Upgrading the Econo-Box


When my husband and I were discussing the budget recently, the topic of cars came up. Because one of ours was purchased the day before my son was born and he’s now going into 5th grade, we need a new one. Like just about everyone else, we’re looking for fuel efficiency. That said, we’re not ready to jump on the hybrid wagon. We’re looking at a small car to get to work and school.

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While my husband contends that we don’t need to budget much for the new vehicle, I disagree. We’ve gotten used to our leather seats, 6-CD changers, and hands free phone use. I’m all for small and inexpensive, but I need some features too. I’m wondering how auto makers will address the need for comfort in ‘economy’ cars.

Big auto makers are reacting. General Motors is starting to offer upgraded stereos on the Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 compact cars that were previously only available rides with double the sticker price. The Ford Focus now boasts the voice activated Sync system to verbally manipulate cellphones, iPods and digital assistants.

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Making Large Cars Economical

On the other hand, what if your haul-it-all-and-the-neighbor-kids-too SUV was a little kinder at the gas pump?

UK-based Liberty Electric Cars Ltd will invest $59 million (US) to improve performance of big cars. It plans to turn luxury cars and SUVs into electric vehicles with a new electric drivetrain platform and advance energy storage systems that can be applied to all kinds of monster mobiles, including the first electric Range Rover, which will travel 200 miles on a single charge.

And what about those eco-friendly families with money to burn? Hopes have been high for the technology Porsche and VW will share for hybrid versions of the Cayenne and Toureg. While plans for the hybrid Cayenne are in limbo at least until 2010, those who can’t wait can get the ultimate status symbol in a diesel.

Rest assured you can be comfortable in your efficiency car, so long as you don’t get stuck behind a diesel Cayenne.