NHTSA Investigates Timing of Graco Car-Seat Recall

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it's investigating if car-seat manufacturer Graco Children's Products was slow to recall millions of child-safety seats this year. The recalled car seats have a sticky harness buckle that can become difficult to unlatch if food or drinks become trapped in it.

Related: Graco Recall Expanded to 4.2 Million Car Seats

Graco faces fines up to $35 million if it's found to have delayed its recall of the affected car seats.

"There is no excuse for delaying a recall to address any safety-related defect," said NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman, according to The Detroit News. "If Graco delayed in protecting children and infants from this defect, we will hold them accountable."

Get the full story from The Detroit News.

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By Jennifer Newman | December 2, 2014 | Comments (0)

2015 Toyota Sienna: Is It New or Just More of the Same?

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Toyota has advertised its Sienna minivan as a "swagger wagon," but the family hauler was short on bravado for many families. For 2015, Toyota has refreshed the Sienna, but is it enough to put a little strut in its step, err, ride?

Related: 2015 Toyota Sienna Price Jumps $1,680 Over 2014 Model

After driving it at a Toyota event in the Los Angeles area, the 2015 Sienna touts enough improvements to keep up with the competition — the Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town & Country and even the all-new Kia Sedona — but it's not a class leader.

Toyota says that most of the changes for 2015 are to the Sienna's interior. It now has soft-touch materials on the dash and upper door trim that blow away the hard-plastic wasteland found in past Siennas. Upgrade to the highest Limited trim level to find the new Chestnut Brown premium leather front seats, but even the midlevel SE and LE trims have leather-trimmed front seats and feature a lot less of the dreaded hard plastic and a lot more thoughtful design details.

By Carrie Kim | December 1, 2014 | Comments (5)

2016 Kia Sorento Grows Up For Families

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Kia seems to be growing up in front of our eyes even faster than my tween daughters. I was happily surprised by my recent test-drive of the new 2015 Kia Sedona minivan, and that growth in maturity is clearly going to be a theme for Kia based upon the all-new 2016 Sorento shown at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show.

Related: More 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show Coverage

Sure, its dimensions have stretched a bit to create a slightly roomier feel inside, but the real story is its upscale fit and finish and attention to usable features in this three-row crossover.

By Kristin Varela | November 21, 2014 | Comments (1)

2014 Mini Hardtop: Car Seat Check

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The old saying is curiosity killed the cat. Well, in our case, it nearly twisted us into pretzels while trying to install child-safety seats into the 2014 Mini Hardtop two-door. This Mini isn't nearly as mini as it used to be with more than 4 inches added to its length and almost 2 inches to its width, but it's not exactly car-seat friendly. And it certainly doesn't have much, if any, rear legroom.

How many car seats fit in the second row? Two

More Car Seat Checks

By Jennifer Newman | November 21, 2014 | Comments (0)

Nissan Prices 2015 Murano SUV

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The third-generation 2015 Nissan Murano has made quite a splash, slated to arrive in showrooms early next month with its show-car styling and high-tech, luxurious interior. And now, Nissan has announced pricing for its premium SUV: The new model will start at $30,445, including the destination fee. That price is for the front-wheel-drive Murano S model; four trim levels will be offered overall, each with an all-wheel-drive option.

Related: More Nissan Murano News

The S all-wheel drive starts at $32,045, with just one package offered, a navigation system. The SV comes in at $33,505 for the front-wheel-drive model or $35,105 for the all-wheel-drive version. Only one package will be offered here as well, a Premium Package. Stepping up from there will be the leather-lined Murano SL for $37,835 with front-wheel drive and $39,435 for all-wheel drive. The top of the line is the Murano Platinum, starting at $39,885 for front-wheel drive and $41,485 for all-wheel drive. The SL and Platinum models also offer a Tech Package, with items such as NissanConnect, navigation, Around View monitor, Intelligent Key with push-button start, an 11-speaker Bose premium audio system and more. Available safety systems include blind spot warning, forward collision alert with emergency autonomous braking and rear cross-traffic alert.

Pricing for the various packages has not yet been provided by Nissan. The new Murano goes on sale Dec. 5 at Nissan dealerships nationwide.

Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

By Aaron Bragman | November 20, 2014 | Comments (0)

Three Minivans Score Poorly in IIHS Crash Test

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The Nissan Quest, Chrysler Town & Country and its twin, the Dodge Grand Caravan, all received the lowest score of poor in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's small overlap crash test. This test simulates what happens when a vehicle's front corner collides with another car or a utility pole and has been a tough one for automakers.

Related: More Safety News

"Minivans are popular among parents, a group that tends to be safety conscious, but we've only seen two so far that offer decent protection in small overlap crashes," said IIHS chief research officer David Zuby in a press release.

Those two minivans are the Honda Odyssey, which received the top score of good in the small overlap test, and the updated-for-2015 Toyota Sienna, with its acceptable score. IIHS scores are good, acceptable, marginal and poor. Both the Odyssey and the Sienna have received IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus designations, which is the agency's highest award. The 2015 Kia Sedona, which recently arrived at dealerships, wasn't tested by IIHS because the automaker plans to make changes to the minivan to improve its small overall protection. IIHS plans to test it as soon as it's available.

By Jennifer Newman | November 20, 2014 | Comments (2)

2016 Ford Explorer: Up Close

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Ford redesigned the Explorer for the 2011 model year, so a 2016 refresh is actually somewhat overdue. The latest model has been unveiled at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show, and now includes a new range-topping Platinum model. The most obvious change is to the front and rear styling, but it's not so great a change that the Explorer becomes unrecognizable.

Related: More 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show coverage

The same overall silhouette remains, and the doors, roof and windows all carry over unchanged. But the nose and fenders are new, bringing the new Explorer's style more in line with the boxier, more angular look of the 2015 Ford F-150 pickup truck. The LED headlights and fog lights up front are bright and distinctive, and the large 20-inch wheels of the new top-trim Platinum looks quite good.

Inside, the new Explorer looks pretty much like the old one, but the devil is in the details.

By Aaron Bragman | November 18, 2014 | Comments (3)

Volkswagen Golf R Variant: First Look

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Competes with: Ford Fiesta ST, Nissan Juke, Hyundai Veloster
Looks like: An amped up grocery-getter
Drivetrain: A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with direct injection mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission making 296 horsepower and 280 pounds-feet of torque
Hits dealerships: Spring 2015 for Europe; U.S.-market release is unspecified

We recently said goodbye to Volkswagen's Jetta SportWagen and hello to the 2015 Golf SportWagen; Volkswagen unveiled a sporty variant of the compact wagon at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. Don't be fooled by its mild-mannered appearance. The Volkswagen Golf R Variant compact wagon may look all Clark Kent on the outside, but it's wearing its red-and-blue Underoos beneath.

Related: More 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show Coverage

Volkswagen is positioning the Golf R Variant as "one of the sportiest compact all-arounders," able to accommodate a family of five one moment and then take a few turns around the track the next.

By Matt Schmitz | November 18, 2014 | Comments (1)

Transport Thanksgiving Food Safely With These Tips

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At some point we've all been tasked with the thankless Thanksgiving job of holding a hot casserole dish on our laps while the family drives to Grandmother's house. And how about getting all those leftovers home after Thanksgiving dinner? While Auntie May's pumpkin pie may seem perfectly pleasant perched atop a lace doily on the dining-room table, it can become a dangerous projectile if not secured properly in the car.

Read More #FamilyCarAdvice

A study of children involved in car crashes conducted by Intel Corp. and the University of California-Irvine revealed some alarming statistics:

  • Of the more than 12,500 children injured by an item inside the car during a crash, at least 3,000 collided with unrestrained objects, a passenger or both.
  • "Unrestrained cargo may even cause death in a frontal crash by striking an occupant's seatback."
  • "Loose objects [in the car] can become lethal … even in emergency braking."
  • To help out you and your family this Thanksgiving, I selflessly volunteered to indulge in some early holiday grub and experiment to find the best techniques to safely and cleanly transport your holiday feast favorites in the car. You can thank me later.
By Kristin Varela | November 12, 2014 | Comments (0)

The Great Car Compromise for Teens, Parents

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My friend's 15-year-old son wants a Jeep Wrangler. Well, if you ask him what his dream car is, it's a Mercedes-Benz G-Class, which starts at $116,325 (all prices include a destination fee), but he's scaling back his expectations to a vehicle he may actually be able to attain. Many teens want dream cars that we as parents either can't afford or don't want to buy for our kids for safety or other reasons.

Related: IIHS: These Used Cars Are Safer for Teens

While my friend's teen sees a Wrangler as a compromise car, his parents may not agree. Below is a list of some popular cars teens would likely want to drive and a list of compromise cars that parents can feel mostly good about. Remember, compromise isn't all about getting your way. If it were, everyone would give their teen their late-model Toyota Camry to drive.

By Sara Lacey | November 7, 2014 | Comments (9)

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