2019 Honda Insight – The Best Looking Hybrid For Under $30k?

Hybrid vehicles have come a long way since 2000, but the lasting image in many consumers’ minds is the appearance of the Toyota Prius. Even worse, there’s been a negative perception towards the car, and for good reason if you’re a car enthusiast. It’s the embodiment of the lack of love for cars by some drivers, and that it’s only purpose is to get from Point A to Point B. Despite the pushback by consumers who prefer gas powered cars, the Prius has owned the hybrid segment for almost two decades, but has their run of glory finally come to a close with the reintroduction of the all new 2019 Honda Insight?

Whether Honda received criticism or not in the past for their design of the Insight, the first generation back in the early 2000’s resembled a computer mouse. The second generation made some improvements in 2010 when it was brought back, but still didn’t make any headway against the Prius, even though the Insight had a similar appearance which was done on purpose to try enticing consumers to switch to Honda. Now the 2019 model year takes on yet another look, and this time it comes in the form of a sedan.

Built on the same platform and sharing the same design cues as the Civic, the Insight has grown up and matured to a point that we now have to take this hybrid seriously. I’m on the fence of whether I actually prefer the appearance of the Insight over the Civic, as its road presence is much more appealing. Honda clearly listened to the demands of car buyers, and went much more conservative to make this sedan look like an average compact vehicle.

I know what you’re thinking. “But what about the Accord and Camry which both have hybrid trims? They’re normal four-door sedans but use alternative energy to increase mpg’s”. The reason the Insight raises eyebrows is because it’s a pure hybrid and doesn’t offer gas powered trims, which makes it serious competition for the Toyota Prius. Pricing will also play a factor, as the Insight starts close to $1k less than the base model Prius.

For fuel economy, the Insight gets 55 mpg in the city and 49 mpg on the highway for the LX and EX trims due to the 16″ wheels that come standard. The Touring will be slightly less economical as you’ll get the upgraded 17″ alloy wheels, but to make up for it, heated leather trimmed seats, a power moonroof, and a power driver’s seat highlight some of the upgrades over the EX trim.

We can delve into the numbers and do an in-depth comparison with the Prius, however this hybrid sedan is not meant to convert the cult following of Toyota loyalists, but instead reach the buyers who are on the fence. It’s the first impression that’s going to leave a lasting impact for the Insight, which is why it has a strong chance of being a success in the US. It wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that pedestrians and fellow motorists passing by would be surprised to find out out it’s a hybrid, as the Insight could be perceived as being a next generation Honda Civic.

Not to be funny, but the journey this car has gone on in the last 20 years is like that movie, “A Dog’s Purpose” starring Dennis Quaid. Not only was the dog searching for a life purpose, but each time he passed away he reincarnated as a different breed, similar to the Insight which went from a two-door, to a hatchback, to now a sedan. It’s possible that Honda has finally found a purpose for the Insight, and as a good looking compact sedan, it could fare very well with consumers gravitating towards hybrid technology.

2019 Kia Forte EX – The Compact Car Isn’t Dead Yet

The year 2020 is on the horizon and for many, the compact car is an afterthought due to the high demand in crossover SUV’s. Ford has decided to no longer make sedans or hatchbacks and instead focus solely on crossovers and pickup trucks, which some believe is the growing sentiment in the automotive industry and the type of future that consumers will soon have to face. However, there’s brands like Chevrolet, Toyota, and Honda who are still committed to cars and have no intention of ending successful models for the sake of following a growing trend in the market. Then you have Kia who releases the all new Stinger which became an immediate hit, and now they hope the completely redesigned Forte shares the same success.

Remember the days when compact cars were purchased for being economical, whether that be for fuel efficiency or affordability? Now cars like the Kia Forte EX bring much more than just an appealing sticker price and good fuel economy; they also offer some comfort features that even 5-10 years ago would be considered a dream to have in a car aimed at young and first time buyers. Features like heated and ventilated front seats, Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility, a touchscreen with a navigation system, and rear backup camera with trajectory can be found on the EX trim of the Forte.

What some in the automotive industry are speculating is that with less competition in the compact car and sedan segments, manufacturers can spend much more time on the smaller details. Cars like the Kia Forte and Ford Focus were at one time cheap cars that got good gas mileage with no expectations of having any sense of entry level luxury. The 2019 Forte is certainly nowhere near a luxury car, but for around $27k to get that many tech features, including wireless phone charging, compact cars have come a long way since 2000.

This begins to raise the question whether the sedan and compact cars really are dead or on the way out. Over the last 30 years there have been major swings in consumer behavior, sometimes being due to the economical climate in the United States. We’ve seen big cars get phased out for a while, we’ve seen the rise and fall of the large SUV which is slowly making a return, the almost near death of mini-vans, and the re-introduction of a station wagon in Buick’s lineup for the first time since the mid 90’s. The pendulum swing is inevitable as people in general want to be different than their neighbors, so at this point it’s just a waiting game to see when momentum shifts in a new direction.

In the meantime, compact cars are silently being improved, offering affordability and tech features along with the pre-existing practicality that should appeal to younger buyers. Working in the 2019 Forte’s favor is the bold and aggressive appearance that sports similar design cues to the Kia Stinger. While the Forte’s small 2 liter four cylinder engine only gets 147 hp and the lack of AWD may not give you the Stinger feel, you’re going to have a car that is sleeker than most in its class. The weak spot the Forte has is the CVT. Kia has said it’s not a traditional CVT and they’ve worked on making it mimic shifts you’d experience in an automatic, but the engine drone isn’t appealing to hear when accelerating. However, the Forte does come with three different driving modes, and when put into sport mode, the transmission does shift faster which certainly limits the drone you’ll experience.

There has been speculation of an SX trim that should bring more horsepower and hopefully a different transmission, but so far there hasn’t been any news, which is to be expected as the 2019 model year is beginning to hit showrooms now.

Inside, the heated and ventilated seats unfortunately aren’t real leather, but that shouldn’t be expected in a car in this particular segment. To have ventilation is an eye opener because that isn’t a feature that’s common in most compact cars heading into 2019. Some of the interior design does resemble Mazda, especially with the touchscreen no longer being integrated into the center console, and is now higher up towards the dashboard. For the instrument panel you’ll get both analog gauges and a digital information display that’s becoming widespread across all vehicles in every segment.

As technology continues to trickle down to more affordable vehicles like the Kia Forte, these cars then become more appealing. The only negatives that compact cars are facing is the lack of versatility and AWD. The Forte only gets about 18 cubic ft of cargo room while crossovers will provide more room and AWD, which consumers then perceive the smaller cars are providing much less value. As mentioned before, the current US economy supports the decision for car buyers to go bigger with crossovers, and no matter what direction the stock market goes in by the beginning on next decade, consumer behavior will inevitably change. To some degree, their purchasing decisions might be affected by what their friends and neighbors are doing and clearly that’s what happened with crossovers.

Is there still a future for compact cars and sedans? Some car brands believe so, and without competition from rival manufacturers, they can continue to improve these vehicles making them enticing to consumers of all ages. Now the only question is, how long must we wait before cars have everything we want, from performance to practicality. That day may not come at all, but brands like Kia aren’t throwing in the towel just yet.

Maserati Levante S – A Fun Crossover That Gets No Love

It appears the cool thing to do in 2018, or really ever since the Maserati Ghibli and Levante hit showrooms, is to find a way to critique or bash the vehicles for interior and overall design quality. While I have reviewed a 2014 Ghibli in the past and was disappointed after years of building an expectation that never met reality, I can honestly say that is not the case for the Maserati Levante. In fact, I’m going to argue that it’s the complete opposite, especially for the 2018 model year. I can already see the eye rolls, but the Levante is one vehicle that you have to test drive and experience for yourself, rather than just parroting what a car reviewer is spewing on YouTube.

When the Levante hit the market back in 2016, there were a few flaws that would later be corrected. One being for the base model that front and rear parking sensors did not come standard, which was one major complaint especially when you’re paying more than $70k for a luxury crossover. Next would be that if you wanted to shift into reverse, the Levante would refuse to do so, and instead would shift into drive or park. This is something I didn’t encounter during my time with the 2018 model, and speaking of the current model year, front and rear parking sensors do come standard for all trims of the Levante.

Having read and watched many reviews prior to spending time with the sports crossover, there was a level of low expectations, and in the back of my mind I’m thinking this might turn out to be the Ghibli all over again. The minute I stepped inside and put the Levante in sport mode, that’s when everything changed. To drive a crossover that not only sounded like a sports car, but handled and drove like a luxury crossover immediately put a smile on my face. Where critics do give the Levante favorable ratings is the driving experience, and for good reason as your time behind the wheel isn’t boring and mundane like other vehicles in this segment.

The Levante I was testing was a fully specced $106k S GranLusso that came with Zegna silk and leather seats. They were some of the most comfortable bucket seats I’ve ever sat in, which certainly helped make the drive memorable. For a larger crossover, the Levante handled impressively well, and in tighter corners felt glued to the roads with very little, if any body roll. The gear shifts were almost instantaneous when using the paddle shifters, and for the first time, a test drive in a crossover was actually fun.

Obviously being an FCA product, the same infotainment system that can be found in a Chrysler was in the Levante. What I’ve never really understood was why this was that big of a problem, as Apple Car Play and Android Auto are offered, you get navigation, and you’ll also receive Sirius XM Radio and Travel Link. The one valid critique is that to access the heated and ventilated front seats there’s no button in the center console and instead to turn that feature on and off you have to use the touchscreen.

The smaller touches that can be seen in Dodge products is another problem most people have with the vehicle, but it’s something you begin to overlook when getting behind the wheel. That’s where Maserati may have the edge on competitors. The driving experience is nothing like other luxury crossovers from German automakers because you feel more engaged, and when the valves open in sport mode it will be irresistible to just drop a gear and leave the car that’s in the rearview mirror far behind you. The V6 engine that comes with 424 hp is going to surprise a few of your fellow commuters, and whether you want to have fun or go for a leisurely cruise on backroads, the different driving modes are suitable for either style of driving.

Pricing is one of the larger issues consumers have with the Levante, which is certainly a valid point. As a certified pre-owned crossover after the initial hit of the depreciation, the Levante then becomes a potential sought after vehicle that could be the better option for buyers in this segment.

Overall, Maserati’s first crossover isn’t a bad vehicle. Does it have flaws? Absolutely, but it’s nowhere near disappointing and if you can deal with the FCA infotainment system, you’re going to have one of the best sounding crossovers on the road today.

Here’s the full review for the 2018 Maserati Levante S GranLusso. Is it worth the price and a vehicle that should garner more respect in the automotive community? That’s up to the consumer and the individual.

Are Consumers’ Demand For Luxury Interiors Driving Prices Up?

In an age of living a luxurious life, even for those living well beyond their means, we’re seeing prices gradually moving up, pinching middle class consumers in the process. The automotive market is one of those industries in which we’re witnessing the inflation of car prices. Vehicles that shouldn’t be priced any higher than $16,000 – $18,000 are nearing $20,000+, and consumers are beginning see how buying a 1-2 year old used car is a better fiscal decision than walking into the dealer and driving off the lot in a brand new car. But are consumers partially to blame for the uptick in vehicle prices?

Europeans are known to prefer luxury and driving experience over flat-out performance, which is why European auto makers produce more expensive cars that capture the very best in what the automotive world has to offer. Over the years we’re seeing this trend beginning to grow in the United States as flat-out performance is not selling as quick as luxury, something Cadillac refuses to see as they’re marketing performance first and their sales figures are dropping because of that. Muscle cars have made a slight rebound with the emergence of the Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcats, the new fastback Ford Mustang, and the Chevrolet Camaro which will be sporting a new look next year.

If you’ve been to car shows recently you’ve noticed that interiors of low-end cars now have an upscale appeal. The Mazda3 and Mazda6 have very comfortable and luxurious interiors, which is a slight shock considering that they’re not a luxury brand. The Honda Civic EX-L, priced around $25,000, has an amazing interior, and if you forget about the engine that it has, you’d have to say that it’s a very impressive car. This leads me to the Toyota Yaris, which some trims cost near or exceed $19,000. That’s absolutely outrageous as this is the Hyundai Elantra GT’s price range territory. True, it gets less gas mileage than the Yaris, but why buy a micro hatchback when you can buy a full size for the same price?

The interiors and their infotainment systems are partially to blame, but so are the consumers. Bluetooth, navigation systems, electric sunroofs, touch displays, and premium cloth or leather seats all factor into the price. The reason why cars like the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris are considered economical cars is because they’re supposed to be cheap while also offering great gas mileage. Not in 2015. While you have the option to buy the base model, $16,000 is still no drop in the bucket either. Which raises the question as to why consumers would buy new in this current market? Leasing offers have become more appealing than buying, and you actually end up with a better car for 24-36 months than if you bought a car for $18,000.

The luxurious lifestyle is great, but are we living way beyond our means? The Mazda3 was once affordable, a rival to the Ford Focus. Now a top trim Mazda3 is impeding on the Chrysler 200’s territory. For those who do have the money to buy a $25,000+ car, this is a great time to buy. Instead of spending $40,000 on a Mercedes Benz or BMW, you can get an upscale interior for a fraction of the cost. In the sure sense of practicality, a top trim Mazda3, Subaru Impreza Premium, or a Honda Civic EX-L is a much better option, and you don’t break the bank buying a car that offers every infotainment system on the market.

Car companies have their reasons for spiking the prices of cars, but consumers’ demands for luxury interiors and infotainment systems have been a cause for more expensive cars that were once affordable. Whatever happened to the days when we’d get in our cars, turn on the radio, roll the windows down, and enjoy the driving experience? Owning a luxury car is by no means a bad thing, but we’re continuously outdoing ourselves by demanding luxury in cars that are nowhere close to being upscale.

#SaveTheManuals: A Valiant Effort All For Not

The age of the manual transmission is coming to a close. With automatics dominating the auto market, auto-shift and paddle shifters replacing the traditional manual, hard core car enthusiasts will have to either buy an older car or hope an auto manufacturer specifically targets to a dwindling market. As of right now, manuals make up about 6-10% market share, leaving the other 90-94% to being automatics or non traditional manuals that allow the driver to switch from manual to automatic when he/she so chooses. Last month, Acura announced that the only car in their lineup that will have a manual transition will be the ILX, which hasn’t generated great sales for the Honda-owned car brand.

When Ferrari, Lamborghini, and McLaren have paddle shifters on their models, you know we’re entering into a new era of cars. People have given many reasons as to why this phenomenon is happening. Some say it’s because the infotainment systems in cars require too much attention from the driver, so manually shifting become a second thought. Others say it’s because automatics have become just as fuel efficient as manuals, and due to the computer systems in cars now, the car can shift just as good, if not better than a human. But I personally believe that automatics are more convenient. Isn’t that where our culture is heading? Convenience?

A 16 year old who is learning how to drive, or just got his/her license can just get behind the wheel, put the key in the ignition, and drive off to their destination. There is no energy required, no secondary action needed while driving, and with the cars that are being produced today, a person driving an automatic can fully enjoy their vehicle just the same as owners of manuals.

Let’s also remember that auto manufacturers are companies. They’re following the money, and that trail does not lead to a large market for manuals. Six to ten percent isn’t a huge chunk of the market. In the last 35 years, we’ve seen a 25% drop in demand for the traditional manual, which means less money is going to that market. For these companies to survive they need to follow the money. This is the same reason that every car brand is entering the crossover market. Porsche manufacturing two SUV’s and a four door, and Ford bringing the Focus RS to America to compete with the likes of the Subaru STI and the Volkswagen GTI, is another example of car brands getting into a market that is making money.

We’re seeing a massive change and shift in the automotive world. Because of these changes, transmissions, infotainment systems, and other components have been updated to appeal to a broader market. Unless consumers start buying manuals, the days of the traditional stick shift will be over. It’s been a valiant effort, but it might be all for not.

The Subcompact Market Isn’t As Cheap As You Think

Who would have ever thought that we’d see a day when a Toyota Yaris and Mitsubishi Mirage cost $16,000 – $17,000? That’s just a base price. The top trim Yaris could cost you as much as $19,000, and all you’re getting for it is 106 hp, 32 combined mpg, a touch screen and bluetooth. There isn’t much cargo room, very little shoulder and leg room, and at the end of the day, you’d be better off buying a Honda Fit. When does the cost for sub compacts become unreasonable, especially since we’re talking about a market that attracts consumers who want overall practicality?

The problem with the price is what the subcompact car is offering. Yes, to add features like a touch screen and bluetooth is great, but what is the overall goal with this market? To be practical in every sense of the word. For starters, the price isn’t practical. Not when it comes to the other options on the market. In a matter of 8 years, the Yaris’ price has spiked $3,000, and while MSRP says the base price is around $16,000 for the 2015 model, Toyota dealers are selling some of them close to $19,000+.

Without even looking to other brands, the Yaris’ top trim price is invading the Toyota Corolla’s territory. One could argue that the Honda Fit does the same to the Civic, but at least the Fit has cargo room and offers more value to the consumer. With President’s Day sales extended into March due to the snowstorms we’ve gotten in the Northeast, there are better options consumers could go with, and while fuel economy might be lacking, some of the cars are not too far off from the Yaris’ 32 combined mpg.

Some of the other options in the $17,000 – $19,000 price range are –

Toyota Corolla L/LE/S

Honda Civic LX

Honda Fit LX/EX

Ford Focus SE

Ford Fiesta SE

Those five vehicles are better options in terms of cargo space, shoulder and leg room, and fuel economy isn’t too bad. The list could be extended even further, but I think you get the picture as to what you could get at this price if you decided to buy new.

Due to sales events going on currently, the Hyundai Elantra SE/Sport and the Elantra GT are within the $18,000 to $19,500 range. The Subaru Impreza sedan and hatchback are also available within this price range, along with the Volkswagen Jetta S /w Technology Package, and even the Chrysler 200 limited which is one of the biggest surprises so far to have such a sale.

After seeing the prices, the subcompact market doesn’t seem so reasonable or practical anymore. If owning a small car is a must and you’re not concerned about cargo space, then by all means go with the Yaris or Mirage. But always remember that there are some great offers out there, and better cars to choose from than going the subcompact route.

If you prefer a small hatchback, the Fiesta, Fit, VW Golf, Elantra GT, and Kia Rio are other options on the table. In the sedan market, some dealers even have Ford Fusion’s, Toyota Camry’s, and Hyundai Sonata’s on sale for $3,000 to $4,000 below MSRP. Right now is the time to buy and take advantage of some of the deals. On a $16,000 – $19,500 budget, you could find a quality car that not only looks better, but is better built and worth the price.

Debunking the “Leasing is a Bad Option” Opinion

Go on any online forum, Facebook page or group, Twitter, or Reddit and you’ll find an overwhelming majority of commenters and members of groups discouraging many people from leasing when they ask the question. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Some people prefer buying outright, some would rather buy certified pre-owned or used, and a growing percentage of consumers are looking at leasing rather than buying. Every consumer has their motivation as to how, what, and why they buy the cars they do, but why is leasing always ripped when someone asks the question?

One of drawbacks of leasing is the annual mileage limit that typically ranges between 10,000 – 12,000 miles, depending on the car brand. You’re also looking at a higher down payment on a lease. But there are other factors (I’ll get to that in a moment) where the $2,000 – $3,000 down payment doesn’t look so bad in the long run. You will also not have the option to trade in the car after your lease is up, but you can buy the car or look at leasing again. Lastly, any extra miles that go above the annual limit, or scratches and dents, will cost you at the end of the lease, so you must be more careful than if you bought new or used.

Now that we’ve got the negatives out of the way, let’s take a look at why leasing is actually better.

As a used car buyer, I’ve experienced dealing with maintenance due to owning an aging car. I have monthly car payments, and I had to put a $2,000 down payment on the car. Right there we’re looking at close to $4,000+ (not including the monthly payments) with the down payment and maintenance. I’m paying $200+ a month on car payments, and to put that into perspective, the payments are more than if I leased a new Mazda 3 sedan or hatchback, Toyota RAV4, or a Honda CR-V.

The payments are a concern for people inquiring about the costs of leasing, and the advice givers always go back to the payments as a strongpoint to oppose the idea of leasing. However, if you’re in the position where you can’t buy a used car outright and put a down payment on it, you’re still dealing with monthly payments. Unlike with leasing, you could be locked in for 48 – 60 months depending on how much you want to pay per month, as opposed to being committed for 24 – 36 months with a lease. So right there you’re putting in an extra year or two on an older car that could be subject to mechanical failure due to high mileage or age.

Some dealerships are now offering free maintenance with a lease. That’s huge, especially if you’re thinking longterm. There are dealerships out there that also offer competitive prices when it comes to oil changes and wheel alignment. Also with a lease, you’re less likely to have to deal with major maintenance bills with the car being so new. There are no previous owners, so the entire time you have the car you know it’s history from your first drive to the last time you’ll ever see the car.

The last positive is that dealership’s leasing offers are always changing, especially during holidays. Herb Chambers BMW of Sudbury had an offer for the BMW 328ix that you couldn’t refuse. It was $275 a month with a $3,000+ down payment (usually you’d be paying close to $300+ a month). I know the down payment would scare anyone away, but if you have the money, you can’t tell me you’d rather buy a $3,000 early 2000’s Honda Civic with 180,000 miles that’s been owned by 3 different people, than a new 3 series. Now again, it’s all about where you are financially, but whether you’re a parent or college graduate, you would prefer something new or newer than having to deal with the headaches and hassles of owning an older car.

It doesn’t have to be a BMW, but a new Mazda 3, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and RAV4, or Subaru would be a better option than buying used and dealing with the unknowns.

Yes, leasing has it’s downsides, but so does buying used. It really depends on what you’re specifically looking for. As someone who owns a nine year old car, driving a new car with a lower monthly payment sounds great. Also, the peace of mind of owning a new car with no mechanical issues or aging equipment would make me sleep more soundly at night.

Will The Ford Focus RS Bring Performance Packages To Cheaper Vehicles?

The Ford Focus RS is no doubt a game changer in the auto industry. For the first time, Ford is bringing their performance packaged Focus RS to the United States, which has also raised the question of whether we’ll see an RS version of the Fiesta. By doing this however, Ford would be awakening some sleeping giants in the auto world who are waiting for their moment to break free and start offering performance vehicles to the average consumer. This could also have an impact on Subaru’s turf as the WRX STI hasn’t had many challengers, if any since the Mitsubishi Lancer’s steep decent into irrelevancy. This may also eventually reach Volkswagen’s stake in the hatchback market if other car companies start following suit.

Toyota is already mulling over the idea of unleashing the TRD performance packages for the Camry, and one could then speculate on whether the Toyota Corolla will get the same treatment. For the past few years Ford has been going at it with Toyota and Honda to become the top dog in annual sales, and with the RS line, it’s very possible that consumers may start looking to performance. Toyota already realizes this, and are at least looking into getting in on the action.

Prior to the Focus RS’s unveiling, the Subaru WRX STI and the Volkswagen GTI were sitting comfortably in their respective markets. The GTI has always been the favorite for hatchbacks and are extremely popular, even with the Focus ST being priced in the same neighborhood. Now with an AWD Focus, Ford has some leverage to entice consumers to look at other options besides the GTI. The Subaru WRX STI on the other hand will be harder to dethrone, as car manufactures who’ve tried to compete with Subaru ultimately failed, and it will take some time for Ford to convince consumers in that market to make the switch.

In the past year or so, we’ve seen almost every car manufacturer get in on a new, emerging market. BMW and Mercedes Benz are now duking it out with the X6 and GLE in a market that could be gaining some traction. Right now it seems that performance packaged hatchbacks and compact sedans could become the latest trend in the automotive world. What we’re witnessing is an intensity in competition between automakers that really hasn’t been seen since the dawn of the muscle car. In the past, car companies would be unique and try selling based on a feature or design that no one else could offer. Now it appears that to stay alive, auto brands are continuously attempting to improve an existing design.

Up until recently, no one tried to advance on the WRX STI and the GTI’s turf, but with Ford making the bold move to bring a version of the Focus that was being sold outside the United States to America, we may see other car brands do the same. Honda will not be bringing over the Civic Type R until at least 2017, but you can believe that if Toyota starts selling TRD packaged Camry’s and Corolla’s, Honda will start feeling the pressure to sell a quality performance car.

Consumers are going to have variety in almost every market. Now it comes down to personal preference. The diehard GTI and WRX STI fans will be reluctant to switch to a different brand, but for Millennials who are starting to buy cars, they may look to new brands, and etch their own buying habits in stone.

Mazda: The Face Of A New Trend In The Auto Industry

Mazda 6
AlBargan / Foter / CC BY-ND

The past five to ten years for the auto industry has seen countless innovations and changes, from cars being more economical, smaller SUV’s, to auto manufacturers changing their identity to keep up with the times. Mazda is one of many manufacturers who changed their lineup to appeal to all generations with their new designs and models that range across the spectrum of the auto world. A company that was primarily sports car driven with the Miata and RX-7, is now continuously finding ways to add on to what they’ve built in the past decade.

The Mazda 3, Mazda 6, CX-5, and CX-9 have created a solid foundation for the Japanese auto maker to build on. The 3 and 6 are beginning to compete against tough competition, as sedans priced between $20,000 – $30,000 have become extremely competitive. Because of this, auto brands are releasing some of the best looking cars in the segment. The Chrysler 200, Ford Focus and Fusion, Honda Civic and Accord, Subaru Impreza and Legacy, and Mazda’s 3 and 6 might just be the most options consumers have ever had in the compact to mid-size sedan segment. With that being said, a new trend in the auto industry is here, and you can thank the Germans for that.

Mercedes Benz, Audi, and BMW are in a battle of their own, fighting for position and dominating the smaller luxury car market. This fight for a majority stake in the $30,000 – $40,000 range has trickled down to companies who primarily sell cars $10,000 cheaper. Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Subaru, Mazda, and Hyundai know that if they don’t start jockeying for position in their respected segment, they’ll become victims to the big three in Germany. Consumers are beginning to see the opportunities that BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz have opened up and are now buying A3’s, CLA’s, and BMW X1’s. After two strong years for the Germans, the other auto manufacturers have had to throw a few punches of their own.

Think about it. Did you ever think you’d see the day when a Honda Fit or Civic would have a touch screen in their dashboards? Mazda’s, Subaru’s, and Hyundai’s are looking more high class which is making the consumer very bold in this segment. Four-door sedans, hatchbacks, and crossovers are the new, hot toys on the market. Sports cars are seeing a decline in sales, and despite lower gas prices, consumers aren’t buying bigger SUV’s like they once did.

We are going to continue seeing the auto industry changing, but for the better. Right now, as consumers, we’re like kids in a candy store and the auto manufactures continue coming out with new things to try. Mazda is about to unleash the new CX-3 which will take a bite in the small crossover segment, Honda is still going strong with the models they’re selling, Subaru continues to change their model’s appearances to entice buyers, Ford is pushing the Titanium trims of the Focus and Fusion, and Chrysler’s 200 not only looks classy, but now offers a V-6 engine under the hood that supplies 295 HP.

This is an amazing time to be in the market for a car. You can buy new or used, or lease which will put you behind the wheel of these new cars. Best of all, dealerships are offering great lease deals, especially around the holidays. Heading into 2015, you don’t have to own a BMW, Audi, or Mercedes Benz to drive a nice a car that provides luxury and a quiet interior.

Whether You Prefer Automatic or Manual, Don’t Get A CVT

2015_Subaru_WRX_STI.008
Automotive Rhythms / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

For the die-hard gear-head, manual transmissions will always be what they swear by as it’s the only true way to experience every aspect of a sports car. But in the 21st century we’re given an array of different transmission types that allow the driver to either cruise in automatic, or have some fun by shifting into a non pure form of manual. However, whether you prefer an automatic or manual, the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) will most likely ruin your driving experience.

CVT’s can be found on most Japanese cars including the Subaru WRX, which as a car enthusiast, makes me cringe at the thought that the four-door sports car doesn’t get a more driver-friendly transmission. Some may wonder what’s the difference between a CVT and a regular transmission. When you floor the gas pedal you don’t get the full experience of hearing the transmission changing gears. Every kid can relate to the sound of the engine going through the gears, and if you own a CVT, you’ll never get to hear the switch to the new gear.

If you’re more concerned about fuel economy, a CVT would be the better choice as it’s designed to help save gas when you’re accelerating. The Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Subaru Legacy to name a few, are some of the models that have a CVT in them, but out of those three, the Legacy doesn’t get anywhere near the MPG’s of the Corolla and Civic. The 3.6R limited trim of the Legacy gets 20 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway, but that does get overshadowed by the fact that there is a CVT transmission in the car. What’s the point in having the sportier version of a sedan when you can’t fully enjoy the revs and changes of gears?

Sports cars, and versions with a sports package should be enjoyed to the greatest extent. To put a CVT into a car that was built for the car enthusiast or the one who wanted to floor the gas pedal completely defeats the purpose of manufacturing the car at all. Other than a few ideal situations and how the car is used, a CVT would be useful in the city, but if you intend to take the car onto the open roads, don’t expect to feel the rush and excitement of accelerating on the highway and hearing the transmission go through the gears.