No Confusion with a Fusion: 2019 Fusion Energi Titanium

juliadrozserafine_headshotBy Julia Droz Serafine 

The Serafine household is filled with confusion on a daily basis. It can range anywhere from homework assignments to who does what chores on what day of the week. Piano lessons, Girl Scouts, soccer, ballet and working at our coffee shop on Saturday mornings, even with a calendar on the wall, leads to “misunderstandings.” We’ve actually made confusion a lifestyle, sort of “the new normal.”

So, if there is any way to simplify our life, well, mostly mine, sign me up! That’s exactly what the 2019 Ford Fusion Energi Titanium has accomplished! First of all, the Fusion only comes in one model trim level. I would like to thank Ford for not bombarding me with several different models and trim levels that would leave me in a further state of confusion. This happens to me all the time with the kids…they even get called the dog’s name! (What were we thinking naming the dog Holly?) Ford makes it easy and simple, just how life decisions should be (wink, wink).

Even though the SE Luxury and Platinum trim levels have been dropped, the Fusion still has well-equipped features. For me and my party of five, the most important feature is the cabin space. The Fusion definitely is equipped with plenty of room for five adults or in my case, a nine year old with five different purses with her at all times, a seven year old who is attached to her unicorn pillow, a five year old who has to take everything PAW Patrol with her when we leave the house and a linebacker for a husband.

Not only is the cabin roomy, but I found the placement of the interior instrument display very user friendly. The controls are clearly labeled, and everything is done pretty much at a glance or by voice, which thanks to today’s technology, my kids figured out how it worked before I did! The Fusion is also very functional with its lane-keeping system/alert, rear view camera, reverse sensing system and voice activated navigation. A lot of these features are only available on a higher trim model on other brands of vehicles, and at an increased price. This is the least confusing vehicle we’ve driven that comes with a reasonable price.

Saving the best feature for last, the annual fuel cost. Anywhere I can save my family money is a bonus for me. Of course, actual results will vary, but based on 15,000 miles a year, combing electric and gasoline, you are looking at an annual fuel cost of only $750! The combo of electric and gasoline gets you 103 MPGe. That’s a lot of trips to ballet and back.

The ride itself is very sturdy. The Fusion accelerates quickly, which I need getting on and off the freeway when the exit comes up quicker than anticipated. I also enjoyed the quietness of the car while driving on the highway…my kids must have been at home! The exterior of the car is “sleek and shimmering like a unicorn” Gabby remarked. It has a nice look to it from past models and this midsize gas saver gave me a luxury feel even when the kids were kicking the back of my seat.

The 2019 Ford Fusion Energi Titanium is a no-nonsense vehicle. It’s straight to the point, an easy drive and leaves the driver super confident with their choice of car. Definitely, no confusion here!

MSRP: $38,085

Price of Model Tested: $36,085 – Includes Fusion Energi Discount

Note: This is a Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle Electricity-Gasoline


For more reviews by HER Certified go to www.hercertified.com.

Drive Accordingly: 2018 Honda Accord EX-L

juliadrozserafine_headshotBy Julia Droz Serafine 

Holy sedan! I just had the opportunity to test drive a 2018 Honda Accord EX-L, I couldn’t say yes, please and thank you fast enough! Since most of the cars I test drive these days include seating for nine, captain’s chairs (my fave), tons of cup holders and a lot of folding seat options, the idea of driving an unpretentious, yet fully loaded sedan made me squeal with excitement! It is sleek, stylish and seating is plentiful, especially for my family of five. Nine times out of 10, I have at least two out of three kids with me at all times and at the rate they’re growing, especially their attitudes, the space in the Accord definitely did the trick!

Can we start with the way the car looks? I was super impressed by the sophistication of the vehicle and how it’s changed over the years. Even the girls thought they were traveling in a limo for the weekend. When I would think of a sedan, I envision a four door, boring, boxy vehicle. You know, what your retired parents might drive. Not so with the Accord’s case. The European-inspired fastback design along with 19-inch Glint Black Alloy wheels and Decklid Spoiler gives the Accord a fresh, younger look…similar to me after Botox!

*Car was parked with emergency brake on for photo.

I like to think that I’m an amazing driver, but as my children and husband have both pointed out to me in the past, it’s not exactly a strong quality (except when I’m test driving, of course!). The Honda Accord EX-L actually makes you a safe driver. It boasts a full suite of safety and driver assistive technologies such as LKAS (lane keeping assist system) — this will actually adjust the steering wheel to help you stay in your lane, (RDM) Road Departure Mitigation System — if you happen to cross over a lane without signaling, your vehicle will move you back to your starting lane, or provide braking (#drivinggoals). Add to that CMBS (Collision Mitigation Braking System), ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control), TSR (Traffic Sign Recognition), which displays speed-limit sign information to assist the driver while the vehicle is moving. The camera can recognize the speed limit sign for all to see…great for backseat drivers ages 4 through 8!

The 8-inch display audio touch screen does its job nicely and makes it so convenient to swipe my way through every Taylor Swift song until the right one is found, and listened to, over and over and over again and again.

Overall, the 2018 Honda Accord is one sedan I would own. The space is large enough for the family and the feel is impressive. And while I chauffeured my girls around town all weekend for girl scouts and birthday parties, I also filled the trunk with groceries, dog food, bicycles and a great find at the consignment shop. I didn’t mind it a bit and ACCORDing to my girls, as they mentioned several times, “This is easy to get in and out of compared yours mom, and also prettier and cleaner.”

2018 Honda Accord EX-L – As tested M.S.R.P. $30,865


For more reviews by HER Certified go to www.hercertified.com.

Pilot Your Way Back to School: 2018 Honda Pilot Elite

juliadrozserafine_headshot– By Julia Droz Serafine

It’s that time of year again. Pretty soon our kiddos will be making their way out the door to start a new school year. New outfits, folders, #2 pre-sharpened pencils, plenty of disinfecting wipes and brand-new backpacks, because according to my eight-year-old, having a new backpack every year is a “must!” New friends, old friends, AMAZING teachers and office staff, social media adds and maybe, just maybe, a new family vehicle! Kids are getting older (and bigger), supply lists are getting longer, sporting equipment and musical instruments are plentiful or maybe you’ve added another kid or two to your brood. These all sound like reasonable explanations to go and test drive a 2018 Honda Pilot Elite. Of course, no one will be going anywhere without the obligatory “first day of school” photo post! My girls usually average about 30 shots before we get all eyes open and no hair pulling. What’s your count?

Family-Friendly, High-Tech 2018 Honda Pilot Goes On-Sale

HER Certified provided me an amazing opportunity to test drive the 2018 Honda Pilot Elite. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the body style of the Pilot had taken on a sleeker look. I was never a fan of the “box” shape of years past. To me, the Pilot is a nice mix between a minivan and an SUV. It’s like a perfect child (not that I would know what that’s like). Aside from the Pilot’s beautiful exterior, the first thing that caught my eye inside were the captain’s chairs instead of a standard bench seat. I am seriously obsessed with this feature. This makes shoving, I mean, assisting the kids in and out of the vehicle a delight! A simple push of a button automatically slides the second row forward, effortlessly allowing the oldest to jump to that third row without any complaints (mom win). Not to mention the distance between the two second row captain’s chairs that keeps the car a “hitting, T-shirt pulling, scratch-free zone” for my younger two. All is well in the world.

Although it’s a short drive from our home to the Red Dot Boutique, it gave us plenty of time to enjoy the ride. The panoramic roof, in addition to the sun roof, gave us an awesome view of the incoming monsoon clouds…which lasted about 30 seconds when all eyes switched to the Blue-Ray screen showing Nick Jr.! The multi-informational display is right up front and super easy to go from text, phone call, to music…not all at once, of course!

The flexible cargo space was definitely what we needed after our major back-to-school shopping spree. And since we can’t leave Target without items we “don’t need,” per my husband, with a flip of the reversible cargo lid, we were able to hide, I mean, place the items in the deep space of the trunk. What happens in Target stays in Target.

Driving the Pilot was a treat. Not only did it ride smoothly, its 3.5-liter direct injection V-6 engine produces 280 horsepower, which definitely allows for some pick up. I am most impressed by the amount of safety features within the Pilot. The 2018 Honda Pilot has achieved top ratings from NHTSA and IIHS and is equipped with innovative safety and drivers-assistive technology including Honda Sensing. These features include Lane Keeping Assist System in which the steering wheel actually keeps you “in line,” Cross Traffic Monitor Collision Mitigation Braking System, which brings the car to a stop to avoid frontal collision, and Road Departure Mitigation System, in which the car literally hollers at you if you cross lanes without a signal!

Overall, the 2018 Honda Pilot Elite ranks high on my list of family vehicles. It has a feel of driving a large SUV without it being a large SUV (short girl problems). I appreciate the sleek design and the impressive interior features that accommodate my large and loud crew. Did I mention it has captain’s chairs? Back-to-school supplies doesn’t have to be for students only, take your list into Bell Honda today and check out the Pilot.

Prices starting at $29,516


For more reviews by HER Certified go to www.hercertified.com.

Not So CLUELESS After All: 2016 Wrangler Unlimited 4×4 75th Edition

juliadrozserafine_headshot– By Julia Droz Serafine

Every time I see a Jeep Wrangler pass by me on the road, it brings me right back to 1995. I start thinking about the famous coming of age movie, Clueless.

CLUELESS: Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures Corporation

What I would have given to be the character “Cher” and drive around Beverly Hills in a loqued out (fully loaded) Jeep Wrangler my daddy bought me. My girlfriend and I would spend hours watching Clueless over and over, reciting lines and of course, dancing to the soundtrack.

 

We’d even ditch 7th hour to drive down to the local mall in search of the perfect ensemble at Contempo Causuals…AS IF! The only thing missing was our Jeep Wrangler with four-wheel drive, dual side airbags and a monster sound system.

I jumped at the chance to test drive the 2016 Jeep Wrangler 75th Anniversary Edition and boy, was it a total “Betty” (beautiful). To say that this vehicle has evolved, would be an understatement. Yes, it still has the feel of a Jeep, with its off-roading capabilities; but the 75th Anniversary Edition comes with quite a few upgrades, including Rock Rails, Tru-Lok differential rear axle, 17-inch bronze aluminum wheels and dual top group (soft or hard top). This look is definitely everything, but generic (basic).

The inside is even sweeter. No Hagsville (unattractive) here. The 75th edition is accented with bronze, Moroccan Sun Instrument Panel Bezel, leather seats with cloth (ombre mesh), 6.5-inch touchscreen display and the Grab Handle with the 10th Anniversary Logo. It’s like wearing an Alaia (like, a totally important fashion designer)!

The Jeep Wrangler is a ton of fun! It makes every-day driving easy and luxurious at the same time. I love the off-road capability, the rugged outdoorsy look, the cargo space and the versatility of the top. However, in my opinion it was a bit clamorous (noisy) and the handling a bit rocky. Overall, this is not a Monet (clueless term). It is a beautiful vehicle both inside and out.

These days, “I’m Rollin’ With the Homies” (Coolio song from the movie) but my homies are eight and under. This Jeep is not a good fit for a large family. It is best suited for a fun, rugged and adventurous couple or family of four or less. However, it is super pretty, and you won’t be buggin’ (freaked out) if you decide to purchase. Audi…(Later)!

Starting Price: $33,695

Price as Tested: $48,035

18 MPG (16 CITY; 20 HWY)

Clueless Movie DVD: $12.99


For more reviews by HER Certified go to www.hercertified.com.

Let’s Focus For-d A Minute: 2016 Ford Focus RS Hatchback

juliadrozserafine_headshotBy Julia Droz Serafine 

While glancing at this vehicle, I was a bit skeptical. Back in the day, the Ford Focus was considered a just plain vanilla or “regular” car. There was nothing special about it except the fact that my hospitality job at the hotel would cover the low payments. It was simple and standard, but got me to where I needed to go. I could also count on the best gas mileage ever especially when sitting in traffic on the 405. That was 10 years ago…pre marriage, pre-babies and pre-baby weight.

So much has changed with this car! Not only is it a bit roomier, but so stylish. The 2016 Ford Focus RS is a charming hatchback with all-wheel drive and a ton of pep, just like my girls. Buckled in the back seat, they asked a ton of questions about the car within a three-block radius of home. They were important things like, why do they call it a hatchback? If you drive a focus does that mean you have to focus on something? The best was, why doesn’t Barbie drive a Focus? Despite the queries of three girls under the age of seven, I was forced to concentrate on shifting gears since there is no automatic transmission in this model.

As my daughter Sofia would say…let’s talk about the “style” of this car. Sofia compares my test drive vehicles to a “who wore it best” competition. She does favor the brighter colored cars so she was absolutely delighted when the Focus sported a nitrous blue-quad coat with a charcoal black interior. Along with the vibrant color, comes the sleek features like many European cars. It includes daytime running lights, LED signature lighting, mirrors with turn signal indicators and Sofia’s favorite, the rear spoiler. I drove the RS package which comes with a six-way power driver seat to accommodate my different moods, beautiful charcoal leather seats, the winter tire and wheel package (the standard comes with summer tires) which of course, in sunny Arizona, is not necessary, but always fun to have. Another “fave” of mine is the heated steering wheel and front seats. I know, I live in AZ, but anything below 60 degrees is freezing for me!

My middle child, Gabby, is a huge fan of anything fast and furious. She likes her cars like her conversation, speedy and loud. The Ford Focus RS I tested had a 6-speed manual transmission. It is superfast and boasts a 2.3-liter four cylinder engine that scores 350 horsepower.

As a mom, you can understand how important safety is. The safety and security features are excellent on this vehicle and makes me comfortable putting my mini-me’s inside of it. We are talking major air bag protection located throughout the car with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control. The Sync 3 system includes an emergency crash-notification feature that automatically dials 911 when paired with a compatible cellphone. Also standard are integrated blind-spot mirrors, a rearview camera and Ford’s MyKey system, which can be used to set electronic parameters for inexperienced drivers (Edmunds.com).

As cool as the Ford Focus RS Hatchback is, it certainly doesn’t have the room to accommodate a family of five. I have two kids with legs for days and one “threeanger” who is 40 pounds. This vehicle is not equipped to handle my “large” family but it would definitely work for a small family unit. The colors and the interior features, make this vehicle extremely fun. It also allows your inner Daytona 500 driver to come out and play. The Ford Focus has come a long way from my concierge days, so if you are a Ford Fan, this would be an ideal choice.

MPG: 19 city – 25 highway

Prices starting at: $36,900

Model Tested: $42,245

 

Good Things Come In Small Packages: 2016 FIAT 500 Arbath Cabrio

juliadrozserafine_headshotBy Julia Droz Serafine 

When I think of the word “adorable,” I normally think of a baby or puppy. Never would I describe a car as adorable, until I saw the 2016 FIAT 500 Arbath and it literally made me yell aloud “I want that!”fiat-yellow-good

First of all, I absolutely adore the FIAT brand and I get super excited when I see one on the road or in a TV commercial. I am literally transported back to Italy where I honeymooned with my husband eight years ago. We raced around that country in our rented FIAT convertible and it was the best time, in the best car, feeling as native Italian as we could!

When I was given the chance to drive the 2016 FIAT 500 Arbarth here in Arizona, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic; despite the sight of cactus in place of vineyards. At first glance, it might seem like you are getting into a “Barbie car” like the pink one in my garage. However, mine was Giallo Moderna Perla (YELLOW), which normally I would steer away from, but seemed fitting for the Arizona sun and my yellow purse. This car has a spunky personality, like yours truly, and it definitely gets you noticed with the top down.her-certified-beach
How much pep does this tiny car have you ask? I run after three little girls daily, so it needs to keep up with me! This “David” literally turns in to “Goliath” within seconds via its 160-hp turbocharged four-cylinder. Of course, a six-speed automatic is optional, but that’s no fun! A five-speed manual is standard for this FIAT and the smooth suspension makes for great handling. You can definitely see yourself racing up the Amalfi Coast in this little speed demon, hair and scarf blowing in the wind. You might even fantasize about getting a glimpse of George and Amal Clooney.her-certified

The inside of this machine makes for a pretty sweet ride as well. It’s loaded with all of your essentials such as remote keyless entry with integrated key transmitter and illuminated entry, digital screen, and sport leather steering wheel. The interior trim includes body-colored Instrument Panel Insert and Chrome interior accents, full cloth headliner, cloth door trim insert, leather gear shift knob and performance cloth high-back bucket seats. Pretty standard, but somehow way more exciting in this FIAT 500 Cabrio Arbarth.

fiat-yellow-baby-shoes-on-topOf course, optional equipment is always available. Nero (black) seats, 17-inch bronze wheels and Beats Premium Audio System should you choose.

Cargo space is petite, so pack light; this wouldn’t work for golf clubs or mucho luggage but makes the perfect “honeymoon phase car!” The base price of this vehicle is $26,995 and with all the options, you are looking at $33,315 on this test vehicle.

The Arbath is a “sorprendente” vehicle that will prove good things DO come in small packages. Arrivederci!

For more go to www.fiat.com or www.fiatusa.com. For more reviews by HER Certified go to www.hercertified.com.

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