerships there.

Honda’s HR-V has been named Green SUV of the Year and the Volvo XC90 Luxury Green Car of the Year, by the Green Car Journal.

 

Saturday Road Test – 2016 Honda Accord Sport

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2016 Honda Accord Sport

Still an MVP

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – When you are good, really good, your record speaks for itself.

Such is the case for the nation’s third best selling sedan, the Honda Accord. A total of 29 times, including 2016, it has been on Car & Driver’s 10 Best Cars List. Edmunds.com gave it an “A” rating, and road testers across the country continue to say that it’s a winner. I agree!

A refresh for the New Year brings a revised suspension, a more rigid body, and upsized wheels and tires.

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This weekend’s test car was a Sport model, the second in the four trim Honda line up. It adds four more horsepower over the base model to 189 with 182 lb-ft of torque thanks to a less restrictive exhaust that also helped produce a sweet, sweet sound when the 6,800 rpm redline is kissed. Zero to 60 in less than eight seconds, by the way, aided by one of the better CVT’s on the market.

Sport buyers also get 19” x 8” inch slick looking alloy wheels, rear deck spoiler, LED daytime running lights, fog lights, and fast acting paddle shifts.

Those seeking more power can opt for the 3.5-liter, 278 horsepower six with 252 lb-ft of torque. The six is a smooth and wonderful power plant, but the four produces enough acceleration to meet most needs.

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Inside, Sport owners will find a more elegant interior than one might expect in a sub $30K vehicle. New for 2016 is glossy piano black interior trim and carbon fiber style dashboard trim.

The “Sport Combination” cloth seats were comfortable with drivers getting an eight-way power adjustable seat with two-way lumbar adjustments and a leather wrapped steering wheel. Two full grown adults will find more than adequate space in the 60/40 folding rear seat.

Trunk volume comes to 15.8 cubic feet, or about what one would expect in a midsize sedan.

Sound wise the base AM/FM/CD/MP3 Audio System produced some good notes, but I still miss an old fashioned knob for volume control. The hard to grasp sliding control is at least somewhat offset by a volume control on the steering wheel. Standard was Bluetooth, a USB port, Pandora interface, and SMS messaging functionality. More upscale models get Honda’s first-ever application of available Apple Car Play and Android Auto.

The ride was a tad on the stiff side, but redemption came with better than expected handling. The Accord now sports high performance dampers, and a retuned electric power steering system plus a lighter weight aluminum hood replacing the steel cover used last year.

On the safety front, the test Accord came with “Honda Sensing” that brought forth Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist System, and Adaptive Cruise Control. Equipped with that package, the Accord received a Top Safety Pick + rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

And let’s hear it for Honda for making the rear view camera standard on all models. Missing from the test car was the LaneWatch blind spot system that gives drivers a view of what they can’t see on the right once the turn signal is engaged. It is standard on EX models and above.

Even with gas getting ever cheaper, you probably want to know about economy. Mine came to 26.1 mpg during a week’s test that included mostly small town and interstate driving. The EPA rates the Sport at 26 city, 35 highway for a combined 30 mpg.

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Now here is the best part, and here is something that I can’t always say about a test car. That big highlight is the price!

With delivery, the MSRP was $26,785. These days a well-built, nicely trimmed, high quality and long lasting car for under $30K is a rarity.

Given her Accord experience, Mrs. Auto Evaluator will tell one and all that at even at 100,000 miles the car is barely broken in.

FYI, a base LX model with a 6-speed stick can be had for $22,105 starting price. The top-of-the-line Touring model with the V6 starts at $34,580.

 

Auto News for Jan. 22 – Blizzard Coming!

A growing awareness of safety defects and increased government enforcement led to a record number of vehicle recalls last year of more than 51 million, according to transportation experts. Yet, every year, 25 percent of recalled vehicles are left unrepaired. So the National Highway Safety Administration is launching a program to encourage more owners to bring their vehicles to dealers for the required repairs. “The campaign makes a simple point: Taking action on a safety recall keeps you and the people you love safe,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind.

Readers please note: The greater Washington, D.C. area is about to be hit with a possibly record setting blizzard that could leave behind 30 inches of a white stuff topped off by rather large snow drifts. This leaves open the question of whether connectivity and even electric power will be available here at the home office. So the Saturday Road Test feature will be filed later today, and the Auto News feature may be delayed next week depending on conditions. Sure wish I had made a bid on an old Army deuce and a half that I saw for sale last summer!

General Motors global sales totaled 9.8 million vehicles last year, the company’s third consecutive year of record sales. North American deliveries were up six percent while sales in China came to a record 3.6 million vehicles.

With gas prices nationwide now under $2 a gallon, comes word that Toyota Prius sales fell nearly 11 percent last year. Sales of the Ford C-Max were also lower as people shun hybrids.

Ford announced it will put automatic stop-start technology on thousands of its F-150 trucks to increase their gas mileage. Starting in 2017, it will be standard equipment on trucks with the turbocharged EcoBoost engines.

Want to wow ‘em around the coffee pot at work this morning? Tell them about a new study that concluded that the global automotive rubber hose market will grow 4.2 percent by the year 2020.

 

Auto News for Jan. 21 – Uber for Dinner?

Uber will soon make sure that you have a nice dinner even when the cupboard is bare. In ten cities, it will offer a meal delivery service in the near future via a new UberEats app. The full menus of dozens of restaurants will be offered in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Washington, San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston, Seattle, Dallas, and Austin.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into complaints that doors do not latch properly on 400,000 Ford Focus models. Involved are model years 2012 and 2013. The Detroit News said there have been reports of the doors opening while the cars were in motion. NHTSA could seek a recall.

Audi RS10

Audi announced that its fastest and most powerful production model, the R8 V10, will carrying an MSRP of $162,900 with the R8 V10 plus selling for $189,900. The plus model’s V10 generates 610 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque and can reach a top speed of 2015 mph on the track with a zero to 60 in 3.2 seconds. That new model sports racing shell seats, carbon ceramic brakes, carbon fiber rear diffuser, front lip spoiler, exterior mirror housings and fixed rear wing spoiler. The base, if one can call it that, has a V10 with 540 horsepower, 398 lb-ft of torque and a 0-60 in 3.5 seconds. Both offer a seven speed dual-clutch transmission, and of course, all wheel drive.