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    2014 Review Wrap-Up: Subcompacts and Compacts


    • Three can be a really nice crowd; looking at the Honda Fit, Kia Soul, and Mazda3


    With 2014 coming to a close and your's truly still having a number of vehicles that need to have reviews written up, I thought it would be a good idea to finish up the year with the remaining vehicles from the 2014 model year. Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting a number of quick reviews. This will be leading up to my favorite vehicles I drove in the past year.

    Let's begin with the smallest vehicles that I reviewed: subcompacts and compacts.

    First Up: 2015 Honda Fit EX

    If there was one model that defined the current subcompact class, it would have to be the Honda Fit. When it was first introduced back in 2006, the Fit featured a clever back seat to increase the practicality of the vehicle; impressive driving dynamics, and sipping fuel like no other. Now the subcompact field has grown in terms of quantity and quality of vehicles. Honda has responded by introducing the third-generation Fit this year. How does the new Fit stand up to the new crowd?

    The Fit retains the shape it has for the past two-generations, but it gets a bit more aggressive and sleeker. The front looks like Honda’s designers watched a bit too much of Iron Man with the solid one piece grille. Other items of note on the front include larger air ducts and slimmer headlights. The side profile boasts two character lines to help give it an identity. Around back are a set of tall taillights and a set of faux vents in the bumper.

    2015 Honda Fit EX 10

    Stepping inside the Fit, Honda has reworked the dashboard layout with controls for the radio and climate control system angled towards the driver. Material quality has seen a noticeable improvement with soft-touch materials and faux aluminum trim used throughout. The touchscreen radio is easy to use and quick to respond. The big downside is Honda deciding use capacitive-touch buttons for volume and home. There were times when I had to hit the volume button more than once to get it to respond. Honda, please go back to normal buttons and knobs.

    Even though the new Fit is about 1.6 inches shorter than the previous model, Honda was able to increase passenger space by 4.9 cubic feet. This is due to a longer wheelbase and a thinner, center-mounted gas tank. Sitting in the back. I found more than enough head and legroom. Now the increase in passenger space means cargo space has dropped by about 4 cubic feet. Still, the Fit cargo’s space is impressive with 17 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 53 cubic feet with the seats down.

    The back seat is also one of the most versatile I have ever come across in a vehicle. The Fit’s ‘Magic’ seat can be set up in four different ways to provide added functionality. Those include:

    • Folding the rear seats down to create more space
    • Folding one part of rear seats (60/40 split) to make room for cargo, while retaining some seat space for a passenger
    • Folding the seat bottoms up to carry tall items
    • Folding the front seats back to create a sudo-bed

    2015 Honda Fit EX 4

    Power comes from a 1.5L EarthDreams four-cylinder with 130 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. In my tester, the engine was paired up to a CVT. The engine has to be worked to get up to speed which is normal for this type of car. What I’m not so happy with is the amount of buzzy-ness that is coming from the engine. Honda has said they have worked on trying to improve NVH levels in the Fit, though I find that hard to believe due to the amount of engine noise in the cabin. Thankfully, the powertrain does quiet down when you settle into speed. The CVT does behave nicely and doesn’t have the whine that most transmissions of this type are known for till you get higher in the revs. Fuel economy wise, the Fit with the CVT is rated by the EPA at 33 City/41 Highway/36 Combined. My week saw an overall average of 38 MPG. I should note that I did see 40 MPG when I took the Fit on a trip to Northern Michigan.

    The Fit earned a reputation for being a fun to drive subcompact, and for the most part that still holds true. It feels playful when going through the curvy bits and the chassis keeps the car grounded. The steering is a bit too light, and it doesn’t have quite the feel that the last generation model was known for. But what surprised me is how Fit did on a long drive. Being a subcompact, I thought the Fit would be uncomfortable due to its short wheelbase. But Honda has made some improvements to the suspension to make it more comfortable for long trips. This means the Fit was able to deal with bumps and imperfections without having any of the passengers feeling it. After doing a drive to Northern Michigan, I had no aches or pain when I got out of the Fit.

    The Honda Fit still stands tall in the subcompact class with its impressive versatility, fuel economy, and driving dynamics. Hopefully Honda has plans in the works for improving the NVH levels in the engine. Otherwise, the Fit is worth a look if you’re shopping for a new subcompact.

    Disclaimer: Honda Provided the Fit EX, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2015

    Make: Honda

    Model: Fit

    Trim: EX

    Engine: 1.5L 16-Valve DOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder

    Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT

    Horsepower @ RPM: 130 @ 6600

    Torque @ RPM: 114 @ 4600

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 33/41/36

    Curb Weight: 2,630 lbs

    Location of Manufacture: Yorii, Japan

    Base Price: $17,560

    As Tested Price: $19,180 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge)

    Options:

    N/A

    Next Page: 2014 Kia Soul ! (Exclaim)


    The automotive marketplace is known sometimes for being the arbiters of fads. Consider such models as Mazda Miata and the clones that followed soon after; or the Chrysler PT Cruiser. The most recent fad that we went through were the box cars, started by the likes of the Nissan Cube and Scion xB. These two models enjoyed some success in sales. Kia would become the third entrant in the box class, with the Soul. Like the Cube and xB, the should would become a decent seller. But in recent years, sales began to wane on the Cube and xB, while Soul continued to rise in sales. So what is it about the Soul that makes it a shining star, while its competitors dim out?

    The Soul’s overall design hasn’t gone through a major transformation. The reason for that is Kia moving 112,000 Souls last year and the thought of a dramatic change could spell doom for sales. But that doesn’t mean Kia hasn’t made any changes. The front end now features a new lower fascia with a trapezoidal grille and a set of fog lights sitting on either side. The back takes some ideas from the 2012 Soul Trackster concept with a new rear tailgate design and large, wrap-around taillights. Those sharp looking eighteen-inch wheels come as part of the Exclaim (!) model.

    2014 Kia Soul Exclaim 12

    Moving inside, the Soul underwent a massive change. The interior looks and feels more mature with improved materials and layout. My top-of-line tester came equipped with a number features such as heated and cooled seats, panoramic sunroof, a color LCD in the instrument cluster, automatic climate control, and the latest version of Kia’s UVO infotainment system which uses Google’s Android operating system. Getting myself situated in the Soul was easy enough thanks to the power adjustments on the seat and tilt-telescoping wheel. Back seat passengers might find legroom being a little bit tight, but headroom is very much in abundance thanks to the boxy shape.

    Power comes in the form of two engines. The base is a 1.6L four-cylinder, while my tester featured the 2.0L GDI four-cylinder. The 2.0L produces 164 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic is the sole transmission choice. The 2.0L engine can be classified as being adequate as it seems to produce the same amount power as it does in noise. Stay on flat surfaces and around town duties and the engine does a fine job. But if you need to merge or tackle a steep hill, you’ll need to put the pedal to the floor and enjoy the noises coming from the engine. To be fair, the six-speed automatic does a decent job of keeping the engine right in the sweet spot of power. As fuel economy, the EPA rates the Soul Exclaim at 23 City/31 Highway/26 Combined. I got 27.3 MPG during my week of testing.

    2014 Kia Soul Exclaim 7

    On the ride and handling front, the Soul did pretty well over some of Michigan’s ‘fantastic’ roads. Bumps and imperfections were mostly ironed over. As for the curves, the Soul’s suspension mostly keeps the vehicle planted. However, the tall shape does mean some body lean appears. The Exclaim model came equipped with the flex-steer system which varies the steering weight. I really don’t like this system as the comfort and sport settings are on the extreme ends (one is really light, while the other is too heavy). I left in normal which provided a nice balance.

    Much like Kia, I can’t fully explain why the Soul is doing so well. But I have a good guess. Kia has a really impressive package in the Soul with an improved interior, good ride quality, and a funky look that makes it stand out. Whatever the reason is, Kia is doing something right with the Soul.

    Disclaimer: Kia Provided the Soul !, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2014

    Make: Kia

    Model: Soul

    Trim: ! (Exclaim)

    Engine: 2.0L GDI Four-Cylinder

    Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic

    Horsepower @ RPM: 164 @ 6,200

    Torque @ RPM: 151 @ 4,000

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/31/26

    Curb Weight: 2,837 lbs

    Location of Manufacture: Gwangju, South Korea

    Base Price: $20,300

    As Tested Price: $26,195 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge)

    Options:

    Sun & Sound Package - $2,600

    The Whole Shabang Package - $2,500

    Next Page: 2014 Mazda3 Grand Touring Hatchback


    Its hard to believe that only a couple of years ago, Mazda was beginning to roll out its Skyacitv technologies in the last-generation Mazda3. In my review of the 3, I praised the Skyactiv powertrain for being a clever way of increasing fuel economy without resorting hybrid technologies. I also wondered how the 3 would be once it received the full suite of Skyactiv technologies. Well I had my chance when a 2014 Mazda 3s Grand Touring hatchback arrived for a week-long evaluation.

    Mazda has been producing some of most distinctive vehicles on the road and the 3 is no different. Armed with the Kodo design language and lovely Soul Red color, the 3 stands out in the compact car crowd. Up front is a tall grille with a slim chrome bar running from underneath the emblem into the front headlights. The side profile reveals stylish curves for the fenders and roofline. Inside, the 3 has really stepped up in terms of design and quality. Materials are top notch, even though Mazda is sticking with the blackout theme. Some contrasting colors would be nice Mazda. Despite an increase an overall size, interior space is still small. Sitting in the back, I found myself wishing for bit more leg and headroom.

    2014 Mazda3 S Grand Touring Hatchback 11

    One big change for the 3 deals with technology. Previous Mazdas featured one of most infuriating infotainment systems I have ever come across with dated graphics, slow response times, not being able to connect phones with Bluetooth, and number of other problems. The 3 now features a new infotainment system with a seven-inch screen mounted on the dash and iDrive-like controller. This new system is easier to use and quick to respond when selecting a function. Also, it quickly connected to my phone. One other technology change deals with heads-up display. Mazda uses a screen that rises from the top of the instrument cluster and projects key information onto it. The trick is that screen is right in line of sight of the windshield which makes you think the information is being projected onto the windshield. Very clever.

    The Mazda3 comes with two different powertrains. i models get the 2.0L Skyactiv-G four-cylinder while s models come with the larger 2.5L. My 3 was equipped the latter which packed 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. This is paired up to a six-speed automatic, but you’ll be able to get a six-speed manual. The 2.5 packs quite the punch and gets the 3 moving at a quick pace. Also, Mazda deserves credit for building a four-cylinder that’s refined and smooth. The six-speed automatic is quick on shifts and provides a good pairing for the 2.5. EPA rates the Mazda 3s Grand Touring at 28 City/38 Highway/32 Combined. I saw an average of 31 MPG.

    2014 Mazda3 S Grand Touring Hatchback 6

    The Mazda’3s handling is amazing. Along a curvy stretch of road, the 3’s chassis keeps the model flat. Meanwhile, the steering has good heft and provides a sporting driver the details of the road. It may not be a sports car, but 3 sure acts like one. Now the sports car aspirations do mean the 3 is a little bit more bouncy when dealing with potholes and bumps. Road and wind noise are kept at decent levels.

    There is one concern I do have with the Mazda3. As tested, my 3s Grand Touring cost $30,415. The price includes $2,500 tech package which includes blind spot monitoring and radar cruise control. It made me wonder if Mazda was asking a bit too much for the new 3. It has value to justify it, but I wonder if someone is willing to drop that much for a Mazda3.

    So the new Mazda3 is very much improved with the full suite Skyactiv technologies that it could be considered as best in class. The price however does give me pause from fully recommend it.

    Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the 3 S Grand Touring, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2014

    Make: Mazda

    Model: 3 Hatchback

    Trim: s Grand Touring

    Engine: 2.5L DOHC Skyactiv-G Four-Cylinder

    Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic

    Horsepower @ RPM: 184 @ 5700

    Torque @ RPM: 185 @ 3250

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/38/32

    Curb Weight: 3,002 lbs

    Location of Manufacture: Hofu, Japan

    Base Price: $26,495

    As Tested Price: $30,415 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge)

    Options:

    5GT Technology Package - $2,500

    Soul Red Paint - $300

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    A Mazda 3s Touring with the newly available 6spd manual is pretty appealing, though it's priced about the same as the 6 Touring. You do get slightly more luxuries in the 3, but I'd have a hard time picking it over the bigger, sexier 6. Once the '16 model is available with its gorgeous new interior (and assuming the 6 Touring keeps its 6spd manual option), it'll be even tougher. 

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    The only one of the cars I can see myself in is the Mazda 3. Mazda is slowly but surely becoming a quiet giant in standard performance for smaller cars. The Mazda 3 also has good size, and handles like a champ. Go Mazda!

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    A Mazda 3s Touring with the newly available 6spd manual is pretty appealing, though it's priced about the same as the 6 Touring. You do get slightly more luxuries in the 3, but I'd have a hard time picking it over the bigger, sexier 6. Once the '16 model is available with its gorgeous new interior (and assuming the 6 Touring keeps its 6spd manual option), it'll be even tougher. 

     

    Yes, if you are comparing the 3 sedan vs. 6, it would be the 6. But the utility of the 3 hatch out-triumphs the bigger sibling.

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    Great reviews.  Your assessments are pretty much spot on.  I was looking at all three of these vehicles, but I went in another direction and recently purchased something used and cheap instead.  I'll post something about it soon.

     

    As for the Fit, I find the exterior design more bland than the last generation, but the interior room is amazing, and Honda infused the car with many more features.  The Soul has a commanding driving position and is much cheaper than crossovers.  It doesn't drive like a penalty box.  The new model is much nicer than the old one.  Mazda3s get very pricey, especially with a loaded Grand Touring model like yours.  But these are also a class above competitors such as the Civic, Elantra, Cruze, and Focus.

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    despite the age and all that, I'd still look at a cruze first and a focus second when it comes to smaller cars.  

     

    I think the Mazda3 lost some of its look at me thing. Its a styling dud now.  The Fit is great but still looks like a minivan and they could put more snort under the hood.

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    despite the age and all that, I'd still look at a cruze first and a focus second when it comes to smaller cars.

    I think the Mazda3 lost some of its look at me thing. Its a styling dud now. The Fit is great but still looks like a minivan and they could put more snort under the hood.

    Really, we must be styling polar opposite. I think the 3 is easily the best looker in the group. I like the Cruze too, but not for its looks

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    I have to say I like the Kia Soul the most even though the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine do not seem to be particularly impressive. I just adore the sophisticated interior design and

    spacious cargo space. With added luxury features like the heated seats, rearview camera, sunroof and Infinity audio system, this baby is sure to be on my Christmas wish list this year.

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    A Mazda 3s Touring with the newly available 6spd manual is pretty appealing, though it's priced about the same as the 6 Touring. You do get slightly more luxuries in the 3, but I'd have a hard time picking it over the bigger, sexier 6. Once the '16 model is available with its gorgeous new interior (and assuming the 6 Touring keeps its 6spd manual option), it'll be even tougher. 

     

    Yes, if you are comparing the 3 sedan vs. 6, it would be the 6. But the utility of the 3 hatch out-triumphs the bigger sibling.

     

     

    That may be true, but if you want fun and real utility, you'd probably go with the grand-daddy of hatchbacks, the Golf. It's a full 8" shorter yet has more room for rear passengers and a nearly 3 cubic feet more cargo room. 

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    Have to agree with the price issue on the 3...that might hold some back. But otherwise my fave.....new Soul looks angry up front. Fit just looks bloated......

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    • By William Maley
      It has been about five years since a Cadillac V series model has graced either one the Cheers & Gears’ garages (if you’re wondering, that would be the 2011 CTS-V Coupe that our Managing Editor drove). It isn’t for our lack of trying. I can give you a stack of emails to the person who handles General Motors’ fleet in Detroit that list the ATS-V and CTS-V as a possible test vehicle. But if you keep bugging someone over time, something is bound to change. That is what happened this summer as a Cadillac ATS-V coupe rolled into the Cheers and Gears’ Detroit garage. Was it worth the wait? 
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      Power for the ATS-V comes from a twin-turbo 3.6L V6 with 464 horsepower and 445 pound-feet of torque. This can be paired with either a six-speed manual or our tester’s eight-speed automatic. Start up the engine and it delivers a meaty, if somewhat muted growl. Don’t let that fool you, this engine will throw you in the back of your seat with no issue. Yes, the turbos do mean you’ll have a moment or two for that rush of power to arrive. But once the turbos spool, hold on. Power comes on at a linear rate and never lets up. The eight-speed automatic delivers crisp upshifts, but it does take a second or so for it to downshift. If you’re wondering about fuel economy, the EPA rates the ATS-V automatic at 16 City/24 Highway/19 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 18 mpg.
      Where the ATS-V truly shines is in the handling. The first time I took the ATS-V down a curvy road, I was gobsmacked at how well it hustled around the corners with no issues. Enter into a corner and ATS-V hunkers down thanks to sticky Michelin Pilot Sport. There is little body roll and the steering provides quick and precise turn-in. The ATS was already a pretty decent handling car, but Cadillac knew that it could be better. The stiffness of the chassis has been increased by 25 percent and there is the newest version of GM’s Magnetic Ride Control system that is faster when it comes adjusting the damping characteristics of the shocks. Three modes (Touring, Sport, and Track) can vary the stiffness of the shocks along with the behavior of the engine and steering. 
      When you decided that you had enough fun and it is time to go back to the daily grind, the ATS-V turns into a comfortable cruiser. With the vehicle in Touring mode, the ride is compliant with some bumps making their way inside. Road and wind noise is kept to very acceptable levels.
      One item that we were disappointed not to have on our test ATS-V was blind spot monitoring. This is part of a $1,500 Safety and Security package that also adds lane keep assist, forward collision alert, rear-cross traffic alert, and more. For a vehicle that begins that begins just a hair over $62,000, you think blind spot monitor would be standard. It should.
      Cadillac has been making great strides since the first-generation CTS-V and the ATS-V is the beneficiary of it. The powertrains will nail you to your seats and the handling can match or surpass the class leaders. But Cadillac is still stumbling over some simple things such as the interior materials and the infotainment system. It is an amazing driving vehicle, but it is let down by the interior.
      At the end of the week, I couldn’t deny this is an impressive vehicle even with the interior issues. It was very much worth the long wait.
      Cheers: Jaw-Dropping performance, Sharp handling, Looks that make it stand out from the crowd
      Jeers: Carbon Fiber package isn't worth the money or worry, Interior doesn't feel like it is worth the price, CUE
      Disclaimer: Cadillac Provided the ATS-V, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2016
      Make: Cadillac
      Model: ATS-V Coupe
      Trim: N/A
      Engine: 3.6L SIDI DOHC Twin-Turbo V6
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 464 @ 5,850
      Torque @ RPM: 445 @ 3,500
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/24/19
      Curb Weight: 3,803 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Lansing, MI
      Base Price: $62,665
      As Tested Price: $79,205 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carbon Fiber Package - $5,000.00
      Recaro Performance Seats - $2,300.00
      Luxury Package - $2,100.00
      8-Speed Automatic Transmission - $2,000.00
      Performance Data Recorder - $1,300.00
      Power Sunroof - $1,050.00
      18-inch Polished Wheels - $900.00
      Dark Gold Brembo Calipers - $595.00
      Sueded Microfiber Steering Wheels and Shifter - $300.00
    • By William Maley
      For a time, the V6 was looked down upon in the likes of the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Ford Mustang because they were seen as lackluster. The engines didn’t match aggression that was being expressed by the exterior of the coupes. But rising gas prices and increasing regulations on fuel economy and emissions has the likes of GM, Ford, and FCA revisiting the idea of a V6 muscle car. We recently spent some time in a 2016 Dodge Challenger V6 to see if it is worth it.
      I will argue that the Challenger is still the meanest looking out of the three muscle cars on sale. Dodge’s designers were able to bring the design of the original Challenger into the modern era without making it look like a complete mess. The little details such as the narrow grille, quad headlights, fuel filler cap, and rectangular taillights are here and help it stand out. Our tester featured the optional Blacktop package that adds a blacked-out grille, black stripes, and a set of 20-inch wheels. The downside to bringing the original Challenger design into the modern era is poor visibility. Large rear pillars and a small glass area make it somewhat difficult to backup or making a pass. The good news is that a number of Challenger models like our SXT Plus come with a backup camera as standard and blind spot monitoring is available as an option. The Challenger’s interior hasn’t changed much since we last reviewed it back in 2014 with the SRT 392. It is still a comfortable place to sit in and controls are in easy reach for the driver thanks to the center stack being slightly angled. Still, the limited glass area does mean you will feel somewhat confined. Power for the SXT is Chrysler’s 3.6L Pentastar V6 with 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic only. If you want a manual, you need to step to one of the V8 engines. The V6 is quite surprising with how much performance is on offer. Step on the accelerator and the V6 moves the Challenger with surprising authority. Power comes on a smooth rate no matter what gear you find yourself in. The eight-speed automatic is one of best in the business with smart shifts. Only disappointment is the V6 doesn’t sound like it belongs in the Challenger. There isn’t that muscular roar when step on the accelerator. A new exhaust and some tweaking in the engine could fix this issue.  As for fuel economy, we got an average of 23.4 mpg. Not bad for a coupe that is rated at 19 City/30 Highway/23 Combined. One item that the Challenger is known for is its ride comfort and this hasn’t changed. Even with the optional Super Track Pak fitted to our tester, the Challenger was able to provide a cushy ride over some of Michigan’s terrible roads. Road and wind noise are kept at very low levels. Speaking of the Super Track Pak, this should be mandatory equipment on the V6 model. With firmer suspension bits, it makes the Challenger feel slightly smaller and reduces body roll around corners. However, it cannot mask the Challenger’s weight. Pushing it around a corner, the Challenger feels quite big and not as nimble the as the Chevrolet Camaro I drove afterward. The Challenger SXT Plus starts at $29,995. Add on a few options such as the Blacktop package and you’ll came to an as-tested price of $34,965, pretty good value for a muscle car. Going with the V6 option in the Challenger isn’t bad a choice. You get the looks of a muscle car and some decent performance. But as I drove the Challenger during the week, I couldn’t help but think about what if I had the V8. Six is good, but eight is even better. Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Challenger, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2016
      Make: Dodge
      Model: Challenger
      Trim: SXT Plus
      Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6
      Driveline: Rear-Wheel Drive, Eight-Speed Automatic
      Horsepower @ RPM: 305 @ 6,350
      Torque @ RPM: 268 @ 4,800
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/30/23
      Curb Weight: 3,885.2 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario
      Base Price: $26,995
      As Tested Price: $34,965 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      SXT Plus 3.6L V6 Package 21V - $3,000.00
      Driver Convenience Group - $1,095.00
      Sound Group II - $795.00
      Blacktop Package - $695.00
      Super Track Pak - $695.00
      UConnect 8.4 NAV - $695.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      For a time, the V6 was looked down upon in the likes of the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Ford Mustang because they were seen as lackluster. The engines didn’t match aggression that was being expressed by the exterior of the coupes. But rising gas prices and increasing regulations on fuel economy and emissions has the likes of GM, Ford, and FCA revisiting the idea of a V6 muscle car. We recently spent some time in a 2016 Dodge Challenger V6 to see if it is worth it.
      I will argue that the Challenger is still the meanest looking out of the three muscle cars on sale. Dodge’s designers were able to bring the design of the original Challenger into the modern era without making it look like a complete mess. The little details such as the narrow grille, quad headlights, fuel filler cap, and rectangular taillights are here and help it stand out. Our tester featured the optional Blacktop package that adds a blacked-out grille, black stripes, and a set of 20-inch wheels. The downside to bringing the original Challenger design into the modern era is poor visibility. Large rear pillars and a small glass area make it somewhat difficult to backup or making a pass. The good news is that a number of Challenger models like our SXT Plus come with a backup camera as standard and blind spot monitoring is available as an option. The Challenger’s interior hasn’t changed much since we last reviewed it back in 2014 with the SRT 392. It is still a comfortable place to sit in and controls are in easy reach for the driver thanks to the center stack being slightly angled. Still, the limited glass area does mean you will feel somewhat confined. Power for the SXT is Chrysler’s 3.6L Pentastar V6 with 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic only. If you want a manual, you need to step to one of the V8 engines. The V6 is quite surprising with how much performance is on offer. Step on the accelerator and the V6 moves the Challenger with surprising authority. Power comes on a smooth rate no matter what gear you find yourself in. The eight-speed automatic is one of best in the business with smart shifts. Only disappointment is the V6 doesn’t sound like it belongs in the Challenger. There isn’t that muscular roar when step on the accelerator. A new exhaust and some tweaking in the engine could fix this issue.  As for fuel economy, we got an average of 23.4 mpg. Not bad for a coupe that is rated at 19 City/30 Highway/23 Combined. One item that the Challenger is known for is its ride comfort and this hasn’t changed. Even with the optional Super Track Pak fitted to our tester, the Challenger was able to provide a cushy ride over some of Michigan’s terrible roads. Road and wind noise are kept at very low levels. Speaking of the Super Track Pak, this should be mandatory equipment on the V6 model. With firmer suspension bits, it makes the Challenger feel slightly smaller and reduces body roll around corners. However, it cannot mask the Challenger’s weight. Pushing it around a corner, the Challenger feels quite big and not as nimble the as the Chevrolet Camaro I drove afterward. The Challenger SXT Plus starts at $29,995. Add on a few options such as the Blacktop package and you’ll came to an as-tested price of $34,965, pretty good value for a muscle car. Going with the V6 option in the Challenger isn’t bad a choice. You get the looks of a muscle car and some decent performance. But as I drove the Challenger during the week, I couldn’t help but think about what if I had the V8. Six is good, but eight is even better. Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Challenger, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2016
      Make: Dodge
      Model: Challenger
      Trim: SXT Plus
      Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6
      Driveline: Rear-Wheel Drive, Eight-Speed Automatic
      Horsepower @ RPM: 305 @ 6,350
      Torque @ RPM: 268 @ 4,800
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/30/23
      Curb Weight: 3,885.2 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario
      Base Price: $26,995
      As Tested Price: $34,965 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      SXT Plus 3.6L V6 Package 21V - $3,000.00
      Driver Convenience Group - $1,095.00
      Sound Group II - $795.00
      Blacktop Package - $695.00
      Super Track Pak - $695.00
      UConnect 8.4 NAV - $695.00
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