Road Test: 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SE

Road Test: 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SE

A Not-So-Small Compact

So you’re car shopping and your “Must Have” list includes a not-so-small car that is comfortable to drive, handles great, can haul a respectable amount of your stuff, comfortably carry a couple of adults in the back seat and gets excellent fuel economy. Oh, and it all has to cost under $30,000.

Stop shopping—the 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI just might be what you are looking for.

Driving Experience: On the Road

2015, VW,Volkswagen,TDI,clean diesel,mpg,fuel economy

A Go-machine

The 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI is the sibling to the recently reviewed 2015 Golf SportsWagen TDI and is part of the robust line of clean diesel cars offered by Volkswagen, which includes the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, Beetle, Passat and Toureg. TDI is the Volkswagen Group (which includes Audi among other brands) designation for its turbocharged diesel vehicles. TDI stands for turbocharged direct injection.

The 2015 Golf TDI shares Volkswagen’s all-new 2.0-Liter turbocharged and intercooled clean diesel engine, known internally at VW as the EA288, putting out 150 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. The torque kicks-in at a low 1,750 rpm and pulls strongly in all gears at all speeds. Our test car was mated to a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission with fuel economy for the low sulfur diesel rated at 30 city/45 highway/36 combined. The city rating is one mpg more and the highway rating is two mpg less for the six-speed DSG automatic transmission. In 296 miles of driving throughout Southern California I averaged 43.3 mpg with a ratio of 80-percent highway/20-percent city driving. With a lighter right foot I could have easily surpassed 45 mpg for the combined fuel economy.

The six-speed manual has short throws, a light and smooth clutch and the gears are easy to find without any grinding or hunting. For the hyper milers, there is an Upshift indicator in the speedometer cluster; if you follow it, the fun of driving this car is reduced significantly, but, of course, you will maximize the fuel economy, especially when the light wants you to be in 6th gear at 45 mph. The true economy comes at freeway speeds in 6th gear, which at 70 mph has the tachometer is reading about 2,000 rpm.

2015 Volkswagen,Golf TDI,clean diesel,fuel economy, manual,mpg

The source of fun

So what kind of fun can you have in the TDI with a manual? When asked this car delivers instant, fast, push-you-back-in-your-seat torque that brings a big smile to your face. The torque is smooth at any speed and delivers exactly as expected when in the lower gears. Where you will really appreciate the pull of the TDI engine is at highway speeds, for example, when traveling at 65 mph and needing to briefly get to 75 mph+ for passing. With the six-speed manual you leave it in 6th, tromp the accelerator, and the car without any effort gets you where you want to be. It is such a wonderful feeling that you will find yourself on open stretches of road doing it just for the fun of it.

Volkswagen’s new-for-2015 EA288 TDI engine is a pleasure to drive. In my reviews of the 2013 Jetta TDI and 2014 Jetta TDI, I was impressed with those car’s earlier version of VW’s 2.0L TDI engine that “only” produced 140 hp. With their new engine, Volkswagen has raised the bar in clean diesel engine design and technology, which will only challenge competitors to up their game, too.

The Driving Experience

The 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI is quiet and smooth, with a sure-footed driving experience. The SE model I was driving had 17-inch alloy wheels and Continental ProContact All-season tires, which

2015 Volkswagen, VW Golf, TDI SE,fuel economy,mpg,clean diesel

Not a passing fad

gripped well. Precise handling, with only the slightest push if I powered through a corner, came via the strut-type front suspension with coil springs and the multi-link, coil springs and anti-roll bar on the rear. Volkswagen makes a very sporty version of the Golf, the GTI, that is an absolute rocketship and handles like a slot car. The Golf TDI Clean Fleet Report was driving handled flat and nimble, so one can only imagine how the GTI performs.

Road feel was excellent with speed-variable, electric-mechanical power-assist steering that thankfully was not programmed to take away the fun of driving. Body roll was almost non-existent, even when pushed above recommended corner speed limits, and highway 70+ mph cruising was solid and confident. We can only imagine how the 18-inch wheels on the SEL model would make the driving experience even better.

Of course, a good handling car is nothing without good brakes. The Golf TDI comes standard with ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), power-assisted vented front and solid rear discs. A good test for brakes is downhill mountain roads, with constant turning, where the brake load is applied on straight, right and left-hand corners. I experienced no fade with instant response when braking through such corners. On the flats, the stops were straight, true and consistent.

Driving Experience: Interior

2015, VW Golf, Volkswagen TDI, clean diesel, mpg, fuel economy

German style–finished in Mexico

Assembled in Pueblo, Mexico, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI comes in three trim levels: S, SE and SEL. Clean Fleet Report was driving the SE model, which has an updated interior for 2015 featuring a clean fit and finish that was German tight with a good mix of soft and hard plastics. The simple layout of all gauges was uncomplicated by fake woods, plastic chrome pieces or other design gimmicks — which often can be found on other cars. Volkswagen says their “driver centric design focus” begins with the new center stack for 2015, which is angled towards the driver. Up until recently this has been a design feature only appearing on premium, luxury or performance vehicles, but it is now making its way into many interiors. The white backlighting for the dash gauges also added a premium element.

The light beige, heated, V-tex leatherette front seats have better-than-average bolstering and include a manual height-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment. There was a good choice of seat settings so that, combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, a comfortable position could be found, making long drives a breeze. The front seats are separated by a center console that has a height-adjustable armrest and storage area. Head, leg, elbow and shoulder room was accommodating, even for 6’+ drivers and passengers. The trunk space is more than can be found on the largest midsize sedan. If only the driver and front seat passenger are on a long weekender, the rear seat, with a ski pass-through opening, has a very handy system for lowering the 60/40 split seatback, providing 52.7 cubic feet of cargo capacity — large enough for a full-size bicycle. When visiting your VW dealer, take the time to configure the seats to see the options and spaciousness of the interior for sitting or storage.

Taking center stage of the dash is the capacitive and proximity sensor 5.8-inch color touchscreen that handles the rear view camera and navigation. Capacitive technology is similar to what is

2015 VW, Volkswagen Golf TDI,clean diesel,mpg, fuel economy

Comfort in psuedo-leather

found on smartphones and tablets and allows for functions such as swiping and pinch-zooming. While all this modern touchscreen technology is nice, Clean Fleet Report is a big fan of knobs and switches for the radio and climate controls. VW does a nice job of making it easy to operate the radio and single zone HVAC system with the turn of a few knobs. The dash design is two-toned beige and black, with accents of chrome, aluminum and piano-black finishes, accompanied by a leather-wrapped gearshift knob and hand brake handle.

The centerpiece of the infotainment system is the eight-speaker, with subwoofer, Fender premium sound system. This well-balanced system delivers deep, full crisp tones for the AM/FM radio/CD/MP3 player. Also part of the infotainment system is SiriusXM (a must for those long, fuel-efficient road trips), Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music and VW’s Media Device Interface, or MDI, which includes a SD card slot. Volkswagen still does not offer USB technology, but Clean Fleet Report was promised it is coming soon.

Other conveniences are a power tilting and sliding panoramic sunroof, power windows with one touch operation and pinch protection, keyless access, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, power adjustable and manual folding heated exterior mirrors, automatic rain-sensing variable intermittent front windshield wipers with heated washer nozzles, multi-function car analytics and trip computer display, multiple power ports, front and rear reading lights and front and rear carpeted floor mats. Standard on all Golf trim levels is Volkswagen’s VW CarNet connected car technology that provides a seamless link between the car and an iPhone, Android smartphone or computer, or as Volkswagen says it “keeps you connected with your car even when you’re apart.” It comes as a full feature introductory trial, with subscription available.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Golf TDI exterior has been refreshed for 2015, beginning with the recognizable steeply sloped hood. The overall length and width for 2015 have been increased while the height has been

2015 Golf, VW, Volkswagen, TDI, clean diesel, mpg,fuel economy

An adult space in the rear

reduced slightly. The front end leads off with a narrow grill and sleek headlights on the outer edges that begin the character line leading to the horizontal tail lamps. The roof is dominated visually (when opened), by the sunroof, the shark fin antenna and the integrated spoiler. This overall design is built on the MQB (Modular Transverse Matrix) architecture and has a “cab backward” look that gives it a lower visual center of gravity.  All this has reduced aerodynamic drag to .029, the same as the 2015 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta. The rear window is large, providing excellent sightlines.

Safety and Convenience

All 2015 Volkswagen Golfs come with six airbags, Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) and Intelligent Crash Response System (ICRS). Our Golf TDI SE also had Automatic Headlights and Daytime Running Lights, front fog lights, and Rear Parking Distance Control sensors.  Additional safety features, available on the SE and SEL trim levels, include driver assistance systems and the lighting package.

Pricing and Warranties

2015 Volkswagen, VW Golf TDI,clean diesel,mpg, fuel economy

A secret passage

2015 Golf TDI Pricing, NOT including the $820 Destination Charge.

S with Manual                                    $22,345

S with Automatic                               $23,445

SE with Manual                                 $25,895

SE with Automatic                            $26,995

SEL with Manual                              $28,395

SEL with Automatic                         $29,495

All 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI models come with these warranties:

  • Basic: Three-year/36,000-mile
  • Powertrain: Five-year/60,000-mile
  • Free scheduled maintenance: One-year/12,000-mile
  • Roadside assistance: Three-year/36,000-mile
  • Corrosion perforation: 12-year/Unlimited


Volkswagen has 75-percent of the diesel passenger vehicle sales in the USA and is #1 in sales versus diesel competitors, with little on the horizon to knock VW off that perch. Therefore, you can purchase a VW TDI-powered car (Beetle, Golf, Jetta, Passat and Touareg) with confidence of its many years and millions of real-world miles of proven clean diesel technology.

Observations: 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SE

The seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf continues the long heritage of a fun, nimble compact car being a favorite of drivers worldwide. The clean diesel models take this car one step further by

2015, VW Golf, Volkswagen TDI, clean diesel,fuel economy,mpg

All systems go(lf)

delivering stellar fuel economy. Clean Fleet Report has now tested most of the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Volkswagen TDI offerings and easily place them in the top of all the cars and SUVs we have driven. They are smooth, quiet, powerful and get excellent fuel economy against their class competition.

Being a leader in clean diesel technology is not the end of Volkswagen’s environmental and sustainability efforts. Volkswagen is an active partner with The Conservation Fund in the reclamation and preservation of redwood forests, specifically the Garcia River Forest in Northern California’s Sonoma County. Going even further than this project, Volkswagen has made a commitment across its 12 brands worldwide and 118 production locations on four continents to be the most sustainable automobile manufacturer in the world by the year 2018.

Find a Volkswagen dealer that will let you take the Golf TDI on the open highway, around some mountain twisties and crawl all around the interior experimenting with the seat and storage options. You may find the larger car you have been considering for interior space, or the smaller car for fuel economy will be crossed off your shopping and consideration list.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

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Road Test: 2015 Mazda6

Road Test: 2015 Mazda6

40 MPG, No Batteries Needed

There’s a gaggle of midsize family cars to choose from, 18 if you include hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions. Buyers want a family sedan that can do many things well. It should hold five adults and their luggage with room to spare. It should ride comfortably and quietly and handle safely. It should be frugal with gasoline. And, it should be reliable.

That pretty well sums up most of the offerings, many of which perform their daily tasks in a banal manner. But there is a sporty alternative to the blandness of many midsize sedans, the 2015 Mazda6.

The Mazda6 is a jalapeño to the others’ Anaheim, a shot of adrenaline to their dose of Geritol. It has youthful good looks and enough spice in the engine room to make things interesting, yet has a

2015,Mazda6,performance,handling,midsize sedan,mpg

Good looking and good-going

fuel economy rating that the makes competitors green with envy, and it does so without the help of batteries or electric motors.

Equipped with 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine (the sole powerplant) and a six-speed automatic transmission, the Mazda6 has an EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 40-mpg highway/28-mpg city/32-mpg combined. That beats every gasoline-powered midsize sedan plus its highway rating even equals a couple of gasoline-electric hybrid models.

Priced on par with other popular family sedans, the 2015 Mazda6 comes in four models beginning with the i Sport Manual that starts at $21,190 plus $820 destination charges. Enthusiasts may prefer a manual transmission, but will pay a fuel economy penalty: the i Sport Manual is rated at 37-mpg highway/25 city/29 combined.

Sporty handling and excellent fuel economy come with the i Sport Auto with a sticker price of $22,895. Added features come with the i Touring at $24,895, while the top i Grand Touring starts at $29,895.

How Did Mazda Wring Out That MPG?

Mazda is a small-size auto manufacturer, but like everyone else, it must meet the rising federal fuel economy standards. Because of its size, Mazda lacked the resources to develop fuel-efficient hybrids, so the company’s R&D tackled the issue with insightful, creative engineering. They used a holistic approach and innovative engineering that benefited not only fuel economy, but also performance, handling and safety. The result is what Mazda calls “Skyactiv Technology.”

I covered Skyactiv Technology in some detail in an earlier 2015 Mazda CX-5 review, but here are some highlights, starting with the engine.

2015 Mazda6,skyactiv,engine,performance, fuel economy

The heart of the zoom-zoom

The 2.5-liter four pushes out 184 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 185 pounds-feet of torque at 3,250 rpm, which ranks with the best in its competitive set. It incorporates several fuel-sipping goodies: high-tech direct fuel injection, sequential intake valve timing and a high 13.0:1 compression ratio.

Add to that improved transmission efficiency, a lighter car overall and a new technology dubbed i-Eloop. It’s a capacitor-based system that harvests energy during regenerative braking, then feeds power to electrical accessories such as power steering and air conditioning. This lessens engine drag to improve efficiency.

All together, these innovations contribute to excellent power and performance while delivering exceptional fuel economy and running on 87-octane fuel.

Road Test

Often times a four-cylinder engine in a car this size and weight (3,232 pounds) is a dismal choice, but not here. Our i Grand Touring handled the up and down topography of western Washington quite handily. The engine was smooth and relatively free of the noise and busyness normally associated with high-revving fours.

Pressed hard using full throttle, the delightfully lively engine delivered acceleration that was above acceptable. There was always plenty of power available for merging or passing.

The eager engine is matched with a well-tuned suspension, MacPherson struts up front and a multilink independent setup out back. Driven aggressively, the 6 is more than willing and able to

2015 Mazda6,skyactiv,zoom-zoom,mpg,performance

The secret sauce badge

handle sharp turn-ins and felt tighter through turns than the typical family car, while being able to maintain a reasonably smooth ride in the process. It was an agility that recalled, yes, the Zoom Zoom Miata.

Fun driving on backcountry twisty roads was aided by using the manual-shift mode of the six-speed automatic. It gave rev-matched downshifts and held lower gears—for a while anyway. The transmission was often times in a hurry to up-shift to maximize fuel economy.

While firm, the ride is far from punishing. The sedan acquitted itself well on lumpy streets while also soaking up all but the most immoderate bumps.

The electric power steering was quick and precise and provided plenty of two-way communication between the driver and the road surface. Brakes always responded promptly with a good firm pedal feel.

We totally enjoyed our week driving the 2015 Mazda6. When Mazda picked the car up, the odometer had ticked off 249.2 miles. The miles driven were the usual errand and grocery store runs, a 150-mile Olympia to Seattle round trip and a 32-mile fun-run on a favorite rural two-lane road.

A glance at the fuel mileage readout showed 32.9 mpg. Skyactive worked as advertised, with fuel economy that proves the internal combustion engine won’t die off anytime soon.

Distinctive Styling, Superb Interior

The Mazda6 has striking good looks that does anything but blend in with the rest of the midsize crowd, especially when wearing the premium Soul Red paint of our test driver. This sleek, somewhat muscular sedan may be the best rendition of Mazda’s Kodo, or “soul of motion,” design theme.

From any angle, the car outlooks its price point. The front-end is almost sinister looking with the five-point chrome “signature wing” grille announcing that this is a sporty car. Fluid, yet muscular lines tapering to the rear and an arcing roofline that has a coupe-like rake to the rear window combine to give a dynamic look that stands out. Backside, the dual exhaust is a nice touch.

Sliding in behind the steering wheel of the Mazda6 the first time, I was pretty impressed. The cabin had clean lines, nice shapes and textures with touches of a high-end sedan. The leather


Mazda reaches upscale in the interior, though with a lapse in the center stack

upholstery was markedly supple and perforated for ventilation.

The dashboard will strike some as uncomplicated, others as antiquated, but interior trim is a return to the high-quality plastic surfaces that were a Mazda hallmark some years ago. Instruments are sports car serious with a three-pod gauge cluster that has a large tachometer left, speedometer center, and an information display on the right.

Among its assets, the Mazda6 has plenty of interior space and comfort for both front- and backseat riders with more rear-seat head- and legroom than most competitors. I was especially comfortable in the driver’s seat that had great thigh support and bolstering.

Like most “five-passenger” sedans, rear seating is best suited for two adults with the middle position being a short-drive situation. If little ones are part of your family, installing infant, child or booster seats is pretty much hassle-free.

When it comes to Costco shopping, the trunk’s 14.8 cubic feet of space is a couple of cubes less than the top competitors. But the opening is wide and it’s no fuss to fold the 60/40 split rear seats to almost flat.

As much as the Mazda6 impressed me, the infotainment system was a let-down. It was agonizingly sluggish and outdated with a small screen.

That little disappointment aside, the 6 is well equipped for its price. Standard on the base i Sport Manual are the expected power accessories, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel with mounted audio and cruise control functions, air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD/MP3-compatible audio system and ports for an auxiliary audio jack and USB.

Stepping up to the automatic transmission i Sport adds a rearview camera, a 5.8-inch touch-screen display, Bluetooth, HD Radio, voice-activated audio controls and hands-free text messaging capability. Other available features include leather upholstery, heated and power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a moonroof and an 11-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system.

Premium features included in the Technology Package of our test driver made me question the point of a “luxury” car, The $2,080 package included radar (adaptive) cruise control (keeps the car a set distance from the car in front), forward obstruction warning, lane-departure warning, automatic braking at low speed to avoid rear-ending the car ahead, rear cross-traffic alert and automatic high beams.

It’s assuring to find this available safety net on an averaged-priced family sedan. But even without the options, the Mazda6 earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ and a 5-star overall NHTSA safety rating.

The Family Midsize Sedan For You?

If you are looking for a new midsize family sedan, you’ll find the category is overflowing with some of the best-selling cars in the country. It starts with the Toyota Camry, which has been America’s No. 1 selling car for nearly two decades. Then there’s the second best-selling Honda Accord, followed by the Ford Fusion and Nissan Altima.


A badge that should be honored

Nisssan’s Altima comes closest to the Mazda6’s fun-to-drive personality, but still falls short. Seductive European styling is one of the Ford’s assets, but options can push the price close to $40,000. As for the Honda, well, repeat Accord buyers are not likely to even consider another make.

What makes the Mazda6 a compelling alternative to the others in the crowd is its combination of fuel economy, Zoom-Zoom driving personality, evocative styling, and a competitive price with good value for the dollar spent.

Don’t overlook the Mazda6; have some fun and take it for a test drive.

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Road Test: 2015 Nissan Juke NISMO RS

Road Test: 2015 Nissan Juke NISMO RS

Fast, Fun and a Raucous Time Waiting To Happen

Ever heard the saying, “drive it like you stole it?” Well, getting behind the wheel of the 2015 Nissan Juke NISMO RS brings out a bit of larceny in you when you realize just how much of a blast this car can be. Hold on, here we go!


The 2015 Nissan Juke NISMO RS comes in either FWD or AWD, with an intercooled and turbocharged RS-tuned high output 1.6-liter, 16-valve sequential direct injection inline, four-cylinder

2015 Nissan, Juke NISMO,styling,design

The most common view

engine. Running on premium unleaded, it puts-out 215 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque for the FWD and 211/184 for the AWD. Clean Fleet Report was driving the FWD Juke NISMO RS with Nissan’s RS Performance six-speed manual transmission, which is rated at 25 city/31 highway/27 combined. In 190 miles of 70-percent highway/30-percent city driving we averaged 27.9 mpg, which, if the 13.2-gallon fuel tank was run dry, would have taken us almost 370 miles down the road.

NISMO stands for Nissan Motorsports, so the factory knows about racing and has built-in some cool performance features and technology into the Juke NISMO RS.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The five-door (four doors plus a hatch in the rear) Juke NISMO RS FWD weighs in at 2,969 lbs. The 62/38 front-to-rear weight distribution, along with the limited slip differential, created noticeable push—or understeer—when driving hard through corners, but with limited body roll for this tall vehicle. The understeer was manageable once you know the limits. The electric power-assisted and speed-sensitive steering was light, nimble, agile and quick without ever losing an awareness of the road, through all speeds and situations.

2015 Nissan, Juke NISMO,style,design

Coming at you–with style

The sticky 225/45R18 Continental ContiSportContact5 summer tires, mounted on 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, were well-matched to the Juke’s suspension. Consisting of front independent struts with a stabilizer bar and rear torsion and stabilizer bars, the suspension also includes KYB twin-tube shock absorbers specially tuned for the NISMO RS package. Nissan says: “A significant bolster to the Juke NISMO RS’s engaging driving dynamics” has been accomplished through Traction Control (TCS) and Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and the real-time measurement of wheel speed, steering angle, yaw rate and lateral G-forces, along with special RS body and chassis reinforcements that all lead to increased overall rigidity and increased steering precision and response. For additional cornering grip and traction in foul weather, you can opt for the Juke NISMO RS with Nissan’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system.

The wide rev band on the NISMO RS-tuned turbocharged and intercooled engine delivered smooth operations at all speeds and demands. There was never a time where the direct injection and variable valve timing of the I-4 stumbled or left us wanting for more, and the specially-tuned NISMO RS exhaust had a pleasant performance sound that seemed like second-nature to the car and what it was designed to do.

The Juke NISMO RS has an excellent purpose-tuned braking system consisting of 12.6-inch front vented and 11.5-inch rear vented discs, with snazzy red calipers. Combined with Nissan’s Electronic Brake-force Distribution system, which adjusts brake proportioning to compensate for added weight from passengers or cargo, and even adjusts as fuel is consumed, there was never a highway or corner braking situation the Juke NISMO RS could not handle with confidence.

Driving Experience: Exterior

Design wise, any of the Juke versions are not a car to be confused with anything else on the road. It has an aggressive stance that makes it look muscular and larger than it is—personally, I like the

2015,Nissan Juke, NISMO,design,styling

A coupe or a sedan?

styling. Yes, the comments that it looks like an insect, or maybe a frog or even an underwater sea creature, have all been said before. I get it, but the Juke design style is its DNA and what makes it so fun and unique. The front is where some people may utter a “ewww” as they look, from bottom-to-top, the fog lights in the lower fascia, then the distinctive round, projector halogen headlights set into the bumper and finally the stacked turn signal and daytime running lights on the fender tops. There is a lot going on upfront, but somehow it all seems to work when you figure how non-conforming it is to everything else on the road.

From the side the raked windshield leads to a roofline that drops noticeably to the rear hatch. The color-keyed integrated rear door handles make for a smooth appearance, leading one to think the Juke is a coupe. Out back, the rear taillights are similar to those found on the Murano, 370Z, Versa Note and the Altima, with what Nissan calls their “boomerang” design that helps guide air away from the body for reduced turbulence, helping to increase fuel economy.

The Juke NISMO RS is easy to differentiate from the other Juke versions as it comes with special front and rear fascias, front LED running lights, front grill and rear spoiler, red accent stripe, red mirror covers and NISMO RS badging.

Driving Experience: Interior

2015,Nissan, Juke NISMO,Recaro,seats

Style that keeps you in place

The first thing you will notice when getting into a Juke NISMO RS are the Recaro “Sportster” design seats with bold, red leather bolsters and black Alcantara (a synthetic suede-like material) inserts that feature NISMO and Recaro embossed logos and red top stitching. As cool as these seats may be, they serve a function to keep the driver planted during high g-force turns, acceleration and stops. The driver seat has six-way manual adjustments while the passenger gets four-way manual adjustments. There is plenty of head and legroom for driver and passenger.

Nissan says there is seating for three adults in the 60/40 split bench rear seat, but we are guessing that the vast majority of Juke owners lay those seats flat—permanently—which results in a very usable 35.9 cubic feet of storage space with traditional hatchback functionality and versatility. Otherwise, there is little usable storage space behind the rear seats when in the upright position.

The simplicity of the dash layout begins with the distinctive motorcycle tank inspired center console that houses the manual gearshift, which is perfectly placed—higher

2015,Nissan Juke,interior, NISMO, gauges

Style & substance

than you will find in other cars. The analog tachometer and speedometer gauges are easy to read with white lettering on either a red or black background, and the vehicle information center has bright orange lighting, all of which is under a black Alcantara-covered hood with bright red top stitching.

Operating the sound system was easy and met Clean Fleet Report’s minimum requirement for a driver-friendly system as it had knobs for the channel and volume functions. Our Juke NISMO RS came with the 5.8-inch HD color touch-screen with navigation and mobile apps and a rearview monitor, which are all part of the NissanConnect system. The powerful and great sounding Rockford Fosgate ecoPUNCH audio system came with six speakers and a powered subwoofer, SiriusXM (three-month trial subscription), AM/FM/HD/CD/MP3/WMA, USB port with iPod connectivity, aux-in jacks and Bluetooth streaming audio.

2015,Nissan, Juke NISMO,storage

The rear seat solution

Adding to the interior comfort and convenience was a tilt and energy-absorbing steering column, leather-wrapped shift knob and Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, Enhanced Voice Recognition for the Bluetooth hands-free telephone, text messaging and navigation, remote keyless entry, Intelligent Key with push-button start, cruise control, Nissan’s I-CON system with automatic air conditioning, power windows with one-touch up/down, power door locks and outside mirrors, carpeted floor mats with NISMO and Juke logos, day/night rearview mirror, outside temperature display, map lights, multiple beverage holders and a 12-volt accessory outlet.

Safety and Convenience

The 2015 Juke NISMO RS comes with safety and convenience features including six air bags, Moving Object Detection (MOD), Around View Monitor (AVM), Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Traction Control System (TCS), Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), four-wheel disc Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) with brake assist, Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), projector–type Halogen headlights and fog lights, Vehicle Security System (VSS) and anti-theft vehicle immobilizer.

Pricing and Warranties

Base price for the 2015 Nissan Juke NISMO RS with the six-speed manual transmission is $22,080. As tested, Clean Fleet Report’s 2015 Juke NISMO RS had the carpet and armrest packages

2015 Nissan, Juke NISMO,interior, Recaro seats

Style on the inside too

bringing the MRSP to $22,550. All prices are excluding the $825 Destination charge.

The 2015 Juke NISMO RS comes with these warranties:

  • Basic Three-year/36,000-mile
  • Powertrain Five-year/60,000-mile
  • Anti-Perforation Five-year/Unlimited-mile

Observations: 2015 Juke NISMO RS

Do you consider yourself to be somewhat different than everyone else on your block? Maybe there is a little rebel in you; you know, a non-conformist who stands out a bit from the crowd? If so, then the 2015 Juke NISMO RS is right for you.

2015 Nissan,Juke,NISMO

The Juke’s on you

The 2015 Nissan Juke is a blending of a small crossover and performance car that, for the more adventurous among you, lets you make a statement with a design that has been called everything from wild to modern sculpture.

Selling against the Mini Cooper Countryman S, Mini Cooper Paceman S, Volkswagen GTI, Ford Focus ST, Jeep Renegade and even the Fiat 500 Abarth, the 2015 Juke NISMO RS can handle its own against these other small, sporty cars.

Nissan says the Juke is “all about attitude” and its buyers are confident and focused on the car’s overall look and what that look says about them. When you become a Juke owner, there is no doubt this describes you perfectly as you will get looks when cruising around and have some pretty interesting conversations with family, neighbors and complete strangers. Suffice it to say, you will not be just another car on the road if you own a Juke.

And if you own a 2015 Juke NISMO RS, those other cars on the road will be seeing your taillights and wondering—“What was that car?”

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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2016 Toyota Mirai Hits the Market—Seeks to Be the Prius of Fuel Cell Vehicles

2016 Toyota Mirai Hits the Market—Seeks to Be the Prius of Fuel Cell Vehicles

Something New, Something Different, Something for the Future

Toyota wants you to take a good look at the new Mirai fuel cell car and see something else—the 2000 Toyota Prius. Well, they don’t really want you to see that—they just want to think about the Mirai with both the perspective of what the Prius was when it was introduced in 2000 (new innovative technology) and what it stands for now 15 years later (the poster child for hybrid, high-mpg cars).

2016,Toyota,Mirai,fuel cell,FCEV,electric car,technology

Trailblazers getting an inside view of the future

If the Prius is the vehicle you think of when you say hybrid, then you’re on the right track. The Prius (in its original liftback form) still represents 31.4 percent all hybrid sales, not even counting its

“family” of like-named vehicles. The “c” and “V” variants add 17.1 percent of hybrid sales so the family accounts for almost half of hybrid sales. And that’s not adding in the non-Prius Toyota and Lexus hybrids (which are another almost 20 percent of hybrid sales) or the plug-in Prius (which has a 15-percent share of plug-in hybrid sales). Let’s just say Prius has made its mark on the automotive marketplace. That’s what Toyota wants to replicate with the Mirai and fuel cells. Where they can, they trade on the market image of Prius, with the Mirai labeled as using the Synergy Drive, Toyota’s trademark for its hybrid system.

Like the Prius, the Mirai is not the first fuel cell on the market. Hyundai did that last year by jumping into the market with its Tucson FCEV, ignoring for the moment Honda, Mercedes and GM’s marketing efforts that have put hundreds of fuel cells in consumer hands. Being first doesn’t seem to be part of the Toyota playbook, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be putting on a full-court press to become to fuel cells what the Prius is to hybrids.

Toyota knows it takes time for a new technology to take hold and their commitment to hydrogen cars looks long-term. “It’s the technology for the next 100

2016,Toyota Mirai,fuel cell,FCEV,electric vehicle,electric car,

Trailblazers check out the Prius of the future

years,” said Ed La Rocque, Toyota’s national manager for fuel cell vehicles. “As with the Prius, (the 20 years of in-house R&D) were an investment,” he added. But they hope the ramp up won’t take that long (though they seem to be acknowledging it will take longer than the Prius to make it to substantial sales.

The first U.S. Mirai deliveries will take place in October (it’s been on sale in Japan since earlier this year), so Toyota’s most recent consumer outreach was a meeting to give those early adopters a chance to hear more about the car and take it out for a drive. The other part of the agenda was to draw more “intenders” into the mix. The 15-stop tour was just beginning, but weekend 30-minute test drives have sold out, according to Toyota. To sweeten the deal Toyota is offering $7,500 on top of the federal and state tax breaks and incentives to ones who sign on early, one’s they’re calling “trailblazers.” One additional Toyota perk is a complimentary “seven-day road trip” in a conventional Toyota vehicle during each year of Mirai ownership. With that the fuel cell driver can venture beyond the still limited range of hydrogen fueling stations.

Those trailblazers will get to experience the latest version of Toyota’s fuel cell technology—an electric car capable of storing some of its braking energy in nickel-metal-hydride batteries (like those found in all Toyota hybrids except for the Plug-in Prius). The fuel cell takes in compressed hydrogen and converts it to electricity, leaving water vapor as the only thing coming out of the tailpipe.

2016 toyota,Mirai,fuel cell, technology,electric car

The “miracle” of the fuel cell explained

That fuel cell is the fourth generation Toyota’s developed, capable of living up to a 100,000-mile warranty and delivering more than 300 miles of range. Although the Mirai retails for $57,500 before the rebates and incentives kick in, its fuel cell stack’s cost has dropped 95 percent since Toyota started work 20 years ago. For the first buyers a lease option will also be available. Its $499/month charge will include up to $15,000 worth of fuel (roughly three years’ worth), three years of free scheduled maintenance and “enhanced” roadside assistance, something particularly valuable given the limited fueling network and problems early users have had with it.

What has drawn Toyota to fuel cell technology is its capability, unlike hybrid or electric drive, of scaling up to virtually any application. Who Toyota thinks will be attracted to the Mirai is another matter. Russ Mobley, one of the executives of at San Francisco Toyota, one of the few initial retailers of the Mirai, sees “pin-point buyers” being attracted. He says those potential buyers are pre-qualified (geographically, primarily, by being within range of a fueling station) on a web-based reservation system, but run the gamut of professions, including engineers, lawyers and architects—people “who aren’t afraid to be trailblazers” and share the vision of the Mirai as the “next Prius.”

Clean Fleet Report talked with one of these trailblazers, Danny German, who was excited about getting into his Mirai in a couple months. He said he was looking for a “small footprint” and was not daunted by the refueling issues. Up to this point the San Francisco resident has owned five hybrids (no EVs or PHEVs), but he promised to report back to CFR on his experience with this new technology.

It looks like we’ll be delivering many more reports as this new technology enters the market.

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Road Test: 2015 Fiat 500 Lounge 1957 Edition

Road Test: 2015 Fiat 500 Lounge 1957 Edition

Retro Fun

A little history lesson. FIAT (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino) began in 1899 building small city cars for the masses, including the Cinquecento – or 500. So, nothing exciting…yet. Currently, Fiat’s parent, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles owns several other brands – Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep in the U.S. as well as Abarth, Lancia, and the very fun Alfa Romeo and the exotic Ferrari and Maserati. Now we are getting somewhere!

Back to the Fiat brand. In the mid-20th Century, post-WWII, saw Fiat retool into a major automotive company with the majority of its sales in Europe, but also including a lengthy run from 1908

2015 Fiat,500 Lounge,1957 Edition

Good things in small packages

to 1983 in the USA. When Fiat took over Chrysler and became FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), it reentered the American market in 2009 with the 500. Derivatives soon followed with the sporty 500 Abarth and the recently introduced 500e, four-door 500L and mini-crossover 500X (which had a cousin in the Jeep Renegade). Clean Fleet Report will start here with the 500 Lounge 1957 Edition (more on this name later) and work our way through the Fiat line-up, which will be reviewed separately.


The 2015 Fiat 500 Pop, Sport and Lounge base models come with a 1.4-liter, inline, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine with sequential multiport electronic fuel injection, producing 101 hp and 97 lb-ft of torque through a five-speed manual transmission, delivering an EPA rating of 31 city/40 highway/34 combined. In 426 miles of 70-percent highway /30-percent city driving Clean Fleet Report averaged 35.9 mpg, which means the 10.5 gallon fuel tank would take you about 370 miles before needing a fill-up.

Note: The EPA’s gas mileage formula is 45-percent highway and 55-percent city. Here in Southern California our 70-percent highway /30-percent city driving pattern is far more real world and is why we report it to you.

2015, Fiat, 500 Lounge,1957 Edition, Fiat 500 original,cinquecento

The original and the retro

Running on unleaded regular (with mid-grade recommended), the high-revving 84-cubic-inch engine was smooth and responsive, but not very fast, taking about 10 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph. Helping a bit with peppiness and adding a fun factor, was the easy shifting five-speed manual, which provided more of a performance feel. A smart choice would be to get the optional turbocharged engine that kicks-out 135 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. If you like manual transmissions, go ahead and stay with the five-speed, but the six-speed automatic with Auto Stick is a slick mate for the turbocharged engine. Plus, it offers one big advantage when on the highway: at 70 mph the five-speed manual is turning 3,000 rpm while the six-speed automatic drops the engine down to 2,300 rpm. Why Fiat doesn’t offer a six-speed manual is a big question.

Driving Experience: On the Road

Clean Fleet Report’s 500 Lounge 1957 Edition with the five-speed manual transmission weighed in at a relatively light 2,366 lbs. If opting for the six-speed automatic the weight goes up a bit to 2,542 lbs. For comparison, a Mini Cooper with the 1.5-liter engine and a six-speed manual transmission, which the Fiat 500 is frequently matched-up to, weighs in at 2,605 lbs.

2015,Fiat 500,1957 Edition, Lounge

Does this bumper make me look fat?

The front-wheel drive 500 was fun to drive and handled the open road with confidence. Of all the small compact cars we have driven, even with the short 90.6-inch wheelbase, the 500 had the most stable feel at highway speeds and was unaffected by passing big rigs. Parking, as you can imagine for a car just over 11-feet long, was a breeze. It did not come equipped with a rear view camera, which was just fine, as there was no need for one.

Pointing the 500 where you wanted it to go resulted in ending-up in that desired spot, with the electric power steering being very subtle in its assist. The front and rear MacPherson suspension includes coil springs with twin-tube shock absorbers, producing a firm, but not stiff, ride with acceptable drift or pushing through extremely hard cornering. We also found the highway ride to be comfortable. The 500 comes with either Continental ContiProContact, Firestone Firehawk or Pirelli Cintuarto all-season 185/55R15 tires, mounted on 15-inch painted aluminum wheels.

The response and feel of the 500, even without the turbocharged engine and modified suspension and tires on the Abarth and Sport models, was a thing to enjoy. Wind and road noise was low, which is saying something for a relatively light vehicle with a short wheelbase, probably in part due to the aerodynamic design of the body.

The brakes, vented front with solid rear rotors, worked very well under all conditions, including late, last-second corner braking. Steady pressure delivered a desired brake force through the system, which included four-wheel power assist, Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with brake assist, all-speed traction control (TCS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC).

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Fiat 500 is all about being retro, and it is done quite well in unmistakable Italian design. Clean Fleet Report was driving the Fiat 500 Lounge 1957 Edition…a long name for a small car. The reference to 1957 (the year of the introduction of the nuova—new—cinguecento) comes from the two-toned paint scheme, retro badging, retro fascia with bright inserts and retro wheels, making this car reminiscent of the one so popular throughout Europe in the late 1950s and seen in many films from that era.

2015, fiat, 500 Lounge, storage

A little storage–until you fold down the back seats

To start with, the 500 is small, but not in an obvious or curious way compared to a Smart Fourtwo.

Up front, there is a fun face with large, round Halogen projector headlights and a mustache trim piece, above the mouth-like grill openings, and fog lamps. The 500 has an upright design with sides that slope inward towards the roof. A raked front windshield leads over the fixed glass roof to the rear glass on the hatch, which has a sharp angle sloping forward. Chrome pieces are at a minimum and used properly as accents.

As part of the Lounge 1957 Edition package, the four-slot, 15-inch wheels are painted the body color (in our case, Celeste Blu) and have chrome flat dish hubcaps along with a chrome wheel ring.

All-in-all, it’s a completely unique design from anything else you will see on the road—and pure Italian all the way.


Driving Experience: Interior

The first thing you notice when getting into a Fiat 500 is how small it seems. But the smallness does not translate into being cramped, because at 5’ 9”, I fit just fine, as did my six-foot-tall friend, including ample headspace. The leather-wrapped steering wheel and tilt column along with the heated leather seats made finding a comfortable seating position easy. But, and there is always a but, the tight fit between the doors and seat edges mean you should not even attempt to find anything you dropped until getting out of the car. And, the contortionist moves needed to reach the shoulder belts once seated upfront are the result of the smallness of the interior. If you are thinking of hauling around people larger than about four-feet-tall, be forewarned that the rear seat is not meant for grown humans. The best bet with the 500 is to lay the 50/50 split rear seats flat and enjoy zipping around with enough luggage space for two to have a great weekend trip.

23015, Fiat 500, Lounge 1957 Edition

All the Italian curves you would expect

The 500 dash is clean, basic and everything is well within reach of the driver. But, and there is that dastardly but again, the Tom Tom navigation screen appears to be an afterthought, as it is

2015, Fiat 500, Lounge 1957 Edition, interior, Tom Tom navigation

An intrusion into my space

inserted right at eye-level mid-dash and is a distraction when driving. This device also acts to sync Bluetooth through the Blue&me system for mobile phone hands-free, voice-activated communication, so it is necessary to install it into the dash when starting the car. Thankfully, once synced, you can remove the Tom Tom device, put it in the glovebox, and the Bluetooth continues to work. Of course this means you no longer have navigation, but, heck, how can you get upset when getting lost in a fun driving car?

Our 500 Lounge 1957 Edition had the six-speaker, Fiat Premium Audio System with AM/FM/CD/MP3, SiriusXM (One-year subscription included), all of which can be managed by the steering wheel mounted controls and a media hub with USB, AUX and audio input jacks.

Convenience features include power windows with one-touch down, power door locks, power and heated foldaway exterior mirrors, A/C with automatic climate control, floor mats, remote start, keyless entry, 12V and USB power outlets, multiple cup holders, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rear window wiper/washer, security alarm, and a tire service kit in lieu of a spare tire.

Safety Features

2015 Fiat, 500 Lounge, 1957 Edition, special equipment

Lights aplenty

The 2015 Fiat 500 has an Overall 4-Star National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rating, with a 5-Star Side Crash, and a 4-Star rating for Rollover and Frontal protection. Safety features include seven airbags, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), traction control, rear park assist, remote keyless entry, engine immobilizer, Tire Pressure Monitoring (TPM), brake assist, hill start assist and cruise control.

Pricing and Warranties

The 2015 Fiat 500 has a base price of $17,965 with the 500 Lounge 1957 Edition Clean Fleet Report was driving had a MSRP of $22,650. All prices include the $850 Destination Charge. Option packages will add to these prices.

All 2015 Fiat 500 models come with these warranties:

Basic Limited                   Four-year/50,000-mile

Brakes, Wiper Blades, Clutch, Windshield and Rear Window, Wheel Alignment and Balancing                             One-year/12,000-mile

Corrosion                        Three-year/Unlimited-mile

Roadside Assistance        Five-year/100,000-mile

Observations: 2015 Fiat 500 Lounge 1957 Edition

I live near a high school and usually, when driving by the students, I don’t draw any attention. But, when driving the 2015 Fiat 500 Lounge 1957 Edition, all of a sudden I was getting stares,

2015 Fiat, 500 Lounge, 1957 Edition

The looks for the beach

double-takes and pointing from…teenage girls. Guaranteed they were not looking at me, but were reacting to the cool, retro 500 cruising by as they trudged to class. This was no surprise because watching Fiat’s television commercials you will see pretty quickly to whom they have targeted this car: females, 21 – 30, single, hip and fun-loving.

The Fiat 500 is fun to drive, easy to park and handle. The base engine we drove in the 500 Lounge 1957 Edition is underpowered, but it gets good fuel economy. The design is unto itself.

So what’s not to like about this cool looking small car? If you absolutely do not need a car that can haul around adults or your family and their gear, then the 500 could be a good car. Otherwise, it’s a second or third car. The Fiat 500 is a statement car that will draw attention and says something about your lifestyle and outlook on life.

Treat yourself to a test drive of this fun car. You just may drive home in something you never thought would be in your garage.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

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