What you missed on 8.21.2014

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This or That: Fiat 500 Abarth vs. Ford Fiesta ST

Two of Autoblog’s editors argue the finer points of hot hatches in a point/counterpoint rundown between the Fiat 500 Abarth and Ford Fiesta ST. Arguments are made, but no firm conclusions drawn. Feel free to offer your own opinion in our completely unscientific poll.

We take the Nissan NV200 taxi for a Quick Spin

What in the world is Autoblog doing testing a taxi? Good question. You see, this isn’t a Ford Crown Victoria, or even a Ford Escape Hybrid. The bright yellow machine in question is, in fact, the brand-new Nissan NV200 that you’re about to see infiltrating the streets of the busiest city in America: New York. Just what you should expect after hailing the taxi of tomorrow is discussed herein.

Honda vows to improve 2015 Fit crash test score, will retrofit 12,000 cars for free

When the IIHS tested the brand-new 2015 Honda Fit, the car scored a disappointing “Marginal” in the difficult small front overlap crash test. Honda has vowed to reinforce the Fit with a stronger steel front bumper beam, which the IIHS says will boost its rating to “Acceptable,” and the company will retrofit 2015 models already sold – approximately 12,000 cars – free of charge.

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What you missed on 8.21.2014 originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Nissan NV200 Taxi

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“You’re a long way from home!”

When I signed up to drive a pre-production version of the Nissan NV200 Taxi, I expected to have a higher-than-normal level of interaction with the public at large. However, while I was hoping for unsuspecting Ann Arborites to perhaps hail me down, or maybe even get a hop-in when stopped at an intersection, I didn’t really think I’d be hassled in parking lots so much. And yet, almost as if all of the Dad-Joke energy in the universe was drawn to my tall, yellow ride, seemingly everywhere I parked I heard some iteration of the phrase above.

Har har, guys.

So, my week as a taxi driver didn’t go as I’d planned – not a single fare was earned. But I did get a good sense for why and how Nissan is making another significant push into the workaday world of commercial vehicles.

Driving Notes

  • My NV200 test vehicle wore a 2013 model year designation but was technically specified as a 2014 taxi model with New York City livery.
  • Though Nissan NV200 taxis are popping up, or about to, in markets all over the country, my test car was liveried for New York City where the model is now in service. It was NYC taxis and other fleet cars that honed the NV into the vehicle you see here; cabbies and passengers helped tailor its content to fit real needs.
  • From a passenger perspective, this means the luxury of room, if not luxurious materials. The rear bench seat has acres of legroom to go with just enough width to fit three abreast. There’s also room for a fourth passenger in the front, though that sorry sucker will miss out on amenities like a really big rear entertainment screen (sadly non-functional in my demo car) and easily accessible 12-volt and USB charging ports. There are even independent climate controls for passengers that get too hot or cold.
  • As I mentioned, materials and surfaces tend towards durable and not stylish. Nissan tells me that the simulated leather seating surfaces are easy to clean, which I can believe, and also anti-microbial, which seems like a great idea. One extra effort against cold and flu season.
  • The driver’s seat, meanwhile, has a breathable cloth surface on the seat bottom and back that is also a little bit grippy, for what it’s worth. The seat itself is pretty flat and soft, perhaps designed to wear well, but it won’t be the most supportive chair for long stints behind the wheel.
  • The driver also faces one of the most austere dashboards and instrument clusters I’ve seen in some time – though that’s hardly unexpected for a work vehicle. The 5.8-inch infotainment display is unspectacular in view of regular passenger cars, but is kind of a high-end feature in this segment. Everything else, from the hard-surfaced steering wheel to the flinty gray and black plastics and the basic switchgear all seems aimed at long life and cost reduction.
  • Handling is actually very direct and nippy for the tall-but-short (wheelbase) NV200. Quick steering allows for easy maneuverability, both at low speeds and between lanes, and forward and lateral visibility are excellent, allowing for confident swashbuckling with traffic. Comparisons with the outgoing Ford Transit Connect are apt, and accurate.
  • And the powertrain? Well, I’ll just say that each one of the 16-valve, 2.0-liter four’s 131 horsepower are called into regular service. That power output, with 139 pound-feet of torque, is enough to move this little van around in city traffic without major penalty, but your 85-year-old, Lincoln Towncar-driving grandpa wouldn’t be fooled into calling it “quick.” Mat the throttle, listen to the continuously variable transmission let the engine drone, and check you watch – you’re not going anywhere terribly soon. Hey, it’s a taxi, not a racecar.
  • Fuel economy is rated at 24 miles per gallon in the city (25 on the highway), which is about double what the ubiquitous Ford Crown Victoria cab is regularly reported as getting in service. Though it’s fair to mention those figures are less impressive than those observed by the Ford Escape Hybrid cabs that have seen an explosion of popularity in NYC.
  • I’m hardly an expert, but this NV taxi feels as though it’s smartly constructed for drivers and fleet companies, while still offering easy, comfortable transport for riders like you and me. And if you happened to see a version in Michigan, wearing NYC stickers and being driven by a large Dutchman, flag it down – you’ll probably get a free ride and a high-five.

Nissan NV200 Taxi originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 21 Aug 2014 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Thieves still love older Hondas and pickups most, says NICB [w/video]

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No one wants to have their car stolen, but a new study by the National Insurance Crime Bureau has some bad news for older Honda owners and pickup drivers. Fortunately, it has better news for drivers overall. The group is reporting that according to preliminary data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, thefts were down 3.2 percent in 2013 (versus 2012) to fewer than 700,000 cars. That’s the lowest figure since 1967. That’s also less than half of the peak of over 1.66 million thefts in 1991. “The drop in thefts is good news for all of us,” says NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “But it still amounts to a vehicle being stolen every 45 seconds and losses of over $4 billion a year.”

Honda drivers might not find it such good news with older Accord and Civic models topping this year’s theft study. Toyota and Dodge can’t really celebrate, either, with two models each on the list, as well. Overall, this year’s list was split evenly between foreign and domestic models, which were mostly pickups.

The 10 most likely vehicles to be stolen in 2013 were:

  1. Honda Accord – 53,995
  2. Honda Civic – 45,001
  3. Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size) – 27,809
  4. Ford Pickup (Full Size) – 26,494
  5. Toyota Camry – 14,420
  6. Dodge Pickup (Full Size) – 11,347
  7. Dodge Caravan – 10,911
  8. Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee – 9,272
  9. Toyota Corolla – 9,010
  10. Nissan Altima – 8,892

Those numbers don’t exactly tell the whole story, though. First, the full-size pickup figures incorporate half-ton and larger models. Also, most of the cars stolen aren’t exactly the newest vehicles on the road. For example, with the Accord, the most popular one among thieves was the 1996 model year (pictured above) with 8,166 taken, versus 276 from the 2013 model year.

If you want to dig a little deeper or see which 2013 model year cars were pilfered most in 2013, scroll down to check out the NICB’s release about the study, along with a video telling more about the data.

Continue reading Thieves still love older Hondas and pickups most, says NICB [w/video]

Thieves still love older Hondas and pickups most, says NICB [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 20 Aug 2014 19:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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