Sep 282017
 

In the words of The Big Bang Theory’s Amy Farrah Fowler, “I’m a girl.” I’ve also been writing about cars for the last eighteen years and as such, I’ve tested several. This year I’ve decided to write my first Top Picks story for Latino Traffic Report on vehicles for Latinas, based on cars I’ve driven and tested. They will appeal to women at different stages of life, with different needs, priorities, goals, and income. Some, however, are just damn cute!

Cars for Girls

Younger women may have greater financial constraints when car shopping, but that doesn’t mean the choices need be lackluster. These shoppers can sacrifice utility for fun, if need be, which brings me to my first selection.

Fiat 500c Lounge Cabriolet

For 2017, all Fiat 500 models can be ordered as a cabrio for an extra $1,495, and what could be more fun than a convertible? The folding roof opens with the push of a button as much or as little as you like although less than fully opened will produce tons of wind noise.

The diminutive little convertible also offers respectable fuel economy, with an EPA estimated 27 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. I averaged 24.9 mpg on the test drive. Don’t expect a lot of oomph, however, from the 500c’s 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 101 horses, even when you select the Sport mode

The test model came in Celeste Blu on the outside, one of fifteen special shades, with similar toned accents on the inside, and for $250 more, Ivory leather-trimmed bucket seats. The combination gave it an upscale feel.

It’s two-tone interior also included some fancy features like a 5.0-inch Uconnect touchscreen, a seven-inch thin-film transistor cluster display, a USB port in the glove box, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. It included a parking assist system but no back-up camera, nor is one available, or push button start.

Optional equipment added as part of the Customer Preferred Package, included GPS Navigation ($495). One option on the test model that I wouldn’t go for was the six-speed automatic transmission ($695). The five-speed manual would have certainly ramped-up this car’s performance and fun factor.

Granted, its cuteness may be its best selling point but it made me smile each time I saw it and for a prospective owner, that effect can be priceless.

Hecho en Toluca, México, pricing for the 2017 500c starts at $14,995. The as-tested price came to $23,420.

Kia Soul! Turbo

While the cuteness factor still applies to the Kia Soul, it gets more oomph for 2017 from an all-new 1.6-liter turbo engine with 201 horsepower. The test model, the Soul Exclaim (!), arrived in a Wild Orange shade that blended well in the Burnt Orange home of the Texas Longhorns.

Matched to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (an exclusive feature on the Exclaim trim), the Turbo did exhibit extra pep, but not without a little turbo lag. It has a combined EPA estimated fuel economy of 28 mpg. I averaged 33.3 mpg during the weeklong test drive. There is a six-speed manual version but only on the base model.

Well suited for city driving, the Soul offers extra versatility with its folding seats that produce 61.3 cu. ft. of cargo space with the rear seat folded, as well as an expansive glove box. To enhance the driving experience, it comes with a choice of two driving modes, Normal, and Sport.

The navigation system was relegated to Apple Car Play, which worked well but does eat up data. Creature comforts included AM/FM/MP3 with a seven-inch touchscreen, push button start, Bluetooth wireless technology, leather seats with cloth inserts, a leather wrapped steering wheel, and the UVO infotainment system.

While a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert systems were not included on the test model, they are available on the Exclaim and Plus trim levels. Standard safety features on all models include electronic stability control and Hill Start Assist.

Pricing for the 2017 Soul starts at $16,995. The as-tested pricing came to $23,620.

 

VW Golf SportWagen TSI S

I love a manual transmission, which is why I had to include this model, but it had me stymied over listing it under Cars for Girls or Cars for Moms on the Go but since most moms have their hands full, I decided that the enterprising millennial interested in learning a new skill might find this wagon appealing.

I tested the 2017 VW Golf SportWagen TSI S with a five-speed manual transmission matched to a peppy 1.8-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 170 horsepower and 199 lb.–ft. of torque. The manual transmission added tons of fun plus it helped with fuel efficiency. The EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy is 25/35 mpg, the best of all three trim levels. I achieved an average of 32.8 mpg at the end of a week.

The SportWagen combines fun and utility with the extra cargo-carrying ability of a wagon. The rear seats fold flat easily to offer 66.5 cu. ft. of volume.

As expected with the base model, the interior was a little plain, but it did include a few conveniences like cruse control, App Connect for smartphone integration (which I used for navigation), a leather-trimmed steering wheel, brake lever, and shift knob, an AM/FM/HD/CD stereo with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, a CD player, and illuminated vanity mirrors.

It also came with a few safety features like a rearview camera, Automatic Post-Collision Braking and Intelligent Crash Response systems.

Not offered on base model, forward collision warning,  a blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control, are available on the SE trim and standard on the top-of-the-line SEL trim level.

Pricing for the 2017 Golf SportWagen starts at $22,400, which was also the as-tested pricing. A six-speed automatic transmission is available for an additional $1,100.

 

Cars (and a Pickup) for Moms on the Go

Honda Ridgeline AWD RTL-E

Named the 2017 North American Truck of the Year by a jury of automotive journalists, the 2017 Honda Ridgeline, with its 64-inch bed, maximum payload of 1,584 lbs. and available in-bed trunk that can double as an 82 qt. cooler, offers Latinas a vehicle with greater capability than a sedan or wagon.

Redesigned for 2017, Honda gave the Ridgeline a truck profile, replacing the previous side panel with one that has an integrated truss, while retaining its unibody construction and smooth ride. Additionally, every Ridgeline has four doors and seating for five.

Powered by a more powerful and efficient direct-injected 3.5-liter V6 engine matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, the Ridgeline two-wheel drive (2WD) has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. The all-wheel-drive (AWD) model, like the one I drove, loses one city/highway mpg. I averaged 23.9 mpg after a week.

The test model included Ridgeline’s Intelligent Traction Management System that enhances off-road capability with drive modes for different conditions—Normal, Snow, Mud and Sand on the AWD. The 2WD includes Normal and Snow. Towing on the AWD maxes out at 5,000 lbs.

While the multi-angle rearview camera and push button start are standard on all models, a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert only come with the top trim levels.

The test model also included available technology like an eight-inch Display Audio touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, a new generation of the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System, Smart Entry, a power sliding rear window, and Remote Engine Start. Creature comforts included heated seats, adaptive cruise control, and a moonroof.

All these fun features, however, ain’t cheap. Starting price on the 2017 Ridgeline is $30,415. The as-tested pricing came to $42,270.

 

Toyota Highlander SE

Crossover utility vehicles have become the new family car and one of the leaders in the segment is the Toyota Highlander. It doesn’t pretend to have an SUV’s off-road bravado but it does offer families the versatility and convenience they’re after.

Powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the Highlander has a city/highway EPA estimated fuel economy of 21/27 mpg. I averaged 20.4 mpg on the test drive. A 2.7-liter four-cylinder is the base engine.

Offered in five trim levels, the SE FWD I drove is the second from the top-of-the-line model. Standard features included leather seating and heated front seats, a backup camera with an eight-inch display, five USB ports, integrated side window shades, Toyota Safety Sense with a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Entune infotainment. The intuitive system also made it easy for me to expand preset channels for a total of 36.

Safety features carry particular clout on a family vehicle. The Highlander includes its signature Star Safety System with traction control and anti-lock braking, plus a backup camera and Hill Start Assist Control. The test model also included a blind spot monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and rear parking sonar that are not offered on lower level trims.

The versatile SUV can seat up to eight or seven and the rear seats are split to fold flat for an expanded cargo carrying space of 83.7 cu. ft.

Optional equipment included a rear seat Blue Ray DVD entertainment system with a nine-inch display ($1,810).

Pricing for the 2017 Highlander starts at $31,390. The as-tested pricing came to $42,440.

Cars for Posh Latinas

BMW i3

Brand conscious Latinas will gravitate to BMW, it’s just a natural instinct, but for those who would also like to save the planet, the i3 serves a dual purpose.

Powered by a synchronous electric motor with 170 horsepower and 184 lbs.–ft. of torque, available as soon as the electric motor begins to turn, and a lithium high-voltage battery, it produces an electric range of approximately 114 miles when fully charged. The test model also included the Range Extender, a two-cylinder gasoline engine that helps alleviate range anxiety. It switches on once the battery is depleted to 6.5 percent state of charge and provides an additional range thanks to a larger fuel tank (2.4 gallons).

While it arrived with a full gas tank, the i3 test model had no charge. It does have quick charge capability but it took three days to charge fully in my garage using the standard occasional use cable for connecting to a domestic power socket. According the i3’s onboard system, I had an estimated electric range of 130 miles, but that number dropped sharply within minutes of getting on the road. Still, I managed to power the car exclusively on electricity for the remaining four days of the test drive and avoiding gasoline was a welcome experience.

The inside of the i3 also deserves a mention. It reminded me of a first class club at the airport, very airy, clean and green with the available unbleached light eucalyptus wood trim. Other creature comforts included automatic climate control, and Dynamic Cruise Control. The i3 did lack a blind spot monitor but it did have a rear parking camera and sensors.

Pricing for the 2017 BMW i3 starts at $45,445, excluding tax credits. The as-tested price came to $54,295.

 

Infiniti Q70

Infiniti’s striking curviness sets its lineup apart in the luxury performance segment. The 2017 Q70, its flagship sedan, embodies the brand’s sensuality.

Available in a long-wheelbase version, for Latinas who really need legroom, as well as AWD, the test model I drove was the rear-wheel drive Q70 5.6 with the standard wheelbase and the Sport Package.

Powered by two available engines, the test model came fully loaded with 420 horsepower and 417 lbs.–ft. of torque via its 5.6-liter V8 engine. Adding even more sportiness was the seven-speed transmission with a manual shift mode and Infiniti Drive Mode Selector that added four more modes—Standard, Sport, Eco, and Snow. With this much power, fuel economy was the trade off but I managed an average of 19 mpg.

Inside, I found more sexy features, starting with the curves on the binnacle brow (that overhang that shades the instrument cluster from the sun’s glare), or in this case, binnacle bra. Expected creature comforts at this price point, like leather seating throughout and heated and cooled seats in the front, dual-zone climate control, a heated, power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, navigation with traffic and weather information, an eight-inch infotainment screen, an around-view camera, and a Bose stereo, were included.

While the test model came equipped with the Premium Package, it did add two more, rather pricey packages, to bring features like a blind spot monitor, intelligent cruise control, forward emergency braking to avoid a collision per the Technology Package, ($3,300). The Sport Package ($4,900) added sport suspension, magnesium paddle shifters, Bose Studio Surround 16-speaker premium audio system, among other features.

Despite the need for additional pricey packages, the Q70 is still a beautiful sedan for the posh Latina who can afford it.

Pricing for the 2017 Q70 starts at $51,295. The as-tested pricing came to $72,720.

It’s been well documented that women make 85 percent of household buying decisions. Of all the cars to choose from, this list is but a sampling for Latinas to consider and savor.

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