All posts by William West Hopper

An above average middle age guy providing automotive and lifestyle posts from Washington DC USA.

Big Bold, And Omnipresent – the Ford Expedition – It is as Big as it Sells

2018 Ford Expedition Ruby Red Metallic head on shotRecently the opportunity came about to take Ford’s big selling Full-Size SUV on a trip to the Work Truck Show in Indianapolis Indiana. A 1200-mile round trip, which was a perfect chance to get the feel of this large station wagon of an SUV. Built like a linebacker and dressed in a tuxedo, this highway cruiser, and a suburban hauler, while big, has all the comfort, safety and features you want for a $72K price

 

2018 Ford Expedition Dash GaugesOur 2018 model year ride was decked out in Premium Trim, Part of Ford’s east coast press fleet it came to us with 24K miles already on the odometer. If you follow my columns, you know I like to get cars with miles racked up, this gives you a clear view of how they hold up. Press vehicles take a lot of abuse, maybe more so than rental cars, just that the fleet companies are paid to detail them better, than a quick wash and vacuum before it is rolled out to the next customer at the airport.  This Expedition had held up well, which shows that it is well made with quality materials and workmanship.

 

First Impressions

right rear of the 2018 ford expeditionThe Explorer is tall, and with the automatically appearing (and retracting) side steps, you can easily climb aboard this massive beast. Once inside you really feel connected behind the wheel of this truck, to the controls, gauges, and switchgear. Everything is well placed and being the size it is, is in easy reach while driving.  Visibility is excellent, you have a good view of the road, in all directions all around you.  While this is an over-sized vehicle, it feels more maneuverable than you might first think.

Cockpit of the Ford ExpeditionInterior space is well detailed and thought out. The driver’s seat is heated, cooled and offered both a bottom and back massage feature, useful on a long haul trip. Passengers also benefit from attention to their needs, no wonder families choose this vehicle. Front, rear, even third-row seats provide more than just a place to sit. Power outlets, HVAC vents and controls, and areas to hold small items are located throughout the cabin.

Bells and Whistles

The Red forward collision warning lightWhen I first got aboard I noticed a red light on top of the dash over the gauge cluster, wondering what it was, it proved itself when a vehicle stopped short in front of me. That bar glowed brightly and started the brake pedal action, much better than my own reaction time, by the time I got my foot on the brake the vehicle was already hard at work slowing down. That red bar gave me notice and proved to be effective, a couple of times during the trip.  The Pilot 360 safety system that Ford provides in its vehicles is useful and more important than ever in today’ sever increasing traffic.

Ford Expedition USB outlets in rear seatsBeyond the smartphone interface and satellite radio options, the vehicle was equipped with a CD Player, hard as that is to believe, such old tech, but listening to books on CD (or as we used to say on tape) was a great use of this (Name of Sound System) in this vehicle. Also USB connections to devices for streaming and connecting to apps, which in today’s world this has become the norm on almost every car.

 

Driving Dynamics

twenty two inch tires on the Ford ExpeditionNo large vehicle is going to handle like a sports sedan, this rolls like a pickup truck, just with more interior room. At times it can be a bit disconnected due to the electrically assisted steering that helps keep it safely in its lane. The ride is quite comfortable, to the point of luxurious. One of the benefits of having 22-inch tires on pothole-filled rough roads.

The all-wheel-drive provided a feeling of being well connected to the road. Never did this vehicle feel that it was not sure-footed even on wet slushy roads. Steering was typical for this size Ford vehicle be it a pickup or SUV, the safety sentries every once in a while made a small tug or steering correction.

 

Fuel Economy

Ford Expedition 3.5 ecoboost 6-cyl engine
Ford Expedition 3.5 EcoBoost 6-cyl engine

While it was not dismal, it was what you would expect from a vehicle of this size and stature, we eeked out almost 19 mpg on this trip on the 3.6 EcoBoost v-6 engine, which for a large 5600- pound piece of metal was pretty good.

Ford Expedition USB outlets in rear seats
USB outlets are abundant throughout the Expedition

Speaking of metal, weight savings is critical in the Expedition, and thus many parts of this vehicle are made from Aluminium, not steel. While you may not notice the difference, you will hear it when there is a strong rainstorm, and raindrops are hitting the roof, it sounds very different than it would in a vehicle with a steel roof.  And with that will come additional expense to do metal body repair, as finding a shop with technicians trained in working aluminum is not as common as steel craftsman/women.

 

Ford Expedition with 2nd & 3rd-row seats folded down.
Ford Expedition with 2nd & 3rd-row seats folded down.

Cargo and Passenger space are plentiful, spacious and comfortable, all three rows of seating provide space to spread out, and even allow for the gear that is brought along on any trip, be it a big box store run, or a cross country trip with luggage.

 

Ford Expedition third row seating
Third-row seating in the Expedition is ample.

Overall, I have to say I was quite impressed with the Expedition, how it drove, how it rode, and how it handled. If you are towing a trailer, or just need a large family hauler, this is a vehicle to consider. After driving the Expedition, you can understand the reason that Ford has increased the production of this vehicle at its Kentucky plant, and why

 

Ford Expedition 2nd row hvac controls and power

customers are buying it. Ford had made this vehicle modern, tech-savvy and safe. Keeping the model fresh with more than just a restyle, putting into it what buyers today want from a full-size SUV.  Want bigger, Yep, Ford can handle that with an extended length version, the Expedition Max, for even a larger vehicle.

While you will not be able to find a lot of discounts on a vehicle that is in demand, by visiting your local auto show, or doing some competitive research with Costco, your credit union or buying service, no doubt you can get a great deal on a new Explorer, or even consider a pre-owned one, as we can tell you they hold up quite well.

 

20190310_182801
Words and images by William West Hopper
The 2018 Ford Explorer Platinum Trim Edition was provided to us for a week of unlimited driving by Ford Motor Company, without any compensation. This review is my own personal opinion from real-time experience behind the wheel.

 

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Suzuki’s Mini-Ute Sweeps the World Urban Car Awards In New York City

Check out our Queer4Cars YouTube Channel for a video walk around of the Suzuki Jimny and personal interview at the New York International Auto Show 

 

The Suzuki Jimny takes the Gold at the World Car of the Year Awards for World Urban Car 2019
The Suzuki Jimny takes the Gold at the World Car of the Year Awards for World Urban Car 2019

New York’s International Auto Show is the place many fancy cars and trucks are debuted and shown. Though only a few take the title of a World Car Award winner.

World Urban Car of the Year 2019

Marty Haynes and Suzuki Exec accept World Urban Car for the Jimny
Marty Haynes and Suzuki Exec accept World Urban Car for the Jimny

This year the World Urban Car of the Year Award went to the Suzuki Jimny, one of the two categories in which it was nominated. Here a half-century old 4×4 body-on-frame model, mini-ute brought home an award even when the competition was a lot swankier and modern.

World Urban Car today would have to be attractive, ultra-capable, well-sized and rugged. You can see how the Suzuki took the Gold!  Jimny’s street-cred comes with a strong cute factor, that it can be driven on paved roads or those torn up for construction, and you can park it anywhere.

 

 

Jimny Design Features

The modern Suzuki Jimny dash features 7.0 touch screen analog gauges and a manual transmission
The modern Suzuki Jimny dash features 7.0 touch screen analog gauges and a manual transmission

We were impressed with the modern interior of the this the fourth Jimny. While simple with analog gauges and a five-speed manual and manual engaged 4H and 4L four-wheel drive, it also has a 7.0-inch touchscreen with, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, satellite navigation, cruise control. Forward and rear facing cameras and many modern amenities. The multi-point injected 1.5L gasoline engine, matched to either a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic makes it a fuel-efficient runabout.

 

Suzuki Jimny features a full rear door with fold down rear seats for more cargo space.
Suzuki Jimny features a full rear door with fold down rear seats for more cargo space.

Seating for four with fold down rear seats expands the small cargo space, giving space for passengers and cargo. On the outside, the classic boxy styling and hardcore four-wheel drive credentials give it the go anywhere in any weather appeal. Add retro projector LED headlights, 15-inch alloy wheels, and rear privacy glass, and you have a vehicle that works in any environment.

 

Suzuki Jimny 1.5 liter engine
Suzuki Jimny features a 1.5-liter gasoline engine

Jimny remains a proper body-on-frame with a three-link rigid axle suspension system and part-time four-wheel drive system with manually-engaged 4H and 4L low-range gearing. A brake limited-slip differential function replaces a locking differential redirecting torque to where the traction is if wheels were to spin. Suzuki has a hill-descent control and a hill-hold system for the manual versions.

 

Availability

The 2019 Suzuki Jimny is priced from a reasonable $23,990, add $2000 for the automatic. But Sadly it is not available in the USA.

2019 World Urban Car Award Winner the Suzuki Jimny
2019 World Urban Car Award Winner the Suzuki Jimny

 

Suzuki Jimny’s Tech specs

  • Engine: 1.5 petrol 75kW/130Nm
  • Transmissions: 5MT or 4AT
  • Fuel economy: 6.4-6.9L/100km
  • Fuel tank: 40L
  • Length: 3645mm
  • Width: 1645mm
  • Height: 1725mm
  • Wheelbase: 2250mm
  • Curb weight: 1075-1090kg
  • Ground clearance: 210mm
  • Approach angle: 37 degrees
  • Departure angle: 49 degrees
  • Break over angle: 28 degrees
  • Construction: Body-on-ladder-frame
  • 4WD system: Part-time with 4H/4L
  • Brakes: Disc front, drum rear

 

William West Hopper, VIP Tour Guide at the 2019 Washington DC Auto Show. Photo by Bonnie M. Moret
William West Hopper, VIP Tour Guide at the 2019 Washington DC Auto Show. Photo by Bonnie M. Moret
Words and Images by William West Hopper

 

 

The 2020 Ford Escape Fourth Generation, Now More Tech-Savvy Than Ever Before

Check out our Exclusive Preview of the 2020 Ford Escape on YouTube

2020 Ford Escape HybridAt the turn of the century, the Ford Motor Company saw the opportunity to build a small SUV that was full of modern tech at an affordable price. That four-door Escape has become Ford’s 2nd biggest selling vehicle. And now in its fourth generation for 2020 it is sleeker and more elegant, loaded with technology for safety and more, while still accommodating four full-sized adults in comfort and carrying their luggage too.

 

While the all-new Ford Escape has a more aerodynamic look, it is also built of stronger and lighter weight high strength materials which makes it more efficient. Where the big story is, the technology that comes standard on all trim levels. And tech that is not just the fact that you can connect your Android or Apple device to the car, it is all about safety, efficiency and more.

 

2020 Ford Escape HeadsUp DisplayEscape for 2020 comes standard with Ford Co-Pilot360™ driver-assist technology; available features include a 12.3-inch all-digital instrument cluster and makes available other driver-assist features such as Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go and Lane-Centering. Available features like Active Park Assist 2.0 and Evasive Steering Assist, are just part of the driver-assist technologies. Active Park Assist 2.0 allows the driver to park in a parallel or perpendicular spot with the touch of a button, without having to work the steering wheel, gear shifter, gas pedal or brake pedal. Evasive Steering Assist detects a slower-moving or stationary vehicle ahead and provides steering support that can assist the driver to avoid a collision.

 

2020 Ford Escape Transmission SelectorTitanium models are available with an all-new heads-up display. This projects information onto the lower part of the windshield, giving drivers easy access to important information without taking their eyes off the road.

 

 

Escape will offer a selectable drive mode system standard across the lineup, Escape makes it easy for Escape owners to create the ride experience they desire – or the one that conditions demand. Modes are tailored for normal, eco, sport and slippery, plus snow and sand conditions.

 

PowerTrains – Now there are Four!  Including Two All-New Hybrids.

2020 Ford Escape Hybrid at Heinz House Greenfield Village MIEscape offers the new 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, available on Titanium, is projected to produce 250 horsepower and 275 lb.-ft. of torque using 93 octane fuel capable of towing up to 3,500 pounds.

And an all-new 1.5-liter EcoBoost, standard on S, SE, and SEL, is projected to produce 180 horsepower and 177 lb.-ft. of torque using 93 octane fuel. When properly configured, rated to tow 2,000 pounds. To help conserve fuel, the 1.5-liter EcoBoost debuts cylinder deactivation, which senses when one cylinder isn’t needed and shuts it down automatically. The system can activate or deactivate a cylinder in 14 milliseconds to maintain a smooth ride.

2020 Ford Escape with HitchA new Hybrid and PHEV Plugin with CVT. Both come with a towing capacity of 1500 lbs. And due to new smaller liquid cooled battery technology they do not affect passenger or cargo space like in past models.

An all-new 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle hybrid engine and electronic continuously variable transmission. The front-wheel-drive hybrid model is projected to produce a combined system horsepower of 198, and a top speed of 85 mph in electric-only mode. And has an  EPA-estimated range of more than 550 miles;

The plug-in hybrid variant, available on every trim level except S and SE Sport, projects a best-in-class EPA-estimated range of at least 30 miles in electric-only mode. Escape Plug-In Hybrid has a Level 1 / Level 2 AC charging port. Using a 110-volt Level 1 charge, the estimated time to fully charge the battery is 10 to 11 hours. Using a 240-volt Level 2 charge, charge time drops to roughly 3.5 hours.

 

New Styling Inside & Out

2020 Ford Escape Front Headlamps and GrillTo create a sportier look for the all-new Escape, designers turned to some of the most high-profile Ford sports cars. The shield-shaped trapezoidal grille is inspired by the sixth-generation Mustang, while the lower front end borrows from Ford GT.

The 2020 Escape is the most aerodynamic to date, with a sloped roofline, optimized liftgate spoiler and strake, and efficient underbody. Standing lower, wider and longer than the outgoing model. Shedding more than 200 pounds from the current model, due in part to the extensive use of high-strength, lightweight steel.

 

2020 Ford Escape has plenty of room for luggageInside you will find comfort has increased, especially in the rear with sliding and reclining seats, that even tall passengers will find enough room for their legs, improved headroom, shoulder room, and hip room. With the second-row seat in the full-forward position, the rear cargo area in gas engine-powered models extends nearly six inches to increase the cargo area to 37.5 cubic feet.

 

2020 Ford Excape CockpitChanges in the cockpit too, a center console dial controls the transmission. Drivers and passengers can keep compatible mobile devices charged with an available wireless charging pad in the front center console. Also available are type A and type C USB charging ports as well as three 12-volt charging sockets. An 8-inch touch screen – standard on SE models and above – shares information with the available 12.3-inch all-digital instrument cluster, which displays important vehicle information such as speedometer and fuel level. It uses 3D animated graphics to indicate the drive mode. Available SYNC® 3 is compatible with available features such as Apple CarPlay™, Android Auto™, Ford+Alexa and Waze navigation. For music lovers, Escape offers an available 575-watt 10-speaker B&O Sound System by Bang & Olufsen.

 

And Yes, You Can Connect

 

FordPass Connect™ is a standard feature that provides 4G LTE Wi-Fi for up to 10 mobile devices with compatible wireless subscription service. FordPass Connect also gives drivers remote access to their Escape, allowing them to use their smartphone to lock, unlock, locate and start the vehicle, as well as monitor key vehicle diagnostics.

 

Made In America, Available Early Spring.

The all-new Escape, available in S, SE, SE Sport, SEL and Titanium series trim levels, is built at Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky. Vehicles are due to reach showrooms this fall. Plug-in hybrid units are due to arrive next spring.

Invited guests to the 2020 Ford Escape Launch
Words and Images by William West Hopper
Ford Motor Company provided a kind invitation to attend this exclusive preview event, flying me to Dearborn Michigan for the afternoon event.

The 2020 Toyota Corolla – This is how Age and Beauty Work Together in Harmony.

Check out our Walk-Around Video of the new 2020 Toyota Corolla on location in Savannah GA

2020 Toyota Corolla comes in L, LE, SE, XLE and XSE Trim levels at the Perry Lane Hotel in Savannah GA.Toyota Corolla for 2020 is the prime example that when you grow up and become an adult, it does not mean you have to be old and stodgy.  Here the twelfth generation Corolla, now built on Toyota’s new TNGA platform, brings together timeless interior and exterior styling with advanced safety systems that provide a secure and fun driving experience. Whether you are driving across town or across the country in the new 2020 Toyota Corolla, you will want to do it all over again.

 

What makes the 2020 Toyota Corolla different? 

Photo by Toyota of the TNGA Platform on the 2020Toyota Corolla
Photo by Toyota of the TNGA Platform on the 2020Toyota Corolla

For 2020 the Corolla is built on Toyota’s TNGA platform gives an improved track and balance providing a better driving experience and a more comfortable ride with a multi-link suspension. TNGA has increased the body rigidity by 60%  and lowered the center of gravity, reducing overall length and height. While Corolla’s width has increased, the wheelbase stayed the same. Overall the exterior is more dynamically styled with defined wheel arches and stronger body lines. A new three-dimensional trapezoidal grill is more Lexus than base Toyota.  And Corolla’s interior is more spacious and comfortable with soft-touch materials in a cockpit-like environment. And with an exceptionally spacious trunk, you may not think you are in what was once considered a compact car.

All of Corolla’s trim levels get Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 as standard. That means improved pre-collision system with pedestrian detection even in low light situations, added day-time cyclist detection and enhanced speed reduction capability. Active Corning Assist fights understeer (the tendency to turn less sharply than is intended) improves grip while going around corners and is standard on all Corolla models. A full-speed range dynamic cruise control, lane departure with steering assist along with road sign assist means the car’s camera will recognize Stop, Yield, Do Not Enter, and Speed Limit signs displaying up to three of them on the dash.

The 2020 Toyota Corolla is Amazon Enabled along with Apple Car Play.
The 2020 Toyota Corolla is Amazon Enabled along with Apple Car Play and a JBL Sound System option.

Top of the line, the XLE (Luxury) and XSE (Sport) Corollas include the optional adaptive front lighting that provides a wider beam of light with headlights that swivel and auto level to better guide you in the dark. Automatic High Beams with available J LED headlights, 16” Alloy Wheels, 3-location smart key, moonroof give the Corolla touches that make it more desirable. The JBL Sound option with 9-speaker, 800 Watt 8-channel system provides premium concert hall quality on the XLE and XSE models.

Two multi-information displays for the dash, a 4.2 inch standard on the L, LE, and SW, and a larger 7 inch on the XLE and XSE, as well as new colors, Blueprint, and Celeste, join Blizzard Pearl, Classic Silver Metallic, Super White, Black Sand Pearl, Barcelona Red Metallic, and Blue Crush Metallic bring more to the Corolla than we have seen before.

 

Interior

The dash on a 2020 Toyota Corolla XSE
The dash on a 2020 Toyota Corolla XSE

Inside you will find a roomy passenger cabin with plenty of soft-touch materials that will please drivers and passengers alike and a surprisingly large trunk. The 8-inch touchscreen center display provides control for the audio system with apple car play standard as well as connected to Amazon Alexa. USB outlets and in optional upgrade trim you can get a Qi wireless charging as well as JBL premium sound.

Even on the base L model with fabric 6-way adjustable driver’s and 4-way adjustable passenger seat, you still have a premium feel, more so when you upgrade to the LE, SE or above. Topping out with the XLE or XSE trim grades, the value added is well worth the small upcharge.

 

Three Power Plants

2020 Toyota Corolla offers a Hybrid variant
2020 Toyota Corolla offers a Hybrid variant based on the Toyota Prius.

Corolla has plenty of power and performance with three power train choices; a 1.8-liter, 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and a hybrid. Yes, you heard it correctly, Corolla now comes in 50-plus mpg hybrid. Toyota has put their proven Prius hybrid powertrain into the Corolla, this means you get Toyota’s well-known hybrid powertrain in the class-leading Corolla style.  If you are not driving enough to warrant a 50-plus MPG hybrid, there is the base L, or a sporty SE or XSE, or luxury LE and XLE option. Corolla for 2020 is the most refined it has ever been and the safest ever with Toyotas standard Safety Sense the most advanced safety available on the market today.

Corolla has always done well in fuel consumption, and for 2020 fuel economy for the L & LE 30/38/33 SE-CVT, 31/40/34 SE-MT 29/36/42 LE Hybrid 53/52/52 XSE 31/38/34 XLE 29/37/32 on regular gasoline.

 

2020 Corolla Pricing

The 2020 Corolla has a base price of $19.500 for the L and topping out at $25,450 for the XSE. The LE Hybrid starts at $22,950. On non-hybrid models add $2k for the LE and $1500 for the SE.  Audio options start at $815 and go up to $1715 for the JBL Premium system with wireless charging. Adaptative Headlights add $450, and if you want that special color, it will run another $395.

 

2020 Toyota Corolla XLE in Savannah GA
2020 Toyota Corolla XLE in Savannah GA

Corolla indeed is the bestselling nameplate of all time with 46 million global sales. Introduced in Japan in 1966 and coming to the USA in 1968. Corolla quickly became a strong seller both in the new and pre-owned market because of four things: Great price point, well-designed, dependable, and economical to own and operate. Which is why the Toyota Corolla has always been the vehicle of choice for many as their first new vehicle and known as a dependable vehicle for many thousands of miles.  Toyota knows that and has worked hard to continue that tradition.

William West Hopper at the 50th Anniversary of the Toyota Corolla
William West Hopper at the 50th Anniversary of the Toyota Corolla

Words and Images (except where noted) by William West Hopper

Fiat 500 Lounge – Winner, Winner, Spaghetti Dinner

 2018 Fiat 500 “Cinquecento” Lounge

– The perfect city runabout with a turbo

Check out our Queer4Cars YouTube Channel Video on the Cinquecento

2018 Fiat 500 Lounge Turbo HatchbackFCA offered us a week of Italian car time, sending the 2018 Fiat 500 Lounge, or to be proper in Italian, Cinquecento.

72 Fiat 850 Spider in Yellow courtesy of Hemmings Motor News
72 Fiat 850 Spider courtesy of Hemmings Motor News

This brought back lots of memories of a college-era yellow 1972 Fiat850 Spider. While today’s modern 4-seat two-door hatchback was not a drop top like that classic spider, it did have a retractable glass roof. More important it had a lot more of pick up and go and provided similar fuel economy in the upper 30’s miles per gallon on premium fuel. (Editor’s note: the ’72 got 42 mpg on premium fuel, 9-gallon fuel tank, out of a very tiny less than a 1-liter engine, and the convertible top leaked when it rained, but it was a really cute car.)

 

Fiat 500 Lounge Ivory Seat OptionThis 500 was dressed in Oliva Green Pearl paint with an Avorio or ivory white seats and matching interior that stood out quite well in contrast. At first, there were some feelings of reluctance to like the 500, but as the week went by and the more we drove it, the more we came to like its quirkiness, and how spunky it was. Going downtown on a busy Saturday proved its worth, as the smallness of the Fiat meant no problem parking in a spot that other cars could not have slipped into. Win ONE for the Fiat.

 

Floor It Again Tony

Fiat 500 Turbo 1.4 liter engineThe turbo powered 1.4 inline 4-cylinder multiport fuel injected engine connected to the six-speed automatic transmission (a $995 option, yes, a manual is available,) produced plenty of power for this little runabout for city driving. And while it does not sound noisy on the outside when parked, there seems to be plenty of exhaust noise on the inside, this may be to make you think it is a powerful, sporty European car. While we did not take it out on the highway, there is no doubt this engine would work hard to keep up at top highway speeds.

At city speeds from 0 to 40, we found it had plenty of power and then we became used to the sporty exhaust noise. Fuel economy was in the mid to upper 30’s for us buzzing around town. Win TWO for the Fiat.

 

Cuteness Overload

1960's Fiat 500 Cute Little Car
1960’s Fiat 500 photo courtsey of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

While the design is hardly flashy it is quite reminiscent of that from the 1960s zipping about European cities with movie stars driving them. You must admit clunky can be cute, and the 500 can be customized to make it even more adorable. When they first came out there was even a Gucci designer edition. We found that mature women swooned over this little car.   Win Two and a half for the Fiat.

 

Interior

Fiat 500 Lounge InteriorWe found the interior to be functional and attractive, using the exterior body color as a splash across the dash in a plastic insert that gives the interior an eye-attracting splash of color. And it does take your eye away from the hard plastics that make up the rest of the interior, which is normal on cars in this price range.  Button placement on the mid and upper center of the dash, are large and easy to engage, as well as know what they are doing.  This is a major WIN for the Fiat.

Fiat 500 Front SeatsSeats are comfortable though not easily adjustable, the front seat back adjustment lever is on the inside, which took some searching for and the front and rear adjustment is in the front and once released is very quick to move, so don’t do it as you accelerate, which we did, finding ourselves at the back of the track very quickly.  Rear seats are not just a covered foam board like in other much higher priced vehicles. Right and left rear seatbacks to fold Fiat 500 Lounge Rear Seat Entrydown individually so you can get someone in the back and carry longer items as well. Don’t expect a lot of leg room, but you would not with a car this small anyway, the good news is there is some leg room, and getting in and out will not turn the rear seat passenger into a pretzel, but if you practice yoga, you will find it easier get in and out of the back of a Fiat 500.

Fiat 500 Lounge Rear Hatchback with seat folded down

Cargo area is big enough to carry groceries or other items, surprising for such a small car. You actually have a space to put things even if you have four people riding in the car, which is helpful as everyone carries stuff with them.

 

Fiat 500 has USB Power and other outletsFiat 500 Lounge USB Power in glove boxPower plugs are a must these days and the 500 had three if you include what at one time was a cigarette lighter. Two USB ports, one tied to the Uconnect Audio system in the center console, and one in the glove box that only provides power. A simple audio jack is also undercover in the center console. These three all are vertical, so something could fall into them and cause issues, which is why they have cover doors over them. Like most cars today you have to add a $30 smokers’ package, which is an insert into a cup holder for an ashtray and a cigarette lighter to go in the leftmost power outlet, to accommodate smokers. We thought all Italians smoked.

 

On-Board Technology

Fiat 500 Lounge Tech Screen BeatsAudio SiriusXM RadioAt this price point, tech is often very low. Though Fiat does give you some trendy pop brand options like TomTom for GPS and Beats audio, and of course Sirius XM Satellite radio. The Uconnect in the Fiat is very basic, we never did connect our Samsung phone to it, as it kept not recognizing the Bluetooth signal. The $595 Fiat 500 TomTom GPS

TomTom GPS is very simple with grainy imagery and clunky operation. The $695 premium Beats audio did not stand out as we thought it might.  This is a loss for the Fiat.

 

What’s not to like

While it is a short list, and the pros are more than the cons, there are some things that we found bothersome about the 500.

Fiat 500 Sunshade and visorThe seating position never quite gives a comfortable driving position for your legs. If you put the seat back to stretch out, the steering wheel was too far away, up close, your legs were uncomfortably bent. So this would not be a good long-distance driving comfort.  The sunroof’s interior sunshade is an open weave screen fabric letting in the bright sunshine even while closed. And the sun visors are tiny, because the front window is small, and do not extend when you move them over to the side covering less than half of the door’s window. And we never did find the door electric lock/unlock button, to unlock the doors you will have to open the door from inside handle. Price is a con, as it is high compared to other automobiles on the market today.  More loss than a win, so be it.

 

What is to love

Fiat 500 Gage ClusterAt first the cuteness of the size of the 500, easily slips into a small parking spot. The rear camera gave a great view of where the bumper was in relation to the car behind and the curb as well. And if you have the wipers on, the rear wiper will activate as well, helping you see.  Visibility was very good for this car, plenty of glass to be able to see out and very little obstructions. Fun to drive in town, we found it zippy and energetic. WIN for the Fiat

 

Fit and Finish

Fiat 500 Fit and FinishFor a small inexpensive car (though the price may not reflect that) that has the carried the Fix It Again Tony line since the brand started, fit and finish is very good both inside and out. And at this price point no one expects premium materials on the inside, nor do you get them, but the design is good for what is in your main line of vision. Exterior parts are well put together and the doors and hatch feel and sound solid.

 

Price

Fiat 500 StickerWhile four models of the 500 are available, Base Pop starting at $16,495, 1957 Retro Edition, $19,745, Lounge (what we drove) $19745, and the awe-inspiring Abarth, $20,495. All of these come in your choice of a hatchback or Cabrio, which is more a canvas sunroof. Our hatchback came with the $795 power glass sunroof.

The Cinquecento that we were loaned by FCA priced out at $24,815 which included the $250 Ivory seats, $995 automatic transmission, $795 power sunroof, $595 Tom Tom Navigation, $695 Premium Beats Audio System and the $445 16-inch bright aluminum wheels, with a $1295 destination charge.

At the time of writing there was a $1250 cash incentive on the Fiat 500. Even with that, it is pricy for this segment of car.  With just about the same amount being a destination charge, larger vehicles have smaller numbers on that line. No doubt you are paying for the brand names of the audio and navigation systems.  Our take on this is to dicker on the price, one and two-year-old models are going for $17K at the big lot used car centers.                                                                      This is a loss for the Fiat

 

Overall

Fiat 500 Turbo Sliding Glass SunroofWhile this would not be a car that we would seek out for ourselves and our lifestyle. It is a fun little city car that is filled with cuteness overload. While it is pricy for the segment, it would be a great car if you needed something for around town driving and short commutes. Fuel economy is not amazing, especially using premium fuel. It does have a four-star government safety rating, though reliability has not been stellar. The 500 does come with a 4-year 50,000-mile warranty. If this is a car you want, and plenty of people do, then get the best price you can, and have some fun.  We recommend the glass sunroof option, and if you like a manual transmission, that is standard.  – Ciao Bambino

 

Word and images (except where noted) by William West Hopper.

FCA, Fiat USA and Motus1 provided us with the use of the 2018 Fiat 500 Lounge Turbo for a week, no other compensation or payment was given to us to review this vehicle.

Rental Car Rodeo – 2018 Hyundai Elantra from Budget – DIA January 2019

Hyundai Elantra in the Colorado MountainsBooking a rental car is always a crap shoot. You go for the best price and choose the rental car company that you feel will give you a decent car though often you have no idea what you will get once you show up at the lot. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and this time it worked out just right.

Reviewing rental cars in this column is a great way to see how cars survived in the tough life of rental service, one of the toughest lives any vehicle can endure. Life as a rental car is not easy, and one that is in the wide open high plains of Colorado often explains high mileage in the short lifespan, which was the case in this rental.

Budget Car Rental was the company that we booked with for a recent trip to Colorado. We needed nothing fancy, just a car big enough to carry three people for five days in the mountains. We find that booking through AutoSlash, a Priceline company, gets a great price, often better by about fifty bucks per rental. And using an upgraded American Express Card provides a better per rental price for insurance, which we have used, and swear by, thankfully not on this trip.

Denver International Airport

DIA Denver International Airport in the snowWe arrived at DIA on a Thursday afternoon, just a snowstorm had coated the landscape with a light dusting, making the many young skiers that were heading up to the mountains thrilled. On the very packed rental-a-car bus, those skier dudes were hoping for F150’s and hot muscle cars, which made me think you guys are driving up to where there will be a lot of snow, Oh yes, that is what it is like to be young, remembering one trip out getting a Jeep was my goal in a Colorado rental.  When we arrived at the counter, being a Fastbreak member, they had a very clean 24K mile 2018 Hyundai Elantra SEL in Electric Blue with beige cloth interior ready to go for us. Surprised that it took longer to wait for the bus than it did to stand in line for a car.

Snow Covered Hyundai Elantra
Snow is a constant in Colorado, and the Hyundai had no problems with it.

Budget had the car cleaned off and all we took a walk around and did our best to disable their tolling device so we could use our own Express pass as we did not want to pay for their daily usage charge plus an inflated toll rate.  The car was remarkably clean and dent free, inside there were a few stains on the seats and headliner, and the faint smell of cigarettes, even though there is a sign on the window saying no smoking.

 

Driveability

20190129_085718This Elantra was made in Hyundai’s Alabama plant and went into rental service about 11 months earlier. With 24K miles on it in under a year, this was going to be an excellent subject for a review.

Hyundai Elantra with Nexen TiresOur first leg of the journey was about an hour on the Tollroad and I25, where the car exhibited tire noise from the P205/55R16 Nexen Tires mounted on 16-inch alloy wheels. The Elantra handled quite well and was still very tight and rattle free after a year’s worth of rental use and 24K miles. The SEL’s Blind Spot Detection (BSD) was very handy and quite accurate, and in a car that you are unfamiliar with it comes in handy. The 147-hp 2.0L 4-cylinder engine performed well with three adults in the car, and the 6-speed automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC® and Active ECO System gave us over 32 average miles per gallon in real-world driving.

Hyundai Elantra SEL Windy conditions as we drove along the open roads did buffet us around as this is a light car, but not so bad that it made the car uncontrollable. The 4-wheel disc brakes provided confident stopping power. And being it was January in Colorado we got to drive in various snow conditions. Not deep snow, but three to four inches of slush. This is where the Nexen PRIZ AH8 tires all season tires did just fine, even with the mileage on them. Occasional the front-wheel-drive did experience some tire spin, but nothing that got us stuck or in trouble.

 

Things that impressed:

 

  • Impressed that at this price point the Elantra has individual tire readings on the dash tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS.)
  • Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Rear Cross-traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist came in handy
  • Rearview camera with dynamic guidelines gave us a large image when backing up.
  • AM/FM/HD/SiriusXM Satellite Radio/MP3 Audio System with 6 speakers and kudos to Budget for having the SiriusXM Radio activated beyond the Complimentary 3-month trial subscription.
  • Bluetooth®hands-free phone system with voice recognition recognized the phone and set up quickly
  • Smartphone/USB and auxiliary input jacks were handy for using as a power source. Though I am not a fan of Android Auto, so I did not put that into use.
  • Heated side mirrors in snowy conditions, a great plus.

Hyundai Elantra DashThere were very few things that bothered us, other than having to reach out and grab the wide opening large front doors on this four-door sedan. And the tininess sound of the door closure, and we never really found a way to open the truck without using the interior trunk release or the keyfob trunk release button.

Overall

Hyundai Elantra has a wide swing for the front doorHyundai makes a great car for the price point, well styled, great fuel economy, roomy in both the passenger compartment and the very large trunk.  And seeing how well this Elantra has held up under the tough conditions of being a rental car, we were impressed with that build quality as well as fit and finish.

This is a vehicle we would recommend buying new, and if pre-owned, doing some research, not sure that a used rental version would be a good value, but if the price were right, and you needed solid transportation, then yes indeedy!

The Hyundai Elantra has a base price of $19735 with $885 freight – plenty of offers   For 2019 The price has increased to $19400 plus $920 shipping – $20,320

Words and Images by William West Hopper

 

We reviewed the Elantra back in the summer of 2016 

Mechanical

  • Inline 4-cylinder with a 2-liter displacement 147 horsepower @ 6200 RPM with 132 lb-ft of torque at 4500 RPM DOHC 16-valve with D-CVVT with a Multi-Point fuel Injection (MPI) using regular fuel.
  • Front Wheel Drive (FWD) with a 6-speed automatic transmission with Normal, Eco & Sport Drive Mode Select and a SHIFTRONIC®and Active ECO System
  • Unibody Body construction
  • MacPherson Strut with coil springs Front suspension with front stabilizer bar and  Coupled torsion beam axle Rear suspension:
  • Motor-Driven Power Steering (MDPS)
  • 78 Ft curb-to-curb turning diameter
  • 4-wheel disc brakes
  • 16-inch alloy wheels with P205/55R16 tires

 

Safety Features

  • Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Rear Cross-traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist
  • Vehicle Stability Management (VSM)
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
  • Traction Control System (TCS)
  • Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
  • Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD)
  • Brake Assist (BA)
  • Advanced dual front airbags (SRS) with Occupant Classification System (OCS)
  • Driver and front passenger side-impact airbags (SRS)
  • Side-curtain airbags (SRS)
    (front and rear passengers)
  • Driver’s knee airbag
  • Energy-absorbing steering column
  • Front seatbelt pre-tensioners and force limiters
  • Rear LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children)
  • Power window lock-out button
  • Front and rear crumple zones

 

Motorcycle Riding in the middle of the DC Winter – Perceptions Altered

Allstate Booth had bikes and prizes as well as rootbeer floatsThis past weekend the Progressive International Motorcycle Show held at Washington DC’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center.  As a non-rider or even much of a two-wheeled enthusiast, what I experienced changed my mind so much that I even, as they say, “I threw a leg over” and rode a bike at their Discover the Ride experience, where you suit up and with a little practice and a quick lesson and get you on an electric powered bike and cycle.

The perceived demographic of the motorcyclist is that of being older and male. What I expected to see was a grisly and bearded group, what was there was hardly a bunch of grey haired old dudes. While yes indeed there were plenty of men of a certain age, there were also teens, twentysomethings, thirtysomethings, women in their 40’s younger and older. Kids, yes toddlers to tweens, and products from all the major brands on display for all age. Allstate Insurance presented a Kids Zone featuring a closed course of battery-assisted balance bikes for children to experience riding for the first time. And the kids were slaying it. Yes, some took a tumble, but they got right back on and rode.

Products

Parents showing their kids that bikes are AOKMotorcycles from all the major manufacturers, Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Harley Davidson, four-wheelers for going out on trails and larger small truck-like utility vehicles that would be great for farms, hunting or just getting out into the wilderness. There was a sign for the Segway products and plenty of accessories and helmets. We found the Confederate Motorcycles an interesting contrast, here are high end, American made limited production objects of desire, that were works of art and with prices that reflected that.

 

Technology

Harley Davidson had a ride experience that anyone could do.Bikers in my mind are thought to be rough as the open road and not looking for the creature comforts. Though it seems they too want heated seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on their ride, and those items are offered as options on some of the upper bikes. Engine technology is advancing, not unlike what is happening in the automotive world. More fuel-efficient engines being controlled by computers were quite common.

 

Walk-In – Ride Out

Discover The Ride Gives new riders a chance to try out riding motorcyclesWe took advantage of the New Rider Course in the Discover the Ride Program, where we first rode electric assisted bicycles and then took out Zero electric motorcycles around a carpeted track at the far end of the show floor. While this was for riders 16 years of age and older, the Kids Zone puts the tykes on small electric bicycles. Seeing these youngsters who may have just learned to walk, all helmeted up and riding around in packs, reminded me of how dedicated and fearless they can be, not unlike kids learning to downhill ski, or pretty much anything, as they have not learned fear, as we do as we age.

 

Yes you could get a tattoo at the show.Or maybe you are just tired of walking around, there are plenty of places to sit down, be it at the Progressive Café where you can get your beard braided or a henna tattoo and have a cold brew. Or at the Allstate booth where after answering an online survey, you get a root beer float or one of the several “parks” set up throughout the event with benches.  One place has massage chairs and there is even a 360-degree Virtual reality opportunity providing the visual experience of riding in Colorado, Arizona, and California.

 

Riding the Zero Motorcycle Electrics was easy on the indoor track.While we may not be ready to go out and buy a bike, there is no question it is now more attractive to do and we may look into taking some riding lessons. And the Motorcycle Industry Council provides courses throughout the year around the country.  Who knows it may make us younger.

 

Words and Images by William West Hopper