Mazda CX-5 delivers looks, power and sports sedan handling …
Mazda may have dumped its zoom-zoom tagline, but the Japanese car maker hasn’t eliminated it from its vehicles, witness the CX-5 compact crossover.
While most car makers are happy to offer decent power, meh handling and a useful interior, Mazda doubles down on excellent power, sports sedan handling and ride, plus AWD, luxury interior and an exterior that garners attention. Continue reading 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD
Larger Sportage maintains styling edge …
Kia has upgraded and enlarged its Sportage small sport-ute to keep it competitive with the likes of Subaru’s Forester, Honda’s CR-V, Ford’s Escape and Toyota’s RAV4.
This is an extremely competitive market with many good products, but Kia maintains its strong styling edge and then lengthens Sportage’s wheelbase from 103.9 inches to 105.1 to give it an even better ride than before. It’s right up there with the top small utes now for comfort.
I tested a beautiful “Burnished Copper” Sportage SX AWD, the top-level model. The color reminds me of my family’s handsome 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass S that was decked out in “Aztec Gold.” Great to see some gold tones return to automotive color lineups.
Ride and power are Sportage’s strengths. While the longer wheelbase and re-tuned suspension give it a well-controlled ride with no harsh moments, the power is impressive. The SX model features a high-revving turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 with an impressive 241 horsepower and 260 ft.-lbs. of torque. Same engine is used in Hyundai’s Santa Fe Sport. Continue reading 2017 Kia Sportage SX AWD
Restyled Toyota RAV4 gets even better …
Toyota has restyled its popular RAV4 crossover to give it a sleeker more modern look while maintaining its solid underpinnings.
Like most Toyota offerings, RAV4 doesn’t change much from year to year, it simply remains a good reliable machine that does what you’d expect of a small crossover. The engine remains the same as it has for years, a 2.5-liter I4 with variable valve timing and dual-overhead cam layout.
Price keeps creeping up, but it’s still extremely competitive with its main competition, the likes of Honda’s CR-V, Subaru’s Forester and Ford’s Escape.
Compared with the RAV4 I’d driven three years ago, the 2016 seemed more tightly built and despite the same powerplant, felt as if it had more oomph and the interior was made of nicer materials.
While the 176-horse engine is no race horse in standard or Eco mode (nothing is racy in Eco mode), the metallic black currant (dark red nearly maroon) crossover was lively in Sport mode. You punch a button to engage that, plus there are paddle shifters behind the wheel if you want to use those to impact shift points. But Sport mode holds the gears in the six-speed automatic longer than the normal mode and quickens acceleration. Good to use when entering a highway, for instance. Continue reading 2016 Toyota RAV4 SE AWD
Winner announced this morning on Fox
According to Motor Trend this is the vehicle that best represents exceptional value, superiority in its class and most significant development on the 2015 new car scene. In all there were 42 contenders and as you can see from this image you might be scratching your head like me when MT picked the 2015 Volkswagen Golf as the winner. Really? The winner is chosen in the following criteria:
Advancement in Design
Quality execution of exterior and interior styling; innovation in vehicle packaging; good selection and use of materials.
Continue reading Braking News: Motor Trend magazine’s 2015 Car of the Year
Tiguan shows VW still struggling in U.S.
Ever since Volkswagen lost its way in the U.S. market, about the time it phased out the old Beetle, it has been struggling to regain its footing.
Nowhere is that struggle more evident than its small sport-utility offering, the Tiguan. VW’s small ute was restyled and remade a year ago and certainly showed improvement. It feels lighter and more fun to drive. The steering is among the sportiest of all small utes. Plus it offers a 200-horse 2.0-liter, I4 with a turbo. That SHOULD make it rock.
But there were issues with the silver mid-line SE 4Motion that I tested.
Mainly its engine and 6-speed automatic DSG transmission with the clutchless manual Tiptronic system did not work smoothly. Certainly the engine has the ponies. Flatten the gas pedal and it’ll jump to highway speeds like a champ.
But most of us drive in that 30-45 mph range a lot as we trundle to and from work. In that bracket the transmission gets balky, especially from 35-40 mph. It feels as if it’s holding the engine back, the car hesitates and transmission noise increases. I found myself languishing as I pulled away from stoplights and getting frustrated as the ute bogged as I approached 40 mph on suburban 4-lane roads. Some shifts even felt a bit jerky at times.
Tiguan also requires premium fuel to boost that turbo, yet the ute gets modest gas mileage. I got just 22.1 mpg while the EPA rates this at 20 mpg city and 26 highway. Consider, for instance, its competitor, the Mazda CX-5 with its efficient SkyActiv engine that boasts 24 mpg city and 30 highway. I got 27.3 mpg in the Mazda. That’s a big difference. Continue reading 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan SE 4Motion
Inexpensive new Patriot fills roll as soft-roader
I like the Jeep Patriot for what it is, an inexpensive sport-utility truck that’s available with four-wheel-drive.
In that, it’s simple and straight forward and has a much Jeepier look than its twin, the Jeep Compass. Let’s get this out of the way up front. Compass and Patriot are the same mechanically, but Patriot looks square and boxy like a Jeep, or the old Cherokee, and Compass is more rounded. Word on the street is that women buy the Compass in larger numbers and the Patriot is a guy buy.
The best line I’ve heard calls both soft-roaders, as they are less likely to be taken out in the muck than a Wrangler, with its high ground clearance and big off-roading tires. Indeed, these Jeeps are most likely to turn up roughing it at a soccer match or Pick N Save lot. Jeep will tell you both can be equipped to be Trail Rated and go off-road, but in reality, these are mainly Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V competitors.
And there, Patriot competes on price. The base front-drive Sport model starts at a modest $15,995, while the upscale Limited 4×4 lists at $25,895. I drove a “rugged brown” (metallic bronze) Patriot Latitude 4×4, which begins at $23,395. With options and a whopping $995 delivery charge mine was $26,055. That’s still moderate for a compact 4-wheeler. Note that the Compass is priced a bit higher. Continue reading 2014 Jeep Patriot Latitude 4×4
Upon further review … solid, but bulbous and not as refined as expected
Every once in a while I get to test a vehicle twice in a single year. It’s rare, but this week I had the 2013 Honda CR-V AWD EX-L with navigation, just one model year newer than the CR-V I had tested early last spring.
It confirmed my thoughts and observations, which cheers me that I didn’t miss the mark earlier. The good news, for the driver, is that this one was a pleasant Mountain Air (turquoise blue) color vs. the blah gray of the earlier model.
But, and I apologize if you feel you’ve heard some of this before, the CR-V remains a solid compact sport-utility vehicle with 5 more horses than the previous generation and a more rounded look. In fact, several friends and observers called the Honda’s rear-end ugly and too bulbous. It’s not attractive, but then few utes really are much more than boxes on wheels. Continue reading 2013 Honda CR-V