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Prius Prime: 70 mpg at 70 mph
by The Car Family
For more reviews go to https://www.motorists.org/tag/the-car-family/

Forgot the old Prius, the new Prius Prime is better in every way except for the interior room. It handles well, has frisky acceleration, and is loaded with features. The larger battery is good for 25 miles of electric-powered go and you can fill up the 11.3-gallon tank on regular and go over 600 miles. Indeed, it was easy for us to get 70 miles per gallon at freeway speeds and even better results when the traffic got stickier. Some may decry its busy exterior, but the beauty here is on the inside where it counts. Yes, there are a few other suitors for the environmentally conscious from Hyundai and Chevrolet, but they do not offer the proven reliability of this Toyota. As for interior space, the new Prime battery pack takes up passenger space limiting the cargo capacity and back seat room. It is well worth the sacrifice.

We have been enthusiastic about Prius since it came out in the 1990s, and we are just as excited about this new model. It is quieter and easier to maneuver. However, the larger battery pack takes longer to charge using a 110 outlet requiring about six hours of plug-in time to get the full benefits of the electric battery range whereas the previous model could be topped off in three. A 240 line is noticeably faster, but may require residential rewiring.

Be aware that before you buy a Prius Prime your state may have incentives to encourage their use, including high-occupancy lane usage. The federal government also gives you a tax advantage such as a $2500 tax credit for the Toyota. In addition, every vehicle rating service names the Prius as one of the most dependable cars you can own. For example, in 25,000 miles of travel, our car had 80 percent of its brake pads remaining as the Prius used the regenerative braking to help with stopping.

Our test vehicle was the Advanced model that lists for about $34,000. You can order the Premium model ($28,800) and still get the 11.6-inch central touch screen, and a power driver seat, keyless entry/start, and wireless smartphone charging. There is also the entry-level Plus ($ 27,000) with considerably fewer features.

Mom’s view: Make sure to order the Star Safety System that includes ABS, traction control, brake assist for emergency stopping power, stability control, and electronic brake force distribution that equalizes stopping force to each wheel. I especially like the Smart Stop Technology that automatically halts the vehicle when both the accelerator and the brake pedal are pressed at the same time. Parking is a breeze with a 33.4 radius. Safety wise you get LED headlights and taillights, heated door mirrors, programmed grille shutters, navigation, automatic climate control, heated front seats, a proximity key and push-button start plus airbags everywhere. It is a joy to park, but the rear hatch lift over is a little high. The Prius Prime Advanced featured a heated steering wheel, color head-up display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, parking sensors, self-parking system, and blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, more powerful headlights, automatic high-beams, and lane-departure warning with a lane-keeping assist.

Dad’s view: The ride on the new Prius has dramatically improved with independent MacPherson strut front suspension and double-wishbone style multi-link rear suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars. The electric steering is excellent, and the electric motors and four-cylinder gas engine work to provide a nimble and satisfying ride. If you need more power, such as for passing, clicking the Power button will bring plenty of acceleration. The Prius Prime is a joy to drive on longer trips as the seats have been improved. One of the biggest problems we had was forgetting to check the gas gauge and were shocked one day to notice the fuel warning light illuminated. Fifteen dollars later, we had a full tank and another 600 miles plus of trouble-free driving. The Prime has a plug-in port to charge the 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that enables an EPA-rated 25 miles of electric-only driving range. The combination of electric and gas propulsion and the continuously variable automatic transmission are nearly undetectable. Even when the Prius automatically turns off when stopped in traffic, there is no jerky movement as is common in the competition. The lithium-ion battery pack resides under the rear seats and weighs 265 pounds. Except for the noise from the tires chosen for gas mileage maximization vs quiet ride, the Prius Prime Advanced is easily the best and most reliable plug-in hybrid you can buy. In the past, the resale has been excellent as well. If you are worried the battery pack, it has a ten-year or eight-year warranty, depending on your state’s standards.

Young working woman’s view: This is a four-passenger sedan and the seats are comfortable. One can choose among a couple of setting depending on your needs while driving. The EV Auto mode is your best choice. Among your other choices are select Eco (very slow) or Power (very fast). The interior is well done and there are a variety of storage bins and plugs. I like the Prius Prime, but living in a condo I do not have access to an electric outlet, and thus the regular Prius would be my choice. Overall, easy to park, maneuver, and does not attract undue attention from ne’re-do-wells.

Young working male’s view: Toyota continues with its dash centered display, but the images are nearly invisible if you are wearing polarized glasses. The Advanced model has semi autonomous parking and an excellent 11.6-inch LCD touch screen that works well. Thankfully, there is a volume control knob. The JBL sound system is adequate. The inductive phone-charging pad in the center console, but the white color of the charging surfaces is a bit much. The large monitor looks good, but just means another layer of learning before you get accustomed to it. For example, the lower half of the display is buried at the bottom of the screen when you are using the GPS map. There is an abundance of audio alarms that need to be addressed before leaving the dealership. You are notified when a window is down when parked or a lane is being crossed without a turn signal on and a variety of other warnings. Finally, according to our local Toyota dealer, the Prius Prime plug-in chord costs over $1000 so keep good care of it.

Family conference: We highly recommend the Prius Prime to those who drive in heavy commuter traffic and still want to take a long vacation knowing that the Prius has excellent mileage, features, quality, and resale. Don’t let is futuristic exterior deter you from considering this gas sipper. It has a heart of gold and lithium-ion.

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Kia 900: A Luxury Sedan for Value Shoppers

Kia continues to challenge buyer’s perceptions winning JD Powers awards for initial quality and now digging deeper into the luxury car segment with the surprising K900. Not only is this Kia well priced, it is loaded with features that challenge any car in the luxury car range. This sedan has a tremendous array of electronics and safety features and a standard 311 horsepower V6 or a neck snapping V8 option pushing 420 horsepower to the rear wheels. This Kia is all about value and class.

2017 K900

There are not only an abundance of opulent features in the K900. The leather seats are quilted and that makes them quicker to heat and cool and avoid sticky cling. Even the least expensive Premium V6 model offer heated seats, navigation and a large infotainment screen. Move to the Luxury model and you get better sound and the V8 option offers a 360-degree camera and lane departure warning. Select the VIP package add lumbar support, front-seat cushion extensions, soft-closing doors and a larger display screen monitor. The interior is attractive and functional with some sensational features such as a heads up display that shows the speed limit, your speed, and even the speed of the windshield wipers. On the downside, the exterior is conservative and the smooth handling may be too soft for some. However, it corners very well. Our fuel mileage was 18 mpg in mixed driving. The K 900 has transmission settings such as Winter, Eco, Sport and Smart. The latter learns your driving habits and adjusts accordingly. Eco is for better fuel mileage and Sport is when you want to challenge your insurance premiums.

Mom’s view: The Kia K900 seats five and all the seats were very comfortable. In our loaded model where you could get ventilated and power-reclining rear seats. The leather is very soft and comforting and the easy to read optional 12.3 inch infotainment screen quick to react. The trunk lid opens wide and reveals nearly 16 cubic feet of cargo room. I always tell 909 readers to order all the safety options they can afford. The K900 has satellite navigation, Bluetooth, satellite radio, and Kia’s UVO smartphone app that lets you set driving boundaries and speed alerts and even locate the car. Even base models have front and rearview cameras, front and rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and headlights that pivot as the car turns. Optional items include a lane departure warning, a 360-degree-view camera, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning with braking assist and, if the Kia computers detect a possible front-end collision, it can apply the brakes. There are airbags everywhere, traction control and stability control, ABS, and more.

Dad’s view: This is a large car that has an understated look that is quite appealing. The V8 engine is very quiet, except when provoked by selecting the Sport setting. After all, you have 420 horsepower to explore and the sound when whipped snarls with enthusiasm. The brakes are excellent and the steering well weighed for a car in this class. To give you an idea of the features the K900 offers consider that the Luxury models also offer a 900-watt 17-speaker audio system, leather seating, heated steering wheel, Kia’s Surround View Monitor, side and rear sun screens, Dynamic Bending Lights, and an LCD instrument cluster. Though some competitors’ nontraditional gearshift selectors can be annoying the Kia’s operates easily enough, clicking into gear with a leather pistol grip. The seamless shifts from the 8-speed transmission make long distance travel relaxing. Some people would call the handling dull, but when you enter a corner at speed the K900 it clings quite well.

Young working woman’s view: This is a really enjoyable car, but it is very large. Regardless, get the Luxury version with the VIP options and let your rear seat passengers enjoy the generous leg room and a panoramic sunroof that extends over their heads. With the key in your pocket the car can recognize you and turn on the lights. When you exit, just a touch of the door handle and it is locked.

Young working male’s view: There is an abundance of USB and 120V outlets and they are well lighted. On many cars, these outlets are hard to locate, but Kia added a light around the outlets so they are simple to find. I was able to connect my cell phone to the system easily thanks to the large button in the center console that controls many features and enables you to enter navigation, sound, and more. Kia also, thank goodness, makes the radio easy to access with a simple on-off and a volume control knobs. Back to the basics are sometimes the best, even for a techno guru like me. The 3D camera was well displayed and the upgraded stereo, a Lexicon, is the same type of system used by Rolls-Royce, should anyone be interested. The LED headlights are especially good as they provide excellent illumination to the sides of the road.

2017 K900

Family conference: Relaxed driving is the K900’s forte. It has plenty of grunt when needed, can corner better than you would expect, has a plethora of safety features, and a starting price under $50,000. The outstanding 10-year/100,000-mile power train warranty and award winning reliability statistics make this an appealing choice to those willing to march to a different drummer.

Kia Cadenza: Economical Luxury
by The Car Family
for more reviews got to https://www.motorists.org/tag/the-car-family/

With the average new car price around $33,000 one wonders how Kia can price the feature laden Cedenza for less and still offer what J.D. Powers acknowledged is the highest Initial Quality rating of any car. They even bettered the luxury brands such as Buick and Cadillac. Well, the answer is simple, they offer more. Indeed, if you are looking for a family sized sedan that is all new for 2017, loaded with electronics, a stately stance, an abundance of cargo and passenger room, and a regal look the Cadenza is one of the best deals anywhere.

2017 Cadenza SXL

Mom’s view: Driving it makes you feel like you are the Duchess of Cambridge with an interior that is comfortable adorned in faux wood and chrome accents, easy to master controls, and a quiet ride. There is leather everywhere, power-adjustable front seats, a power-adjustable tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, position memory settings and even heated rear seats. The luxury car feeling abounds, The trunk is 16 cubic feet, but the Cadenza has a smart opening trunk that automatically opens when the proximity key is close to the back of the car. You really need to see it in action. The interior has an abundance of storage areas that are well placed. Safety wise there is a rearview camera and such options as blind spot detection, rear park assist, rear cross traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning system, lane change assist, lane departure warning, and a 360-degree camera system. All the controls are in easy reach, although the touch screen is a bit far for shorter people. The doors open wide and it makes entry easy even wearing a dress. Visibility is good in all directions and the cabin is very quiet. Our test car, the Technology model, had heated and cooled front seats. I would recommend this version over the less expensive Premium model. Mall parking is much easier with the overhead camera view. All told, this is an exceptional value and enjoyable drive. The main competition is more expensive, but certainly not as luxurious.

Dad’s view: All Cadenzas are front wheel drive and have a 290 horsepower, 3.3-liter V6 engine paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. We got 25 mpg in mixed driving. The sedan is meant for driving in comfort and that is reflected in its smooth handling with adequate acceleration for passing and onramp merging.
There are four driving modes. On start-up the car defaults to Comfort mode. Next you can choose from Eco, Sport, or Smart mode with each selection changing steering weight and transmission dynamics. We left it in Smart mode. That mode monitors your driving habits style and adopts accordingly. your driving style.
The transmission is smooth and brakes easy to modulate and provide exceptional stopping. This is a large sedan and it smooths out roads easily, but high speed canyon runs are not its forte. Steering is a bit light. The Cadenzas is enjoyable to drive and relaxing. I found driving it in heavy traffic was reassuring with all the safety features and above average braking and gas mileage. With the usual 909 traffic almost worse every day, the Cadenza seemed to smooth all that over with and an 18.5 gallon fuel tank enabling 500 miles of highway travel on regular fuel. The bottom line is that this Kia is priced even under the competition and they do not offer nearly as much. If you are into value and still want luxury, the Cadenza is easily your best bet.

Young working male’s view: Where to start? Well, the only thing Kia lacks is a hotspot Internet connection. Otherwise it has the electronics handled and fairly nicely. With Bluetooth, dual-zone automatic climate control, a proximity key, an eight-speaker sound system, infotainment system, a 7-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a USB port, HD Radio, and satellite radio. You can also order an optional 12-speaker Harman/Kardon surround-sound audio system, a wireless smartphone charger, an 8-inch touch screen, voice-command navigation it pretty much leaves the higher priced competition in the dust and when you add the head-up display with turn-by-turn directions and speed you can’t help but wonder what Kia has in store for us next. Overall, a little to big for me, Kias Niro and Sorento being my favorites, but certainly noteworthy for those wishing to make a statement without busting the credit rating.

Young working woman’s view: The Kia Cadenza comes in three trims: Premium, Technology, and Limited with each offering a few more options. Regardless, this is a friendly sedan that is well thought out right down to the deep glove compartment and a pocket in each door. LED interior lighting is a nice touch and I loved the vanity mirrors.

Family conference: Kia products have vastly improved, and the all new Cadenza is just one example. Kia caries the exceptional five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. It is a bargain even though we thought the infotainment system was a little slow. It you like luxury and don’t like paying for it the Cadenza must be considered.

Kia Hybrids: Ready for Higher Gas Prices.
by The Car Family
for more reviews go to https://www.motorists.org/tag/the-car-family/

This is the best time to look into hybrids with new fuel taxes on the horizon and no better place to start are with the new Kia Niro SUV and Kia Optima starting at $22,890 and $25,995 while pushing past 40 mpg. No doubt these Kias with their exceptional reliability rating and stellar warranty are worth considering especiallyconsidering the average new car is going for $32,000.

With most readers having an average one-way commute time of over 30 minutes and 15 percent spending an hour in traffic these hybrids are ideal, essentially offering savings up to 50 percent in fuel savings over typical competitors.

Kia Niro Hybrid Overview: This is a subcompact SUV and is priced under most of the hybrid competition. You can average nearly 50 mpg overall which is outstanding for a car this versatile. It has a slightly higher stance and comfortable seats, but the real star is the way six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission shifts.

2017 Niro – Red

Kia Optima Hybrid overview: The 2017 is new and appealing offering a calm driving experience, plenty of cargo room and 40 mpg average. Loaded with technology such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and safety features that include autonomous emergency braking. The ride is quiet and you get 13.4 cubic feet of storage with a lot of inside bins for personal items. Although the exterior is not as exciting as some competitors, it nevertheless looks sleek and should age well. You can also get an Optima plug-in.

2017 Optima Hybrid

Mom’s view: The Niro is fun, but get the EX model as it offers so much more with heated seats, blind spot monitoring and an abundance of other safety and convenience features. The less expensive FE is the mileage champ, but a warm bottom is well worth the extra for the upgraded model. You can get the more loaded Touring and Touring Launch as well, but their isn’t any all wheel drive option on any model. The back seats of the EX fold down giving you ample room for packages. The Optima hybrid allows you to select Eco or Sport mode outside of the standard setting. Eco takes the edge off driving and gives you superior mileage, but the cost is more relaxed acceleration. Sport brings the Optima on boil and is excellent for passing or lane merging.

2017 Optima Hybrid interior

Dad’s view: The Niro is a 1.6 liter four-cylinder gas-electric hybrid with 6-speed dual-clutch automatic drive train. It is fun to drive, but it isn’t going to set any speed records. The brakes on both vehicles take a while to get used to as they regenerate the batteries. This is good as it save on brake wear, but can be abrupt at times until a gentle touch is mastered. Steering is quite good and makes the Niro nimble and corners well. The electric motor works with the transmission and makes driving in heavy traffic easy. The Optima has an electric motor and 2.0-liter engine that combine to produce 192 hp. While most hybrids have a continuously variable transmission, but the Optima Hybrid sticks with a six-speed automatic transmission for a more traditional shifting feel.

Young working woman’s view: The Niro isn’t as comfortable to drive as the larger Optima with the latter being quieter as well. The Optima seats are fairly flat and so heavier drivers will find them a good fit. Entering and exiting both cars is easy, but the larger doors on the Optima make it a long reach to close at times. Both cars are good for those with mobility problems with just a little step over to get into a seat. The slopping roof of the Optima restricts rear vision, but the excellent rear view camera takes care of that problem. Interestingly, the vehicles are loaded with pockets for caring everything from large water bottles to small handwipes. As similar as these two Kia products are they appeal to a very different buyer. The Niro is handy and versatile. Perfect for the active family. The Optima is larger and more gentrified, perfect for those who like a quieter ride and more space. I like larger cars, but worry about mall parking lots. The special rear and skyward views on the monitor relieves that stress.

2017 Niro interior

Back to school male’s view: Working on my computer security certificate, but in the meantime the Kia’s offered some excellent technology, although the GPS was a bit slow. We had the Harman Kardon system, which was fine, and the optional wireless smartphone charging worked well. There is an adaptive cruise control and voice control, including Siri. My choice would be the handy Niro. Looks good, handy, and fuel frugal.
Family conference: The front-wheel-drive Optima hybrid has been restyled this year and improved in many areas and the Niro is all new. Kia’s warranty is special with a basic five year/60,000 coverage and roadside assistance and 10 years and 100,000 miles on the powertrain. Kia ranks highest among all automotive industry nameplates in the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Initial Quality Study and this is the first time a non-luxury brand has led the industry. Others to consider are the Toyota RAV4 and the Nissan Rogue.

Mazda’s CX-9: Seating for Seven
by The Car Family
for more reviews go to https://www.motorists.org/tag/the-car-family/

Mazda, perhaps most renowned for building smaller, agile vehicles, is starting to expand its appeal by offering a new flagship, the seven passenger CX-9. The result is encouraging for SUV buyers as it combines a refined interior, good fuel mileage, and an abundance of safety features. Perhaps the most notable feature is that this well loaded, family oriented vehicle places the emphasis on utility and enhances it with the interior of a luxury vehicle. In fact, if you opt for the Signature edition no one is ever going to know you are not driving around in an upscale European model.

cx9_014-1

Adding to the uniqueness of the CX-9 is the fact it has a turbocharged four-cylinder engine while most competitors offer a six cylinder alternative. Don’t fret, the Mazda is plenty potent for two lane road passing or freeway merging thanks to its SkyActiv technology and smooth six-speed automatic transmission that keeps everything at peak efficiency. Even better our mpg average was 24 in mixed driving with 27 mpg on a quick trip to San Diego. As an aside, four cylinder engines are becoming the engine of choice as manufactures work to meet ever increasing environmental standards as such lxuru brands as Audi, Lexus, and Cadillac now offer these hard working units to consumers.

Mom’s view: If looks matter, Mazda is going to sell a lot of Mazda CX-9s and the good news is that the beauty of this SUV goes beyond appearances. You can get it with a full range of safety options including blind-spot monitoring, radar-based cruise control, and lane-departure warning that activate the adjustable collision-warning system and uses the automatic emergency braking system to avoid problems. The interior is splendid and feels scrumptious using real rose wood and aluminum accents as well as leather seats, and the exterior is snappy looking as well. This is not your typical SUV appliance. The ergonomics are easy to master and visibility is good, the automatic rear hatch gentle to use, and interior lighting is excellent. Even with the base Sport model you get three zone climate control, rear view camera, and seven-inch monitor with Mazda Connect, Bluetooth, and inputs. The CX-9 height helps eliminate worry when entering or leaving the vehicle and the ancillary controls on the steering wheel can be used easily even with long nails. It took me a while to get used to the accelerator’s need for a gentle touch as I am a bit of a lead foot, but once mastered it was pleasant to drive at any speed.

Dad’s view: The big news is how responsive the new 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder is thanks to some creative engineering to combat turbo lag. Mazda uses three values in the intake manifold that can close to force more pressure into the system creating more power at low rpms. The engineers have also devised a better way to harvest gases from the exhaust to keep the turbo on task consistently. The result is an engine that thrives while producing 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft. of torque. The result is plenty of pep, even for mountain driving. You can order an optional all wheel drive, but it was standard on our Signature model. The ride was similar to a much more expensive luxury vehicle and acceleration to 60 mph took around eight second seconds. Touch the accelerator and the CX-9 is ready to play right now with no noticeable turbo lag to hamper its class leading mpg rating. Steering is a bit light, but perfect for tight parking spots, and the overall feel is of a much smaller, lighter on its feet, SUV especially when in sport mode. The CX-9 is impressive, especially when given its pricing and features.

Young working male’s view: There is plenty of standard equipment, but Mazda does offer some interesting options. My suggestion is to go for the loaded versions such as the Signature or Grand Touring models, which feature a power front seat, power liftgate, eight inch monitor, navigation, 12 speaker Bose system, heated front seats and all types of safety equipment. The dash has a variety of analog dials that work well, but when is the most startling is that one of them carries a color LCD screen that can display trip-computer information and a compass. The eight-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard was a long reach, but what I liked was the fact you didn’t have to use it to control functions as there was a large knob located near the console mounted gear shift that helped with imputing data. Mazda isn’t at the cutting edge of electronics, but its meat and potatoes approach should appease all but the most dedicated gadget break.

cx9-16-g-us-w1-011int

Young working woman’s view: There are several models of the CX-9 to choice from, but the Grand Touring and Signature are worth the extra cost because of the added features. Mazda’s price range is from just over $32,000 to around $45,000 so do your homework. Inside, the second row has ample room and the seats slide and are foldable so there is easy access to the third row of seats, which are best used for children. Cargo space varies from 14 cubic feet of space to 38 to 71 depending on which seats are folded down. I greatly love the Mazda 6 and find it better looking, better handling then the competition. The same goes for this Mazda.

Family conference: The Mazda CX-9 is enjoyable, useful, and well priced being a significant value over the more expensive seven seat models from Honda and Ford, among others. Just a fun family vehicle with a heaping helping of value over a topping of exceptional styling. It may not go Zoom Zoom so Mazda might change its theme to Room Room.

Fiat’s Playful Pair
by The Car Family
for more reviews go to https://www.motorists.org/tag/the-car-family/

When you think Italian you think chic, voguish, trendy and all those words rightly describe Fiat’s retro styled vehicles, including the station-wagonish L and the cuddly C convertible models. Both are loaded with a plethora of goodies to entice those searching for value and utility. We tested the Fiat L Trekking and Fiat C convertible and found them fun and frugal. Base prices start in the teens and low $20,000 range. Add to that good safety scores and exceptional fuel mileage and you have vehicles that just don’t appeal to the daring, but to those who looking to make a change from the same old to the playful new.

Fiat offers a plethora of other model as well with the daddy sized, SUVish X, zippy Abarth 500, battery powered E model, and new 124 Spyder. All of them have a few things in common besides being cute and that is a vibrant color palette and playful attitude.

Mom’s view: The Fiat L’s interior design is excellent with ancillary controls on the steering wheel and air, heat and radio controls where you can easily reach them. The standard five-inch monitor does not bleach out when the sun shines in as happens in most of the competition. Everything is easy to use, although the emergency brake location is difficult to reach when wearing a bracelet unless the slim center console is raised. The L has a heavy rear hatch and opens very high so be warned, especially if you are wearing a short dress. The side doors swing wide and you simply slide into the comfortable seats. Attaching a child’s seat is easy thanks the height of the L. Outward visibility in all directions is unmatched in the L. The dual glove boxes are handy and the rear seats are cleverly positioned even higher than the fronts. Fiat states that there are over 1000 possible seating combinations, including sliding the front passenger side forward to be used as a picnic table, and over 20 cubbyholes for storage. You really have to spend some time in one to appreciate its usefulness.

2016 Fiat 500L

2016 Fiat 500L

Dad’s view: Fiat’s C is one of the most fun cars you can have for trips to the mountains or sea-shore thanks to its nifty handling, spunky driveability, and feisty attitude. It is perfect for wamt the benefit of an easy to park vehicle, over 30 mpg, and the ability to go topless in seconds. If it rains, it could happen, the top is a snap to raise. The C handles like a go-cart with good brakes and sharp, if a bit heavy, steering. A manual transmission is available, but we much prefer the new six-speed automatic when coupled to the base 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with its 101 horsepower. There is also a 135 horsepower Turbo model.

Our L Trekking had a MultiAir turbocharged inline-4 providing 160 horsepower with an mpg overall rating of 25. Passing and on-ramps were no problem, but there is torque steer evident when accelerating hard from a stop, and the engine can sound gruff when pushed. The L isn’t a slouch, but Fiat really designed it for transporting the family. The rear seats can recline, there is an optional large sunroof that covers both front and rear passengers, and 22.4 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seats and 68 cubic feet with them folded. Interior space is nearly identical with a Ford Escape. I enjoyed the L. It grew on me because it was so maneuverable and handy thanks to the Koni suspension components. However, I recommend you test the Fiat X with its all wheel drive capabilities and similar dimensions and stick with the convertible if you are a fashionista.

Young male’s view: The front-wheel-drive Fiat 500 C has a cute rump and comes in several flavors based on your option selections. They are babe magnets and economical as well. However, there isn’t much interior space. For that you need the L. Either way, Fiat offers a standard Uconnect infotainment system with a USB port and Bluetooth connectivity. You can connect your phone to the system and reply to texts using voice commands. The fonts are easy to see and the system works as well as those on a Mercedes. The L offers a Beats audio system that I recommend. Other options include automatic climate control, rearview camera, rear parking sensors and 6.5-inch touch screen. My choice is the 500 C, but if you want something more wicked get the 500 Abarth.

2016 Fiat 500c Pop (left) with 1962 Fiat 500 (center) and 2016 Fiat 500c Lounge (right)

2016 Fiat 500c Pop (left) with 1962 Fiat 500 (center) and 2016 Fiat 500c Lounge (right)

Young working woman’s viewpoint: Fiat is for those brave enough to leave the safety of same-old for the challenges of change. To that end Fiat has priced their vehicles very aggressively. To assuage quality worries, Fiat Chrysler of America offers a 4-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty with roadside assistance and a 3-year/36,000-mile no-cost maintenance package. There are a variety of C models from the more basic Pop to the loaded Lounge. The L comes in several flavors as well with the Pop, Easy, Trekking, Urbana, and Lounge each adding new levels of considerations. Standard safety features include seven airbags and more, but be warned, ladies, that getting in and out of the C takes modesty practice.

Family conference: Fiats are unique and may not appeal to everyone, but they do offer consumers the safety of a good warranty, friendly ergonomics, and some exceptional lease deals and incentives. There is also an extensive option list to make them easy to individualize. Fiat also offers through its website a Mix and Mingle program that brings users together. In essence, owners have made Fiat a life-style choice and well worth a look for those seeking a little Italian to call their own. Ciao.

Toyota’s Top Hybrids: Prius and RAV4
by The Car Family
for more reviews go to https://www.motorists.org/tag/the-car-family/
Toyota RAV 4 and the Prius have provided consumers with a nice combination of utility and frugality with both cars offering room for a young family and exceptional fuel mileage. Both vehicles have a lot in common from pricing, to Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrains to class leading fuel mileage in the over 50 mpg for the Prius and 30 for the RAV. Indeed, if you are after economical travel these two are tough to top.

Prius Tourning

Prius Tourning

RAV4 Hybrid

RAV4 Hybrid

Of course, the real reason hybrids are popular is their fuel mileage. However, buyers need to do some math homework with several important variables to consider. First, how much more is the hybrid going to cost over a similar vehicle. The government has a handy site that simplifies this math at fueleconomy.gov.
With that in mind we tested two of the best hybrids from the most successful hybrid company in the world, Toyota. We weren’t disappointed.
Mom’s view: The RAV4 hybrid is easy to drive, park, and use. It can seat five, but is only available in the more expensive trim models. I wasn’t impressed with the RAV’s interior as it just looks and feels dated. I did like the utility tray and storage areas and the easy to use automatic rear hatch. You loose a little cargo area with the hybrid, but still get between 35 to 70 cubic feet of room depending if the rear seat is lowered. Safety wise, the RAV4 top of the line Limited includes antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, full-length airbags, a driver knee airbag, rearview camera, blind-spot warning system and rear cross-traffic alert. An optional Advanced Technology package that includes an 11-speaker JBL premium audio system with a top-down-view parking camera system is also worth considering. We tested the Prius Four Touring model that has a much improved electronics and is loaded with safety features, too, with a blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and air-bags most everywhere. My only problem with the new Prius was the white, really white, center console, and losing some rear seat leg room due to the placement of the batteries. Otherwise a really great car. My opinion is that the RAV4 is an excellent all-around family vehicle and the Prius, and I hate to write this, a really fun sedan. Both cars have excellent quality scores.

Dad’s view: The RAV 4 hybrid is all wheel drive and is the most fuel efficient vehicle in its class. The ride is excellent and, best of all, aggressive pricing makes it difficult to pass by for bargain hunters. The brakes take a bit to get used to as they are regenerative, but almost all hybrids have a similar feel. The RAV4 has the same system as Lexus NX uses and it shows. This is the best hybrid in its class for cargo and mileage. The ride is smooth and fairly quiet, but can be rough over tax-money deprived roads Driving the hybrid is enjoyable once you get used to the thrust the electric motors provide. All in all the RAV4 is a tidy SUV with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, electric motors front and rear and a continuously variable transmission. The result is 194 horsepower SUV that uses front-wheel drive in normal operation, but automatically engages the electrically driven rear wheels when needed. In other words, a perfect vehicle for readers who want to be prepared for whatever nature throws at them while still being fuel frugal. The Prius is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine aided by a pair of electric motor/generators. Using the console mounted power button maximizes thrust making it easier to pass and merge. In fact, it is addicting. However, the best feature in this new Prius is its improved brakes, suspension and driving dynamics. My choice would be the Prius because it is fun to drive and consistently get 50 plus mpg. With its 11 gallon gas tank full of unleaded a 500 mile trip will cost under $25 and no TSA waiting line.

Young working girls’ view: Neither car is beautiful, but both have an inner beauty and that is reliability. The RAV4 is spacious and honest and doesn’t try to fool you into thinking you are driving a luxury car. I found the Prius too difficult to get into with its lower entry and the unique center gauge placement wasn’t to my taste. The RAV4 hybrid was much easier and, with certain options, was a breeze to park. I would definitely get Toyota Safety Sense that includes collision alert, lane departure warning, pedestrian detection, radar cruise control and more. I really liked the intelligent park assist that can be used for both perpendicular and parallel parking especially living in a parking challenged city. The cargo space is very generous and rear seat room was ample. A perfect SUV for a single or young family who love to travel winter or summer.
2016_Toyota_Prius_Four_inter

Young working male’s view: Both hybrids are loaded with electronic choices that make option selections difficult. For example, one package includes larger wheels, parking senors, and heated seats. No substitutions allowed. One thing I would get is Toyota’s Entune with the bigger 7-inch screen, smartphone-connected services,and a navigation. Not the best, but much improved, and make sure you get help with the set-up and tie-in with your cell phone. As much as I liked the vastly improved Prius driveability, the RAV just appealed to me more for its usefulness.

RAV4 Interior

RAV4 Interior

Family conference: Loaded with safety features, both priced similarly, the choice between the RAV 4 and Prius Touring hybrids is basically perception. Are you bold enough to make the Prius your daily driver or does the utility of the RAV4 hold sway. Either way they are unique and family friendly.

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