It’s that time of year again. College graduates are putting on their caps and gowns and walking across that stage to receive the piece of paper that they spent four years, many tears, and thousands of dollars to earn.
Having only been four years since I graduated high school, my Facebook newsfeed is littered with pictures of my friends and family that I went to high school with, graduating and getting ready to settle in for a career and really get their adult life started. The schools are all different for the most part, Boise State, Arizona State, University of North Dakota, BYU, etc., but all these people are now in the same boat: finding a job. You’ll enter the world of corporate America. Where you’ll fetch coffee, make copies, and get lunch for all of your higher-ups until they notice you and your potential outside of the prestigious ‘new guy’ role, or another person joins the company; and by the rules of the water-cooler you are no longer the new guy.
Once they find a job, then what? A place to call your own, a forty-five minute commute, health insurance, and maybe even that dog that your mother told you that you couldn’t have. What about a car? That old Lumina or Taurus that got you to and from school is probably on it’s last leg. Even though you now have the money to fix it, why would you? How can you ever plan on climbing the corporate ladder if you’re driving that. Plus, if the boss ever saw you driving that, there’s no way you’d get a promotion. You have the income to justify getting a new car, but which one should you buy? Obviously most of us expect a Ferrari at graduation, but for 99.99999% of us that just isn’t the case. You want the car to be fun to drive, but it can’t be so ostentatious that the car embarrasses you more than it impresses your new colleagues. It can’t be boring either. If you showed up in something dull, why would people pay you any attention? What you need is something that is fun to drive and says that you have great taste; but shows that you are a responsible enough person that the boss can give you a budget and he knows you won’t spend it all on Red Bull and rubber bands to shoot at the receptionist. (Not that I’ve ever done that…)
Ford took a gamble with the new Fusion. They knew that in order for the Fusion to take the leap that it needed to push itself up to the level of the Camry, Optima, and Accord they needed to be bold with both the styling and the mechanics of the car. The first generation Fusion was a breath of sweet relief from the bland styling of earlier Ford sedans. After the Jay Leno-esque retirement of the Taurus and the disappointing lump of carbon that we call the Five Hundred; Ford needed a reset button to hit, and the Fusion was the answer. The Fusion’s three bar grill and the sleek side profile was enough to bring many sedan shoppers back into the Ford fold. With the second generation Fusion, many people who fell in love with the first generation Fusion were very disappointed. It seemed like Ford had put the Fusion design on the back burner of their design kitchen and that they were satisfied with the status quo. With the same excitement-less motors as we got time and time again from Dearborn, coupled with an even more humdrum hybrid version; the Fusion faded into the background of the segment once again surrendering to the Japanese giants who gladly took back those sales. In 2013 Ford decided to use good ol’ “shock ‘n’ awe” to recapture the mid-size sedan segment. And it worked! The front end of the car echos the timeless styling of Aston Martin in a tasteful, honorable manner. The side and rear profile are just as sporty. The interior is filled with techy, touch surfaces with LED backlighting and a flat surface center dash that looks like it was lifted straight out of the Death Star. To sum up everything that I’m trying to say, the new Fusion looks a lot more expensive than it actually is. But the fun doesn’t stop at the design. Ford realized that in today’s automotive market everybody has gone turbo crazy (which I honestly think that they helped usher this craze in with the introduction of the V6 Ecoboost motor to the F-150), in the Fusion they give you two choices of turbocharged four cylinder motors, a naturally aspirated 4 cylinder (don’t bother with this one), an EV option, and a hybrid option, that borrows its design from the previous generation Toyota Camry hybrid, that boasts a 47 mpg EPA rating. That’s better than a Toyota Prius V! Not to mention you won’t be made fun of like you would if you drove a Prius V. If you took your boss to lunch in this car, he would more than likely be impressed by both the car and your good taste. Infact, he would probably be very surprised to find out that it is, in fact, only a Ford.
Alternative Selection: Chevrolet Malibu.
Why it didn’t make the list: Tops out at 36 MPG. More expensive base price. No hybrid option With all the recent recalls, would you really buy a Chevy?
Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid:
If you know me, you know about my vicious love/hate relationship with hybrids. As a car enthusiast, I should hate them. I should be organizing Prius burning parties in my backyard and handing out anti-electric propaganda. I should be unplugging Chevy Volts from the wall when they’re only half charged and seeking bring down the terror of the electric car. But I don’t. A part of me really likes them, but the primitive oil burning part of my brain keeps me from loving them. But the XV Hybrid appeals to the primitive part of the brain; it’s an affordable, AWD hybrid. Subaru’s in house designed hybrid brings the term “tread lightly” to an entirely new level. With a nearly nine inch ground clearance you can still go places that you would expect an AWD Subaru to go, while the wildlife applauds you, and the eco-friendly steed as you drive along gently bending the blades of grass along your way. Not only is it light on mother earth, but it’s light on your wallet too. Prices starting at just over $25k (Right in line with the Toyota Prius.) Now, there isn’t a big difference in the fuel economy of the regular and hybrid model of the XV. But that isn’t the point. When you drive the XV hybrid you are saying that not only are you concerned enough about the environment to drive a hybrid, but that you want to be part of it. It still maintains the ability to head into the less traveled parts of a national forest, and won’t kill it with those toxic emissions. The XV is still nimble enough to be a quick city cruiser, but for those long weekends when you want to get away from everything, it fills that need as well. It may not blend in with your boss’ Cadillac as well as some of the other cars on the list, but it still demands respect.
Alternative Selection: Mini Countryman S All4
Why it didn’t make the list: A lot more expensive. Chugs fuel like Homer Simpsons chugs Duff.
When Dodge released the Dart I think we all had the same thought, “Oh no. Here comes another Neon.” We couldn’t have been more wrong. Dodge…well they kind of cheated with this one. They are definitely using all the perks that their new Italian godfather has to offer and called in a favor. What they did was take the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, a plucky hatchback sold in Europe, removed the Italian body from the chassis, and bolt a Dodge body on top of it. Then they gave us three engine options. Two of which are turbocharged motors, the 1.4 turbo which can achieve up to 41 mpg! Wow! Now take those and mix them in with Alfa’s double clutch gearbox, and you have something special. The biggest issue that I have had with Chrysler vehicles has always been the interiors. When the Charger and 300 first came out, I was madly in love with them. The rough, jagged design almost made you think of Arnold Schwarzenegger wearing a suit. But everything was ruined by the cheap, ‘made in China’ styled interior. The new Dart couldn’t be farther from the “Old Chrysler.” It has a very European design, go figure. It’s simple, and doesn’t offend the eye. The plastics are still there, but they have designed it in such a way that you don’t notice them like you did in the old cars. With a 8.4 inch touch screen that houses Chrysler’s UConnect system (arguably the best automotive software on the market right now, easily besting Ford-o-softs system) the 7 inch digital and customizable gauges, the voice activated navigation, the sleek LED taillights, and the very attractive financing options; it is no wonder why Dodge now holds the crown for the youngest median age for their owners over any other manufacturer. A title that make every other manufacturer green with envy.
Alternative Selection: Toyota Corolla S
Why it didn’t make the list: Most will be built with a CVT transmission. CVTs that are put in non-hybrid cars are the work of the Petrol Head Devil, also the interior of the Corolla looks and feels like the ‘Old Dodge’.
For decades now, the Volkswagen Golf has been a staple for the working class around the world. With it’s conservative German styling, capable motors, and being unmatched in it’s class for suspension and handling, the Golf has always been the go-to hatchback for the world. For whatever reason, the American market has never caught on to the compact utility of the hatchback. Cars like the Toyota Matrix, Saturn Astra, and even the Golf’s distant cousin, the Audi A3 hatchback, never really engrained themselves in the minds of Americans. However, the Golf seems to be the exception to the rule. Ever since it came to US shores sporting the “Rabbit” nameplate, the Golf has managed to work it’s way into the American auto market with the odds against it, carrying a reputation for fuel economy and crafty German engineering. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for it’s success is that for many years it has been the least expensive option to get a real german engineered car. Up until the latest generation, all the Golfs sold in the US were actually built in Germany. So were the motors. So were the transmissions. I can speak from experience and say that the Golf is a great car! It constantly surprises me with it’s utility and capability. I’ve been able to haul my lawn mower, lumber from the hardware store, and even survived a trip to IKEA. The utility is there, it just becomes a game of ‘Tetris’ to see how well you use the space it gives you. This year Volkswagen will be releasing the seventh generation of the Golf. And there are going to be some big changes coming. Volkswagen recognizes the difference between a simple refresh and a revolution, and the upcoming Golf is definitely the latter. The next generation will be wider, longer, and lower to the ground. With the addition of upgraded motors that not only have a jump in horsepower, but also fuel economy. The interior will be greatly updated with new textures and materials. Something that I’ve been griping against Volkswagen about is a software upgrade on their touch screen systems, and they’re finally doing it. The new Golf is so good that it was named the Japanese car of the year. Very, very rarely does a non-Japanese car ever win that award. It’s kind of a big deal. And with the new Golf R sporting just shy of 300 horsepower, Volkswagen has a variant of the Golf to give everybody what they want and make them very happy customers.
Alternative Selection: Ford Focus
Why it didn’t make the list: Reliability and resale value aren’t quite up to par with the Golf.
Never underestimate the power of a well respected brand. For almost one hundred years BMW has produced some of the most respected automobiles in the world, and people notice them. With it’s very recent upgrades, the new 3-series is a lot of car for the money. The base price is less than most of it’s competitors and even lower than the base price for the new Hyundai Genesis sedan. And I think that we all know that you will be impressing more people with a BMW rather than a Hyundai. Many critics have called the new 3-series the closest thing to the perfect car that is on the market today. And I am inclined to agree with them. It’s twin-scroll turbocharged motor returns a meaty 180 horsepower and a thrifty 36 miles per gallon on the highway. It isn’t the most powerful car on this list, but it is by far the most refined. With it’s aggressive financing options and lower starting price. This is a fairly easy to obtain luxury German car that will definitely impress the boss. It will show that you care about making an impression and also that are good with your money. Who knows, it may put you on the fast track for that promotion. Just be careful of the options list.
Alternative Selection: Audi A4
Why it didn’t make the list: More expensive, lower fuel economy.
Check out our website: www.americanpetrolheads.com for more articles!
[Note: This article was wirtten and submitted before Ford’s drop in the EPA ratings of the Fusion Hybrid. For more information visit Ford’s website.]