I’d been looking forward to testing Nissan’s 2020 Frontier compact pickup since hearing about its upgrades at the Chicago Auto Show in February, just before the Covid lockdown.
A Zoom update this spring further stoked my curiosity. I much prefer compact pickups to the big boys and Frontier has always been a strong competitor in what now is really a mid-size market. Yet due to Covid shutting assembly plants and some timing issues Nissan’s 2020 model just arrived and is going on sale, about when you’d expect a 2021.
Funny, but I enjoyed driving the new Toyota RAV4 hybrid more than its gas-powered model that I had earlier this year.
This one seemed sportier, and that’s a contradiction to all things hybrid. Power seems a bit better, and is with a combined 194 horsepower for the hybrid vs. 176 for the gas-powered model. But handling seemed much more precise and sporty too.
RAV4 is a small ute/crossover and easy to park and steer. The wheel feels moderately light and the hybrid turns into corners well and is responsive. Wheel play is minor.
And while compared to the standard model it has more ponies to power it with the electric hybrid system working well via an electronic continuously variable transmission (ECVT), it’s not exactly quick. There’s still the electric whine when you let off the brake and a slow chug up to 15-20 mph. The harder you press the accelerator the crossover will respond though and get up to highway speeds fairly effortlessly. The down side is an engine that feels and sounds as if it’s working pretty hard.
Like so many vehicles, there are drive mode selection buttons, here on the bottom of the center stack somewhat hidden behind the console-mounted gear shift knob. You can go Eco to save fuel or Sport for a bit more juice to the wheels. The bump up in power is minor, but every little bit helps sometimes. Continue reading 2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD Hybrid→
When does a MINI become so big that it’s not, well, mini?
There’s a fine line to be sure, but the new MINI Cooper Clubman seems to straddle it pretty well. Visually the Clubman is still cute with the round headlights and profile of a MINI, but there’s no doubt it’s longer and, to be honest, more useful than its predecessor.
The new Clubman is roughly 12 inches longer than the former model with a wheelbase that’s five inches longer. The upshot is more rear seat room, decent cargo space with the rear seats folded down, and a smoother ride. There are four doors too, making it easier for folks to slide into the rear seat. The former model had just one rear-open back side door, making seat access a bit clumsy.
Like before, the Clubman keeps its rear panel truck-style doors, which allows for easier loading and unloading. Plus it means wider loads will slide out easily.
I had driven the new Kia Sedona early this year and frankly, it had a few issues.
I liked much the minivan had to offer then, and now. But I’m most impressed that all of my earlier concerns seem to have been tended to within the first year. The 2015 model I tested had vague steering, a sometimes choppy ride in back, a heavy feel and a psycho radio that jumped from FM to AM to satellite like a Kardashian trying to choose a new boyfriend.
Chrysler 200 Touring feels like a rental car, but scores with good MPG
I wasn’t expecting much when the silver Chrysler 200 Touring arrived. It’s not a styling leader and isn’t far removed from its Sebring predecessor. It looks like a rental car and feels like one too.
This one tried to spiff up a bit with a $495 package that ups the tires from 17-inchers to 18 and adds the S appearance package that blacks out the grille and light bezels and puts an S initial on the trunk. For the price, it helps gussy it up a bit.
But I don’t want to demean the 200, its build quality seems light years ahead of the Sebring, and actually seemed better than the Convertible version I drove last winter. Fiat, which owns Chrysler, has, ironically, improved build, fit and finish at Chrysler.
Yet I have to say, on a 600+ mile trip to Indianapolis and back via back roads in central and northern Indiana, the 200 was comfortable and paid big gas mileage dividends.
Its standard 2.4-liter I4 with variable valve timing delivers a moderate 173 horsepower. But its gas mileage was stellar. I got between 25.5 and 28.5 mpg and topped out at 32 mpg in a straight highway drive. The EPA rates this car at 20 mpg city and 31 highway and the trip computer estimated I could travel 502 miles before a fill-up. That makes for a stellar long-distance driver. Continue reading 2013 Chrysler 200→