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The Nissan Versa Note is a competent subcompact. I know, that sounds like damning praise. But the Versa Note has a lot of good points to it. The model is efficient on fuel, has loads of space, and comes with a fair amount of tech features for the low price. But the Versa Note is a bit dull in terms of design. Nissan has decided to address this issue by introducing the Versa Note SR. This model boasts a number of sporty touches to make the Versa Note more appealing. Let's see if this fixes the dullness problem.

 

The SR treatment begins on the exterior with new fascias, side sills, headlights, and a set of 16-inch alloy wheels. Paired with the breadbox van shape of the Versa Note, the SR model makes the Note a bit more interesting to look at. Inside, Nissan has fitted suede seats with an orange accent stripe running down the middle. Not only are the seats very stylish, they provide excellent levels of comfort. Also new is a updated version of NissanConnect, the company’s infotainment system. The system boasts an improved interface that makes it easier to find things and offers the ability to use applications via your smartphone. Finishing the inside are a new instrument cluster and shiny plastics for the center stack which makes the interior less dull.

 

If you’re expecting any changes to powertrain or suspension, prepare to be disappointed. The Versa Note SR retains the 1.6L four-cylinder with 109 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque. The only transmission on offer is Nissan’s XTronic CVT. The engine is quite comfortable around urban environments as it gets up to speed quickly and without a fuss. On the expressway, the engine feels out of place as it struggles to get up speed at a decent clip. Adding more problems is the extensive noise coming engine and CVT. Meanwhile, the suspension is great at isolating bumps and providing a comfortable ride, but not so much at keeping body motions in check when cornering.

 

So has the SR trim made the Versa Note less dull? Yes. The changes inside and out give the Versa Note a bit of style that was missing from the standard model. While I do wish Nissan had made some changes to the engine and suspension amp the sporty attitude, many buyers will be happy with just the looks.

 

Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Versa Note, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

 

 

Year: 2015
Make: Nissan
Model: Versa Note
Trim: SR
Engine: 1.6L DOHC 16-Valve Four-Cylinder
Driveline: CVT, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 109 @ 6,000
Torque @ RPM: 107 @ 4,400
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 31/40/35
Curb Weight: 2,523 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Aguascalientes, Mexico
Base Price: $17,530
As Tested Price: $19,180 (Includes $810.00 Destination Charge)

 

Options:
SR Convenience Package - $680.00
Carpeted Floor Mats and Cargo Mat - $180.00


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My wife drove one of these (not the SR, but a regular base Versa Note with the CVT) when we were shopping for her new-to-her car. She liked it a fair amount, but the drivetrain was where it kind of fell on its face. We would've been looking at a manual trans version if we'd been impressed enough to consider one, and that probably would've helped, but it just could really use a bit more power. It's a good value car, but we ended up with a Chevy Sonic that beats it in comfort & refinement, and with the 1.4T + 6sp manual, beats it handily in giddyup and being fun to drive.  We liked the Versa Note, but we couldn't quite love it.

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My wife drove one of these (not the SR, but a regular base Versa Note with the CVT) when we were shopping for her new-to-her car. She liked it a fair amount, but the drivetrain was where it kind of fell on its face. We would've been looking at a manual trans version if we'd been impressed enough to consider one, and that probably would've helped, but it just could really use a bit more power. It's a good value car, but we ended up with a Chevy Sonic that beats it in comfort & refinement, and with the 1.4T + 6sp manual, beats it handily in giddyup and being fun to drive.  We liked the Versa Note, but we couldn't quite love it.

 

I've liked the Sonic a lot since it came out. If the RS trim had a power bump instead of terribly aggressive gearing (6th gear turns 3500 rpm @ 60 mph, 34 mpg highway as result) I would probably be driving one now.

 

What kind of mileage are you getting with your stick shift Sonic turbo?

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I believe my wife has been getting around 35mpg. That's mostly doing 80mph on the interstate at high elevation (~4k ft). Wife commutes 25-30 miles each way daily in it, and only about 3 miles each way isn't interstate, and that's still mostly country road doing 45-55.

 

Picked the car up about 2 months ago. 2013 with just under 34K miles for $11,345. Zero problems so far, and I was happy with how easy the oil change was on it.  My only complaint is low end power, especially with the AC on. Once you learn to goose it a bit to overcome that, it's not a big deal, but it's easy to nearly stall it from a stop with the AC on if you're not in the right mindset.

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      Make: Mazda
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      Horsepower @ RPM: 187 @ 6,000
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      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 24/30/26
      Curb Weight: N/A
      Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
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    • By William Maley
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      The Grand Touring tester featured power adjustments for both front seats. The seats will feel a bit too firm for some passengers, but I found them to be just right. It would have been awesome if Mazda provided ventilation for the front seats to bolster their premium ambitions. The CX-5’s back seat offers a decent amount of headroom for those under six-feet. Legroom is somewhat lacking when put against the competition. I found that my knees were almost touching the back side of the front seat. Cargo space is right in the middle with 30.9 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 59.6 when folded.
      Infotainment
      A seven-inch touchscreen featuring the Mazda Connect infotainment system and a rotary knob controller is standard on all CX-5s. Grand Touring models get navigation as standard, while the Touring gets it as an option. Mazda Connect is a mixed bag. The interface is beginning to look somewhat old due to the use of dark colors and a dull screen. Also, trying to figure out which parts of the system are touch-enabled becomes quite tedious as there is no way to tell except through trial and error. There is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility, but I’m hoping the 2019 model will get it.
      For the Tiguan, Volkswagen offers three different infotainment systems ranging from 6.5 to 8-inches. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility come standard. The current Volkswagen infotainment system is one of the best thanks in part to snappy performance and a simple interface. You can do various smartphone gestures such as swiping to move around the system. One disappointment is the lack of any sort of haptic feedback when touching any of the shortcut buttons sitting on either side of the screen. We would also recommend keeping a cloth in the Tiguan as the glass surface for the infotainment system becomes littered with fingerprints.
      Like in the Atlas I reviewed a few weeks ago, the Tiguan experienced an issue with Apple CarPlay. Applications such as Google Music or Spotify running in CarPlay would freeze up. I could exit out to the CarPlay interface, but was unable to unfreeze the applications unless I restarted the vehicle. Resetting my iPhone solved this issue.
      Powertrain
      Under the CX-5’s hood is a 2.5L four-cylinder producing 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet (up one from the 2017 model). Mazda has added cylinder deactivation for the 2018 model that allows the engine to run on just two cylinders to improve fuel efficiency. This is paired with a six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. For the Tiguan, Volkswagen has dropped in a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine producing 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive complete the package.
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      The EPA says the 2018 Mazda CX-5 AWD will return 24 City/30 Highway/26 Combined, while the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan AWD returns 21 City/27 Highway/23 Combined. Both models returned high fuel economy averages; the CX-5 return 28.5 while the Tiguan got 27.3 mpg during my week-long test. Both models were driven on mix of 60 percent city and 40 percent highway.
      Ride & Handling
      When I reviewed the 2017 Mazda CX-5, I said that it carried on the mantle of being a fun-to-drive crossover set by the first-generation. Driving on some of the back roads around Detroit, the CX-5 felt very agile and showed little body roll. The steering provides sharp responses and excellent weighting. The sporting edge does mean a firm ride, allowing some road imperfections to come inside. Not much road or wind noise comes inside.
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      Verdict
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      Disclaimer: Mazda and Volkswagen Provided the vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Mazda
      Model: CX-5
      Trim: Grand Touring AWD
      Engine: 2.5L DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 187 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 186 @4,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 24/30/26
      Curb Weight: N/A
      Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
      Base Price: $30,945
      As Tested Price: $34,685 (Includes $975.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
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      Soul Red Crystal Paint - $595.00
      Illuminated Door Sill Plates - $400.00
      Retractable Cover Cover - $250.00
      Rear Bumper Guard - $125.00
      Year: 2018
      Make: Volkswagen
      Model: Tiguan
      Trim: SE 4Motion
      Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged 16-Valve DOHC TSI Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 184 @ 4,400
      Torque @ RPM: 221 @ 1,600
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/27/23
      Curb Weight: 3,858 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Puebla, Mexico
      Base Price: $30,230
      As Tested Price: $31,575 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Habanero Orange Metallic - $295.00
      Front Fog Lights - $150.00
    • By William Maley
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      Toyota has installed the latest version of their Entune infotainment system in the 2018 Camry. The new version comes with an updated look that retains the ease of use that we have liked on the older systems. Performance is about average for the class as it takes only a few milliseconds to get to the various functions. I do like the array of physical buttons that provide an easy way to move around the system. There is still no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. But considering the 2019 Avalon does have Apple CarPlay, we hope the Camry will get it as well.
      XSE models get a heads-up display as standard. However, I found the display to be more of a hindrance as the image was blurry. I think this is a problem with Toyota as I experienced the same issue in the LC 500 coupe I drove late last year.
      For its polarizing character, you might be expecting the Camry XSE to have either a turbo-four or V6 under the hood. While a 3.5L V6 is available, this XSE featured the standard 2.5L four-cylinder engine producing 206 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. It was a bit disappointing to find this engine under the hood considering the vehicle’s character. Around town, the Camry doesn’t feel as fast as the Hyundai Sonata due to most of the power being available only at higher rpms. On the highway or needing to make a pass, the four-cylinder comes alive with enough shove to get you moving at a decent clip. Disappointingly, Toyota forgot to quiet down the engine during acceleration as there is a fair amount of buzz coming inside the cabin. But the engine quiets down to a murmur when cruising. The new eight-speed transmission pairs well with the engine, delivering unobtrusive and quick shifts.
      Fuel economy figures for the 2.5 are 28 City/39 Highway/32 Combined. My average for the week landed around 32.6 mpg in mixed driving.
      The Camry is the latest Toyota model to move on to the TGNA modular platform and it makes the model somewhat fun to pilot. On a curvy stretch of road, the XSE feels well-mannered as there isn’t excessive body motion and the steering proving a direct and well-weighted feel. Despite its sporting nature, the XSE’s ride is well-controlled with only a few bumps making their way inside. One disappointment is the large amount road and wind noise that comes inside when driving on the freeway. 
      The Camry XSE sits as the flagship trim with a starting price of $29,150 for the four-cylinder and $35,100 for the V6. With a number of options, the as-tested price of this XSE comes to $35,333. That is quite the poor value considering for a few hundred dollars more, you can get into a loaded an Accord Touring complete with a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder producing 252 horsepower. For a couple thousand dollars less, the Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T and Kia Optima SX offer similar driving dynamics and more luxury touches.
      Toyota knew it had to take a big gamble with the new Camry considering the growing demand for crossovers. In certain respects, Toyota has done it. The Camry is not a wallflower in terms of its looks and handling. Additionally, the interior blends a distinctive design with ease of use. But there are some problems that put the Camry in a tough spot. The four-cylinder engine needs a bit more low-end punch for around-town driving. Some more sound deadening would go a long way in making the Camry a good long-distance cruiser. The biggest issue is the value argument as other sedans offer much more equipment for similar or less money than the Camry. Toyota is likely banking on the name equity of model to justify the higher price. This would be ok if we weren’t in a time where more and more buyers are moving to crossovers and utility vehicles. The 2018 Toyota Camry is a much better car from the one it replaces, but the high price tag may be its downfall.
      Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Camry, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Toyota
      Model: Camry
      Trim: XSE
      Engine: 2.5L Twin-Cam, 16-Valve Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 206 @ 6,600
      Torque @ RPM: 186 @ 5,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/39/32
      Curb Weight: 3,395 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Georgetown, KY
      Base Price: $29,000
      As Tested Price: $35,355 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Audio Package - $1,800.00
      Driver Assist Package - $1,675.00
      Panoramic Sunroof - $1,045.00
      Special Color - $395.00
      Illuminated Door Sill Enhancements - $299.00
      Carpet/Trunk Mat Set - $224.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      Many automotive journalists have been flummoxed by the popularity of the Toyota Camry. The model trails the pack in a number of key areas such as design, handling, and performance. But I know the reason why the Camry is beloved by many; it is a no hassle midsize sedan that will go the distance. 
      But there is a change that endangers many midsize sedans. Buyers who previously brought sedans are now trending towards crossovers and SUVs as they offer a number of traits such as a higher ride height and a large area for people and stuff. Automakers find themselves in a difficult spot as to whether they should drop their sedans to focus on utility vehicles, or put more effort into making them more appealing. Toyota has chosen the latter option with the 2018 Camry. Let’s see if they made the right call.
      Previous Camrys have tended to play it safe with their exterior designs. The new model drops the safe attitude and goes for something very extroverted. For the XSE, this includes a different front end with a smaller lower grille and large cutouts in the bumper. The side profile shows off a pronounced character line and a set of 19-inch machined-finish alloy wheels. Move the back to find a faux diffuser and a set of quad tailpipes. I actually prefer the look of the XSE to the other Camry models as it loses out on the gaping maw that is the lower grille.
      Compared to the jumbled-together look of the previous Camry’s interior, the new model features a flowing and modern design. The unique shape of the center stack and contrasting trim pieces for the passenger really help the model stand out. Controls are laid out in a very logical fashion and have easy-to-read text. Material quality is very impressive with exposed stitching, metal trim, and a lot of soft-touch plastic. 
      The XSE features leather seats with eight-way power adjustments for driver and passenger. I found the seats to be on the firm side and provide decent support on short trips. But on longer trips, my lower back started to ache. I couldn’t tell if I design of the seat just didn’t work with my back or if I had too much lumbar. On paper, the Camry has the smallest amount of rear legroom. But in reality, I found that I had more than enough to feel comfortable. Taller passengers will need to duck as headroom is quite tight due to the optional sunroof.
      Toyota has installed the latest version of their Entune infotainment system in the 2018 Camry. The new version comes with an updated look that retains the ease of use that we have liked on the older systems. Performance is about average for the class as it takes only a few milliseconds to get to the various functions. I do like the array of physical buttons that provide an easy way to move around the system. There is still no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. But considering the 2019 Avalon does have Apple CarPlay, we hope the Camry will get it as well.
      XSE models get a heads-up display as standard. However, I found the display to be more of a hindrance as the image was blurry. I think this is a problem with Toyota as I experienced the same issue in the LC 500 coupe I drove late last year.
      For its polarizing character, you might be expecting the Camry XSE to have either a turbo-four or V6 under the hood. While a 3.5L V6 is available, this XSE featured the standard 2.5L four-cylinder engine producing 206 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. It was a bit disappointing to find this engine under the hood considering the vehicle’s character. Around town, the Camry doesn’t feel as fast as the Hyundai Sonata due to most of the power being available only at higher rpms. On the highway or needing to make a pass, the four-cylinder comes alive with enough shove to get you moving at a decent clip. Disappointingly, Toyota forgot to quiet down the engine during acceleration as there is a fair amount of buzz coming inside the cabin. But the engine quiets down to a murmur when cruising. The new eight-speed transmission pairs well with the engine, delivering unobtrusive and quick shifts.
      Fuel economy figures for the 2.5 are 28 City/39 Highway/32 Combined. My average for the week landed around 32.6 mpg in mixed driving.
      The Camry is the latest Toyota model to move on to the TGNA modular platform and it makes the model somewhat fun to pilot. On a curvy stretch of road, the XSE feels well-mannered as there isn’t excessive body motion and the steering proving a direct and well-weighted feel. Despite its sporting nature, the XSE’s ride is well-controlled with only a few bumps making their way inside. One disappointment is the large amount road and wind noise that comes inside when driving on the freeway. 
      The Camry XSE sits as the flagship trim with a starting price of $29,150 for the four-cylinder and $35,100 for the V6. With a number of options, the as-tested price of this XSE comes to $35,333. That is quite the poor value considering for a few hundred dollars more, you can get into a loaded an Accord Touring complete with a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder producing 252 horsepower. For a couple thousand dollars less, the Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T and Kia Optima SX offer similar driving dynamics and more luxury touches.
      Toyota knew it had to take a big gamble with the new Camry considering the growing demand for crossovers. In certain respects, Toyota has done it. The Camry is not a wallflower in terms of its looks and handling. Additionally, the interior blends a distinctive design with ease of use. But there are some problems that put the Camry in a tough spot. The four-cylinder engine needs a bit more low-end punch for around-town driving. Some more sound deadening would go a long way in making the Camry a good long-distance cruiser. The biggest issue is the value argument as other sedans offer much more equipment for similar or less money than the Camry. Toyota is likely banking on the name equity of model to justify the higher price. This would be ok if we weren’t in a time where more and more buyers are moving to crossovers and utility vehicles. The 2018 Toyota Camry is a much better car from the one it replaces, but the high price tag may be its downfall.
      Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Camry, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Toyota
      Model: Camry
      Trim: XSE
      Engine: 2.5L Twin-Cam, 16-Valve Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 206 @ 6,600
      Torque @ RPM: 186 @ 5,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/39/32
      Curb Weight: 3,395 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Georgetown, KY
      Base Price: $29,000
      As Tested Price: $35,355 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Audio Package - $1,800.00
      Driver Assist Package - $1,675.00
      Panoramic Sunroof - $1,045.00
      Special Color - $395.00
      Illuminated Door Sill Enhancements - $299.00
      Carpet/Trunk Mat Set - $224.00
    • By William Maley
      “Despite the positives, the Ioniq finds itself between a rock and hard place.”
      That was how I closed my review of the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq SEL earlier this year. Despite me finding a lot to like about this hybrid, I found myself struggling as determining whether it was better or worse than the Toyota Prius. A few weeks ago, another Ioniq arrived in my driveway for a weeklong evaluation. This particular variant is the base Blue model, which is positioned as the mileage champ in the Ioniq lineup. Maybe this model could sway me in one direction or the other.
      EPA figures stand at 57 City/59 Highway/58 Combined, up 2/5/3 when compared to the Ioniq SEL I drove last year. My average for the week was an impressive 62 mpg - a huge increase over the 45 mpg in the last Ioniq I drove. Why the massive difference in average fuel economy? It comes down to the weather. The Blue was driven in a week where the average temperature was around 80 degrees, whereas the SEL was driven in conditions where it was below freezing. The warmer temps allowed the vehicle to rely more on electric power only. I would estimate that 30 to 40 percent of the miles driven in the Ioniq was just on electric only. The powertrain is unchanged in the Blue. There’s a 1.6L Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder engine, a 32 kW electric motor, and a Lithium-ion Polymer battery that produces a total output of 139 horsepower. This is paired with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. I had no issues with keeping up with traffic as the powertrain delivered decent acceleration. The dual-clutch delivered smooth and quick shifts. Handling is a strong point to the Ioniq as it delivers little body roll and responds quickly to steering inputs. Ride quality could be better as the Ioniq does let in more jolts than the Kia Niro or Toyota Prius. Another area the Ioniq doesn’t fare so well in us noise isolation. There is a fair amount of tire roar that comes inside at speeds above 50 mph.  Telling the Ioniq Blue apart from the other models is quite easy. The front end has a plain black grille and vents in the bumper where the LED foglights would reside. 15-inch wheels with aero wheel covers come standard. Aside from some missing features such as power adjustments for the driver’s seat, the interior of the Ioniq Blue is the same as the SEL. That means a simple and clean dash design, a set of front seats that become a bit uncomfortable during long trips, and a tight back seat for tall passengers. For being a base model, the Blue comes well equipped. There is a proximity key, push-button start, 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility; Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, and automatic headlights. How much? The Blue begins at $22,220, and my tester came to an as-tested price of $23,210 with destination and optional floor mats. As my week with the Ioniq Blue came to a close, I came to the realization that I liked it slightly more than the Prius. A lot of it comes down to the Ioniq offering better performance while returning just as impressive fuel economy figures as the Prius I drove back in 2016. The high amount of features for a low price also favors the Ioniq. I still do think the Ioniq is in a bit of tough spot due to the large appetite for crossovers. This is evident when you compare the sales of the Ioniq to its sister model, the Kia Niro. Through the end of July, the Niro outsold the Ioniq by 6,716 units. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Ioniq, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Ioniq
      Trim: Blue
      Engine: 1.6L GDI Atkinson-Cycle Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor, Lithium-ion Polymer Battery Pack
      Driveline: Six-Speed Dual-Clutch Transmission, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 104 @ 5,700 (Gas); 43 @ 0 (Electric); 139 (Total)
      Torque @ RPM: 109 @ 4,000 (Gas); 125 @ 0 (Electric)
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 57/59/58
      Curb Weight: 2,996 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, South Korea
      Base Price: $22,200
      As Tested Price: $23,210 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00
       

      View full article
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