Luxury and Excellence in the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Jeep has outdone themselves for the 2014 model year with the new Grand Cherokee. The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a luxury SUV that contains many of the best elements of past Jeep products with new and innovated ideas. Jeep has focused their attention to detail so that the standards are unbeatable.

The interior of the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a new level of wonderful. No matter where you are sitting in the SUV, you feel enveloped in luxury and quality. Every detail of the interior has been tweaked, trimmed and accented to shine above all that came before it. From the stitching in the detail to the workmanship on the headliner, there is nothing that has gone untouched and improved on.

It really does not matter, inside or out, what angle you are looking at this magnificent vehicle, you will see the changes and notice the differences. The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee boasts strength and exhumes confidence. Jeep knew the need for advanced lighting and created a signature LED accent headlamps as well as daytime running lamps. The new HID headlamps are extraordinary in that they swivel on winding roads to follow the drivers steering and make it easier to see the roads.

Power does not come cheap and with the price of gas being the top concern with any vehicle on the road, Jeep has recognized a need and met it with the EcoDiesel V6. Not only is the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee’s engine fuel efficient but gives you that efficiency with performance that is outstanding. Jeep has taken into account your needs as well and created it with towing in mind. This Cherokee has adapted the eight-speed transmission that will allow you to accelerate quicker, have smoother shifting all the while maintaining a great fuel economy.

Above all the other wonderful additions to the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, the safety and security features are beyond awesome. This Cherokee features blind spot monitoring which is always a concern no matter how long you have been driving but even a bigger concern for that new driver in your house as well as a backup camera that allows you to see clearly if there is anything behind you when you put your car in reverse. To prevent accidents from happening there is a “forward collision warning” and if you are involved in an accident there are all the normal airbags as well as side curtain airbags. An emergency 911 call button will signal assistance almost immediately if you do happen to have an accident.

The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is top of the line in a midsize SUV and has outdone itself at every turn. The developers have executed the improvements like no other vehicle and have rolled them out in one awesome machine. Whether you are having a night on the town or going off-road touring, you will ride in comfort and style like no other midsize SUV can offer. It has been a long time since a vehicle of this magnitude has hit the market with all the changes that this one has.

2015 Kia K900

NEWPORT COAST, Calif., – Even though its sales were down four percent last year, Kia has been wildly successful in this market. Undeterred by a bit of a slide in sales; the Korean automaker continues its long term strategy in the U.S. market which can be summed up in one word – growth.
During the last three years the automaker has watched the luxury market fragment. Traditional luxury brands moving down market and many main stream brands moving up market has opened a gap in Kia’s view and the automaker brought us to the West Coast to test drive its latest offering to fill the hole that it says has opened up in the luxury market.
The question for Kia is will Americans pay $66,400 for the 2015 Kia K900 luxury sedan that is new to the market segment and, what’s more, is the product of brand that has just recently shed its image as the manufacturer of inexpensive automobiles.
In a phrase, the K900 offers enough to entice independent minded consumers to take a look when it goes on sale this spring. Of course, Kia brought the top of the line K900 VIP. But first let’s look at how the K900 looked. With a wheel-base of almost 120-inches, it was a sizable car with 19-inch wheels.
It sported Kia’s signature grille, it had a swept greenhouse, understated cut lines along the doors, high rear deck and the sheet metal was taunt. The car had the same hereditary silhouette that adorns the Kia Optima and the recently introduced Kia Cadenza.
And in Kia’s tradition of offering more for less, the K900 had LED adaptive headlights as well as LED taillights. The only normal illuminative bulbs were the backup lights. The power trunk was standard, so was the heated automatic dimming sideview mirrors. Kia designers also sweated the small stuff like the chrome tipped dual exhaust mimicking the shape of the taillights.
The car’s adaptive cruise control could bring it to halt and the four-caliper brakes could and did stop the car quickly.
But on any automobile in the luxury realm it is all about what’s under the hood. Kia brought the V8 powered K900 here. Producing 420 horsepower, the 5.0 liter engine made 376 pound-feet of torque and it was mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that was developed in-house. A 3.8-liter V6 will be available later this year.
The V8 was impressive. However, it did work hard getting up and over some of the hills. But during the driver change we had neglected to take it out of sport mode which made the steering heavier and moved the shift points up the rev band. In other words, the car held gears longer. Once we put it back in normal mode the K900 moved through the hills here without effort as a 400 plus horsepower luxury sedan should. There was also an ECO mode that moved the shift points down the rev band but we didn’t bother with that.
The engine was quiet, gear selection was buttery smooth and acceleration was effortless. Through the twist and turns of the mountainous roads here, the K900’s chassis remained stiff no doubt because of the use of high and ultra-high strength steel. The norm, the car featured a five-link suspension fore and aft which kept it level in all forms of driving.
About the only thing Kia should tweak on the K900 is that suspension. It should be just a tad stiffer in the sense of spring and or shock absorber compression to give the car a more substantive feel. Basically, sedans in this class have a more solid ride not because they weigh more than the K900’s 4,555 lbs. but because the suspension gives them an air of solidity.
Still, as an automobile stylist said years ago, luxury is conveyed in the interior of a vehicle and in this area the K900 measured up nicely as well. Though a leather-wrapped steering wheel is standard, our test vehicle had a heated wood veneer steering wheel. The interior was swathed in white Napa leather and ambient interior lighting was standard across the model line. Wood trim is either walnut or poplar.
Kia even upgraded the audio system on the K900. The 900 watt Lexicon system featured 17 speakers in 16 locations. It had a 12 channel amp and the rich surround sound clarity was augmented by a subwoofer.
A 12-way driver’s seat is standard but a 16-way power seat featuring power headrests and cushion extender will be available when the car goes on sale. Of course, the front seats were heated and cooled. The VIP package included rear climate controls, heated and cooled rear seats with power recline and lumbar support and head rest adjustability.
The 2015 Kia K900 is sound luxury sedan. The question is can the Korean automaker get luxury car buyers to consider this car. The advertising and marketing effort will have to be rifle shot accurate.

Looking For The Best Car Finance?

Are you looking at your options for financing your new vehicle? There are plenty of companies around these days and they offer financing solutions at very competitive rates. And with so many companies it often gets tough for the customer to pick the right financier to finance the vehicle. Still, if one knows what to expect of these financiers or companies, they can make the right choice in choosing their car finance.

Some points to keep in mind while choosing an option are:

  • Financing can often turn out to be a hectic process but some companies just ease things a little for their customers. It is good if you opt for such companies. They require less documentation work and that makes matters simple for both the parties involved. All records are maintained accurately for future reference.
  • All involved paperwork is undertaken by the company itself and that also includes the license and registration obtaining process.
  • Financing is not only carried out for private vehicles of individuals. Companies are also open to working with organizations, services and trusts in providing auto finance.
  • As a customer you will feel the need to go through the interest rates offered by different financing companies out there in the market. However, some firms offer very low interest rates for the benefit of their customers. With lower monthly installments, it certainly helps the buyer in making easy and timely payments, keeping financial burden off the backs.
  • Customers can also opt for other finance options that are offered.
  • One of those is residual finance options where a lump sum payment can be made at the end of a certain term rather than making a down payment at the beginning of the loan.
  • Then there’s a refinancing option where a customer can obtain another loan at a reduced interest rate to pay off the current monthly installments of the vehicle bought.
  • These options are very bright options for all types of customers and also help them in keeping up with all their financial matters.

Financing options can be obtained from online vehicle finance providers who provide most information on their websites. One can also choose to contact them and get a quote or an approximate idea. With a lot of people opting for these types of financial options, they are probably the best and hence, expected to be good for you too.

2014 Porsche Panamera GTS: Four-Door Luxurious Performance Car from the Porsche

When Porsche first announced it would develop a four-door sedan performance car, nearly everyone in the auto industry scratched their head wondering why in the heck would Porsche, of all the auto companies, go down this winding road? Well the answer from Porsche was, because we can and we have the expertise to produce one of the finest automobiles in the world. And then they presented the 2010 Panamera to the world. Guess what? This large Porsche turned out to be a fabulous automobile and continues to set standards others are attempting to attain.

The Panamera not only reached for high standards it has exceeded many with its elevated degree of luxury combined with Porsche performance, both on acceleration and sports car handling. While the base V8 version has gone away it is replaced by a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 that makes a great intro to the Panamera. Happily my test vehicle was the Panamera GTS that is equipped with a normally aspirated 4.8-liter V8 that is also fitted with the sport exhaust system that is well worth the price. This well tuned V8 makes the hair on your arms stand on end with its symphony of sound. Of course, the 440 horse power and 384 lb-ft of torque sure helps a great deal.

Even Porsche engineers must deal with the issues of fuel consumption and green initiatives. With a vehicle like the Panamera they have enlisted Auto Stop-Stop that shuts off the engine at stops and restarts the engine as soon as driver releases the brake faster than you can blink an eye. A new system of decoupling the engine from the transmission to reduce drag when coasting helps to increase fuel economy.

Minor exterior features give the 2014 Panamera a fresh look yet retain the family 911-like appearance. Even with the slight changes to the headlight design that include new LED lighting as well as front fascia you know, with no doubt, that this automobile is a Porsche. The Porsche exterior design is one that has transformed itself for over 60 years and yet retains that familiar family resemblance.

Luxury in the cabin is not sacrificed for performance sake in the Porsche Panamera. Supple leather seats wrap passengers in a comfortable environment. The front power adjustable seats will place even the hard to please in the perfect comfort position. Sliding behind the wheel of any Porsche is likened to doing the same in the highest luxury aircraft. All the gauges and switches are placed in the proper position. Wrapping your hands around a Porsche steering wheel is like nothing you have experienced. The mere action transports you to your most favorite country road in your mind’s eye.

The Panamera GTS isn’t just a sight and sound machine, this four-door shows it is every bit a Porsche, with its road holding prowess. Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control brings a sophisticated controlled suspension system into play that gives this large vehicle the handling of a smaller sports car. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission known as PDK, is superbly mated to the engine and no matter if in automatic or manual mode it reacts to the desires of the driver.

Comfort and luxury on the road is another of Porsche qualities that continue to flow through the Panamera GTS. A combination of suede and carbon fiber cabin trim add luxurious touches while the Sport Chrono package adds both analog and digital stop watches. Plus a Sport Plus mode offering launch control, provides extremely quick acceleration from a stop.

Granted the Panamera GTS hovers just over the $110,000 and the Turbo Executive climbs over $160K, but a very satisfying ride can be pulled into your garage for under $80,000 with a base model Panamera. Even you greenie types can climb into a Panamera S E-Hybrid for just under $100K. While the Panamera sits in the upper range of normally attainable automobiles, Porsche continues to keep a restraint on reaching for unachievable pricing.

The Panamera, no matter the model, remains a vehicle that is quite comfortable to take three of your friends on a cross-country adventure, while giving you the tools to stay off the interstates experiencing those back country two-lanes you always wanted to enjoy with vigor.

Great Guide On How To Find Cheap Auto Insurance

In modern times buying auto insurance is not even an option, it is the law. Don’t find yourself pulled over without it, because it could even mean jail time. If you find yourself needing auto insurance don’t let the plethora of companies and policies drive you crazy. Read this article and relax, its an easy decision.

As you choose car insurance, be sure to properly protect yourself when it comes to liability for property damage and bodily injury. The right amount of coverage in this area can make a big difference in the event of an accident. Not having enough coverage can leave you with a lawsuit that can be hard to recover from.

When it comes to saving some serious cash on your automobile insurance, it helps tremendously if you know and understand the types of coverage available to you. Take your time to learn about all the different types of coverage, and find out what your state requires of you. There may be some big savings in it for you.

If you are a young driver paying for your own car insurance, add an older driver to you plan. Having a more experienced driver on your plan can reduce your premiums. Just make sure this older individual is willing to be added and that your car insurance provider offers the discount.

Buy an older and cheaper vehicle. Most insurance companies will only allow you to put liability of older vehicles, automatically lowering your premiums. If you do have greater coverage, your rates will be lower anyway, because the insurance company knows you will not be paid much for your car in the event that it is totaled.

In order to reduce the cost of your auto insurance policy, consider limiting the mileage you drive each year. Many insurers offer discounts for policyholders who do not spend a great deal of time on the road. It is important to be truthful when making claims of reduced mileage, however, as it is not unheard of for insurers to request proof of your driving habits in order to justify the reduction in price.

If you are short of funds and desperate to reduce your insurance premiums, remember you can always raise your deductible to lower your insurance’s cost. This is something of a last-ditch maneuver, though, because the higher your deductible is the less useful your insurance policy is. With a high deductible you will end up paying for minor damages entirely out of your own pocket.

In order to reduce the cost of your auto insurance policy, consider limiting the mileage you drive each year. Many insurers offer discounts for policyholders who do not spend a great deal of time on the road. It is important to be truthful when making claims of reduced mileage, however, as it is not unheard of for insurers to request proof of your driving habits in order to justify the reduction in price.

Senior citizens can benefit from the discounts that are available from their car insurance company. These discounts typically kick in at age 55 or 60. You have to request that your insurer add these discounts onto your insurance, as they will not do it automatically. It could save you as much as ten percent on your premium.

Consider switching the deductible from $1000 to $100. There a many pros and cons for lowering a deductible, even so the pros usually outweigh the cons. You might find yourself paying for a minor collision or two, but you should ultimately be saving a lot more money if you are a safe driver.

Having insurance is not just an option but it is required by law if one wants to drive a car. If driving sounds like something that one cannot go without, then they are going to need insurance to go along with it. Fortunately getting insurance is not hard to do.

If you are thinking about purchasing a new vehicle, you should look for a large vehicle. If you buy a van or a truck, chances are damages will not be too bad if you get into an accident. Most insurance companies know this, and offer relatively low rates for these types of vehicles.

Even your age can play a large factor in the price you can expect to pay for auto insurance. Statistically speaking, drivers over the age of 55 and under the age of 25 are considerably more prone to vehicle accidents compared with adults in mid-life. While this cannot be changed, you may wish to compare coverage options across companies; some place less emphasis on the age of the insured party.

As you can see, there is a lot more to auto insurance than most people think. It requires a lot of research and common sense, but it will be worth it in the end to help protect the life of your vehicle. You will be able to pick a better insurance policy if you consider these suggestions.

Quick Car News

This week has of course been the week of all things in the new car industry as the Geneva Motor Show has been taken place. Also in the UK, the new car registration plate change has taken place and car sales have continued to increase.

In quick car news, we plan on discussing the new top of the range Ford Kuga, face lifted Focus, SUV sales and the increase in hybrid car sales. The new Ford Kuga model is due to enter the market to back up the Ford EcoSport model in the crossover SUV range.

The new top specification Ford Kuga model is now available on the market and will be priced at somewhere in the region of �28,345. The new Kuga model will feature a number of changes compared to the standard model including the 19 inch alloy wheels, Sat-Nav and DAB along with a new body kit. The new model will look to go head to head with the top of the range Nissan Juke in the UK Car Market.

The new Ford Focus model has not been announced along with a price. This is because this update is said to be the most expensive model update ever at the Ford manufacturer. Therefore, the firm are yet to have mounted up a cost for the new Focus model.

In other news, it has recently been announced that the hybrid market in the UK has increased by a massive 40 percent. As more and more motorists in the European market look to reduce the running costs on models the sales of hybrid models have increased.

That means that a total of 214, 237 models have been sold under the hybrid fuel source with the Toyota Yaris hybrid being a big benefitting model. Toyota expect the hybrid Yaris model to grow by at least 20 percent in sales within the next 12 months.

The SUV car market has become one of the most eagerly contested markets in the last few years with the worlds top manufacturers going head to head for the largest share of sales. Mercedes have issued a plan to double the current rate of sales and return to the top of the sales chart for the luxury SUV market.

BMW and Audi are both situated above the Mercedes brand in the SUV car market. The Mercedes brand will hope that the GLA, MLC and GLC coupe models will help double SUV sales to a whopping 800,000 in order to beat the two main rival brands.

Convenient Way for Comparing Auto California Insurance

In the present market, one can easily find hundreds of companies offering auto insurance. Every company states, its policies to be the best in the market, highly reliable and affordable. Hence, for the layman, who is not aware of how to select the perfect Insurance Quotes California Auto to meet his needs and requirements, is left with a daunting task. Almost every auto insurance agent pressurizes their customer into signing the insurance contract claiming that they would be provided with all the facilities or by giving wrong information about the policy or simply by hiding the negative ones.

This is the reason why, it is very important for every individual looking for Auto California Insurance Quote to exercise extreme caution during the selection process. A better way to start the search for a good insurance company and policy is to being much in advance, before the present policy expires. Firstly, the individual should ask the existing company to provide a quotation for the vehicle, since some companies do offer discounts on renewals. The second thing is to check the immediate requirements on the insurance and what it should cover, so that he/she can drive the vehicle safely out in the open.

A well selected California Auto Insurance Quote not only saves money for the individual, but also provides peace of mind and calm that is required while possessing and driving a car, especially due to high traffic and accidents and thefts taking place. Asking for quotation from different companies would help the individual to compare between them and find out what others have to offer, in terms of the coverage and the price offered. It is only by comparing the different auto insurance policies that the individual is likely to have a clear answer as to which one would suit his requirements in the best possible manner.

These days, the presence of the web and online sites has made it possible for anyone to avail any type of information at the click of the button. Therefore, the individual can simply visit sites that offer Auto Insurance Quote California and check out for himself the coverage and rates on his vehicle, conveniently at the comfort of his home or office. There are plenty of online sites that are reliable and offer the best rates to its customers. All the individual needs to do is to provide relevant information to the site as asked and with some clicks, sure to get the details needed by him to compare the rates and coverage.

Moreover, it is possible to get different California Auto Insurance Quotes for free and getting information and buying the policies online is simply hassle free, as compared to visiting the insurance companies and having to search for an agent. Also, the online sites have efficient and qualified customer care executives, who are more than eager to assist the potential and existing customers to answer all their queries and to help them to purchase the perfect insurance coverage. This is indeed a boon for those people who find it troublesome or just do not have the time to visit the insurance office to buy one.

Pickup Truck of the Year – 2014 Ram 1550

The 2014 Ram 1500 has been named pickup truck of the year by Autobytel is dedicated to aiding consumers with research to find the information they need to make smart decisions when it comes to purchasing a new or used automobile. With more than 80 years of experience under their engine and hundreds of vehicles driven, AutoBytel makes informed choices based on innovation, design, and over all features.

For the third year in row, the editorial team at Autobytel chooses the Car of the Year, Truck of the Year, as well as winners in each individual segment. The team, led by Michelle Narajo, Editor-in-Chief of the automotive media company, said that the results are a combination of the best choices for shoppers in the 2014 model year.

As the most recognized pickup truck on the road, the Ram 1500 boasts fuel saving systems due to its fuel efficient 3.6 liter V-6 engine that delivers best in class fuel economy of 25 and 18 mpg in the city. The Ram 1500 boasts a TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission. Other features of the pickup truck include thermal management and a stop-start system as well as pulse-width modulation. The aerodynamics of the truck include air and grille shutters. The 2014 model features a new EcoDiesel 3.0 liter engine that delivers unsurpassed torque and up to 9,200 pounds of towing capability.

Mike Febbo of Motor Trend says, “Our judges rated the EcoDiesel the highest in ease of towing as well,” and “as we established last year, the rest of Ram 1500 is class leading in just about every other respect,” according to this news article on

Further, they ran a test-track evaluation designed to mimic the best and worst days a truck may face, including hauling and climbing hills and the 2014 Ram 1500 managed 15 MPG, the article explains.

Buyers can choose from three cab styles, three bed lengths, and 10 trim levels. In addition, each 2014 Ram 1500 can be optioned to include highlights such as heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, keyless entry with push button starting, remote engine starting, a universal garage door opener, upgrades for the audio system, Uconnect 8,4 technology, navigation system, air suspension, reversing camera, and nicer wheels. Additionally, most Ram 1500s can be upgraded with a RamBox cargo-management system with storage bins integrated right into the truck’s bed.

For the second year in a row, the Ram 1500 has been voted pickup truck of the year by both Motor Trend and Autobytel. So what are you driving?

Understanding Mandatory Fees and Dealer Fees

Buying a new car can be stressful, especially if you haven’t done it in over five years. There’s the issue of choosing a colour, make, extra features (if you want them), and of course the messy business of negotiating a price. If you don’t do the research before heading to the dealership, you could fall into a trap many buyers before you have succumbed to and leave the dealership with much more than you bargained for, and not in a good way.

Before you even start talking to a salesperson, arm yourself with enough knowledge about the car to reduce the likelihood of you getting taken for a ride (no pun intended). The first thing you need to do is the research on the car cost. Canada dealers get their units at wholesale prices. You can find out more about this via invoice price reports. Companies like Car Cost Canada offer invoice price reports at $39.95 while lets you access it for free. Once you get the factory price of the car, factor in what the dealer needs to make in profit and you can start benchmarking your price for negotiation.

Next, it is also important to understand which fees are mandatory and which fees are optional dealer fees that can be negotiated out of your purchase. The more information you have, the better your chances are of getting a reasonable price, and one that you can be happy with.

Here’s a quick rundown of the mandatory fees you’ll need to pay when purchasing a car according to the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry:

1. HST or Harmonized Sales Tax – 13% on car price
2. Air tax – Air conditioner excise tax of $100 for cars with air-conditioning
3. OTS tax or Ontario Tire Stewardship fee – For passenger vehicles and light trucks the fee is $5.84 per tire
4. OMVIC fee – A transaction fee to support OMVIC’s (Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council) dispute resolution activities
5. PPSA fee – If you finance/lease a car, the bank/leasing company will charge a fee for setting up the loan and registering the lien $50 to $75.
6. Licensing – Most dealerships will take care of this for you and will charge an admin fee of $50 to $75.

If it’s not listed above, consider it a dealer fee. An important thing to remember is that mandatory fees should not be added to the car’s price after you’ve negotiated it, it must already be included. The same goes for advertisements that include the price of a car – whatever is advertised should be the all-in price.

Don’t be pressured into buying additional products or features you don’t believe have value. If you’re being made to believe that a certain add-on is compulsory because it’s already been installed, you have the right to report them to the OMVIC for deliberately misleading you.

Dealer fees and add-ons like security packages which include a police traceable code in case of theft could already be part of your insurance coverage so make sure you do the due diligence and read your contracts before signing them.

A great way to avoid paying for more than the car is worth is to do extensive research online and see what other people are paying for the same car. Find out also if there are any on-going Canadian dealer incentives that you could take advantage of.

Toyota and Lexus offer interesting choices in entry level editions

Toyota’s entry level car is a good little vehicle that’s more fun to drive than you might think. Even with an automatic transmission. Lexus’, on the other hand, is nice vehicle that could be even nicer if they’d offer a non-hybrid version.

Toyota’s little guy is the Yaris, which replaced the Echo that replaced the Tercel that filled a hole created when the Corolla grew up. A lot has changed since those days, of course, but one thing that hasn’t is the fact that Toyota’s littlest guy has a lot to like if you’re shopping at this end of the marketplace.

Lexus’ current entry level model is the CT 200h, a great little wagon that would go head to head against such worthy entries as the Audi A3 or VW GTI if it weren’t saddled with a gutless and funless hybrid power train. As it is, however, it’s still a really nice little car, even if it isn’t great to drive.

I drove these cars virtually back to back and, even though the Yaris is seriously down market to the CT 200h, I enjoyed driving the Toyota more than the Lexus. Who’d have thunk it? On the other hand, it’s hard to argue against the CT’s luxurious interior and increased amenities.

Obviously, Lexus is pursuing a different market than I think they should (and how dare they!) and, let’s face it, the company and its parent Toyota are doing pretty well by not following my advice, so maybe they know something I don’t. Still, I pine for what could be.

More on that later…

Yaris sticks out…

The Yaris, on the other hand, is just fine as it sits, though you might want to check out the version with the manual transmission if you’re into “joie de conduire.” That said, even the atavistic four speed automatic of Toyota Canada’s sample offers a better driving experience than the CT’s noisy CVT.

Available as either a three or five door hatchback, the Yaris offers pretty good interior space and enough technology to qualify it as being up to date. Toyota’s five door sample, for example, even offered Bluetooth for phone and audio, though it didn’t have a voice interface and so I had to pull over and scroll up and down the audio system’s LCD screen to use it, which kind of defeated the purpose.

Under the Yaris’ hood is a four cylinder engine that features dual overhead cams, 16 valves and variable valve timing. And while its 106 horsepower and 103 lb.-ft. of torque may not set the world on fire, it works surprisingly well in this small and light vehicle; I was surprised at that minimal oomph ante because it felt like more.

Power gets to the front wheels via either the four speed automatic of Toyota’s sample, or what’s undoubtedly a more entertaining five speed manual. The automatic shifts well, but not nearly often enough compared to a lot of its competition these days. The “European tuned” suspension (which boasts struts up front and a torsion beam bum) – ditto for the steering and brakes – even feel a tad sporty; you won’t confuse the Yaris with a hot hatch, but that’s not what this car is about.

One thing that worked against a more compelling drive was the non-telescoping steering column, which meant I couldn’t get as close to the wheel as I liked. Couple that with a relatively high seating position and I kind of felt as if I were sitting on a bar stool. Not a big deal, however, and after a couple of days I was used to it. And to be fair, I got into the Yaris right after being in a low slung sporty coupe, so that didn’t help.

On the downside was the typically Toyota audio system. Oh, it worked fine for what it was, but the volume and tuning buttons were the worst I can remember: they don’t stick out far enough from the head unit to let you get a proper grip on them at the best of times; if you’re wearing winter gloves they’re nearly useless. The SE trim level on the five door helps here by adding steering wheel-mounted controls.

The Yaris comes with only one windshield wiper, a huge thing that actually cleans the windshield surprisingly well, better than some cars with two wipers. The only drawback, and this is minor, is that the washer spray comes right off of the wiper arm and when you first start it up it tends to waste some fluid by hosing it sideways across the car until the wiper starts its scroll. You might spend a tad more on washer fluid because of this, but not much.

All told, the 2014 Toyota Yaris is a great little car. It may not be quite the fun of some others in this segment – the Mazda2 or Honda Fit, for example – but it’s a surprisingly interesting drive anyway. And at a starting price of $14,255, it won’t break the bank.

Low end Lexus…

For 2014, Lexus has upgraded and enhanced the CT 200h and – my angst about the power train notwithstanding – I liked the little wagon even better than the last one I drove.

One thing they’ve done this year is to inflict that Lexus “spindle grille” on the CT, but unlike models such as the IS it doesn’t ruin the front end. That may be because this particular spindle isn’t as in your face as others.

The CT’s bum features a new bumper design that incorporates L-shaped reflector housings and a black lower center section to “emphasize the vehicle’s low center of gravity and broad rear stance,” according to Lexus’ press materials. It all contributed to a handsome vehicle, one of the nicer-looking small wagons available today.

Inside, the CT 200h offers more stuff, and Lexus says it also features improved visual and tactile quality (which I guess means its materials look and feel better than before). It works.

The front wheel drive car features a decent suspension and would be pretty nimble if it had the oomph to back up its chassis. Lexus says the CT’s stiffness has been improved through the use of more spot welding and structural adhesives. The suspension has also been re-tuned, with optimized coil spring rates, new shock absorber valves and a tweaked rear stabilizer bar diameter.

The CT’s anemic oomph comes from a 1.8 liter Atkinson cycle four cylinder engine with the hybrid electric stuff tacked on to create a combined horsepower rating of 134. That wouldn’t be too bad for a car this size, except Lexus seems to be concentrating on greenness to the exclusion of “whee!” factor. That’s okay if that’s what you’re looking for, but it might be a deal breaker for others; it certainly would be for me.

On the other hand, after spending a week with the CT 200h I only spent $17 and change to fill it up with gas, so that’s something.

Ergonomically, the CT scores well, with a “cursor control-type thingy” that works and is located close to hand. The audio system is quite good, too, perhaps because it uses what the company claims is the world’s first bamboo loudspeaker technology to create “the industry’s thinnest loudspeaker diagram, which results in noticeably improved sound quality,” according to the company. Sounds like mumbo jumbo to me, but I can’t argue with the sound quality. I’ve heard lots better, but not usually in this price range.

The F SPORT package has been revised from earlier CT’s, but as it’s still as much a trim package as a performance one. It tweaks the spindle grille design, adds a cute roof spoiler to the top of the hatch as well as adding cut outs to provide extra downforce for the better grip and stability you probably won’t need. You also get unique 17 inch, 10 spoke alloy wheels, exclusive upholstery, ornamentation and trim pieces. The F SPORT option also changes the coil spring settings and optimizes the front/rear roll rigidity distribution.

It all seems rather wasted, though, as long as the car’s a gutless hybrid with a continuously variable transmission that howls like a banshee when you step on the gas. The only time the car approaches feeling lively is when you put it into sport mode via the center console knob (you can tell you’ve done this because the instrument panel glows with red illumination).

Toyota, Lexus’ parent company, has a terrific engine that could turn this car from a pretender to a real Audi A3 wagon fighter. It’s the one from the Scion (also a Toyota brand) FR-S, that great little sports car that feels like a budget priced Porsche. Drop that engine and either of the six speed transmissions (manual or automatic with paddles) and you’d really have something here. I have no idea if it’s even feasible, but it would sure be nice!

I’m not saying they should dump the hybrid. To each his own! And the folks at Lexus have undoubtedly thought their strategy through. It’s just that this very nice little wagon could be so much more. I guess they won’t, but it would sure be great if they did!

As it sits, the Lexus CT 200h starts at $30,950 Canadian, which seems like a pretty decent price for what you get. You can option it up from there, via the Touring Package ($34,150), the Premium Package ($37,750) and the F SPORT package ($38,400), at which time you’re getting into some serious coin – but at least the hybrid mien of this machine means you’ll get a break at the gas pump.