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Auto Drive: Reviews of the Toyota Rav4 Hybrid and Kia K900

Toyota adds fuel-efficiency to RAV4 crossover with hybrid model

2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. COURTESY PHOTO  

Although gas-electric hybrid cars have found many happy owners, there are various downsides that have kept them from taking over the entire marketplace. They're typically quite a bit more expensive to buy than their gas-only counterparts, and are often either slow or show minimal mileage benefit.

The new 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid compact crossover throws out all of those drawbacks. It's just $700 more than a comparably equipped non-hybrid RAV4, even as its EPA fuel economy ratings rise from 25 miles per gallon in mixed driving up to 33 mpg. And the hybrid actually has more power, not less, than the standard model.

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Auto Drive: Reviews of the Mazda CX-3 and Audi TT

Mazda's CX-3 is a fun crossover without a crossover's benefits; Audi roadster is a stylish sports car for the daily grind

2016 Mazda CX-32016 Mazda CX-3   COURTESY PHOTO  The proliferation of market niches in today's automotive industry has blurred the lines of which cars compete with what. An example is the all-new 2016 Mazda CX-3, which the company presents as its entry in the burgeoning subcompact crossover class.

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Auto Drive: Reviews of the Honda Pilot and Kia Sorento

2016 Honda Pilot Elite2016 Honda Pilot Elite    COURTESY PHOTO  

“Bigger is better” is a common mantra that frequently applies to automobiles, as it's hard for many buyers to justify a smaller vehicle that costs just as much as a larger one. Two family-friendly crossovers – the Honda Pilot and Kia Sorento – were redesigned for 2016 with opposite approaches to this piece of conventional wisdom. Each has quite a bit of appeal in its class. 

The 2016 Pilot took the traditional approach in its redesign: It grew. The Honda's girth now comes closer to such popular competitors as the Chevrolet Traverse and Ford Explorer, and it has acceptably roomy seating for eight passengers. The redesign also smoothed out the old Pilot's boxy, utilitarian shape into a sleeker package – relatively speaking, at least.

Meanwhile, the 2016 Sorento also got a bit longer, but it remains quite a bit smaller than those models even though it also fits in a third-row seat. The Pilot is more than 7 inches longer, more than 4 inches wider and 3.5 inches taller, and its turning circle is 3 feet wider. The Honda is hardly the biggest SUV you can buy, but it may be a tighter squeeze into the driveway or garage of an older house. 

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Your Finances: Paying for a college education can be intimidating for many parents

 

Roll of Cash

We have all read about the escalating costs of higher education. According to CollegeBoard, tuition and fees to attend a public university increased by 13 percent over the past five years. The idea of paying for college can be quite intimidating.

At about the time that kids are old enough for college, parents begin thinking about their own plans for the future. Unfortunately, the timing can present some challenges as parents try to figure out how to balance these financial priorities.

In a recent installment of “Your Future, Your Finances,” I had the opportunity to sit down with Judith Ward, senior financial planner at investment firm T. Rowe Price, to get her perspective on balancing retirement and college planning. Ms. Ward has over 32 years of experience helping individuals make sound financial decisions.

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Auto Drive: Reviews of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Ford Focus

 

Electric car i-MiEV is rudimentary but affordable; three-cylinder Focus doesn't deliver on fuel savings

 

2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV    COURTESY PHOTO  

The stereotypical electric vehicle is a slow, silly-looking excuse for an automobile that can't go very far before running out of charge. Most of today's EVs avoid this image. The best-selling model is the fast, luxurious Tesla Model S, which goes several hundreds of miles at a time; most other models are simply normal cars that are fitted with a battery instead of an engine.

Then there is the 2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which at first glance looks like a walking advertisement for the internal combustion engine. It's a tiny car that isn't very quick and is only rated to travel 62 miles per charge, by far the worst of any all-electric car on sale today. Its interior appointments are basic and the exterior is almost comical.

But if you're at all interested in the idea of a gas-free runabout, you may want to look further into the egg-shaped i-MiEV (pronounced EYE-meev). As long as you wouldn't need to drive long distances in this car, low operating costs and numerous state and federal incentives give it some appeal.

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Auto Drive: Reviews of the Acura TLX and Mazda CX-5

Acura TLX tries to be nice but not outstanding – and succeeds at both; Mazda offers a sportier alternative to the typical small crossover

2016 Acura TLX2016 Acura TLX. COURTESY PHOTO 

A luxury car can be a showcase for dazzling style and technology, or it can be a fairly ordinary vehicle that's simply nicer than a cheaper one. 

The 2016 Acura TLX is the latter type. This midsize sedan from Honda's premium brand was styled to avoid offense rather than to excite. It has few features that you can't also find on a fully-loaded Honda Civic. But it's a comfortable, pleasant sedan that's far more attainable than a similarly roomy BMW or Mercedes-Benz. 

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Auto Drive: Reviewing the 2016 Chevy Camaro and Kia Optima

New Camaro hides luxury driving dynamics under familiar styling; Loaded Kia Optima doesn't deliver on premium promise

2016 Chevrolet Camaro 1LT2016 Chevrolet Camaro.   COURTESY PHOTO

The redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Camaro doesn't look very different from its predecessor. The retro-styled performance coupe made a big splash when it returned to the market seven years ago, running against the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger to provide lots of power at prices that start in the $20,000s.

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Auto Drive: Toyota Tacoma skimps on driving charms; Buick Cascada favors comfort over performance

 

2016 Toyota Tacoma Limited2016 Toyota Tacoma. COURTESY PHOTO 

Toyota's small pickup trucks have a long-lasting reputation for dependability, and the Tacoma model has been the best-selling vehicle in its shrinking class for several years. So it's understandable that Toyota hasn't wanted to tinker too much with success.

But there is room for some adjustments to the Tacoma formula. Even as most new pickup trucks manage to blend capability with luxury, the redesigned 2016 Tacoma sticks to the basics – despite a price tag that hits $40,020 as tested. And while some aspects of the new Tacoma's design and character are a matter of taste, others represent ways in which the vehicle is simply compromised.

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