New Chevrolet hatchback offers refined versatility

The 2018 Chevrolet Cruze is a refined compact sedan or hatchback that’s priced from $16,975. COURTESY PHOTOThe 2018 Chevrolet Cruze is a refined compact sedan or hatchback that’s priced from $16,975. COURTESY PHOTO  Why buy a big car?
There are many reasons, of course. Interior volume is often the leading factor — space and comfort for the driver and passengers, and enough room for their cargo.
But another reason many folks seek larger cars is that bigger, more-expensive models often deliver a higher grade of refinement. They’re quieter, and they ride more smoothly. They look more elegant or mature. They feel more confidently planted even at high speeds. They aren’t cheap, basic transportation — they’re a cut above.
But not every big car offers those qualities. Instead, you’ll regularly find one that’s just as underwhelming as an economy car, albeit with some extra leg room.
If you’re looking for a car that feels satisfyingly non-basic, and don’t need maximum interior volume, you’ll want to consider the Chevrolet Cruze. It’s a compact four-door sedan or five-door hatchback that’s more affordable and fuel-efficient than a larger class of vehicle, competing against such models as the Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, and Hyundai Elantra.


Chevy and Buick crossovers offer full-size space and some other nice options

2018 Chevrolet Traverse cropped for webThe redesigned 2018 Chevrolet Traverse full-size crossover boasts various improvements over last year's model, but its strongest asset is an especially roomy interior. COURTESY PHOTO  When a car is redesigned, it's more likely to become larger than smaller. Understandably so: Extra space is an obvious selling point to justify the new model over its predecessor.
General Motors bucked this trend with the fully-redesigned 2017 GMC Acadia. Once a plus-sized crossover, the all-new 2017 model slimmed down into the midsize class, gaining fuel efficiency and handling agility, even if interior volume declined.
But the Acadia's former mechanical twins – the Chevrolet Traverse and the more luxurious Buick Enclave – didn't follow the same path. Redesigned for 2018, these two crossovers remain unapologetically massive, with among the best space for passengers and cargo in anything short of a minivan.


Two SUVs avoid typical family-friendly focus

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee cropped for webThe 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a midsize SUV that blends off-road capability and on-road luxury. COURTESY PHOTO  While sport utility vehicles were once designed to focus on off-road capabilities, Most of today's market-leading SUVs and crossovers are built as family cars that tend to prioritize the more everyday qualities of interior volume, gas mileage and value for the money.
Such vehicles often look and feel as dull as that description sounds. While the Honda Pilot, for instance, is often a terrific family car, such smooth, quiet, spacious minivan-like family-haulers offers little verve or personality to attract someone without plans to shuttle a carload of kids.
But a few larger SUVs – the midsize Jeep Grand Cherokee and the full-size Chevrolet Tahoe – manage an appeal that transcends the norms of their market segments.
Neither stands out as a family car. While both are decently spacious, to be sure, they’re far from the market leaders in that regard.
But the Tahoe and Grand Cherokee make up for those deficiencies by boasting uncommon levels of heavy-duty capability with the looks to match.


Chevrolet adds some style while Lexus tries to save gas

Chevrolet Malibu cropped for webThe latest Chevrolet Malibu midsize sedan is an appealing blend of style, luxury, functionality and value. COURTESY PHOTO  The last generation of the Chevrolet Malibu midsize sedan, sold from the 2013 through 2015 model years, offered an odd mix of strengths and weaknesses.
On the one hand, the old Malibu offered impressive driving dynamics – a particularly solid feel that lent composure to its ride and handling, leaving a Toyota Camry or Hyundai Sonata feeling flimsy in comparison. But this luxurious ambiance was undercut by humdrum styling inside and out, and the old Malibu also suffered from skimpy rear-seat room.
Chevrolet fully redesigned the Malibu last year to address these issues, and transformed the car into a more thoroughly impressive car. Priced from $22,555, it brings a more thoroughly premium feel to the mainstream class, while also improving on important family-car values. The current Malibu regains the mojo of the 2008 to 2012 Malibu, yet it sacrifices less outward visibility and rear headroom to make a styling statement. And although sticker prices can be high, pricing site projects ample room for haggling that can turn this Chevrolet into a relative bargain despite its premium feel.


Chevrolet and Jeep redesign and improve their small crossovers

2018 Chevrolet Equinox cropped for webThe 2018 Chevrolet Equinox compact crossover is smaller but more luxurious than its predecessor. COURTESY PHOTO  Two of the oldest small crossovers on the market have just been fully redesigned – and although both make fairly dramatic departures from their predecessors, both are transformed from also-rans into competitive vehicles in this burgeoning segment. These models are the new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox and new 2017 Jeep Compass.


Chevrolet adds rare diesel while Lincoln goes big

2017 Chevrolet Cruze diesel cropped for webThe 2017 Chevrolet Cruze is available with a diesel engine rated for 47 MPG on the highway. COURTESY PHOTO  Until a couple of years ago, if you wanted a diesel passenger car, you probably wanted a Volkswagen. The company's TDI line promised outstanding fuel economy without compromising acceleration.
Now, diesel aficionados have even fewer choices. Volkswagen's magical-seeming “clean diesels” were debunked as illegal polluters, and several other automakers are also under scrutiny.
Undaunted, General Motors pushed forward with a new diesel engine for its Chevrolet Cruze compact economy sedan – and it quietly racks up impressive fuel economy numbers. The EPA rates the diesel Cruze for 31 miles per gallon in the city and a whopping 47 mpg on the highway, compared to 30 city / 40 highway for a standard gas model. Thanks to the low-revving nature of diesel engines and a nine-speed automatic transmission, the Cruze also cruises quietly at 80 mph. (A six-speed manual transmission is standard.)


Learning to drive all over again in an all-electric automobile

  • Published in Local

Driving was never like this.

During the test drive of the 2017 all-electric Chevy Bolt, I discovered you don’t have to use the brakes!

Yes, the Bolt has a brake pedal. In the normal Drive “mode,” you use the accelerator and brake pedals just as you would in a gas-powered car. In the Low mode, however, whenever you take your foot off the accelerator, braking action starts automatically, gently at first, only gradually stopping the car, so you’d have to plan ahead to avoid using the brake.

Still, Frank Marinucci, sales consultant with Sport Chevrolet in Silver Spring, who explained the car as I took my test drive, said he drove the entire 25-mile trek from the dealership to the Hilton Garden Inn in Rockville without touching the brake pedal.


Updates to Ford crossover bring it up to par while Chevy is rudimentary

2017 Ford Escape -- cropped for webThe 2017 Ford Escape was updated with revised styling and other upgrades that help it to be competitive with other compact crossovers. COURTESY PHOTO  

The Ford Escape compact crossover is consistently one of the best-selling vehicles in the country – a pleasant vehicle in a hot market segment. Ever since its 2013-model redesign, the Escape has neatly married respectable, almost sporty driving dynamics with a spacious interior and affordable prices. That proved to be a winning combination on the sales front.
However, the Escape had its weak points: mediocre gas mileage, some missing safety features, poor performance in one crash test and a finicky dashboard touchscreen. Ford has now taken steps toward addressing them as part of a comprehensive 2017 update.


Two new models offer subtle ways to significantly reduce fuel usage

2017 Kia Niro -- cropped for webThe all-new 2017 Kia Niro is a gas-electric hybrid that saves on gas without demanding many sacrifices or calling much attention to itself. COURTESY PHOTO

Ever since Toyota launched the 2004 Prius with an unmistakably unique shape, fuel savings have been associated with unique looks. Subsequent generations of Toyota's best-selling gas-electric hybrid have followed that mold, as have a number of competitors.
But two tall hatchbacks that are all new for 2017 promise impressive fuel savings without styling that telegraphs anything special under the hood: the Kia Niro hybrid and the Chevrolet Bolt EV all-electric car.


Reviews of the 2016 Chevy Camaro and Kia Optima

New Camaro hides luxury driving dynamics under familiar styling

2016 Chevrolet Camaro 1LT2016 Chevrolet Camaro.   COURTESY PHOTO 

The redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Camaro doesn't look very different from its predecessor. The retro-styled performance coupe made a big splash when it returned to the market seven years ago, running against the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger to provide lots of power at prices that start in the $20,000s.

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