Best Hybrids for the Money 2014

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Gas prices remain historically high and volatile, and one of the most successful ways automakers and American motorists have adapted is by embracing hybrid technology. Though a few full-size hybrid trucks from GM have been discontinued, 2014 sees as many models as ever. No matter why you may want a hybrid, you might want to know how well it meets its mission.

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To determine if a hybrid's added expense is worth the cash, we devised an efficiency-cost rating. It's simply the EPA's combined mpg rating divided by the base price (meaning MSRP plus destination charge). We then multiply that result by 1,000. This formula can be applied to any type of vehicle, hybrid or not. A high mpg rating and low price provide a high efficiency-cost rating. A higher score is the better score.

We don't account for equipment levels, quality judgments, cost of ownership or any variances from EPA mileage estimates. The goal here is to pay the least for the most mileage, barring all other considerations.

By Joe Wiesenfelder | April 14, 2014 | Comments (10)

2015 Lexus NX: First Look

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Competes with: Infiniti QX50, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi Q3, BMW X1

Looks like: Lexus developed a design around the grille

Powertrain: Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder or hybrid powertrain

Hits dealerships: Late 2014

If there is one sure trend in the luxury-car marketplace, it is the development of the compact luxury SUV. Lexus is officially joining the club with the just-introduced production model NX.

The company has debuted concept versions of the NX a few times, with the most recent being a radical-looking design at the Tokyo Motor Show in November 2013. The 2015 Lexus NX 200t and NX 300h are toned down from the concept but signify a big move by the brand.

The NX is debuting at the Beijing Auto Show next week and will not be at the 2014 New York International Auto Show, which is running at the same time.

 

By David Thomas | April 11, 2014 | Comments (11)

Recall Alert: 2013-2014 Ford Fusion, Escape, C-Max, Lincoln MKZ

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Vehicles Affected: About 42,972 model-year 2013-2014 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans, and Ford Escape SUVs and C-Max Energi and Hybrid vehicles

The Problem:The vehicles' seatback frames do not comply with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards, according to the Detroit News. Certain driver and front passenger seatback assemblies may have been produced with substandard welds joining the seatback recliner mechanism to the seatback frame. This could increase the risk of injury in a collision, the newspaper reported. No crashes or injuries have been reported as a result of the faulty frames.

The Fix: Dealers will replace the seatback frames for free. Ford has not yet listed an owner notification schedule.

What Owners Should Do: Owners can call Ford at 866-436-7332 for more info.

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By Matt Schmitz | April 7, 2014 | Comments (0)

Tesla Promises Safety Upgrades to Model S After Fires

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced Friday in a blog post that the automaker would upgrade its Model S electric luxury car with a titanium shield on its underbody and aluminum deflector plates. These safety measures come in the wake of three battery fires in North America last fall, which prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to open a formal investigation in November into 15,800 model-year 2012-2013 Model S EVs, the Detroit News reported. After the Tesla announcement, federal safety regulators announced they were closing their probe without seeking a recall, the newspaper reported.

"We felt it was important to bring this risk down to virtually zero to give Model S owners complete peace of mind," Musk stated. "There is no safer car on the road than a Tesla."

Get the full story from the Detroit News, here.

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By Matt Schmitz | March 28, 2014 | Comments (0)

AAA Study: Extreme Cold Has Chilling Effect on EV Range

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When it comes to all-electric vehicles, the primary source of apprehension for most would-be buyers is range, and logically so. After all, once your EV's battery runs out of juice, unless you happen to be pulling into a charging station at that very moment, that's as far as you're going — at least until the tow truck shows up. While good planning can prevent that scenario, EV drivers must also account for the sometimes-dramatic swings in range caused by varying weather conditions, especially extreme cold.

A Winter in the Nissan Leaf

A new study released this month by AAA found that EV range can be reduced by as much as 57 percent based on the outside temperature. At the AAA Automotive Research Center in Southern California, researchers conducted a simulation to measure the driving range of three all-electric vehicles in cold, moderate and hot weather, and temperature played a major role in driving range for all three.

By Matt Schmitz | March 28, 2014 | Comments (17)

More Electric Cars Than Ever, Still Not Available Everywhere

Where the electric cars are

As more manufacturers introduce electric cars, these battery-powered vehicles are becoming something people see on the road every day. At least in some parts of the country, they are.

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The number of purely electric vehicles offered in the U.S. will grow to a dozen by the end of this year. Many of those EVs are available only in a small number of states, however, with California being the epicenter of electric-car sales.

By Rick Popely | March 11, 2014 | Comments (1)

2014 Mazda3, Toyota Highlander Earn NHTSA's Top Safety Rating

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Two redesigned-for-2014 vehicles have joined the ranks of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's five-star safety club. Both the sedan and hatchback versions of the Mazda3 compact car made the grade, as did regular and hybrid versions of the Toyota Highlander three-row crossover.

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Both versions of the Mazda3 received scores of five stars in frontal- and side-impact tests and four stars in rollover tests for an overall score of five. The newly redesigned Mazda3's safety ratings compare favorably to those of its predecessor; the 2013 models both received an overall score of four stars, including five for frontal crashes, three for side-impacts and four for rollovers.

The 2014 Highlander models got four stars in frontal-impact and rollover ratings and five stars in side-impact tests for an overall score of five stars. The 2013 Highlander got an overall score of four stars.

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By Matt Schmitz | March 10, 2014 | Comments (0)

Hyundai Announces 2014 Sonata Hybrid Pricing

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The 2014 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid will start at $26,810 for the base model and $31,560 for the Sonata Hybrid Limited, both including an $810 destination charge. Prices are only up slightly compared to the 2013 model, but the 2014 version adds more standard features.

2014 Hyundai Sonata: What's Changed

Both versions of the Sonata Hybrid use last year's 35-kilowatt electric motor and 47-kilowatt lithium-ion battery pack, powering a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that’s good for 199 horsepower and an electric-only top speed of 74 mph; the engine pairs with a six-speed automatic transmission. The hybrid drivetrain uses all-electric mode during less strenuous driving and the gas engine for startup and more demanding conditions, enabling an EPA-estimated 36/40 mpg city/highway for both models, unchanged from the 2013 version.

By Matt Schmitz | March 6, 2014 | Comments (2)

Report: Honda Discontinues Insight

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Say goodbye to the Honda Insight. Its claim to fame was its low starting price and distinction as the least-expensive hybrid among 2014 model-year hybrids. That nod will soon go to the Toyota Prius c as Bloomberg News is reporting that Honda will discontinue the Insight by the end of this month.

Best Hybrids for the Money 2013

The 2000 Honda Insight was the first gasoline-electric hybrid for sale in the U.S. The then-two-seater production ran until the 2006 model year, where it vanished until a redesigned 2010 debuted in its more traditional four-door hatchback form, with seating for five. However, being inexpensive wasn’t enough to compete with the modern Toyota Prius brigade.

By Joe Bruzek | February 26, 2014 | Comments (12)

2015 Kia Soul EV Video

Kia's boxy hatchback was redesigned for 2014, and the automaker is adding an electric model to the lineup for 2015. Cars.com reviewer Kelsey Mays took a close look at the Soul EV after its debut last week at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show.

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Kia says plant-based plastic was used in 19 items in the car and that drivers can expect about 80 to 100 miles of range from the EV. The 2015 Soul EV goes on sale this summer in California and other select states. Watch the video for more.

By Jennifer Geiger | February 10, 2014 | Comments (0)

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