Crossovers & Backpacks: Sharp, stylish, trendy and reasonably priced

2007 Ford Edge2007 Ford Edge
Like an alien invasion, the increasingly popular crossover utility vehicle (CUV) market is taking over. With consumer sales climbing by the day, it?s a realm that automakers cannot afford to ignore. Now, the Blue Oval, as the Ford logo is called, has situated itself rightfully with its CUV rendition, dubbed the Edge. With its loft-inspired design cues, the Edge garners attention. During a recent test drive, we cruised through the San Francisco Bay Area in a ?Blazing Copper Metallic? Edge, and city dwellers gawked. The Edge?s ?urban loft? theme was considered for lifestyle reasons, says chief designer Doyle Letson. ?Consumers that live in an urban loft want a real city feel,? he says.

We took this Ford newborn up and down the steep hills of San Francisco and traversed the winding rural roads past the Golden Gate. Engine power is sufficient and passing ability is reasonable. The Edge uses a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 265 horsepower and a 6-speed automatic transmission. You can purchase the vehicle with either four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive capability. Its sleek, pod like shape features Ford?s distinctive triple-bar chrome grille, fog lights, dual chrome exhausts, rear spoiler, optional chrome 18″ tires and optional ultra-extended ?Vista Roof.? Inside, you get the impression that Ford listened to your call for driver-friendly features. One of these is the standard auxiliary jack located in the center console, which allowed me to bring my Creative Zen MP3 player along for the ride. SIRIUS Satellite Radio and a DVD-based navigation system with touch screen are among additional options.

The Edge starts at $25,995 for the SE model and at $27,990 for the SEL (FWD). At those prices, expect it to edge out a few of the current CUV offerings on the market.

2007 Nissan Sentra2007 Nissan Sentra
Labeled the ?mobile backpack,? the all-new 2007 Nissan Sentra is sure to be a hit with the nearly 71 million members of what Nissan refers to as the echo boom generation, which includes those born in the late 1970s. These, says Nissan, are on-the-go, highly social and versatile individuals who, in a sense, live in their vehicles.

Whether used for going out with friends, taking road trips, carrying your mountain bike or buying furniture at IKEA, the 2007 Sentra serves many purposes. Focused on interior compartments for storage, Nissan?s ?clever fusion? design combines vehicle roominess with functionality. It has a ?human-centric? interior design with a more ergonomic control panel (iPod, P.D.A./cell phone?friendly compartment), aided by a heightened shift lever similar to that found in Nissan?s Quest. Its wheelbase has been increased by six inches, providing more road control. The 2007 Sentra also offers a trunk that is 1.5 cubic feet larger than that of its predecessor, ideal for an active lifestyle. An all-new ?MR? series engine optimizes levels of horsepower and torque. It comes with a 2.0-liter, 140-horsepower engine and standard manual transmission, as well as with an optional continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The ride leaves a bit to be desired, as I quickly learned during my drive through the mountainous terrain and narrow roads outside San Francisco. Cornering is just not the Sentra?s strong suit. On straight roads, however, the ride was comfortable. Inside, an INTUNE integrated overhead CD holder takes up to eight CDs. Cup holders adjust to accommodate cups up to 32-ounces and are configurable to hold other small items, such as P.D.A.s and cell phones. Bottom line: the 2007 Sentra is a sound pick for today?s upwardly mobile person wanting to stay within budget without losing the amenities and performance desired in a day-to-day vehicle.???

Kimatni D. Rawlins is the publisher of Automotive Rhythms and host of ?The Urban Automotive Experience.? Visit