Category Archives: Nissan

2010 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV (820)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2010 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV that is largely unchanged from the prior year. I have not reviewed the Maxima for some years so the look and feel was a welcomed re-visit where I found I was instantly attracted to this car.

I like the broad wide stance and the rear end is bold but well balanced with the rest of the car. It truly is a very lovely 4-door sedan with a truly elegant profile – but then all views are attractive to me. Interestingly enough as I did research and read user reviews it was nice to see they all gave it a 10.0 rating. Bo Derek got the same billing in the movie titled the same number.

Ok, so a 10 isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and you can be sure the process of finding the right car is similar to finding a mate and both are serious business. Ratings and reviews give a lot of comfort to support our need to commit this kind of commitment of money for transportation.

Speaking of “10”, don’t you just miss Dudley Moore movies?

One buyer had this to say: We considered BMW 335i, M-Benz C350, Infiniti G37, Lexus 250 but purchased the Maxima because we felt it had a higher quality interior than BMW and M-Benz. Maxima is fast yet rides smoothly. Maxima and Infiniti share components but Maxima is easier on the wallet. Maxima is by far a better overall value.

Obviously my sentiments are echoed here and the overall consumer review and opinions were substantially the same and that is why the overall rating of buyers gave it a 10.0.

Opinion:

Consider the facts: Non-American car makers employ 52% of all US auto workers. If GM had been allowed to fail, the automotive industry would have been better for it. The free market forces would have taken hold of the situation and the only difference would have been GM cars would be made by more efficient car makers.

Chrysler is another example of how ownership changes have only improved the brand. German owned Daimler was the greatest contributor to improving the Chrysler lineup in quality and innovation.

Handling & Performance:

Maxima has good fuel economy numbers, and a solidly comfortable road sedan with more than adequate power. Some criticize the front wheel drive’s torque steer but I did not find that to be a problem.

Styling:

Exceptional styling with an elegant look that is at the top of my list for good looks in this  mid-size class.

Fit and Finish:

Very nice.

Cost:

Good MSRP pricing for a standard equipped model. You will need to add about $4,000 for the sport and technology packages.

Conveniences and comfort:

A lot of good standard equipment, and I found very little that I couldn’t live without among the Options.

Consumer Recommendation:

LaCrosse, Accord, Azera and Passat are my picks for closest competition for the Maxima.

Recognized Competition:

Nissan Maxima $31-33,000, Acura TL $35-43,000, BMW 3 Series $33-51,000, Buick LaCrosse $26-33,000, Chevrolet Malibu $22-27,000, Ford Fusion $20-28,000, Honda Accord $21-31,000, Hyundai Azera $25-30,000, Hyundai Sonata $19-25,000, Mazda 6 $19-29,000, Saab 9-3 $29-45,000, Subaru Legacy $20-30,000, Volkswagen Passat $27,915, Volvo S60 $33-36,000.

Good News:

Top of my list in class, better than fair fuel economy, solid ride, great styling and it is made in the USA.

Bad News:

None noted.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 290 horsepower V6 engine, continuously variable automatic transmission, front wheel drive, speed sensitive power steering, electronic throttle, independent suspension with stabilizer bars, 4-wheel power ABS vented disc brakes with brake force distribution, 18” alloy wheels, front, side and side curtain air bags, traction control, dynamic control, tire pressure monitor, Child LATCH system, security system with immobilizer, 8-way power driver seat with lumbar, 4-way power passenger seat, 60/40 split fold down rear seat, leather seats, steering wheel and shift knob, tilt and telescopic wheel, cruise control steering wheel audio and cruise controls, Bose audio with 6-in-dash CD changer & MP3/WMA CD playback with 9-speakers, XM Satellite, speed sensitive volume control, Bluetooth phone system, multi function trip computer, climate control, intelligent key with push button start, power windows & locks, auto on/off halogen headlights, fog lights, manual folding power mirrors and UV reducing solar glass.

Gas Stats:

$2.99/ Gal avg. July 9, 2010

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

19 City and 26 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $33,180.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2010 – An Automotive Love Affair

2010 Nissan Altima CPE 3.5 SR (817)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2010 Nissan Altima CPE 3.5 SR. Instantly it is a likable car. Friend Merkel and I looked it over and believe it or not there was an immediate appreciation for the car. Artists and engineers are pretty self centered and they are ultra critical of anyone else’s work. Merkel is a Fiat guy and Honda is also at the top of his list of the best cars ever. OK, they are damn good cars, but because I drive a different car every week my love affair is a bit more broad and thus there isn’t one that stands that far apart from the rest.

This Nissan Altima is one of those cars that dispel the contention that there are extreme stand out cars in the world. There are too many good products available today and those days are gone when folks would passionately defend their Ford or Chrysler or GM product. Life was simple. The Big 3 was it. Nothing challenged that preeminence in the Auto Industry. For all practical purposes that didn’t begin to change until the 1960s with a rather feeble attempt by the Japanese to enter the American auto market. It was after all the only major consumer of auto products in the entire world. China at the time didn’t even have roads let alone cars.

Many good products being replicated or assembled or even made from scratch in countries other than the US. Most recently China has entered the fray. Nissan (Datsun back then) was simply the first to enter the American market. I know that first hand because I bought one of the first to land on American soil. But things moved quickly and soon there would be a wide variety or Japanese cars populating our highways.

More and more are being built in China, South America, India and other places where labor is less expensive in today’s world. You have seen my comparison in that US Automakers labor costs at about $78 / hour while Japan car makers are around $45/ hour. Tough to compete with that disparity in wages which is the largest part of the cost to you the customer. Imagine what the hourly wages are in India and China.

General Info:

Parts – n/a.

Assembly – Smyrna, USA

Class:  – SubCompact

Cars: – Altima, Altima Hybrid, Armada, cube, Frontier, GT-R, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Quest, Rogue, Sentra, Titan, Versa, Xterra and Z.

Handling & Performance:

Altima is clearly an all around good sedan. I did find an unsettling brake chatter that is not dangerous but it is annoying. I also noticed the manual shift knob bounced a bit when the clutch engaged which is also not a repair problem but is also annoying. I suspect that is eliminated with the automatic transmission.

Styling:

Lovely – great job Nissan. I especially like the rear view stance. Bold and substantial.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Competitively priced and in the top 5 for me.

Conveniences and comfort:

Well I tested the 2-door Coupe and I have to tell you a little story. Sorry Margaret I have to do it. Steve and Margaret (brother and sister-in-law) and I got into the car to go to lunch. Margaret made the mistake of opting for the rear seat. Getting in was a slight challenge but getting out was hilarious. She got her feet up onto the sill and proceeded to slip and fall into the foot space in front of the seat. We nearly had to call the fire department to bring the Jaws of Life to get her extricated from that sitting position in the foot well. Good thing she wasn’t wearing a dress or skirt. Pants were bad enough. Margaret could be a stand in double for Julie Andrews and every time I see her I start humming “The Sound of Music”. But this was nothing to sing about.

Consumer Recommendation:

I’ve never heard horror stories about Nissan in all my years owning an automotive repair garage in La Canada, CA – then or since. Back then it was because Nissan was not a regular visitor to our shop that one would have to conclude it was a pretty good car. BMW visited often as did Audi, Jaguar, Mercedes Benz and of course Fiat (Fix it Again Tony) was a frequent visitor. But not a lot of Nissan’s or Toyota’s for that matter. We were billed out as a German and Italian shop but although we did Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s and Maserati’s we didn’t do many because there simply aren’t many on the road. And all of those are in Beverly Hills.

Today Japanese cars are still on the top of the reliability list but even Japan outsources to Korea and China for assembly to cut their labor costs. Korea has learned quickly and produces their own brands in Hyundai and Kia. Clearly the best bang for the buck. As their labor force matures and costs approximate US and Japanese car makers even more jobs will be exported to China or other labor rich countries. By then we’ll travel “back to the future” with unimagined modes of transportation.

In the meantime the competition below is what you have to choose from at this price range. Notice Korean cars are well priced relative to the others because they still have something to prove. That makes them a great buy

Recognized Competition:

Nissan Altima $20-30,000, Chevrolet Malibu $22-27,000, Chrysler Sebring $20-33,000, Ford Fusion $20-28,000, Honda Accord $21-31,000, Hyundai Sonata $19-25,000, Kia Optima $18-23,000, Mazda 6 $19-29,000, Mercury Milan $22-28,000, Mitsubishi Galant $22-24,000, Subaru Legacy $20-30,000, Suzuki Kizashi $19-27,000, Toyota Camry $20-29,000, Volkswagen Jetta $18-25,000 and Voldswagen Passat $27,915.

Good News:

Quality, fair pricing, comfortable ride (except the rear seat in the Coupe), fun to drive and lots of power.

Bad News:

Rear seat difficult to get in and out. Some mechanical anomalies that are more annoying than problems.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 270 hp 6-cylinder engine, 6-speed manual transmission, fuel injection, front & rear stabilizer bars, power steering, independent front and multi-link rear suspension, power ABS vented front and rear disc brakes, 18” alloy wheels, front side and roof mountain curtain air bags, lower anchors & tethers for children, traction control, vehicle dynamic control, tire pressure monitoring, security system with immobilizer, 8-way power driver seat leather, heated front seats, 60/40 split fold down rear seat, wood tone finishes, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, tilt & telescopic steering column, Bose audio system with 7 speakers, XM satellite, MP3 / WMA CD Rom, trip computer, speed sensitive volume control, 4.3“ color display, Bluetooth phone system, air conditioning, dual zone, Intelligent Key, power windows, key fob auto window down, moon roof with sunshade, compass, power locks with auto locking system, 2- 12 Volt power outlets, auto on/off Xenon head lights, fog lights, power heated mirrors with turn signals and solar glass.

Gas Stats:

$2.97/ Gal avg. June 21, 2010

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

18 City and 27 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $29,600.

2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster Tour (807)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster Tour two seat sport car. Amazing. I’ve always enjoyed the ride in this special performer. And although I like Porsche I also like Ferrari but those fancy badges cost 2-3 times the price of this “Z” so that makes this one of the best alternatives for us common folk to experience an extraordinary performance automobile. You gotta love it.

I like the new and interesting instrument panel. The gas gauge employs small lighted dots that are calibrated one dot per gallon of gas. Kinda neat. But I was a little miffed with a malfunctioning cruise control because I believe this feature is one of the most important and should be standard equipment on ALL cars like seat belts. It simply is the best feature to help drivers maintain a steady speed and thus improve everyone’s commute.

I’m a golfer, arguably, so it was instantly apparent I wouldn’t be using this car to get to the links. Not that the trunk is super tiny but a set of clubs for a midget small is what I’m talking about. Even the Cadillac XLR with a convertible hard top that folds into the trunk will accept a set of clubs with the top down and stored in the trunk area.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – Los Angeles, USA

Class:  – Two Seaters

Cars: – Altima, Altima Hybrid, Armada, Cube, Frontier, GT-R, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Quest, Rogue, Sentra, Titan Versa, Xterra & Z.

Opinion:

Is it just me or do you get really mad when Cal Trans does really stupid things… like closing lanes for cleanup during rush hour. Really – can they be that clueless? They can do such stuff mid day or evenings. Consider the problems caused for hundreds of thousands of travelers for the convenience of a few Cal Trans workers. Really, the other day on CA 14 south they closed a lane before 9 AM. Hellllll O! Any body home at Cal Trans?

Handling & Performance:

Zipping through the mountain curves this Z makes you think you’re riding on rails and it delivers truly amazing handling and the 370 is fast-fast-fast. The CVTCS (continuously variable valve timing control system) is very advanced technology only available on much more expensive engines in the past. Really good stuff and along with sophisticated suspension this is worth the price of admission all by itself. The exceptional handling around sharp mountain curves is because of the advanced engineering says engineer, colleague and friend Merkel Weiss. When it comes to the technical stuff I lean on Merkel.

You will notice the ride being ‘bumpy’ which is necessary for great handling but I like a little softer ride.

If you like a manual shift option the paddle shifters are really long and easy to use. I’m not crazy about the feature and prefer using the automatic setting where it knows when to shift for optimum performance.

Styling:

I like the styling better every year Merkel. Changes are generally minor and that is no different this year with just subtle changes to the door handles and lights front and rear. Nice job Nissan.

Fit and Finish:

Very good. No complaints.

Cost:

Pretty competitive pricing against the closest competition that tops my list, like Audi TT, BMW Z4 and Infiniti G.

Conveniences and comfort:

There is an abundance of great standard features and conveniences including not so usual heated and cooled seats. Comfort is relative, however and as small cabin sports cars go it is typical. I continue to appreciate the smart key system so you can literally leave the key in your pocket or purse. It also has a super simple to use convertible top.

Recognized Competition:

Nissan 370Z $30-41,000, Audi TT $38-49,000, BMW 1-Series $29-40,000, 2009 BMW Z4 $46-52,000, Chevrolet Camaro $23-34,000, 2011 Ford Mustang $22-38,000, 2011 Ford Shelby GT500 $49-54,000, Infiniti G Convertible $44-47,000, Infiniti G Coupe $36-40,000, Mazda RX-8 $26-32,000, Mercedes-Benz SLK $47-67,000, Volkswagen Eos $32-36,000, Volkswagen New Beetle $19-27,000, Volvo C70 $40,000.

Good News:

Outstanding handling that makes the 370 a thrill to drive, good but expected fuel economy, a super simple convertible top mechanism and smartly storing design.

Bad News:

The low front end will scrape on every parking stall wheel stop. You need to be extra careful when parking. The noise level is high with the convertible model.

Standard Equipment:

3.7 liter 332 hp V6 engine, 7 speed automatic transmission, CVTCS, electronic drive by wire throttle, rack & pinion speed sensitive power steering, independent aluminum double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, front & rear stabilizer bars, front & rear vented ABS brake assist disc brakes and brake force distribution, 18” aluminum alloy wheels, front side and side curtain air bags, traction control, vehicle dynamic control, tire pressure monitoring, security system with immobilizer, 8-way adjustable driver and 4-way passenger power leather seats heated and cooled, tilt steering wheel with controls for cruise and audio etc., 8-speaker Bose audio with CD and XM satellite, Bluetooth hands free, climate control, intelligent key system, power windows and locks, 12 volt outlets, illuminated visor mirrors, storage and cup holders you’d expect, power fully automatic folding soft top & heated power mirrors.

Gas Stats:

$2.99/ Gal avg. April 14 ‘10

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

18 City and 25 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $41,820.

The 2009 Nissan 370ZX (769)

Overview:

This week we’re talking with Merkel Weiss an old associate about his opinion of the 2009 Nissan 370ZX, one of my favorite cars to drive. Ok, so he’s not all that old but you know what I mean. Herewith an automotive engineers view of the Z.

The other night my old friend Que Quan (Q) pulled up to my back yard in a new test car. There it was, silhouetted in the moonlight. This sleek red Nissan thing with giant 19 inch open-spoke silver wheels sat there as we looked on in mock reverence, usually reserved for an Aston Zagatto or the like.

It was the old car but more, and it was the old car but less. Here is my problem. I have at times liked the Z-car and at times not so much. The early 240Z was a nice car to look at and a reasonably well behaved car for its day. It was also one heck of a bargain – I remember the head of the Mechanical Engineering laboratory at Penn State where I was at grad school debating whether to buy the Vega GT or the 240Z. At that time the Datsun (Nissan today) was a bit of a risk because in 1970, nobody had any experience with the brand, especially with the inline 6 sports car shy of the Datsun 2000 which fell short of being a reliable car. Well, he bought the American car and although patriotic at the time, I never looked at him the same way. Driving the Vega had all the thrill and panache of driving a Trabant. Driving that Z-car on the other hand was a serious hoot. Sure they got fat and sloppy in the 70’s and 80’s but didn’t everything?

And so it was last night and this 370 thing sticks like epoxy. It is well behaved and suffers from none of the underdeveloped shortcomings of some of the earlier cars. It changes direction at the mere thought of it, and it has a nice compromise in ride to its prodigious grip. And when the grip runs out, this thing handles like it has some balance to it. Those famous 3 dials in your face and glowing atop the dash remind you constantly where you are. One could argue that not all the information conveyed by the 370s instruments is actually useful, but what the heck. It’s Japanese. The Western mind stretches but fails to comprehend the strangely oriented and only obtusely connected artifacts of the Asian sports car cockpit. And what’s with the mid-dash flap door that opens to a shallow shelf of rectangular configuration, useful for a hankie or maybe some loose soil? It should be lower in front of the 6-speed shifter and a bit deeper for the obligatory gloves.

The 1990s bought a 300ZX that I thought at the time to be the best ever and occasionally my mind wanders down that path again. Lovely to behold (no small thing for any Asian car) and in twin turbo V6 guise, this car was a real rocket ship. Together with the 4-wheel steering setup, gleaned from the all-too-short Mid 4 program, this car was a serious barrel of monkeys to drive, except that it was really buttoned down. Even the 2+2 version seemed to look properly proportioned, unlike the travesty that befell the Jaguar E-Type V12 2+2, when without any warning it turned from the perhaps finest looking sports car of all time into a pregnant guppy with wheels. Truly, the 300ZX was a milestone automobile.

In truth, the 370ZX may be a milestone car as well. There is some real driver feedback and not that it can read and write like an M3, the car has such high levels of grip that when it approaches the edge, you pretty much know that you’re out there on your own. And still the car’s stability control (4-wheel ABS activating as required to stabilize directionality) comes in to rescue you so long as you have not done something beyond Newtonian physics. If you only need 2 seats, you can live with this car very easily on a day to day basis, providing that you don’t have luggage to haul around bigger than a standard suitcase.

The 370ZX is not a pretty car, in my opinion, but it is very close. I say this as a critic because I very much want to like the way it looks; it is sooooo close. The 350ZX was a car that was aesthetically flamboyant. As such, it tends to get old a bit faster than other, more conservative buttoned-down shapes. But the 370 is really quite different, although closely related and easily identifiable, which I like. Along with the shorter wheelbase, the humpy roof line behind the windshield header that stretches out to an interminably long, flat fastback, punctuated by the big-butt Bertha rear bumper is now gone, replaced by a reasonably perfunctory and quite near attractive roofline.

Where the 350 was a collection of horizontal lines of the sports car, clashing with vertically oriented elements of trim like the front side markers/signals, door handles, and long amorphously stretchy headlights and taillights combined in a random if not pointless manner, the 370 seems to mostly fit into a horizontal theme. The 350s undercut along the bottom of the door has been smoothed out on the 370 and now we have a couple of thin bone lines in the rocker panel, much like a BMW E36. The rear window now has a nice shape to it. There is still not a whole lot of rear ¾ vision available, but to be fair the fat pillars dictated by side impact protection in a coupe rarely permit much these days. At least the trunk has a bit more storage space as a result of the elimination of that ridiculous cross brace, emblazoned with the big Z. That was just too close to the screaming chicken for me.

There is much to like with the car inside and out. The apparent quality of the materials used in the interior is hugely improved. The arm rests, interior door handles and wheel/instrument binnacle all seem to be ergonomic perfection. In contrast, the 6 foot + crowd will have some difficulty with the too-short bottom seat cushions and the barely adequate headroom. For the under 6 foot crowd, like my friend Q, I’d say jump on this car now while they are still dealing. This is about as engaging as sports cars get without having to pay the price of a Porsche and then being grateful for the opportunity. Huge Bridgestone RE050A tires, 245/40-19 front and 275/ 35-19 rear, and well sorted 4-wheel A-arm suspension, 0 – 60 in 5.2 seconds, 60 – 0 in 115 feet, and 18/26 mile per gallon EPA city/highway gives a lot for not so much dollars (list below $30K).

One more detail that needs mentioning is the brilliant shift rev-matching (SynchroRev Match) button above and to the right of the shifter. Engage the rev-matching and it is now near impossible to miss a shift, no matter how goofy you get. Go ahead and try but do not get yourself in trouble please. In all the years that we, the car enthusiasts have had manual transmissions, this is perhaps the most useful and meaningful execution I have ever seen. Now anyone can be Stig Blomquist or Michelle Mouton, dancing on the pedals and charging up that windy road. Life is good behind the wheel once again.

Recognized Competition:

Nissan 370ZX $30-42,000, Infiniti G Coupe $36-39,000,  Lotus Elise $47-55,000, Saturn Sky $28-34,000, Audi TT $35-48,000, Chevrolet Corvette $49-114,000, Pontiac Solstice $24-30,000, Honda S2000 $35-38,000, Mazda RX8 $26-32,000, Mercedes SLK $46-66,000,  Porsche Cayman $50-60,000, Porsche Boxster $47-57,000, BMW Z4 $46-62,000, 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe $22-31,000 and Ford Mustang $21-36,000.

Gas Stats:

$2.69/ Gal avg. July 24, ‘09
www.fueleconomy.gov
for more information.

18 City and 26 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $30-42,000.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2009 – An Automotive Love Affair

2009 Nissan Rogue SL FWD (761)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2009 Nissan Rogue SL front wheel drive in it’s second season. It is one of 15 models for Nissan. It would appear more is better but I have to tell you it is a sign the Japanese auto makers are falling into the same trap of what got American car makers in trouble. Japanese companies were focused in the beginning with “a few good cars” in their fleet to compete with the likes of GM and Chrysler and Ford with too many models. With so many models it is hard to be the best with any ONE.

General Info:

Parts –  n/a

Assembly – Los Angeles, CA USA

Class:  – SUV

Cars: – Altima, Altima Hybrid, Armada, Cube, Frontier, GT-R, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Quest, Rogue, Sentra, Titan, Versa, Xterra and Z

Opinion:

With all the cuts in the private sector including “Furloughs” we should expect a cut in all  public sector jobs as well. California echoed that feeling in a recent vote to say NO to extra taxes to shore up Government and retain jobs there. Sorry Arnold – you guys are all wet and out of touch with the people who are forced to tighten their financial belts. You’ll have to do the same.

Another trend appears to be companies are beginning to discount their products. Begin to follow that trend and demand discounts in the cars you buy as well. You can also starve government by reducing their revenues to make the point we all need to cut back. Be creative and decide the best way to make that happen. If they don’t have the money they can’t spend like the insensitive idiots they appear to be.

Another defensive things you can do is to be extra careful while driving and parking. Don’t give our tax collecting police a reason to ticket you to raise even more (hidden) taxes. They are stepping up writing tickets. Don’t give them a chance to pick your pocket or hold you up at gun point. These CHP and other traffic cops are not your friend.

Handling & Performance:

I sensed a slight sway and then a close call on the freeway to avoid another car gave me the sensation that a slight overcorrection almost resulted in a disastrous flip and roll.

Power was ok but I experienced a mid-range sluggishness that would be eliminated if equipped with a manual transmission.

Styling:

They have designed in mood lighting that is new for 2009 along with speed sensing door locks and a fold down front passenger seat. The visors have an extender feature that is a must for me, and they stay where you put them. The air conditioning vents also are well done and the seats are easy to adjust. Good job guys.

Fit and Finish:

Very good 8 on a scale of 10.

Cost:

Nothing special – it fits in with this class SUV.

Consumer Recommendation:

Consider buying a car from the list that is American made. Why because American’s buy import cars that approach nearly 50%. Compare that with Japan, Korea and Europe who only import 5-15%. They are nationalistic car buyers so you should consider the same patriotism.

It was interesting to hear a Mayor in Michigan say he demands government employees there buy Ford, Chrysler and GM cars or risk losing their jobs. We may see a movement to save our auto industry from the inside. God knows we can’t trust government to save it.

Consider further that Toyota for example pays no income tax here in America. Why, because they funnel all profits made from US operations off shore through income manipulation. Since our elected officials allow that to happen it is up to the people to fight back. Buy American Cars and improve our economy.

Recognized Competition:

Nissan Rogue $20-23,000, Dodge Caliber $16-25,000, Subaru Forester $20-28,000, Pontiac Torrent $25-31,000, Saturn Vue $23-31,000, Volkswagen Tiguan $23-31,000, Hyundai Tucson $18-26,000, Subaru Outback $20-32,000, Jeep Patriot $18-24,000, Jeep Liberty $23-28,000, Jeep Compass $18-25,000, Honda CR-V $21-29,000, Honda Element $20-26,000, Suzuki XL7 $26-30,000, Suzuki Grand Vitara $18-26,000, Kia Rondo $17-22,000, Kia Sportage $17-23,000,  $13-17,000, Ford Escape $20-28,000, Chevrolet Equinox $22-30,000, Toyota RAV4 $22-28,000.

Good News:

Good fuel numbers, comfortable ride.

Bad News:

A little under powered.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter 170 hp 4-cylinder engine, continuously variable transmission, power steering, 4-wheel ABS power disc brakes with brake force distribution, 17” Alloy wheels, tire pressure monitoring system, dynamic control and traction control systems, power mirrors, roof rails, front and rear variable wipers / washers, air conditioning, cruise control with steering wheel controls, tilt and energy absorbing steering column, power windows and speed sensitive door locks, remote keyless entry, front fold down passenger seat, 60/40 rear fold down seat, audio with CD, two 12 volt DC power outlets, computer with outside temp display, mood lighting and cargo light, front and side airbag system, child LATCH system and safety locks.

Gas Stats:

$2.61/ Gal avg. June 1, ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

22 City and 27 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $21,810.

2009 Nissan Sentra 2.0 SL (756)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2009 Nissan Sentra 2.0 SL. Ok, so I take Mark to the airport and he says he likes it and I get to the office and Merkel says he hates it. Me – I like it and figure Merkel was having his usual bad hair day. And after driving it for several hundred miles it became my friend. The ride is comfortably smooth and it is easy on fuel as well. And fuel economy continues to be increasingly important in today’s world because as we speak it is going up up up.

I think you know we can’t get complacent and figure gas prices will magically go down.  So you would be wise to own at least one that gets over 30 mpg. My 1985 Chevrolet pick up truck gets a frightening 10-12 mpg. You gotta love the progress made in fuel economy over the years and it isn’t too late to take advantage of owning a car like this Nissan Sentra that claims 33 mpg. I traveled over 400 miles on a tank of gas.

General Info:

Parts –

Assembly – Agus, Mexico

Class:  – Midsize

Cars: – Altima, Armada, cube, Frontier, GT-R, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Quest, Rogue, Sentra, Titan, Versa, Xterra & Z.

Opinion:

Car companies on the verge of bankruptcy is a sad thing for all of us. The ripple effect touches everyone. But you know what – the number of cars purchased and thus manufactured won’t change when all is said and done. Richard always tells me that “When all is said and done, much is said and little is done”.

The important thing to note is that the cars sold here in America will for the most part be made by US auto workers because Toyota and other off shore companies either build cars here already or will do so in the future as consumers demand it. Then those auto workers displaced by one failing company will likely find a job with the surviving companies (by the way that is true in any industry).

That’s Capitalism and a free market economy at work as it has from the beginning of our democratic republic in all industries. That’s what America is all about – Freedom to fail and freedom to succeed. And Adam Smith’s free market invisible hand calls for non-government intervention. Let’s keep it that way and trust the greatest economy on earth to pull us out of the mess the “So Called” geniuses in government got us into. At the end of the day it has always been the American worker who does the real work.

Another note is that while GM and Chrysler are struggling to stay alive by spending billions of bail out money from the good old workers most of those taxpayers are employed by “Small” businesses that make up 80% of the work force. Those small companies are the ones without corporate jets and lavish expense accounts? Bailing out those companies in the 20% is curious indeed. Stacey tells me “you can’t fix ‘Stupid’, but you can vote them out of office.”

It’s evident from the polls that the majority of Americans hate our congress men and women and other leaders who think they are as good as Hollywood actors. Oh, silly me, they are as good and make as much money for the same talent… they memorize their lines – that is, those who can’t afford “Teleprompters”.

Handling & Performance:

This is a very capable car and handled the Crest Test with ease. But I am always aware that it must do it on less gas than has been the norm over the years. When gas was $.20 a gallon it didn’t matter that my 57 Chevrolet only got 7 miles per gallon. But it does matter a lot today. The price of gas is more that 10 times as much today as it was then but we don’t get 70 mpg from today’s cars. So fuel performance is important to us all.

Styling:

Merkel I don’t agree with you that this car is ugly. I like it. The trunk is a little small but Buddy reminded me that we got 3 large golf bags in that trunk plus shoes and bottles of water to survive the long hot day at Rancho Vista Golf Course in Palmdale, CA. The truth of the matter is that this Sentra is a better car than we are golfers.

Fit and Finish:

Very good – It’s assembled in Mexico as many cars are these days. . . which by the way is the best way to control the borders between the US and Mexico. Toyota also built a large plant just over the border in Tecate. (now if we can only get rid of the Unions in the US we can be competitive again as well).

Cost:

Just about right and competitive with the field.

Conveniences and comfort:

Everything you need and more that explains the step up in price from the more basic cars I have reviewed lately. I have to tell you it’s pretty easy to get used to “basic”. We all clamor for power seats for example and then once you set them it is unlikely you’ll do that again. Climate control is nice but once you figure what settings you like you seldom change them. Power windows I like and a remote keyless entry system is good for me. I can live without a lot of the other fluff too. Navigation systems are great and I wouldn’t be without one, but portable versions can save thousands of bucks and cell phone based Nav costs me $10 a month.

Consumer Recommendation:

This is a great line up of competition and well priced cars. I tested them all and if Japanese cars are your thing the Sentra is a good choice. Which ever you lean toward consider cutting out the fluff and you’ll have a great commuter that will double as a cost effective family sedan.

Recognized Competition:

Nissan Sentra $17-21,000, Mitsubishi Lancer $14-26,000, Toyota Corolla $15-20,000, Suzuki SX4 Sport $13-18,000, Ford Focus $16-18,000, Dodge Caliber $16-25,000, Scion tC $17-18,000, Pontiac G5 $17-20,000, Saturn Aura $23-27,000, VW Rabbit $16-19,000, $16-19,000, Kia Spectra $14-16,000, Nissan Versa $10-16,000, Hyundai Elantra $14-17,000, Honda Civic $15-25,000, Chevrolet Cobalt $15-23,000, Mazda 3 $15-22,000.

Good News:

Comfy, capable, cost efficient.

Bad News:

Small trunk.

Standard Equipment:

2.0 liter 140 hp 4-cylinder engine, Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission), torsion beam rear suspension with stabilizer bar, independent front suspension with stabilizer bar, electric assisted power steering, ABS with electronic brake force distribution front disc and rear drum brakes, 16” allow wheels, power mirrors, leather seats steering wheel, air, power windows and locks with auto locking feature, 6-speaker audio with CD/MP3 and XM satellite, speed sensitive audio volume, Bluetooth phone system, child LATCH and rear door safety locks, tire pressure monitoring system, tilt column, 6-way adjustable driver seat, trip computer w/ o/s Temp etc., illuminated steering wheel controls for audio Bluetooth and cruise controls, 2 – 12 Volt power outlets, front – side and side curtain airbags, 60/40 split folding rear seat and vehicle immobilizer.

Gas Stats:

$2.29/ Gal avg. April 18, ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

25 City and 33 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $19,660.

2009 Nissan Xterra OR V6 4X4 (736)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2009 Nissan Xterra OR-V6 4X4 SUV. I reviewed the first North American import Model year 2000 and it was Motor Trends SUV of the year. I wasn’t surprised then and I continue to rank it in my top 3 SUVs that I would own for Off-Road use. Jeep is at the top and I put Hummer at #3.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – Smyrna, Tennessee, USA

Class: – SUV

Cars: – 350Z, Altima, Altima Hybrid, Armada, Frontier, GT-R, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Quest, Rogue, Sentra, Titan, Versa and Xterra.

Observation:

For people traveling from the Antelope Valley to the San Gabriel Valley you may be a part of the traffic I contend with on Angeles Crest Highway where I make the trek at least once a week to test the vehicles for my column. I have to tell you that I’m impressed with how well folks handle the 30 mile journey over the rugged mountain trail. They are, by and large the best drivers on the highway. They display cooperation and sensitivity as they keep the flow moving by pulling over to allow faster traffic to pass. There are only 2 lanes for the majority of the drive so courtesy is important.

The drive can be stressful with several hundred turns and curves to test your driving skill. In good weather the drive is an alternative to State Highway 14 that tends to jam up at peak travel hours. But you will have to overcome the fear of the possible perils of narrow places along the way with no guard rails and 1,000 foot drops only a few feet off the road.

Handling & Performance:

Xterra is a very capable off-road option to other 4X4’s and is properly priced but the fuel numbers are disappointing and are virtually the same as the 2000 year model that was a 3.3 liter 170 hp V6. I guess in a sense it is an improvement in fuel economy because the 2009 model sports a more powerful 261 hp V6. Still disappointing they couldn’t do better on economy. I guess they didn’t see the higher fuel prices coming! (but if all the car makers didn’t see oil as a diminishing quantity problem could it be all the shortage story is a deception pulled off on the consumer? Some say there is a 200 year supply in North America alone!)

Styling:

Xterra has maintained the distinctive look from the beginning of its introduction to North America in 2000.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Excellent. Even though it is much improved since 2000 when introduced in North America MSRP was $26,000. How’s that for maintaining the price of ownership?

Features and Conveniences:

Outstanding for the price if you are an off-road enthusiast.

Consumer Recommendation:

Resource – www.safercar.gov

If you are an off-road kind-a guy or gal, look at the competition beginning with this Xterra, the Jeep and then the Hummer. If you aren’t convinced by then I’d be surprised.

Recognized Competition:

Nissan Xterra $22-29,000, Volkswagen Touareg 2 $39-68,000, Mitsubishi Outlander $20-25,000, Land Rover LR2 $34-35,000, Hummer H3 $33-43,000, Jeep Grand Cherokee $30-45,000, Jeep Wrangler $20-32,000, Subaru Tribeca $30-36,000, Mazda CX-7 $24-28,000, Toyota FJ Cruiser $23-25,000, Toyota  4Runner $29-39,000, Ford Explorer $28-39,000, Chevrolet TrailBlazer $29-39,000, Dodge Durango $28-40,000, Dodge Nitro $22-29,000.

Good News:

Great off-road vehicle and impressive standard equipment, priced well and distinctive.

Bad News:

Disappointing fuel performance,

Standard Equipment:

4.0 liter V6 261 hp engine, continuous variable valve timing, 5-speed automatic transmission, front independent dbl wishbone suspension w/coil springs, front & rear stabilizer bars, 4-wheel ABS brakes with elect brake force distribution, 4-wheel limited slip, engine speed sensitive rack and pinion power steering, hill decent control and start assist, electronic locking rear differential, 16” allow off road wheels, high performance Bilstein shocks, skid plates for oil pan, fuel tank and transfer case, rear side bumper steps, roof rack rails, folding side view power mirrors, tinted rear glass, front tow hook, splash guards, roof mounted off road lights, gear basket, fog lights, 8-way driver seat with lumbar support, 60/40 split fold flat 2nd row seats, fold flat front pass. seat, tilt steering column, leather wrapped steering wheel w/ audio and cruise controls, audio with CD player, remote keyless entry, power windows and locks, air conditioning, front & side airbags, rear child safety locks, LATCH child system, vehicle dynamic control, immobilizer system and tire pressure monitoring system.

Gas Stats:

$1.72/ Gal avg. Dec. 26, ‘08

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

15 City and 20 Highway MPG

www.safercar.gov  or   888-327-4236

Pricing:

MSRP $29,340.

2009 Nissan Pathfinder SE 4X4 SUV (734)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2009 Nissan Pathfinder SE 4X4 SUV. Obviously these large vehicles are not dead yet in spite of the fact that gas promises to go back up to the world price. Temporarily it is below $2.00 at this writing, but the conditions would point simply to a lull before the storm and we’ll see $5.00 fuel prices again.

I suspect Uncle Sam has loosed a bunch of reserve US oil to depress the world market and since we’re the largest consumer of fossil fuels at this point OPEC has to sell for less or they’ll be stuck with a lot of black gooey stuff and less money for bombs. But that won’t last long and with the rising demand by China and India that will drive prices back up. The solution – drill baby drill – right here at home. With arguably 200 years of oil in the US and new technologies just around the corner it makes sense to use what we have, keep the price here at home low and step up development of all those other energy methods.

Another consideration is the lousy job our congress has done in fiscal and monetary policy. Apparently our representatives in congress didn’t know what the average citizen knew. Why didn’t they know the real estate market bubble would not grow indefinitely, and why did they demand banks to give sub-prime, no interest or low teaser interest loans when the banks didn’t want to. B of A didn’t because they couldn’t be convinced they should do the wrong thing just because congress said they should. They and other responsible banks are still in business and congress showed us how stupid they all are.

This explains why “We the People” give congress a far lower approval rating than even an unpopular president. I think they know it is congress that makes the laws and spends our money.

The car companies here at home continue to open their mouths and allow their brains to fall out just like the corrupt congress. Will we see collusion between these fat cats? From what I’m hearing, taxpayers are revolting and don’t want to bail out any of the bums miss-managing their companies. And something the mainstream media won’t tell you is that over 54% of “foreign” cars are made right here in the US by American workers. And, if one or more of the big 3 goes under more cars will be sold by these American based foreign car makers using US workers. So what’s the big deal? The big 3 US car makers cost of labor is $78 per hour (thanks to strong Unions and weak management) and other car makers have kept cost of labor south of $45 per hour. Well, daaaa – is it so hard to understand why the big three can’t compete? No! Of course not – The common man in the street does but apparently it is beyond the agenda of that gang of thieves in Washington.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – Smyrna, Tennessee, USA

Class:  – SUV

Cars: – 350Z, Altima, Altima Hybrid, Armada, Frontier, GT-R, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Quest, Rogue, Sentra, Titan, Versa and Xterra.

Observation:

You can always spot good drivers. They are considerate, not self appointed cops, they pay attention to what they’re doing, they use hands free cell phones, they don’t text while driving, they are sensitive to what’s happening on the road around them and they don’t tailgate.

A very important few specific things to remember while driving are: Maintain a constant speed that approximates the average speed of the flow of traffic. Leave a reasonable amount of space between you and the car in front. And third, if you are not passing traffic in the lane to your right that’s the lane you should be driving in. There will always be other drivers who will drive faster than you and that is a good thing – they’re the ones who will get the tickets. And you will arrive 5 minutes later than them if they don’t get stopped.

Handling & Performance:

Very good ride. Smooth and powerful.

Styling:

Functional but not as pretty as some of the competition.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

This is a pricey class and Pathfinder is comparably priced.

Features and Conveniences:

High end features for comfortable and safe SUV operation.

Consumer Recommendation:

Resource – www.safercar.gov

Although the Honda CRV is not in this class I’d look back at the new CR-V. Very impressive comparison even in this class. Secondly if your budget doesn’t allow these prices, you will want to consider moving up in class by buying a year or two older model. Either way whatever your budget there isn’t a better time to buy. Prices are depressed and “Soft” whether new or used.

Recognized Competition:

Nissan Pathfinder $27-40,000, Volkswagen Touareg 2 $39-68,000, Mitsubishi Endeavor $28-31,000, Land Rover LR3 $49-54,000, GMC Acadia $32-40,000, Jeep Grand Cherokee $30-45,000, Subaru Tribeca $30-34,000, Acura MDX $41-49,000, Toyota 4Runner $29-39,000, Ford Explorer $27-38,000, Chevrolet Traverse $28-41,000, Hyundai Veracruz $ n/a, Volvo XC90 $37-51,000, Saturn Outlook $30-36,000, Dodge Durango $28-40,000, Chrysler Aspen $35-37,000, Honda Pilot $28-40,000, Suzuki XL7  $ n/a.

Good News:

Powerful 4-WD SUV.

Bad News:

POOR fuel economy, Pricey.

Standard Equipment:

4.0 liter V6 266 hp engine, 5-speed automatic transmission, front & rear independent suspension and stabilizer bars, 6,000 lb towing, 4-wheel ABS with electronic brake force distribution and active limited slip, switch operated shift on the fly 4-wheel drive system, 17” alloy wheels, fog lights, front tow hook, side running boards, tilt steering column with leather wrapped steering wheel audio and cruise controls, audio with 6-disc CD w/ MP3 CD and 6-speakers, 7” multi information color display, remote keyless entry, power windows and locks, power adjustable pedals, lighted vanity mirrors, 40/20/40 split fold flat reclining 2nd row seats, 50/50 fold flat 3rd row seat, climate control, speed sensitive wipers, front & side airbags, rear child safety locks, LATCH child system, vehicle dynamic control, immobilizer system and tire pressure monitoring system.

Options: Journey Pkg including auto lights, machine finished allow wheels, rearview monitor and roof rails and cross bars – $1,300, Premium Pkg including BOSE upgrade audio, XM satellite radio, Bluetooth hands free phone system and intelligent key – $1,750, Leather Pkg including heated leather seats, heated power mirrors and 4-way power passenger seat – $1,850.

Gas Stats:

$1.72/ Gal avg. Dec. 5, ‘08

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

14 City and 20 Highway MPG

www.safercar.gov   or    888-327-4236

Pricing:

MSRP $32,510 – with options $37,565.

2008 Nissan Versa SL HB (730)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2008 Nissan Versa 1.8 SL HB (hatchback). Small but it even works for taller drivers with good head and leg room, but the non-telescoping wheel may require a less than perfect reach.

Overall I grew to like this car. The size is good and the rear seat is adequately roomy. My next test car – Honda Fit – on the other hand in the next size down (small wagons) is rather limiting and yet a similar price point. This Nissan is much more serviceable.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – n/a

Class:  – Midsize

Cars: – 350Z, Altima, Altima Hybrid, Armada, Frontier, GT-R, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Quest, Rogue, Sentra, Titan, Versa and Xterra.

Observation:

Well, it worked. Not so long ago the Highway 14, I-5, the 118 and the 210 freeways were closed because of fire. Then again November 15th they were closed again. I wrote in my column back then there were emergency numbers you should remember and put in your cell phones to be equipped to find alternate routes when that happens again. I had to get to Pasadena on that day and called the CHP number and “wa-la” I found the Crest was open and went with a crowd of folks doing the same thing. I was in time for the birthday party and was happy to have had another route open to get there.

Sand Canyon was also closed on that day, which is the only other escape route to and from the San Gabriel Valley and the Antelope Valley.

Once again for your information the numbers to call are: Cal Trans for automated road conditions and closures 800-427-7623 and the CHP emergency road number is 323-259-2010. Try the Cal Trans number now so you will be familiar with the automated system. It works pretty well.

Handling & Performance:

Fun to drive and easy to maneuver and park. On the road it rides smoothly and comfy on long commutes. Although you only get 122 horsepower it does 0-60 in an acceptable 9 seconds.

Styling:

Hatchback design will turn some off, but it is sporty and the hatchback is well concealed.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Good value for the money, especially when you consider the cost of operating.

Features and Conveniences:

Medium sophistication level of tech stuff but lots of it. Well done.

Consumer Recommendation:

Resource – www.safercar.gov

Consider a 2008 model if you’re in the market since you’ll get the best buy since most car retailers are overstocked and happy to see you. Kind of like the stock market and housing. If you’ve got the cash or credit this is a great time to buy these kinds of assets. A dealer friend says he’s experiencing up to 50% discounts on many cars.

Recognized Competition:

Nissan Versa $13-16,000, Volkswagen Rabbit $16-18,000, Kia Spectra 5 $15,995, Kia Rio5 $13-14,000, Suzuki Forenza Wagon $15-16,000, Suzuki Reno $14,000, Toyota Matrix $16-22,000, Pontiac Vibe $16-21,000, Chevrolet Aveo5 $12-15,000, Scion xB $15,750, Chevrolet HHR $19-25,000, Scion xD $14,650, Hyundai Accent $11-15,000, Ford Focus $15-18,000, Saturn Astra $17-20,000, Dodge Caliber $16-25,000, Chrysler PT Cruiser $18-24,000, Honda Fit $15-19,000, Toyota Yaris $12-16,000,Suzuki SX4 Sport $13-17,000.

Good News:

Well priced, great fuel economy, fun to drive and ease of parking, good storage cubby holes, molded in door water bottle slots and decent size trunk. You’ll never find a better time to buy if you are able to.

Bad News:

The economy sucks.

Standard Equipment:

1.8 liter 122 hp 4-cylinder engine, continuously variable auto transmission, stabilizer bars front and rear, power assisted front disc rear drum brakes, power steering, 15” alloy wheels, halogen lights, air conditioning, 6-way driver adjustable seat, audio with 6- in dash CD player, tilt steering column, variable intermittent washer/wipers front and rear, cruise control with steering wheel controls, power windows and locks with remote keyless entry, 60/40 split fold down rear seat, cloth seats. Front and side and side curtain airbag system, tire pressure monitor, rear door child safety locks anchors and tethers and vehicle security and immobilizer system.

Options: XM Satellite radio $150; Convenience Pkg – intelligent keyless entry and ignition, Bluetooth, leather wrapped wheel – $650; Audio package upgrade – $300; Moon roof package includes power sliding glass moon roof with tilt and dual Illuminated visors – $600; Kick plate pkg – $130; Sport Package including roof spoiler, fog lights, body extensions and facias – $700; anti lock braking system, Electronic brake force distribution – $250.

Gas Stats:

$2.27/ Gal avg. November 15, ‘08

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

27 City and 33 Highway MPG

www.safercar.gov  or    888-327-4236

Pricing:

MSRP $15,650 – With options $18,430.

2008 Nissan Sentra Spec V (722)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2008 Nissan Sentra Spec V. One has to wonder how any of the car makers listed below can put a very capable product on the market for under $20,000, but these are all impressive offerings.

I suspect this is much more suited to the younger crowd… young singles or even young married guys and gals and I think it would be good for up to a couple of kids. When I was first married we bought a Datsun station wagon that serviced our need well and the price was right then as it is today for the company who changed its name to Nissan brand.

With an announcement in fall of 1981, Datsun’s parent Nissan Motor Company, Ltd. decided to change the name on cars sold in the United States and Canada from Datsun to Nissan. David Aaker, a noted Marketing guru in his 1991 book: “MANAGING BRAND EQUITY” presents interesting business world facts with the conclusion that the name change campaign over a 3-year period from 1982 to 1984 cost Nissan in excess of $500 million dollars.  When Japan became committed to the US car market in 1960 Aaker suggests corporate choice favored “Datsun” to distance the parent factory Nissan’s association by Americans with Japanese WWII military manufacture

General Info:

Parts –  n/a

Assembly – Aguas, Mexico

Class:  –  Midsize Cars

Cars: – 350Z, Altima, Altima Hybrid, Armada, Frontier, GT-R, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Quest, Rogue, Sentra, Titan, Versa and Xterra.

Handling & Performance:

Zippy and fun to drive.

Styling:

Utility simple while being a great looking commuter car.

Fit and Finish:

Good.

Cost:

Competitive in class.

Conveniences and comfort:

More than most of us need, but pretty usual stuff for this price point commuter.

Consumer Recommendation:

A huge low cost array of competitors that are all quite good. High profile cars like Toyota Corolla have been on the road for a good long time and are known for reliability, but I’ve tested all of these and find I’m just as impressed with the Sentra out of all cars in this price level. Nissan has been a good reliable car since its introduction to the American market back in the early 1960s. I owned one of the first Datsun imports back then and we liked it a lot.

Recognized Competition:

Nissan Sentra $16-20,000, Mini Cooper $18-25,000, Toyota Corolla $15-20,000, Suzuki Forenza $14-15,000, Kia Spectra $13-16,000, VW Jetta $17-24,000,  Chevrolet Cobalt $15-23,000, Mitsubishi Lancer $14-26,000, Hyundai Elantra $14-17,000, Mazda Speed3 $23-24,000, Saturn Ion $12-20,000, Pontiac G5 $16-20,000, Ford Focus $15-18,000, Scion tC $17,000, Mazda3 $14-21,000, Honda Civic $15-25,000, Subaru Impreza $17-35,000, Nissan Altima Hybrid $26,650.

Good News:

Decent fuel economy in class, comfortable and fun to drive.

Bad News:

I couldn’t find anything to nit pick about but it will likely not be a good choice for the senior set. Low profile makes it more difficult for elder drivers getting in and out.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter 200 hp Inline 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed manual transmission, sport tuned suspension, ventilated front disc brakes, electric power steering, electronic brake force distribution, antilock brake system, 17” alloy wheels, rear spoiler, air conditioning, power windows and locks, aluminum pedal pads, audio with CD, sport bucket seats, 6-way adjustable driver seat, remote keyless entry, trip computer with temp and distance to empty, cruise control with steering wheel controls, variable intermittent wipers, tilt steering column, front and side and roof mounted side curtain air bags, vehicle security system and immobilizer system, child safety rear locks, LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for Children) and tire pressure monitoring system.

Gas Stats:

$3.71/ Gal avg. September 7, ‘08

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

21 City and 29 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $20,180.