Jetta Adds More Value


Cargazing
By Derek Price

After a complete redesign last year, the Volkswagen Jetta is back with several refinements to make it a better value in 2016.
My personal favorite is the addition of Apple CarPlay — a feature I’m starting to sorely miss every time I drive a new car without it — along with Android Auto and MirrorLink, making the Jetta among the first new cars to achieve the trifecta of smartphone integration.
And, make no mistake, that’s becoming a bigger factor for today’s buyers. Where previous generations may have wanted to know about horsepower and fuel economy numbers, today’s car shoppers often have one big question: How well does it work with my phone?
In the case of the Jetta and an iPhone 6, the answer is “exceptionally well.” Simply by connecting my phone to the car using a USB cable — no Bluetooth pairing process required — I could instantly make calls and operate select apps without even touching the phone. It’s convenient and safer, letting you keep your eyes and attention on the road.
I even sent this message to my wife: “I’m texting you while a cop is right behind me! How cool is that?”
The entire exchange takes place through voice commands and your car’s controls instead of typing into your phone, which helps you keep your attention where it belongs. Can it still be distracting? Absolutely. But I also think it’s dramatically safer than that plague of the roads that we see all too often: idiots typing into their phone while driving.

The Jetta’s no-nonsense exterior design sets the stage for a car that aims to provide a lot of substance for the money. It’s been Volkswagen’s top-selling vehicle for many years.

The Jetta’s no-nonsense exterior design sets the stage for a car that aims to provide a lot of substance for the money. It’s been Volkswagen’s top-selling vehicle for many years.

Aside from the better smartphone brains, the Jetta makes a few other changes this year.
The most noticeable addition is a 1.4-liter turbocharged, direct-injected, four-cylinder engine that boosts its EPA fuel economy rating up to 40 mpg with a manual transmission. That’s impressive for a car with a back seat that feels this roomy.
In fact, it’s the Jetta’s spaciousness that makes it stand out to me. In typical German fashion, it’s a car that you’d buy based on the numbers — the knee room, the head room, the elbow room — rather than any particular knockout punch from its features list or gimmicky styling. It’s a straightforward, no-nonsense car.
Adaptive cruise control, another feature I’m starting to miss on cars that lack it, is now available as part of the Jetta’s Driver Assistance Package.
And, in addition to the usual safety features such as multiple airbags and electronic stability control, Volkswagen is now fitting every Jetta with something to help mitigate the damage from wrecks. It’s called post-collision braking.

The Jetta’s cabin feels roomier than many of its competitors, particularly in the back seat where knee and elbow space are surprisingly generous.

The Jetta’s cabin feels roomier than many of its competitors, particularly in the back seat where knee and elbow space are surprisingly generous.

If the airbags deploy from an accident, the Jetta will automatically apply its brakes afterward to help “reduce residual kinetic energy,” VW says. To me, it sounds like a fancy way of saying it keeps a two-car wreck from turning into a three-car wreck if you don’t stop your car from rolling, an interesting concept that I’m not sure I’ve seen on another new vehicle before this.
Pricing ranges from the base S model at $17,680 to $26,920 for the well-equipped and sporty GLI. A Jetta Hybrid also is available starting at $31,120.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T SEL Premium ($25,380). Options: Lighting package ($995), driver assistance package ($950) Price as tested (including $820 destination charge): $28,145
Wheelbase: 104.4 in.
Length: 183.3 in.
Width: 70 in.
Height: 57.2 in.
Engine: 1.8-liter turbocharged four cylinder (170 hp, 184 ft. lbs.)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 25 city, 36 highway

RATINGS

Style: 7
Performance: 7
Price: 8
Handling: 6
Ride: 7
Comfort: 8
Quality: 7
Overall: 7

Video Review:
2016 Volkswagen Jetta
bit.ly/2016jetta

Why buy it?
The latest smartphone integration and a new, more efficient engine help the Jetta focus on providing more for your money in 2016.

Posted in Volkswagen

The Maximum MINI


Cargazing
By Derek Price

When a brand has just one iconic car and a self-defining name like “MINI,” there’s only so far it can stretch its lineup before losing its soul.
This year, MINI is expanding its product offerings — both figuratively and literally — with an all-new generation of the Clubman, and it does a remarkable job staying true to the diminutive MINI Cooper’s playful, ever-so-British spirit.
While it’s noticeably bigger and more practical than the outgoing Clubman, with four wide-swinging passenger doors and a reasonably roomy back seat that can fold down to haul bulky cargo, it’s the driving feel that impresses me more than the newfound spaciousness.
From the driver’s seat, the new Clubman feels smaller than it is. It turns, stops and accelerates with an eagerness that mimics and almost matches the excellent Cooper, no doubt helped by its hours of testing time on the Nürburgring racetrack in Germany.

The MINI Clubman, a larger version of the timeless Cooper, has six doors, two of which offer a split-opening cargo area in back.

The MINI Clubman, a larger version of the timeless Cooper, has six doors, two of which offer a split-opening cargo area in back.

As a whole, the 2016 Clubman feels like a more premium product than before. And it needs to, considering it’s carrying a premium price for a car this size, with an as-tested sticker of $36,600 for my Cooper S Clubman tester.
To rationalize that, you’ve got to remember that the Clubman is built by BMW, the same company that creates some of the best drivers’ cars in the world. You can feel that in its bones, too, including a chassis that seems solid as a Rocky Mountain boulder in twists and over bumps, never allowing a hint of jiggliness that plagues lesser cars.
For the most part, the Clubman’s new interior feels like it’s built to BMW’s lofty standards. With the exception of a couple of switches that seem like they wouldn’t pass muster in Munich, the interior has the same sense of precision and a lot more style than most BMW-badged products.
And — let’s be clear — style is everything for the Clubman.
The whole car is filled with funky styling touches, starting with a body that emulates the classic Cooper from all angles and ending with one of the most esoteric interiors of any car for sale today.
In this otherworldly cabin, everything seems to either have a circular motif or glow in a strange way. Some things do both, like the glowing circle on the center stack that changes colors as the engine RPMs rise.
Does the glowing circle serve any practical purpose? No. Is it extremely cool and something I’d like in my own car? Heck yes!
At times, the styling can get in the way of practicality, though. Rear visibility isn’t that great thanks to the overall shape of this car, and it’s not helped by skinny side mirrors and a split back door. The digital interface is also awkward to use at times, with small buttons down low by the cup holder.
Still, it’s those unusual choices that make this car what it is: a brilliantly fun, if quirky, family runabout.
One example: I wanted to giggle every time I opened those swinging back doors by remote control. Unlike a power liftgate, a common feature on posh crossovers and SUVs, the split rear doors on the Clubman swing open left and right. It’s a feature that’s both practical — there’s nothing to bump your head on when you stoop down to load groceries — and makes you smile.
More than anything else, though, the reason people ought to consider this car is the way it drives, particularly with a manual transmission.

The Clubman’s interior is one of the most unique on the market today, fitting for a style-conscious car that prides itself on being quirky.

The Clubman’s interior is one of the most unique on the market today, fitting for a style-conscious car that prides itself on being quirky.

It’s incredibly fun. MINI calls the experience “go-kart handling,” not a particularly original expression but spot-on accurate in this case. The Clubman corners flat and changes directions like a child’s toy, something rare for a roomy, four-door vehicle.
From a safety perspective, the Clubman offers eight dual-stage airbags, dynamic stability control and a head-up display to keep the driver’s eyes near the road while looking at speed and navigation information.
Pricing starts at $24,100 for the Clubman, $27,650 for the livelier S model, or $29,450 for the new Clubman ALL4 with all-wheel drive.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2016 Mini Cooper S Clubman ($27,650). Options: Metallic paint ($500), burgundy leather ($1,500), premium package ($1,800), technology package ($1,750), heated front seats ($500), LED headlights ($1,000), head-up display ($750), satellite radio ($300). Price as tested (including $850 destination charge): $36,600
Wheelbase: 105.1 in.
Length: 168.3 in.
Width: 70.9 in.
Height: 56.7 in.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four cylinder (189 hp, 207 ft. lbs.)
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel economy: 22 city, 32 highway

RATINGS

Style: 10
Performance: 9
Price: 5
Handling: 9
Ride: 7
Comfort: 6
Quality: 8
Overall: 8

Video Review:
2016 Mini Clubman
bit.ly/16clubman

Why buy it?
With an all-new generation for 2016, the Clubman is roomier and more practical than before while also driving more like the playful, easily lovable MINI Cooper.

Posted in Cooper

Sentra Gets Fresh Look


Cargazing
By Derek Price

Nissan is calling 2016 “the year of the sedan,” an interesting choice of words for a period in which low gas prices are making truck and SUV sales skyrocket.
No matter. After introducing an all-new Maxima and heavily revising the popular Altima this year, Nissan also is making a heap of changes to this car: the efficient and affordable Sentra.
The timing might not be ideal, since cheap gas benefits the new Titan XD truck far more than it does Nissan’s four-door family cars, but the revised Sentra makes a strong case for people who want a good long-term value.
It starts out by offering a lot for the money — including a version with blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and navigation for under $20,000 — and continues saving you cash with a fuel economy rating of up to 40 mpg on the highway. If you plan on owning the car for several years, when gas prices will almost certainly revert to the old norms, you’ll be laughing while the truck drivers are crying.

New front styling is the highlight of improvements for the Nissan Sentra in 2016, making it look more like the recently introduced Maxima’s design.

New front styling is the highlight of improvements for the Nissan Sentra in 2016, making it look more like the recently introduced Maxima’s design.

A continuously variable transmission coupled to a 1.8-liter, 130-horsepower engine is a big reason for the great gas mileage, but it’s also a factor in my top wish-list item for this car.
I wish it was more fun to drive.
Nissan knows how to make brilliant drivers’ cars, starting with the insane GT-R sports car and trickling down to the powerful, sporty Maxima and — to a lesser extent — the everyman’s Altima sedan. They all can raise your pulse from a little to a lot, depending on the car and which package you pick.
Now that the Sentra has dropped its funnest flavor, the old, beloved SE-R, I can’t help but wish for a version with extra power, more communicative suspension and steering, and a more spunky personality from the driver’s seat. This one feels too much like a dedicated grocery-getter when it could be so much more.
That said, the revisions make the Sentra a noticeably better — and I think prettier — car to take to the store. Cars that get 40 mpg are typically more cramped and not as pretty as this, again making the Sentra look like a good value thanks to its reasonably roomy back seat and generous trunk space.
My favorite change is to the Sentra’s body. A whole new front end, including the fascia, grille, fenders and headlights, makes it look more like the upscale Maxima, a car that starts over $32,000. The Sentra starts a bit more than half that price but still has some of the Maxima’s sexy styling cues and a classy presence from the curb.

A new steering wheel and improved seats make the Sentra more inviting this year. Its price starts at $16,780 and tops out over $22,000 for the SL trim with leather seats and luxury upgrades.

A new steering wheel and improved seats make the Sentra more inviting this year. Its price starts at $16,780 and tops out over $22,000 for the SL trim with leather seats and luxury upgrades.

The interior, while still not best in class, gets a nice improvement to its overall feel from a new steering wheel, new six-way power driver’s seats with power lumbar support on the higher-end trim levels, and a new flat-panel display with higher resolution than before.
If you want to check a lot of option boxes, you can get some cool technology in your Sentra. Forward emergency braking, intelligent cruise control, keyless push-button start and a Bose premium audio system can give it a more luxurious air, along with standard leather seats on the SL trim.
While it does offer smartphone integration, including Siri Hands Free, I wish it had the more polished interface that I’ve grown to love in recent months in the handful of new cars with Apple CarPlay.
Pricing starts at $16,780 for the base S trim with a manual transmission or $17,630 with the CVT automatic. It ranges up to $22,170 for the luxury-oriented SL with leather seats and dual-zone climate control, which is the No. 1 new-car feature for saving marriages.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2016 Nissan Sentra SV ($18,550). Options: Driver’s assist package ($1,020). Price as tested (including $835 destination charge): $20,405
Wheelbase: 106.3 in.
Length: 182.1 in.
Width: 69.3 in.
Height: 58.9 in.
Drivetrain: 1.8-liter four cylinder (130 hp,128 ft. lbs.)
Transmission: Continuously variable
Fuel economy: 29 city, 38 highway

RATINGS

Style: 9
Performance: 4
Price: 8
Handling: 5
Ride: 6
Comfort: 6
Quality: 7
Overall: 7

Video Review:
2016 Nissan Sentra
http://bit.ly/16sentra

Why buy it?
A redesigned, Maxima-like front end will turn heads this year, and it offers a nice combination of features and space for the money.

Posted in Nissan

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