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Top Picks and Nits for Commuter Cars?

AAA releases its version of practical cars for daily driving.

by on Mar.23, 2010

If you can get past Toyota's recall and safety troubles, Prius remains a great commuter car.

AAA released its top vehicle picks for commuters today based on practicality, safety, comfort, fuel efficiency and affordability criteria.

The non-profit motoring organization, with 51 million members, says the average motorist spends roughly 41 minutes a day traveling about 22.5 miles round trip to/from work in personal vehicles.

Its top picks for commuting – with my comments, and please add yours – are:

  • Honda Insight: This car is among the ultimate in gasoline fuel economy while being reasonably comfortable for the driver and front-seat passenger. It is also less costly and more fun to drive than some of its hybrid competitors.

(Well, maybe since the promised low-price version of the Toyota Prius has never appeared. However, my trips to Honda dealerships revealed that most of the cars offered are higher trim levels, so the alleged price advantage is confined to press releases.)

  • Ford Fusion: Four-cylinder versions offer an appealing combination of power, riding comfort and handling competence. The Hybrid offers even more economy, but the fuel savings come with a major bump in the purchase price.

(No kidding the hybrid is more expensive. Be sure to drive the four-cylinder before you buy it. its performance is, well, leisurely.)

  • Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Everything that you ever hated about diesels has been exorcised in this latest version of the Volkswagen diesel engine. It is quiet, with just a trace of diesel clatter at idle; peppy, especially when underway; and every bit as economical as the most miserly hybrids. It also is great fun to drive. Comfortable front seats are a plus.


(I do not think the Jetta is every bit as “economical” as most hybrids. Our testing shows Prius with a roughly 10 mpg advantage in urban, suburban and highway conditions. See also Road&Track, March 2010 for an even more rigorous testing data. And fueling a diesel, especially at truck stops, is a less than fun experience.)   (more…)

First Drive: 2010 Subaru Legacy Sedan

Pushing more mainstream?

by on Jun.26, 2009

With Subaru's all-new, 2010 Legacy sedan, the company aims to step up its presence in the mainstream midsize market.

With Subaru's all-new, 2010 Legacy sedan, the company aims to step up its presence in the mainstream midsize market.

To many folks, the voice of the small import automaker, Subaru, carries with it an Australian accent.  That’s courtesy of actor Paul Hogan, aka Crocodile Dundee, who became synonymous with Subaru and its line-up of sport-utility vehicles, dubbed Outback, when they were launched a couple decades back.  The utes – and the memorable ad campaign – helped revive the then-foundering brand, but also shifted Subaru’s focus from mainstream sedans and coupes to SUVs and ute-like crossovers.

With the launch of the 2010 Subaru Legacy a midsize four-door, the Japanese-based maker is circling back on itself.  It’s by no means walking away from the truck-like products that have proved its salvation – indeed, helped it maintain nearly flat sales in a market where even Toyota is down, for the year, by more than 30%.  But with its market share at record levels, and brand awareness booming, as well, Subaru is betting a better-equipped and more stylish sedan can gain traction against more mainstream marques, like Nissan and Volkswagen. headed for the Pacific Northwest to get some stick time in the 2010 Legacy, which had made a semi-official first appearance as a “concept” car, at the Detroit Auto Show, last January, and then reappeared in full production trim at February’s Chicago Auto Show.


First Look: 2010 Subaru Legacy

How long does it take to build a legacy?

by on Apr.09, 2009

Subaru's 2010 Legacy is bigger in every dimension, which should better position it in the midsize segment.

Subaru's 2010 Legacy is bigger in every dimension, which should better position it in the competitive midsize sedan segment.

There’s something to be said about being the only automaker in the American market to post a sales increase in 2008.  How Subaru pulled that off is going to be debated for some time, but certainly a good share of the credit goes to products like the Subaru Legacy which, suggests Subaru CEO Ikuo Mori, is the company’s “iconic model.”

The icon is about to go through a facelift, Subaru introducing the all-new 2010 Legacy at this year’s New York International Auto Show.  A spitting image of the Subaru Legacy Concept sedan first shown in Detroit, last January, the production, 2010 model is a moderately larger package that “now competes head-on in the midsize sedan segment,” asserted Subaru of America COO Tom Doll, during a news conference at the NY show.

The new sedan measures 1.4 inches longer, overall, with a wheelbase stretched 3.0 inches.  The 2010 Subaru Legacy is also 3.6 inches wider and 3.2 inches taller, with a trunk 30 percent larger than the model it replaces.

clickherebutton The new model will be offered with standard All-Wheel-Drive and three optional powertrain packages, including the mileage-miser 2.5-liter, 170 horsepower Boxer 4-cylinder engine, a turbo variant pumping that to 265 ponies, and the performance-oriented six-cylinder, 3.6-liter engine.  There are a variety of transmissions available, including a fuel-efficient CVT.

The 2010 Legacy is the latest in a flood of new products from the Japanese maker, which also plans to launch an updated version of its Outback wagon for the coming model-year.