Not All Small Cars Shine in Latest IIHS Crash Tests

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In its latest round of tests the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that diminutive cars still have issues with its challenging small overlap front crash test. This time out electric cars like the range-extender 2014 Chevrolet Volt and 2014 Nissan Leaf were tested for the first time with mixed results, while the Mini Countryman was the only small car in the group to earn a top grade in the test.

Related: Tougher IIHS Crash Test Could Mean Fewer Top Safety Picks

The Volt popped up on IIHS' scale of poor, marginal, acceptable and good with a score of acceptable, good enough for the Volt to be awarded a 2014 Top Safety Pick+ designation, the institute's highest award. The Leaf didn't fare as well in the 40-mph test designed to simulate a collision with another vehicle or a pole and earned a poor rating. IIHS observed intrusion in the lower and upper compartments indicating likely injuries to the left knee and left lower leg, while a left thigh injury would also be possible. Neither electric car had any issue with the batteries or electrical systems post-crash.

Ten other small cars went through this round of IIHS small overlap crash tests along with the Volt and Leaf, including the Mini Cooper Countryman and the Mazda5, which IIHS says is one of the worst-performing models the institute has evaluated in the small overlap test.

By Joe Bruzek | July 30, 2014 | Comments (5)

Recall Alert: 226,000 Nissan, Infiniti Sedans and SUVs

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Vehicles Affected: More than 226,000 model-year 2002-03 Nissan Maxima sedans and Pathfinder SUVs, and Infiniti I35 sedans and QX4 SUVs, as well as 2002-04 Nissan Sentra sedans and 2003 Infiniti FX crossovers

The Problem: A defect in the passenger-side front airbag could produce excessive internal pressure causing the inflator to rupture upon deployment; this could result in metal fragments striking and seriously injuring occupants. This expansion of an earlier action involving a massive recall of vehicles from multiple automakers using airbags manufactured by Japan's Takata Corp. addresses both the passenger-side front airbags that were originally installed in the vehicles, as well as replacement airbags that may have been installed as replacement service parts. For example, a replacement airbag may have been installed if a vehicle had been in a crash necessitating the replacement of the passenger-side front airbag.

The Fix: Nissan will begin notifying owners Aug. 11, and dealers will replace airbags on all vehicles in which defective airbags may have been installed either as original equipment or as a replacement; repairs will be made for free.

What Owners Should Do: Owners can call Nissan at 800-647-7261 or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's vehicle-safety hotline at 888-327-4236, or go to www.safercar.gov, for more info.

Need to Find a Dealer for Service? Go to Cars.com Service & Repair to find your local dealer.

More Recalls

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

What's the Best Cheap Speed Car for $30,000?

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Plenty of drivers want a level of performance without breaking the bank. We found eight cars that prove fun at the track is not limited to the well-to-do.

$30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge
Index | What the Judges Said | Mileage Test

We focused our Challenge on compact coupes, sedans and hatchbacks that cost less than $30,000, including destination charge. We picked the price based on Cars.com's listings for cars of this type that came with the features we know are popular with younger drivers looking for a performance kick. After five days of testing (including a day at a drag strip and a day on a road course) by experts from Cars.com, USA Today, "MotorWeek" and a real-life, in-market family, here's how the results broke down:

By Patrick Olsen | July 28, 2014 | Comments (21)

$30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge: Mileage Results

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Any car owner will tell you the cost of driving does not begin or end with the sticker price or the monthly payment notice arriving in the mailbox. There's insurance, maintenance and yes, the cost of gasoline.

$30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge
Index | What the Judges Said | Results

The competitors in our Cheap Speed Challenge may be relatively affordable considering their performance chops, but six of the eight require premium gasoline. Going into the contest, mileage didn't seem like it would be much of a story.

After a 220-plus-mile route through Wisconsin and Illinois that mixed in winding country roads, city streets and plenty of construction-laden highways, we discovered mileage was indeed worth talking about in this class.

By David Thomas | July 28, 2014 | Comments (1)

$30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge: What the Judges Said

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To test our sub-$30,000 speedsters, we put them through an even more rigorous set of tests than we usually use in our Challenges:

  • We spent one day at the Byron, Ill., Dragway to get zero-to-60-mph times and quarter-mile times and speeds; we also captured 60-mph-to-zero braking distances there.
  • We spent one day at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Ill., where the experts put the cars through a long day on the road course there.
  • We took all eight on a mileage drive of more than 200 miles to judge real-world fuel economy.
  • The experts drove all eight over the same course, back-to-back, to judge real-world ride and handling, acceleration and braking.
  • And then we brought in a real-life car shopper, Joe Weiss, a 38-year-old quality assurance manager from Chicago who's in the market for just such a car for himself and his fiancee.

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Weiss joined our cast of judges (left to right):

  • Brian Robinson, producer for PBS' "MotorWeek"
  • Joe Wiesenfelder, Cars.com executive editor
  • David Thomas, Cars.com managing editor
  • Joe Bruzek, Cars.com road test editor
  • James R. Healey, auto writer for USA Today

We set a maximum price of $30,000, including a destination charge. We had 10 cars on our list when we started, but we ended with eight (more on that in a bit):

  • 2014 Fiat 500 Abarth
  • 2014 Ford Fiesta ST
  • 2014 Honda Civic Si
  • 2014 Hyundai Veloster Turbo
  • 2014 Kia Forte5 SX
  • 2015 Mini Cooper S Hardtop
  • 2014 Nissan Juke NISMO RS
  • 2014 Scion FR-S
  • 2015 Subaru WRX
  • 2015 Volkswagen GTI

Mini said it did not have a Cooper in its press fleets that could meet our price cap; the Civic lost a tire after hitting a Chicago pothole, and repairs could not be made in time for track days. The judges did drive it in our round-robin day, and a report on those tests can be found here.

$30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge
Index | Results | Mileage Test

Here's how the scoring broke down: The experts' scores accounted for 50 percent of the total score; 10 percent came from the shopper's scores; 30 percent was based on track performance; and the remaining 10 percent was based on fuel economy.

Here is what the judges had to say about each car, in order of how the cars finished:

By Patrick Olsen | July 28, 2014 | Comments (8)

2014 Nissan Juke NISMO RS Photo Gallery

 Cheap Speed Challenge: 2014 Nissan Juke Nismo RS

The 2014 Nissan Juke NISMO RS finished seventh in our $30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge. "For a crossover, it's a pretty poor execution, but for a performance car trapped inside a crossover body, this thing is pretty remarkable," said one of our judges. Check out our gallery below of the Juke NISMO RS up close and on the track.

Click on any image for a larger version.

Cars.com photos by Evan Sears

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

What's the Most Affordable Car in 2014?

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Shoppers may face legitimate sticker shock when they're shopping for a new car. TV and radio advertisements may lead them to believe that new cars all get at least 35 mpg for less than $15,000, but the price of entry for even a modestly equipped new car is well above that.

Related: What's the Most Affordable Compact SUV for 2014?

That's why we've taken the cars with the lowest sticker prices and added a dose of reality. A vast majority of buyers never consider buying a car with a manual transmission (often the standard equipment on inexpensive new cars), so right out of the gate the car they're shopping for costs significantly more than they thought it would. Opting for an automatic transmission can cost $1,000 or more.

By David Thomas | July 21, 2014 | Comments (8)

Nissan Plans Self-Driving Systems for 2016

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During the next several years Nissan has some big plans for its vehicles — and most of them don't involve the driver. The automaker announced plans to make several autonomous vehicle technologies available on its cars over the next few years, with the ultimate goal of a completely self-driving car.

Google Announces New Self-Driving Car Prototype Fleet

Starting in 2016, Nissan hopes to equip its vehicles with traffic-jam pilot, which will drive the vehicle in stop-and-go traffic, and an automatic parking system, similar to what's already offered by several automakers. By 2018, Nissan hopes to launch a system that allows the car to change lanes without driver input, and before the end of the decade, another that autonomously pilots the car across intersections.

Click here for more from our friends at The Dallas Morning News.

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By Jennifer Geiger | July 18, 2014 | Comments (0)

2015 Nissan Pathfinder: What's Changed

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Most significant changes: Updated continuously variable transmission; Pathfinder Hybrid on hold for 2015

Price change: TBA

On sale: October

Which you should buy, 2014 or 2015? 2014

When the Pathfinder was redesigned for 2013 it switched to a car-based unibody platform from a truck-based body-on-frame design, gaining fuel economy, interior space and ride comfort while losing some towing capacity and a V-8 engine option. For 2015, all models come with a 3.5-liter V-6 and CVT, and buyers have a choice of front- or all-wheel drive.

$40,000 3-Row SUV Challenge

The Pathfinder carries over four trim levels; S, SV, SL and Premium for 2015. The higher-level SL and Platinum trims add blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert. Four-wheel-drive versions of any trim gain hill descent control, and the standard CVT gets D-Step Shift logic that enables it to behave more like a conventional step-gear automatic.

By Rick Popely | July 15, 2014 | Comments (0)

Want a New Nissan Cube? Time's Running Out

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Nissan announced this week that it would be discontinuing the box-shaped compact hatchback Cube for 2015. The 2014 models that remain on dealer lots will be the last new Cubes to be sold in the U.S.

Related: Ten Cars That Won't See 2015

This isn't an unexpected move. We even predicted the Cube had a high probability of an early demise last year. "The Cube is a dog: It handles like a skateboard, surrenders to highway crosswinds and has the passing power of a 1990s econobox. The side-hinged cargo door is anathema to parallel parking, and the once-impressive high-20s combined EPA mileage has been leapfrogged by Nissan's cheaper, techier Versa. The Versa, in fact, outsold the Cube this year [2013] by a ratio of nearly 22-to-1."

By David Thomas | July 11, 2014 | Comments (10)

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