With apologies to Jim Kenzie…

The column by Jim Kenzie published on Saturday October 1st, 2016, needs a little editing. Jim’s words, my words.

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Is the time finally right for electrically fuelled cars?

It’s long past time.

There is little doubt that electric motors are a pretty good way to power a vehicle. Maximum torque at zero r.p.m., so excellent launch characteristics and strong acceleration. Low to no noise, compared to ‘infernal’ combustion. And zero emissions from the vehicle itself.

None of this is news. It was all true of the Baker electric, which went out of production in 1916.

The problem with the Baker Electric remains the problem with all modern battery-powered cars.

It’s called “energy density”, which is a measure of how much power you can get per kilogram of weight.

And, frankly, we are a heck of a lot farther advanced now than we were a century ago. Continue reading

No allergy to duck fat: 2016 Honda HR-V vs 2016 Mazda CX-3

On a recent trip to New York, we found ourselves in a great French restaurant on Park Avenue.  While ordering, I asked if their ‘frites’ were cooked in oil that was shared by breaded items.  The owner happened to be sitting nearby at the bar, and he assured me that there was nothing to fear in the fryer, unless I was allergic to duck fat.  He said he’d give up wine before giving up duck fat.

North Americans are having their wine/duck fat moment.  Large SUVs are giving way to small CUVs.  People are downsizing their vehicles, and not a moment too soon. Continue reading

2014 Ford Fiesta ST versus 2013 Honda Civic Si

When Ford recruited Alan Mulally from the Boeing Company to be its CEO in 2006, the Blue Oval was in trouble.  Costs were high, the ‘English Patients’, Jaguar and Land Rover, were hemorrhaging money, and investment in new product and platforms was desperately needed. Continue reading

2014 Kia Forte versus 2013 Honda Civic

Kia has had an unremarkable history in Canada.  For a while, it was looked upon as the poorer sister to big brother Hyundai. In the last few years, however, all has changed.  Kia’s styling has matured, its sales have increased in multiples of thousands and it is now a brand with which to be reckoned.

Although there is a great deal of platform and technology sharing between Kia and Hyundai, each is carving out their own niche in the marketplace.  Kia has a sportier intention, while Hyundai, even with its sports models like the Veloster and Genesis coupe, is more mainstream.  Kia’s philosophy is rooted in “The Power To Surprise”.  Let’s see how the new-for-2014 Kia Forte surprises the recently refreshed Honda Civic. Continue reading

2013 Toyota RAV4 vs 2013 Honda CR-V

When Toyota first ventured into the ‘cute-ute’ market, the RAV4 was small, agile, maneuverable, and cute.  It had a sassy style about it that appealed to many who didn’t need a vehicle with authentic off-road credentials. It was classed as a truck, and those early models didn’t even have a proper rear bumper.

Fast forward to today, and RAV4 is a key vehicle in the Toyota line-up.  Built right here in Ontario, Toyota has grown the RAV4 along with its market.  It’s much larger than the original and has a multiplicity of features of which that first model couldn’t even dream.  But it has stayed true to its roots as a smaller sport utility that provides the security of all-wheel drive when the on-road going gets tough. Continue reading

2014 Mazda 6 vs 2013 Honda Accord

Seemingly lost in the titanic battle of Honda versus Toyota, Mazda soldiers on. Vehicles coming from Hiroshima were dependable and perhaps a bit bland in the mainstream. Yet, examples like the MX5 (Miata) and RX-8 put Mazda out on the edge.  With the release of the new CX-5, and judging how many seem to be on the road in a very short time, Mazda has struck a new imprint that should appeal to a wider audience.

In keeping with this theme, is the all new Mazda 6 sedan. Mazda used to take a smaller vehicle against the full-size offerings of their aforementioned compatriots, but with the last generation 6, Mazda up-sized to play in the same sandbox as Accord, Camry and Altima.

The new generation sedan echos the wave inspired Nagare concept that debuted at the 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show.  It’s found a home in the CX-5, the Mazda5 and now the all-new 6, in a more stately expression than the original show car.  The entire silhouette suggests a wave breaking onto the beach.  The cut lines in the front fenders swell to yield a power dome hood, which gives the suggestion of power while meeting pedestrian safety standards for Europe.   The lower belt line sweep meets visually with the line below the fog light, harmonizing and emphasizing the front end.  The front grille is massive, even though most of the cooling work is done by the lower inlet.  The nose chin is reminiscent of a Formula 1 wing and splitter, and the shark-like face continues the nautical theme.  The shape of the rear bumper includes two small waves at either end.  The lower fascia with an offsetting colour breaks up the massive expanse of rear plastic found on so many of today’s vehicles.   A splash of chrome accents the trunk and a rear spoiler gives the rear end a sporting touch.

Under the hood, the 6 has one powertrain; Mazda’s SkyActive 2.5 litre, dual overhead cam normally aspirated engine that makes 184 horsepower at 5,700 rpm.  More importantly, the torque rating is 185 lb-ft at 3,250 rpm, giving sufficient low-end grunt at stoplights.

Three trim levels offer a Mazda 6 for everyone.  The entry level GX includes P225/55/17 tires on alloy rims, an available 6-speed automatic transmission, four wheel disc brakes, independent suspension with stabilizer bars, rain sensor controlled wipers, heated outside mirrors, a 6-way driver’s seat, air conditioning, heated front seats, sunvisors with mirrors and extensions, a power trunk release, keyless remote entry, auto drive-away locking, cruise control, Bluetooth hands-free phone with audio streaming, and the full complement of safety features including six air bags, active front head restraints, battery saver and security system.

Move ahead to the GS trim, and Mazda adds leather on the steering wheel and shift knob, a sliding centre armrest, power driver’s seat (still 6-way), dual zone automatic temperature control, illuminated vanity mirrors, one touch up down on all windows, intelligent key, paddle shifters, a rear-view monitor and blind spot warning. Interestingly, Mazda has chosen the BMW route with the transmission: the 6-speed automatic is a no-charge extra over the 6-speed manual at this trim level and above.

The up-level GT includes larger 19″ wheels and tires, high intensity discharge headlights, auto dimming outside mirrors, leather seating surfaces, an 8-way power driver’s seat and 4-way power passenger seat, an auto-dimming inside rear view mirror, navigation, HomeLink, and an eleven speaker Bose audio system.

A Technology package can be added to the GT that gives intelligent cruise control, forward collision warning with mitigating braking, lane departure warning, auto-dimming headlights and satellite radio.

Let’s step back to the GS with Luxury trim level, likely one of the more popular iterations of the line.  It borrows features from the GT at a lower price point, including leather seating surfaces that feel comfortable without a too-short cushion for adequate thigh support.  Radio steering wheel controls, Bluetooth control for cell phones and Bluetooth music streaming are all standard at this level, plus navigation, power windows with one-touch up and down switch gear, a sliding centre armrest for elbow support that can be ‘just so’, a power trunk release prevents a fresh manicure from damage by a manual lever and rear seats that fold flat to carry extra long loads are among the thoughtful touches of the interior. This will be a very popular choice at just over $30,000.

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2014 Mazda 6 (US model)
2014 Mazda 6 (US model)
2014 Mazda 6 (US model)
2014 Mazda 6 (US model)
2014 Mazda 6 (US model)
2014 Mazda 6 (US model)
2014 Mazda 6 (US model)
2014 Mazda 6 (US model)
2014 Mazda 6 (US model)
2014 Mazda 6 (US model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (CDN model)
2014 Mazda 6 (US model)
2014 Mazda 6 (US model)

Let’s see how the new Mazda 6 stacks up against the Accord. First, the ‘cost of entry’:

screen-shot-2013-03-05-at-10-47-23-am

The differences in equipment:

screen-shot-2013-03-06-at-3-47-14-pm

The rest of the story:

screen-shot-2013-03-05-at-10-47-41-am

 

The value advantage goes to Mazda6. However, all is not what it seems. Even though the Mazda has a slight advantage in total dollar value, the Accord carries a number of features that you can’t get on the Mazda until the fully loaded GT level with the Technology Package at $34,195.  If forward collision warning, lane departure warning, satellite radio and active noise control are important to you at a lower price point, the Accord is for you.  If you’re looking to make a statement with exterior style, look to the Mazda 6. Either way, the new Mazda 6 is a viable entry in the full-size sedan segment.

 

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe vs 2013 Honda CR-V

It’s funny how in places like New York you see nothing but massive sport utilities guzzling fuel at a rapid rate yet hybrid cabs everywhere.  Then again, driving in New York could be viewed as a full contact sport.  But I digress.  Those massive sport utilities are giving way to the rapidly growing compact sport utility segment.  The smaller ‘cute utes’  are growing by leaps and bounds in market share, given the ever higher price of liquid gold that we need to pour down the fuel pipes of our vehicles. Continue reading

A needed refresh: 2012 vs 2013 Civic

In a rare misstep, Honda introduces an all-new Civic to replace one that, while still selling extremely well, was universally criticized for its moribund interior, questionable ergonomics and general malaise.  Success in the subcompact segment is essential to the later sales of Accords, Pilots and Acura MDXs, so Honda needed to make things right.

Continue reading