Personal: Batting 1,000

Personal: Batting 1,000

Clean Fleet Report Hits Milestone

Something special happened this week and we just want to let you know. Clean Fleet Report published its 1,000th story. That’s quite a landmark for a start-up, but we’re just getting going. We published more than 200 stories last year as we moved into more in-depth coverage of fuel economy and advanced technology news. The 1,000th story—and the two that bracket it—are a good way of telling the Clean Fleet Report story.

2017 Toyota Mirai

2017 Toyota Mirai–a fuel cell pioneer

Story 1,000 – Toyota Mirai Hits 3,000 Sales

This news story is a good shorthand for the biggest change of this past year’s expanded coverage. In order to bring you more information on the fast-changing world of zero and near-zero emission vehicles. In 2006, when this publication started, fuel cells were essentially science experiments. They worked, but any vision of them as a day-to-day vehicle seemed like some science fiction fantasy. Fast forward to today and, in California, you have a choice of three FCEVs you can lease (or even buy in the case of the Mirai). More models are on the horizon and the fueling infrastructure continues to grow. Several of our staff have had the chance to drive and live with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (John in the Tucson and Mirai, Steve in the Mirai, me in the Clarity). We have a feeling we’ll be reporting on fuel cells more and more as we head to the end of the decade.

Story 999—Road Test of the 238-mile Range Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV–breaking through the 200-mile range barrier

The breakthrough Bolt is celebrating it’s first full year on the market, which we celebrated with our first full road test. Of course, we haven’t been ignoring Bolt news during the year as it racked up more than 23,000 sales. Beyond the test drives and news stories, Clean Fleet Report has been bringing a more personal story about this amazing car through staff Steve Schaefer, who put his own money on the line to lease a Bolt a little more than a year ago. His journey with the car illuminates more details of where the EV market is going.

Story 1,001—Road Test of the Toyota Highlander Hybrid

2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Hybrids keep expanding their reach–and capabilitie

The first story of our second millennium of stories is a good window into how far industry has come. SUVs are hot and even though gas prices are low, companies remain focused on turning out more and more efficient models. The Highlander Hybrid is one of eight in the Toyota lineup (one of which, the hot-selling Prius Prime, is a plug-in hybrid). More important, it’s one of more than a dozen SUVs available as hybrids, plug-in hybrids, full electric or fuel cell vehicles. This changing world is the one we’re here to document, offering you insight into the choices that are out there in vehicles and technologies.

In those three stories you can see a bit of the breadth of news we’ll be covering this year. We’ll add in event coverage and exclusive interviews from our experienced staff. Enjoy the ride!

We always welcome your thoughts and insights as well at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com. 

Road Test: 2017 Toyota Mirai

Road Test: 2017 Toyota Mirai

Powered by Hydrogen, Electricity, and Dreams

The 2017 Toyota Mirai is a rare bird on the roadways today, but that’s not what the State of California or the Toyota Motor Company have in mind for the future. The Mirai, Toyota’s hydrogen-powered technology testbed, is a remarkably normal midsize sedan that you can drive now, at least if you live in the urban areas of California.

2017 Toyota Mirai

The key for a new technology–refueling

Electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, or Volkswagen e-Golf are commonplace in traffic these days in California. The new Chevrolet Bolt EV’s sales are accelerating. But driving a hydrogen car is way cooler than that–it makes you a real early adopter.

Ever since it introduced the first Prius 20 years ago, Toyota has been working on hydrogen fuel cells. Now, at last, you can sample their wares in a real car.

The Hydrogen Path

There is some complicated technology under the hood. You can go to Toyota’s website to learn more, but the basic story is that instead of an engine burning gasoline, there’s a fuel cell. It takes compressed hydrogen fuel, passes it through a membrane to join oxygen from the air. This molecular-level attraction creates energy, which is then fed to electric motors to power the car. It’s very quiet, and the only emission is the resulting H2O–water.

The hydrogen is stored in two high-pressure tanks under the car. To add fuel, you simply pull into the nearest station. They are scarce, but there are three within 10-15 minutes of my house. The closest, in Hayward, is on my way to work. Although the window sticker in my Celestial Black test car said it had a 312-mile range, when I filled the car, it topped out at 249 miles. You can fill up in about five minutes, just like you do with a regular gasoline car.

2017 Toyota Mirai

Under the hood hydrogen is transformed into electric energy

The tanks at the station are a bit different from a regular gas station. The filler on the car is a narrow, protruding nozzle. The dispenser is heavier than a gasoline filler. It slides over the car’s filler and latches down into place. With 10,000 psi, you need to be sure it’s secure. Then, you lift the lever on the pump and, with a whoosh, the filling begins. You’ll see some frozen condensation on the handle, because the hydrogen is cold.

Two Stations; Two Experiences

I visited two different stations. The first was the brand new one in San Ramon. The Linde company, a national supplier of gases, built this one (with state funding), and it’s a parklike beauty with large trees around it and very minimal signage. The storage tank looms behind a cement wall.

2017 Toyota Mirai

The fueling experience is still working towards normalcy

I pulled in and watched the introductory video on a screen on the tank to be sure I was following the instructions, and then started the fill up process. When the numbers were done accumulating, I’d added about 220 miles of driving range for $65.20. Whew, that’s expensive! The hydrogen fuel is measured in Kg, so it’s hard to equate it to gasoline, which is why I gave the range. (Ed note: For comparison, a 2017 Toyota Prius at $3.50/gallon for gas, would cost a little more than $7.00 to get the same range.)

I had some trouble disconnecting the fuel nozzle from my car, but the instructions told me to just wait a few minutes if that occurred, and it did work out. I also called Linde; they returned my call later and explained it a bit more. There is a special way to remedy this issue, but it sounds like there are still a few little bugs in the refueling process.

Two gentlemen, each driving brand new Honda Clarity fuel cell cars, pulled in behind me, so I wasn’t alone out there. The only other fuel cell option now is Hyundai’s Tucson fuel cell, a compact crossover that you would never identify as a fuel cell vehicle, since it looks identical to the gasoline-powered model.

My second refueling visit, at a True Zero station in Hayward, went smoothly. I knew the drill, so I didn’t watch the video, but some basic instructions walked me through the process on the screen. This station was part of a Mobil gas station, an arrangement that makes it easier to build, I assume, and may be part of the long-term plan. In this case, the bill came to $53.01 (I bought a little less), and the nozzle came off right away. I smiled.

More Stations Coming

The State of California, through the California Fuel Cell Partnership (www.cafcp.org), is working to build an infrastructure of 100 stations in the state. There are 31 open now. This scarcity could be an issue if you wanted to travel widely with your hydrogen car. Visit their website for a load of great information, including an interactive map showing the nearest hydrogen stations and information about them (such as whether they’re operational, which could make a big difference).

2017 Toyota Mirai

Information central for the Mirai

There are two other issues that make hydrogen cars something of an adventure for the few. The price for my test car, a single model with no options, came to $58,335, including shipping. But that’s not the way you want to get yours. Currently, you can put $2,499 down and pay $349 a month for a lease. And Toyota will throw in $15,000 worth of free fuel. So, with no maintenance or fuel costs, you’ve got a pretty sweet deal.

The other issue isn’t a practical or financial one, but an environmental one. Hydrogen isn’t found unmixed with other atoms. You have to make hydrogen fuel, and it takes a lot of energy to do it. Many methods are being investigated, but if it’s not made with methane from trash or with solar or wind power, it’s not that clean yet. Although water is the only byproduct from the car itself, the entire system has a way to go. Finally, the fuel must be delivered to the stations, adding further fuel consumption to the process. None of the delivery trucks are hydrogen powered yet.

Back To the Car

What’s the car like? Well, it’s about the size of Toyota’s popular midsize Camry sedan on the outside, but about 15 cubic feet smaller inside, so it’s actually a subcompact per the EPA. It feels comfortable up front, but there is room for only two passengers in back, with less legroom than the Camry. The trunk is only 12.8 cubic feet versus 15.1 for the Camry, thanks to some space taken for the battery and hydrogen storage tanks.

2017 Toyota Mirai

Extreme, but getting more familiar

Styling is a bit extreme, but it’s part of the design language used by all new Toyotas, so it looks more conventional now than when it debuted a couple of years ago. The sweeps along the sides, large air collectors in the lower corners of the front, and drooping taillamps no longer jar the eye. Inside, the dash and doors swoop across, with the three layers of controls displayed on flat, glossy black panels. Just the edge of futuristic.

The driving experience is pretty normal, too, with adequate, but not ferocious acceleration. With 151 horsepower and 247 pounds-feet of torque from the electric motor, it’ll go from zero to sixty in nine seconds. The car outweighs the Camry by about 700 pounds, so it feels less light on its feet. The seats, in SofTek, approximate leather without killing any cows.

The Mirai employs the fuel cell and a battery, so, as in Toyota’s Prius and other hybrids, you can view on a screen where the energy comes from and where it’s going. You may be driving in town on just battery power, or moving down the freeway only on the fuel cell itself. Or it could be both. The Mirai’s computer switches back and forth as the need arises. The electricity in the battery is regenerated when you’re braking, slowing down or rolling downhill, as in other electric vehicles. There’s no plug.

You can also learn about how ecologically you’re driving, based on the Mirai’s rating system. It assesses how well you accelerate, cruise and brake and assigns a score, divided by 100—essentially a percentage. My best was 58/100. I was driving as well as I could, so I’m not sure what would make me better.

2017 Toyota Mirai

Challenging numbers

The EPA gives the Mirai ratings of 67 MPGe city/highway/combined. MPGe is an equivalent, so you can compare it with other electric vehicles. I averaged 60.1 MPGe over the test week. The EPA green scores are perfect 10s, of course.  

So, to sum up, the Mirai is pleasant, easy to live with, and with Toyota’s fuel and service deal, fairly inexpensive to drive for three years. You can be part of the latest wave of high tech while blending into traffic. Are you up for a new automotive adventure? Time will tell if there will be enough adoption of this technology to make it successful in the long run.

In order to give you, the reader, the best perspective on the many vehicles available, Clean Fleet Report has a variety of contributors. When possible, we will offer you multiple perspectives on a given vehicle. We hope you’ll enjoy these diverse views–some are just below—and let us know what you think in comments below or at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2017 Toyota Mirai

First Drive: 2016 Toyota Mirai

News: Toyota Mirai Seeks To Be Prius of Fuel Cell Vehicles

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

News: GM Show Autonomous Fuel Cell Platform

News: Mercedes GLC Fuel Cell

First Drive: 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

Disclosure:

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. Because of this we don’t 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. As part of these events 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, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. 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 publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

2014 LA Auto Show: A Hydrogen Milestone

2014 LA Auto Show: A Hydrogen Milestone

The Car of the Future Shows Up Again

Last year it was two concept vehicles and one surprise — a fuel cell vehicle going on sale sooner than anyone expected. This year (2014 LA Auto Show) one was one fuel cell is already on sale (albeit in small numbers), two are about to hit the market and two surprise concepts debuted at the show. Add in the buzz about California’s hydrogen-station-building frenzy and the fuel cell zero emission vehicle was back in the news again.

2015,toyota,Mirai,fuel cell,hydrogen, zero emission vehicle

Toyota throws down a stylish fuel cell

For years derided as the future technology that was always 20 years in the future, hydrogen fuel cells appear to be making a serious run at becoming a relevant alternative to the internal combustion engine and the 2014 LA Auto Show. Here’s a run-down of the news.

  • Hyundai is celebrating the end of its first calendar year of TucsonFCEV sales. The numbers are still low as even with tens of thousands of web-based “handraisers,” converting that interest into sales is challenging because of the lack of infrastructure. The deal for those close to the few existing stations remains as much of a no-brainer as some of the low-lease EV ones—$499/month for a three-year lease with $2,999 down and all fuel and maintenance included.

    honda,clarity,fuel cell, hydrogen, zero emissions

    There are Honda Clarity fuel cell vehicles already on the road

  • Toyota made a big splash with journalists around the show (though not with a press conference at the show), introducing the production version of its coming Mirai sedan. We first saw the sedan in the flesh a few months ago and recognize what Toyota is up to. As they did with the Prius, the intent is to present a distinctive vehicle that will give owners immediate recognition. The Mirai (“future” in Japanese) is no Camry when it comes to styling, so the early adopters and techies who grab one with be spending a lot of time answering questions about their unique vehicle when it goes on sale in 2015. Pricing was also announced–$57,500, pretty expensive for a Toyota, but the company is matching Hyundai’s $499/month lease deal. Toyota also made it clear that that the next generation’s hydrogen-powered drivetrain (due around 2020) would be between one-third and one-fourth the cost of this one (and as a metric the company told Automotive News the current fuel cell system is one-twentieth the cost of the previous generation vehicle, which first debuted in 2008). Battery prognosticators should take note. The cost reduction curve typically doesn’t accelerate, but slows down over time. Not surprisingly, it’s the 2020 timeframe when Toyota expects to ramp up production from the hundreds planned for the current Mirai to “tens of thousands.”
  • Honda also went outside the LA show, showcasing its production fuel cell sedan to media in Japan the same week (and promising to bring it to Detroit next month). Like Toyota, Honda will present a car unlikely to be mistaken for the new Accord when it hits the market in 2016. It features futuristic styling reminiscent of the original Insight, but in a larger scale. Honda’s launch date was moved back from earlier estimates, but Honda underscored its commitment to make a full-court press on FCEVs, touting progress on the fuel-cell stock that has 60 percent more power packed in a one-third smaller package than the previous generation. Honda also announced it was loaning money to one of the builders of the growing hydrogen station network to expand the number of stations that would be built.
  • Surprising everyone at the show was Audi, which normally talks about its efficient gasoline and diesel powerplants while promising plug-ins in the near future. The company unveiled
    Audi,LA Auto Show,A7,f-tron,fuel cell

    An LA hydrogen surprise from Audi

    an A7 h-tron, a fuel cell model that also had an 8.8-kWh battery pack capable of providing its own launch power prior to the fuel cell kicking in. Audi’s point was that true performance was possible in a fuel cell with the set-up providing power to all four wheels through front and rear electric motors.

  • Volkswagen added its own surprise (of course the parent company of Audi and VW is the same so there was undoubtedly some common technology involved) when it unveiled a hydrogen version of the new Golf Sportwagen. The HyMotion concept borrows its electric motor from the just-introduced e-Golf and uses a lithium-ion battery pack from the Jetta Hybrid. VW’s fielded fuel cell cars before, but they were built on a small SUV platform. The smaller package demonstrates some of the advances in packaging VW has made with the technology.
  • The news thatundergirdsall of the automakers optimism about fuel cell technology, at least in California, is the state’s dedication of $20 million per year to fundthe construction of a 100-station fueling infrastructure during the next decade. Legislation passed and signed by Gov. Brown dedicated that amount as a minimum investment by the state to help jumpstart the construction and running of hydrogen stations in the early years when theremay not be enough vehicles to make the business viable. The state’s Energy Commission has contracts out and expects to have more than 50 stations operating by the end of 2015. One–third of the hydrogen supplied in the stateis mandated to come from renewable sources. Fuel cell car buyers will be eligible forsubstantial financial
    Honda,FCEV,sketch,

    Honda FCEV sketch

    incentives from the state and federal government tax credits. Estimates the state gathered from automakers are that there will be 18,500 FCEVs in California by 2020.

  • A couple weeks after the show Hyundai’s fuel cell “engine” was named to WardsAuto World’s 10 Best Engines of 2015. The propulsion unit was singled out as the editors said for “slipping the most advanced automotive technology imaginable into a roomy family vehicle and making it all very consumer friendly.”

The fuel cell news wasn’t a clarion call, especially among all of the low-volume, high-end models several automakers were touting at the 2014 LA Auto Show, but it was significant for that segment of the green market. One clear signal is that the pricing of fuel cell cars appears to be following the track of battery electrics, where a monthly lease rate becomes the standard for most of cars in the segment. Second to that is the solid commitment from major automakers (so far without the whining about losing money on each car they sell or limiting production to the numbers required to meet California ZEV requirements) appears unchanged. All of the major automakers either have their own fuel cell program or are part of a group of companies pursuing the technology.

Here’s how the companies have paired up to bring fuel cell cars to market by sharing development costs and gain some economies of scale before true mass production.

  • Toyota and BMW are working together.
  • Honda and GM have a working relationship.
  • Daimler, Ford and Nissan have an alliance.
  • VW and Hyundai appear to be going it alone.
  • Of the big guys, Fiat Chrysler may be the odd man out with no announced programs or alliances.
Hyundai,fuel cell,electric car,motor

Hyundai’s head starter-A 10-best engine

Akio Toyoda, Toyota Motor’s president and the latest successor from the auto company’s founding family, told Bloomberg Businessweek that “there’s room for both plug-in electrics and hydrogen cars.” He dismisses doubters: “Fifteen years ago they said the same thing about the Prius. Since, then…we have sold seven million (total hybrids) of them.”

Skepticism about the ultimate success of fuel cells in the market remains, but expect the push forward is going to get stronger in 2015. As John Addison showed in his review of the plug-in models available at the show, a strong “green” undercurrent is flowing in the automotive market. The hydrogen wave appears to be just beginning to crest.

Related stories you might enjoy:

2014 LA Auto Show: Plug-in Hybrids, Best Bet

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars Go On Sale in 2014!

Suddenly, Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars Are Back

 

Ford Restates MPG on 6 Cars

Ford Restates MPG on 6 Cars

Matching Up Fuel Economy To The Real World

Ford,Fusion,start-stop,

Fusion moves up in sales in 2014, but now where?

Today Ford announced what most of the motoring world already knew – the claimed fuel economy on several of its gasoline, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars are pretty tough to reach in the real world. In a deal with the EPA, Ford restates the mpg on the following vehicles:

  • Ford Fiesta
  • Ford Fusion
  • Ford Fusion Hybrid
  • Ford Fusion Energi
  • Ford C-Max Hybrid
  • Ford C-Max Energi
  • Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

The MKZ Hybrid took the biggest hit of seven mpg, dropping it to 31 mpg combined from its previous 38. Ford self-reported this correction to the EPA, saying they used an incorrect factor when calculating fuel economy based on the dynamometer testing that is part of what is reported to figure out the fuel economy numbers. Ford been claiming the higher numbers for at least the last two years and plans to send checks to customers who have bought the vehicles paying for the difference in the window sticker and newly calculated fuel economy numbers. Ford estimated that it had about 200,000 of the affected cars on the road.

This is the second time Ford restated mpg and dropped its fuel economy numbers on some of the vehicles. Last August it dropped the C-Max Hybrid fuel economy numbers by seven mpg after consumer complaints.

Among other manufacturers, Hyundai/Kia also did a customer mea culpa when it was revealed during EPA investigations that several of its vehicles had overstated their fuel economy by one mpg or more. That company also sent checks to those who had purchased the vehicle and the general consensus was that the company suffered little damage in the marketplace. It remains to be seen how this will impact Ford, which has been placing a great emphasis on its pursuit of higher fuel economy for vehicles across the board. The company has led the way in the pickup market this year with the introduction of the 2015 aluminum-intensive F-150 pickup.

Related articles you might enjoy:

Ford Sees Way To MPG Through Lightweighting

Overview: 2014 Ford Fusion With Start-Stop

My Top 10 Cars & Trucks for 2014

My Top 10 Cars & Trucks for 2014

BMW,i3,electric car,2014

BMW’s i3 – one of the fresh faces of 2014

My Hot Picks for 2014 vs. Consumer Reports Hot New Cars & Trucks.

It must be January because everyone feels compelled to present their plan for the year – their hopes and expectations. In the automotive world, that comes down to picking the cars and trucks we think will be the hot ones this year. Consumer Reports, that well-respected Bible of rational evaluation of consumer goods, has published their list, labeled the “10 Hot New Cars And Trucks for 2014.”

I may quarrel with some of the picks, after all, that’s what these lists are all about, but given my focus on advanced technology, alternative fuels and high-MPG vehicles, my first approach is to take their list and hone it down to the cars and trucks that make sense for me and Clean Fleet Report. Of course, the worst part of this kind of speculation is we can never be sure if these models will actually show up during the calendar year. Given that caveat, make this my wish list for what I would like to drive this coming year.

It’s curious and probably an indicator of the amazing age we’re living in, but I found something in almost every offering that made sense for the CFR crowd. See if you agree.

Here they are in CR’s alphabetical order.

1. Audi A3 – This is an easy one because Audi is going to present the new A3 this year in a variants to suit every taste. My first choices are the two versions that will compete for the compact luxury fuel economy crown – the TDI that will feature the latest version of Volkswagen AG’s workhorse diesel engine, a new 2.0-liter that promises better fuel economy, lower emissions and lighter weight than the efficient engine it replaces. Second on my list will be the A3 e-tron. Well, maybe first since it will be Audi’s first foray into the electric car world. The e-tron is slated to arrive as a plug-in hybrid hatchback with enough power to maintain the Audi performance image.

2. BMW 2-Series – Here I have to diverge from CR. While this new BMW will undoubtedly be a lot of fun to drive and will probably be quite efficient, my BMW target for 2014 will be the i3, which will arrive in pure electric and extended-range versions. I spent a good amount of time last year driving some of the early versions, but I look forward to living for a week or so in the production version and getting a better chance at evaluating them in the real world.  Of course, if I get a chance to tool around in the exotic i8 plug-in hybrid, I won’t turn that down either.

3. Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon These new midsize pickups are exciting for the market, bringing back a truck size that many thought was being left behind by the ever-growing and very popular full-size pickups.

chevy,chevrolet,colorado,pickup,diesel

Waiting for the diesel upgrade

But to me the Colorado will come alive late in the year (or maybe early 2015–sigh) when it gets an injection of diesel power from GM’s 2.8-liter V-6 engine. That should produce some great fuel economy numbers while actually boosting the performance and practicality of the truck.

4. Ford Mustang – I’ve lived through the entire history of the Mustang and, to be honest, have never been a big fan of the car. I think it’s iconic, but dated and not much in the introduction this year really changed that in my mind. However, I caught some hints from Ford execs that the original pony car might get an EcoBoost or even a diesel engine. That would put it on my driving list. In the interim, I’ll stick with my current favorite Ford, the plug-in Fusion Energi. Then again, an aluminum-intensive F-150 pickup rumored to be Ford’s centerpiece for its Detroit Auto Show program, also sounds intriguing.

5. Honda Fit – The smallest Honda has been one of my favorites since its introduction, mainly on the basis of its road-handling characteristics. This coming year a new model will be introduced that promises some upgrades in its interior as well as a new engine (something that Honda is always good at). While the standard version will probably be quite fuel efficient, there have been rumors of Honda planning to bring a hybrid version, which given the latest technology shown off in the Accord Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid, could make this hatchback even more desirable. Of course, I also haven’t spent any time in the limited edition EV version so that could be on my list as well.

6. Hyundai Genesis – Once again, I’ve got to take a different route than Consumer Reports on this one. I’m sure the Genesis is a fine model, but I don’t see it fitting the CFR profile, so I’d opt for a test of Hyundai’s fuel cell electric car, the Tucson FCEV, when it goes on sale this spring. Driving a series production fuel cell car will signal the beginning of a new era (something along the lines of driving the first Honda Insight hybrid back in 1999 (or the first generation Toyota Prius which came right after) or the Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt when they were introduced. Living with the car for a week and dealing with the still-developing infrastructure will also inform me more about the issues early adopters will face with the vehicle.

7. Mini Cooper This little combination of German and British engineering is everything an efficient car should be – fun to drive, powerful and functionally designed. The new version due this year promises to up the ante with a more fuel efficient three-cylinder engine. I’d enjoy driving it, but also would love to see them bring over a diesel version like the European one I’ve driven. It meets all of the above criteria and takes the fuel economy up a notch.

 

porsche,macan,suv,diesel,mpg,2014

Porsche’s new small SUV

8. Porsche Macan – Although I’ve had a chance over the years to spend some time in Porsches, my environmental focus of the past decade has made it a tough vehicle choice to rationalize. But the Macan is smaller and will naturally be more efficient than its big brother, the Cayenne. So if the Cayenne delivers 16/23 City-Hwy MPG, that should put the Macan up near 30 MPG. That’s fine, but Porsche representatives made clear to me at the vehicle’s introduction that a diesel model is likely to show up soon. Even using the same engine found in the Cayenne, the lighter Macan should be able to push its MPG well into the 30s – and that’s something I would love to test in the real world.

9. Subaru WRX – I’m not going to argue that the WRX is a fun and still functional car, but it’s not something I’d put in the CFR test fleet, even with a new model. Keeping with Subaru, though, I’d go for the XV Crosstrek Hybrid, which I haven’t had a chance to test. But if you ask for my wish list, I know Subaru’s got a boxer diesel running in Europe that would boost any of its models up into the 30 MPG territory without sacrificing any of their AWD versatility.

10. Volkswagen Golf A new Golf is always an event for VW and the seventh generation signals some significant changes, including using a new architecture. I’ve got my eye on two versions based on my experience with both – the latest TDI and the new e-Golf. The TDI should get the new world diesel engine VW is working on (see A3 notes above although the Golf may get a different iteration of that engine) and the e-Golf (I’ve driven prototypes and enjoyed my time in all of them) should be a blast. VW appears to be dedicated to maintaining the Golf’s basic fun-to-drive quotient and I expect this new EV to be one that will challenge the current

VW,volkswagen,Golf,electric car,e-Golf

Maybe an EV Golf this year

fun leaders in the segment, the Fiat 500e and Chevy Spark EV.

So, there you have it. The 10 or more cars and trucks I’m looking forward to spending some time with in 2014. I hope they all make, but I probably should also have saved a spot or two on the list for some surprises. In 2013 we had a few of those and I’m expecting more in 2014. That’s what keeps us on our toes.

Let me know what you are looking forward to in 2014 and maybe we can compare lists.

Words & Photos By Michael Coates

Posted Jan. 8, 2014

Other articles related to this topic:

Top 10 Best Fuel Economy Cars of 2014

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Cars Go On Sale in 2014

Top 10 2014/2013 AWD & 4WD SUVs/Crossovers With Best MPG