Monthly Archives: February 2012
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Which of these subcompact cars should you buy?
A year after Ford entered the subcompact market with Fiesta, Chevrolet introduced the Sonic for model year 2012. As such, they revived the traditional “Chevy vs. Ford” battle in a class otherwise dominated by foreign nameplates.
Much more than an “econobox,” Ford’s Fiesta is a sporty, upscale subcompact with a long list of optional equipment, including leather upholstery and voice-activated controls (neither of which are offered on Sonic). The Chevrolet Sonic is a refined subcompact that delivers surprisingly sound driving dynamics. Also, it is the only entry in its class with an optional turbocharged engine (available on the LT and LTZ trims).
Both the Fiesta and Sonic are available as 4-door sedans and 4-door hatchbacks. Fiesta’s sole engine (4-cylinder) comes standard with a 5-speed manual transmission. Optional on all Fiesta models is a 6-speed automated-manual transmission that behaves much like an automatic. Sonic’s standard 4-cylinder engine can be paired with a 5-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic transmission. Sonic’s optional turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is mated with a 6-speed manual or, available midway through the 2012 model year, a 6-speed automatic.
Fiesta’s base model comes with four features that Sonic’s base model does not offer as standard: height-adjustable driver seat, center console, power mirrors, and rear defogger. But Sonic’s base model has more than a dozen standard features that Fiesta’s base model lacks, most notably rear side airbags, an OnStar assistance system, remote keyless entry, and alloy wheels.
Sonic: LS, LT, LTZ
Fiesta: S, SE, SEL, SES
Base Price MSRP (incl. destination fee)
2012 Chevrolet Sonic LS: $ 14,495
2012 Ford Fiesta S: $ 13,995
With Automatic Transmission
Sonic LS: $ 15,565
Fiesta S: $ 15,090
Models compared are the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LT sedan with the standard 1.8-liter engine and optional automatic transmission ($ 16,765), and the 2012 Ford Fiesta SEL sedan with an automatic transmission ($ 18,490). Note that the Fiesta SEL’s higher price (by $ 1,725) is reflected in its higher level of equipment that includes cruise control, heated power mirrors, and Ford’s Sync system. Rating numbers reflect these two models, but the comments refer to other Sonic and Fiesta models as well.
Acceleration: Sonic 4, Fiesta 4
With its 138-horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine, Sonic has decent pep from a stop, but highway passing and merging require some forethought. The automatic transmission works well, with crisp, timely shifts. The optional 138-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged engine has to rev high to deliver adequate power and costs $ 700 extra. The standard manual transmission is fun to shift, with a meaty, solid feel you wouldn’t expect from an economy car.
Fiesta’s 120-horsepower 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine offers adequate acceleration regardless of transmission, but passing punch is lacking. The automated-manual (automatic) transmission has a tendency to get caught in too high a gear at low speeds. It then suffers from a noticeable delay when called upon to downshift for more power. With the manual transmission, both the clutch and shifter actions are impressively smooth and precise.
Fuel Economy: Sonic 8, Fiesta 10
According to EPA estimates, a Sonic with the 1.8-liter engine and automatic transmission gets 25 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway. The 1.4-liter turbo/automatic combination had not yet been rated by the EPA at the time of this writing, but with manual transmission, the turbo’s rating is 4-5 mpg higher than with the 1.8. A Fiesta with automatic is rated at 29 city, 40 highway.
Ride Quality: Sonic 5, Fiesta 6
Sonic rides firmly for the class. Due to its solid body structure, however, there’s no harshness or undue motions. All Fiestas deliver a firm ride, but most bumps are absorbed well.
Steering/Handling/Braking: Sonic 6, Fiesta 6
Sonic has sharp steering and great grip. Body lean is noticeable in very fast cornering, but the car is otherwise well composed. With the Fiesta, crisp turn-in, good steering and brake feel, and minimal body lean in fast corners give it sportier moves than most cars in its class.
Quietness: Sonic 5, Fiesta 5
On the Sonic, both the 1.8- and 1.4-liter engines can be heard during acceleration, but they fade away at cruising speeds. Wind noise is apparent from around the exterior mirrors, and the tires rumble somewhat loudly on coarse pavement. Fiesta suffers from some wind noise at highway speeds and a fair amount of tire noise. The engine gets buzzy at high rpm, but it settles down nicely on the highway.
Controls: Sonic 7, Fiesta 5
Most of Sonic’s controls are simple and handy. The unconventional instrument panel takes some of its design cues from motorcycles, with an analog tachometer and a digital speedometer. Fiesta’s audio controls are unconventional. They’re mounted high on the dash, with some being just out of easy reach. Some functions are counter intuitive, taking more time to master than necessary.
Details: Sonic 5, Fiesta 5
Sonic’s interior looks decent at a distance, but closer inspection reveals apparent cost cutting. Most of the door and dashboard panels are fashioned from nicely textured hard plastic. Fiesta’s details fair just a bit better. Part of the dashboard is padded, as are the door armrests. The remaining hard plastic doesn’t look cheap, and silver-painted plastic trim adds some class to the design.
Room/Comfort/Driver Seating (front): Sonic 6, Fiesta 5
Sonic has plenty of headroom and legroom, and the seats are comfortable. Only the driver gets an inboard armrest. Visibility is decent, but the view to the rear corners is partially obscured by thick roof pillars. Fiesta offers plenty of headroom, but taller drivers might yearn for more legroom. A tilt/telescopic steering wheel and height-adjustable driver seat help tailor the driving position, but no center armrest is offered. The seats themselves are comfortable. Visibility is good in the sedan, less so in the hatchback.
Room/Comfort (rear): Sonic 3, Fiesta 3
On Sonic, legroom is fine for an adult of about 5’9″ sitting behind another of similar stature. Headroom is plentiful in the hatchback, but the sedan’s sloping roof line cuts into it a bit. With the Fiesta, an average-size adult can sit behind another average-size adult, but legroom almost completely disappears if the front seat is set all the way back. Headroom is adequate for 6-footers. Door openings are on the small side.
Cargo Room: Sonic 3, Fiesta 3
Sonic sedans have a surprisingly large trunk, and hatchbacks are pretty versatile. Both body styles have split-folding rear seat backs. In the LT and LTZ hatchback, the seat backs fold flat with the cargo floor, which covers a handy under-floor storage space. In the sedan and LS hatchback, the seat backs rest slightly above the cargo floor, which is lower because there’s no under-floor storage. The Fiesta hatchback’s cargo hold is somewhat narrow. Oddly enough, it’s better in the longer sedan, as there’s a section that widens behind the rear wheel wells. In both body styles, it can be cumbersome to fold the rear seat backs. Furthermore, the seat backs don’t lie flat, and they rest about 5 inches above the level of the cargo floor.
In picture-perfect Rosewood, Pennsylvania, ash-blond highlights gleam in the winter sun and frozen lakes sparkle like Swarovski crystals. But pictures often lie—and so do Rosewood’s four prettiest girls.Hanna, Aria, Spencer, and Emily have been lying ever since they became friends with beautiful Alison DiLaurentis. Ali made them do terrible things—things they had to keep secret for years. And even though Ali was killed at the end of seventh grade, their bad-girl ways didn’t die with her. Han
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Review Finds Evidence That Selenium Supplements May Increase the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
And if you pop a daily multivitamin, as more than one-third of Americans do, check the label. Many multivitamin and mineral formulas contain selenium.
“It isn’t always that more is better. More often, ‘more’ isn’t better. Really, in terms of selenium, that was one of the points I wanted to bring out,” says researcher Margaret P. Rayman, DPhil, a biochemist at the University of Surrey in the U.K.
In a research review published in The Lancet, Rayman concludes that most Americans get enough selenium in their diets.
And a few studies included in the review suggest that taking more selenium in supplements may increase the risk for type 2 diabetes, though evidence is conflicting on that point.
Experts who were not involved in the study agree that most Americans shouldn’t be taking extra selenium.
“There is no evidence that selenium supplementation of the U.S. population would be helpful,” says Raymond F. Burk, MD, a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
“In fact, there have been suggestions from recent work that it might be harmful, although this has not been conclusively proven. Thus, based on present knowledge I would not recommend selenium supplementation,” says Burk, who studies the health effects of selenium.
How Much Selenium Do You Need?
Selenium is a naturally occurring trace mineral that is vital to good health. Low selenium has been linked to an increased risk of death and poor brain and immune function.
The government’s recommended daily allowance for selenium is 55 micrograms for adults aged 19 and over. It is 60 micrograms daily for women who are pregnant and 70 micrograms for women who are breastfeeding.
Those levels aren’t hard to reach. Thanks to selenium-rich soil throughout much of the country, most Americans get plenty of this essential mineral through meats and grains like corn and wheat.
“Your wheat that’s used to make bread has quite a lot more selenium in it than ours would in Europe,” Rayman says.
In fact, studies show the average selenium intake for men in the U.S. is about 134 micrograms per day. And that’s a level that seems to be right on target for good overall health.
The U.S. Institute of Medicine has set a tolerable upper limit for selenium at 400 micrograms a day. Too much selenium can cause a condition called selenosis, which includes symptoms such as gastrointestinal upset, hair loss, white blotchy nails, garlic breath odor, fatigue, irritability, and mild nerve damage.
Selenium Supplements: Too Much of a Good Thing?
Hoping that more selenium might add up to even better health, researchers have tested supplements to see if they might boost immune function, brain health, and fertility, and ward off cancer and heart disease and stroke risk.
WEDNESDAY Feb. 29, 2012 — New research in mice suggests that Alzheimer’s disease triggers a protein that contributes to the breakdown of the brain’s memory.
If the findings are confirmed in humans, they could solve part of the puzzle of how gunk-like substances in the brain cause Alzheimer’s disease and lead to memory loss. It’s conceivable that a drug could be developed to turn off the process and reverse memory problems — as the researchers managed to do with mice.
For now, the research is in its early stages and it could take five to 10 years to get to drug experiments in humans, said study author Johannes Graff, a postdoctoral researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Even if a drug is developed using this knowledge, it would only treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and not the root cause, he said.
But it could mark a major advance to be able to turn around the memory problems spawned by Alzheimer’s, Graff said, adding, “We can show that this is potentially reversible.”
There are more than 5 million Americans who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, according to the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
Researchers believe that Alzheimer’s disease begins when the brain becomes clogged by substances known as beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles. The new research in mice, Graff said, suggests that when a protein known as histone deacetylase 2 (HDAC2) is triggered, it shuts down genes that are crucial to memory. By preventing the buildup of HDAC2 in the brains of mice, the researchers were able to protect against memory loss.
Brain tissue from deceased Alzheimer’s patients also showed higher levels of HDAC2 in regions where memory and learning are known to be located, the scientists added, and they theorized that the accumulation of beta amyloid deposits in the brain may be what sends HDAC2 into overdrive.
“If your memory is everything that you know written in a book, then in order to have access, you have to open the book and to turn the pages,” Graff said. In Alzheimer’s, “this mechanism actually closes your memory book and makes the pages — the genes — inaccessible.”
The good news is that this latest research suggests that the “blockade” is potentially reversible, Graff said. In other words, the book hasn’t been destroyed. “We are proposing to reopen the book and allow it to be more easily read,” he said.
There are caveats to the research, said Dr. Brad Dickerson, an associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.
“This is a very early basic science study in mice and requires substantial additional investigation in order to determine whether it is worth pursuing in patients,” he said. “The leap from animal studies to human clinical trials is a big one and always takes many years. Drugs in this class are being studied in various types of cancer, which hopefully will provide an indication of their side effects and other important information about how feasible it would be to give these types of medications to patients with Alzheimer’s disease if further studies support the potential value of this approach.”
Research like this is important, Dickerson added, because “we need studies like this in animals to begin to prove the concept that new drugs of this sort have potential.”
The study, which was funded by NINDS, appeared online Feb. 29 in the journal Nature.
For more about Alzheimer’s disease, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Posted: February 2012