Category Archives: Chevrolet

2012 Chevrolet Volt (892)

Overview: 

This week we’re looking at the 2012 Chevrolet Volt all electric passenger car. Remember the Saturn EV-1 all electric little coupe? Well that was truly all electric and nothing else. The Volt is not technically all electric, since it has a small engine to generate the electric charge for the batteries that in turn run the motor that powers the drive wheels. You can however charge the batteries from home where you charge the batteries by plugging into your electric outlets. It takes about 8 hours or you can hook up to 220 and charging takes 3 hours.

GM says, “The Volt is Chevrolet’s new front-wheel drive, four-passenger electric vehicle with extended range capability. Powered exclusively by the electric motor, the Volt also includes a small gasoline engine that powers a generator to charge the battery for additional range beyond the storage capacity of the battery. The Volt is expected to have a 40 mile range on electric power when the 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack is fully charged. The range increases to 300 miles with the battery fully charged and the fuel tank full. The battery can be recharged in less than 3 hours on 240 volts or in about 8 hours on a standard 120-volt outlet. Volt is expected to initially be available in California, Michigan, Washington D.C., New York and Austin, Texas. The Chevrolet Volt comes standard with the OnStar advanced communication system.”

Handling & Performance:

Other than being quiet as a mouse while running it is a nice performer and very comparable to a conventional gas powered car of similar size. 0-60 mph was clocked at about 8 seconds. Not bad.

Styling:

This is a very nice looking car in my opinion. It is immediately recognizable but I think that is because I had driven the car. You know when you own a Chevy Malibu you notice ever one on the highway. Chevrolet has always had such classic styling and GM generally. At a car rally at Bob’s Big Boy in Taluka Lake (Friday Nights) I saw so many Chevy products because they were so Popular. My ’57 Hardtop came back to mind and I loved that car. Yellow with a White top. Classic doesn’t get any better for me. Second best for me was my ’32 Ford Corvette powered Sedan. Memories are great and probably better than being there. It was Will Rogers who said, “Things ain’t what they used to be and probably never was”.

Fit and Finish:

Very good in class.

Cost:

As you can see, the Volt is at the high end of these ‘Pseudo’ competitors. All the others are Hybrids and they just aren’t the same thing, with the exception of the Nissan Leaf that is also all electric… really ALL ELECTRIC, with no engine at all. Volt is more money but the range is right around 300 miles depending on how heavy your foot is on the accelerator.

Conveniences and comfort:

Very comfortable for a compact car with all the conveniences you’d expect. However the back seat is quite cramped reminding those of us who sat back there, of a Camaro or Mustang – very little foot room.

Consumer Recommendation:

You will have to consider the purchase price of the Volt and factor in the charging facilities at the office and home. I found I could run the extension cord provided to my outlet at the office just fine but in an 8 hour day I’d get a charge of about 25 miles from a totally spent battery. The anxiety of worrying about running out of battery rules out the Nissan Leaf that has a range of 75-109 miles. Owners dispute that claim which I can understand by driving the Volt on electric alone (I experienced with my driving habits about 32 miles on a full charge). Going down a grade extends the range dramatically but what goes down must go up and that is far more taxing on the batteries. A major advantage of the Volt however is that it DOES have a gas engine to keep the charge of the batteries at enough to continue to drive another 250 miles.

The knee jerk reaction of most I spoke with is that simple math says that you won’t break even for about 10 years when you consider the added cost to buy the car coupled with the added cost of recharging the batteries and if you drive over 35 miles on your commute one way, you will begin using gas.

I could see where someone drives under 15 miles to the office and 15 back you could run a long time without ever having the engine come on. Then you’d only have the cost of electricity. In that regard I noticed the usage before and after plugging in the charger to be twice the speed of the wheel turning… however I have not calculated the kwh usage consumption. GM claims 36 KW-hrs per 100 miles and 2.7 gallons of gas usage per 100 miles. That sounds about right.

Recognized Competition:

Chevrolet Volt $40,000, Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid $ n/a, Ford Fusion Hybrid $29,000, Honda Civic Hybrid $26,000, Honda Insight $20,000, Infiniti M Hybrid $54,000, Lexus CT 200h $29,000, Nissan Altima Hybrid $27,000, Nissan Leaf $33,000, Toyota Camry Hybrid $27,000.

Good News:

Great manageable fuel economy, great commuter if less than 40 miles round trip, a lot of neat convenience features standard, made in USA and very ‘green’.

Bad News:

Recharge plug-in procedure is a constant daily requirement for the average commuter.

Standard Equipment:

1.4 liter engine for electric power generation, Lithium Ion battery propulsion via Voltec electric drive unit, portable charge cord automatic transmission, front wheel drive, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, stability and traction controls, front & side airbags, 17” forged aluminum wheels, power mirrors, climate control, power windows & locks, tilt & telescopic steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, remote start & keyless entry, Bluetooth phone, color touch radio with 7” screen & 6 speakers with XM satellite radio with 3 month subscription, tire pressure monitor, usb port, aux. audio input jack, front bucket seats, 40/40 split folding rear seatback, 3 years OnStar directions with auto crash response, turn-by-turn navigation, myvolt.com and remotelink, theft deterrent system with content theft alarm.

Gas Stats:

$3.85/ Gal avg. October 30, 2011

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

37 City and Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $39,145.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2011 – An Automotive Love Affair

2011 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 4WD Crew Cab 2HY Hybrid (877)

Overview: 

This week we’re looking at the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 4WD Crew Cab 2HY Hybrid. I own a 1985 Silverado and got to wondering how this new Silverado will look in the year 2037. Will it hold up as well, better or the same as my 1985?

As to this new 2011 Silverado, the first thing you notice after you close the door is how quiet it is and the seats are like easy chairs at home. Then as I drive down the highway, I notice how solid it feels. It is light years better than the 1985 I have. I also think of my 1955 Ford Pickup and back then we were happy to sit on a milk crate as seating, so it was a luxury having a bench seat with coil springs. Literally you look under the seat which is hollow and you could see the coil springs holding up the seat covering and providing some seat cushion. That was real luxury. Those were also the days when Crank up windows were the norm and there was also a hole in the grill where you inserted the ‘Hand Crank’ to start the engine when the starter failed. Even further back to the Pre-electric Starter days, which WAS before my time, was when dad had to start his cars with a hand crank. Ringing any bells?

I’m sure any of you who remember “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” and other “E” Ticket rides at Disneyland will relate to my comment above.

General Info:

Parts – US/Canadian 61%; Mexico 34%.

Engine – Engine – Mexico, Transmission – US.

Assembly – Silao, GJ, Mexico

Class  – Standard Pick up Trucks

Cars – Avalanche, Aveo, Aveo 5, Camaro, Cobalt, Colorado, Corvette, Cruze, Equinox, Express, Express Cargo Van, HHR, Impala, Malibu, Malibu Hybrid, Silverado 1500, 2500HD, 3500 HD, Hybrid, Suburban, Tahoe, Tahoe Hybrid, TrailBlazer, Traverse & Volt.

Opinion: 

OK, so what’s your take on the diamond lane ‘off hours’ times? You know, that’s when it is posted that it is a diamond lane between the hours of 5AM to 9AM. In other words it functions as a HOV lane during heavy traffic hours. Does that mean outside of heavy traffic hours the double yellow lines can be ignored? If it is not a diamond lane then entry and exit should be allowed with a simple turn signal anywhere along the road. That is what is happening currently by many but that is because they obviously possess ‘common sense’.

What is your opinion?

What is the CHP opinion?

What is the Law?

What should the Law Be?

In Northern California as an example there ARE no double lines of any color separating diamond lane from others. Off heavy commuting hours you can use (enter and exit at will) any time any where. Now that is smart and something we apparently can’t expect from CALTRANS. I call that brain dead.

  • ·       Another thing that chaps my hide is the messages on signs on the highway. Not that they are there, but rather how some moron says, such as, “Slow down or move over for workers, IT’S THE LAW?” Well screw those arrogant bastards. Who the hell do they think they are? Who hired these idiots? Where did they learn to communicate?  . . . Oh excuse me. Right – Public Schools! That’s where students are dumbed down and learn very little. Civil people would write it something like “Please watch for your road workers and slow down in construction zones. Safety First. Thanks”.

Handling & Performance:

Fast was a real surprise, especially since it is a Hybrid. Kinda cool that you can creep along in slow traffic without the engine even engaging. That is a great capability for driving in LA traffic where freeways resemble parking lots more than highways.

Styling:

It’s a truck. No doubt about it. Hard to conceal that fact.

Fit and Finish:

Excellent.

Cost:

More pricey than I expected, but the price includes features that are all standard and including in the pricing.

Conveniences and comfort:

You get a lot and it’s all standard but it will cost you. They just save you the trouble of choosing options packages. Personally I prefer having the choice, plus it gives you the opportunity to bargain with the salespeople.

Consumer Recommendation:

Recognized Competition (MSRP):

Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid $48,000, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 $42,000, Dodge Ram 1500 $40,000, Ford F-150 $36,000, GMC Sierra 1500 $43,000, GMC Sierra 1500 Hybrid $42,000, Honda Ridgeline $32,000, Nissan Titan $40,000, Toyota Tundra $40,000.

Good News:

Super comfort, fast, fair fuel economy for a work truck and great features.

Bad News:

A little pricey.

Standard Equipment:

6.0 liter Vortec 332 horsepower V8 engine, 2 mode Hybrid transmission, Hybrid Propulsion Electric with 300 volt energy storage system, Z85 Handling and trailering suspension, power rack & pinion steering, HD trailering equipment, Locking rear differential, 4-wheel ABS with dynamic rear proportioning, front side and curtain airbags, remote keyless entry, auto headlights, stability control, OnStar directions & connections with auto crash response and turn by turn navigation, tire pressure Monitor system, Bluetooth, 17” wheels, front recovery hooks, power fold mirrors, deep tinted glass, fog lights, hard tonnear cover, power locks and windows, dual zone air conditioning, leather wrapped tilt steering wheel with audio controls, intermittent wipers, cruise control, power front bucket seats, stereo with CD player, NAV with traffic, audio system with touch screen, Bose Speakers and XM radio, power adjustable pedals and EZ lift and locking tailgate.

Gas Stats:

$3.75/ Gal avg. July 24, 2011

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

20 City and 23 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $47,820.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2011 – An Automotive Love Affair

2011 Chevrolet Cruze 1 LT (858)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze 1 LT 4-door sedan. OK, so I’m a Chevy man in part because my first car was a 1934 Chevrolet Coupe with a Rumble Seat and at 15 that was the ‘cats meow’. First loves are long lasting. By the way, please explain to the kids what a Rumble Seat is. And when you do I’ll bet you too will hum a little song that advertised Chevy back when unless you remember the words… “See the USA in your Chevrolet, America is asking you to call…” take a listen at this link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBH-pQ0QS6E. … and to see a video back in time with Dinah Shore 1952. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGZvQoPxhNs.

The new Cruze compact sedan replaces the Cobalt, intended to deliver style, roominess and upscale amenities while remaining fuel-efficient and inexpensive. It appears to have achieved those goals. It is offered with either a 1.8-liter Ecotec 4-cylinder engine or a 138-horsepower 1.4-liter Ecotec Turbo, which is the model I tested. Both come with either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. Eco trim expects to produce 40 mpg highway. OnStar comes standard on the Cruze.

General Info:

Parts – US/Canadian 45%; Mexico 15%, Austria 19%
Engine – Engine – Austria, Transmission – Mexico.
Assembly – Lordstown, OH, USA
Class – Compact
Cars – Avalanche, Aveo, Aveo 5, Camaro, Cobalt, Colorado, Corvette, Cruze, Equinox, Express, Express Cargo Van, HHR, Impala, Malibu, Malibu Hybrid, Silverado 1500, 2500HD, 3500 HD, Hybrid, Suburban, Tahoe, Tahoe Hybrid, TrailBlazer, Traverse & Volt.

Opinion:

Road conditions – Bob raised the concern and now I can’t help but notice that roads are horrible in many areas, yet you see new surfacing in areas that are not as bad. What’s that all about Cal Trans? Are there relatives and friends in those areas that are chosen to spend our tax dollars?

One observation is a case in point. I don’t drive down Wilshire Blvd in LA very often, but if you have you can attest there are potholes you could repel down and get lost in. That is flat dangerous (no pun intended) and if someone gets hurt big lawsuits are likely for the negligence of Cal Trans Management.

PS on another note – A big kiss to those hard working CHP officers writing tickets to fill the state treasury. Of course they are more interested in saving their own asses as they rip off the poor folks of the little money they have for food for their families. How about a salute as you pass one of these lovable enforcers.

Handling & Performance:

Now that’s what I’m talking about when it comes to fuel economy which is fast becoming a critical cost component. And I’m always thrilled to see these kind of MPG numbers from non-green cars. Put the pedal to the metal however and those numbers will be pushed down significantly. Europe has been producing high mileage cars for years, because gas prices there have been double those in America.

When I visit the pump more often than I’d like I avoid ‘jack rabbit’ starts and rapid acceleration generally.

Styling:

Some say it is a plain Jane but for my money it is pretty darn nice looking. Anyway I think the girl next door was always the best.

Fit and Finish:

Excellent in this price range compact sedan.

Cost:

Outstanding.

Conveniences and comfort:

OnStar – if you’ve never experienced this system you will agree it is worth the price of admission. I’ve been in remote areas of Kings Canyon National park in California and have been able to talk with a real live person. They knew exactly where I was as if they were following me. It is a navigation system with turn by turn instructions available when cell based systems won’t work.

Consumer Recommendation:

This is a broad segment of the market that is not only affordable to buy and operate it is nice looking to boot. This is a great inexpensive, good looking family car and commuter.

Recognized Competition (MSRP):

Chevrolet Cruze $18,000, Dodge Avenger $19,000, Dodge Caliber $17,000, Ford Focus $17,000, Honda Civic $16,000, Honda CR-Z $19,000, Hyundai Elantra $15,000, Jeep Compass $15,000, Kia Forte $15,000, Mazda 3 $16,000, Mitsubishi Eclipse $19,000, Mitsubishi Lancer $15,000, Nissan Sentra $16,000, Scion tC $18,000, Subaru Impreza $17,000, Toyota Corolla $15,000, Volkswagen Golf $18,000, Volkswagen GTI $24,000, Volkswagen New Beetle $19,000.

Good News:

Fast, comfy, very good fuel economy, good size trunk and roomy back seat and ITS MADE IN AMERICA! Sorry I didn’t mean to yell.

Bad News:

The Jury is out to see if GM can get it back together. What do you think?

Standard Equipment:

1.4 liter 138 hp inline 4 cylinder turbocharged engine, 6-speed auto transmission, front side and side curtain airbags front and back, stability and traction controls, 4-wheel front disc and rear drum ABS brakes, power door locks and child security with rear LATCH anchors, theft deterrent & alarm, remote keyless entry, 6-months OnStar directions and connections with auto crash response and turn/turn navigation, tire pressure monitor, 16” wheels, power mirrors, stereo with CD and XM with 6 speakers, 8-way manual adjuster seats, air conditioning, 60/40 split folding rear seat, tilt and telescoping steering column, cloth seating, power windows.

Gas Stats:

$3.91/ Gal avg. March 12, 2011
www.fueleconomy.gov <http://www.fueleconomy.gov/>
for more information.

24 City and 36 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $18,175.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2011 – An Automotive Love Affair

2009 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid 4-Wheel Drive (735)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid. Hybrid – what a great idea. But is all of this too little – too late? One can’t help but wonder why manufacturers didn’t see what the general public seems to have felt all along. Main street people were hoodwinked to think they were wrong – after all car companies kept cranking out big cars like there was nothing to worry about. Surely they must know! Surely they are much smarter than we are! Boy, how wrong we were to allow ourselves to be manipulated by a bunch of Bozo’s. High paid Bozo’s, but Bozo’s none the less.

Can it be the industry will melt down even further? Well – the American people are pretty resilient and I doubt they’ll continue to listen to the self proclaimed experts. We’re pretty trusting people generally. But when we learn we’ve been betrayed we take the bull by the horns and tough up to the task ahead. Historically we always have, so why would that be any different now. I suspect people will be more cynical about advertising in general as well. So from the ashes of the Phoenix a new sensitivity will emerge.

In 2000 we all anticipated a crash of sorts and everyone went out and bought “Survival Supplies”. I had a friend who moved to the Pacific Northwest, built a bunker, and stocked it with several months of supplies reminiscent of the 1950’s when lots of people built bomb shelters. My friend bought a full section of land with a 40 acre lake. I knew exactly where I would go if the prognosticators were correct. But would I get locked out like the depiction by Rod Serling’s production of the Twilight Zone episode dealing with such craziness of the world bent on Atomic Self Destruction.

Well – as each prophetic doom and gloom disaster came and went the average citizens life went on as before. I suspect it will again.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – Arlington, TX, USA.

Class:  – SUV

Cars: – Cobalt, Avalanche, Aveo, Aveo5,  Colorado, Corvette, Equinox, Express, Express Cargo Van, HHR, Impala, Malibu, Malibu Hybrid, Malibu Maxx, Monte Carlo, Silverado 1500, 2500, 3500 and Hybrid, Suburban, Tahoe & Hybrid, Trail Blazer and Uplander.

Observation:

Driving up the 14 freeway early in the morning I observed a caravan of Jeeps heading into the sunrise that was fighting to peek through threatening cloud formations sure to block out the sun all day. I wondered if America would be reduced to a shell of a once great nation. Would an economic melt down be our undoing or just another gloom and doom scenario pontificated by those same “Prophets” of past disasters.

I reflected on the movie Mad Max as those rugged Jeeps traveled single file up the highway anticipating some off road venue where they would prove they could survive beyond the city limits. What it meant to me was the realization that Americans posses that indomitable spirit of hearty ruggedness predominant just a generation ago. I believe we would quickly recapture the individual independence of the folks who made this country great and unsinkable. To me that Caravan symbolizes the spirit of ‘self reliance’ and the desire for a rebirth of a Nation that will collectively reject the failed policies of a corrupt and broken body politic.

Handling & Performance:

Then I reflected back on the fact I too was driving an off road vehicle. I thought about the Chevy Blazer that pulled me out of mud up to the running boards of the $101,000 Hummer I was testing off road.

I recalled the good old days when GM Ford and Chrysler were the only car companies. They were and are capable of making the best cars and trucks and SUVs in the world. This Tahoe Hybrid is every bit as good as the competition, I thought. It has the power needed for a vehicle of this type and purpose. It rides smoothly and for a big V8 the Hybrid technology allows 20 mpg in the city or on the highway – on and off road.  Then I got mad at the Bozo’s who have run the companies over the past half century as the fat cats mismanaged our auto industry while the more hungry Japanese were number 4 behind the big three and simply tried harder.

Fuel economy in this class is better than all the competition and similar SUVs that are not Hybrid the difference is consistently 20 mpg versus 13 for the others.

Styling:

“See the USA in your Chevrolet styling”.

Fit and Finish:

Excellent.

Cost:

Competitive in class.

Consumer Recommendation:

Resource – www.safercar.gov

If you, like me, want to support American products you should include them in your search for your next car. Or will Ford, once again, be the king of the car makers as they were at the beginning of the 20th century. They are the only one of the three who said they didn’t need bail out money.

Recognized Competition:

Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid $50-53,000, GMC Yukon Hybrid $51-54,000, Dodge Durango Hybrid $45,040, Chrysler Aspen Hybrid $45,270, Cadillac Escalade Hybrid $71-73,000, Toyota Highlander Hybrid $35-41,000, Mazda Tribute Hybrid $29-33,000.

Good News:

Big if you need big with decent fuel performance and better than most of the other big guys (nearly 3 ton vehicle with 332 hp engine).

Bad News:

Toyota (27 vs 21 for Tahoe) and Mazda (34 vs. 21) are far better in fuel economy numbers (consider Toyota is 209 hp and Mazda is 153 hp).

Standard Equipment:

6.0 liter 332 hp V8 engine, continuous electric ration hybrid 4-gear auto transmission, all leather seats, front heated, rear camera, Bose stereo, Nav system, front, side and side curtain air bags, OnStar with one year service with hands free calling, air conditioning, power windows, locks and mirrors, cruise control 18” aluminum wheels.

Gas Stats:

$1.59/ Gal avg. Dec. 12, ‘08

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

20 City and 20 Highway MPG

www.safercar.gov   or    888-327-4236

Pricing:

MSRP $50,490.

2009 Chevrolet Cobalt SS Turbo Sedan (727)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt SS Turbo Sedan. As gas prices go through the roof small cars come out of the woodwork. I will test the XFE model that is a high mileage version and will comment on that if it is significantly different from this SS.

You gotta just love the change in consumer attitude but does it point to more responsible cars or buyers. Is it a sign of impending doom for the hedonists who simply want more powerful, bigger and arguably better cars along with everything else our consuming society wants? Is the fixation with consumption to the max a thing of the past forever?

Have we been marketed to the point of stupidity? It surely is a wake up call to find new and better ways to have what we all seem to want – bigger, more powerful, more exciting and yes arguably better cars and everything else.

Consider that because oil is more dear and that we’re running out of it is all true, then human imagination will create better energy sources. Perhaps we’ll find teeny weenie nuclear power plants for our cars, houses etc. The human spirit won’t give up. That you can take to the bank. An old boss I once had used to encourage me as he wisely stated the fact that people just won’t accept defeat. They will always find a way around any problem. They always have and they always will. He was so positive and thus very successful.

Auto engineer friend and associate Merkel has been impressed with small cars for as long as I’ve known him. Especially European cars that get much more performance than typical American made cars. He has a stable of Fiat’s old and older. But what I see at Car Night for he and like minded car nerds is a gathering of passionate car nuts that truly have a love affair with cars. Not just because they are flashy or bigger or prettier – they are devoted to the magic of performance and redeeming qualities beyond the aesthetic value.

That reminds me I’ve always thought that is a good rule for selecting a mate as well. Practicality and function over form. Yes, I know, we all tend toward the form but the girl next door is the salt of the earth and the best in the long run and for the long haul… know what I mean.

Back to this Turbo powered pea popper. You can be practical as well as excited by just pressing the gas pedal to kick in the turbo and imagine you’re in a BMW. But the good news is you’ll do it for half the money you’d pay for the badges of any upscale car. This past week I was reminded how we need to keep things in perspective. It was Track Day for the Press. The race track gives you a sense of balance in the driving experience. The speedway road courses show how small a difference there is between cars like this Cobalt and the likes of Audi R8, Mercedes Benz SLR’s and other high performance cars. Taking hot laps in all cars with professional race drivers like Jeff Bodnar, Dave Murray, Hurley Haywood and partner Price Cobb is a humbling experience. And if most of us saddled up in the rocket cars and lined up against the pros in this Cobalt we’d be hard pressed to keep up. I guess that’s why we like raw power – because it makes us feel better than we are.

General Info:

Parts – US/Canadian 71%, Mexico 15%,

Assembly – Lordstown, OH, USA.

Class:  – Sub Compact

Cars: – Cobalt, Avalanche, Aveo, Aveo5,  Colorado, Corvette, Equinox, Express, Express Cargo Van, HHR, Impala, Malibu, Malibu Hybrid, Malibu Maxx, Monte Carlo, Silverado 1500, 2500, 3500 and Hybrid, Suburban, Tahoe & Hybrid, Trail Blazer and Uplander.

Handling & Performance:

Today cars are beginning to approach the fuel economy of motorcycles. Small cars still occupy twice as much road as a bike but half that of the Gas guzzling Trucks and SUV’s that have rapidly gone out of style in the first decade of the 21st Century. In fact Track Day 2008 saw very few high performance cars, trucks and SUV’s than I’ve seen in the past 16 years. Most on the list below were all that were being tested because they are news and what is of interest to most of us now that the cost to operate our cars is going up faster than our pay checks.

The inclusion of Turbo power is a great option to consider in small cars since the highways demand the ability to get out of harms way quickly. The 2.2 liter non-turbo in the LS and LT models develops 155 hp and the turbo charged 2.0 liter standard in the SS model coupe and sedan develops 260 hp. Big difference in performance.

Styling:

The sedan is pretty ordinary but if you don’t need the 4 doors the coupe is very attractive.

Fit and Finish:

Average.

Cost:

Cost is another thing altogether in considering which model to choose. The SS will cost at least $4,000 more than the LT2 and about $7,000 more than the LS, for example.

Features and Conveniences:

If you like OnStar and decide to keep it ask about the Turn-by-turn navigation upgrade. It is really cool and has got me out of trouble on occasion. Otherwise the standard features list is extensive.

Consumer Recommendation:

Resource – www.safercar.gov

Since 2005 all cars in class have increased on average $2,000. I wouldn’t have guessed that initially, but considering that money doubles every 10 years at 7% it puts into perspective that consumers are ahead of the game. The rate of climb in price is far less than that rule of thumb. So the car you’re buying in this class is a pretty good buy relative to many other consumer products.

Recognized Competition:

Chevrolet Cobalt $16-23,000, Ford Focus $15-18,000, Dodge Caliber $16-24,000, Toyota Corolla $15-20,000, Acura TSX $29-32,000, Pontiac G5 $17-20,000, Subaru Impreza $17-28,000, Hyundai Elantra $14-17,000, Honda Civic $15-25,000, Jeep Compass $18-24,000, Mini Clubman $20-31,000, Mini Cooper $19-29,000, Saturn Astra $ n/a, Nissan Sentra $16-20,000, Volkswagen Rabbit $16-18,000, Volkswagen GTI $23,000, Volkswagen Jetta $17-23,000, Mitsubishi Lancer $14-26,000, Suzuki SX4 Sport $13-17,000, Suzuki SX4 Crossover $15-18,000, Mazda 3 $14-21,000, Mazda Speed 3 $23-24,000 and Kia Spectra $13-16,000

Good News:

Good performance, fun to drive, great features.

Bad News:

Plain ordinary styling.

Standard Equipment:

2.0 liter 260 horsepower inline 4-cylinder Turbo powered engine, 5-speed manual transmission, speed sensitive electric power steering, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes with Brembo 4-piston front calipers, dual air bags with curtain side bags, theft deterrent, LATCH system, stability and traction control, OnStar with 1 year provided, tire pressure monitor, 18” aluminum wheels, power mirrors, rear spoiler, fog lights, intermittent wipers, air, stereo with CD player, XM Satellite radio 3 month fee included, Bluetooth for phone, sport bucket seating, split folding rear seat, tilt leather wrapped wheel with audio controls, Cruise control, power windows and locks and remote keyless entry.

Gas Stats:

$3.05/ Gal avg. October 29, ‘08

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

22 City and 30 Highway MPG

www.safercar.gov  or   888-327-4236

Pricing:

MSRP $22,775, with options $23,445

2008 Chevrolet Aveo LT 4-Door Sedan (696)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2008 Chevrolet Aveo LT 4-Door Sedan that is very affordable for a US built car. Good show Detroit… whoops, good show South Korea. Say what, South Korea? General Motors Chevrolet is being made in Korea? Our government talks about North Korea being one of the Axis of evil and US cars being made there. Seems like a contradiction in terms. But in a larger sense it is nice to see our industry is separate and apart from those political geniuses in Washington. Just kidding, of course, politicians are anything but geniuses.

Well I guess if Japan assembles some of its cars in Korea, Detroit needs to do the same to compete with lower production costs of Japanese competitors?

In all the good and the bad of all cars it is important to learn that not considering bragging rights these lower cost commuters are the smartest car purchases. You sacrifice little and gain much by not having to fork over 2-3 times the money to go to work every day.

And by the way the real world of tomorrow with gasoline prices of over $6.00 per gallon will be much easier to swallow if you have one of these gas stingy low cost cars. In fact, if you take this as seriously as I do, look closely at the Smart Car from Mercedes Benz.

General Info:

Parts – n/a.

Assembly – Bupyong, South Korea

Class:  – Compact Cars

Cars: – Avalanche, Aveo, Aveo5, Cobalt, Colorado, Corvette, Equinox, Express, Express Cargo Van, HHR, Impala, Malibu, Malibu Hybrid, Malibu Maxx, Monte Carlo, Silverado 1500, 2500, 3500 and Hybrid, Suburban, Tahoe & Hybrid, Trail Blazer and Uplander.

Handling & Performance:

The Manual transmission gets a little better fuel economy at 27 City and 35 Hwy mpg and 87 octane fuel.

I found the steering to be a little too lose with a corresponding feel of the road that was too light for my taste. But the design seemed to be more aerodynamic than the actual results of less road hug than I like. However, it was more noticeable after my testing of the Cad CTS and Infiniti G series high end cars over the prior few weeks. I still hadn’t come down off that high. And as a commuter those cars were poor performers compared to this Aveo.

On the plus side I fount it to be very well geared across the entire speed spectrum.

Styling:

Plain Jane… but functional and a good inexpensive commuter. The interior is clean, neat and plastic as you might expect as I did. I wasn’t disappointed.

Fit and Finish:

Just when I was about to blame Detroit for assembly I noticed South Korea was responsible. Oh well, I suspect when wages fall in the US to more worldly levels we’ll be making cars in the US again. I expect further those factories will be right next door to buggy whip makers and harnesses for the horses we’ll need to use for economical transportation. Actually I’d rather like to try the simpler life of by-gone years, wouldn’t you?

Cost:

Sinfully low… it reminds me of the Geo Metro years not so long ago. Cars seem to go in and out of style quickly because of sagging sales performance, but in today’s world you can bet cars like this Chevy Aveo will rebound big time with 40-50 mpg fuel economy. You do the math and after paying $12 grand for the car you’ll have just enough to pay the rising taxes to cover irresponsible government spending and waste.

Features and Conveniences:

In addition to a good array of features mpg is the greatest feature, and it becomes more important with every barrel of oil brought in from the Middle Eastern Sheiks. (Can anyone tell me when are we going to drill our own oil, lower the pump price in America so Korea and China can have enough Arab oil to produce our low cost cars)?

Recognized Competition:

Chevrolet Aveo $12-14,000, Ford Focus $14-17,000, Nissan Versa $13-15,000, Toyota Yaris $11-15,000, Aerio $14-17,000, Hyundai Accent $11-15,000, Kia Rio $11-14,000, Honda Fit $14-16,000.

Good News:

Very acceptable fuel economy, roomy, good standard equipment for such an affordable purchase price.

Bad News:

Plain Jane design, lose steering and light feel of the road and road noise higher than I care for.

Standard Equipment:

1.6 liter 103 horsepower inline 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual transmission, front disc rear drum brakes, power rack & pinion steering, independent front suspension, front and side airbags, rear child LATCH system, daytime running lights, power seated outside fold away mirrors, tire pressure monitor system, 15” aluminum wheels, intermittent wipers, halogen lights, fog lights, air conditioning, tilt steering column, cruise control, remote keyless entry, power windows and locks, cloth seats, stereo with CD/MP3 format and 6 speakers and 60/40 split fold rear seat.

Gas Stats:

$3.59/ Gal avg. 87 Octane Apr 8, ‘08

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

24 City and 34 Highway MPG

www.safercar.gov   or    888-327-4236

Pricing:

MSRP LS $12,575; LT $13,765.

2008 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 4WD LTZ Crew Cab (679)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2008 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 4WD LTZ Crew Cab with a 6 foot 6 inch bed. A longer 8 foot bed is available.

I’m critical about a lot of things including the cars that are being produced for our consumption. I like testing them and trying to keep up with the technology trends is especially interesting to me. Perhaps the most exciting thing on the horizon is the technology I reported on about 4 years ago when GM introduced the Fuel Cell car that was named the High Wire.

That gave me the opportunity to learn from other automotive journalists who specialize in evolving technologies like hydrogen powered cars. It is exciting to me because I have a not so private opinion that our car manufacturers are NOT stupid as my good friend Merkel thinks they are. At a very minimum I understand him to say they can do much better with the cars they produce. I believe he and others who think GM is in the tank are not looking at the entire picture and they get stuck in the trees and can’t see the forest.

From afar you can see more clearly and my belief is, from all the data and trends the emerging hydrogen technology is about to pop. Ok, so maybe it will be another five years but the energy world will be rocked by that change and it really isn’t very far away.

The LA Auto show was replete with announcements about their Fuel Cell cars and that gives hope to people concerned about world energy problems. It is estimated that China will eclipse the USA in energy demand in just two years. Wow. What do you think that will do to oil prices? Well, American ingenuity, and GM leading the charge, means we can leave fossil fuel energy to China and other third world countries while America moves on to cutting edge high tech alternate power sources as it continues to lead the world.

So what’s that got to do with the Chevrolet Silverado for 2008? A lot, because it is a GM car and until the world leader in hydrogen technology gives us the fuel cell cars, they continue to give us state of the art trucks like this Silverado. They deserve our support on three fronts: They are American as Midwest apple pie, they are developing the technology and thirdly they produce arguably the best cars and trucks for the money on planet earth.

General Info:

Parts –

Assembly – Flint, MI, USA

Class:  – Special Purpose – Truck

Cars: – Avalanche, Aveo, Cobalt, Colorado, Corvette, Equinox, Express, HHR, Impala, Malibu, Monte Carlo, Silverado 15,25 &3500, Silverado Hybrid, Suburban, Tahoe, TrailBlazer & Uplander.

Handling & Performance:

I had the opportunity to put a lot of miles on this truck and it is truly impressive. It has to be one of the smoothest crew cab trucks ever – not only because of the ride but the Allison auto trans is wonderfully smooth shifting.

The ride was a little bumpy without a load but with only a few golfers, their luggage and golf club bags it smoothed right out. The powerful 6.6 liter Duramax Diesel engine with an Allison 6-speed automatic transmission (optional) is awesome and impressed the two construction contractors sharing the ride to Scottsdale, Arizona. From Acton, California to Scottsdale is nearly 400 miles. With travel in and around Scottsdale we put on 900 miles and burned 50 gallons of diesel fuel at $3.45 a gallon. Doing the math we got about 18 miles per gallon. Consumer reports says 13 mpg overall but my travel was nearly all freeway driving. Not good, but for a truck of this capability doing what it’s made to do that mileage isn’t bad. A golf trip 400 miles away is not its highest and best use. But if you want to haul a house you have 660 foot pounds of torque to do it with. Argh, argh, argh! I can just hear Tim Allen grunting his approval.

Styling:

Tough and rugged looking. Very nice.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

In class it is competitive at $39,590 which buys you a standard equipment package, and options added on my test vehicle amounted to $10,200 of which about $8,400 was for the Duramax Diesel and Allison Transmission.

Conveniences and comfort:

Extra smooth ride and about the quietest diesel engine on the road. In fact I’ll bet you wouldn’t even know it was a diesel if you took a ride and weren’t told.

One of the options is a Cargo management system that is worth the $95 cost. It makes tying down cargo really easy. I liked that a lot.

Consumer Recommendation:

You can select from 20 base trim levels. The standard equipment is great and unless you must have the highly valued Diesel package, I suspect you’ll be very happy with the gas V8 version. And if you look at the price of diesel fuel these days you’ll choke on over $4.00 per gallon in some places.

Recognized Competition:

Chevrolet Silverado 2500 $24-40,000, GMC Sierra 2500 HD $24-40,000, Dodge Ram 2500 $26-43,000, Ford F-250 Super Duty $22-38,000.

Good News:

Great work horse with ultimate diesel power plant and 660 ft. lbs of torque, comfortable ride, LTZ well equipped package, Consumer Reports says, “First year reliability of the diesel has been above average”.

Bad News:

Poor fuel economy and diesel version uses highest priced fuel.

Standard Equipment:

6.0 liter 353 hp V8 gas engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, torsion bar front suspension, multi leaf rear spring suspension, 4-wheel ABS with dynamic rear proportioning brakes, dual air bags, theft deterrent system, auto headlights, OnStar system (1 year included and Turn-by-turn navigation available), tire pressure monitor system, chrome rear bumper, 17” aluminum wheels, front tow hooks, cargo box illumination, tinted glass, fog lights, dual zone air conditioning, rear window defogger, 60/40 split rear seating, stereo with CD/MP3 format, XM satellite radio (3 months included), driver information center, intermittent wipers, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, carpeted floor and mats, battery run down protection, 24 hour roadside assistance. LTZ trim option includes 10 way power heated bucket seats with driver memory, leather seating, power fold and heated mirrors with turn signal and driver side auto dimming, Bose premium speaker system, heated washer fluid system, remote vehicle start, HD trailering equipment, locking rear differential, steering wheel radio controls, power windows and locks, auto dimming mirror with compass and temp display, rear audio controls, leather wrapped steering wheel , remote keyless entry, illuminated vanity mirrors, electronic shift transfer case.

Options:

Adjustable pedals $365, Easy lift tailgate package $95, 6.6 liter Duramax Diesel engine $7,195, Allison 6-speed auto transmission $1,200, Power sliding sunroof $795, Power sliding rear window $200, brake controller $200, Cargo management system $95, Radiator cover $55.

Gas Stats:

$3.45/ Gal (Diesel) avg. November 25, ‘07

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

Not rated by EPA but my experience was

City and 18 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $39,590 and $50,715 as equipped.

2007 Chevrolet Aveo LT 4-Door (648)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2007 Chevrolet Aveo LT 4-Door sedan. This is a great commuter in part because of the very good fuel economy but also because for a 4-door sedan the ‘price is right’.  I was reminding Richard and Huan (from South Korea) that the car they were riding in was built in Korea. It surprised them as much as it did me when I checked. We reflected on how the world is shrinking and how homogenous America truly is.

As I think of it, America is not only the land of opportunity; it also exports opportunity to the rest of the world. Labor in China, is vast and currently much of the labor force is at about 60-90 cents an hour. Of course it is all relative and the cost of living is comparable. In Korea, Huan says the monthly income of most workers is about $300 in South Korea so that’s about double the prevailing wage in China. In any case it is so far below wages in the US for example that it makes total economic sense to export jobs there.

As to the wisdom of exporting the assembly of vehicles in Korea for economic reasons there are, or should be other forces at work for us to reach out to the rest of the world. Use of such labor forces not only makes products more affordable it raises the standard of living in other parts of the world. Toyota has recently built a large manufacturing facility in Tecate, Mexico and provides housing and jobs for thousands. Thousands who feel no need to go across the border for work. But to balance out the intentions of Toyota (now the largest car company in the world) they have just completed a huge facility in San Antonio Texas and depending on the success of that plant they will build another there as well. The present one employs about 4,000 people.

General Info:

Parts – No information was available. Do you think they are Korean made parts?

Assembly – Bupyung Gu, IN Korea.

Class:  – Compact

Cars: – Avalanche, Aveo, Aveo 5, Cobalt, Colorado, Corvette, Equinox, Express, Express Cargo Van, HHR, Impala, Malibu, Malibu Max, Monte Carlo, Silverado 15,25 & 3500, Silverado Classic, Silverado Hybrid, SSR, Suburban, Tahoe, Trail Blazer & Uplander.

Observation:

Well the projections for the price of gas this summer are $4.00 per gallon. Ouch.

But it occurs to me that something good always comes from bad – in time. I believe people may well change their priorities and reduce their traveling by car to go somewhere that can be replaced by something closer to home. I think more people will go play softball in the local park, play board games at home and get closer to the family. I think they will get out in the back yard and plant a tree and BBQ a bunch of veggies (and a Rib Eye Steak for Richard).

Handling & Performance:

Back to the Chevy Aveo. The Crest Test was pretty convincing that it will keep up with the craziest of drivers around some of the hairiest turns in the world.

Styling:

Commuter basic – but with a reasonable amount of roominess. In fact it passed my first cargo area test – my golf clubs (oversized bag) fits just right in the trunk.

Fit and Finish:

Consistent with even more expensive cars for which you’d pay three times the price of this Aveo to notice any significant difference in attention to detail.

Cost:

Less is more in many ways. This compact Aveo is less comfortable than a large sedan, but it costs less to buy and operate and that should be the guideline for a commuter or simply a trouble free new transportation car for a young family or anyone with a limited budget. A new car ‘can’ be affordable.

Conveniences and comfort:

I must report that you will be aware of your seat bottom all too soon. I think they could have put a little more padding in the seats because after about an hour I am beginning to get a little uncomfortable. I wish car makers would pay attention to simple details. One example of out of touch little things is not providing sun visors that extend for side window use.

Consumer Recommendation:

If on a limited budget this is a great transportation car. I wouldn’t want to drive straight through from LA to Denver, but it is fine for the short hops.

Recognized Competition:

Chevrolet Aveo  $12-14,000, Hyundai Accent $10-14,000, Toyota Yaris $11-14,000, Honda Fit $14-16,000, Ford Focus $14-17,000, Kia Rio $11-13,000, Suzuki Aerio $14-17,000, Nissan Versa $13-15,000.

Good News:

Well priced is the most obvious, very good on fuel and it can carry 5 passengers.

Bad News:

It is not the most comfortable car for long hauls, sun visors will but you.

Standard Equipment:

1.6 liter inline 4 cylinder 103 horsepower engine, 4-speed auto trans, front disc rear drum brakes, power rack & pinion steering, independent front strut suspension with stabilizer bar and rear torsion beam, stainless steel exhaust, front and side airbags, rear child seat latch system, daytime running lights, power heated fold away mirrors, 15” aluminum wheels, intermittent wipers, air conditioning, rear window, tilt steering column, remote keyless entry with alarm, cruise control, power windows and locks, reclining cloth seats with lumbar support, stereo with CD/MP3 player, 60/40 rear split folding seat, remote trunk and fuel filler releases.

Gas Stats:

$3.30/ Gal avg. Apr. 22 ‘07

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

26 City and 34 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $13,450.

2007 Chevrolet Impala SS Sedan (647)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2007 Chevrolet Impala SS Sedan which is the top of the lineup for Impala. And you know when you slide into the saddle, put the pedal to the metal you sense immediately these ponies want to run. Ever ridden a horse that sweats just standing there? That’s the feeling you get in this SS. It brings back memories of the muscle cars of yesteryear, and I’m sure that’s precisely what GM wants you to feel.

Dodge Charger and the New Mustang and of course the return of the Camaro all point to the perceived interest by the consumer for these kinds of cars. And the buzz in the air of auto enthusiasts says they are exactly right about that. When people talk about the driving experience of such performance cars there is excitement in their voice. I believe that is because we’ve had a streak of boring vehicles over the past couple of decades. Ho Hum just doesn’t get it and at the end of the day we really want some excitement in our driving needs. After all we spend a lot of time in our autos commuting, week ending, vacationing and just out for the proverbial Sunday drive. So they should be fun and interesting cars.

General Info:

Parts – US/Canadian 90%

Assembly – Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

Class:  – Large

Cars: – Avalanche, Aveo, Aveo 5, Cobalt, Colorado, Corvette, Equinox, Express, Express Cargo Van, HHR, Impala, Malibu, Malibu Max, Monte Carlo, Silverado 15,25 & 3500, Silverado Classic, Silverado Hybrid, SSR, Suburban, Tahoe, Trail Blazer & Uplander.

Handling & Performance:

The first thing you notice when accelerating is that you feel the steering wheel tug at your hands. Front wheel drive does that and I have to admit I prefer rear wheel drive with such a responsive 303 horsepower V8 (the first since 1996). The ride is smooth and solid and a nice feel. There are rumors GM is considering a rear wheel drive in this cars future.

The other noticeable difference from the muscle cars of old and this is that even with all the power and performance you get decent fuel economy if you avoid jack rabbit starts.

The company touts this SS small block V8 as the fastest Impala SS in its history since unveiling in 1958.

Styling:

Classic performer.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Boy, these guys must stay up nights figuring how much their cars should cost. Computers make life boring in a lot of ways and take all the fun out of cost accounting. I have to say that pricing is truly a function of cost to put these things together. Then they add a badge to push the price up for no other reason than it is in demand. There you go, ‘supply and demand’ supply side economics at work. It is that simple. Or is it?

Conveniences and comfort:

Child safety stuff on a muscle car sounds like a contradiction, but even race drivers have kids. If you go GM be sure you consider OnStar and XM radio. Two great features. And the cost for ‘Turn by turn’ an OnStar add-on is a great way to get navigation help for much less money than other screen based systems and with OnStar you talk to a real person. Novel idea don’t you think?

Consumer Recommendation:

If a muscle car isn’t necessarily your thing I suggest you look closely at the new Saturn Aura. I will be reporting on it in the next few weeks, but I drove it for a couple of days last week and also at a roll out in San Diego months ago. The Aura is a sleeper – and sure to gain favor with lots of folks especially with the enticing come out pricing.

Recognized Competition:

Chevrolet Impala $21-28,000, Saturn Aura $20-24,000, Hyundai Sonata $17-23,000, Buick LaCrosse $22-27,000, Pontiac Grand Prix $22-29,000, Toyota Camry $18-28,000, Honda Accord $19-30,000, Mitsubishi Galant $19-27,000, Mazda 6 $19-27,000, Mercury Montego $24-29,000, Ford Five Hundred $23-28,000, Chrysler 300 $24-40,000, Dodge Charger $21-36,000, Subaru Legacy $20-34,000, Volkswagen Passat $23-32,000, Nissan Altima $18-28,000.

Good News:

Improved fuel economy in a performance car, silky smooth ride to boot.

Bad News:

Curious 4-speed trans… I expected 5 or 6 speed.

Standard Equipment:

Standard Equipment: 5.3 liter 303 hp V8 engine, 4-speed automatic transmission, performance suspension, stainless steel exhaust, OnStar 1 year safe and sound (turn-by-turn can be added), 4-wheel ABS disc brake system, traction control, tire pressure monitor, dual front air bags, head curtain side air bags front and rear, auto headlights, power windows and locks, rear child seat latch system with rear child door locks, lock out protection, 18” aluminum wheels, performance tires, power mirrors, fog lights and SS rear spoiler, tilt steering wheel with cruise and audio controls, lighted visor mirrors, 8-way driver power seat, remote vehicle start, dual zone air conditioning, stereo with CD/MP3 player, XM satellite radio (3 mos included) and rear flip and fold flat seat.

Gas Stats:

$3.30/ Gal avg. Apr. 16 ‘07

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

18 City and 27 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $27,970.

2006 Chevrolet HHR (617)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2006 Chevrolet HHR – GM’s answer to Chrysler’s PT Cruiser. It’s similarly priced and Chevy lovers now have an option to the Chrysler to own a retro styled car / truck – or what is SUV styling in today’s terms.

I drove this HHR to San Diego – actually Coronado for a stay at the Hotel Del Coronado for a little more nostalgia staying in a room that was built in 1888. Wow! Elton John would likely break into song and say “It’s still standing”! And indeed it is still standing even if the floors seem to go up and down where they shouldn’t.  

And you know what, driving up to this world famous luxury hotel I felt as much at home in this Retro Chevy HHR as I would in a Cad or Jag or even a Bentley or Rolls Royce. Somehow the HHR seemed to fit the surroundings more appropriately than any of those.

General Info:

Parts – US

Assembly – Ramos Arizpe, Mexico

Class:  – Special Purpose

Cars: – Astro, Avalanche, Aveo, Aveo5, Cavalier, Cobalt, Colorado, Corvette, Equinox,     Express, Express Cargo Van, HHR, Impala, Malibu, Malibu Maxx, Monte Carlo,                Silverado 1500, 2500, 3500 and hybrid, SSR, Suburban, Tahoe, Trail Blazer and          Uplander.

1940 Chevrolet Sedan Delivery.

Public Service:

Boycott toll roads. It’s not what California has been all about. In the east and much of the rest of the country the people have been duped into accepting them. In the Newport Beach area of California Highway 73 is highway robbery.

In contrast Coronado and San Diego are linked by a huge bridge that was built as a toll bridge to accommodate the largest of war ships to pass under and to handle to ever growing number of commuters to and fro. Since its construction and opening in 1967 the cost of construction bonds have been retired and it is now toll free.

If you know the 73 roadway will return to a toll free California Highway please email the information to me. I’ll share that information with our readers.

Handling & Performance:

You’re not going to pull a big boat with this HHR but it is a great commuter with very good mileage numbers. I did a lot of highway driving miles and it is very comfortable. It’s a little slow off the line, but when you get rolling it is just fine. You won’t zip by traffic in a passing situation because it’s a bit sluggish at 143 horsepower where 0-60 mph is 8.5 seconds. You can get up to 85 mph in a quarter mile in about 17 seconds. It won’t do very well at the drags, but then you won’t suck up very much gas either. The standard engine is 2.2 liters but a 2.4 liter for 172 horsepower is available. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard and I tested the optional 4-speed automatic transmission.

Styling:

Retro is the thing for a lot of us whether old or young when it comes to car design. Take a look at the 1940 Chevrolet Sedan Delivery and you’ll see where the inspiration came from. Put some more windows, rake the front hood and wa-la you are in the 21st Century. Some things simply can’t be improved upon and this and the PT Cruiser are testimonials to that fact.

Fit and Finish:

I’m a little disappointed in the way components feel on the interior. Pushing some control buttons cause the plastic support to give a bit which is not as solid as it should be.

Cost:

This is where this car shines and you’ve got to wonder how they can build cars this inexpensively. In a world of $45,000 cars and SUVs being so common it is refreshing to be able to buy this HHR for as low as $16,000.

Conveniences and comfort:

Unlike the 1940 version this retro has comfortable bucket seats and electronics for a good sound system, auto trans, power seats and air conditioning. You’d have to spend a ton to restore the ’40 and for a few shekels you can own a new car for trouble free driving for a long time.

I noticed the arm rests are not very comfortable. OK, so I have boney elbows – how about you?

Storage compartment nooks and crannies are good.

Consumer Recommendation:

For the best comparison to the HHR retro Sedan Delivery / SUV test drive the PT Cruiser from Chrysler.

I could own this car and when I gave it more thought I concluded that for the same money as one high end SUV I could own this HHR as well as the Saturn Sky, 2-seat sport car, and have the best of all worlds. Think about that.

Recognized Competition:

Chevrolet HHR $15-16,000, Mazda 5 $17-19,000, Subaru Forester $22-28,000, Toyota Matrix $15-19,000, Scion xB $14,030, Chrysler PT Cruiser $14-29,000, Suzuki Aerio SX $14-17,000, Kia Spectra 5 $15,900, Pontiac Vibe $16,630, Honda Element $19-23,000.

Good News:

Good fuel economy, wonderfully retro styled and fantastic pricing for a daily driver.

Bad News:

Some cheaply made components, skimpy horsepower and discomfort from door armrests.

Standard Equipment:

2.2 or 2.4 liter ($650 more) inline 4-cylinder engine with 143 and 172 hp respectively, 5-speed manual transmission, touring suspension, power front disc and rear drum brake system, dual air bags, theft deterrent system, rear child seat latch system and door locks, daytime running lights (auto control), 16 inch aluminum wheels, dual breakaway power mirrors, intermittent front wipers, rear wiper, air conditioning, stereo with CD, MP3 playback and auxiliary input jack, reclining front bucket seats, power driver seat, 60/40 split folding rear seat, fold flat front passenger seat, tilt steering wheel, rear window defogger, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, and cruise control.

Gas Stats:

Gas Stats: $2.80/ Gal avg.

23 City and 30 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $16,325.