Driving Miss Vikki

In my last post I told you about our trip to the great mitten state and a little about our adventures up there. Well, what I didn’t mention was the car we drove.

As with other long trips, we rented from the locally-owned rental fleet (look it up if you don’t know) and to my surprise, they only had a few cars available…on a Wednesday night! Well, since we were heading up to the Detroit area, home of the UAW and the domestic auto industry, I asked for an American-made car but all they had was a couple of pickup trucks. I don’t mind driving a full-size truck but I wasn’t really interested in getting 15 miles per gallon on a 1500-mile trip.

So my choices were either a Honda Accord, Nissan Altima or Toyota Camry. Not a big fan of the continuously variable transmission found in the Altima, so that was out. And Camry’s to me are the blandest of the Japanese sedans, so that was out. So the Accord it was. gal_lg4

We actually liked it. We found the trunk to be spacious, if not  a bit oddly shaped…we thought we were missing something since we filled the trunk and had room to spare…and we had almost nothing in the back seat!

Since it was a rental, we didn’t expect much in the way of options and we weren’t disappointed. When we get a car from the manufacturers press fleet, they’re usually the top of the line, heavily optioned and with the highest trim level and biggest engine. Not so with a rental.

gal_lg1

Our car had the four-cylinder engine, wheel covers rather than alloys, and cloth seats. It also had the base radio with CD player and no automatic climate control. It was a basic car, but one that did it’s job very well.

The Accord handled quite nicely and was well-composed on the highway, with little to no bobbing and weaving over expansion joints or minor undulations. Cornering was good as well, which was a nice surprise and made the trip that much more fun.

One of the nicest surprises was getting 31 miles per gallon over the course of 1500 miles. If we had a V6 and more upscale trim, that number would have been a bit lower. However, with the vehicle optioned as it was, we made out really well. Of course, that number was bolstered with us driving over 1000 miles solely on the highway.

So yes, the Accord is a well-built, American-assembled car and is a good value for the money.


And now, today’s Retro Review:

2002 Mazda MPV ES

Cargo Ergo Zoom Zoom

by James E. Bryson

There seems to be a feeling that when you get older and start your family that you need to make certain sacrifices like quitting the bowling league or not going to your favorite sporting events as often. Another sacrifice, made mostly by men, is the purchase of the “family” vehicle, be it a wagon, SUV or minivan.

In its most recent media blitz, Ford-owned Mazda has been working diligently to transform its image from Japanese also-ran to first-rate car company. To do this, they have added more sportiness into all vehicles, including the staid-but-venerable MPV minivan.

We spent a week with a top-‘O-the-line MPV ES and found it to be capable, comfortable and worth its price. We also found that it is indeed a sporty little van with a fairly high “Zoom Zoom” factor.

Inside, we found comfortable seats with good side bolsters to keep you planted in tight corners…at least the tightest corners you might want to venture into with an almost-two-ton van. On the flip side to the seats, we found the seat belts a pain to use at times; they seemed to get in the way and were difficult to reach without turning around.

The two-tone dash is opulent, but the darker tone on top flows onto the doors…seems like a bad decision because of the large gaps between dash and door. We did find all important controls well placed and easy to use. The last little niggle we have with the interior was carbon fiber accents which are sharp but seem out of place in a mommy-mobile

We have nothing but kudos for the engine, transmission and ride characteristics of this van. We were pleasantly surprised at the plentiful power and smooth operation of both engine and transmission, the former a high-tech V6 and an electronically controlled five-speed automatic for the latter.

We felt like this combination should be put into a Miata or something where the broad power curve and correct shift points, mated to a competent suspension, would be more sporty, and possibly more fun. (Really, who are we kidding? This van was a blast to drive and has the capability to haul all your stuff and some people to wherever you need to go with style, class and sportiness.)

Many nice features:
· Regular windows in both rear sliding doors.
· Power sliding doors.
· And the 3rd row of seats folds flat.

Competent, good design? Yes. Strong performer, good handling? For the most part. Would we suggest it to people? Definitely. Top of its class? Quite possibly.

We found the MPV to be a nice little van on the whole.


And the car of the day is…

Chevy Nomad

Say hello to the Chevy Nomad. This concept was based on the same platform that gave us the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky.

Chevy Nomad 2

It’s an attractive vehicle that GM dropped the ball on. Instead of following the market studies to the “T”, the General could have been building cars like this that people really want and want to drive.

Chevy Nomad 3

The Nomad was gorgeous from all angles and was infinitely more practical then either the Solstice or Sky, though it’s no convertible.

Check out the pics and you be the judge…Should GM have built the Nomad alongside the Solstice/Sky? Do you think if General Motors built more interesting products like this that they wouldn’t be in the predicament they are in now?

Enquiring minds want to know…

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James E. Bryson

Cars make the world go 'round!

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