2014 Ford Fusion


2014 Ford Fusion SE
$23,935 base MRSP
22/34 MPG (advertised)
xxxTBD MPG (real-world, over a week of driving)

Overall Impressions:

Interestingly, I’m now driving my second Ford Fusion–and as before I’m driving it back-to-back vs. a Hyundai Sonata. Last time I drove the Ford first. This time I drove the Hyundai first, and frankly it’s been an interesting comparison, and frankly the Hyundai is the better car (as much as I hate to say that Ford).

As before, I’ll amend my last review and add new comments as appropriate, but I can already tell you I miss last week’s Hyundai.

Now, as I said in my last review of the Fusion, I always liked the way the Fusion looked. It’s a nice design, and the Fusion doesn’t strike me as looking like everything else on the road (one of the complaints I have with the Sonata’s styling). The Fusion looks the part.

But after that, it falls short–there’s no substance there. The Fusion is just a pretty face on an uninspired chassis. Such a pity.

Last time I asked myself if I would I buy one? And I thought it’d be a tough choice as the Fusion just isn’t compelling.

This time, it’s an easy choice–I’d buy the Hyundai.

TMS (Tall Man’s Score): B-

Headroom: B

Headroom was acceptable with the seat down. But to make the seat comfortable (and so you didn’t feel like you were sitting in a bucket) you had to raise the seat. Consequently, you lose the headroom you could have had. What were you thinking Ford?

As I re-read the last review’s comments above, I remember thinking this morning as I got in the Fusion “It’s like I’m sitting in a trashcan”–very uncomfortable, but that’s needed here in order to get sufficient headroom.

Dropping the score a bit because of this–it would be really hard to live with over the long term.

Mirror Location: A-

The mirror location was acceptable. But again because you have to raise the seat to be comfortable, it brings the mirror into your line of vision.

Headrest: B+

I didn’t feel as if the headrest was as bad this time. Still only a B+ though, as you know it’s “there”.

Legroom: D

Good legroom–but–there is a huge “bump” in the floorboard by the seat. What this means is that you can’t pull you leg back for a rest without it hitting that bump.

Above are my comments from the last review, and today I also noticed that “bump” in the floorboard. It really is that intrusive into your experience.

Just a bad design choice.

Seat Comfort: D+

The seats are schizophrenic. If you have them adjusted so they’re reasonably comfortable, you bring the mirror into play, and lose headroom.

If you adjust them for visibility, they become quite uncomfortable.

And that lumbar support is way too low–again, probably a perfect position if you’re 5′ 6″ but for someone over six foot the lumbar support is a pain in the back.

Again, I’m sticking to my comments from last time, and once again I noticed how bad the lumbar support is–it pokes you in just the “wrong” place (and consequently you can’t use it at all).

Why manufacturers don’t make the lumbar support able to move vertically as well as horizontally is beyond me–it’s a simple fix.

 Vehicle Review

Engine: D+

It’s borderline. Just not enough power to be comfortable. Maybe hampered a bit by a slow-shifting transmission, but my gut says they put in an anemic engine to try and get better fuel mileage.

Unfortunate, as a better engine/tranny would really make this car shine.

I was too kind last time (above). Compared to the Sonata this thing is a slow pig. Awful. A car for soccer moms and secretaries (but not for anyone that might enjoy driving).

Transmission: D

Slow shifting, and felt sluggish and mushy, with manual shift was via a button on the stalk (Ford didn’t even think about anyone wanting to use manual mode–having a button there is just an afterthought, as so the marketing guys can say “yeah, we have it”–but it’s awful. Really.)

Other sedans have better trannys, some even with paddle shifters (as much as I hate those, at least those offering them are making an attempt at appearing sporty).

Such a disappointment.

Interior: B-

Clean interior, and nice looking.

Controls were mostly manual, but there are a lot of separate buttons, with no tactile way to tell them apart.

What this means is that you have to take your eyes off the road to change functions (not a good thing). This is one of my pet peeves with respect to automotive safety.

Center console has a strange configuration. Nice deep cubbyhole for your “stuff” but they left the sides open (presumably for “style”) but it allows your stuff to fall out the sides into the footwells.

Maybe I was a bit too harsh here–upgrading this score. I like the Ford interior a bit more (although I still don’t like the non-tactile buttons). Still, the interior feels more elegant and refined than the Sonata’s.

Visibility: C-

Decent visibility, but hurt by those huge A pillars–again, they’re there for “safety” but they compromise visibility, which is a larger safety issue.

I suppose when you get in an accident because you didn’t see another vehicle because of the A pillars that they’ll protect you in the subsequent roll-over…but wouldn’t it be better to have avoided the accident in the first place?

And as with most cars today, fuel mileage has made the extremely low nose “fashionable” and consequently you have no idea where the front of the car is, and “park by feel” is the ultimate result.

(Note to self: Don’t park any classic cars in front of a Ford Fusion, as that driver will be sure to bump you on their way out of the parking spot!)

Once again, my previous comments stand–those A pillars are awful. I notice them every time I get in the car, and frankly I do think they are unsafe.

Ford–you’ve got more homework to do.

Electronics: C

Again, basic transportation. No digital touchscreen. No backup camera.

And too many buttons and having to look down from the road.

Utility: B

Basic transportation. Nothing more, no matter how nice the car looks.

Appearance: A

I have to say I love the look (especially the nose) of this car. Very nice design.

I still like the way this car looks. But other than that, it’s truly a disappointment.

 Miscellaneous Musings:

Unfortunate that this the car’s best feature is it’s appearance. No doubt it’ll sell because of it, but I suspect that buyers will soon move on to something else as there really isn’t much more to this car than a “pretty face”.

My previous comments are spot on. And I  have to say that I’m even more disappointed with this car the second time around. It truly was a car that could have been great. Maybe the demographics are targeted elsewhere, but for me the car epitomizes everything that is wrong with cars today–slow, sluggish, unrefined drivetrain, lacking in comfort–but cloaked in a pretty shell, and with a nice stereo and some electronics to keep the younger crowd happy.

But there’s no substance there–nothing. I really want to like this car, but the Sonata is better in almost every way.


2014 Hyundai Sonata


2014 Hyundai Sonata
$21,150 base MRSP (2015)
25/37 MPG (advertised)
20.9 MPG (real-world, over a week of driving–a bit lower than advertised, and quite a bit lower than the last time I drove one)

Overall Impressions:

This is the second time I’ve rented this care in the recent past, and it’ll be interesting to see if I like the car as much this time as I did previously. I’ll update the comments I made then, and we’ll see if the Sonata’s sores improve (or maybe drop).

I do continue to like this car. Has reasonable pickup, and visibility is reasonable.  Gas mileage was not as good as last time, but probably just due to more city driving.

Yet I still am lukewarm on the styling. It is indeed just like every other car on the market. It doesn’t pluck at the heartstrings, and in many ways, I wish it did.

TMS (Tall Man’s Score): B+

Headroom: B+

Headroom was acceptable. Nothing to shout home about, but my head wasn’t scraping the headliner. I do have to put the seat all the way down.

Mirror Location: A-

The mirror location was also acceptable. Still think there is room for improvement, but I could live with this.

Headrest: B+

Also not bad, but I still knew the headrest was there. Really wish they could just go back to normal headrests.

Legroom: B+

Didn’t feel legroom was an issue, but I’m still waiting for the car that makes me move the seat up to be comfortable (it hasn’t happened yet).

Seat Comfort: B

Good seats–wish the material was a bit better–had a cheap feel (and wondering if it will last) but the seat comfort was acceptable. Probably the biggest “wish it was better” item for me.

 Vehicle Review

Engine: B+

Gave this a bit of a higher score than last time. Maybe I had a better engine (certainly my gas mileage dropping indicates that, and they do have a couple of different engine choices…)

Transmission: B+

Better shifting than most. Also upgraded the score here from last time.

Sure wish the manual shift was set up “the right way” (push to downshift)

Interior: B

Basic interior. Wish there was more I could say–there isn’t.

Visibility: B

I’m seeing that with most cars now, the only way to get headroom is to put the seat all the way down. Then you no longer have any hope of seeing the nose (all the aerodynamics to save gas mileage no doubt) and with such a sloping nose you’re going to be “parking by feel”.

Electronics: C+

Again, basic transportation.

Utility: B

Just another econobox. Four doors and a trunk.

Appearance: C+

Line up the sedan offerings from Hyundai, Kia, Chevy, Nissan–bet you can’t tell most of them apart.

 Miscellaneous Musings:

Once again I liked this car. It did nothing really poorly (not enough to stand out anyway) although it did nothing exceptionally well either (and as I commented previously maybe scoring “average” on everything is a good thing?)

If I had to buy a sedan today, of all the cars I’ve driven this might be it–yet again, cars should inspire, and this one just doesn’t. As I said last time, I can’t see myself announcing with pride to my friends: “Hey–I just bought a Hyundai Sonata!”

That makes it tough to spend $21,000 on “just average”.

2014 Ford Taurus – FAIL


2014 Ford Taurus SE
$26,790 base MRSP

Overall Impressions: F

So I left the awful Jeep Grand Cherokee and was handed the keys to a Ford Taurus–which had just as bad of a rear view mirror.

You simply cannot drive this car with the mirror blocking your view. This car is unsafe.

TMS (Tall Man’s Score): F

How Ford can design so many good cars (like the Edge) and have such a poorly designed Ford Taurus is a mystery. But this thing is awful.

One more that, no matter what your height, you would be wise to spend a long test drive in the front seat to be sure the rear view mirror doesn’t interfere with your vision.

Terrible design.

Thankfully, the rental agency next gave me the keys to a Hyundai Sonata, which I’ve rented before (and which I knew had a reasonable rear view mirror).

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee – FAIL


2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee
$29,895 base MRSP

Overall Impressions: F

It is truly amazing that a large, luxury SUV could be a fail, but here it is–the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Simply put, this is an unsafe vehicle. The rear-view mirror totally blocks the driver’s view out the center and right of the windscreen.

This is bad–really bad–in this car. It’s so bad that I suspect even drivers under 6′ would find visibility impaired.

Exchanged the car for a Ford Taurus–which also failed! A bad luck week at the rental agency.

TMS (Tall Man’s Score): F

It doesn’t get any worse than this–if you’re considering this SUV, no matter what your height, carefully assess whether the rear view mirror will work for you.

One of the worst rear view mirrors ever.

2014 Kia Optima Hybrid


2014 Kia Optima Hybrid
$25,995 base MRSP
36/40 MPG (advertised)
TBD MPG (real-world, over a week of driving)

Overall Impressions:

Not even close. Just don’t get this car–it’s a hybrid, but has no better highway mileage than the Mazda sedans. And the hybrid experience itself is flawed (more on that later). All told, it felt like a compromise.

TMS (Tall Man’s Score): C-

Headroom: B+

A bit of a false reading, as the seatback had to be reclined to an extreme angle so that the headrest didn’t come into play.

Mirror Location: B+

Again a bit of a false reading due to the amount you have to recline the front seat.

Headrest: F

Big fail here. One of the worst active headrests out there, with no way to get comfortable (other than recline the seat).

This alone would prevent me from buying this car–it was that bad.

Legroom: A

Nice legroom. Lots of space.

Seat Comfort: B+

Cheap material, and that taints the overall impression of the seats (and the cabin as a whole).

Seats comfort was acceptable, but again you have to recline them quite a bit to avoid the headrest.

 Vehicle Review

Engine: B-

Poorly executed. The electric mode has very little power, and when accelerating there is a noticeable “lag” before the gas engine kicks in.

Once up, the gas engine moves the car fairly briskly. But that lag–it’s almost as if the car has to downshift into first gear–is not only annoying, it’s borderline unsafe.

Push button (keyless) start also was strange, as it would bring up the electric mode, but you could not be sure the car was truly ready to drive. Strange.

Transmission: C

Poor execution of the transition from hybrid mode to gas mode. Shifts were slow, and less than smooth. Manual mode was poor, with the upshifts/downshifts in the “wrong” position (pull back to downshift).

In addition there was too much computer control over manual shifts, not letting you downshift into second for example unless you were well below redline. May as well forget any “spirited” driving in this car.

Bottom line is the designers want you to stay in “D” with this one.

Interior: B-

Interior was average–but the material on the seats is so cheap feeling it detracts from the rest of the interior.

Visibility: B

Decent visibility, with windows all around.

Yet once again as with so many cars the hood slopes so much you have no idea where the front of the car is (and if you look closely at the photo you’ll see one of the previous renters scuffed up the front bumper).

May as well put up a video screen instead of a windshield.

Electronics: B+

Average electronics, although there is a backup camera (which is a plus).

Also had dual-zone climate control.

Nothing special, nothing really bad.

Utility: B

Just another sedan.

Appearance: B

See above–just another sedan.

 Miscellaneous Musings:

Kia I know everyone is trying to get into the hybrid market, but this car just feels “incomplete”. Maybe as a “first effort” it can help refine your methods and one day you’ll end up with a decent hybrid for the market.

But unfortunately that’s not this car. Not by a long shot.

2014 Toyota Camry


2014 Toyota Camry SE
$23,740 base MRSP
22/35 MPG (advertised)
24 MPG (real-world, over a week of driving)

Overall Impressions:

This is a nice car–better than expected (but not without its foibles). Still…I could live with this car on a daily basis.

Of course the Camry has received a huge face-lift for 2015 (and the front looks wonderful in comparison to this car). The question is whether that has altered any of the interior ergonomics that are so critical to the TMS.

For those that want this model–better hurry. It’s still on Toyota’s website (and likely in dealer stock) but that won’t last too much longer.

Me–I’d love to get a drive in the 2015.

TMS (Tall Man’s Score): A-

Headroom: A-

Had to put the seat all the way down (which puts your legs/knees at a funny angle, sitting almost flat on the floor).

So–a bit uncomfortable, but sufficient headroom.

Mirror Location: A-

The mirror can be swung up far enough out of the way that it is passable. Sure it could be better, but Toyota at least didn’t put the stalk in the middle of the windshield as do so many other manufacturers.

Headrest: C

The headrest spoils this car–you do have to recline the seat to be comfortable. Having said that, perhaps it’ll be improved in 2015.

Legroom: A-

Nice legroom, but they have that “hump” in the floor by the seat (but thankfully it’s not as bad as it is in other cars, like the Ford Fusion).

Seat Comfort: A-

Nice seats. Comfortable, and with nice support. Quality materials as well.

 Vehicle Review

Engine: B+

A bit buzzy and noisy on acceleration, but really not too bad. Has sufficient pickup, and seems relatively refined when cruising.

Transmission: B+

A nice transmission, but the manual mode with the paddle shifters was a mystery. You could downshift or upshift and the dash indicator would show another gear, but the car wouldn’t shift (so in essence you needed to go by seat of the pants as the dash indicator was often wrong).

I understand why Toyota did this (don’t want you to over-rev or lug the engine) but if you’re not going to shift, then have the dashboard indicate the true gear, and not change the number just because I tapped the paddle shifter.

Traction control also a bit strange, as it turns itself on (even after it’s been manually turned off). Then again, not too many Camry owners are likely to have a lot of track days….

Interior: B+

Nice interior. While filled with plastic, it has a higher quality feel than comparable cars–with one notable exception. The plastic “brushed aluminum” trim scratches easily. The center console is trimmed with this, and it very much detracts from the appearance of the interior (especially with a few scratches as in my rental).  Hopefully Toyota will change this for 2015, as it really mars an otherwise attractive interior.

There is a rattle though from somewhere in the back (sounds like maybe the trunk release cable). Not something I’d expect from Toyota, and it mars an otherwise quality feel for this car.

Visibility: B+

Decent visibility, with windows all around.

Unfortunately you still have no idea where the nose it, given the sloping hood. Yet almost all cars now have this flaw, so can’t hold it against Toyota too much–everyone is chasing that last elusive MPG.

Electronics: B+

Nice electronics. Good blend of touch screen with some tactile buttons and dials so you don’t have to worry when wearing gloves.

Backup camera is standard, even on the lowest trim models. (Thank you Toyota–wish other manufacturers would follow suit).

Utility: B+

It’s not an SUV, but has a nice trunk. And four doors. A nice, midsize sedan.

Appearance: B-

The 2014 model looks like every other mid-size sedan. But that 2015–Toyota really restyled the nose nicely–wonderful looking car. Hope the rest of the car (and the interior) are also just as enticing.

This could be a really nice car for 2015.

 Miscellaneous Musings:

Really like the way this car presents itself and drives. Has a nice drivetrain (and if all you do is put it in “D” you won’t notice any of the quirks). Interior and seating position are nice.

Just wondering what that 2015 will be like.

Well done Toyota, well done.

2014 Nissan X-Terra


2014 Nissan X-Terra S
$25,670 base MRSP
16/22 MPG (advertised)
16.9 MPG (real-world, over a week of driving)

Overall Impressions:

A compromise. Less utility than you’d expect, rough and unrefined drivetrain and a very basic interior leaves an overall impression that this vehicle was built to a price-point.

Especially troubling as this was the “S” model with higher trim level.

There are better vehicles out there.

TMS (Tall Man’s Score): B-

Headroom: A

Headroom was reasonable–but it should be in an SUV.

Mirror Location: B+

The mirror location was acceptable but there was room to move it further out of the way. Side view mirrors could use more adjustable range.

Headrest: C-

Really intrusive. One of the worst headrests out there. Definitely need to recline the seat to make the car comfortable.

Given that other manufacturers are starting to solve this, Nissan needs to bring a better solution forward for 2015.

Legroom: A

Good legroom–and again it’s an SUV so it should be good. However, there is a bit of “sitting up” in the driving position, and legroom (if you need to stretch out) seems to be a bit awkward.

Seat Comfort: C

Don’t like these seats. Seem to have minimal support, and a very cheap feeling material (so cheap that I would worry about its longevity).

No telescoping steering wheel also cramps the seating position. (Why Nissan chose to leave feature out is beyond me–don’t all cars have this now? Surprised they didn’t have roll-up windows too).

 Vehicle Review

Engine: C

Loud and unrefined. And not enough horsepower for a vehicle this size. Did I mention loud and unrefined? (And a really lumpy idle…maybe it needed adjustment but it felt like it was always on the verge of stalling).

Transmission: C

Weird manual shifting mode (with first and second left and right and third vertical with PRN and D). Likely an offroad “feature”–and one I’m guessing no one will ever use. Also poor traction control in this drivetrain–had wheelspin on a rainy day, even with traction control on. 4WD switch is accessible from the passenger compartment.

Interior: C

Basic interior, filled with plastic. Cheap feeling. Lots of noise and squeaks from the cargo compartment too. This example has 30,000 miles, but even so you’d expect a “tighter” car. Put on a few more miles and this one will sound like a grocery cart running over a washboard.

Visibility: B

Decent visibility, with windows all around.

A bit better than most in that there is actually a hood (so you have at least some idea of where the front of the car is).

Electronics: C

Basic electronic systems. No digital touchscreen. No backup camera. Dash if from 1990, with a bright orange scheme that is harsh.

The good news is that there are knobs that can be used without taking your eyes off the road.

Utility: C-

An SUV where the rear seats don’t fold down all the way. Really?

Appearance: B-

Don’t like it–looks too much like a toy. And has a strange “step” to the side windows that make it look a bit like a bus. And those fender flares–ugly!

 Miscellaneous Musings:

Not sure what Nissan was thinking on this one. Ugly, cheap and underpowered–especially bad considering this was the higher trim “S” model. Not sure who their target market is–maybe it’s rental car companies, because I can’t see any consumers choosing this over the other SUVs that are on the market. Even though I’m not a big fan of the Ford Edge, I’d prefer that in a heartbeat over the Nissan.

Even though this came out with a reasonable TMS, it’s not a car to buy.

2014 Chevrolet Impala – FAIL


2014 Chevrolet Impala
$27,060 base MRSP

Overall Impressions: F

This car unfortunately was an epic fail. The rear view mirror completely blocks the forward view out of the car. As bad as I’ve ever experienced.

Could not drive the car–it is unsafe.

Exchanged the car for a Nissan X-Terra (review forthcoming) which is also why there is no picture–didn’t have the car long enough to take one.

TMS (Tall Man’s Score): F

It doesn’t get worse than this–if you’re considering this car, no matter what your height, carefully assess whether the rear view mirror will work for you.

Terrible design, simple terrible.

“Government Motors” at its worst.

2014 Ford Edge


2014 Ford Edge Limited AWD
$35,100 base MRSP
18.7 MPG (real-world, over a week of driving–better than the 16.5 MPG the last time I drove one)

Overall Impressions:

This one is growing on me–I’ve reviewed the Edge before, and will update the review here.

Would I buy one? Still the answer is no–still find the seats strangely uncomfortable, and for the price and mileage I’d be better off with an F-150. But I can see why some folks like this car.

TMS (Tall Man’s Score): B+

Headroom: A

 No change in this score–decent headroom.

Mirror Location: C

As with my last review, the rear-view mirror intruded into my view, and with a car this big it just didn’t have to. Poor design choice by Ford.

And again, I appreciated the nice backup camera. Good job on that Ford.

Headrest: A

I still like this headrest. Wish the seats were better to match.

Legroom: A

Good legroom–I was comfortable.

Seat Comfort: B

I was just as annoyed with the seats as I was previously. There are multiple bumps in the backrest and seat that seem to just be annoying. Not sure why it’s designed the way it is, but I’m not a fan.

 Vehicle Review

Engine: B

Upping the score here–maybe I got a better engine this time, but I felt like there was more scoot.

Transmission: B

Seemed ok–nothing special.

Interior: B

Nice interior, but nothing special.

Visibility: C

Again too much slope in the nose–you have no idea where the front bumper of the car is. Visibility otherwise was ok.

Electronics: D-

Dislike the electronics even more this time–and I should be getting used to them by now. Ford outfitted the Edge with “touch” buttons (that do not have any tactile feel, but just “beep”) and that means you have to look down from the road to use the climate control. Again, a safety issue for me. Really dislike the electronics in this car.

And as before the side mirror adjustment knob drove me crazy. It’s extremely difficult to adjust the mirrors on the Edge.

Simply an awful design.

Utility: B

Rear seats fold down, but not completely flat. Just ok.

Appearance: B-

Bumping this up a smidge–the looks of the Edge are growing on me.

 Miscellaneous Musings:

Now I’ve had a third chance with this car–and I’m not feeling the love.

It’s a passable car. Nice to rent. I just don’t feel compelled to put my green presidents down on this one. Like so many others, it lacks inspiration. Yet with everything else being so mediocre, is the Edge the best of a bad lot?



2014 Kia Sportage


2014 Kia Sportage
$21,750 base MRSP
21/28 MPG (advertised)
0.0 MPG (no real-world mpg, as I didn’t fill this one up)

Overall Impressions:

This was a surprisingly good little SUV. It was pretty comfortable, and seemed to not have any major flaws.

But as with last week’s Hyundai Sonata, doing everything “just ok” seems to not be the answer. Yes, it’s a good little SUV–but it should be more than that.

Also wish I’d have gotten real-world MPG on this one, especially given the fiasco Kia had recently with overstating mileage on the Soul.

TMS (Tall Man’s Score): B

Headroom: B+

Good headroom–but you’d expect that in (even a small) SUV.

Mirror Location: A-

The mirror could be adjusted to where it was acceptable. Still, I just never feel that the mirror isn’t interfering with visibility to the right.

Headrest: B-

Wish the headrest was better.

Legroom: B

Good legroom–but again it’s an SUV–it should have good legroom.

Seat Comfort: B

The seats felt reasonable. But similar to the Hyundai, I felt the material was a bit “cheap” and might make me worry about long-term durability.

 Vehicle Review

Engine: C+

Borderline–the Kia could really use a few more ponies under the hood. Then again, it wasn’t awful–just ok.

Transmission: B

The transmission seemed to be a bit better than most. Was fairly smooth in shifts.

Interior: B

Just an average interior. What you’d expect for a low-priced vehicle.

Visibility: B

Decent visibility, but it’s an SUV–it should have good visibility.

Still too much of a sloped nose to know where the front of the car is–parking will be a challenge.

Electronics: C

Basics, and nothing more.

Utility: B+

A bit more utility than the average four-door econobox. But worse gas mileage.

Appearance: C

Boring. Just another little SUV. None of them really look any different though (so can’t fault Kia here–well, maybe I can–the Soul is different, so why couldn’t they have a bit more inspired styling for the Sportage?)

 Miscellaneous Musings:

Can’t see myself buying this vehicle. Like the Hyundai Sonata, it did nothing really poorly, but neither was it exceptional. Just dull, and uninspired.

Thinking about it, the Hyundai Sonata might be a better choice–less utility, but better mileage. All else being equal, the Sonata is a better choice, although the Sportage does offer AWD.

But do you really want to own a car because it “sucks the least”?