Monthly Archives: March 2014

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES

 mirage2Reviewed by Susan Frissell

Available in two trim levels: DE ($12,995/14/195) and ES ($13,995/$15,195), the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage is a subcompact, four door, five passenger vehicle, with lots of good competition; namely, Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, Chevy Spark, Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa Note and Toyota Yaris. For a little more cash, buyers will get a better ride, quicker acceleration and more interior room in most of the competition.

Safety equipment on the 2014 Mirage includes seven standard airbags, a driver’s knee airbag and advanced dual stage front airbags. Active stability control, ABS and traction control are also available, along with a tire pressure monitoring system and anti-theft engine immobilizer.

First impressions in the Mirage were more favorable than those given after spending a week in this subcompact. A fairly peppy commuter, the Mirage offers a somewhat smooth ride, even over Chicago’s miserable roads. However, the 3-cylinder MIVEC engine, although it may be enough when driving from point A to B, is very noisy and sluggish when pushed. The interior is less than inspiring, the IP and dash unremarkable and the seats barely functional. While headroom is decent for the taller driver/passenger, the center console ‘s three cupholders are barely reachable from a driving position. One can opt for the bottle holder in the door, however.

There are no armrests for driver or front passenger, but controls are easily reached and workable. The rear bench seat is flat with not much cushion and a tight fit for three passengers, When folded flat, cargo space increases to 47 cubic feet, enough to carry quite a few items.

After a week we used less than half a tank of gas. At a reported 40 mpg around town, the Mirage may appeal to those intent on saving gas, who want a very easy car to park and one that is simple to operate on a day-to-day basis. One of the newest entries in the subcompact category, the Mirage is the car for the thriftiest of thrifty buyers.mirage1


The Mirage is easily maneuvered in crowded neighborhoods. While the steering is loose, it doesn’t require much effort to steer its small turning circle, making this little subcompact nimble. In years past-before the days of the SUV-a car like the Mirage might be an option for the new teen driver. Today, parents aren’t crazy about putting son or daughter into a car so small.

Offering a fair amount of standard features and a good warranty, the Mirage includes auto air conditioning climate control and keyless entry. Our ES came equipped with the push-button start/stop. For those who must have the ‘usual’ options, Mitsubishi does offer a Navigation package, with rearview camera and parking sensors.

Standard features on the base Mirage DE include 14-inch steel wheels, rear spoiler, keyless entry, power windows/mirrors/locks, the automatic climate control, tilt steering wheel, 60/40 split-folding rear seats and a four-speaker sound system with CD,USB and auxiliary audio inputs. Alloy wheels are a stand-alone option on the DE.

On the ES trim level, 14-inch alloys are included, along with keyless ignition, foglights, cruise, a height-adjustable driver seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel (with audio controls) and shift knob, Bluetooth phone connectivity and metallic interior accents.


MSRP: $15,195; total vehicle price $15,990; destination $795

Engine: 1.2-liter DOHC 3-cylinder MIVEC, 74 hp., 74 ft. lbs. torque

Transmission: CVT INVEC II

Wheelbase: 96.5 in.

Length: 148.8 in.

Height: 59.1 in.

Width: 65.6 in.

Weight: 2,910 lbs/3,020 lbs.

Fuel economy: 34/42/37 manual; 37/44/40 CVT

Fuel Tank Capacity: 9.2 gal.

Tires: 165/55R14 Low Rolling

Wheels: 14-inch alloy

Warranty: 5-yrs./60,000-miles Basic; 10-yrs./100,000-miles powertrain; 7-yrs./100,000-miles anti corrosion; roadside assistance: standard

2014 Hyundai Santa Fe FE Limited AWD Saddle

Reviewed by Susan Frissell

In need of a vehicle with space to load up furniture, boxes and misc and drive it to Indianapolis, the redesigned 2014 three-row Hyundai Santa Fe fit the bill. It is slightly wider than its predecessor, and 8.5 inches longer than its little brother the Santa Fe Sport. An SUV that has changed its iteration several times since first introduced, the Santa Fe is a versatile, fit-the-bill vehicle.

While In Indy, we visited some of the highlights of this manageable city, such as the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA), on Michigan Rd. Sitting on 150 acres, the IMA has been an important part of the cultural landscape of the city of Indianapolis for nearly 130 years. One of the 10 oldest and largest Museums in the nation, IMA offers an “encyclopedic” collection of more than 54,000 works spanning 5,000 years. A vibrant calendar of public programs and events, exciting and engaging exhibitions, IMA also features a 100-acre nature park and gardens in which to walk and reflect.

Speedway, IN

Some of the Santa Fe models are outfitted with woodgrain trim, some with a gloss finish; we prefer the latter. Somehow the wood trim doesn’t fit the SUV image. Second-row passengers will find the captain’s chair seats comfortable with armrests for support. Knee and legroom is ample. Hyundai’s materials and textures get an upgrade and the cabin is quiet.

Other comforts and conveniences include roof side rails, windshield de-icer, power liftgate, heated exterior mirrors with turn signal indicators, proximity key entry with pushbutton start, heated front and second row seats, manual rear side window shades, rear seat heating/air conditioning, auto dimming interior mirror with Homelink and compass.

Safety features are plentiful on the Santa Fe and include the usual airbags, stability control, ABS, downhill brake control, HIllstart assist control, blind spot detection system and optional backup camera. New options for 2014 include blind-spot monitors and parking sensors, both of which came in handy during this snowy Chicago weather. Snow piles are everywhere.

Since most of our driving was over the highway, and the Santa Fe Limited was packed to capacity, its potential comfort was tested. It performed flawlessly. Hyundai’s six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode is mounted on the center console and shifts easily through the gears; almost unnoticeably unless the vehicle is in ECO mode when the lines become a little blurred. How much gas was saved isn’t known, but we guess not enough to make a real difference. A few times when making turns and looking for power, a noticeable lag was felt, almost as if the engine was turbocharged.

Hyundai’s electric power steering is somewhat improved in feel and design. The Santa Fe has a wide turning radius making it easy to manipulate in tight spots. We navigated the newly designed streets of Speedway, Indiana, craning our necks to look into the windows lined with race cars.

One can select from three driver selectable steering modes: Normal, Sport, Comfort. We drove in “normal” most days, but found the “sport” setting to improve tracking during highway driving. A new suspension design makes for a calmer, smoother ride. The Santa Fe glides well over bumps and uneven surfaces with hardly a jar. The longer wheelbase makes for a better ride, even when equipped with 19-inch tires.

The all-wheel-drive equipped Santa Fe models have torque vectoring control on the rear wheels and an open center differential that distributes power. This system helps when cornering; something we noticed when navigating the snowy roadways.20140301_101641_resized

Sarah Fisher's Headquarters

Sarah Fisher’s Headquarters

A favorite haunt in the Indy area is Speedway, home of the infamous Indy 500 track and surrounds. Relocating in 2012 to Speedway’s Main Street, Sarah Fisher built her $2.5-million dollar facility in conjunction with Speedway Redevelopment Commission. At 33 years old, Fisher is not just an Indy driver who competed nine Indy 500s, she is a CEO, mother, inspirational speaker and co-owner of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Her new facility houses retail space, a office area for the team and space for composite and paint departments along with a fan interactive section.

Still a favorite of this writer, the 2014 Santa Fe is much improved, outside and in. While we don’t see much resemblance to a minivan, we think it’s made the competition just that much stiffer.


MSRP: $35,450; total vehicle price $41,290; destination $855

Engine: 3.3-.liter, GDI, V6, 290 hp., 252 lb. ft. torque

Transmission: six-speed w/SHIFTRONIC, Active On Demand All-wheel-drive system w/AWD lock

Wheelbase: 110.2 in.

Length: 93.1 in.

Width: 74.0 in.

Height: 66.1 in.

EPA fuel economy: 18/24 mpg., avg. 20 mpg

Tires: P235/50R18 (P235/55R on package)

Wheels: 18-inch alloy (19-inch on package)

Warranty:  5 yr./60,000-mile new vehicle; 10 yr./100,000-mile powertrain; 7-yr./unlimited mile anti-perforation; 5 yr./unlimited-mile roadside assistance.

2014 Toyota Corolla LE Plus

Reviewed by Susan Frissell

What about these numbers? Lasting over 40 years-a vehicle sold on average of every 40 seconds-worldwide best-selling nameplate in automotive history-best-selling nameplate in the world-with proper maintenance, the car could run for 250,000 miles.

Who wouldn’t want those statistics? Any automobile manufacturer, I would suppose.

So it goes with the Toyota Corolla, and for 2014, it has been redesigned-seriously redesigned. For a vehicle that has been doing well all these years, how can it possibly be redesigned. Well, the time had come and 2014 is the year to make some changes in the best-selling small sedan with a trouble-free, penny-pinching reputation.

Evolving over the years, the Corolla nameplate has sold over 40 million vehicles, worldwide. The 2014 Corolla receives a tweaked, more curvaceous lines, updated in-car technology and better handling. Improvements in styling, comfort and features have taken place, and hardcore Corolla drivers will be glad-if they can be persuaded to trade that old, still running well, Corolla.

First, a little history: Rolling off the line in 1966, the Corolla came equipped with the basics. Many features were optional. Later on with an aim to meet the needs of families, Toyota included many of these features as standard; their purpose being to pursue higher levels of quality.  Over all these years, Toyota has made efforts to anticipate customer needs and provide an ever better car each time out.

The world’s best-selling car, Corolla hit 40 million sales in July 2013. Over all these years, Toyota has produced 15 plants worldwide and accounts for one in five vehicles sold in the company’s 76-year history. The Corolla is now being built at Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Mississippi in Blue Springs, as well as in Canada.

If you bought a Corolla in 2013, you may very well have purchased the 40-millionth Corolla ever sold! The poster child for Toyota’s legendary quality, Corolla began annual production in 1966 with approximately 240,000 vehicles produced at its new Takaoka Japan factory. Exports began immediately. Eleven generations later, 1.1 million Corollas are produced each year. Every hour 125 new Corollas leave the factories in America, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, Venezuela, China, Canada, Brazil, India, Japan, Pakistan, South Africa and Taiwan.

For 2014, Corolla competes with Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Dodge Dart and others. A more ‘athletic’ looking vehicle, the 2014 Corolla is geared toward the Y Generation with it s ‘dynamic’ and modern look. About three inches longer, the 2014 Corolla gains four inches of additional wheelbase, placing the wheels farther out to the corners. Sportier and better riding, the new Corolla will please.


Angular headlights flank the new lower grille and wrap-around taillights. Door handles flare out and LED-designed low-beam headlamps round out the corners. Maintaining it s own look is the S model, with a front blacked-out grille and foglights. A more aggressive airdam  is obvious, as is the integrated spoiler. The interior gets upgraded materials, a two-tone design and stitched dashboard.

Roomier and better packaged, the 2014 Corolla gets standard LED lights, improved ride and handling and on our LE test model, a backup camera sunroof.  By no means, a luxury sedan, the Corolla is a wonderfully serviceable sedan that competes with the best of them-and often comes out ahead. While for a car buff, Corolla may not seem like anything special, it is however, wildly popular. The ‘average’ man’s vehicle, Corolla can’t seem to do anything wrong. A tad sluggish, the 1.4-liter engine is adequate for most driving situations. Headroom in the rear seats is tight, and the car lacks some of the top safety features.

More athletic looking for 2014, Corolla appeals for the Y generation demographic, those with young families, or those looking for a ‘basic’ sedan with dependability. Three inches longer for 2014, Corolla has about corolla4 inches of additional wheelbase placing the wheels farther apart. The 2014 Corolla gains four inches in wheelbase, providing a little more rear seat space. Front seats are a tad more comfortable and supportive, however, they still are reminiscent of entry-level vehicles; not ones you’d be so comfortable in over the long haul. The trunk is roomy with a low, flat floor, and flip-forward seating for additional cargo area.

Safety in the new Corolla translates to eight standard airbags, Toyota’s Star Safety System, including stability control, traction control, ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist. Also standard is Toyota’s Smart Stop Technology brake-override system. Toyota’s Entune infotainment system is available, featuring navigation and apps for some models.

Our favorite Corolla remains the S model, distinctly different than your average Corolla model. Sportier, peppier,  andjust more fun, the S version gets a blacked-out grille with foglamps and a more aggressive airdam. An integrated rear spoiler gives the S model a sharper look. The S trim gets Toyota’s 1.8-liter engine with 132 horsepower.  Choose the Sport function and you’ll forget you’re in a Corolla!

The new Corolla is available in four trim levels: L ($16,443/$17,400) LE ($16,944/18,300), S ($17,592/19,000) and the new LE Eco model.  Competing with Ford Focus, Mazda3, Hyundai Elantra, Honda Civic and Chevrolet Cruze, Corolla still holds its own.

For those buyers looking for better fuel efficiency, opt for the LE Eco model trim with its 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder engine featuring Valuematic providing a broader range of CTV (continuously variable timing and increase in fuel economy and engine output.

For a car that was originally designed to meet the changing needs of Japanese commuters during the mid-1960s, the Corolla has reached popularity beyond imagination. Toyota continues to “always evolve and design vehicles to meet consumer needs in each market.”


MSRP: $18,700; total vehicle price $20,360; destination $850

Engine: 1.8-liter 4-cyl. DOHC 16-valve Dual VVT 4

Transmission: CVT, FWD

Wheelbase:  106.3 in.

Height: 57.3 in.

Weight: 2800 lbs.

Length: 182.6 in.

Width: 60.4in.

EPA Fuel economy: 32 mpg.

Tires: P205/55R16

Wheels: 16-inch alloy

Warranty:  5 yr./60,000-miles drivetrain;3 yr./36,000-miles basic; 5 yrs./unlimited corrosion; 25,000-miles/2 yrs roadside assistance; 2 yrs/25,000-miles maintenance.

MaryEve Default is Right on Track for 2014 ARCA Season

Dufault with her ARCA car at Daytona in 2011Dufault with her ARCA car at Daytona in 2011Wikicommons

Dufault began Stock Car racing in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series in 2010 by racing in two events. She made her ARCA debut at Daytona in February 2011; by December she had made fourteen starts in the ARCA Racing Series with one top 10 and six top 13 in her first year in stock car racing; her first top 10 being a tenth place finish at Chicagoland Speedway. She finished the ARCA season sixteenth in the series points standings, despite missing five races during the season because of a lack of sponsorship..

That won’t be a problem this year. In fact, Dufault and her No. 46 team kicked off the season with an excellent showing in the ARCA Lucas Oil 200 February 15th, in which she led for 4 laps (after starting 35th), beginning on lap 21 and stayed among the top 5 drivers for the next 28, before being forced to pit under a green flag. She eventually finished 18th.

“I couldn’t be happier. To lead at Daytona was a dream come true,” she remarked. “I think we proved we could run up front and be a contender.”

Default’s next test will come March 22nd in the ARCA Mobile 200 in Alabama.

Note: Dufault was not only the first female race car driver selected to be part of the Dodge Motorsport driver development program, she became the first Canadian woman to race in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series when she made her debut at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on August 20, 2011. At the time she was listed as one of the “Top female drivers in racing today” by Fox Sports, and was also named as one of the “Top 12 Up-and-Coming Female Drivers in Motorsports” by Bleacher Report.