2015 Chevy Cruze

Standard

ChevyCruze

Someone rear-ended my poor Tardis – that is what I named my blue, 2015 Honda Fit – so I had a rental car for a little while as my car was repaired.  I was given a 2015 Chevy Cruze rental and decided to do a quick review.

Comparisons = The main cars I will be comparing it against are those I have the most experience driving: 1992 Honda Accord, 2014 Mazda3 iSport (referred to as “M3” – review), and 2015 Honda Fit LX (review).  Note that I do NOT know what trim level my rental car was.

Bias =  First, the variety of cars I’ve driven is obviously limited.  Second, I am a single, child-free woman, and most of my driving consists of commuting to work and running errands around town; therefore, I don’t care about sportiness, and I’m not particularly concerned about passenger room/comfort.  Last but certainly not least, I only had this car for 10 days and did not drive it every day.

The Awesome:
Cargo/Trunk = The trunk on this sedan car is quite spacious.  It doesn’t match the sheer potential capacity of the Fit, but that’s not a fair comparison since the Fit is a hatchback.  Compared to the M3 sedan, the Cruze is the definite winner in terms of cargo/trunk room.

Tire Pressure Monitoring =  I liked this so much, I felt it deserved it’s own point.  Both the Fit and M3 only have a warning light that lights up on the dashboard if it senses a low tire, but it doesn’t tell you which tire is low, or how low it is.  The Cruze’s monitoring system has an info screen with a diagram of the car, with a PSI listed next to each tire.  In theory, this should tell you exactly which tire has what PSI.  It doesn’t quite work – the tires on the info screen in my rental were backwards/mislabeled – but the PSI readings seem to be fairly accurate, and seeing the individual numbers is a very useful tool.

The Good:
Tech Features = Cruise control and adjustable intermittent windshield wiper speeds; nice.  I didn’t pay much attention to the buttons on the rear view mirror, but it looked like it had OnStar and a couple other things.  There are a lot of buttons and a fairly large screen in the central control area, so there may be other features I didn’t discover in the week I had it.

Roominess = There’s a lot of room in this car.  The back seats didn’t look cramped and the driver area seemed to have plenty of leg room.

Seats = Not as cushy as some, but still a good level of padding.  The headrests are mercifully at a somewhat normal angle, unlike the M3’s painful contraptions. It lacks lumbar support, but that’s true of the Fit and the M3 too, especially when you adjust the M3’s seats to compensate for the terrible headrest.

Handling = The gas pedal felt nice; it didn’t have the delay/slow start like Nissans, or even the M3 had to a lesser extent.  The breaks felt nice, road noise seemed better than the Fit and maybe better than the M3.  Good overall as far as pedal feel and driving.

The Bad:
Backup Camera = It doesn’t have one.  Most 2015 model cars have backup cameras, so it’s odd that the Cruze doesn’t have one.

Button/Center Stack Layout = Some things were in some odd places.  None of the sticks on the steering column control the headlights.  Instead, the headlights are controlled by a knob under the air-conditioning vent to the driver’s left.  The button to pop the trunk is located in the center stack towards the bottom, which seemed like an odd place, and the center stack in general seemed busy/cluttered.

USB? = I found one USB port in the center armrest (which doesn’t actually function as an armrest).  I didn’t do a thorough search, but I didn’t see any other USB ports.  If a car is going to have only one USB port, I think the port should either be at the bottom of the center stack, or the armrest should be big enough to fit a large iPod or smart phone inside and be able close with it plugged in.

Front Cup Holders = The cup holders between the driver and passenger were position so that I was reaching roughly to the side of my thigh, which is towards the edge of my peripheral vision while driving.  It would’ve been better if they could’ve been position further forward.

The Ugly:
I did not find anything that would qualify as “Ugly.”  However, I only drove the car for about a week; it took longer for the “Ugly” traits to be noticeable in both the M3 and the Fit.

Overall, did I like this car?  Yes.  I think it’s at least worth a look.

Advertisements

2015 Honda Fit

Standard

FitPromo

Bias = I traded in my 2014 Mazda3 for a 2015 Honda Fit LX due to blind spots in the Mazda3; you can read more in my review about the Mazda3. The only car I have driven for any length of time was a 1992 Honda Accord.

The Awesome
Visibility = This is the main reason I switched from the Mazda3 to the Fit. All cars have blind spots, and an increasing number have forward blind spots. The Fit still has forward blind spots, but they hide objects 1-2 car lengths further away than the Mazda’s did, meaning they do not pose the same hazard in intersections that the Mazda’s did.

Cargo Room = This is a small car with an impressive amount of cargo room. The back seats fold flat, and the front passenger can fold too, so you can haul a lot of stuff if need be.  I’ve hauled a coworker and their bicycle, something I couldn’t have done without a lot of planning and effort in my Accord or Mazda3.  I’ve also used the back of my Fit as a portable study room during finals week at college.

FitPics

 

The Good
MPG = I average about 35 mpg on a commute that is roughly 60% city and 40% highway driving.

Headroom = I like to sit upright and close to the wheel. Unlike in the Mazda, my head does not brush the roof in my Fit. However, this is only applicable in the LX; the EX version loses an inch of headroom due to the moonroof.

Headrests = A lot of people complain about the headrests in the Fit, but they must not have driven a new Mazda3. The headrests in the Fit are a significant improvement over the Mazda3’s, which shoved my head forward at a very uncomfortable angle.

Door Opening = The doors on the Fit open wide, opening to an almost 90-degree angle with the car. Most car doors do not open this wide.

The Bad
Road Noise = This car is fairly noisy on the road/interstate. This doesn’t bother me, but I can see how it would be a drawback for some.  On interstates passengers in the back will have to speak up to be heard in the front, at least in the LX Fit.

Rough Ride = Similar to the road noise issue, the Fit is pretty rough riding for a modern car.  Again, not an issue that really bothers me, but it does make it impossible to ignore the deplorable condition of New Orleans’ streets.

Interior = I’ve seen worse, but the interior is cheaper than the Mazda3’s. There are more hard-touch plastics, the arm rests in the door have no cushioning, and the seats seem a little less padded. There’s also no armrest on the right side of the driver’s seat.  All things I don’t really care about, but worth mentioning.

Storage Stash = Different from cargo room, these are the hidey-holes where you put things you keep in the car: GPS, MP3 player, air gauge, emergency tools, etc. There is a small-ish glove compartment, a little hidey-hole in the center “armrest,” and a pocket on the back of the front passenger seat, but that’s really about it; not a lot of places to stash stuff.

The Ugly
Pedals/Driver Foot Room = After driving this car some, I’ve found that my ankles hurt.  My 35-40 mile commute is enough to do it, especially with the frequent stop-and-go rush hour traffic.  I didn’t experience this in my old Accord or Mazda3, so I want to blame the Fit.  I’ve experimented with a number of different chair positions, and while I’ve lessened the problem, I’ve yet to complete resolve it.  Also, while I wouldn’t call the foot area cramped, I can’t stretch out my legs, and I’m only 5’5″ or 5’6″ tall.

Verdict = The Fit is a Honda’s smallest, cheapest car currently available in the U.S. For those with more expensive tastes or accustomed to more upscale cars, the Fit might not be a good fit. For those specifically shopping the cheaper end of the car market though, the Fit is a solid contender and definitely worth a look.

2014 Mazda3

Standard

For the most part, this blog will be for reviewing things one might enjoy on a lazy day: movies, video games, junk food, etc.  However, occasionally I will review something else, and today is one of those days.  This week marks the one-year anniversary of my 2014 Mazda3 iSport, and I will write a review of my opinion of the car now that I’ve owned it for a year.

MazdaPromoBlog.jpg

Bias = The only other car I have owned was a 1992 Honda Accord.  My experience with other cars is limited, so my review will all be based on internet information, my brief experiences while car shopping, and my former ownership of a ‘92 Accord.

My first car accident was on January 7, 2015 in my Mazda3.  The accident was partially due to the A-frame pillar blind spot.  I will expand on this after the rest of the review.

The Awesome:
+ Exterior styling = This car is sexy looking.  It has a sleek, stylish look that sets it apart from many of its boring or just plain ugly competitors.  It also has a longer-than-average nose/front that is actually visible while driving; many modern cars have fronts no longer visible to the driver.

+ MPG = I average about 32 MPG during my normal commute, which consists of roughly 60% city driving and 40% highway driving.

The Good:
+ Safety Rating = The 2014 Mazda3 has top ratings in all crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick.

+ Driving Experience = The gas pedal is fairly responsive; not quite as responsive as a Honda, but is more responsive than, say, a Nissan.  It has decent feedback and handling with some road noise, so there is a definite, solid feel of driving a car.  It is a nice medium between the cheap cars and the more luxurious ones (like the creepily-smooth Accord).

+ Interior Materials = The majority of plastics are “soft-touch” plastics instead of the hard, scratchy/textured plastics found in some other cars.  The door sill is soft-touch for when you rest your elbow own it, and the actual door handle/armrest is padded.  This puts the Mazda above cars with cheaper feeling materials, like the lower trim Nissan Altimas and the old Honda Fits (2013 and older).

+ Simple Dashboard = With all the gadgets modern cars come with, their dashboards are often very cluttered and busy.  The M3’s dashboard is simple and less distracting.

The Bad:
Ugly Radio = People have said the radio looks like an add-on or afterthought.  Instead of being set in the dashboard like most radios, it sticks out the top of it.  The unusual design might make it hard to replace later if need be.

Easily Marked Plastics = The downside to the interior plastics is that they seem to scratch/scuff easily, and that the imperfections are more visible than I’d like.  I am not particularly abusive/tough on car interiors, so I have some concern about how the interior would look after five years or so years of use.

Small Trunk = Compared to some of its competitors, the M3 is on the lower end when it comes to trunk space.  The shape of the trunk opening can also prevent putting larger items in the trunk that would otherwise fit.

Head Rests = The headrests are angled forward in an attempt to prevent whiplash.  However, the angle is severe enough as to be very uncomfortable during regular driving.  The headrests cannot be moved forward and back, only up and down.

The Ugly:
Level of Tech = Compared to its main competitors, the lower-trim M3’s are lacking in tech/features.   For example, the Honda Civic has a backup camera standard on its lowest trim level, but the M3 does not include one until its 3rd trim level.  Mazda’s blind spot monitoring system – a safety feature frequently raved about in car reviews – is also not available until the 3rd level trim.

Blind Spots = The thick A-frame pillars create forward blind spots which are particularly noticeable when turning or pulling out into intersections.  The blind spot is big enough to hide an entire car in intersections.

The Verdict = Knowing what I know now, would I still buy the Mazda3 if I went back in time?  Maybe.  It would depend on if I could find a comparatively-priced car with smaller forward-driving blind spots.  I still think the Mazda3 is a good car, but I’m not sure it was the best choice for me.

CarAccidentFrontBlog.jpg

FML

What you see above is the result of my January 2015 accident, which occurred in part when I failed to see a car in my A-frame forward blind spot.  The accident occurred at speeds of less than 15 mph, no airbags were deployed, and no injuries were sustained.  However, the estimated damage to my car was a little over $7,200.  I only had to pay $250 with insurance, but still, that’s a lot of damage for a little accident.

I appreciate the Mazda’s good safety/crash test ratings, but I’d rather avoid getting in an accident in the first place.  To that end, I now feel less safe in my Mazda thanks to the A-frame blind spots.  I have written a letter to Mazda await their response.

Update: Mazda sent me form letter saying they regretted to hear about my accident, and that “my concerns would be passed to their research team.”  Nothing else was said or done.  I traded in my Mazda3 for a 2015 Honda Fit; you can read my initial impressions here.