Road Test: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES Hatchback

Road Test: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES Hatchback

Low Cost To Buy And Operate/High MPG

On paper the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES Hatchback seems like a good option in the very competitive subcompact and small car segments. And for some, it may be the right car as it gets outstanding fuel economy, is easy to park and above all the list price is low. But the questions of how good of a car the Mirage is and what other choices there are might make looking primarily at price a too restrictive way to go car shopping.

Drivetrain

The front-wheel drive Mirage ES Hatchback is powered by a 1.2 Liter, DOHC, 12-valve, inline three-cylinder engine, producing 74 hp through the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), delivering an EPA rating of 37 city/44

2014,Mitsubishi,Mirage,fuel economy,40 mpg

Distinctive color; less distinctive car

highway/40 combined mpg. A five-speed manual transmission is standard but drops the fuel economy to 34/42/37.

The gasoline-powered three-cylinder engine sounds like a diesel, but not the quiet 2014 versions found in the Chevrolet Cruze or Volkswagen Jetta. The little Mirage engine was loud, ran and idled rough, and had very poor low-end pulling power with only 74 lb-ft of torque. Add-in any passenger or cargo weight and it is asking too much for the engine to do much more than groan to get up to speed.

In 277 miles of 90-percent/10-percent highway/city driving, the CVT-equipped Clean Fleet Report Mirage ES averaged 43.2 mpg. At our average, the 9.2-gallon fuel tank would get you 397 miles down the road.

Driving Experience: On The Road

The 5-door 2014 Mirage Hatchback with the CVT weighs in at 2,029 lbs. (with the 5-speed manual it’s 1,973 lbs), which are noteworthy numbers since it means the little car weighs around a ton. Mitsubishi’s CVT technology is not equal to the industry leaders from Nissan and Honda, and probably should not be paired with the normally aspirated 3-cylinder engine. Yes, the CVT gets better fuel economy than the 5-speed manual, but the trade-off is slow acceleration and noises I have never heard coming from a CVT-equipped car.

2014,Mitsubishi,Mirage,fuel economy,mpg,powerless

A view you’ll see as you pass by the Mirage

Corner handling around town, at posted speeds and not pushing any limits, was excellent. It shined when negotiating parking lots, parallel parking and other tight maneuver areas. The electrically power-assisted steering made turning the Mirage easy in-town but on the open road the steering feel was missing and numb. If you were even trying to get a little bit sporty, such as something as common as going 10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit on a freeway cloverleaf onramp, the Mirage was a handful. The front struts and rear Torsion beam suspension did not prevent the front drive Mirage from pushing and diving, resulting in significant body roll. Maybe it was the skinny, 14-inch low-resistance tires, but it became apparent that adhering to the speed limit was a good idea.

On the freeway, where you would think Mitsubishi must have designed the Mirage to spend most of its time with the class-leading 44 mpg, it was even more of an adventure. The little three-banger suffered from being buzzy and groaning to get up to speed. Then, when reaching 70 mph, there was a constant droning accompanied by hearing and feeling every bump and crack on the road. Driving the Mirage is akin to driving a go-cart – momentum is the key. Passing cars on the freeway takes forethought and some quick distance-to-speed calculations. The speedometer pegs-out at 105 mph, but when I got it to 80, I knew I had pushed it far enough for my comfort.

The Mirage did cruise along at a steady 65 mph, but you really would not want to do it for long, as the driver and front passenger seats only provide a marginally comfortable seating position. Exiting the car after one hour on the freeway, I felt beat-up as lower back and thigh support is minimal, which are the two biggest factors in driver fatigue. The rear bench seat did fit three adults (though two would be far more realistic) with good head and legroom but offered even less support than the front buckets. Add-in the Mirage’s noisy freeway running and a daily commute would not be a highlight of anyone’s life.

Driving Experience: Exterior

For the most part the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage is an invisible car. Sure you can see it, but remembering what you saw is like looking at a car in a fog; it doesn’t really have a lasting imprint on your memory. There is nothing

2014,Mitsubishi,Mirage,cargo capacity

Small, but capable of holding its own

distinguishable about the car’s design with the only exception that Mitsubishi for 2014 has allowed the car to be painted in bubblegum shades of Kiwi Green and Plasma Purple along with the standard blue, white black, gray and silver.

Driving Experience: Interior

The dash and center stack, with a piano black panel and silver trim accents, was very easy to use and figure-out. It has an old-school look and feel with a combination of knobs, switches and buttons. A dash screen with navigation and a rearview camera is an option.

2014,Mitsubishi,Mirage,interior

The upscale version of a low-cost car

The Mirage ES Clean Fleet Report was testing is a $1,200 upgrade from the base model DE and had a leather-wrapped, tilt steering wheel with audio (volume and modes), hands-free phone and cruise control buttons. It also had keyless access with an optional engine start/stop button that for some reason the Mitsubishi designers placed on the left side of the steering wheel. Maybe they thought the Mirage was the next Porsche?

The four-speaker, AM/FM/CD player with an aux-in jack included SiriusXM, iPod connectivity and hands-free phone via Bluetooth wireless technology. The voice recognition was good, but it was necessary to speak clearly, directly and loudly at the ceiling-integrated microphone when on the freeway, where road noise is noticeable.

I’ve already mentioned the lack of seat comfort, cabin noise from the engine, weak CVT and road noise, but another factor that would lead to a good driving experience is something as simple as armrests. The

2014,Mitsubishi, Mirage, interior

Missing some key features

armrests in the doors are made of a hard plastic that was uncomfortable, and there isn’t one at all in the center console. Well, to be fair, there isn’t a center console. Therefore, the driver’s right and front passenger’s left arms are left hanging.

The 60/40 split fold-down rear seat, which folds almost flat, provides good storage space and there is a cargo cover.

The Mirage ES is nicely equipped with power windows, door locks and mirrors, rear window wiper/washer, A/C with automatic climate control, floor mats, 12V power outlet and three cup holders.

Safety and Convenience

The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES safety and convenience features include side turn indicators, TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), anti-theft engine immobilizer, fog lamps and halogen headlights, seven airbags, stability and traction control, ABS with electronic brake distribution and brake assist.

Pricing and Warranties

Base pricing for the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage:

DE Manual            $12,995

DE CVT                 $13,995

ES Manual             $14,195

ES CVT                  $15.195

The only option is the Navigation Package for $900.

These prices do not include the $795 Destination Charge.

The Mirage ES CVT model we were driving, without the Navigation Package, had a MSRP, including the Destination Charge, of $15,990.

The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage comes with these warranties:

  • 5-year/60,000-mile  Basic
  • 10-year/100,000-mile  Powertrain
  • 7-year/100,000-mile  Anti-Corrosion

Observations: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES

The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage (in its first year in the Mitsubishi line-up) is carried-over in features and design for the 2015 model year. In both years you will find a basic transportation, high fuel economy car that is about as inexpensive to get into as anything on the market. It also carries an attractive warranty, meaning that the overall cost of ownership (purchase + insurance + fuel + maintenance) will be low and easily budgeted for many years.

2014,Mitsubishi,Mirage,logo

Hard to ignore; harder to drive daily

Mitsubishi is upfront, saying that the Mirage is not about performance – and is that ever a true statement. The engine is underpowered and the CVT for all its fuel-sipping attributes, is not a good match with the low horsepower engine. The small tires and lack-of-feel electrically assisted steering make it easy to park and scoot around town but on the open road, there is not so much fun or confidence.

2014,Mitsubishi,Mirage,mpg,fuel economy

Straightforward-small, economical, not much else

Within the small car or sub-compact category there are several vehicles to choose from that may cost a bit more and get a few less miles per gallon, but are worth consideration. This would include the Mazda2, Chevrolet Spark, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta and Nissan Versa.

Clean Fleet Report hopes that Mitsubishi does some retooling on the Mirage to take it up a notch to improve the build quality, horsepower, torque, suspension and handling. Will doing so still make it the least expensive small car to own and operate? Maybe not, but it would probably be worth it in sales and reputation.

Right now the Mirage is Mitsubishi’s #2 selling car, behind their Outlander Sport, which is a 5-seat SUV. For Mitsubishi to gain shopping and buying consideration from consumers, and to move toward the class that includes Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda and Toyota, the Mirage will need to be a shining light in the competitive field of small cars. We hope they start moving that direction.

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

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Comparison Road Test: 2014 Mitsubishi AWD Choice: Compact Crossover or Compact Sedan

Comparison Road Test: 2014 Mitsubishi AWD Choice: Compact Crossover or Compact Sedan

Tale of Two Outliers With Outstanding MPG. The Mitsubishi AWD 30 MPG Club Members.

OK, what’s your favorite compact-vehicle flavor, crossover sport utility or four-door sedan? Mitsubishi offers both with all-wheel drive. While the EPA’s combined fuel economy estimate is 26 mpg for the Outlander Sport crossover with all-wheel drive, and 25 mpg for the Lancer SE AWC sedan, we’d like to take issue with those numbers.

mitsubishi,outlander sport,awd,cvt,mpg, fuel economy

Aggressive but manageable

We tallied a little more than 700 miles between the two vehicles, and the Outback Sport averaged 31.5 mpg while the Lancer registered 30.3 mpg. In our book, that makes them both eligible for inclusion in our Clean Fleet Report All-Wheel Drive 30 mpg Club.

There is one thing, however, that we won’t take issue with the EPA about: “Actual results (fuel economy) will vary.” Indeed, our results did vary.

Outback Sport: Great Value For The Money

Think of the Outlander Sport as an economical way to get the image of an SUV, the utility of a wagon, the all-wheel drive capability of a crossover, and the maneuverability of a small car.


mitsubishi,outlander sport,awd,mpg, fuel economy

Capable, but stay on smooth roads

As its name might suggest, the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport plays Mini Me to the “big” Mitsubishi Outlander compact sport utility, which is close in size to the Toyota RAV4. The Outlander Sport is more than a foot shorter than the Outlander in overall length and is essentially a wagon-on-stilts version of the Mitsubishi Lancer compact car.

But Mitsubishi would rather you think of it as a crossover sport utility and not a car – hence the name-association with the Outlander.

Under The Hood

Satisfied with perfectly acceptable power in low-demand driving conditions? Willing to put the gas pedal to the carpet when merging onto freeways or overtaking slower traffic? The Sport’s four-cylinder is for you.

The 2.0-liter inline four runs on regular unleaded gasoline and is rated at 148 horsepower and 145 pounds-feet of torque. While it is certainly willing, the engine’s credentials make it unreasonable to count on hefty doses of performance.

All-wheel drive models are equipped with a continuously variable transmission, a trend found on more and more vehicles. As in other applications, it offers “simulated” manual gearshifts.

Mitsubishi’s All-Wheel-Control system integrates an electronically controlled front differential. For normal driving and the best fuel economy, just leave it in 2WD. When road conditions become a little dicey, flip a rocker switch to 4WD, and the all-wheel drive mode offers improved traction in all driving conditions.

Breaking the norm for compact crossovers, there’s also a 4WD Lock mode designed for surfaces from deep snow to sand or mud. If it weren’t for the low 5.5-inch ground clearance, the 4WD setting would make the Sport a capable off roader.

Thoughtful Design, Outside And In

mitsubishi,outlander sport,awd,mpg, fuel economy,cargo

Tight but expandable space

Model-year 2013 saw a number of exterior and interior changes to the Outlander Sport that carry over to 2014. There are a few additions for this year including a new steering wheel with audio controls and a variety of upgraded touch screens and sound systems.

As for styling, the front end’s face now has a look that resembles the Lancer Evolution performance models. A pronounced crease along the side enhances the rising window line and gives the impression the Sport is moving, even at a standstill.

The interior doesn’t offer as much visual interest, but it’s pleasing to the eyes, with switchgear that feels solid and is intuitively laid out. Fit and finish appear to be quite good and material quality is acceptable.

As a compact crossover, the Sport doesn’t squander a square inch of passenger room or cargo space. It has surprising amounts of both in a body that has presence on the road without occupying

mitsubishi,outlander sport,awd,mpg,fuel economy,interior

Dated but functional

too much of it. Seating up front is comfortable, and rear passengers have a good amount of leg- and headroom and their seat backs recline, but there are no individual sliding seats. Still, the 60/40 split bench will seat two adults comfortably, and three with some liberal elbow tucking. When seatbacks are folded flat, cargo space increases from 21.7 cubic feet to 49.5.

Mitsubishi is not known for scrimping on standard features, and the entry level ES includes keyless entry, heated mirrors, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, height-adjustable driver seat, power locks and windows, cruise control and air conditioning. Also standard are Mitsubishi’s Fuse voice-activated interface, a four-speaker audio system with CD player, auxiliary audio input jack and USB/iPod interface.

SE models add heated front seats, automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers and a touch-screen audio display.

Behind The Steering Wheel

On the road, our Outlander Sport SE test driver felt solid and was free of squeaks and rattles. Being based on a car, it is predictably carlike to drive. Steering is a bit inert on center, but is otherwise precise. Body lean is modest in tight turns, so the Sport can be tossed around much like a small wagon.

Ride quality is well suited for American roads, absorbing most typical road imperfections without unsettling the body. Wind noise and tire thrum are low, and, though the engine makes its presence known above 4000 rpm, it’s never irritating.

We found acceleration more than adequate in most driving conditions. However, a few times, such as merging onto freeways, we would have preferred a little more power, like maybe the 168 horsepower from the 2.4-liter four in our Lancer test driver. Then again, a larger engine would deny the Outback Sport’s inclusion in our All-Wheel Drive 30 mpg Club.

As for our 31.5 mpg, Draconian driving methods weren’t required – just common sense driving: No jack rabbit starts, an easy foot on the accelerator, lifting early when approaching stops and adhering to the 60 mph to 70 mph speed limits on freeways.

Our week with the Sport totaled 296 miles. About half were freeway miles, the balance split between city driving and two-lane highways.

Bottom Line

Mitsubishi says the Outlander Sport is the company’s top selling model, and it’s easy to see why, starting with price. The well-equipped AWD ES starts at $22,895, including destination charges. Our AWD SE was priced at $24,820 and added a Premium and Navigation package that brought the total to $28,370.

Beyond that, the Sport is easy to drive, can tote five passengers and a modest amount of cargo and, as we found, gets dang good gas mileage. Add, Mitsubishi’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and you have great value for the money.

Mitsubishi Lancer SE: Don’t Overlook It

Mitsubishi,lancer,awd,cvt,fuel economy,mpg

One of three AWD compacts you can afford

A lot of folks like the confidence of an all-wheel drive setup, which offers additional traction and stability in less than ideal driving conditions. While there’s a very long list of compact crossover sport utilities to choose from, it’s slim pickings if you want a small car with AWD. The selection is even less if you want one priced under $25,000 – three to be exact: Two Subarus, the Impeza and Legacy, and Mitsubishi’s Lancer SE AWD.

A Little Long In The Tooth, But ….

Unlike competitors in the crowded compact segment, Mitsubishi’s Lancer lineup has long been in need of a major update. Still, the car’s design continues to stands apart from the crowd, beginning up front. The SE has a toned-down Lancer trademark contentious shark-like grille, pointed headlamps and sculpted hood. The stance is low and lean, and in profile offers a well-proportioned

mitsubishi,lancer,awd,fuel economy,mpg,interior

Set the way-back machine

appearance. The backside is tidy with a small spoiler that adds a sporty touch.

Inside is where the Lancer lets you know that 2008 was the last time it was an all-new car. Reflective of that time, hard plastic and low-grade-looking materials dominate the cabin. That said, for 2014 Mitsubishi upgraded the seating fabric in the Lancer, and the SE receives a backup camera, a new touchscreen audio display and an upgraded audio system that includes HD radio and SiriusXM satellite radio.

The dash has a clean, uncluttered design with a hooded instrument cluster featuring white on black gauges. Controls lay easily to hand and large climate control knobs have a quality feel.

Passengers will find more than adequate leg- and headroom in both the front and rear seats. On a seven-hour round trip we found the front bucket seats to be firm and supportive with the bonus of heated bottoms and seat backs. The steering wheel tilts but doesn’t telescope, which could be a deal breaker for those over six feet.

Trunk space is on the small side at 12.3 cubic feet and, if you opt for the Rockford-Fosgate audio system, the trunk-mounted subwoofer cuts it to 11.8 cubic feet. However, 60/40 split folding rear seats offer more generous space.

On The Road

With nearly a half a liter more displacement than the Outlander Sport’s engine, the Lancer SE’s 2.4-liter four-cylinder produces 168 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque. It delivers brisk takeoffs, is peppy, cruises without strain at 70 mph and becomes vocal only at higher rpm.

We were impressed with the continuously variable transmission (CVT), the only transmission offered. Unlike others of its type, engine rpm never raced ahead of vehicle speed, and it acted like, well, a standard automatic.

mitsubishi,lancer,awd,mpg,fuel economy

Competent on the road

Power steering is hydraulic rather than the electric system on the Sport. It is quick and accurate, and sends enough feedback through the wheel to keep the driver connected to the road. The SE employs the same All Wheel Control system as the Outlander Sport. Cornering grip is noticeably increased when flipping the switch to all-wheel drive, making the Lancer SE fun to throw around corners.

Ride and handling are a well-balanced combination for a compact size car. The all-independent suspension is quite good at compensating for road irregularities and only major potholes can shake its composure.

A weekend visit with our oldest son accounted for 312 freeway miles of our total 441 miles during our week with the Lancer. The balance was divided between in town and two-lane country roads. Again, sensible driving netted really good fuel economy – 30.3 mpg.

Bottom Line

Priced starting at $21,490, the Lancer SE AWD doesn’t offer the latest in tech, safety and comfort features, but it does come with a credible list of standard features like heated outside mirrors and front seats. Also included

mitsubishi,lancer,awd,mpg,fuel economy

Standing out in its class

are keyless entry, power windows and locks as well as cruise control and steering wheel controls for audio and Bluetooth connectivity.

Available are a navigation system and Mitsubishi’s Fuse infotainment system. Fuse is an easy-to-use touchscreen-based software that features voice command in addition to knobs and buttons that functions very well.

Sporty design, sharp handling, bountiful cabin space and a comprehensive warranty overshadow an outdated interior. If you want the security that all-wheel drive offers, the Lancer SE AWC is a sensible alternative for those who don’t want what everyone else is driving.

Photos by the manufacturer

Posted April 30, 2014

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Comparison Road Test: 2014 Toyota Prius & Prius Plug-in

Comparison Road Test: 2014 Toyota Prius & Prius Plug-in

The Hybrid Sales Leader Continues Its Market Dominance By Plugging In Its Icon.

Toyota,Prius,Plug-in, Hybrid,EV

Toyota – expanding the leading brand with a plug

In the world of automotive sales, earning the ranking of top-selling model in any category is a considerable achievement. In an internal combustion engine world, when the Toyota Prius became the best-selling vehicle line in the State of California in 2012 and then backed it up with a repeat in 2013, it was huge for a hybrid to take the prize. The Prius had a strong national presence in 2013 where it was No. 16 in sales for all cars and trucks and No. 10 among cars. To round-out the sales story, Toyota has sold 1.5 million Prius models in the last ten years, easily making it the best selling hybrid car in the United States.

The Prius four-door hatchback first went on sale in the United States in 2000 and the smaller Prius c and larger Prius V came along in 2011. They were joined by the plug-in version in 2012.

Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity to drive, in back-to-back weeks, the 2014 Prius Hatchback and the 2014 Prius Plug-in Hatchback. Here is a look at the two, where the similarities are many and the differences few.

Drivetrain

The front-wheel-drive 2014 Prius is powered by a parallel hybrid drivetrain, which Toyota calls their Hybrid Synergy Drive. In the parallel hybrid system the electric motor can power the car by itself, the gas engine can power the car by itself or they can power the car together.

 

Toyota,Prius,Plug-in,EV,HOV lane

Plug-in Prius gets you to new places

The Hybrid Synergy Drive system comprises a 1.8L DOHC, four-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric motor producing a combined 178 horsepower (hp). It adds a 26 hp/60 kW nickel-metal-hydride (Ni-MH) battery and through the electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT) delivers 51 city/48 highway for a combined 50 mpg.

The Prius Plug-in is powered by the same gasoline engine and electric motor but adds a 80 hp/60 kW lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery pack that can power the car solely on electricity for about 11 miles. The Prius Plug-in fuel economy is a bit different with 51 city/49 highway but the same 50 mpg combined, but the Plug-in also delivers a 95 mpge when run in EV mode. As with all plug-in hybrids, the driving style and charging regimen will determine actually mileage in the real world.

The Prius Plug-in Li-ion battery is charged by plugging in or through the regenerative charging system, which converts kinetic energy into electric energy and stores it in the battery when applying the brakes or coasting. There is a standard drive mode “D” or the “B” mode, which recharges the battery at a faster rate when coasting downhill.

In addition to the regenerative charging, the primary method to replenish the batteries is by plugging in. Here’s how much time it will take:

120V           3 hours: discharged to a full charge

240V           1.5 hours: discharged to a full charge

The Prius Plug-in does not come with a 480V Quick Charge option.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The four-door Prius Hatchback 2014 weighs in at 3,042 lbs, with the weight well distributed due to the under-seat battery placement, resulting in a low center of gravity. The electrically power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, the front MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar and rear Torsion beam suspension delivers a smooth, although not necessarily quiet, highway ride. The Prius with the 15-inch alloy wheels (17-inch ones are an upgrade) corners so-so with little body roll, but with no sense of feeling sporty. Acceleration 0 – 60 is listed by Toyota at 10 seconds, but that may be the minimum time it takes. No head snapping going on with the Prius,

Toyota,Prius,Plug-in, EV, HOV lane

The Prius models plug along

but off-the-line drag racing is not why a million and a half of these have been sold. So, expecting a performance level that Toyota never promised is unfair. But let’s get real on what is fair, fuel economy!

The Prius Plug-in (which weighs in at 3,165 lbs.) offers up-to 11 miles on pure electricity if you go no faster than 30 mph. Other than that, there is little difference in the two models. Once up to freeway speeds, both Prius models shine, delivering 50+ mpg. And if you are into hypermiling, the practice of energy-efficient driving aimed at improving fuel economy beyond the EPA ratings, you may want to see how far you can squeeze that gallon of gasoline or kilowatt of electricity. You don’t need to own a hybrid or EV to practice hypermiling, but it seems this is a hot topic among Prius owners trying to out-distance each other.

Toyota has mastered combining the regeneration system with the four-wheel disc brakes with ABS. Both Prius models stop straight and true with no brake fade.

Driving Experience: Interior

The 2014 Prius has a spacious interior with a twin cockpit design with a “floating” center stack separating the bucket seats. I say “floating” because where most cars have solid sides to their center stack, on the Prius this area is an open tray. Once I got accustomed to fishing around for my stashed items, it was quite handy. The tilt/telescopic steering wheel has all the usual control buttons (audio, phone, cruise control, climate, Bluetooth,

Toyota,Prius,Plug-in,dash

Just quirky enough

etc.) including the ability to switch between fuel and battery (hybrid) gauges. Another unique design feature is that the gauges are off to the right a few degrees. Toyota makes-up for this by having a heads-up display (standard on the Four Model–Prius Liftbacks come in Two, Three, Four and Five trim levels) that appears on the windshield directly in-front of the driver. All-in-all it’s a workable system after a short learning curve.

The Prius comfortably seats four full-size adults (five in a pinch), but the front bucket seats could use more thigh bolstering. There is plenty of storage space with or without the 60/40 rear seats folded flat. The car has good sightlines once you get over the spoiler cutting horizontally midway through the rear window. One oddity is that a beeper goes off inside the cabin when shifting into reverse. Odd because as the driver you know you put the car in reverse, the Rearview Camera pops-up on the screen and the beeping is not heard outside of the car where it would be the most useful.

The 2014 Prius is well equipped for safety with remote keyless entry, power door locks, TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), projector beam halogen headlights, seven airbags, adaptive cruise control, vehicle stability and traction control and the optional intelligent parking assist and lane departure warning.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Prius is one of the most recognizable vehicles on the road. Its wedge-shape has not changed much since redesigned in 2004 and, either you like it or you don’t. The shape is driven completely to reduce wind resistance and drag to increase fuel economy (both Prius models have an excellent .25 coefficient of drag). Rumor has it a new Prius design is a couple of years away, but it would hard to believe that Toyota would venture very far from the general overall shape of the current car.

Pricing

The 2014 Prius base price is $25,010, including the $810 destination charge. The nicely optioned Prius Four I was driving is priced at $33,290 including the $810 destination charge. The Prius Plug-in, which starts at

Toyota,Prius,Plug-in,EV,storage

Ready to swallow

$29,990 including the destination charge, qualifies for Federal and State tax credits that could reduce your final cost. Clean Fleet Report recommends contacting your CPA before considering a Prius Plug-in purchase so you are completely clear on the tax credits. Not relying on the dealer to provide this information will serve them and you best.

Also worth noting is that in California the Prius Plug-in qualifies for the coveted car pool stickers allowing the driver, with no passenger, to use the HOV lane. This is no small thing when trying to get anywhere on a freeway in the Golden State, but those stickers may only be available for a few months as the demand for them has been strong.

The 2014 Prius comes with these warranties:

  • 3-year/36,000 Comprehensive
  • 5-year/60,000 Powertrain
  • 5-year/Unlimited-mileage Corrosion
  • 8-year/100,000-mile Hybrid-related Component Coverage
  • 15-year/150,000-mile Hybrid-related Component Coverage (applicable states are: CA, MA, NY, NJ, VT, CT, ME, NM and RI) with the exception of the hybrid battery. The hybrid battery is warraned for 10 years/150,000 miles

Observations: 2014 Toyota Prius Hatchback and Prius Plug-in Hatchback

Whether tooling around in-town or venturing out on the open road, if you value paying as little as possible for each mile driven, then the Toyota Prius should be on your shopping list. Not many cars get the outstanding fuel economy of the Prius family.
You will pay more for a hybrid versus a gasoline-powered car and you will need to calculate if the additional cost makes sense for your driving patterns. But, if you are putting a lot of miles on your car or like the ability to cruise around town in pure electric mode like the plug-in version offers, then the additional initial expense may be worth it to you.
You will also pay additional for the Prius Plug-in, with a base price of $29,900 versus the base Prius Hybrid at $24,200. Both prices do not include the $810 Destination Charge. So as you can see, a $5,700 premium for

Toyota,Prius,Plug-in,EV,sales

Still leading the hybrid way

the plug-in will be a consideration at purchase time for what amounts to the ability to drive approximately eleven miles on pure electric charge and if you live in California, apply for the stickers that allow a single driver to use the car pool lanes. Hence, the conundrum.

Clean Fleet Report cannot recommend one model over the other as your lifestyle and daily driving needs are the determining factors. But, the Prius reliability and its being the market-leading hybrid should give you confidence that this car will be in your garage for many, many years.
Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

 Words and Photos by John Faulkner

Posted on March 23, 2014

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Road Test: 2014 Subaru Forester

Road Test: 2014 Subaru Forester

A Fresh Look & Better MPG For A Familiar Face.

Subaru,Forester,SUV,AWD,$WD,fuel economy,mpg

Similar but better MPG

The 2014 Subaru Forester is the first all-new model for this brand since 2009. It is slightly larger than the outgoing edition, looks only a little different but has an unexpected surprise – it’s more fuel efficient.

Like other recently introduced Subarus, the 2014 Forester is helping to erase the automaker’s so-so fuel economy reputation, and earns inclusion in our Clean Fleet Report All-Wheel Drive 30 MPG Club. The mainstream 2.5i model arrives with an EPA estimated 32 mpg highway/24 mpg city and a combined rating of 27 mpg when equipped with a continuous variable transmission (CVT). Choose the manual shifter and fuel economy drops to 29/22 highway/city and 24 combined.

For those willing to forgo some fuel economy in exchange for power, the turbocharged 2.0XT model with a CVT is rated at 28/23 highway/city and 25 combined. That’s also an increase compared to the outgoing model.

New, But Familiar Look

In profile, the new Forester is slightly more sleek for aerodynamics with more fluid body lines and slightly rounded edges, but it won’t be mistaken for any other small crossover SUV. The updated styling is most noticed in the fresh, but still familiar, nose and tail.

 

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Moving forward without gears

The new sheetmetal reveals little of the Forester’s growth. Sitting on an inch-longer wheelbase, it’s an inch-and-a-half longer overall. It’s also wider and a noteworthy two-and-a-half inches taller.

Interior design carries on in a no nonsense fashion with substance before style. The dashboard presents little design frivolity, though the addition of a center dash-mounted info screen brings things up-to-date. The cabin is comfortable and functional, but materials don’t express the upscale look and feel that Subaru aspires to.

Growing in size always seems to be a good crossover strategy, and the 2014 Forester receives a substantial boost in cabin room. Compact size on the outside, Forester has midsize-

2014,Subaru,Forester,cargo space,rear cargo,

The most spacious in its class

class passenger space that has more interior room than better-selling crossovers like the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4. And, no compact crossover has more cargo volume – 34.4 cubic feet with rear seat backs upright, 74.7 when folded.

Forester ushered in several new features with this fourth-generation edition. Available is a power liftgate that opens extra tall for loading. When equipped with power-assist, it has a nifty memory opening height function.

Forester also gets Subaru’s EyeSight driver assistance system that integrates adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and lane departure warning. EyeSight uses a stereo camera mounted on the inside of the windshield in front of the rearview mirror. It works exceptionally well except when weather conditions, such as heavy rain or snow, obscures the camera’s view.

Familiar Drivetrain

Subaru and Porsche are the only automakers that have faithfully stood by the horizontally opposed boxer engine configuration. Carried over for 2014, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer powers the Forester 2.5i models. It churns out 170 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 174 pounds-feet of torque at 4,100 rpm.

The 2.5i is one of the few crossovers that still offers a manual transmission, a new six-speed gearbox. Also new is Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT that replaces the outdated four-speed conventional automatic transmission. It

Subaru,Forester,SUV,AWD,4WD,boxer engine

Boxer with punch

features paddle shifters that simulate manual shifting of six gear ratios, and a low shift mode for engine braking when driving down a grade.

Forester XTs are now powered by a two-liter turbocharged boxer four rather than a 2.5 liter. Utilizing direct injection, the new powerplant not only provides better fuel economy, but improved horsepower and torque. The 250 horsepower eager beaver also employs a CVT with paddle shifters, but one that simulates eight gears.

While Subaru’s four-cylinder boxer engines are proven workhorses, if towing more than 1,500 pounds – par for most four bangers – is on your list, you’ll have to consider V-6 powered crossovers. Of course, you’ll also have to give up fuel economy.

Since it’s a Subaru, bulletproof all-wheel drive is standard for all Foresters. But there’s a new twist with CVT-equipped models called X-Mode. With the push of a button, this low-speed traction system integrates the operation of the engine, transmission, AWD system and brakes to gain traction on uneven terrain and slippery slopes. At low speeds, the system can apportion torque from left to right, enhancing the AWD’s front to rear distribution.

Behind The Steering Wheel, Almost Familiar

Like the previous model, from the driver’s view, the command position is quite good with excellent sightlines. The seat is squarely behind the steering wheel and there’s a clear view of the instrument cluster. Large knobs for the climate system on the center stack are easy to reach and intuitive to use, and the shift lever falls easily to hand.

 

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Familar & functional

Driving on city streets or Interstates, the 2014 Forester pretty much mimics the 2013 model. The unibody design with all-independent suspension delivers a pleasant ride; engine output is more than adequate to handle the everyday chores of merging and passing; brakes perform competently when those “Oh-my-god” situations suddenly appear.

The big difference is steering. Subaru isn’t alone when it comes to lifeless electric power steering, but the Forester’s new system feels like it was anesthetized. On the plus side, when pushed during cornering, there is little body roll.

I’ve never been a fan of CVTs, but this one is about as good as they get. The engine rarely revved up past actual driving speed, which gives an effect that feels like a clutch slipping. Simulated gear shifting produced smooth up and down shifts with only an occasional hiccup.

 

Small crossovers are known as “soft roaders” – not designed for off pavement driving other than gravel roads. Subarus are different. We’ve driven every Subaru model on back country trails that one would think were reserved for Jeeps only, and the new Forester is a dandy off roader.

It starts with a Jeep-like ground clearance of 8.7-inches. That’s aided by, not quite Jeep-like, but decent approach, departure and breakover angles.

We spent a couple hours during a sunny Northwest day on a favorite and little-used logging trail. It’s narrow, deeply rutted in places with some steep hills and a couple of switchbacks thrown in. A surprise rockslide made us hesitate, but careful placement of tires brought us up and over some sizeable rocks.

During our week with the Forester 2.5i, we tallied 177.7 miles, 62 of which were on the Interstate. City driving totaled 73 miles and the balance was on two-lane county roads and our off-road excursion. The Forester’s computer measured fuel economy was 31.4 mpg – 4.4 mpg above the EPA combined rating of 27 mpg.

What You Get For The Money

Base price for the Forester 2.5i with manual transmission is $22,820, including $825 destination charges. Choose the CVT and the price jumps a grand to $23,820. Standard features for both include a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, height-adjustable driver’s seat, full power accessories, cruise control, four-speaker audio system, Bluetooth connectivity and an iPod/USB audio interface.

 

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Still has the get-up to go anywhere

To get a rearview camera, now standard on many competitor models, you have to step up to the Premium trim, priced starting at $25,820. It also adds a power driver’s seat, panoramic sunroof and a six-speaker audio system. The Limited trim, at $28,820, adds an All-Weather Package (heated side mirrors and heated front seats), automatic climate control, leather upholstery and power rear liftgate.

Our 2.5i Touring test vehicle included all of the above features plus a navigation system, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-speaker audio system, a one-touch control to fold the rear seatback and the auto-close and memory functions for the power liftgate. Optional was the $2,400 EyeSight system that brought the total sticker price to $33,220.

Turbocharged 2.0XT models are priced starting from $28,820 to $33,820.

Forester’s prices are competitive, but technology missing from the feature availability list offered by others in the class are blind spot detection, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert. Subaru says these will be offered on 2015 models.

By keeping its traditional look, Forester may not be the most stylish compact crossover, but it’s difficult to beat its tried and true AWD system with the new X-Mode, pleasant road manners, spacious passenger cabin and class-leading cargo room. And then there’s that fuel economy thing.

Competitors

Ford Escape

Honda CR-V

Toyota RAV4

Photos by the manufacturer

Published March 9, 2014

Other related stories that might be of interest:

Road Test: 2013 Ford Escape

Road Test: 2013 Honda CR-V

Road Test: 2014 Toyota RAV4

Test Drive: 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

 

Road Test: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

Road Test: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

Fun But Ultra-Responsible – A New Midsize Hybrid MPG Leader at 50 MPG. 

Honda,Hybrid,Accord,MPG, fuel economy,fun

The New MPG Leader Adds Fun To The Mix

Honda built a legacy of innovation by taking the high road when engineering automobiles that became known as the “Honda Way.”  This determined focus resulted in the Civic CVCC engine, the first engine to comply with the 1975 Clean Air Act without a catalytic converter in 1974.

Several other “firsts” followed:

  • The world’s first mass-produced aluminum-body automobile, the NSX sports car in 1990;
  • First to develop a production-based gasoline engine certified as meeting Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) exhaust levels in 1995; and
  • The Honda Insight became the first gas-electric hybrid car sold in the U.S. in 1999.

Of late, however, those who write about cars and the auto industry have suggested that over the past few years Honda has “lost the Honda way” or “lost its mojo.”

Enter the 2014 Accord Hybrid as evidence that the automaker has found its way again; its revived mojo engineered a remarkable hybrid system that delivers an EPA fuel economy rating of 50 mpg city/45 mpg highway and 47 mpg combined.

By comparison, Toyota’s Camry Hybrid, the top-selling midsize hybrid in 2013, has EPA numbers of 43 city/39 higway/41 combined for the LE model, 40 city/38 highway/40 combined for the XLE edition.

For the introduction of its new hybrid system, Honda wisely chose the Accord, a midsize sedan with an unbeatable brew of smart engineering, efficient packaging, and rewarding road manners. It also happens to be Honda’s best-selling vehicle.

Honda offers the Accord Hybrid in three levels. The base model, referred to as Hybrid, is priced at $29,945 including $790 destination charges. Next is the EX-L, $32,965 followed by the top-end Touring, $35,695.

Here are the details.

“Earth Dreams” Hybrid System

The hybrid powertrain architecture employed by the 2014 Accord Hybrid is a mirror of the Accord Plug-in system with the exception of different-sized battery packs. It falls under the umbrella of Honda’s Earth Dreams Technology, an initiative in which the efficiency of internal combustion components, including the engine and transmission as well as electric motor technology, is improved. The goal is a significant reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Honda calls the Accord’s system: Two-Motor Hybrid Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) System. A mouthful for sure, but it is an elegant engineering design.

i-MMD combines a newly-developed engine dedicated for hybrid vehicles, an electric continuously variable transmission (CVT) coupled with two built-in motors, a lock-up clutch and a lithium-ion battery pack. The system switches between three drive modes – electric-only, hybrid and engine-only drive. The mix of power sources is managed largely by onboard sensors that combine the optimum acceleration and energy usage according to the driving situation.

Producing 141 horsepower and 122 pound-feet of torque of gasoline power, the new 2.0-liter I-VTEC four-cylinder engine incorporates an Atkinson cycle operation, a first for a Honda engine. For added efficiency, the air conditioning compressor and water pump are both powered by the electrical system, and electric power steering eliminates the traditional hydraulic power steering pump. The automaker says it is the most efficient internal combustion engine in the world.

Coupled to the engine are two built-in motors. A 124 kW propulsion motor powers the front wheels while a generator motor that is always connected to the gas engine generates electric energy to drive the propulsion motor when the vehicle is operating in the hybrid mode. Combined, the two motors have a maximum output of 166 horsepower. When they operate in conjunction with the gas engine the powertrain delivers a competitive 196 horsepower and 226 pound-feet of torque.

EV Mode will operate the car on electricity only until the energy from the 1.3 kW battery pack located in the trunk is depleted – around two miles in careful city driving.  But, it also will also kick in during cruising speeds on flat or downhill roadways.

In hybrid mode, the Accord Hybrid operates similar to the Chevrolet Volt. The gas engine only powers the generator motor, which delivers electrons to the propulsion motor that alone turn the front wheels. If additional energy is produced, it is directed to the battery.

Engine drive mode mechanically couples the gas engine to the drive wheels via the single-speed transmission. This occurs at highway speeds where the 2.0-liter four is most efficient.

The Accord Hybrid’s transmission operates with some of the characteristics of a continuously variable transmission but the E-CVT, as Honda calls it, isn’t actually a CVT. In fact, it’s not like what we would normally call a transmission: no pulleys or belts, no torque converter or drive clutch.

Instead, the E-CVT uses the two electric motors to control both the engine and electric motor rotation via the lock-up clutch. At highway cruising speeds, the clutch is engaged, connecting the drive motor to the generator motor to transmit engine torque directly to the drive wheels. In EV mode, when the battery-powered drive motor is used for either acceleration or regenerative braking, the clutch disengages the gasoline engine from the drivetrain.

The Honda’s standard straight-gate shifter has two selections. The D position is for normal driving, the B (Brake) position provides significantly increased regenerative braking.

Exterior Styling

Accord received a clean sheet redesign for model year 2013, breaking precedent by shrinking rather than growing in size. It may look longer and sleeker than its immediate predecessor, but the body lost 3.5 inches in

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Big Where It Counts

length while interior space was increased.

This latest Accord sedan is a model of family car design. Its relatively flat roofline contributes to exceptional headroom, smart packaging creates generous rear-seat legroom, and large side windows let in lots of light.

Its exterior appearance is not the most alluring car in the class – Ford’s Fusion and the Mazda6 are top contenders for that honor – but it is not without style. An expressive, but not aggressive, grille combined with a curvaceous hood and body sides suggest that the adjective handsome applies here.

What isn’t apparent is low-drag exterior surfaces, including nearly flush windshield glass, that combine with careful underbody tailoring to contribute to fuel economy.

There is little to differentiate the 2014 Accord Hybrid from your basic, garden-variety Accord. But eagle-eyed observers will notice its hybrid badging, blue-accented grille and headlamp lenses, rear spoiler and unique wheels.

The Inside Story

Give credit to the interior designers for continuing Accord’s heritage of near-class-leading roominess. Preserved as well is high-grade passenger-compartment materials and workmanship. All automakers are struggling to cut costs and reduce weight, leading to thinner, hard plastic panels in place of more luxurious padded surfaces.

The Accord avoids this compromise. Every surface the driver and passengers are likely to contact is suitably padded with high-quality looking materials. Panels feel solid to the touch and workmanship is top drawer.

 

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Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button

The dashboard also reflects the designer’s eye. There’s a balanced proportion to the instrument panel shape and layout, and dashboard sophistication is up a notch this year thanks to a standard 8-inch diagonal information screen mounted at its center.

However, there’s a fussiness to the controls that’s bedazzling. Buttons are everywhere, seeming to overtake the center of the dashboard. After a week of driving the Accord Hybrid, I couldn’t grasp the markings and the logic of their groupings to use them casually.

The Hybrid has its own dedicated gauge cluster. Centered is a large, round speedometer with simple numerals on a field of matte-black. To the right, battery charge and fuel level gauges are shown and on the left is a power use gauge. There’s also a power flow meter that shows where the power is coming from – engine, electric motor or both.

Efficient interior packaging delights good engineers and the Accord makes the most of a slightly shortened wheelbase to provide abundant front passenger room.

In-cabin storage space is plentiful, and while the standard Accord’s trunk is family-vacation generous, the Hybrid’s is whittled down in size to a couple’s weekend thanks to the placement of the battery pack.

Tech Feature Rich

The available features list witnesses Honda’s commitment to bringing technology front and center. Standard on the base Hybrid is Smart Entry and Start, a rearview camera system with Honda’s LaneWatch blind-spot display, Bluetooth, Pandora integration, SMS text capability, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 10-way power driver’s seat and a six-speaker audio system.

A step up to the EX-L model adds Lane Departure Warning and Forward Collision Warning systems, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a moonroof, premium audio and the new HondaLink that connects the car via the

Honda-Accord-Hybrid-quality-MPG

Still Right To the Touch

owner’s smartphone to music and media resources such as Aha by Harman, Internet apps, roadside assistance and more.

The high-feature Touring model adds adaptive cruise control and a voice-recognition navigation system.

Standard features on all Hybrid models include Honda’s double-pane Expanded View driver’s mirror, cruise control and a tilt/telescope steering wheel with audio controls.

Behind The Steering Wheel

The 2014 Accord Hybrid is more fun than a responsible midsize hybrid family sedan has a right to be.

A characteristic of the Hybrid’s handling package is torque steer, which plagues many overpowered front-wheel-drive cars. Put your foot to the floor and the Hybrid will reward you with a slight tug to one side on the steering wheel and a chirp from the tires, which is only the churning brew of gasoline and electricity under the hood trying to assert itself.

But who thought that would ever be said about a five-passenger hybrid family car?

OK, a 0-to-60 time of 7.1 seconds isn’t sport sedan quick, but it beats the four-cylinder gasoline Accord with a CVT by a half a second. Oh, it is also quicker than those other hybrid family sedans. You know, Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima.

Of course rapid starts and exuberant driving takes a toll on fuel economy and isn’t what the Accord Hybrid is about. After a couple of hours and 67 miles of “having some fun,” the instrument panel readout was 37.2 mpg.

A week with the Hybrid and the odometer had added 362.3 miles. Part of our time spent was in Seattle where we logged 63 miles with its steep hills and often narrow streets. The balance of our driving included 167 miles of Interstate and two-lane highways plus, 65 miles of the typical in-town daily errands in our hometown of Olympia.

With the exception of our having-some-fun time, we engaged the Eco mode that softens the powertrain response and operates the climate controls at a conservative setting.

The combination of Eco, a light foot on the accelerator that resulted in driving on battery power much of the time and careful braking, our 65 miles of in-town driving yielded 59.8 mpg. At week’s end, our combined mpg tallied 51.1 – 4 mpg better than the EPA rating.

Honda is the uncommon mainstream carmaker directed by an engineering mindset, and the engineer’s desire for mechanical parts to operate in harmony pervades the Accord Hybrid. There’s a distinct natural feel to the control effort – turn the steering wheel and response is smooth and linear. What you ask the car to do, it does, and in just the doses you request.

A new front suspension employing vertical struts communicates the tires’ interaction with the pavement to further boost confidence. But it’s really a matter of degree, because the Hybrid is not embarrassed by a twisty road.

No midsize car beats Accord’s firm but composed ride quality. A new mechanical damping system uses two pistons. One is tuned to small imperfections on smoother roads; the other tames rough roads, potholes and sudden steering or braking action.

Engineers crafted a more efficient regenerative braking system called Electro Servo Braking. It’s a hydraulic system activated by an electronic actuator, and regenerative braking begins the moment the foot is lifted from the accelerator. In addition to the payoff in efficiency, the brakes stop the car with reassuring quickness without the mushy feeling associated with regenerative brakes.

Using the electric motor as the transmission, like an all-electric car, the motor’s instantly available torque accelerates the Hybrid rapidly from stop. The E-CVT replicates the feel of a traditional set up quite well, however while accelerating at around 28 mph, engine revs wanted to catch up with actual speed much like a conventional CVT. This was a little disconcerting at first, but after a couple of days wasn’t noticed.

The overall handling and ride quality of the 2014 Accord establishes new standards for the midsize class. Add to that an interior that is pleasantly hushed with only appropriate feedback of road noise and the package is likely sending competitors back to their drawing boards.

Bottom Line – Competition/Pricing

At first glance Honda’s pricing of $29,945 for the base model 2014 Accord Hybrid is anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 more than midsize hybrid competitors. Hyundai’s Sonata Hybrid is the lowest priced starting at

Honda-Accord-Hybrid-MPG-fuel economy

Fun & 50 MPG – Honda Accord Hybrid Hits It!

$26,445. It’s followed by the Kia Optima Hybrid, $26,700; Toyota Camry Hybrid, $27,140; and the Ford Fusion Hybrid, $27,990.

Take a close look and you will find that Honda doesn’t offer options ala carte. Instead, it favors a model hierarchy in which equipment multiplies as you ascend the price ladder. This can make the Accord Hybrid’s prices appear higher than those of direct competitors, but optioned similarly, bottom lines among the group aren’t usually far apart.

If you’re comparing the Hybrid with the standard Accord, the base Hybrid is equipped similarly to the Accord EX, priced at $26,470, which makes for around a $3,000 price differential compared to the standard Accord.

Once upon a time, we all figured extreme fuel efficiency would be the modern hair shirt – righteous but painful.

Honda gives lie to those dire expectations with the 2014 Accord Hybrid. With it, we have entered a new world of mainstream motoring: Look around at all the inefficient, uninspiring cars on the road. Given the option of driving the one that is ultimately efficient and surprisingly fun, who wouldn’t come up with the extra three bills?

Photos from the manufacturer

Posted Jan. 24, 2014

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Top 10 Best-Fuel Economy Cars of 2014

Honda Plug-In Accord Hits Emission Milestone

Honda Plug-In Accord Review