2016 Ford Escape is about to walk the plank


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2016 Ford Escape is about to walk the plank

Just a few months ago, Ford announced a mild-refresh to the popular 2017 Ford Escape. While we have not yet been able to drive this refreshed compact crossover, I just took its outgoing 2016 model for a drive. The “lame duck” Escape impressed me far more than I would have expected. With the new-ish 2017 model just around the bend, no doubt dealerships will begin selling this exact model at a big discount in the near future. If you’re in the market for a compact crossover, listen up.

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Behind the wheel of the new 2011 MAZDA2

A small car with good looks, gas mileage and an affordable sticker. Mazda is hoping to offer a little Zoom-Zoom for every one.

The base price starts at just under $14,000 and tops out at about $17,000. Fuel economy up to 35 miles per-gallon, made possible with an attention to weight savings and aerodynamics.

I didn’t get to spend a lot of time behind the wheel at this press event. I will hold off on making a judgment on the MAZDA2 until I get to spend a little more time in the car.

Mazda says opulence is out, sensible is in. We will see if the American market agrees. Originally launched in Europe, Japan and Australia; it has been the recipient of many awards since its debut in 2007.

Mazda has managed to squeeze a lot of standard safety and luxury features into even the base model.

The 2011 MAZDA2 is available in two trim levels – the entry-level Sport and Touring. Both trim levels are powered by a 100 horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, available with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Standard features include 15-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers, 185/55/R15 all-season tires, body-colored door handles and power mirrors, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with four speakers, audio auxiliary jack, tilt steering wheel, remote keyless entry system, rear window wiper/washer and 60/40 split fold-down rear seats.

The MAZDA2 Touring takes everything on the MAZDA2 Sport and adds upgraded seat fabric with red piping, 15-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, rear roof spoiler, chrome exhaust tip, leather-wrapped steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, trip computer and a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo system.

Available accessories include a rear bumper guard, wheel locks (Touring models only), all-weather floor mats, cargo net, center console with armrest and auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, Homelink® and orange backlit buttons.

MAZDA2 Sport with 5-speed manual transmission features a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $13,980, while the top-of-the-line MAZDA2 Touring with 4-speed automatic transmission has a MSRP of $16,235.

Tell us what you think of the MAZDA2. Will you be considering this as your next ride, maybe in spirited green metallic?

Look for a full review and more information as soon as we get are hands on one for a little longer.

2011 Chevrolet Cruze is the game changer the compact segment has needed for years

Up until recently, the US consumer really couldn’t expect much from the compact car segment. Did it have four wheels, a cheap price, and get decent fuel economy? If so, then that was all you could really ask for. Special features like USB ports, heated seats, or a decent comfortable interior were, at most, a pipe dream. Small cars were only for folks who couldn’t afford a larger one.

Then, as is always the case, things changed. The precipitous fuel price increase to near four dollars a gallon in 2006/2007 time frame drastically changed the buying habits of the American consumer. Small cars were suddenly looking at a rather large increase in popularity. The problem was that while the compact car buyer had changed, the compact car had not.

<<Click here to check out our full 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Photo Gallery>>

This has led to a rather fierce battle among the automakers for current and future small car buyers. A once neglected group of vehicles is finding new found glory as Ford and Chevrolet introduce brand new models in 2011. The idea of a full featured compact car, once laughable, is turning out to be the fuel both companies plan on using to propel themselves into profitability for the foreseeable future.

The first of these newly redesigned compact competitors to hit the scene for us to sample is the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze.

2011 Chevrolet Cruze First Drive - Photo: Zane Merva / AutoInsane.com

The Cruze is a new model, from the ground up, intended to replace the outgoing Chevy Cobalt. Cruze will be offered in four trim models and with two engines. The base Cruze LS will feature a 1.8L Ecotec engine and 6-speed automatic transmission. The LT, 2LT, Eco, and LTZ models will feature a brand new 1.4L turbocharged Ecotec engine and a six-speed automatic transmission.

The 1.4L engine is tiny, yet powerful. 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque doesn’t read like much, but a light car like the Cruze doesn’t need much. Even at highway speed only a slight tip in of the throttle is needed to spool up the turbo, delivering a small river of torque for smooth downshift-less acceleration.

2011 Chevrolet Cruze First Drive - Photo: Zane Merva / AutoInsane.com

The 2011 Cruze starts at $16,995 for an LS and goes up to $22,695 for an LTZ. For those who wish a slightly more sporty exterior, the RS package adds unique rocker panels and front/rear body treatments for $695. Cruze ECO, a fuel economy package, will be priced at $18,895.

To compare the outgoing Cobalt to a Corolla or Civic would have been laughable. Now with the Cruze, I’m fairly confident Chevy has beaten both Honda and Toyota at their own game. On the road the Cruze drives with much of the feeling you’d expect from something larger and more expensive. The ride is solid at speed on the highway, almost Cadillac like in isolation. Steering is superbly crisp and communicative. Handling is tight, although geared towards comfort.

2011 Chevrolet Cruze First Drive - Photo: Zane Merva / AutoInsane.com

On the inside, the Cruze continues to revolutionize. Chevy options two types of interior trim. On the LS, and LT models, a highly textured fabric covers the front dash. You can get the fabric in full black or black with red accents. On LTZ models (and with leather seats), the dash is covered in a soft leather like trim.

GM’s new entertainment/navigation system with 40GB hard-drive, XM, USB/Aux/iPod ports, and the ability to pause/rewind live radio is an option on the Cruze. So are heated seats, remote start, and OnStar.

The Cruze will play as a roll out vehicle for OnStar’s new application for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry phones. OnStar subscribers will be able to access live information about their vehicle, including fuel levels, odometer, recent fuel economy, tire pressures, and lock status on their mobile smart phone. You’ll even be able to lock, unlock, and remotely start your vehicle using the phone app. This new service will debut on the Volt and Cruze this fall and is completely unique to General Motors.

2011 Chevrolet Cruze First Drive - Photo: Zane Merva / AutoInsane.com

The Cruze is the game changer the compact segment has needed for years. However, new versions of the Ford Focus and Honda Civic are both on the way and how well the Cruze stands up to them has yet to be seen. With that said, the Cruze raises the bar so high, it’s going to be one hell of a fight that poises to give the consumer a huge win.

We can’t wait to spend more time behind the wheel of the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze.

<<Click here to check out our full 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Photo Gallery>>

Notable features

– Advanced Z-link rear suspension design

-Acoustically treated body/chassis for noise reduction

– Laminated front windshield

– 10 standard airbags

-neodymium magnets used in speakers for weight savings

– ECO model will get around 40mpg


– Turbo 1.4 engine delivers exceptional low-end power and competitive fuel economy

– Solid driving performance on the highway befitting of a larger sedan

-All the tech goodies from the rest of GM’s line is available (Navigation, USB, Heated Seats)


– Not enough interior storage space for small items, such as cell phones

– “Upscale” exterior styling is potentially too conservative

– A perfect evolution of the compact car but not revolutionary

Price/Trim Levels

Cruze LS, starting at $16,995, includes:

• Standard 1.8L Ecotec engine and six-speed manual transmission

• The most standard safety features in the segment, with 10 air bags, StabiliTrak electronic stability control with rollover sensing, traction control, anti-lock brakes, collapsible pedal system, power rear-door child safety locks

• Standard OnStar, with a six-month subscription including Turn-by-Turn navigation

• Standard convenience features including air conditioning, power windows, power door locks with remote keyless entry, driver information center, an auxiliary jack for personal playback devices and XM Satellite Radio with three-month trial subscription

Cruze LT, starting at $18,895, includes:

• Standard 1.4L Ecotec turbo and six-speed automatic transmission

• 16-inch wheels

Cruze 2LT, starting at $21,395, includes:

• Standard 1.4L Ecotec turbo and six-speed automatic transmission

• Standard six-way power driver seat, leather seating surfaces, heated seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob

• Bluetooth phone connectivity, USB port with audio interface, steering-wheel mounted audio controls and remote vehicle start

• Standard 16-inch alloy wheels

Cruze Eco, starting at $18,895, includes:

• Standard 1.4L Ecotec turbo and six-speed manual transmission

• Segment-leading expected 40 miles per gallon highway

• Standard 17-inch alloy wheels with ultra low-rolling resistance tires, and enhanced aerodynamic performance package

Cruze LTZ, starting at $22,695, includes:

• Standard 1.4L Ecotec turbo and six-speed automatic transmission

• Standard six-way power driver seat, leather seating surfaces, heated seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob

• Standard cruise control, Bluetooth phone connectivity, USB port with audio interface, steering-wheel mounted audio controls and remote vehicle start

• Standard automatic climate control, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, and ultrasonic rear-parking assist

• 18-inch alloy wheels with four-wheel disc brakes

RS appearance package, available on LT and LTZ models for $695, includes:

• Unique front and rear fascias

• Rocker moldings

• Front fog lamps

• Rear spoiler

Major available option features on Cruze include:

• In-dash navigation system with 40-gigabyte hard drive, enabling pause-and-play radio, downloading of audio CDs or transferring MP3 files from a USB memory device

• Pioneer Audio system, with nine speakers and 250-watt amplifier

• Ultrasonic rear park assist

On Sale: September 2010

Editor’s Note: The lodging,  transportation, and access to vehicles required to write this article were provided, free of charge, to the author by General Motors. AutoInsane.com routinely accepts such offers from automakers to expand our coverage, however no special treatment, bias, or special consideration is given in return.

Mercedes nears almost perfection with the all-new 2010 GLK compact SUV

Finally, Mercedes has made an everyday SUV that is rave worthy. I could go on for hours about the G wagon, which could probably drive on the moon, but that’s not considered a daily driver SUV by most of us.

No, the Mercedes SUV that has left me impressed is the new 2010 GLK 350. It’s the first in the Mercedes lineup that drives like a Mercedes sedan. It’s the Mercedes for the person who wants to combine an SUV with the legendary luxury of the Mercedes sedan. To me, it’s the Mercedes C class you wouldn’t mind getting dirty.

2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK 350

Lest anybody accuse me of plagiarism, I want to include this quotation from the Mercedes press material verbatim because it is spot on: “At first glance, the new GLK appears to be a smaller version of the GL, but a closer look reveals a modern interpretation of the iconic G-Class. In sharp contrast to the relatively soft forms of other similar-sized vehicles, the striking, angular nose of the GLK sets it apart from the competition.”

Not quite sure the politically correct way to put this, but Mercedes SUVs (except for the G wagon) are pretty wimpy looking. They tend to say “Bloated sedan coming through.” They lack attitude. I like the GLK because it doesn’t strive for anonymity. It makes a bold statement just like Mercedes used to make with everything it sold. OK, time to steal one more line from the press kit: “(T)he bullish shape of the new GLK suggests power and agility.”

The GLK350 is powered by 268-horsepower, a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 258 lb-ft of torque. It leaves a driver wanting for nothing in any situation. Mercedes says its 0-60 time is a downright spirited 6.5 seconds for its two-ton weight. This is a true Autobahn crawler so it likes to run along seamlessly at 80 mph forever. So, it’s best to use cruise control, especially during a holiday weekend.

2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK 350

There’s just one problem. The cruise control system Mercedes has is despicable. It’s a stick on the left side of the steering wheel that your fingers constantly think are the turn signals. Now, I read a surprising statistic recently that only 10 percent of drivers use their turn signals, but I’m still old fashion. About the only time I don’t use them is when I’ve inadvertently engaged the cruise control instead.

The GLK also presents a comfortable level of safety. Standard equipment includes front and side air bags as well as window and knee air bags. The 4MATIC all-wheel drive system comes with electronic stability control and adaptive braking, which features hill-start assist, priming of the brake system for more spontaneous response in the event of panic braking and using braking to dry the discs in wet weather. An additional safety boost comes from the headlight system with integrated cornering light function and headlamp assist.

2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK 350

I’m a bulky guy so I don’t complain when a vehicle presents a challenge because I’m the problem. However, I do like compact vehicles that welcome my entrance. The GLK 350 is an easy vehicle to get in and out of. Passenger comfort is great. Two six footers can sit behind one another comfortably as demonstrated during a recent press trip to upstate New York.

I was at Bear Mountain to take part in an International Motor Press Association event called Spring Brake (clever name, don’t you think?). Anyway, the day involved the opportunity to drive up to 55 different makes and models. At the end of the day, I found myself wanting to get behind the wheel of the GLK. I liked it so much that I finagled an extra day in it.

2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK 350

The one thing I don’t like about the GLK, but mostly because I’m cheap, is its required 91 octane. This SUV would be perfect in my book if it ran on 87 octane (or better yet came in a diesel version). It’s EPA rated at 16-mpg city and 22-mpg highway. Neither number is going to blow your socks off, especially with the more expensive recommended fuel.

The new GLK350, with standard 4MATIC all-wheel-drive, is priced at $35, 900, plus an $875 destination fee. The GLK350 with rear-wheel-drive is priced at $33,900 plus the $875 delivery fee. Frankly, I don’t find this pricey at all for a Mercedes SUV.

(Questions and comments about this review and other automotive concerns can be e-mailed to [email protected] All queries are answered.)

2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK 350 Specifications

Wheelbase: 108.5 inches
Length: 178.3 inches
Width: 79.4 inches
Height: 66.9 inches
Curb weight: 4036 lbs.
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Horsepower: 268 hp
Torque: 258 lb. ft.
EPA estimated mpg city/highway: 16/22
Base price: $33,900
As-tested price: $35,900
Also consider: Acura RDX, Mazda CX7, Volvo XC60

2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK 350 Photo Gallery

Ford Transit Connect brings european practicality to commercial vehicle market

Consider this more a preview than a review because only part of a day was spent with the Ford Transit Connect. But if my first impressions are correct (and they usually are with automobiles) this little commercial truck that has been on sale in Europe since 2002 could be quite a hit in the United States.

2010 Ford Transit Connect

As Ford demonstrated during a program in Manhattan at the end of May, this is going to be a good vehicle for small businesses. Ford chose Manhattan (as well as five other cities across the U.S.) to show how well the Transit Connect handled itself in an urban setting but I see this van being a big hit in the suburbs and smaller cities, too.

The primary reason is going to be its cargo capacity. This little truck can swallow up a lot of items. The Transit Connect has 135.3 cubic feet of cargo space and can hold a payload capacity up to 1,600 pounds – a larger payload than the full size Dodge Ram 1500 standard-cab short-box pickup truck, according to Ford. Plus, and this part absolutely intrigues me, the Transit Connect is rated at 22 city, 25 highway EPA miles per gallon. That’s unheard of for a delivery vehicle. (As a matter of fact, the city mileage is better than a 4-cylinder Toyota Camry, which is quite an accomplishment.)

The Transit Connect is built on a dedicated front-wheel drive commercial vehicle platform to meet and exceed the needs of small-business owners and entrepreneurs. To prepare Transit Connect for United States duty, the powertrain was upgraded to include a proven Duratec 2.0-liter dual-overhead cam (DOHC) I-4 engine and a four-speed automatic overdrive transaxle. Several design details, including the grille and interior touches, have been updated to lend the vehicle a fresh, new look for its American debut.

There are some other features that business owners will like. The split rear cargo doors open at a standard 180 degrees, or an optional 255 degrees and are held in place by powerful magnets so the doors don’t flap open in heavy traffic. Lift-over height is less than two feet, when the Transit Connect is unloaded The cargo area opens up to a maximum of 59.1 inches of floor to ceiling height. The load width is 48.1 inches, between the wheel arches. Load length is a 72.6 inches or more than six feet of cargo floor space and dual sliding rear side doors provide wide access to the generous cargo space.

2010 Ford Transit Connect

While swallowing up all this cargo, the Transit Connect doesn’t leave a big footprint. It’s only 180.7 inches long with a wheelbase of 114.6 inches. The Ford Edge, by comparison, seems like a giant at 185.7 inches but the Transit Connect is a lot more versatile.

I had no complaints driving the Transit Connect through the west side of Manhattan. We stopped at a hardware store, grocery market, and florist to hear the business owners talk about how the Transit Connect could fit into their lives. The florist seemed the most remorseful because she drives a Jeep Grand Cherokee that doesn’t handle the diversity of a Transit Connect.

The hardware store owner is waiting for the Transit Collect electric version that is coming in 2010. Ford says it is part of an aggressive new electric vehicle plan to bring pure battery-powered vehicles, hybrids and plug-in hybrids to market. The Transit Connect battery electric vehicle will be the initial offering in Ford’s recently announced electrification initiatives. Ford says many commercial users travel predictable, short-range routes, with lots of stop and go in urban and suburban environments. A range of up to 100 miles makes the battery electric-powered Transit Connect a useful hauler, with significantly reduced operation and maintenance costs.

One thing Ford didn’t do in its demonstration was make us jockey for parking spaces in the city. We didn’t get the opportunity to parallel park the Transit Connects. Instead, it was more like a mall experience with us pulling straight in. Heck, they even stopped traffic for us. Sight lines were pretty good in my driving experience. This is a van after all. You can’t overlook that. You will have to get used to driving with your side mirrors.

Here’s the big secret that Ford isn’t really pushing – the Transit Connect is entering the United States as a personal vehicle (to avoid a 25 percent import duty). It will have seating for four people and will be a heck of a station wagon in my view. Ford should push this angle more because it will be a vehicle that small business owners can use commercially and privately. (I’ll leave it up to their accountants to figure out the whole mileage issue.)

2010 Ford Transit Connect

Transit Connect keeps passengers and cargo safe and secure, too. Front and side air bags help keep driver and first-row passenger safe. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes and a tire pressure monitoring system are standard, as well. Roll stability control is standard on wagon versions and optional in van configurations. (Ford deserves credit for making the stability control a stand alone option and not tied into more expensive features.) A locking exterior hood release helps keep things secure up front. Lock-in-Latch shielded door locks help Transit Connect resist break-in.

Pricing for the Transit Connect begins at $21,475. It goes on sale later this summer.

(Questions and comments about this review and other automotive concerns can be e-mailed to [email protected] All queries are answered.)

Vital Statistics

Wheelbase: 114.6 inches
Length: 180.7 inches
Width: 70.7 inches
Height: 79.3 inches
Curb weight: 5005 lbs.
Engine: 2.0-liter
Horsepower: 136 @ 6300 rpm
Torque: 128 lb.-ft @ 4,750 RPM
EPA estimated mpg city/highway: 22/25
Base price: $21,475
Also consider: Chevy HHR, Honda Element, Scion xB

2010 Ford Transit Connect Photo Gallery

Road Test: Mini Cooper Clubman

Is This the Biggest Small Car Available?

In the case of Mini, the car company whose witty advertising claims it’s the odd, irreverent member of the auto industry, the answer would be a resounding yes.

Road Test: Mini Cooper Clubman

How else to best explain, or try to, the “extended” version of the Cooper called the Clubman.
Sure, it may be a stretch to call any Mini a stretched version, but it may be apt in this case. The Clubman, who was predated by earlier “stretched” or “extended” version adds 9.45 inches to the car’s backside and 3.15 inches to the car’s wheelbase. Yes, the difference is noticeable. Real people and not the wee people from the Wizard of Oz will fit in these rear seats.
Earlier editions of the Mini faced the same space standoff and solved with larger versions called the Morris Traveler and the Austin Countryman. These “stretched” two-door “wagons” are the same vehicles that are often called “shooting brakes” overseas. Other wagons are sometimes called saloons or estates.

Styling dictates a difference look that’s immediately noticeable as was the car’s color: hot metallic chocolate. Although the car is cute, the color drew polarizing reviews and references to diaper duty.

Road Test: Mini Cooper Clubman

To access the extra rear legroom – there’s an extra 3.15 inches in case you’re counting or pulled out your tape measure – that no longer requires ones knee caps be broken first, Mini has a, pardon the pun, “mini” side door behind the right passenger door to aid access. The door, which has no outward handle – the better to be stylish – requires the passenger door to be opened and a small inboard handle be pulled to open. Since the door opens outward, it’s right to be called a suicide door from the old style gangster cars whereby if the gangster’s gun didn’t kill you, being pushed from a moving car with that setup ensured the door surely would.
An extra door doesn’t ensure immediate access, as the required seatbelt setup will quickly stop you in your track if you can bend that low to try to slide in. This is the perfect setup for “Fantasy Island’s” late star Herve Villechaize.
Auto aficionados may well recall that Saturn had a similar setup several years ago, when it was mired in the depths of stalled sales and the idea for a third door on its coupe – that’s what they called it – came from one of its dealers and was put into production. It’s actually a handy idea and the Saturn commercials – I remember a young child loading a tuba in the back of a Saturn – were quite entertaining.
The other difference is on the backside, where the standard top-hinged hatchback door is replaced by two “barn doors” that open wide to the sides, maximizing the rear storage area and access to same. Opening the doors is a breeze and you may notice that the rear taillight bulb assembly’s size is kept small to allow the doors to swing freely and unencumbered.
There’s an additional storage space under the rear cargo floor as the tested Clubman ($19,950 and $650 delivery) was equipped with run-flat tires as a space-saving measure.

Road Test: Mini Cooper Clubman
Officially, there’s some 17 cubic feet of storage space in the back (way more than a Miata’s trunk for instance) and the room jumps to almost 33 c.f. with the rear seats folded flat. That makes it darn near respectable.
Clubman is sold in a base model with a 1.6-liter, 118 hp, 4-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission or the Clubman S ($24,100) that boasts a beefier transverse-mounted 172 hp motor under the bonnet. If you have the need for speed, that equates to approximately $64.80 per extra horsepower for the S.
The Getrag 6-speed is a short-throw gear mixer that makes driving and interaction fun along the roads. Hey, isn’t that what Mini says in its taglines? Have fun? You will.
Support from the run-flat tires was not jarring and the ride is greatly aided by the low, low center of gravity, all four wheels pushed out to the widest margins possible for better tracking and its feeling like a grown-up slot car. A MacPherson-type springs over struts front suspension and a 5-link central-arm rear axle keeps the ride level and compliant. Of course, if you cross some rough road or unsettled railroad tracks you will feel it as there’s just not that much room for the suspension travel to travel but it won’t loosen you fillings either.
Power from the small engine was plentiful and rewarding along the highways and byways. The Mini’s trip computer pushed out 45 mpg on its readings at 65 mph along Route 101. With the week’s only fillup, the computer showed an estimated driving range of 551 miles on regular unleaded. EPA numbers on the sticker show 28 city and 37 highway.

Road Test: Mini Cooper Clubman
The tester was packed with options – $8,750 – that included a large dual pane sun roof ($1,500), the Sport package ($1,500), chrome on the inside and outside ($1,000), and Convenience package to name a few.
Without the goodies, Clubman boasts six standard airbags, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, Corner Brake Control, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Tire Pressure Monitor, Dynamic Stability Control, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel.
In keeping with its quirkiness, Mini boasts a huge center-dash speedometer with a large tachometer behind the steering wheel. Switches are toggles on the overhead liner and the dash. Large cupholders, which won’t accept a standard Gatorade bottle or coffee cups easily fight for space when you shift but can coexist otherwise.
The Mini is almost always guaranteed to put a smile on your face, or someone else looking at the Mini when you’re out and about.
The color did nothing to cloud the attraction this car drew whether in motion or parked. If you don’t mind talking to perfect strangers and finding finger prints from the curious peeking inside at the Mini, which happens a lot, you’ll enjoy this real world go-kart.

Specifications as-tested

MSRP: $28,700
Base Price: $19,950
Delivery Charge: $650
Length: 155.0 inches
Width: 66.3 inches
Height: 56.2 inches
Wheelbase: 100.4 inches
Engine: 1.6L I4 | 118-horsepower
Transmission: 6-speed Getrag manual
EPA fuel economy: 28-city, 37-highway (regular unleaded)

Road Test Photo Gallery: Mini Cooper Clubman