Ever since I laid eyes on the Optima, I’ve loved its style and couldn’t wait to drive it. Well time flies and it took longer than expected to finally get behind the wheel. Half-way through its model cycle, the Optima gets a refresh for the 2015 model year (its subtle, but better looking inside and out), so it was important to grab the keys to a 2014 before the change, in order to compare them next year.
Last year I drove the Ford Fusion SEL and was considerably impressed by it – so much so, that I recommended it to my brother-in-law when he was looking at buying a new vehicle. He loved it so much he bought one. I’ve driven a number of hybrids over the years, but never the Fusion. I liked the regular 4-cylinder version, so I grabbed the keys to the hybrid to see if it was any better. One thing it for sure, they are quite different.
It’s been a number of years since I last drove a Suzuki vehicle – too long in fact. I’ve always been a fan of Suzuki vehicles because they are always well built and well equipped – and they typically cost a lot less than other Japanese vehicles. Many moons ago (1987) when I was a driving instructor I leased one, and my students absolutely loved it.
It’s been a number of years since I last drove a Mazda6 – well when I say the 6, I really mean the awesome MazdaSpeed6. For the 2010 model year Mazda re-designed the 6, making it bigger in every dimension and I have to say it’s better looking too. Unfortunately, after spending a week with the Mazda6, it left this writer indifferent. The mid-sized sedan segment of the automotive landscape is the toughest area to do battle, so a car has to not only look good, but it has to excel in order to get noticed. I was really looking forward to driving the Mazda6 GT, but perhaps because it was in non-descript Silver, I never really felt myself looking forward to driving it or excited about having it sitting in the driveway.
The all-new Chrysler Sebring was launched last year and is one of many new vehicles coming from Chrysler over the next few of years. To say it was long over-due for a make-over would be an understatement. I drove the 2006 model in California back in April of 2006 and came away impressed with a vehicle that was well past its sell-by date even then. Considering it hadn’t changed much over its relatively long life-cycle – long in terms of the Japanese and Korean brands, but just a newbie in the Ford/GM design cycle – it held up well, but was definitely showing its age. Back in June of 2006, Chrysler announced the arrival of the all-new Sebring for the spring of 2007. Surprisingly, the public response of the news on PaddockTalk was far greater than we had imagined and the hits on the site were quite outstanding. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one looking forward to this vehicle’s facelift.
The Mitsubishi Galant was re-designed for the 2007 model year and since I liked the 2006 model so much, I thought I’d take another look at this new car. In the summer of 2006 I drove the top-of-the-line GTS model. For 2007 and beyond, the top-end Ralliart name returns to the Galant fold. Much like the GTS – the Ralliart comes only one way – fully loaded with no options, including satellite navigation. That’s one thing that I really like about Mitsubishi – the model ranges are very simple and the prices reasonable for the many extras that are included within the various models.
The Ford Fusion is a serious competitor to the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Inside, it’s plush, sporty and extremely comfortable, and on the outside I think it’s a very good-looking car. In black, it looks very classy and rich. Like the competition, it comes in 4 cylinder and V-6 configurations with an automatic transmission. A manual transmission is only available with the 4-banger. I had a Ford Contour back in the ‘90’s which had a V-6/manual transmission combination and it was a blast to drive – unfortunately we don’t often get that combo in North America for the Fusion – pity.
Mitsubishi cars and trucks are probably the most under-rated vehicles in North America. They’ve been with us since the 70’s either as a Mitsubishi, or some form of re-badged Chrysler product. I owned a couple of Dodge (Mitsubishi) Colts back in the early ‘90’s and they were great cars – unbreakable and extremely reliable. They needed only 3 things to keep them going: gas, oil and a key. They were reasonably priced, great on gas, and never once went back to the dealership for anything other than an oil change.
It’s been a number of years since I last drove a Volkswagen. I’ve always liked them but never really had the urge to put my hands in my pocket and pay for one. I always found another car to lust after with my own money. I know several people that actually own one or more, and they are very passionate about their love of the brand/car. They usually don’t settle for one – there’s usually another one to replace the last and it happens perpetually. For the sake of journalism, I had to find out what the big deal was/is with Volkswagen. Why this cult-like mentality?
After driving SUV’s over the past several weeks, it was great to finally get into a sporty car. This week’s Road Test is the Mazda6 Sport Hatchback, the 5-door version of the popular sedan. I haven’t seen too many Sports around, but I’ve seen plenty of the sedans. I think the hatchback version is much better looking than the 4 door sedan, and hatchbacks make more sense to me – why get a car with a trunk when you can get all the benefits of a hatch?