Archive for September 2012

As CAFE Rules Target 54.5 MPG, Nissan Eyes Trifecta of Fuel Efficiency


New U.S. corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) rules released on Aug. 28 will require automakers to reach 54.5 mpg by the year 2025, but Nissan wasn’t awaiting word from the federal government to increase the efficiency of its lineup. The Japanese automaker has been busy getting ahead of the fuel-economy curve with new vehicles like the 2013 Nissan Altima, and its focus on efficiency will shape several upcoming models as well.

According to a report from Automotive News, Nissan’s fuel-efficiency push is focused on three areas: reducing drivetrain friction, improving aerodynamics and cutting vehicle weight. The largest example of weight-loss efforts to date is the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, which is due to reach dealerships this fall. Switching to a unibody chassis from the body-on-frame platform of the outgoing model, the new Pathfinder has shed roughly 500 pounds, a change that Nissan says will help the vehicle become the most fuel-efficient midsize crossover on the market.

“Nissan has always had an eye on fuel efficiency, but it has redoubled its efforts in the last couple years, and we’re just now getting to see the results,” said Joe Lage, general sales manager of Rosen Nissan Gurnee, an Illinois Nissan dealership. “The new Pathfinder retains the nameplate’s signature capability, but it is lighter and more efficient. Meanwhile, we just saw the new 2013 Altima burst onto the scene earlier this summer as the most fuel-efficient gas vehicle in the midsize sedan segment.”

The 2013 Nissan Altima is an impressive 20 percent more fuel efficient than its predecessor. Returning up to 38 mpg on the highway, a number reserved for compact cars just a few years ago, the standard 2013 Altima sports a revised 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a continuously variable transmission that has 40 percent less internal friction. There is also a 270-horsepower V6 unit available for those looking for additional performance.

Outside, the 2013 Altima sports a new, aerodynamic body featuring lightweight aluminum for the trunk, hood and roof. Underneath the surface, engineers used high-strength steel in the chassis, helping reduce the Altima’s weight even as it grows in size compared to the 2012 model.

Dropping pounds for the new Altima didn’t mean stripping the car of comfort and convenience, however. Nissan’s midsize sedan features NASA-inspired zero-gravity seats that are available with leather upholstery, as well as the optional NissanConnect suite of technologies, which range from hands-free phone calls and texting to streaming audio and navigation. Available safety equipment includes Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning and Moving Object Detection.

“The 2013 Altima is proof that even as Nissan aggressively pursues fuel efficiency, it will still be delivering the style and performance that sets the brand apart,” added Lage. “Each new Nissan coming out over the next year will follow the same formula; the vehicles will squeeze out extra efficiency without making drivers feel the pinch.”

Thrice as Nice: Three Hondas Top Their Segments in Total Quality


When measuring a vehicle’s quality, some auto researchers merely look at the problems each model has experienced, but Strategic Vision has made a point to consider the good along with the bad. The firm’s recently released 2012 Total Quality Index (TQI) highlights vehicles that not only have less troublesome issues compared to the rest of their class, but also better meet the desires of their owners, a formula that led to three Honda models topping their segments.

In the 2012 TQI, the 2012 Honda Accord Crosstour, Odyssey and Ridgeline took honors in the Mid-Size Multi-Function, Minivan and Standard Pickup categories, respectively, placing Honda in a tie for the most segment leaders of any brand. Strategic Vision surveyed more than 45,000 buyers of 2012-model-year vehicles that purchased their new ride between September and December 2011. Feedback was then used to rate each vehicle on a 1,000-point scale, with the Accord Crosstour earning a score of 879, the Odyssey totaling 872 and the Ridgeline scoring 863 to lead their segments.

“The entire auto industry is building higher quality models these days, so a study like the Strategic Vision TQI provides valuable insight by also factoring in owners’ perceptions and whether their needs are being met,” said Tony Pescatore, general sales manager of Chicagoland Honda dealer Rosen Honda. “Honda has always been known for vehicle quality, but models like the Crosstour, Odyssey and Ridgeline show how the automaker also satisfies customers with intuitive technology and convenient features.”

Quality and innovative features were again top priorities in the development of the all-new 2013 Honda Accord, which began production at its assembly line in Marysville, Ohio on Aug. 20. Following the more than 9 million Accords previously built at the Ohio plant, the ninth-generation models feature sculpted styling, efficient new drivetrains and advanced safety systems that should further enhance their appeal to drivers when they start arriving at dealerships this month.

At the core of the 2013 Accord Sedan and Coupe is the introduction of the automaker’s new Earth Dreams powertrains, which Honda says will provide greater fuel efficiency and fun-to-drive performance. The Earth Dreams lineup includes a direct-injected four-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable transmission, as well as an available V6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Official EPA fuel-economy estimates have yet to be released for either drivetrain.

A bonus for those that park frequently in the city, the new Honda Accord is shorter in length than the model it replaces, but a clever design has still led to increased passenger and cargo space. Buyers of the 2013 Accord are also the first to be able to opt for the new HondaLink cloud-based infotainment system, which connects with smartphones for voice-activated access to Facebook and Twitter audio newsfeeds, NPR podcasts, Yelp listings and Slacker internet radio. Meanwhile, other optional technologies like Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning and Honda’s all-new LaneWatch blind-spot display help make driving safer.

“Honda has spared no effort in its redesign of the Accord, and fans can expect the new model to surpass the high standards set by its predecessors,” added Pescatore. “With sophisticated styling, Honda’s latest drivetrains and cutting-edge safety equipment, the 2013 Accord has set a new bar for the midsize segment once again.”


Kia to Let Loose Its Popular Hamsters Again to Tout New Soul


Kia’s “Hamstars” are going to be back in action soon in their fourth ad campaign, as the automaker gears up for the release of the next-generation 2014 Kia Soul hatchback next year. First appearing in ads in 2009 for the Soul’s launch, the urban, music-loving hamsters not only helped sales of the vehicle surge, but also helped build awareness of the brand, with Kia’s overall sales increasing 78 percent since 2008. While the animated hamsters have proven to be wildly popular, Ad Age recently reported that the idea nearly lost out originally to the even odder sight of boars wearing backpacks.

Unusual marketing aside, the Kia Soul is one of the automaker’s best-selling vehicles in 2012, offering a unique mix of versatility, style and affordability. Car and Driver magazine has published photos of a camouflaged version of the 2014 Soul during testing, noting slightly larger exterior dimensions and styling that maintains the vehicle’s signature boxy shape while adding a more steeply sloping front end.

“We expect the next-generation Soul to take the winning attributes of the current model and amplify them, and that’s a pretty exciting prospect for buyers,” said Jeff Rosen, general manager of Wisconsin Kia dealer Rosen Kia Milwaukee. “Younger drivers love the Soul for its value, space and style, so there’s little reason to make big changes to a favorite recipe.”

The Soul’s pull with young motorists wasn’t lost on the editors at Kelley Blue Book’s, who recently ranked the compact crossover at number one on their 10 Best Back-to-School Cars of 2012 list. Only featuring vehicles available for less than $16,000 according to Kelley Blue Book’s Fair Purchase Price, the Back-to-School list highlighted models that appeal to students and their parents alike.

In addition to its singular styling, the Kia Soul was recognized by for its roomy interior, which offers greater versatility than most compact cars vehicles. With the back seats occupied, there are 23.7 cubic feet of cargo space available, a number that swells to 53.4 cubic feet by folding the rear seats flat, making the Soul a capable hauler of dorm room furniture or outdoor gear. However, while it may have the interior space of a more conventional crossover, the vehicle doesn’t have the same thirst for fuel, returning up to 35 mpg on the highway. editors also praised the new drivetrain options that came along with the Soul’s 2012-model-year refresh, which are not only more efficient, but increase power and responsiveness as well. Kia’s urban crossover is available with two engines, a direct-injected 1.6-liter unit producing 138 horsepower, and a 2.0-liter powerplant that outputs 164 horsepower. Both engines are available with a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic transmission.

“When the Kia Soul burst onto the scene in 2009, it was an eye-opener for the industry; nobody had seen anything like it,” added Rosen. “Now, a few years later, the Soul continues to set the bar when it comes to affordable style and efficiency, and the competition is still scrambling to come up with an answer.”