Monday, May 21, 2012

Thirteen Months with Our Nissan LEAF, a New Year Begins

Another 1,000 Reliable Miles in April
Just a brief report on our LEAF this time.  April saw another 1,061 miles of trouble-free and fun family driving.  Our LEAF remains our family's primary vehicle and our vehicle of choice due to the usefulness of its four door hatchback design.  It is my personal car of choice because it is so fun and enjoyable to drive.

You'll see from the numbers below that our driving energy efficiency has increased to 3.33 mi/kWh measured at our power panel ("wall"), compared with about 3.2 mi/kWh in earlier months.  I attribute this to our choosing to drive more miles on moderate speed highways (50 mph average) than on freeways, where higher speeds sap efficiency, and to a generally more relaxed, serene driving style.  My blood pressure is lower too. (Mild attempt at humor, but not far from being true.)

We're still very much enjoying being a family with an electric vehicle, and we're convinced that all of our future cars will be electrified in some way, either battery electric cars or plug-in-hybrids.

Still Attending Lots of Meetups
I haven't mentioned them recently here, but I continue to bring our LEAF to one or two monthly meetings with our local LEAF owner group, "The Southern California LEAF Branch".  Our "Branch Manager" Gary, the founder of our local group, continues to plan and serve as the master of ceremonies at these very informal Saturday morning breakfasts at a Hometown Buffet restaurant, and many of us have become friends over the more than 18 months of get togethers.

A New BMW ActivE Joins our LEAF Group for a Breakfast Meetup in Santa Ana

At  recent meetups, we had two visitors from the much larger and more organized "Bay Leafs" group from the San Francisco Bay area, and a chance to see a newly released EV up close.  Howard and Kim from the Bay Leafs made time to visit with us during trips to our area, and they brought gifts and interesting news about their impressive group's recent activities.  Scott, the driver of a new BMW ActiveE electric sedan came by to visit and shared his very interesting new ride with us.  This kind of sharing with like-minded EV enthusiasts is really fun and it stimulates great discussions.

Trying a Diesel
A local VW dealer offered a free 24 hour loan of a VW Passat TDI diesel for a contest to see who could get the best mpg, and I took them up on the offer since I had never driven a diesel before and I was interested in the comparison with our Prius.  Many diesel enthusiasts claim that diesels are a good alternative to hybrids and that they make more sense for many than Toyota's popular Prius.

We drove the Passat up to Claremont for a day of exploration in this fascinating and historic small college town, embedded in the Inland Empire of Southern California.  We logged 45 mpg according to the Passat's on-board computer, very similar to our all-time average with our Prius.  The black over tan leather top-of -the-line SEL that we borrowed was an impressive and luxurious looking car that reminded me of an Audi. The car was much larger and more luxurious than the Prius, and the rear seating area was more spacious and more comfortable than our Toyota's.  Steering feel and overall driving manners were much better on the Passat, and the quality of the interior materials was better than that on the Prius.  However the VW was slow to respond to the accelerator at a stop sign, and when that pedal was pressed harder, the car would lurch forward with an embarrassing squeal of the front tires.  Regardless of that, I can see why there are many supporters of the view that diesel cars are a viable choice for those who are looking for an efficient car.

But most of the miles that we drove with the VW diesel were on the freeway, and at moderate speeds to try to maximize the mpg.  When driven on city streets, and especially when driven with any vigor, the Passat's computed mpg display dropped quickly.  This is different from the behavior of hybrids, whose mpg is usually a bit better in the city than at freeway speeds, and whose stop-start technology helps the economy numbers in stop and go driving.  So prospective diesel buyers need to give some thought to the predominant types of driving that they do, in order to see whether a diesel truly makes sense for them as compared with a hybrid.

But if gas mileage is a push between diesels and hybrids, what about emissions?  The EPA Fuel Economy web site shows that the VW diesel emits more than four times the pounds of smog-forming pollution and 70% more greenhouse gas emissions than the Prius.  We own a Prius, and I'm familiar with the Toyota's tight interior and middle class accommodations, but personally, I wouldn't choose to swap our Prius for a diesel because that choice would not support our commitment to the reduction of pollution and greenhouse gases.

By the way, we didn't come close to winning the mpg contest at the VW dealership. One of the sales staff mentioned that he'd seen numbers like 56 mpg, and he joked that he thought that perhaps the car had been pushed along to get numbers like that and he was looking for fingerprints on the trunk lid (insert LOL smiley face here).  A shout out to Capistrano VW for a very welcoming and friendly staff who helped to make our day with the Passat a real pleasure.

Electric Vehicle Symposium Meeting in Los Angeles: EVS26
The annual international Electric Vehicle Symposium was held at  the Los Angeles Convention Center recently, and I was lucky enough to be able to attend the exhibits and the EV drive opportunity on the opening Sunday.  

The exhibits at this event are primarily aimed at the EV manufacturers and OEM suppliers who provide parts and systems for these cars.  Much of the information was too esoteric for me, or over my layman's head.  But I was able to bring back some salient points from some of the displays.

  • I was able to see the SAE DC combo plug for the first time.  This was the public introduction of this newly proposed US standard for DC (direct current) quick charging that has been approved by eight car manufacturers.  DC fast charging can charge an EV from empty to 80% full in 30 minutes, and widespread installation of these chargers is thought by some to be the most important factor in stimulating the acceptance of EVs by average car buyers.  Nissan and Mitsubishi have cars on US roadways and many in Japan and Europe that are using the Japanese CHAdeMO DC charging standard.  There are already CHAdeMO chargers in use in the US and the SAE has been slow to establish their competing standard, and this has been one reason why installation of DC fast charging has been slow in this country.  The plugs that were shown at EVS26 were built to the new SAE proposed standard that has not yet been approved.  Note that at this time there are zero cars on the roads that can take this new SAE plug, and there won't be any until (probably late) 2013.  But GM is apparently leading an effort to halt installation of any more CHAdeMO DC quick chargers reference, even though the SAE combo plug standard hasn't yet been finalized, and no chargers are yet UL approved. This move would be detrimental to the success of the NIssan and Mitsubishi EVs that have already established a foothold here.  My opinion is that the solution is to equip future DC quick chargers with dual plugs and hardware/software that will support both standards, and that the 200 new DC quick chargers that will be installed in California through an agreement between the State and NRG should be engineered to provide CHAdeMO charging immediately and additionally SAE combo charging when it is UL approved and implemented and when there are actual cars on the roads that can use it.
SAE (left) and CHAdeMO DC Quick Charge Plugs (photo credit JeremyW,

SAE Prototype Combo DC Plug

  • BMW, one of the eight companies which have approved the new SAE DC charging design, showed one of their ActiveE sedans that had been modified to accept the prototype plug for a  demonstration of actual charging on the exhibit floor.
Demonstration of SAE DC Quick Charging Installed on a BMW ActiveE Sedan

  • The best news at the event was that several makers of DC fast chargers have said that they will offer chargers with both SAE and CHAdeMO plugs, making them usable by the existing Nissan and Mitsubishi cars as well as the future cars from the SAE standard signatory companies.  This is not as simple as it sounds, however, nor is it inexpensive.  DC fast chargers already cost an average of about $25,000 before installation, and electronics for the two different standards are different, so duplicate circuits would need to be built in to these dual-plug chargers, which would raise their cost even higher.
ABB DC Quick Charger with SAE Combo Plug

  • At least three different companies were showing equipment that will provide wireless charging for EVs using magnetic induction from a device installed on a garage floor.  One of the companies, Plugless Power, offers a system that can be retrofitted to a Nissan LEAF or Chevy Volt today.  They said that the cost would be about $3,000 not including installation of the garage components.  The other two companies build similar systems for installation by original car manufacturers. 
Wireless Inductive Charging on the Infiniti LE Concept

Add On Wireless Charging from Plugless Power

  • I was excited to see that Infiniti had their LE Concept on display.  The LE Concept had only recently been seen for the first time at the New York Auto Show, so it was very exciting to be able to see this new concept car, an 85% reflection of the Infiniti EV that is expected to be delivered in 2014.  I found the car really interesting to look at from most angles.  While I'm sure that the paint that looks like liquid metal on the concept car won't be available on the production cars, I really liked the headlight and taillight treatments that may have a better chance to make it into production.  I imagine that the glowing grille may be deleted, and I wouldn't miss it.  The main thing that Infiniti has to get right, though, is to give this car a realistic driving range of 120 miles or so.  Realistic to me means driving that includes freeway driving at 70 mph.
Infiniti LE Concept

EVS26 also had a drive event that allowed us to experience driving the very new Ford Focus EV and the BYD E6 SUV, as well as the more familiar LEAF, Mitsubishi i,  Prius Plug-In,  Volt, Coda and hydrogen fuel cell EVs from Mercedes, Toyota and Honda.

I drove the Ford, the Coda and the Chinese-made BYD E6.

Ford Focus EV

Ford Focus EV Luggage Area. Batteries Located Behind Rear Seats

I found the Ford Focus EV to be a very pleasant and fun EV to drive.  Though priced at a daunting $40,000 before incentives and rebates, the car is equipped very nicely and the driving experience is very sporty and enjoyable.  The steering and handling are especially tight and sporty, and the motor is responsive to the accelerator. Being a conversion of an ICE car, there are compromises in space utilization.  This is especially true in the luggage area behind the rear seats, where most of the batteries are placed.  The seating in the Focus is less spacious than that in the LEAF in both the front and the rear seating areas.  I did, however, enjoy the lower position of the driver's seat.  Since the driver is not sitting on top of the main battery pack in the Focus, a lower and sportier driving position is possible.

I had driven a pre-production version of the Coda before, so I was interested to drive a production version.  In comparison with the earlier version of the Coda, I found the production model to be better finished and I found the car to be more responsive and enjoyable to drive.  However, I still find the Coda's design plain and uninspiring. Priced similarly to the LEAF but with a larger battery and driving range as well as a faster on board charger, according to the EPA, the Coda is, for some reason, quite a bit less efficient in energy utilization compared with the LEAF, 73 MPGe for the Coda versus 99 MPGe for the LEAF.  That lack of efficiency means higher fueling costs than the LEAF, the Ford, or the Mitsubishi, though fuel costs would still be better than any hybrid in most regions.

BYD E6 Prototype

The BYD E6 is an early prototype as far as US introduction is concerned.  The car is made by a Chinese company and is one of the few electric SUV designs to be shown so far.  The car boasts a massive 60 kWh battery pack, which should be good for over 150 miles of range.  In driving, I found the E6 to be slow and unresponsive, lacking any pep in its acceleration.  The car was spacious inside and seemed to have useful cargo capacity.  If priced reasonably, this SUV might be a good choice for the US market.  We were told that BYD plans a line of EVs and PHEVs for their US introduction within two years.

The Numbers:
2011 Nissan LEAF SL Placed in Service: March 30, 2011
All Home Charging Done Using: 240 Volt Aerovironment/Nissan Level 2 EVSE
Home Solar PV System: 24 Sunpower 215W panels totaling 5.16 kW DC mounted on a 20 degree South facing roof.
Total Solar PV Power Generated for Net Metering Year Ended February 2012:  8,568 kWh

Month:  April 2012
Total Miles at Month End: 12,310 
Miles Driven in Month:  1,061 miles
Electric Power Used for Charging in Month: 318.7 kWh (measured at wall power source, includes public charging)
Public Charging in Month, Power Use:
 14.9 kWh 

Charging at Home in Month, Power Use: 303.8 kWh
Energy Efficiency, Month of April 3.33 miles/kWh (wall to wheels)

Energy Efficiency, Month of April:   3.99 miles/kWh (in car main dash display, battery to wheels)
Efficiency Wall to Wheels in Month at 240 Volts: (3.33/3.99) = 83.5%
Total Charging Energy Used, Lifetime: 3,838 kWh (Includes public charging)
Energy Efficiency, Lifetime:  3.21 miles/kWh (wall to wheels)
Energy Efficiency, Lifetime:  31.15 kWh/100 mi (wall to wheels)
Number of Home Charging Days in Month: 24
Most Electric Energy Used for Charging in a Day in April:  23.7 kWh  (6.2 charging hours, includes 9.8 kWh public charging)
Most Electric Energy Used for Charging AT HOME in a Day in April: 17.7 kWh (4.7 charging hours)
Least Electric Energy Used at Home for Charging in a Charging Day in April : 7.2 kWh  (1.9 charging hours)
Average Electric Energy Used for Home Charging in a Charging Day in
 April :  12.7 kWh  (3.4 charging hours)
Household Power Used for Month:  750 kWh (without car charging)
Total Power Used for Month:  1,054 kWh (includes car charging)
Solar PV Power Generated for Month:  796 kWh
Net Power Used or Sent to Grid for Month:  258 kWh net used
April Electric Bill, So Cal Edison, Schedule TOU-D-TEV:  $31.06 
 (A charge in this amount will be added to our net metering total charge for the year.)
Solar Net Metering Year Total Cumulative kWh Used at Month #2:  628 kWh (Total kWh net used for the net metering year. This is total household and EV charging usage minus solar PV generation.)

Solar Net Metering Year Total Cumulative Cost at Month #2:  $66.26 (Total energy and delivery costs for all power usage for the net metering year.)
Cost for Charging Car in April:  $0.00
Cost per Mile:  $0.00
Cost for Charging Car, Lifetime: $0.00
Cost per Mile, Lifetime: $0.00  

(If We Didn't Have Solar Power, Est Cost for Charging Car in April: $39.49)
(If We Didn't Have Solar Power, Est Cost per Mile in April: $0.037) 
Average (Mean) Miles per Driving Day in April:  35.4 miles

Average (Median) Miles per Driving Day in April:  31.5 miles
Longest Day's Driving in April:  89.5 miles (charging mid-trip)
Longest Day's Driving in April Without Mid-Trip Charging: 55 miles
Shortest Day's Driving in April:  2 miles
Number of Times we Took the Prius Instead of the LEAF Due to Low Charge: 3
Unexpected Low Charge and Unable to Reach Destination:  Never

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Review: Mercedes-Benz E350 Sedan - does it get any better?

Mercedes E350
By all accounts, I am a Mercedes fan. I love the grille and hood emblem and the prestige that the brand represents. Last weekend I treated myself and rented an E350. My expectations were fully met; click through for my impressions.

Mercedes E350
My particular E-Class rental was in white, which looked especially regal and stood out from other cars on the road. I probably wouldn't get a white car, but have to admit that it looked great. The E-Class is, in my opinion, one of the best looking sedans on the market today, more aggressive looking than the BMW 5-Series, more striking than Audi A6, and lightyears ahead of the Japanese competition (Infiniti M and Lexus ES). Whereas I think Mercedes may have gone a little too far on the new CLS design, the E is perfection. The headlights and LED DLR lights are menacing, the side profile is angled perfectly with large rear fenders, and the taillights are elegant and restrained. Some people are put off by the regality of the E Class and don't like the hood ornament; I think that is all part of the car's greatness.

Mercedes E350
The E-Class' interior is fantastic; maybe not as technologically dazzling as the Audi A6's or as slick as the BMW 5-Series', but it rather exudes luxury and taste. The little details make the E-Class' interior so special: the powered rear sunshade, the little button to automatically lower rear headrests for better visibility, and the cool yellow ambient lighting throughout the cabin. The COMAND system, while not as visually pleasing as BMW's iDrive system, is very easy to use. By the end of my 2-day rental, I was an old pro at navigating the little silver button in the center console. The Harmon/Kardon speaker system was top-notch and the air-conditioning unit was easy to use.

The seats were extremely comfortable. The electronic lumbar support buttons on the side of the seat cushion were a nice surprise, as was the electronically controlled head rest. The voice-activated controls were surprisingly accurate, and especially convenient for entering coordinates in the GPS while driving.

Mercedes E350
The 302 horsepower, 3.5L V6 in the E350 is by no means as fast as the CLS and C 63 AMG models that I drove last year, but it sounded great and had ample power to maneuver on highways. I wish there was a little more power in the lower RPMs, but I guess that's what the 550 and 63 AMG are for? Suspension was very nice and the tires were quite grippy; the car satisfyingly sunk into each turn, and bumps were hardly noticeable.

In short, I would buy this car in a heartbeat (of course, preferably the 63 AMG). Mercedes has to be careful in the next redesign...please don't mess with perfection.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

2012 Nissan Quest: I just don't get it...

Nissan Quest
Much to my dismay, the rental company was out of full-sized cars and gave me a minivan (horrifying, I know). A Chrysler Town & Country, Honda Odyssey, or Toyota Sienna would have been passable, but instead I was given a Nissan Quest. I'm completely baffled by this car, and cannot understand what Nissan was going for in their design. Click through for my thoughts.

Nissan Quest
The front end of the Quest looks like a weird spaceship. Its concavity reminds me of the new Lexus RX. Unfortunately, the front end is probably the least offensive part of the Quest, and that's not saying much. The end is too boxy and the taillights look like eyes; seriously uncool. The side profile of the Quest is probably its worst angle, as it looks like a breadbox ready to tip over. It's too narrow and boxy in the wrong places. The downward crease on the doors would have been attractive if the front end wasn't so high up. If the hood were to be reshaped at a similar downward angle, the entire design could have been salvaged, but I realize that the engine takes up space and that Nissan is cognizant of the rules and regulations regarding the height of the hood in case of pedestrian collisions. The result is an oddly shaped disaster.

Nissan Quest
I was unfortunately driving the base model, so a couple things differed from the picture you see above. First, there were hardly any controls on the steering wheel, so I had to adjust the radio manually. If I had kids, I would want to minimize as many distractions as possible, and it seems like a low-cost no-brainer for Nissan to stick some controls on the wheel, even on the base model. For a car that starts at $25k, this is unacceptable.

The navigation screen you see above was replaced with a plain jane radio - the same one you can get on the Sentra. It was boring and didn't look very good nestled in that weirdly shaped center console.

I didn't like the shifter mounted in the center console. Although it is probably better than the alternative - a steering wheel stalk - I still didn't like it. Then again, I'd never buy a minivan, so perhaps I'm a bit biased.

The fake wood didn't look very good, and the interior seemed chintsy. On the other hand, I did like the pop-out cupholders in the center console, which reminded me of Saabs.

Nissan Quest
There is plenty of space in the Quest. No gripes there.

The Quest's 260hp V6 engine was very responsive at low RPMs, but lacked power at higher speeds. I would give the engine experience a B+; I would definitely not characterize the Quest as "fun to drive", but I was expecting much worse for a minivan.

Overall, I'm completely baffled by the Quest. The styling, inside and out, is incoherent and in many case downright ugly. Who would buy the Quest over the other award-winning choices (Odyssey, Town & Country, Sienna)? At first I thought the Quest would appeal to the upper-class crowd, but the competitors are just as well-appointed, if not better. So, I leave thoroughly confused...someone please help me understand!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I cant shoot another free throw alone

the free throw tosser
is the author of an arc
wayward or not he never knows what
comes off his fingers, not often, not for long...
17 in a row once maybe, something like that
in the Catastrophe Basketball Free Throw League of New Orleans
we played a Stanza of 10 shots, best of 7 stanzas
wins, if you hit your 10th shot its Dinero Diez!
Keep the line till you miss

the free throw tosser aspires
to the arc with empty
lungs just exhale, softly

sometimes it matters
sometimes not
way off

for some sooner never comes
or sooner seemed to be arriving
exciting, and intimating fraternity
only to waver and disappear
later always comes after sooner
keeps coming at you much later
comes after
after you stand on the beach

holding a rock
with questions
make a free throw tosser

the free throw tosser

and it feels unfamiliar
leaving your hands
and that is wrong
not to know
its a ride you are on
where, for half a second
pai ni kap
where you go -
its swish is a mystery
you don't know how it happened
it feels like luck

for the moments, related, extended
aided and abetted by your partner
who takes pride in catching the karoms
one motion soft accurate outlet pass
back to your hands don't have to move
the ball feels right and shepherded so
the net hardly ripples
there's a rhythm
its so transient though
the self kills it

his free throw, the tosser thinks, is like a son
he doesn't spend enough time with
the son wishes it were a dog and dad
loved nothing better than to throw the ball
but he's a boy in 7th grade at a tough new school
where out in the yard aerosol cans
are sprayed into bags and breathed
in - son, son, the tosser says, poised
to lift and aim -

the free throw tosser
once had long supple fingers
they are still all there
but long gone now
last week I tried to imagine
rebellion to the screw
I turn, tedium has
a hypnotic quality

turn is not good in free throw -

I am often thinking about Rick Barry

90%, underhanded
I can see what that toss has going for it
it turns the free throw into a turn
of the wrists, not an inch of extra arc
so much that it is no fun
now I liked this free throw when the Warriors won
well enough, I guess, but it reminds me of
a little poodle of a free-throw
I like the variation that comes

we honor a man who played guard for the New York Knicks
for a short time in 1975, by calling a very high arc shot

kind of unreal when it goes in
I think its the rhyme with rainbow
who among us does not pull
for a man named Wingo

Purvis Short, his shots went way way up

Today I put a milk crate on the line and stood on it
I'm thinking this is what being 7'5" looks like

Mr Carroll would end practice
by putting you on the line
if you missed, everybody ran
laps and laps and laps
think about that I clanged it
my mind was filled
with apprehension and want
ing you can't do that
the rim is ten feet high

the backboard was painted by Joseph Albers and Jasper Johns

I wince a little what the sun has done to their work

what can I do though, backboards go outside

the line is 15 feet from the rim

there's a steeply pitched roof under the net

padded with cushions, it tends to send the ball

right back to me, which i appreciate

though I miss the board work my partner did

and I did for him, this is not a game, it is play

all about the free throw tosser

who we can say is always opposed

by the self same self makes a shot

misses a shot, my shot has not

been taken enough, I think

for every one is different but that every one

is released with doubt, some doubts

briefer that others, much briefer

form, and picture

I love extending my arms but

I don't think that's how it is done -

a complex movement

easy to vary, not good but the

sweetest arcs, purest swish

comes off this way

tonight I think I found my

free throw, a substantial dip of the knees

to rise up from, so the arms don't lift

so much, the legs do it and the motion

feels more repeatable and self contained

all free throws are self contained

I wish I knew how not to think

which is impossible for me while keeping a tally

1-1 1-2 2-3 3-4 (75% I'm thinking)


always thinking

true or false:

for she is above all competent and steady, yes!

the high percentage free throw tosser is known

to excel in foxholes and elective offices,

a vestige of innocence resides

in the free throws acquaintenship with moment

a deep but narrow or meta stable

static moment given to visualize

eyes to arms, hands to ball

who am I? Am I the Man?

First to Tie, 2nd to Win

All good stories begin and end

in cords we ripple

I am a lifetime 58%

although last night I made 37 of 50

although Tally keeping in the CBFTLoNO isn't strictly mathematical

Are You Straight Enough to Play the Game with Me?

in the Catastrophe Basketball Free-Throw League of New Orleans

To stand straight on the line and caress a beautiful

Sphere you will softly let fly the finest Rainbow

You can find

For the Hoop where the Net rests so Still

Just to congratulate your skill


So are you straight enough to play the game with me

Animated by 92 natural elements of the story around here

Many times washed and scrubbed by the good young hands of Kyle Molere

A boy who lost all his own in New Orleans East

John Cage inspired, compounded with Armour All for Tires

All we aim for around here is to stay behind the Charity Stripe

and Revere these uniquely satisfying aesthetic objects

of an Immense Tragedy

To form and fashion these arcs we may call our own

A call "to quiet and sober the mind"

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hyundai Veloster is quirky ... and I love it

Hyundai Veloster
I noticed Zipcar started offering the Hyundai Veloster near me, so I hopped at the opportunity to drive it. The Veloster is a sporty 3-door hatch (similar set-up as the old Saturns) with Hyundai's attractive styling and high quality interior. The only thing I didn't like about it was the engine (no surprise, as just about every auto reviewer seems to agree). Click through for my impressions.

Hyundai Veloster
The Veloster is an odd looking car - people look at it when you drive by. But not the same way people look at a Honda Crosstour (in disgust), but rather with curiosity. The front end has the same attractive grille as the rest of Hyundai's lineup, and the stance of the car is low and sleek. The 3rd side door is really useful for rear passengers and loading bags from the store. The wheels are pretty cool too. Overall, the car looks really sporty.

Hyundai Veloster
The rear end is really cool looking, and thanks to the glass roof, rear visibility is satisfactory, even despite the small back window. The twin port exhaust mounted in the center reminds me of the first-gen Porsche Boxster. The huge flared rear fenders give the car an athletic, grounded stance. The little details on the Veloster make the car unique and special.

Hyundai Veloster
The interior of the Veloster is top-notch. Given the large size of the doors, Hyundai has affixed large silver handles to aid in opening and closing the doors. The Zipcar I was driving was a base model, but still had a working center screen, which displayed radio stations and trip functions in an easy-to-use interface. The use of aluminum and silver throughout the dashboard was done tastefully, and the seat was low slung, so I felt like I was driving a high end sports car.

Hyundai Veloster
My only real gripe was the engine, which felt underpowered and clunky. Although the engine revved high, shifting seemed slow and bumpy. Power - especially in ECO mode - was limited and predictable. It was, frankly, a little embarrassing given how cool the car looks, inside and out. I can imagine the small engine is probably in place to keep the MSRP down to be competitive against other entry level coupes and hatchbacks, but given the high standard of the rest of the car, I was disappointed.

The moral of the story here is: wait until the 2013 Veloster Turbo comes out. The 201hp engine and upgraded body kit and fascias will be worth whatever the pricetag is.