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Don Adair's Seat Time

Archive for July 2013

2013 Honda Civic: Everyday greatness

In late 2011, Honda debuted the all-new 2012 Civic.

The next year, the updated outsold all other compacts in the U.S., and was the country’s second-best-selling car.

Apparently, though, Honda has even greater things in mind for the Civic. For 2013, just one year following its stem-to-stern makeover, the Civic gets another sweeping round of updates. More.

Lexus IS delivers on its promise

In 2006, Lexus took direct aim at BMW’s 3 Series, with the launch of the IS compact sport sedan.
 
The IS offered a pair of excellent engines, but its cramped interior and lackluster handling limited it to also-ran status, where it has remained.
 
 
For 2014, the IS finally delivers on its original promise. A thoroughly revised platform begets a roomier, more comfortable cabin and large ride-and-handling gains. There’s an all-new front suspension and, on certain trims, a new eight-speed automatic.
 
To read my full review, click here.

Green cars slug it out in Portland

Yesterday, members of the Northwest Automotive Press Association (NWAPA) gathered in Portland to drive and rate an assortment of “green cars.” What I learned tooling around downtown Portland:
 
  • Sustainability is high on the automotive agenda. We drove 17 hybrids, plug-in hybrids, clean diesels and electric vehicles from a variety of domestic and foreign makers.
  • In these early stages of the green-car game, efficiency-minded buyers pay a premium for their good intentions.
  • My mother was right: I have a champagne appetite on a beer budget.
The NWAPA Winners
 
EV: Fiat 500e
Diesel: Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel
Hybrid: Chevrolet Volt
 
Impressions
 
EVs
 
The EV field ranged from the cute-as-a-button, two-passenger Fiat 500e ($33,495) to Ford’s electronics-laden Focus Electric ($39,995). My top picks: the Focus and Nissan’s Leaf ($36,910), whose range, roominess and overall utility are first rank. Honorable mention — based entirely on style points — goes to the Fiat.
 
Notes: 1) All EVs are eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit; 2) Although GM calls the Volt an EV, the EPA calls it a hybrid, which is where NWAPA put it. 2) Honda’s new Fit EV impressed, but I DQed it for being available in only seven states, none of them Washington. 
 
Clean Diesels
 
This growing segment produces vehicles as diverse as Chevy’s new Cruze Turbo Diesel ($25,795) and Audi’s A8L Quattro Tiptronic ($99,445). My picks: the A8L which, despite its limo-like heft earns EPA ratings of 24 city/36 highway, and the VW Beetle TDI Convertible ($28,690), the only diesel convertible available in the States.
 
Notes: Today’s diesels are quiet and refined. They make bundles of torque while producing up to 30 percent fewer emissions than comparable gasoline engines.
 
Hybrids/Plug-in Hybrids
 
Both varieties of hybrid outsell the other categories by a wide margin — and the competitors keep getting better. I liked the Volt ($45,540) and found it impossible to deny a spot to the Prius V ($35,704).
 
Notes: This segment produced the day’s most pricey competitor, the Lexus LS 600h L ($128,529), a lovely car whose 19/23 mileage ratings more or less defeat the purpose.
 
What Mom Said
 
Mom was right, of course. Of all the worthy cars I could have chosen as a personal favorite, I picked the over-the-top Audi Quattro diesel. A hoot to drive and the absolute pinnacle of diesel refinement.

Portland drive event showcases high-mileage cars

I’ve just driven six hours in a conventional, petrol-swilling car to attend a press event showcasing a gaggle of high-mileage vehicles.
 
Yes, I see the irony.
 
Tomorrow, the Northwest Press Association (NWAPA) hosts its first-ever green-car event. The 20 or so cars we’ll test will represent the state of the art, as it's available today in dealers’ showrooms; hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles and cars powered by clean diesel. No exotica. No fuel cells, no natural gas. 
 
Still, this is how change in the auto industry will happen — one car at a time, one buyer at a time. Watch this space for my irony-free post-event reflections.

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