The Road Ahead : October November 2007
added assurance for subsequent buyers within that period and makes mincemeat out of the others, all variations on the three-year timeframe. Sebring, which Chr ysler says creates "inspiration in the common car", is a chance for the Yanks to make some inroads in the passenger ranks. At $33,990, the price is higher than expected, surprising given the free trade deal with the US. There's not much wrong in Sebring's safety stocks, with ESC, dual-stage front airbags and BA major points of distinction. Other gear highlights include leather trim, heated front seats, power-operated driver's seat, alarm, pollen filter, tyre pressure monitors, auto dimming rear view mirror, front and rear fog lamps, headlight beam adjustment, remote front window control and tinted windows. Sebring also has the smar test cupholder so far, a unit capable of warming hot drinks (60°C) and cooling colder varieties (1.6°C). It is by far the most expensive car to keep on the road, with a crippling par ts list and high ser vice costs. Camr y's competitiveness on costs clobbers the field but, of the rest, Epica's ongoings are the least onerous. Sonata and Mazda6 are a step fur ther back but still way in front of Sebring. All fared well in the fuel stakes over 800 km of hills, countr y roads and highway returns, although the Mazda6's need for higher cost 95 Ron premium unleaded is a disadvantage. The 6 would need to use at least one litre per 100 km less than its peers to remain competitive on fuel consumption. Sonata posted the best test average. Epica nearly matched Sonata, despite giving away plenty in the official stakes -- however its 63-litre fuel tank is the smallest. Another surprise packet was Camr y, within striking distance of its rivals. A big tank helps its cause. Sebring managed an 11.1 litres/100 km average. However, if the engine pinging is typical, you'll need more expensive PULP to subdue the din and stay rational. Neither Epica or Sebring has a track record on resale, however they face a tough slog against established players. Of the stalwar ts, Mazda6 loses less money than Camr y, which in turn tops Sonata. Design & function These 'common' cars now have access to remarkable safety gear, including the availability of potentially lifesaving ESC technology on Sonata, Sebring and Camr y. ESC, which incorporates traction control, can stop a slide from happening or limit the effects by braking wheels. It's no surprise then that, in combination with above average independent crash test results, this trio rates highly on safety. The six-airbag Mazda also gains four stars from EuroNCAP, but without ESC has to be placed a step behind. Epica is an unknown safety proposition. OCT/NOV 07 51 MAIN PHOTO, INSET TOP: These mid-size sedans line up on many measures including price and size. INSET, BOTTOM: Tail- happy trio Epica, Sonata and Sebring.
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