Road Test: 2015 Honda Fit EX-L with Navigation

Road Test: 2015 Honda Fit EX-L with Navigation

Small Outside – But More Rear Legroom than An Accord

The 2015 Honda Fit has been reinvented and completely redesigned with a new transmission and engine, increased passenger room capacity and affordability. What was known in the past as a good car, Honda now says is a more dynamic, fun and refined driving experience for 2015. And we found our test model just a tic shy of being able to join the 40 MPG Club (they have another model that makes the club).

Drivetrain

The front-wheel drive 2015 Fit comes in four trim levels of LX, EX, EX-L and EX-L with Navigation. Across all trims the only engine offered is the 1.5L Direct Injection, 16-valve, DOHC four-cylinder that puts out 130 hp and 114 lb-ft of torque while running on unleaded regular. The LX and EX can be ordered with a six-speed manual while all versions can be equipped with a smooth

2015,Honda Fit,road test

New outside, supersize inside

operating Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT.) The LX with the CVT comes in at an EPA-rated 41 mpg highway. Clean Fleet Report’s Fit EX-L was EPA rated at 32 City/38 Highway/35 Combined. In 953 miles of 90-percent/10-percent highway/city driving we averaged 39.7 mpg, which was above the EPA rating due to spending so much time on the highway driving between Southern California and Las Vegas.

Ed note: The other Fit drivetrain is electric—the Fit EV. Formerly available for lease in limited numbers, Honda now says they’ve sold out of blue Fit EVs, though some may be available when they come off

lease.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The excellent fuel economy was the result of the CVT, selecting the ECO drive mode and setting the cruise control. If you are not familiar with CVT technology, it can take a few miles to get used to. To begin with, when mashing down the accelerator, you will hear and feel the RPMs racing to the maximum until you release the pedal. This is common to a CVT, but is nothing to be concerned with. Once you are at cruising speed, you will never feel a gear shift as there are no gears in a CVT. Our Fit EX-L had paddle shifters, but since this car would never be confused with a sports car and they didn’t do anything to improve the performance, they weren’t used. The Fit is all about fuel economy and blipping the paddle shifters will only use gasoline wastefully.

2015 Honda, Fit EX-L,road test

Urging you out on the highway, but…

At 2,642 lbs., the Fit EX-L competently cruised down the road, but some of the surface imperfections, bumps, cracks and even small potholes were felt through the cabin. There was never a feeling of loss-of-control, thanks to the Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), but you always knew when the road crew had not kept up with maintenance. The Fit, with electric, power-assisted rack and pinion steering, offered progressive pressure through corners, but overall it lacks feel. The lack of feel for me was felt when I was changing lanes at highway speed or taking a corner hard. There wasn’t what I call a direct connection feeling between the steering action and the wheel reactions. The 16-inch wheels (on the EX-L trim), 185/55 all-season tires, MacPherson struts and stabilizer bar up front, and torsion beam rear suspension did their best to keep the car flat through hard corners and reduce pushing when taking corners faster than the posted limit.

Stopping was straight and true with no fading from the power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes with Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), brake assist and the Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) system.

Driving Experience: Interior

The class-leading interior space in the 2015 Fit does not disappoint. It has a spaciousness that has excellent visibility through all windows. Clean Fleet Report’s EX-L model (the “L” stands for leather) had a clean look with all gauges and buttons in easy reach. The highlight of the interior, for me at least, was the single-bottle holder located on the far left of the dash, right where it meets

2015,Honda,Fit,EX-L, interior

Drink-check, Steering-not quite check, Arm Rest-no check, radio knobs-no check

the door. The bottle holder seemed like it would block the air vent, but this really isn’t the case, and the convenience of having the bottle so easily reachable makes any reduced air flow an acceptable compromise.

I picked-up the car in Los Angeles and immediately hopped on the freeway for a 4+ hour drive to Las Vegas to attend the Consumer Electronics Show. The manually operated, heated black leather seats up-front invited me to find a cruising position. Unfortunately, I had to stuff a pillow behind my lower back as lumbar support was lacking and the thigh bolsters were not as bolstery as they could have been. Not to single-out Honda (because they make excellent vehicles), but I have found most small cars getting 40+ mpg on the highway do not have a driver seat engineered for the long periods of time you will be spending in the car enjoying that excellent fuel economy. And, in the case of the Fit, it had a center armrest but it was so low that it was impossible to find a normal resting position for my right elbow and arm. Why make a car that says “drive me long distances” and then not make it comfortable to do so?

The six-speaker, 160-watt, high-end sound system was commanded by the high-resolution seven-inch color display with navigation, the rear-view camera and

2015,Honda Fit,rearview camera,interior

A new view

SiriusXM (three-month trial subscription), AM/FM/HD/CD/MP3, USB port with iPod connectivity, Pandora interface, SMS text messaging, Aux-in jacks, Bluetooth streaming audio and hands-free telephone. It sounded great and filled the cabin nicely with crisp treble and booming bass. But here is where the infotainment system is lacking: no knobs for the volume or channel selection. I found changing between modes (AM, FM, Satellite, etc.) to be cumbersome at the least and, because it required removing your eyes from the road, potentially distracted driving. Again, this is not picking on Honda, but why can’t sound systems have knobs that push and turn as opposed to the touch screens that so frequently don’t live up to their futuristic and coolness factors?

Our test Fit EX-L came with a one-touch power tilt and sliding moonroof that worked smoothly and was complemented nicely with a tilt and telescopic steering column, auto-dimming and multi-angle rearview mirror, leather-wrapped steering wheel with illuminated controls for hands-free telephone, radio and cruise control, and leather-wrapped gear shift knob.

2015,Honda,Fit,rears seat,legroom,headroom

Room for adults in back

The Fit can seat three adults in the 60/40 split bench rear seat that has a fold down arm rest with cup holders. Leg, knee and head room – front and rear – were very good, but for longer trips two adults maximum in the rear seats is a good idea.

Other nice interior features are rear air vents, air conditioning with filtration, power windows, door locks and heated outside mirrors with integrated turn indicators, six cup holders, carpeted floor mats, center console arm rest with storage, exterior temperature display, smart entry system, rear window wiper, push button start/stop and 12-volt accessory outlets.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Fit was redesigned for 2015 with a softening of the front end and, as Honda says, “chiseled sides,” a “tapered roofline” and a more “linear slope and windshield.” No argument from me, the 2015 is a major improvement over last year’s model. Plus, if you want to really show some individuality, choose Mystic Yellow Pearl or Passion Berry Pearl, from the seven available colors, leaving no doubts that your 2015 Fit is no ordinary car.

Safety and Convenience

The 2015 Fit has earned a 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score from the National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA) and a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

2015,Honda Fit, hatchback,storage space

Winning the “will it fit” game

(IIHS). These recognitions say that within the small-compact classification, the Fit rates very high on crash worthiness and occupant safety.

For 2015, the Fit comes with safety and convenience features including six air bags, remote keyless entry, the LaneWatch Display system, Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) with traction control and the previously mentioned four-wheel disc Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with brake assist, Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and multi-reflector Halogen headlights, fog lights and LED taillights.

Pricing and Warranties

Pricing for the 2015 Honda Fit begins at $15,650, excluding the $820 Destination charge. Clean Fleet Report’s 2015 Fit EX-L with Navigation had an MSRP of $20,800, excluding the $820 Destination charge.

The 2015 Fit comes with these warranties:

  • New Vehicle – Three-year/36,000-mile
  • Powertrain – Three-year/36,000-mile
  • Roadside Assistance – Three-year/36,000-mile
  • Anti-Perforation – Five-year/Unlimited-mile

Observations: 2015 Honda Fit EX-L with Navigation

For right around $20,000 you get an almost fully optioned 2015 Fit (even less if you go without some of the optional items). This car can carry a family of four comfortably, even on 500+ mile

2015 Honda,Fit EX-L, road worthy

Ready to ride into the sunset

trips. Leave the kids behind, fold down the rear seat and this becomes an almost perfect small car for all your around town and freeway use. The small compact category is crowded with some pretty stout competitors, so when out shopping make sure to stop by your local Honda dealer as the 2015 Fit should be on your must-see list.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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Top 10 Cars for “Eco-Excellence”

Top 10 Cars for “Eco-Excellence”

A World View of What It Takes for Automotive Eco-Excellence

I am a believer that there is no such thing as too much good information, so in that spirit we presents a Top 10 list from the other side of the world from where we write (to be specific, India). What we find interesting is the thinking is pretty much in line with what we might come up with, should be asked to throw out our own Top 10. And we love the title—Eco-Excellence.

Truth be told, narrowing a field down to 10 without multiple caveats and qualifiers is quite difficult and getting more so every day. For your background, Eliza Lobo, who is listed as author or this list from Cartrade.com, said her perspective was world-wide, so not all of the cars are available in the U.S. But more than one of them could be on the horizon, which we’ll note in our commentary. It’s not clear if she was listing the cars in hierarchical order since they are no numbers on the original list. We’ll add numbers and our own ranking, of course starting with those available in the U.S.

  1. Volkswagen e-Golf (which Eliza describes by as the Blue-e-motion, a name I find that borders on the strangely ironic, and also in other ways it’s almost as comical as the Smart ED). We’ll put this first because it’s our favorite electric car of the moment. As we said in our review, the electric Golf is every bit a Golf, and that’s a good thing, but it has an electric drivetrain.
  2. BMW i3 is another one we really like, quirky enough in design to stand out and well-thought out enough not just to be recognized for looking different. It may be the Toyota Prius of the first EV generation (although the Nissan Leaf might want to challenge it for that title), containing enough well-executed, revolutionary good ideas (like its carbon fiber passenger shell) to easily justify inclusion on the list.
  3. Nissan Leaf, of course, finds a place on the list of Eco-Excellence. How could the best-selling full-function electric car not make it on the list. We’ve enjoyed it every time we’ve been in one. Like both the e-Golf and i3, it’s a functional, well-executed electric car that’s also demonstrated real leadership by not only entering the market first, but continuing to improve over the years.
  4. Toyota Prius Plug-in is another logical resident for this type of list and one in which we’ve spent some good times. The name Prius almost screams Eco-Excellence, or whatever the
    Toyota,Prius,Plug-in, EV, HOV lane

    The Prius models plug along

    Japanese translation of the term might be. It seems like a pretty simple scheme. Take the already uber-popular hybrid Prius, add a bigger battery and plug-in capability, and capture a new market segment. Of course, the Chevy Volt took a slightly different course to even better success (and probably is one model that should be on this list).

  5. BMW i8 takes up way too much Top 10 list space all over the internet. Let’s just call it for what it is— plug-in porn. The car is beautiful to look at and delivers the kind of performance you’d expect from a $100,00+ Bimmer, but if this is a list aimed at eco-excellent cars people can buy (and the rest of the cars fit that description), then the i8 has no place here.
  6. Ford Fiesta ECOnetic, which in the U.S. is the one-liter, three-cylinder version of Ford’s subcompact. We’ve tested one and will have the review up soon, but we can tell you this. It’s fun and we put it high up on any list for someone willing to look for eco-excellence in a small car with a stick shift. The peppy performance is backed with a solid suspension and a functional interior that gives you more room than you might expect in such tight quarters.
  7. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is available in Japan and Europe and has been promised here for way too long. It’s coming soon, Mitsubishi says, but it may or may not be the first plug-in hybrid SUV when it finally gets here. It merits a place on this worldwide-scope list for being out there first, whether we got to benefit from it or not. When it does arrive, we can hope it will be tricked out as slick as the concept Mitsubishi showed at last year’s LA Auto Show.
  8. BMW 116d—Really, threeBMWs on a 10-car list? Eco-excellence, or what BMW terms Efficient Dynamics, is a key driver in most of BMW’s new cars, including this great little subcompact,
    BMW,116d,diesel, clean diesel,Eurospec

    The littlest BMW gets more fuel efficient in Europe

    but its super-efficient diesel engine is what boosts it onto this list. We’ve driven a Euro-spec version of the 1-Series, but with a larger diesel engine that almost overwhelmed the petite package. Not that it wasn’t fun and efficient, but it fell short of the eco-excellence that comes from this slightly less-powerful version of the engine.

  9. Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion is another non-U.S. car, but one that VW has considered bringing to the States, at least until gas and diesel prices dropped so steeply last year. With a peppy three-cylinder diesel, this car would slot below the Golf and provide a super high-mileage model in whatever form it came—gas, diesel or electric.
  10. SEAT Leon Twin Driver Ecomotove. The last one on the list is one we’ll never see. SEAT is one of VW’s entry-level brands in Europe, so this model is a bit of a surprise. The three-door (hatchback) model is small, of course, but features a plug-in powertrain that can deliver EV-only miles on top of an efficient normal operation.
SEAT,Leon,Twin Drive,EcoMotive,PHEV

Take a seat, we won’t see this one on our side of the Atlantic

Now, here’s the most important part of any Top 10 discussion. Who got left out? We have our biases, of course, but there are three models that really should be on any list of Eco-Excellence. Leading that list is the Tesla Model S. It is available in Europe and China as well as North America, and it represents the state-of-the-art when it comes to electric cars. With a starting prices just over $70,000, it is clearly not a car for everyone, but it also definitely deserves a spot on this kind of list.

Another one we’d add to the list is the little Fiat 500e, which, until the e-Golf hit the market, was our favorite electric car. Like the Golf, it sacrifices nothing other than driving range compared to its gasoline counterpart. It’s fun to drive while still being as excellent as an eco-car can be.

Finally, we’d add the Chevy Volt to this list. It’s the best-selling plug-in hybrid and getting even better in its second generation. If we took inventory of diesels available in Europe and the funky little hybrids and plug-ins in Japan, there might be a few more to add. We’d also probably stick a fuel cell vehicle on the list just because when you’re talking about eco-excellence, it’s hard to beat a car that takes in hydrogen and delivers 300 miles of electric driving range.

The bottom line is that these are 10 worthy vehicles, but there are plenty more out there to choose from.

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Road Test: 2015 Toyota Yaris 5-Door SE

Road Test: 2015 Toyota Yaris 5-Door SE

Toyota’s Lowest Priced Car You’ve Never Heard Of

Toyota, the third best-selling car nameplate in the USA has standouts such as the Camry, Corolla and Prius, but they also have a car that apparently most people don’t know about – the Yaris. Yaris sales are lagging in the crowded subcompact category that includes the Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Spark, Nissan Versa and Honda Fit. It even sells fewer units than the Mitsubishi Mirage, which Clean Fleet Report reviewed here with mixed feelings. The obvious question then is, why would Toyota allow itself to have such a weak player in the highly competitive subcompact segment when it dominates with its other cars? Let’s see if we can get to the bottom of it.

Drivetrain

The front-wheel drive 2015 Toyota Yaris SE, running on unleaded regular, is powered by a 1.5L four-cylinder 16-valve DOHC engine, with multi-port injection and variable valve timing, putting out 106 hp and 103 lb-ft of torque.

Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity, in back-to-back weeks, to drive the Yaris SE with the five-speed manual and the four-speed automatic. The manual is EPA rated at 30 City / 37 Highway /

2015,Toyota, Yaris, SE

Not the usual Toyota competitor

33 Combined and the automatic at 30 City / 36 Highway / 32 Combined. We were able to exceed these numbers for each model by driving 75-percent/25-percent highway/city where we averaged 35.2 mpg for the five-speed manual and 34.9 for the automatic. This means the Yaris is a likely member of our 40 MPG Club for its highway mileage. [Note: The EPA’s gas mileage formula is 45-percent highway and 55-percent city. Here in Southern California our 75-percent/25-percent highway/city driving pattern is far more real world and is why we report it to you.]

All of this sounds okay, so far. The reality though is that the powertrain – engine and transmission – is not as sophisticated or powerful as others in its class. To get the Yaris moving you have to keep your right foot planted. And if you have the automatic, nothing is happening very fast. The Yaris SE with the five-speed manual was a bit more sprightly and allowed us to squeeze every bit of oomph out of the available 105 hp. What we also could not understand was why the manual doesn’t have a 6th gear to maximize fuel economy. At 45 mph we were turning 2,000 rpms, while at 70 mph we were at a whopping 3,200rpms. Having a 6th gear would drop the 70 mph revs to about 1,800 and certainly increase the highway fuel economy by a few miles per gallon.

This may be the reason consumers have not warmed-up to the Yaris and embraced it with open arms. Because, as we are about to reveal, it is an otherwise nice little car.

Driving Experience: On the Road

At 2,335 lbs. the Yaris felt solid on the road with little wind buffeting from big rigs or unexpected gusts of wind and little road noise transmitted into the cabin. In SE trim, the Yaris is nimble,

2015,Toyota, Yaris, SE, performance

Not a view many will see

handling firm and flat with little body roll thanks to the 16-inch alloy wheels with 195/50VR16 all-season tires, front independent MacPherson struts with rear Torsion Beam suspension with front stabilizer bars. The Yaris L and LE models come with 15-inch wheels, so the handling probably is not quite as sharp as on the SE model.

The electric, power-assisted rack and pinion steering was smooth and did not over-assist, as can be the case in many cars. All-in-all, the Yaris SE has nimble handling and was easy to drive.

Stopping was straight and true, with no fading, from the front power-assisted, ventilated discs and rear solid disc brakes (available only on the SE model), assisted by the four-wheel Anti-lock Brake System (ABS).

 

Driving Experience: Exterior

Toyota did a significant restyling for the 2015 Yaris with what they call “a bold new look with a distinct European flavor.” This new look comes out of their design studio in the South of France, and, compared to the previous generation Yaris, it is a huge improvement. The exterior has new front and rear ends with a more appealing and sporty overall stance. In the SE trim you get stylish 16-inch alloy wheels, resulting in a pretty good looking little car.

Available only in a 3-door or 5-door liftback, the Yaris has an aggressive, but not menacing, front grill with a horizontal chrome treatment that runs from headlamp to headlamp, where projector

Looking for an angle on the completition

Looking for an angle on the completition

beam headlights with integrated fog lights and LED daytime running lights live. The sweeping windshield transitions to a flat roof spoiler that extends about four inches over the rear hatch glass. Toyota has done some pretty cool designs with their SEMA showcars and even campaign the Yaris in the FIA World Rally Championship.

Driving Experience: Interior

Clean Fleet Report’s fully optioned 2015 Toyota Yaris SE had cloth black seats with white top stitching and were six-way manual adjustable for the driver and four-way for the passenger. The seats lacked ideal lumbar support but had good thigh bolstering, so you stayed planted when cornering. But, and this drives me crazy, there was no center armrest. The leather wrapped steering wheel tilted, but did not telescope, and had audio controls.

2015 toyota, yaris, SE, dash

Basic, but highly functional

The dash layout is simple and clean with easy to find controls. I was especially pleased to see the radio had real knobs for volume and channel selecting and the climate control wheels were a different size than those of the radio, and were located away from the radio to eliminate any confusion. This may not seem like a big thing, but it is when reaching for these very different controls in the dark – regardless of your familiarity with the dash layout.

The front visibility was very good and a nice touch was the single windshield wiper that swiped-away water effectively. Having the single blade reduces distraction of two, regardless if they are going the same direction.

As part of the 2015 Yaris redesign, time was spent to reduce cabin noise with rocker panel protectors, asphalt sheets under the floor panels and under-hood insulation to block engine noise. I cannot compare the 2015 with previous generations, but I will say that for a subcompact, it was quite quiet.

These noise reduction efforts will be appreciated by all passengers, including those in the rear seat, which, incidentally, can handle three adults. However, for better comfort on longer trips, two

2015 Toyota Yaris,hatchback, SE

An escape hatch

adults would be more comfortable where they could take advantage of the fold down arm rest on the 60/40 split bench rear seat. At 5’ 9”, I fit in all cars, including open wheel racers, so a true test was having a 6’ 1” associate sit in the driver’s seat and when having that seat positioned for him, then have him climb into the back to check leg, knee and head room. The Yaris accommodated my friend in comfort with room to spare.

All Yaris trim levels come with Toyota’s Entune Audio that includes a 6.1-inch touch screen with a six-speaker AM/FM/HD/CD and MP3/WMA playback sound system, with a USB port, iPod connectivity, Aux-in jacks and Bluetooth streaming audio, voice recognition and hands-free telephone. Navigation, SiriusXM and a rear view camera are not available, as well as other driver assistance technologies such as lane departure warning.

Other nice interior features are A/C, power windows and door locks, power outside mirrors, multiple cup holders, carpeted floor mats, 12-volt accessory outlets and a cargo area tonneau cover.

Safety and Convenience

The 2015 Yaris comes with safety and convenience features including nine air bags, remote keyless entry, anti-theft engine immobilizer and Toyota’s Star Safety System that includes Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control System (TRAC), four-wheel disc Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) with Brake Assist (BA) and Smart Stop Technology.

Pricing and Warranties

Base pricing for the three-door 2015 Yaris with the five-speed manual transmission is $14,845, excluding the $825 Delivery and Handling charge. Clean Fleet Report’s 2015 five-door Yaris SE had a MSRP of $17,620, excluding the $825 Delivery and Handling charge. The automatic transmission is a $785 upgrade.

The 2015 Toyota Yaris comes with these warranties:

  • Basic Three-year/36,000-mile

    2015,Toyota, Yaris, interior

    Just the basics here

  • Powertain Five-year/50,000-mile
  • Factory-scheduled Maintenance Two-year/25,000-mile
  • Roadside Assistance Two-year/25,000-mile
  • Anti-Perforation Five-year/Unlimited-mile

Observations: 2015 Toyota Yaris SE

2015 Toyota,Yaris SE,styling

Here’s the scoop

With easily attainable 40+ mpg on the highway in a nicely designed and comfortable car, it would seem Toyota could sell more than 13,275 of the Yaris each year. Maybe the rumored completely new Yaris – or whatever Toyota will call their next generation subcompact – will address the one big drawback to the car – a drivetrain with an underpowered engine and transmissions that are far from industry standard bearers.

The Yaris should be added to your shopping list to see first-hand what a sharp little car it is and research the standard equipment that comes with what is one of the lowest entry prices in the segment.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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Road Test: 2014 Ford Focus Electric

Road Test: 2014 Ford Focus Electric

The forgotten EV asks for consideration

Doesn’t it always seem to be the case? As a room, or in this case a market segment, gets crowded and starts attracting more attention and new entrants, the incumbents tend to be shuttled aside and ignored. It’s not fair, but it is a true dynamic of life and business.

2014, Ford Focus, electric, EV

Passing out of the limelight?

So consider the Ford Focus Electric. One of the early entrants in the electric car race. Dutifully vetted and tested by a company dedicated to electrifying its vehicles. Uses a solid platform that gets good marks in its fossil-fuel version. Made in the same factory as its gas-dependent cousins to reduce costs. The Focus Electric was overshadowed last year in spite of a pickup of 13 percent in sales as the new kids—the BMW i3, Mercedes B-Class Electric, VW e-Golf and Kia Soul EV all blasted past. For all its relative success, the Ford fell to 10th place in December 2014 among the growing field of battery-only models. Its consolation is that sales throughout the year kept it a solid fifth place in the segment. Of course, the segment-leading Nissan Leaf chugs along setting new sales records every month.

All the more curious is how this played out with the Focus’ plug-in hybrid brethren at Ford, the Fusion and C-Max Energi. Both of them enjoyed positive years as well, but they ended up the year strong, finished right after the Chevy Volt for the top spot in the plug-in hybrid segment, dropping only one place in their full-year sales totals.

The plug-in hybrids outsold the battery Focus by a substantial margin, so the question to Ford marketers might be—are Ford buyers even aware of the EV?

2014/2015 Sales

In 2014 sales Ford sold 1,964 Focus Electrics compared to 1,738 in 2013, though it only retailed 53 in December. During the first two months of 2015, the Big 3 (Tesla, Leaf, BMW i3) sold

2014,Ford Focus electric, charging port

One distinguishing feature here

thousands of cars; the mid-level newcomers (VW/MBZ) sold in the 300s; Fiat/Ford/Smart/Spark (236/230/223/205 respectively) were in the next tier, while Kia Soul (117) rounded out the Top 10. Falling off the chart—literally and figuratively, were the Mitsubishi I, Toyota RAV4 EV and Honda Fit EV.

Taking nothing away from either its hot new electric competition or its plug-in with a backup engine stablemates, the Ford Focus Electric does deserve some attention for its own sake. It’s a viable contender in this growing market and acquits itself well as an around-town cruiser.

At its core, it is Ford Focus with an electric drivetrain, a sheep in wolf’s clothing to twist a fairy tale phrase. The fairy tale aspect is apt since as good as this EV is, it is not ready to replace its gasoline-breathing twin. It’s the same old story—limited range and long charging times. Another way of looking at it that turns this on its head is the Ford Focus Electric as a stealth car. It’s good-looking, though not a stand out like its big brother Fusion, but it can pass itself off as just another Focus out for a quiet drive. The few distinguishing features, like its charge port, will never give it away if that’s your desire.

Distinguishing Features

We mentioned it was quiet. Make that—it is super quiet! All EVs by their nature are quieter than gas and diesel-powered cars, but the Focus stands out among EVs as one that (counterintuitively) makes you aware of how quiet it is. We think that is part of what makes the Focus feel like a more upscale car than its gasoline twins.

2014 Ford, Focus Electric, cargo space

The fifth door solution

One feature we liked about the Focus Electric (and it’s shared to a degree with plug-in and hybrid Ford models) is that you get plenty of feedback on both the car and how you’re managing it. Like a gentle school teacher, the Focus tells you the miles you’ve driven, how many of those were regen miles (creating by energy created from brake regeneration on stopping and slowing), a braking score (to let you know how you’re doing regenerating those brake miles), an acceleration score (designed, of course, to moderate your more aggressive driving habits) and cruising scores that reinforce smoother driving.

Those same controls with all of their wonderful information were complicated, though. For the new and part time driver they are far from intuitive, they tended to either send

2014, Ford, Focus Electric,dashboard display

A display that tells all

me thumbing through the owner’s manual or giving up all together.

The Ford Focus Electric does have aggressive regen, which helps extend its range, and has smooth power, lending itself to smooth acceleration and a good road feel. The size feels right for an electric car, which is not too small and without compromise in functionality because of its electric drive. The car has an upscale feel, which is what you might want from a compact sedan stickering at $36,990 including a $795 delivery/destination charge. The only option on our test model were leather seats at $995. Even with generous lease deals, the car poses a challenge for all but those with a fully vetted economic portfolio.

The Plug-in Dance

While the Focus came with a Monroney label that indicated it was set to deliver 105 mpge (miles per gallon equivalent, an electric car approximation based on its energy consumption) average, or 110 in the city and 99 on the highway. Of course this is based on the electric motor and doesn’t measure the range on a full charge of the battery, which is substantially less. I didn’t feel comfortable in the Focus going much beyond 60 miles on a charge, though the gauge indicated it might have another 20 miles of range. It may be me, but some electric cars are more confidence-inspiring than others when it comes to pushing the range envelope.

DSC_0798Part of what factored into that lack of confidence was an incident during my test week. The Focus was parking in the driveway in a cool evening. I had noted the state of charge and expected range when I drove in the night before. In the morning, I fired up the car and pulled out onto the road. A quick glance at the range told me more than two miles were lost overnight. Other than a car with a leaking gas tank, I’ve never experienced that kind of drop of fuel in a car. It’s particularly acute because in the current version of electrics, every mile is precious and to lose a couple that serendipitously just didn’t feel right.

That leads to the other truism for the Focus and other similar electric cars. For the occasional EV driver, particularly one without ready access to a home or work charging station, life with a pure battery car becomes a plug-in dance. You factor how far you have to go on a given trip, whether there’s a convenient charger near the destination, where the chargers are close to your home, who can give you a ride back from the charger after you plug in (and take you back later), and so on. As has been said, driving an EV is a wonderful experience, but it is a life-changing one as well.

 

Basic Specifications

The 2014 Ford Focus Electric I drove had an electric motor rated at 143 horsepower (107 kW). It also has a liquid-cooled 23 kWh lithium-ion battery that can be fully recharged on an optional

2014 Ford, Focus,electric, badge

Proud badge

240-volt Level II charger in 3.6 hours. The five-door compact hatchback can seat five adults but is more comfortable for four. The standard feature list is pretty long and includes a premium Sony audio system with nine speakers, heated seats and a laundry list of other features.

Warranties

The Focus Electric has a full complement of warranties, including:

  • 8-year/100,000-mile Battery and electric components
  • 5-year/60,000-mile Powertrain
  • 5-year/60,000-mile Roadside assistance
  • 3-year/36,000-mile Bumper-to-bumper

Final Thoughts

My time in the 2014 Ford Focus Electric has caused me to rethink some of my thoughts on the labeling of EVs. While the window label shows a 105 mpge (miles per gallon equivalent) for the Focus, in reality the more important numbers were its full-charge range of 76 miles as measured by the EPA because that is what creates the parameters of the vehicle’s use. It also lists 32 kW-hrs

2014,Ford,Focus,Electric,charging

Lord of the rings

/100 miles, which could become significant as we gain more familiarity with electric vehicles.

The other important number that underscores the reason for owning an electric car is the $600 annual fuel cost (@12 cents/ kW-hr).  The final number for the Focus is the current (March 2015) lease deal available. With it you can get this five-door hatchback for $236/month on a 36-month lease with $881 done (not a bad deal for a 2015 model with a $29,170 starting MSRP).

How those numbers fit into your lifestyle and budget are what are going to tell you whether the Ford Focus Electric is for you.

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Road Test: 2015 Infiniti Q50 3.7

Road Test: 2015 Infiniti Q50 3.7

Upscale Compact Luxury Sedan

Completely redesigned in 2014 and unchanged for 2015, the Infiniti Q50 is as stylish and technology-filled as any upscale, compact luxury sedan on the market. And, it had better be to top the reputation and popularity of the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4 and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Drivetrain

Clean Fleet Report got behind the wheel for a week of spirited driving in the 2015 Infiniti Q50S. Running on premium unleaded, our rear-wheel drive Q50S was powered by Infiniti’s smooth naturally aspirated 3.7L DOHC 24-valve V-6 with sequential multi-point fuel injection, putting out 328 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission offered is the 7-speed automatic with paddle shifters, Sport mode and manual downshift rev matching.

The Q50 is EPA rated at 20 City / 30 Highway / 23 Combined. In 357 miles of 65-percent/35-percent highway/city driving we averaged 24.9 mpg, and 31 mpg on the highway. Had we not been

2015 Infiniti, Q50S, handling

Eager to get back on the road

pushing the car to see if we could do better than Infiniti’s stated, 0 – 60 time of 5.3 seconds, we easily could have exceed our fuel economy numbers. But heck, it is nice that a car of this quality and performance is rated at 30 mpg on the highway. C’mon, how are you going to keep your foot out of it when the temptation to let ‘er rip is begging you go for it!

The Q50 has a whopping five selectable drive modes of Standard, Sport, Eco, Snow and a customizable Personal. I never quite figured the need for the Personal setting, but maybe more time with the car would have shown it to be beneficial. I checked-out the Snow setting, though not because snow is expected anytime soon at the beach here in Southern California. It was pretty obvious how it would work if your tires were slipping and sliding; the accelerator has a delay of about three seconds, then the power comes on slowly to keep your tires planted. So that leaves Standard for anytime driving, Eco for long highway segments and Sport for zipping around twisties and otherwise spirited driving.

My pattern of starting in either Standard or Sport delivered smooth acceleration with excellent pedal response at any speed and rpm from the 3.7L. The seven-speed automatic, geared to get a respectable 30 mpg highway rating for a 347 hp car, can be placed in Sport mode or the paddle shifters offer options to help you forget about trying to be fuel frugal. I also found that under some circumstances going from Eco or Standard to Sport was more effective than blipping the paddle shifters. The twin exhaust gives a very pleasant rumble that is not harsh sounding like the very recognizable sound of its predecessor, the Infiniti G37.

Ed note: The top of the line in the Q50 lineup includes a hybrid model that can bump up fuel economy up to 29 City/36 Highway while carrying forward with the features John covers in this review. The Q50 Hybrid comes in Premium, AWD Premium, Q50S and Q50S AWD packages.

Driving Experience: On the Road

At 3,675 lbs. the Infiniti Q50S handled firm, flat, confident and predictable with no noticeable body roll when pushed hard. Thanks to Infiniti’s Direct Adaptive Steering system, which includes electric power-assisted, speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering, 19-inch alloy wheels and 245/40/19 tires, sport-tuned double-piston KYB shocks, front double independent double-wishbone and rear multi-link independent suspension with a stabilizer bar at both ends, the Q50 was a kick to drive.

A bit more about the Direct Adaptive Steering, which is more than a steer-by-wire system that can be found on other cars. On a ton-and-a-half luxury sports sedan, the steering can make or break

2015,Infiniti Q50,styling

A color chameleon

the sales success of the model. The Q50 is, according to Infiniti, equipped with “the world’s first production vehicle…system that allows independent control of the tire angle and steering inputs, transmitting the driver’s input to the wheels faster than a mechanical system.” Okay, what did I feel?  I took the Q50S on a mountain road known for its driving challenges, and—not for me thankfully, but many others—speeding tickets, to test the Direct Adaptive Steering on tight slow corners and fast sweepers. The result was steering that had a good feel with no lag and was precise with predictive feedback. With four driver-adjusted steering settings, the Q50 is well-planted and offered excellent control and confidence. Without a doubt, Infiniti has developed a system, which they tested for more than ten years, that throws down the gauntlet to its competitors.

Stopping was straight and true with no fading from the excellent, optional Sport Brakes that included four-wheel power-assisted vented discs with upgraded rotors (four-piston front calipers and two-piston rear calipers), four-wheel Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) and the Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) system.

Driving Experience: Exterior

Infiniti describes the Q50 as having “higher level of premium style” that offers “a new dimension in dynamic design.” I can’t make it clear enough how much I like the look of the Q50S. The curves, supple creases and angles flow from end-to-end and look good from any viewpoint. Much like a wave, there is a fluidity that starts with the double arch grille and distinctive LED headlights and

QX30,concept vehicle

The QX30 gives a glimpse of future Infiniti styling

ends with the LED tail lights that smoothly blend into a rear fascia that is topped by the short deck lid and integrated spoiler. Our test Q50S came with the stunning Malbec Black paint that had fine reflective specs and tested your eye if you were seeing a deep burgundy wine color or black. Very impressive.

To get a glimpse into the future of how Infiniti will continue its design styling, take a look at the QX30 concept shown at the Geneva Auto Show in March 2015.

Driving Experience: Interior

The 2015 Infiniti Q50S is a car you want to spend time in and drive and drive and drive. The interior ensconces you in a combination of leather, genuine maple wood and tastefully placed aluminum trim pieces. There is nothing garish nor over-the-top in the design of the interior; everything has a logical location and is within easy reach. The comfortable and form-fitting leather seats were developed, Infiniti says, “to distribute body pressure across a wider range of the upper seating surface.”

2015,Infiniti, Q50,Q50S, sporty

Almost too much fun

That translated for me into a heated driver seat with memory, that was eight-way power adjustable (including power lumbar and torso support), with a very appreciated manual thigh extension. The passenger seat was also heated and eight-way power adjustable with the manual thigh extension. The rear seating area, that was very comfortable and can easily carry three adults, has a 60/40 folding rear seat with cup holders, a folding pass-through arm rest and reading lights.

Clean Fleet Report was driving a highly optioned 2015 Infiniti Q50S that was equipped with all the luxury and high-end electronics you would desire. The first thing you notice on the dash are two, stacked displays, eight-inch upper and seven-inch lower, that work together so you don’t have to leave a screen to take care of multiple activities. The displays, controlled by quickly responding

2015,Infiniti,Q50,interior

Luxury from the inside out

touches, allow you to customize the content. Another welcome feature, that can also be found on select Nissan models, is the Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection that is combined with the rear view monitor. This system, when the car is placed in reverse, shows a downward view of the car as if a camera was suspended over the roof. In conjunction with the overhead camera views the outside rearview mirrors also rotate downward to show curbs and parking lot lines. It’s a very convenient feature that you become reliant on and appreciate quickly.

The simplicity of the dash layout also made reading the gauges and operating the sound system easy. Clean Fleet Report’s Q50S came standard with the Infiniti Studio Bose Premium audio system with 14 speakers, and surround sound, called Bose Centerpoint. Running the Infiniti InTouch system you get SiriusXM (three-month trial subscription), AM/FM/HD/CD/MP3, dual USB ports with iPod connectivity, Aux-in jacks, Bluetooth streaming audio and hands-free telephone. Navigation with SiriusXM Traffic can also be controlled by voice recognition.

Our Q50S had a power tilt and sliding sunroof, power tilt and telescopic steering column, heated leather-wrapped and illuminated steering wheel with audio, hands-free telephone and cruise controls, and soft touch materials on the dash and door panels. Other nice interior features are auto-dimming power outside mirrors, dual zone automatic temperature control with microfiltration, push button start/stop, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, multiple cup holders, carpeted floor mats, center console with storage compartment, auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink connection and illuminated entry with auto-dimming.

Safety and Convenience

The 2015 Q50 is one of the most high-tech cars Clean Fleet Report has tested; it was stuffed with safety and Advanced Driver Assistance Technology systems. The near-future for automobiles will be making them safer through technology, with autonomous cars being introduced in another five years according to Infiniti uber boss Carlos Ghosn. The Q50 came with eight air bags, remote

2015 Infiniti, Q50, technology

Technology coming and going

keyless entry, Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with Traction Control System (TCS), hill start assist, Vehicle Stability management (VSM), 4-wheel disc Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) with brake assist and Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD).

Advanced Driver Assistance Technology includes Intelligent Cruise Control, front and rear parking sensors, Blind Spot Warning (BSW) and Blind Spot intervention (BSI), Backup Collision Intervention (BCI), Distance Control Assist (DCA), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW), Forward Emergency Braking (FEB), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) with Lane Departure Prevention and Active Lane Control.

To complete the safety systems are LED headlights and fog lights, auto-dimming and heated outside mirrors that have intergraded LED turn signals, speed and rain-sensing windshield wipers and an anti-theft engine immobilizer.

Pricing and Warranties

Base pricing for the 2015 Infiniti Q50 with two-wheel drive is $37,150 and $38,950 for the AWD model, excluding the $905 Destination charge. Clean Fleet Report’s two-wheel drive Q50S with the Technology, Touring, Navigation and Performance Wheel Packages had a MSRP of $53,150, excluding the $905 Destination charge.

The 2015 Infiniti Q50 comes with these warranties:

  • Four-year/60,000-mile Basic
  • Six-year/70,000-mile Powertrain
  • Seven-year/Unlimited-mile Corrosion

Observations: 2015 Infiniti Q50S

With some very fine cars in the luxury compact sedan category, such as the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, it would be smart to cross-shop them

2015, Infiniti Q50,compact luxury sedan

Edges its way onto the compact luxury shopping list

all for comparable features, driver assistance Technology, performance, fuel economy and, of course, price. What you will find with the Infiniti
Q50 is an equal competitor to all those. It offers top-of-the-line craftsmanship in a fast, fun and comfortable car.

When spending upwards of $50,000 on a car, you have an extra responsibility to take the time to research the fine differences between brands and models. When finished with your homework, Clean Fleet Report is confident the Infiniti Q50 just may be the newest occupant in your garage.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

 

 

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