Category Archives: Reviews

2014 Hunydai Sonata


2014 Hyundai Sonata
$21,150 base MRSP (2015)
25/37 MPG (advertised)
28.7 MPG (real-world, over a week of driving–not bad, and right on the “combined” estimate of 29 MPG!)

Overall Impressions:

I liked this car a lot more than I thought I would. Seemed to have more pickup than last week’s Ford Fusion. It had smaller “A” pillars (don’t get me wrong they were still big, but not as bad as the Fusion’s) and gas mileage was significantly better.

But the style was…ok. The Fusion is a better looking car. Wish I could blend the two–might really have something!

TMS (Tall Man’s Score): B-

Headroom: B+

Headroom was acceptable. Nothing to shout home about, but my head wasn’t scraping the headliner.

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.

 Vehicle Review

Engine: B

Didn’t set the world on fire, but I didn’t feel like I would be in danger if I suddenly needed to pass someone.

Transmission: B

Seemed to be acceptable.

Interior: B

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

Visibility: B

A passing grade here, but with such a sloping nose you’re still 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:

Again, I liked this car more than I thought I would, but when writing my review I realize it’s scoring is average pretty much across the board.

Maybe it’s that nothing is really awful with this car–but also nothing is really great either.

Sad commentary on cars today, that a vehicle that doesn’t stand out for being mediocre–that doesn’t “fail”–is what makes it rise above the crowd.

Cars should inspire, and as well-rounded as this one is, it just doesn’t inspire. 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 Fusion


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

Overall Impressions:

I always liked the way the Fusion looked. It’s a nice, clean design from Ford, and a very sharp car! One of the best looking sedans on the market in my opinion.

In many ways this seems to be a good value–but I’m torn–the seats were not as comfortable as I’d like, the “A” pillars were huge (blocking quite a bit of the forward view), and most critically, the engine just couldn’t cut it.

Would I buy one? Tough choice–it’s a decent price, but it’s also under powered. And fuel mileage was not as good as I might expect. Maybe I could live with this car–but I’m not running out to the Ford dealer. It’s just not compelling. Despite the good looks, the rest of the car seems to fall short.

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?

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+

Not bad. But not great.

Part of this was to get the seat comfortable, I had to recline the back more than I normally would like (which means the headrest isn’t as intrusive).

With the seat more upright where I like it, the headrest still isn’t where it should be, and was pushing on my head/neck.

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.

While there are probably good design reasons for the bump (likely cabin stiffness or a place to hide electronics) it cuts into your passenger space, and makes the car uncomfortable on long trips.

This isn’t noticeable (of course) unless you’re tall and have the seat all the way back.

Bad design Ford.

Seat Comfort: C-

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.

 Vehicle Review

Engine: C-

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.

Transmission: D

Slow shifting, and felt sluggish and mushy. Seemed to really hurt the performance of the engine, with the result being a mediocre overall drivetrain.

Manual shift was via a button on the stalk, and that was very slow to respond. Furthermore, I once got a very loud “clunk” when shifting from manual mode back to automatic mode–something that should never happen.

At least on this car, manual mode seemed to be an afterthought, and Ford likely expects no one to use it (and frankly probably very few buyers ever will), yet if it’s offered it should at least work well.

A disappointment.

Interior: C-

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.

Ford, you can do better.

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!)

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.

 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”.

I wanted to like this car–but it simply falls short. Yes it looks better than an Accord or a Camry, but I get the sense that I’d be much happier with either of those over the long-haul.

So close Ford, but no cigar on this one. Sorry.

2014 Nissan Sentra


2014 Nissan Sentra SV
$17,540 base MRSP
29.8 MPG (real-world, over a week of driving)

Overall Impressions:

Not a bad car, but woefully under-powered.

Would I buy one? I’m really torn on this one. It is so under-powered that it is borderline unsafe. A terrible engine (and transmission) make this car unusable. I just can’t bring myself to think about buying one, despite how much I liked other aspects of the car.

Unfortunate that the engine taints what is actually a nice car otherwise. Why Nissan would market such a terrible engine/transmission in a car (probably just for gas mileage scores) is beyond me. Unfortunate, and unforgivable.

TMS (Tall Man’s Score): A-

Headroom: A

Surprisingly, there was decent headroom in this car.

Mirror Location: A-

The mirror location was acceptable. Not as good as it could be, but also not as bad as most are. I could definitely live with this mirror location.

Ford, Honda, Mazda–if Nissan can get it right…

Headrest: A-

Not bad. Frankly, I could live with the headrest too.

Again, I just don’t understand how one manufacturer can make a decent headrest, and most of the others put in a headrest that is so bad you can’t consider buying the car.

They’re all subject to the same silly governmental regulations, so why are the headrests so bad in some cars, and not in others?

Legroom: B

Barely enough legroom, and then the “dead pedal” on the left takes up so much room that it’s hard to find a comfortable place for your left foot.

And do you need a dead pedal on an automatic? Nissan, what were you thinking?

But given that this is a basic, small econobox, the legroom would probably be ok. I do worry about long trips though, when you sometimes want to stretch out.

Seat Comfort: A-

I like these seats. Comfortable and seemingly supportive. Just cheap cloth (which makes me wonder if the material will hold up long-term) but the seats were overall a surprise.

I think a little nicer material, with more of a quality feel would be money well spent here Nissan. The seats themselves are quite comfortable–they just need better “clothes”.

 Vehicle Review

Engine: D

Terrible, terrible, terrible. Supposedly has 130 HP, so not sure if it was the CVT automatic or another reason, but this car is slow and noisy. Simply unacceptable.

God, what an awful engine.

Transmission: F

Supposedly a CVT, but it behaved very strangely. If you floor it (for example when passing) it will go to redline and not upshift.

This makes you think twice when passing as suddenly your car won’t go faster unless you take you foot off the gas and then resume acceleration…well those precious seconds could mean the difference between a successful pass and an accident.

Probably the worst transmission I’ve experienced. Maybe it gets good mileage, maybe its good for a rental, but for me it’s simply borderline unsafe.

Interior: B

Basic transportation (which is not a bad thing). But don’t expect leather or high-end appointments. They just aren’t there.

Visibility: B

Decent visibility, but as with most vehicles now you simply cannot see the front end of the car.

Park by feel, as the saying goes–not a good thing.

Electronics: B

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

But again–everything was there and everything worked.

Utility: B

Basic transportation. One major annoyance was that my backpack triggered the seatbelt warning light, and I had to “buckle up” my backpack in order to get the light to turn off.

Very annoying.

Appearance: C

Very dull. Just another generic econobox.

 Miscellaneous Musings:

I have never really liked Nissans, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the Sentra–except for that engine (and transmission).

If this had a normal 5 (or 6) speed manual, and a bit more refined engine (it is annoyingly loud), and maybe a few more horsepower (although 130 should be enough for this kind of car) it might have proven to be a decent “basic transportation” car.

As it sits though, it’s simply not a car to own. Just an awful powertrain.

Shame on you Nissan. You ruined what could have been a surprisingly good car with that awful engine.

2014 Ford Expedition


2014 Ford Expedition XLT FlexFuel 4WD
$46,315 base MRSP (2015)
13.5 MPG (real-world, over a week of driving)

Overall Impressions:

Comfortable SUV, if under-powered.

Big (really big) especially compared to the 2014 Ford Edge we reviewed last time.

Would I buy one? Probably not–if I’m going to drive something this big, and with this kind of abysmal gas mileage (13.5 MPG! Ouch!), I think a pickup (e.g. Ford F-150) with an extended cab would be a better choice.

TMS (Tall Man’s Score): B+

Headroom: A+

As you’d expect, headroom was nice on this truck. Could I ask for more? Yes–I’m not sure I could wear a hat comfortably in this (but given the headrest, the hat will likely sit on the dash anyway).

Mirror Location: B-

With such a big vehicle, there really is no reason that the rear-view mirror should intrude into your view–but it does. It’s certainly passable, and not as bad as some, but there is plenty of room to solve the problem here. Sorry Ford, you continue to miss the mark on this.

Side mirrors were good–and blind spots seem to be adequately covered. I didn’t get a chance to tow with them though (it is a rental after all) so I can’t comment on how well they work in that situation.

The backup camera is incorporated into the rear view mirror (kind of a neat trick, appearing to leverage one-way glass) but the downside is that the image is very small, and hard to see.

Given the size of this truck, you can use a bigger screen for the backup camera, so a few points lost here. This car deserves a flat screen in the console (even in the base car), especially given the price.

Headrest: C

Very frustrating here–especially since the headrest was quite good in the Ford Edge we reviewed last time. Not sure why Ford can get this right in one car, and wrong in the next, but this was in the “wrong” category.

This spoils what otherwise is a very comfortable cabin. Most unfortunate.

Legroom: A

Nice legroom, and given the size of the SUV it should be.

Seat Comfort: B+

I like these seats. Comfortable, supportive and adjustable. (But that headrest–such a disappointment that it drops the overall seat rating down into the B range.)

 Vehicle Review

Engine: C

Really felt under-powered.  Yes it’s a big vehicle, and there is a lot of mass to move around. And yes, we are all concerned about gas mileage, but this thing was slow.

Transmission: B

Average, with nothing special. No real manual mode–just the PRNDL console shift (well PRND321). There is a trailer tow mode, but again, I didn’t try this out.

Interior: B

Armrests were well positioned for comfort, and the interior was passable. Seemed a bit dated though–maybe there’ll be an update for 2015.

One thing to remember–with something with this big of a cabin (as opposed to a pickup) you have a lot more cubic feet to cool in summer (and heat in winter). Climate control worked well, but it does take forever to get the cabin to the point where the A/C can back off into “maintenance” mode.

One annoyance–the cup holder in the driver’s door will hit (and trap) your foot when you close the door if you’re not careful. A bit of a poor design here by Ford.

Visibility: B

Good visibility out the sides and back. The front bumper though would be “parking by feel”. This is a big SUV, and it’s impossible to tell exactly where the right side of the car is.

Electronics: B-

Not bad–no touchscreen (so uses switches, knobs and buttons). This is a “throwback” but frankly is easier to use with gloves, and you don’t need to remove your eyes from the road for the most part.

Steering wheel has cruise control and radio controls.

But again–feeling a bit “dated”.

Utility: A-

Rear seats fold down, and can fold completely flat. There is also a power button to lower the rear seats from inside the rear hatch compartment. Nice touch.

But not as much utility as a comparable pickup truck.

Appearance: C

Pretty dull. Just another “box over a pickup”. Maybe a 2015 restyle will help.

 Miscellaneous Musings:

I really wanted to like this SUV. As a truck it might work, but I can’t see the benefit over an F-150. Both could tow the same, and both have front / rear seats…but I think the pickup bed would have more utility than a third row of seats.

Maybe if you had the proverbial “soccer team” to haul around…add to this the difficulty in heating / cooling such a large cabin, and the fact that you can’t just “hose off” the back of the SUV, and I think that for most families, I think the F-150 would be a better choice.

I was also surprised by how slow this was. If you had to stomp on it (e.g. when passing) it just didn’t jump off the line. Likely a result of just weight / mass, but it was disappointing.

Conversely, the brakes on this were strong, and didn’t seem to have a problem bringing this behemoth to a quick, controlled stop.



2014 Ford Edge



2014 Ford Edge Limited AWD
$35,100 base MRSP
16.5 MPG (real-world, over a week of driving)

Overall Impressions:

Passable SUV. Would I buy one? No–not for the price. There just isn’t enough there.

TMS (Tall Man’s Score): B+

Headroom: A

 So Ford did a good job on this one. Not huge headroom (and my vehicle didn’t have a sunroof) but was certainly adequate

Mirror Location: C

My constant gripe–rear view mirrors that block your vision–was an issue with the Edge. Plain and simple the mirror should be higher so as to not block the driver’s line of sight to the right. Not as bad as some, but certainly not where it could be. Spoils what otherwise could have been a good TMS.

Side mirrors were ok–you could adjust them to pick up blind spots without too much difficulty.

There is a nice backup camera.

Headrest: A

Whatever Ford did to solve the “active headrest” dilemma, it did well. One of the best headrests out there. While still not as comfortable as those before the “active headrest” era, it’s not a literal pain in the neck. Well done Ford–let’s hope the remainder of the Ford lineup gets the same headrest solution soon.

Legroom: A

Good legroom (and it should be–it’s an SUV). Could there be more? Certainly. But I was comfortable.

Seat Comfort: B

I’m not quite sure why Ford made these seats the way they did, but there are multiple bumps in the backrest and seat that seem to prod and poke. I’m suspecting these are for some kind of “anti-fatigue factor” but all they really do is cause you to move around to try and avoid the pressure spots. Maybe I’d get used to them. Maybe I’d even appreciate them over a multi-hour trip. But right now, they’re simply annoying, and spoil an otherwise comfortable seat.

 Vehicle Review

Engine: C

Just not enough scoot.

Transmission: B

Seemed ok–nothing special. No paddle shift, and manual mode is via a button on the shift stalk (as opposed to moving the shifter itself).

Interior: B

Nice leather on the seats, but they did get hot after sitting in them for a while. I did like the armrests, as they seemed to be in the right place for comfort.

Visibility: C

Forget seeing out the front–you have no idea where the front bumper of the car is. Visibility otherwise was ok.

Electronics: D

Did not find the electronics intuitive. “Touch” buttons (that do not have any tactile feel, but just “beep”) seemed awkward (and I’d imagine are tough to use in the winter if you’re wearing gloves.

And because these are tactile only, you have to look down from the road to use the climate control. Frankly this is a safety concern, and the only item you can adjust without looking down is the radio volume (which can also be controlled from a button on the steering wheel).

One more silly feature–the side mirror adjustment knob is designed…wrong! To move the mirror up, you should push the knob up. To move down, push it down. Left should be left, and right should be right.

On the Edge, you have to push it diagonally (it’s the only way I can describe it). The net result is that the mirror doesn’t move the way you expect. Trust me, this will drive you insane.

Ford–please fix this (and fire the designer who thought this was a good idea).

Utility: B

Rear seats fold down, but not completely flat. But there is a button to lower the rear seats automagically from inside the rear hatch compartment.

Appearance: C

Just another SUV. Nothing to get excited about.

 Miscellaneous Musings:

Interestingly, I had a second chance with this car (as they gave me a virtually identical car the next week–even was the same color. Originally I thought it was the same car (!) but it had a beige interior (instead of the black).

And while the beige was cooler on the hot summer days, I did notice that the passenger side was getting dirty and stained already (with only a few thousand miles on the car).

Overall, I thought that Ford put too much “gizmo” in this car with all the techno-stuff. Supposedly this is what kids want these days, but frankly it detracts from the car. Not a good trend for manufacturers in my opinion.

Again a passable car. Nice to rent. I just don’t feel compelled to put my green presidents down on this one.