Monthly Archives: December 2015

2016 Scion tC Coupe

Susan Frissell

The Scion tC is one coupe option from the youth-oriented manufacturer; the FR-S being the other. While they offer a different type of vehicle and driving experience, they have similarities. Offering a smoother, more composed-less sporty-ride, the 2016 tC is a lot of car for the

The tC manual version starts at a very reasonable $19,385; the six-speed automatic at $20,535. Our test tC came without any options, making the total vehicle price a pleasing $21,330. This writer did a double-take at the Monroney. Since when have I had a window sticker in my hand with such a reasonable price?

For those drivers wanting to customize their tC, they will find aftermarket appearance and performance upgrades through the dealer.

The 2016 Scion tC is a great value. Equipped with about all a driver needs.Loaded with safety features, the tC is also equipped with up-to-date technology, including Bluetooth, Hands-free phone capability, AUX/USB port w/Pod connectivity, Aha apps, Smart Key w/push-button start, music streaming, etc.

Power windows, locks and mirrors are standard, as well as steering wheel audio controls, and a sunroof! New for 2016, the Display Audio System is standard equipment. The driver seat is manually adjusted, and can be set for height. The driver’s side window is one-touch automatic up/down. Seating surfaces are trimmed in leather and although stiff, are supportive.

The tC’s three-spoke steering wheel is tilt/telescopic and has audio controls. Cruise, A/C and 60/40 split reclining fold-fit rear seats are also standard. The rear seats recline somewhat. Don’t expect heated seats in this coupe, but then it’s an entry-level vehicle.

In addition to supportive seating, the tC is an easy coupe to maneuver, takes most road surfaces well and doesn’t feel as cramped as say, the FR-S. The 2.4-liter, inline 4 engine in the tC is smooth, runs well, but somewhat under-powered for our taste. While the FR-S rides low to the ground, as expected, the tC sits higher.

The updated styling of sharp angles and added creases in the corners make the tC look inviting, and new. This hatchback is a front-wheel-drive vehicle, and we had no trouble maneuvering in Chicago’s snow. Equipped with stability control, traction control and ABS, the tC performed well.

Drivers will appreciate the oft-forgotten rear window wiper. Why more hatchbacks don’t come equipped with this needed piece of equipment is beyond us. Projector beam headlamps and LED accent lights provide much needed light, and the panoramic glass moonroof is a nice addition.

Perhaps not as agile as the FR-S (nor is it supposed to be), the tC fits that spot that says ‘a reasonably priced entry-level, great-looking coupe., A great first car purchase for young drivers, the Scion tC is well-equipped and appointed.


MSRP: $20,535; total vehicle price $21,330; destination $795
Engine: 2.5-liter, 4-cyl DOHC 16 valve, VVT-1, 179 hp., 173 lb. ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed Sequential auto transmission w/paddle shifters, Dynamic Rev Management and controllers
Wheelbase: 106.3in.
Length: 176.6 in.
Width: 61.4 in.
Height: 55.7 in.
EPA Fuel Economy: 23/31 mpg.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 14.5 gal.
Wheels: 18-inch alloy
Tires: 225/45R18
Curb weight: 3,082 lbs.
Warranty: 3 yr./36,000-mile basic

2016 Kia Optima SX Limited

Susan Frissell

I ran into an acquaintance yesterday who not only remembered my name-when I could not recall hers-but also remembered that when we had a discussion about what cars to buy, she recalled right away that I recommended the Kia brand. Funny how some things don’t change; and this writer’s recommendation of the Kia vehicles hasn’t waned.

This week we spent some time in the redesigned Kia Optima. Our model, the SX Limited (MSRP $35,790). In a beautiful royal blue, the 2016 Kia Optima adds more interior features, is available in five trim levels and is still reasonably priced.

The entry-level LX model begins at $21,840 and goes up from there: EX ($24,340), SX T ($27,700), SXL ($35,790 and the Limited ($35,500. Our SX Limited version carried an MSRP of $36,600, putting it in the category of luxury sedan pricing (think Infiniti Q60, Lexus IS, etc). Good company, but for a lot less.

2016 Kia Optima

2016 Kia Optima

For 2016, the Optima increases trunk space to 15.9 cubic feet, providing a wider opening. Rear seats are split-folding and make it possible to tote a lot more stuff. While we prefer the original styling of the Optima, the 2016 look is more conventional and ‘common,’ should we say. Still a handsome sedan, the Optima is one of our favorites.

There is a lot to like about the 2016 Kia Optima; namely the Panoramic sunroof, large 8-inch display screen, and such features as Supervision Meter Cluster, 10-way power seat, heated rear seats, LED fog lights, power-folding side mirrors, heated steering wheel, MP3 audio ready system, push-button start, and very cool diamond-quilted Nappa leather seat trim.

Larger, taller, wider, the 2016 Optima has a quiet, composed ride. We found the engine somewhat wanting, but adequate for most driving situations. There was no lack of get-up-and-go when navigating the highway ramp. Drive-abikiality isn’t the most solid. This writer has a tendency to compare with performance sedans, which isn’t accurate. We did think though, when navigating slippery streets, the Optima acted as though it might not hold the road. One thing we found is that the driver cannot look away and expect the car to hold the road. Doing so for seconds at a time, this writer experience a lot of wander.

The Optima is equipped with the UVO eServices system which includes 911 Connect, a service that automatically dials out to emergency responders following a collision and an air bag deployment. New features for UVO eServices include Speed Alert, Curfew Alert, Geo-Fencing, and Driving Score. Also new, and taking a little getting used to is a reversing camera blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert, and an Advanced Smart Cruise Control system with forward-collision warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking are available as options.

The 2016 Optima is the first Kia to offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay technology. Also new is the 360-degree around-view monitoring system, and the optional Infinity premium surround-sound system that uses the Clari-Fi music restoration and QuantumLogic soundstage signal distribution technologies to deliver. The ‘high-fildelty’
sound is evident; you’ll find yourself looking around the cabin!


MSRP: $36,600
Engine: 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder, 247 horsepower, 260 lb.ft. torque, FWD
Transmission: six-speed automatic with Sportmatic, drive mode select system (normal, sport, eco), paddleshifters
Wheelbase: 110.4 in.
Length: 191.1 in.
Width: 63.5 in.
Curb weight: 3,219 lbs.
Height: 57.7 in.
EPA Fuel economy: 24/35 mpg.
Fuel tank capacity: 18.5 gal.
Wheels: alloy
Tires: P205/65HR16
Warranty: 5 yr./60,000-mile Basic; 5 yr./60,000-mile, Corrosion; 10 yr./100,000-mile,Drivetrain; 5 yr./60,000-mile, roadside assistance

The Cheapest Vehicles Ever Built…and Sold

An interesting website recently listed the world’s least expensive cars offered over the years. You can access photos of each on their website. An interesting lot, the cars named include:

*Fiat 500 Topolino-a car driven by Italians after WWII, the Fiat 500 was available during the 1940s-50s and sold for $5,434 (American dollars).

*Morris Minor: Built and sold in the UK, the Minor sold for $12,500 in 1968, and Morris lost $168 on every one sold!

*Cherry QQ: China, 2003, $4,781.

*Peel P50-the smallest car ever manufactured at 54 inches long and 41 inches wide! Built and sold in the UK in 1962, sold for $4,420.

*Ford Model T (of course): U.S., 1908, $3,895.

*ZAZ 968A: Built and sold in the Ukraine in 1972, $3,351.

*Eshelman Model 2: An “Adult Sport Car,” the 3 horsepower car was built in 1955 in the U.S., and sold at a cost of $3,455.

*Banner Boy Buckboard: U.S. in 1906. A DIYer, the Buckboard ran on two bicycle-type wheels.

*Tata Nano: India, 2008, $2,598.


2016 Toyota RAV4 SE AWD

rav42Susan Frissell

The ever-popular compact crossover sport ute, Toyota’s RAV4 comes into 2016 with a little bit different style and some new technology; some of which we found a tad annoying.
The now standard equipment rearview backup cameras are a good thing, no question. But they do take some getting used to. The last couple of test vehicles we’ve driven have come equipped with their own version of safety sensors and a pre-collision system, as well.

When driving the RAV last night, I attempted to make a lane change; kind of last minute. It’s amazing I didn’t get clipped, as out of nowhere, I saw a minivan passing me on the right. I never saw him coming, nor did the light illuminate in the RAV’s side mirror. Not familiar with just how this technology works, I wonder if maybe the minivan was out of the range of the RAV’s sensor and/or, the van just came up too quickly.

Fortunately for all, I saw the van in time to swing back into the lane, so it’s hard to know if I saved me from an accident, or a function of the RAV’s technology saved me. Perhaps, like most things in life, the system isn’t full-proof.

I am also getting accustomed to the touch screen to operate the sound system. It can be annoying at times, as it often prompts me to save a station when I’m simply trying to change the station. One must make sure to press the exact area required, otherwise, you’ll end up somewhere you don’t want to be.

This writer longs, at times, for the simple buttons and knobs of cars past. Improved technology doesn’t necessarily equate to easier use. But then, I didn’t grow up with much of modern technology.rav6

The Toyota RAV4 hasn’t always been the most exciting compact crossover, but it has been very popular, particularly with women drivers. For 2016, the RAV gets a few changes: A new trim package, for one. With seating for five, the, 5-door compact crossover is now available in 4 trims—the base LX, the up-featured XLE, the sporty and new-for-2016 SE, and the Limited. Both front-wheel-drive (FWD), and all-wheel-drive (AWD) are available; the later an option. We especially like the new black-painted accent wheels, much like those on the last few Toyota products we’ve tested. Sharp look.

The RAV4 grille is a new look for 2016. LED running lights and headlights are standard on the more expensive trim levels, as are silver-tinted skid-plates. Three new exterior colors are now available, along with a upgraded interior, and new optional safety package

Toyota RAV4 will also be available in a hybrid version in 2016.

The engine in the RAV4 is a four-cylinder, as it has been; 2.5-liter. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard fare, and our SE AWD test vehicle is equipped with paddle shifters, as well.
The RAV4 sports standard 17-inch tires and steel or alloy wheels. Opting for the XLE and Limited trims will get you the 18-inch tires and wheels. The power sunroof is standard on the new SE and XLE, Ltd versions. Side mirrors are not only adjustable but also heated. Suspension on the SE version is sport-tuned, but with a ride that isn’t harsh.

New for 2016 is the 4.2 inch information display/gauge cluster. Standard Bluetooth, CD-player (slowly becoming obsolete), upgraded Entune infotainment, satellite radio and HD radio are also a part of the package. The RAV4 now has a 7-inch screen-and as we noted-“touch” screen. Even when opting for the entry-level LE trim version, consumers can expect the basic Entune, with ‘budge-priced’ voice-activated nav.

Cloth and leatherette interior are standard on the RAV4, as are power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats and reclining rear seating. A power liftgate is included on some higher versions. Paddle shifters are standard on the new SE version, as well as different sport-style gauges.

Our test RAV4 SE ute came equipped with the Advanced Technology Package which includes Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan, front and rear parking sonar, Entune, Premium JBL audio with integrated nav and App suite and Toyota Safety Sense, Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, steering assist, auto high beams and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control ($3,030).

We couldn’t get used to the automatic high bean feature and found it counter-productive. Having it demonstrated might have left a better taste, but we elected not to use it. When it was needed (by this driver), it didn’t come on. In all fairness, I might have missed the learning curve.

As expected in all Toyota vehicles, the standard safety equipment for the 2016 RAV4 is plentiful, and includes 4-wheel antilock brakes (ABS), traction and stability control, front side-mounted airbags, front and rear head airbags, and the driver’s-side knee airbag that adorns the current versions, with the already-noted LED daytime running lights now added. Higher trims will also boast such added standard safety features as turn-signal-integrated mirrors, blind-spot monitoring, and front fog/driving lights.

The RAV4 has held well over time and owners most often report excellent reliability, good fuel economy and all-around driver comfort. Appearing in showrooms just recently, the improved 2016 RAV4 will again compete with the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape, and Jeep Terrain.


MSRP: $30,665; total vehicle price $34,595; destination $900
Engine: 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, DOHC w/dual VVT-I, 176 hp., 172 lb.-ft. torque
Wheelbase: 104.7 in.
Height: 67.1 in.
Width: 72.6 in.
Length: 181.1 in.
Wheels: 18-inch Machined alloy with black-painted accents
Tires: P225/65R17
Fuel tank capacity: 15.9 gal.
EPA fuel economy: 24 mpg city/31 highway/26 combined in FWD versions, and 22/29/25 in AWD
Warranty: 3 yr./36,000-mile basic; 2 yr./25,000-mile free maintenance; 5 yr./60,000-mile drivetrain

2016 Scion FR-S

frs1Susan Frissell, PhD

Having spent a week in the Scion FR-S sport coupe, we were reminded of the original Celica of days past. A very popular little sport coupe, Celica’s demise was mourned by many. A stablemate to the Subaru BRZ, the FR-S has several good points; and a few not-so-good.

For 2016, Scion has given the FR-S its first meaningful update. Introduced in 2012,, the FR-s has had moderate success, in a category that is quickly disappearing. Minor changes include some visual tweaks and new trim for the cabin, two new exterior colors (Ablaze Red, Oceanic Blue), a new standard audio system, and new standard rearview camera.

The Scion FR-S raises pricing about t $400, bringing the MSRP to $26405 for the automatic, and manual $25,305. Not inexpensive, particularly for the Scion brand, the FR-S can be considered an “affordable” sports coupe.

The FR-S is for the most part, a fun coupe to drive. The ride is hard, but the seats are firm and supportive. The car is nimble and solid, offers high tech features for the young set, and of course, excels at safety equipment packages. We would have enjoyed driving it on some twisty roads rather than around town. Not just sure this writer would welcome it as a daily driver. But then, It’s not aimed at my demographic.

Sporty in looks, the FR-S has an aerodynamic look and feel, is well-built and economical. We found the center console cupholder feature annoying. The two-cup holder moves back/forth in the console but is in the way of the driver’s elbow. I spilled my coffee more than once.

We found that driving in Sport mode was more comfortable (less bumpy, more smooth) than standard mode. Getting the gearshift to move into gear proved more difficult than it needed to be. New features for 2016 on the FR-S include a 7-inch audio screen, featuring more resolution, a revised Nav system, connect Bluetooth (Aha lite, iTunes, tagging included on non-Nav model); standard backup camera, interior feature color changes (changed steering wheel bezel, door grips and center console side ornament to high brightness silver color).

The FR-S is powered by a 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine, with 200 horsepower. At 151 lb-ft, it’s not exactly a pocket rocket.. The engine is a variation of a Subaru design, with the addition of Toyota’s direct- and port-injection system.

Steering may not have the anticipated precision of a sports car, but it’s tight and performance-oriented. Brakes worked well, effective and not jerky. Tires are 17-inch, hold the road well and give the car a heavier feel

Sitting in the FR-S gives one the feel of a sports car, but getting in and out of it aren’t so pleasurable. The cabin is for the most part, quiet even with a small growl. It is a sporty vehicle, after all.

Head and leg room in the FR-S is more plentiful than expected. The small back seat space is hardly worth it, but could hold packages (or a 5-year-old), and the like. Some reviewers believe an adult passenger can fit in the rear seats; we’re not so sure.

Cargo space is what would be expected for a two-plus-two coupe. Not as much as a Corvette, for instance, but enough for a couple of suitcases and gear. Also helpful are the fold flat rear seats, opening up additional horizontal space.

Scion says the FR-S was designed to hold four wheels and tires, a toolbox, a helmet, and a driver–all you need for a basic day at the track. I suppose that could work. Our silver exterior color wouldn’t have been our choice for a sport coupe: Rather, the blue or yellow, maybe even red would be a better fit.

Standard features on the 2016 Scion FR-S are generous which makes up for a lack of many options. Consumers can choose most of the options and upgrades on their own rather than in the usual packages. We wish more manufacturers would operate this way.

Optional equipment available on the FR-S includes carpeted trunk and cabin floor mats, an ashtray kit, mud guards, wheel locks, suspension kits and larger wheels. Not on the option list is navigation. This seems strange as it is available on the Subaru BRZ.

Standard equipment includes manually adjustable six-way driver and four-way passenger front seats; fold-flat rear seats; a first-aid kit; a leather-wrapped steering wheel; an eight-speaker audio system; USB/Bluetooth/auxiliary inputs; and more.

Competition for the Scion FR-S includes Chevy Camaro, Ford Mustang, Nissan 370Z and Miata MX5. Some pretty hefty choices.


MSRP: $26,405; total vehicle price $27,175; destinaiton $770

Engine: 2.0-liter H-4, 4-cylinder Boxer DOHC, 16-valve, 200 hp., 151 lb. ft. torque

Transmission: six-speed sequential automatic w/paddle shifters, Dynamic Rev Management

Wheelbase: 101.2 in.

Length: 166.7 in.

Height: 50.6 in.

Width: 69.9 in.

Fuel Tank Capacity: 13.2 gal.

Tires: 215/45R17 all-season

Wheels: 17-inch alloy