2011 Denver Auto Show
The 2011 Denver Auto Show hosted by Jann Scott where we look at some of the cars and trucks on the floor of the convention center.
It’s the 2011 Denver Auto Show Special with host Jann Scott. We look at a large selection of new car, trucks, SUV’s, crossover and more on the floor, in search of great cars to buy and what new innovations the auto manufacturers are starting to include in their vehicles in order to compete with the new green movement. Some of the Automotive groups we explore are Acura, Jeep, Chevy, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Kia, Nissan, Toyota and VW as well as fancy rides by Aston Martin, Mercedes, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Bentley, and Lotus for you education and entertainment.
2011 Denver Auto Show Video Segments
The VW Jetta Sports Wagon is pretty much in a class of its own. It’s is a great alternative to a variety of vehicles, thanks to its versatility and available diesel engine. Pros: Cavernous cargo space, stellar fuel economy with TDI, upscale cabin, comfortable seats, refined ride, good iPod interface. Cons: TDI’s premium price.
We learn from a Toyota Spokesman about the new Toyota Prius Plugin Hybrid how the new plugin feature increases the range on the vehicle in electric mode and is a giant leap forward for electric and hybrid cars.
The Nissan Leaf is an electric car with great in town commuting car, however it’s not available for production quite yet and there’s huge waiting lines for when it is. With the Nissan Leaf, a real (and realistically priced) electric car is finally here. Pros: No more gas stations, spacious, quiet cabin, snappy acceleration, intelligent navigation system. Cons: Limited cruising range, limited recharging points, home charger is a necessity.
The 2011 Kia Soul brings hipster styling and a fun-to-drive nature to the realm of the practical hatchback. Pros: Loads of available features, highly customizable, user-friendly controls, ample passenger space, surprisingly fun to drive, low price, long warranty. The Kia Soul receives a few improvements for 2011, with new rear shock absorbers and standard rear disc brakes (replacing last year’s rear drums) being the most notable. Other minor changes include new door handles, push-button start, a trip computer and heated outside mirrors. Kia’s engineers also managed to infuse the Soul with peppy engine performance (at least on the upper trim levels) and sporty handling. Together, they make the Soul a surprisingly fun-to-drive small car that’s still a cinch to maneuver around tight city confines in relative comfort. On the highway, last year’s Soul had a choppy ride quality, but the new rear shock absorbers should at least partially remedy that problem.
We rate the 2011 Kia Soul highly among the overtly boxy competition that includes the Nissan Cube and Scion xB. Both can accommodate more cargo than the Kia with their rear seats stowed, but the Soul scores points for having the most attractive design in our eyes. There are a few more conventional choices as well, such as the Honda Fit and the Mini Cooper Clubman, they, too, have sharp styling, athletic handling and surprising cargo versatility. But the Kia Soul gets just about everything right. And for that, we think it’s worth adding to your short list.
Honda CR-ZA sport hybrid concept car with 3 models Hard-core enthusiasts will likely be disappointed, but somebody just looking for a sporty two-door with good fuel economy will likely be pleased with the 2011 Honda CR-Z. Pros Nimble size and handling, quick steering, good fuel economy, sporty looks. Con Poor rearward visibility, most competitors have backseats, missing a few upscale features. A sporty hybrid, at first glance, the 2011 Honda CR-Z might seem a bit oxymoronic. After all, Americans expect their hybrid cars to be purely about fuel economy, with flowers, rainbows and unicorns coming out of the tailpipe. But Honda is hoping that people are ready for a car that not only gets very good fuel economy but also happens to be fun to drive — a hybrid without the drive-induced narcolepsy, if you will.
You might recall that Honda actually tried this approach a few years ago with the Accord Hybrid, a V6-powered Accord that promised strong performance and enhanced fuel economy. Sales were slow, however, and Honda cancelled the car after a short run. Of course, those of you with an even longer memory will also recall the original Honda CRX, the CR-Z’s spiritual predecessor that crystallized Honda’s reputation for building fun and efficient cars from the mid-1980s through the early 1990s.
Like the old CRX, the CR-Z is front-drive with two doors and just two seats. Mechanically, though, the CR-Z is related most to Honda’s current Insight hybrid, sharing its basic structure and suspension design. To bring some sport to that formula Honda made the CR-Z shorter by about a foot, widened the track slightly and reduced overall height by a couple inches. This trimming doesn’t reduce curb weight by as much as you might hope (the CR-Z only weighs about 80 pounds fewer than the Insight) but it does make the CR-Z one of the most nimble cars you can buy.
Under the hood is Honda’s familiar Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) mild-hybrid system. For more punch, the CR-Z starts with a slightly bigger gasoline engine than the Insight (1.5 liters versus 1.3) that produces 112 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque. The electric motor is the same and generates another 13 horse power and 58 lb.-ft. Notably, Honda is offering a six-speed manual transmission in addition to the more hybrid-typical continuously variable transmission (CVT). The resulting fuel economy isn’t exactly Prius-like, but it is still quite good, with the CVT variant returning an estimated 35 mpg city and 39 mpg highway.
The end result of all this is that Honda has indeed created a sporty hybrid. The CR-Z looks sharp and is fun to drive around town thanks to its small size and quick steering.
For 2012 after a very long wait, American buyers finally get a world-class small car from a Detroit label. The 2012 Ford Focus is the segment’s new benchmark. Pros: Nimble handling, refined ride, stylish and well-made interior, lively engine, smart automatic transmission, abundant list of upscale and high-tech options. Cons: Backseat is a little short on legroom, infotainment controls can be finicky to learn and use.
We’ll have to wait and see about its reliability, but the 2012 Fiat 500 is yet another stylish subcompact that proves that small can be cool. Pros: Adorable styling, highly customizable, fuel-efficient, surprisingly spacious for two people. Cons: Wait-and-see reliability, limited dealer network, less cargo room than rivals, cramped for four people. There was once a car so small it made the Mini seem like a Big. A car so cute the animators of the movie Cars did little to transform one into the adorable “Luigi.” A car that if you saw one on the streets, you’d swear it was a child’s scale replica. That car was the Fiat 500, or Cinquecento en Italiano, and it left such an indelible impression during its 18-year lifespan that Fiat performed a Mini-like resurrection to it three years ago. Now, with Fiat purchasing Chrysler last year, the 500 has been chosen to be the pioneer model to reintroduce the Fiat brand to North America.
The 2012 Fiat 500 certainly has the potential to be the next big (or rather, small) thing. While the original 500 was the size of a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe, the nuova 500 looks far more like a regular car — albeit a tiny one. Compared to a Mini Cooper, it’s 6 inches shorter in overall length and 2 inches narrower. However, it is also more than 4 inches taller, allowing for an elevated seating position that not only increases visibility but creates more interior legroom. The result is a cabin that is surprisingly spacious, with more rear legroom on hand than its British nemesis (not that that’s saying much).
The 2012 Chevrolet Volt is mostly electric with a gas motor however it’s not available in Colorado yet. The 2011 Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid is arguably the most fuel-efficient car on the market, but it’s pricey for what you get. Pros Low monthly fuel cost in normal driving; useful 300-mile maximum range; appealing standard features; high-tech cabin. Cons Questionable value; small backseat for two people only; touchy brakes; no power front seats; home charger is a necessity. Here’s the long and short of it: The Volt is a four-seat, four-door “series-parallel plug-in hybrid” hatchback with a lithium-ion battery pack that can power the car’s 149-horsepower (111-kilowatt) electric motor by itself for an estimated 40 miles in the city. After that, the gasoline-powered inline-4 engine primarily supplies electricity to the motor for as many as 300 additional miles. All told, the Volt is the most advanced hybrid to date and quite possibly the most fuel-efficient car you will be able to buy.