Road Test: 2016 Kia Sorento Limited AWD

Road Test: 2016 Kia Sorento Limited AWD

Kia’s Feature-loaded Midsize CUV

The all-new and completely redesigned 2016 Kia Sorento fits nicely, size-wise, between a compact CUV (Crossover Utility Vehicle) like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and a midsize SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) such as the Toyota Highlander or Jeep Grand Cherokee. Price wise, when considering the standard and optional equipment, the Sorento is very attractive for cost-conscious consumers that also want a nicely equipped CUV that can seat five or seven.


The 2016 Kia Sorento comes in either FWD or AWD with three engine choices—a 2.4L non-turbo four-cylinder, a 3.3L non-turbo six-cylinder or what was powering Clean Fleet Report’s test car,


Style in an SUV–what a concept

the new-for-2016 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder DOHC engine with direct electronic fuel injection. Our 2.0L turbo All Wheel Drive Sorento, running on unleaded regular, put-out 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque through Kia’s electronically-controlled six-speed automatic transmission with Sportmatic shifting. This drivetrain combination is EPA rated at 21 City / 26 Highway / 23 Combined, and in 874 miles of 75-percent highway /25-percent city driving we averaged 25.4 mpg. The 2.0L turbo is actually quite peppy and, with a peak torque kicking-in at a low 1,450 rpm, highway onramps and passing big rigs is a breeze. The 2.4L turns in an EPA rated 29 mpg Highway, which based on our experience with this model, would probably deliver more than 30 mpg in real world highway driving.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The Kia Sorento’s 3,840 lbs. were well-suited to its length, width and height. Some CUVs and SUVs can get top heavy, especially while cornering, but this was not the case with the Sorento. The weight distribution on our full-time AWD Sorento was easy to maneuver thanks to the column-mounted, motor-driven power steering, the Michelin Premier LTX 235/55R19 all-season tires on 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and its independent front and rear suspension with stabilizer bars and dual-damper shock absorbers. The 2.0L turbo has a tow rating of 3,500 lbs. If you step-up to the V-6, the Sorento is rated to tow up to 5,000 lbs.

2016 Kia,Sorento,turbocharged,mpg

Power for the highway

Many cars are now equipped with eight- and nine-speed automatic transmissions, but the Kia Sorento’s six-speed transmission was completely sufficient with smooth shifts and no hunting for the correct gear. To get the most performance from the engine you have choices of ECO, Comfort and Sport settings. ECO will be used on long stretches of road to squeeze-out every last drop of fuel; Sport holds the transmission in each rev band a bit longer. But have no misconceptions – the Kia Sorento is not a sporty vehicle to drive and to Kia’s credit, even though there is a Sport transmission setting, they do not advertise the Sorento as being sporty. Comfort (AKA Normal) was the around town choice, but once on the highway, ECO was the way to go.

Clean Fleet Report’s 2016 Kia Sorento had solid and consistent stops with a power-assisted braking system consisting of vented front and rear discs, an anti-lock brake system (ABS) and electronic brake-force distribution (EBD, which adjusts brake proportioning to compensate for added weight from passengers or cargo, and even adjusts as fuel is consumed).

Driving Experience: Exterior

Kia uses words like “passionately designed” and “obsessively crafted” when describing their designer’s vision for the 2016 Sorento. To be “all-new” from the previous version, Kia looked for

2016,Kia Sorento,styling,mpg

Style down to the shoes

inspiration from their Cross GT Concept Vehicle that was shown at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show. From this concept, the 2016 Sorento design carried-through a more rugged yet refined look and stance. The most recognizable part of the Sorento is its sloping hood leading into the upright but right-sized honeycomb grill with narrow headlights that have a swept back look. In the front end fascia is an aggressive air intake opening with quad LED fog lamps. I felt that the Xenon HID headlights on the Kia Sorento were the best of any car I have tested, providing for a wide, bright almost daylight-like vision.

Design-wise, Kia did a very good job carving-out a vehicle that stands out in its class, with an aggressive stance from the 19-inch wheels, sloping windshield leading to a roof featuring a panoramic power tilt-and-slide sunroof, chrome roof rails and ending with an integrated spoiler over the smart “Hands Free” power liftgate. The lack of cladding or other unnecessary trim pieces only add to a look of sophistication, lending to a premium feel.

Driving Experience: Interior

2016 Kia Sorento,interior,styling

Class up works for us

I was immediately impressed with what Kia calls the Sorento’s “Class-up” interior, starting with the whopping 14-way power driver seat (including four power lumbar adjustments) and eight-way power adjustable front passenger seat. Both are leather-trimmed, heated and ventilated, with the driver seat also having memory. With this many settings, it was easy finding a comfortable driving position, which was aided by the tilt-and-telescopr steering column.

Sorento models with the four-cylinder engines have seating for five adults, with a seven-passenger option when ordering the six-cylinder engine. Our Sorento sat five adults comfortably with the outbound rear leather-trimmed seats being heated. There was ample storage space behind the rear seat, but when the 40/20/40 split-folding seat was in the full down position, the storage space could handle pretty much whatever you like. Additional nice touches are the underfloor cargo storage beneath the second row of seats and the rear A/C controls.

Up front, the soft-touch material dash has a simple layout, starting with the deep-set analog tachometer and speedometer gauges, which are easy to read

2016,Kia Sorento,technology

Tech inbedded and at arm’s length

with white lettering on a black background. 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 Sorento came with the eight-inch HD color display panel with a capacitive touch screen with navigation and Kia’s wonderful Around View Monitor.

The powerful and great-sounding Infinity surround-sound high-definition audio system, with ClariFi, came with an external amplifier, subwoofer and 10 speakers. Sirius Satellite Radio is included (three-month trial subscription) as is the AM/FM/CD/MP3 radio, rapid charge USB ports with iPod connectivity, Aux-in jacks and Bluetooth streaming audio with voice recognition. The UVO Services Telematics includes the color rear camera display and apps such as Yelp, Soundhound, Pandora and iHeart radio as well as features such as Siri Eyes and Local Search by Google.

Adding to the interior comfort and convenience was a power panoramic moonroof with power sun shade, leather-wrapped shift knob, wood-grained and leather-wrapped heated steering wheel with audio controls, one-touch driver seat headrest, remote keyless entry with Smart Key and push button start, dual zone automatic climate control, power windows with one-touch up/down, power door locks, power heated outside mirrors with turn indicators, carpeted floor mats, auto dimming rearview mirror with compass and Homelink, outside temperature display, map lights and rear map pockets, multiple beverage holders, 12-volt accessory outlets and a 110V power inverter.

Safety and Convenience

2016,Kia,Sorento,cargo space

Room for–what do you have?

The 2016 Kia Sorento comes with safety and convenience features including eight air bags, lane departure warning (LDWS), rollover sensor, blind spot detection, back-up warning, rear cross traffic alert (RCTA), forward collision warning (FCW), Around View Monitor (AVM), tire pressure level monitor, advanced smart cruise control (ASCC), electronic stability control (ESC), traction control system (TCS), hill start assist (HAC), Torque Vectoring Cornering Control, four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake force distribution (EBD), Xenon HID headlights, LED fog lights, a vehicle security system (VSS) and anti-theft vehicle immobilizer.

The 2016 Kia Sorento has earned a US Government National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score, where 5 Stars is the highest safety rating.


Clean Fleet Report’s 2016 Kia Sorento Limited AWD had a MRSP of $44,200, which included the SXL Technology Package. 2016 Sorento pricing starts at $24,900 with packages and options affecting your final price. All prices exclude the $895 Destination Charge.


The 2016 Kia Sorento comes with these warranties:

  • Basic Five-year/60,000-mile
  • Powertrain 10-year/100,000-mile
  • Roadside Assistance Five-year/60,000-mile
  • Anti-Perforation Five-year/60,000-mile

Observations: 2016 Kia Sorento Limited AWD

The 2016 Kia Sorento offers clean, contemporary styling, a comfortable interior with convenient and desirable seating and storage flexibility, which includes the five-passenger or seven-passenger

2016 Kia,Sorento,SUV,CUV

Ready to ride-work-play

option. Having choices of front-wheel and all-wheel drive is a selling point for Kia as it means everyone looking for a mid-size CUV could be their customer.

My overall impression of the 2016 Kia Sorento is that its size, falling between a small and large SUV, offers benefits of parking and handling as well as the seating flexibility. The Sorento’s high safety rating is also a plus when driving any tall vehicle.

The 2016 Kia Sorento should be on your CUV/SUV shopping list when visiting dealers.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle, which does not address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology, during which we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements. Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class or are among the top mpg vehicles on the market. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at

America’s Top 10 Cleanest Energy & Dirtiest Energy States

America’s Top 10 Cleanest Energy & Dirtiest Energy States

Tallying Up the Good Guys & the Rest

This post originally appeared on where you can find comprehensive solar information from industry experts.

America’s energy policy has been the subject of much recent debate: From the Pope’s public advocacy of environmental stewardship to the EPA’s toughened regulations on pollution from petroleum refineries, the sources that power our society have rarely been so widely scrutinized. Once regarded as a subject best left to the energy sector, the way we fuel our economy has proven its relevance for all citizens, both in America and across the globe.

For our team at Modernize, this subject seems particularly important. We’re dedicated to providing consumers information and opportunities related to one of clean energy’s most promising technologies: solar panels. Our primary interest is in helping individual readers find environmentally friendly solar options that generate wallet-friendly savings in the long run.

But we’re also paying attention to how whole swaths of the American energy landscape operate. That’s where our project “America’s Cleanest and Dirtiest Energy States” comes in. If you want to know your state’s energy track record or find out which states are leading (and trailing) the push for renewables, you’re going to want to read what comes next.

Our Methodology

For this project, we went straight to the most authoritative source available on America’s energy realities. We gathered data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the federal agency responsible for tracking stats related to America’s energy production and consumption. Lucky for us, they’ve got data dating back to 1960 and as recent as 2013, so we took the long view on each state’s energy legacy. Our work engaged a range of subjects, from total energy production from renewable sources to carbon dioxide emissions over time. Take a look at what we found out:

Not Everything is Bigger in Texas…

Let’s get something straight: “Renewable” energy sources run the gamut from hydropower to wind, solar, and more. The EIA includes biofuels, such as ethanol, in this category as well. That means that virtually any state can tap into renewables, though some types are more readily utilized in certain natural environments (for instance, the Midwest makes good use of its wind). But that also means oil- and coal-rich states like Texas and West Virginia have historically focused their efforts on sourcing energy from “fossil” fuels, so their output from renewables is relatively paltry.

To see each state’s numbers, check out the map below:

Cleanest energy states

The Cleanest States Are Lighter












And here are the top 10 cleanest energy producers (of total energy from renewables):

Top 10 renewable energy states

Top 10 Renewable Energy States

Maybe Washington, California, and Oregon come as no surprise – we associate them with environmental concern and the geographical variety to embrace multiple renewable technologies simultaneously. But the rest of the states that top the renewables ranking embody a striking mix of size, population, political preference, and socioeconomic standing. If this ranking indicates anything, it’s that success with renewables is possible in any combination of circumstances.

Power Percentages

Now we know the score when it comes to the total volume of energy produced from renewables by state. But some states produce plenty of both, while others have pristine clean-energy records but fall short of the top 10 because their total production is too small to compete. So we also looked at how much of each state’s total energy production renewables account for – call these our Top 10 Cleanest Energy Percentage Power Rankings:

Top 10 Cleanest Energy States by Percentage

Top 10 Cleanest Energy States by Percentage

Yes, you read that right: Rhode Island, Idaho, Hawaii, Delaware, and D.C. produce virtually all of their energy from renewable sources. Sure, that might be different if these states had been dealt a different hand in the distribution of natural resources (no one’s begging to drill outside Newport), but we can appreciate their commitment to renewable energy all the same. After all, necessity is the mother of invention – and as time goes on, more and more states may find themselves in need.








Then there’s the cohort above, all of whom derived less than 2.5% of all the energy they produce from renewable sources from 1960–2013. The difference in reliance on renewables couldn’t be starker: Wyoming’s renewable portfolio accounts for roughly one in every 250 BTUs (British Thermal Units – oddly, no longer commonly used in the U.K.) that the state produces. Many of the constituents of this dirtiest energy ranking are too rich in coal and oil to need much in the way of renewable alternatives – but that doesn’t mean they won’t adopt more sustainable technologies in the coming years. Here’s the Bottom 10 Dirtiest Energy States:

Bottom 10 Dirtiest States

Bottom 10 Dirtiest States

Pollution and Solutions

Perhaps the most concerning byproduct of fossil fuel energy production is pollution. That term covers many kinds of potentially harmful emissions, but the best-known variety is carbon dioxide. The EIA offers carbon dioxide data from 1990–2012, so we’ve tracked the 10 worst emissions offenders over that time:

Bottom 10 Dirtiest Energy Producers

Bottom 10 Dirtiest Energy Producers

Predictably, Texas is at the top – but what about California or New York? Why do states that ranked high in renewable energy production make the list? The answer is simple: Carbon dioxide emissions aren’t just a function of energy production. It’s no accident that the top-ranked states are almost all quite populous; the more people, the more energy they consume. That translates to emissions resulting from cars, heat, and other comforts modern Americans depend upon in daily life. But don’t think emissions are an intransigent evil: Some states are making great strides.

Let’s take a moment to commend these states for what they’ve accomplished in just 22 years. New York, Michigan, and Ohio are particularly exciting cases, demonstrating that even states closely associated with major industry can reduce emissions substantially. Additionally, some of the states that ranked high in the percentage of energy generated from renewables appear on this list, making it clear that improvement can always be a priority, whatever you accomplish for the environment. Here’s the Top 10 Most Improved Energy States:

Top 10 Most Improved Clean Energy States

Top 10 Most Improved Clean Energy States

Speaking of improvement, let’s remember that your own home can contribute to the pursuit of new, clean technologies, no matter which state you live in. Whether it’s turning off the light when you walk out of a room or researching solar options that will also create savings, you can do a lot to promote a cleaner energy world. Who knows? If you and enough of your neighbors make the right choices, your state might just jump up on our cleanest states ranking!

Road Test: 2015 Scion tC

Road Test: 2015 Scion tC

Scion’s Best Selling Model – Sporty and Fun

The dictionary defines scion as the descendant of a family or heir, which describes perfectly what Toyota had planned when it introduced its Scion automobile division in 2002 – an attempt to present a younger version of its cars to attract younger buyers to the Toyota brand. Through a series of small, nimble and even quirky cars, Scion has made a case for itself by being a youth brand that brings fun to driving.


2015, Scion,tC,performance,fuel econom

Absolutely ticket-happy red

The front-wheel drive 2015 Scion tC has a 2.5L four-cylinder, 16-valve engine with direct electronic fuel injection putting out 179 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque. Running on unleaded regular, our test car, equipped with a TRD (Toyota Racing Division) performance-tuned exhaust, had a six-speed manual that got us to 0 – 60 in about 7.6 seconds and was EPA rated at 23 city / 31 highway / 26 combined mpg. The sweet spot for the power band is in the 2nd – 3rd – 4th gear sequence, in the 2,500 – 4,500 rpm range, where the engine pulls strong without missing a beat. In 360 miles of spirited (translation: high revs and pushing the manual transmission through its paces) 65-percent highway /35-percent city driving we averaged 25.6 mpg. That means if the 14.5-gallon fuel tank was run dry it would have taken us about 370 miles down the road. The optional six-speed automatic with paddle shifters gets the same EPA mileage estimates.

Driving Experience: On the Road

At 3,082 lbs., the Scion tC handles firm and flat in slow-to-medium tight cornering with very little body roll when pushed hard. The 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels shod with 225/45R18 all-season tires were well-matched to the front MacPherson struts and shocks and double-wishbone rear suspension, which features

2015 Scion,tc coupe,performance, mpg

Little to see here

TRD performance springs all-around. The overall ride was confident at highway speeds and the electric power steering is calibrated to provide good road and cornering feel, making it fun to drive in a sporty way. That said, it came up a little under what would be found in a true sports car.

Stopping was straight and true with no fading from the front ventilated and rear solid disc brakes, assisted by the four-wheel anti-lock brake system (ABS), brake assist (BA), Smart Stop Technology (SST) and the electronic brake distribution (EBD) system.

Driving Experience: Exterior

2015,Scion tC,coupe,performance,mpg

The look and color of speed

The first generation Scion tC ran from 2005 to 2010; the current model was released in 2011 and receiving a freshening in 2014. The current model will easily satisfy your need to drive and be seen in a sporty coupe with its low-slung stance, short rear overhang and a sloping hood leading to a muscular front end, all topped-off with the 18-inch tires filling the wheel wells. I personally liked the smooth side panels with no cladding or chrome, dark tinted windows, tasteful spoiler and the standard panoramic power sunroof. There isn’t much to argue when Scion says: “The aggressive look of the 2015 tC addresses drivers’ evolving tastes in the sports coupe.”

Driving Experience: Interior

The simple, no-gimmick clean design of the Scion tC interior was appreciated. Sliding into the black and grey cloth seats (no leather option) places the driver


No cows killed for this interior

before the deep-set gauges that were illuminated with a soft orange light. The three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel was thick to the grip and has a flat bottom design that comes from the racing world. It’s becoming common on many cars that come through Clean Fleet Report. The tilt and telescoping steering wheel column combined with the six-way manually adjustable seat, made finding a driving position easy. Sightlines are limited and relying on the power-adjustable outside mirrors is a must.

The power tilt and sliding sunroof was easy to operate with wind noise only a concern when at highway speeds. The driver seat has a one-touch feature—when the handle is lifted, the seat folds and slides forward providing access to the back seat. Scion says three can comfortably sit in the back seat, but to make this happen successfully might rest on your finding friends on the shorter side, which would do them a big favor. Where the back seat shines is when the 60/40 split, reclining and fold-flat seats are laid out, providing for good storage space that is also accessible from the easy opening liftback.

2015 Scion,tC coupe,performance,mpg

One of the better uses for the rear seat

The dash layout has easy-to-read and find controls. I was especially pleased to see the radio had knobs for volume and channel selecting, 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, when reaching for these very different controls in the dark, it is— regardless of your familiarity with the dash layout.

The BeSpoke Premium audio and navigation sound system included eight speakers for the 300-watt Pioneer AM/FM/HD/CD/MP3 HD radio and a 6.1-inch touch screen display. The Scion tC is also equipped with Aha and Google Play, a USB port with iPod connectivity, Aux-in jacks and Bluetooth streaming audio and hands-free telephone that are operational on the steering wheel.

Other nice interior features are cruise control, A/C, remote keyless entry, power windows (with one-touch up and down for the driver’s side), power door locks and outside mirrors, multiple cup holders, carpeted floor mats, center console with storage and 12-volt accessory outlets.

Safety and Convenience

Safety & performance–what a concept

The 2015 Scion tC came with safety and convenience features including eight air bags, a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), vehicle stability control (VSC), Traction Control System (TRAC), four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes (ABS) with brake assist, projector beam headlights with fog and running lights, first aid kit and an anti-theft engine immobilizer.

Pricing and Warranties

Base pricing for the 2015 Scion tC with the six-speed manual transmission is $19,385 and with the six-speed automatic, including paddle shifters, the base price is $20,535. Clean Fleet Report’s 2015 Scion tC with optional equipment had an MSRP of $26,058. All prices exclude the $770 freight and handling charge.

The 2015 Scion tC has a NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) overall safety rating of 5 Stars, which is the highest they award. It received 4 of 5 starts in front crash, 5 of 5 in side crash and 4 of 5 in rollover tests.

The 2015 Scion tC comes with these warranties:

  • Basic –  Three-year/36,000-mile

    2015, Scion tC,performance, mpg

    To move and be seen

  • Powertrain –  Five-year/60,000-mile
  • Roadside Assistance –  Two-year/24,000-mile
  • Corrosion Perforation –  Five-year/Unlimited mile
  • Factory Scheduled Maintenance –  Two-year/25,000-mile

Observations: 2015 Scion tC

Are you the demanding sort of driver who wants to have as much fun as possible but would prefer your car have a base price under $20,000?

If that’s the baseline for keeping a smile on your face, the Scion tC could be your daily driver. Peppy performance and an aggressive look and feel means you can get into a stylish sports coupe for a reasonable amount of money. Plus, with color options like Cosmic Gray, Blizzard Pearl and Absolutely Red, you will also be making a statement about who you are and what you are about.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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2016 Chevrolet Volt Replaces Nissan Leaf

2016 Chevrolet Volt Replaces Nissan Leaf

Trading Plugs, Adding Flexibility

We are all smiles, driving our new 2016 Chevrolet Volt. We have driven more than its rated 53-mile electric range (at which point the engine engages to give us a total range of 400 miles). After driving the Volt for one week, we have used only one ounce of gasoline. We’ll try to do better next week.

Some friends are surprised that we sold our electric Nissan Leaf and replaced it with a Volt plug-in hybrid. We are no longer driving pure electric and I feel a bit guilty about the ounce of fossil fuel. For three and a half years, my wife and I drove the Leaf without ever running empty. It was a great car and mostly hassle-free.

We switched to the Volt because we went from two cars to one. In fact, we now have one Volt and two electric bicycles. Living in San Francisco, it all works. We can walk to grocery stores and

2016 Chevy Volt,Chevrolet,plug-in hybrid

New display accompanies new exterior

restaurants. If the walk is too long, we can bike or take nearby transit. If we are in a hurry, Uber and Lyft are omnipresent.

The Volt is an excellent match for a one-car couple like us. Local drives are pure electric. For our trips to family in San Diego, 400 miles away, the Volt gives us the range the Leaf didn’t.

It all comes down to how many cars you need, where you live, where you drive, and if you are willing to share. With two cars, we shared the Leaf and rarely used our Honda Civic Hybrid. For long distance, we used the hybrid. A pure electric car worked fine when we had two cars. Now that we’ve shifted to one car, a plug-in hybrid with its 53-mile electric range is great.

The 2016 Volt, with its 18.4-kWh lithium-ion battery offers 40 percent more electric range than the 2015 Volt. It offers almost three times the electric range that I achieved when driving competitive plug-in hybrids like the Ford Fusion Energi (21 miles) or Prius Plug-in Hybrid (11 miles).

2016 Chevrolet Volt

The good folks at Stewart Chevrolet told us that we were the first to take delivery of the 2016 Volt. I had ordered it in July. For delivery this year, it helps to live in California. Nationwide delivery don’t start until next year.

Our Volt LTZ cost $39,335 because it is loaded with extras, including an eight-inch screen with a backup camera, Lane Keep Assist, Forward Collision Alert, Blind Spot Alert and Park Assist. The only surprise in the pricing from Chevrolet was a $1,000 rebate as an incentive to buy the Volt now. On top of the $38,335 balance, I had to pay California $3,449 in sales tax, but I’ll get back $1,500 from the state in an EV incentive. When we do our taxes next year, we will deduct $7,500 for buying an electric car, which greatly helps make this Volt affordable.

We never paid more than $35 in a month to keep our LEAF charged, so we expect the Volt to save us a bundle by rarely buying gasoline.

2016,Chevrolet,Chevy,Volt,plug-in hybrid

Two bikes or two people in back

My wife loves the premium black and brandy leather interior and silver ice metallic exterior. I love the sport car handling and acceleration onto freeways.

For more acceleration, I could drive the Volt in Sport mode, but I’d rather have more electric range, so we always drive in Normal mode. I love the regen paddle on the back of the steering wheel. I can slow and stop the car in heavy traffic or downhill without using the brakes, while adding energy to the battery.

In theory, the new Volt is now a five-seater, yet my vegan, marathon-running brother is not thin enough to fit in the middle. A child would fit. The split back seat easily drops to expand cargo space for lots of luggage, home projects, school sports, golf clubs, etc. For us, it’s easy to put two bicycles inside (after removing the front wheels).

Volt Navigation and Safety

Although I love our new Volt, I’d like to see a few improvements. For navigation, I need to call OnStar and talk to a person to have turn-by-turn navigation display. I want to display Google Maps

2015,Chevrolet Volt, Chevy Volt

Loads of tech, but no Android Auto

from my Android phone, but Chevrolet is not yet delivering Android Auto on the Volt. Hopefully, I will get a free software upgrade in a few months. It does have Apple Auto. The Volt did easily use Bluetooth to pair with my phone, making it easy to play Google Music.

I’m still learning to use the safety features on my new Volt. Beyond warning when you stray out of your lane, Lane Keep Assist will gradually steer my Volt back into my lane after the car drifts inches into the adjacent lane. With Forward Collision Alert, I only received a visual and audio alarm at the last minute when approaching the car ahead (though it’s also supposed to apply the brakes). When I test drove a Toyota, their collision alert slowed the vehicle well in advance. The backup camera with the eight-inch display is most helpful. Blind Spot Alert is good at showing me that there is a car in the lane next to me, so I don’t try to make a dangerous lane change. In total, the car feels slightly safer than cars I’ve previously owned.

The 2016 Volt safety features are just the beginning. Internally, GM will start testing a future Volt with 100 percent self-driving capability.

Nissan Leaf

The Leaf worked beautifully during the three-and-a-half years that we drove it. We purchased the Leaf for $33,000, took advantage of tax credits, and sold it on Craigslist (in four days) for $12,700. Ownership cost us $225 per month, plus an average of $35 monthly to keep it charged. That’s only $260 a month, including fuel and maintenance, to drive an excellent electric car.

2016,Chevy Volt, Chevrolet, plug-in hybrid

A happy owner

We used the Leaf 80 percent of the time and our Civic Hybrid 20 percent for longer distances. Range anxiety is overplayed, but real. We never ran out of charge, but once a month I came home in the right lane of the freeway driving 55 miles per hour instead of 65. Range was much greater at 40 mph than 70 mph. Yes, we had trips of more than 100 miles. On a hilly freeway at night, with headlights on, the range was as little as 50. The 2016 Leaf has the option of a 30 kWh battery compared to our 2012 Leaf’s 24kWh. The range will be better than ever.

The only problem we had with the Leaf in 3.5 years was one flat tire. The car handled well and had lots of cargo space when we lowered the back seat.

The Leaf has earned its position as the best-selling electric car. It is getting more competition from Chevrolet, BMW, Ford and many other automakers. Take a look at Clean Fleet Report: Top 10 Electric Cars.

Green Car of the Year

Green Car Journal has announced its five finalists for the magazine’s 2016 Green Car of the Year award. The 2016 models include the Audi A3 e-tron, Chevrolet Volt, Honda Civic, Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Prius.

I owned a Prius for seven years with a mostly positive experience. The Civic and Sonata are well-appointed sedans. The Audi A3 is a good plug-in hybrid, but only has a 19-mile all-electric mode compared to the Volt’s 53-mile electric range.

As a delighted new owner, I know how I’d vote. The new 2016 Volt deserves to be the 2016 Green Car of the Year.

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