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What I think: 2015 Mini Cooper S five-door

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Hardcore fans of the modern Mini Cooper tend to turn up their noses at any Mini model that’s not the original hatchback. But of the many variants that now exist, this five-door proves it is possible to add practicality without watering down the Cooper S’ fun-to-drive nature. Check out my review at Autofocus.ca.

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What I think: 2015 Chevrolet Colorado

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Chevrolet’s second-generation Colorado has kicked off a resurgence in the popularity of mid-size pickup trucks, and with good reason. It’s comfortable and spacious inside and has a great ride for a truck, and for what it’s worth, it’s a handsome machine. This is a great truck for drivers who drivers who need some utility but won’t make use of a full-size pickup. Read my review at Autofocus.ca.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2015 in Autofocus, Chevrolet, Trucks

 

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What I think: 2015 Buick Verano

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The Verano is part of Buick’s plan to attract younger buyers. It’s a compact sedan that shares its underpinnings with the Chevrolet Cruze, but this upscale manufacturer has done a good job of giving this car a genuine upscale feel. Our main criticism is that the Verano feels like a small Buick, rather than the entertaining small sedan with which the Verano competes. Here’s my review at Autofocus.ca.

 
 

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What I think: 2015 Mini Cooper Countryman

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Just like the Porsche Macan I reviewed a few weeks ago, the Mini Countryman is yet another automaker’s attempt to break into the lucrative upscale compact crossover segment. This one is fun, but it’s expensive and noisy inside. For nearly $40,000, there are more refined small crossovers that represent better value for money. Read my review at Autofocus.ca.

 
 

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What I think: 2015 Porsche Macan

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The Macan is Porsche’s first compact crossover. This is a profitable vehicle segment, and Porsche seems keen to take advantage of that with a car that is far from a bargain even compared to other German models. Have a look at my review of the Macan at Autofocus.

 

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Straight Eight: 2015 Chevrolet Malibu

2015 Chevrolet Malibu

1. Fun in the run-of-the-mill
Malibu, in southern California, is sexy and sunny. A car named after such a place must be a sleek convertible, right? Nope. It’s a family sedan, and a bland-looking one, but if you can believe it, this is the most interesting-looking Malibu since the mid-1970s.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu

2. Simply motivated
Just as the look is what we expect from a mainstream sedan, so is what’s under the hood. Our test car had the base engine, a 2.5-litre four-cylinder; the only transmission is a six-speed automatic. Ho-hum.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu

3. Good on its feet
But start driving, and you discover there’s a little more to this car than meets the eye. Okay, it’s not exciting, exactly, but the steering is quite good, and the Malibu handles better than I expected it to.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu

4. Self-starter
The 2.5-litre engine has an auto stop/start feature that shuts the engine off at stoplights, to save fuel. In my chilly winter test, it only worked about half the time, typical for this technology in cold weather. When it works, its operation is largely transparent, better than similar systems in some more expensive cars (right, BMW?), and contributed to a respectable fuel consumption average of 10.7 L/100 km.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu

5. Touchy, touchy
Touchscreens are quickly becoming a staple of car interiors. Chevrolet’s version of this technology is called IntelliLink. This one’s better than many, but still doesn’t always respond the first time, which not handy when you’re trying to, you know, drive a car. In fact, the best thing about this touchscreen is the storage compartment hidden behind it.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu

6. Never look back
Small, oddly-shaped side mirrors seem better suited to sparing you the worry of what’s behind you, rather than aiding visibility.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu

7. Put some junk in this trunk
Making up for that, perhaps, is the trunk, large enough to fit (for example) a two-drawer filing cabinet and a printer stand at the same time.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu

8. Identity crisis
A few people asked if it’s fun driving “a cop car.” Nope, that’s the larger Impala, I reminded them. This sedan is good at what it was designed for, but as those cases of mistaken identity illustrate, if you want something that’ll leave a lasting impression, Malibu – the place – is a better bet.

 

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Straight Eight: 2015 Toyota Tacoma

2015 Toyota Tacoma

1. That’s near Seattle, right?
Tacoma. Colorado. Canyon. Sierra. Silverado. Dakota. Is there a rule that pickups have to be named after American places and geological formations?

2015 Toyota Tacoma

2. Don’t call me small
The Tacoma is smaller than the brand’s full-size Tundra (see what we mean about names?), but they refer to it as “mid-sized.” This is the Double Cab version; the base Access Cab model also has four doors, but the back ones are smaller and the tiny rear seats useless.

2015 Toyota Tacoma

3. A step in the wrong direction
OK, let’s get in the truck – but watch out: the side steps are too high and just get in the way, and once you’ve climbed up, you have to duck down to avoid whacking your head on the door frame.

2015 Toyota Tacoma

4. It’s raining on my groceries
For stuff you don’t want exposed to the elements, the back seats fold to create a flat load surface. You have to remove the headrests first, though, and there’s nowhere to stow them.

2015 Toyota Tacoma

5. Get into bed
For less-perishable cargo, there’s the bed. Curiously, Double Cab trucks with a manual transmission get a five-foot bed, while the automatic version I drove has one that measures a little longer than six feet. The bed was just a bit shorter than the junk I had to haul to the dump. (Of course it was.)

2015 Toyota Tacoma

6. Rough, going
Many modern trucks ride surprisingly smoothly, thanks to sophisticated suspension designs, but Tacoma’s decade-old design barely qualifies as modern, and shows its age in the poor ride quality.

2015 Toyota Tacoma

7. Small(er) truck, big thirst
My tester’s V6 moves the Tacoma well, but average fuel consumption was higher than two V8-powered Chevrolet trucks I tested earlier this year.

2015 Toyota Tacoma

8. Priced to stay put
Pricewise, at $40,000, my top-of-the-line test truck lacked many creature comforts. I’m okay with a basic truck, but similar money will buy you a V8-powered, full-size truck that will tow and haul more weight. Oh, well. Maybe if they’d called it the Seattle.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2014 in Straight Eight, Toyota, Trucks

 

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