Tag Archives: small crossover

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic (AWD)

Mercedes delivers a sporty small crossover with its GLA250 …

Life is getting harder for premium brands.

For instance the small crossover market is flooded with snazzy options, the Lexus UX, Volvo XC40 being two I’ve tested, while the pressure is coming from the likes of Mazda’s near perfect CX-30 along with Subaru’s Forester.

Into this market plops this week’s tester, the Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic. It’s similar in size and performance to those mentioned above, also packing all-wheel drive. Oh it’s sporty looking and performs well, but is on the higher end of starting prices compared with the others and sadly the test crossover was saddled with 18 options. That’s right, 18!

Those took what started as a moderate entry-level crossover of $39,280 up to a premium mid-size crossover or SUV price of $55,585.

But let’s move behind price as you could scrimp by adding just a couple options, maybe.

Power is good and handling is light and sporty. The GLA is Mercedes’ smallest crossover but handles like one of its higher-end cousins. Toss it into tight winding turns out near Holy Hill locally and it behaves like a small sport sedan.

Power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 (very common now) that pumps out 221 horses and is rated 258 for torque. Quite respectable! A driver can add some oomph by adjusting to the Sport drive mode from Comfort. Power increases and steering effort firms. Ride is already pretty firm and with a short wheelbase can become a bit jiggly at times.

Watch Mark’s review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMWkEhVjU-M

By comparison, the luxurious Volvo XC40 has 248 horsepower and the modest cost Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus tested earlier this year knocks out 227-250 horses depending on what octane fuel you use. Both handle well, like the Mercedes.

GLA uses a fine 8-speed automatic to engage that engine and the 4Matic AWD system provides good traction putting 80% of the power to the front wheels in Comfort and Eco drive modes. Sport shifts 30% of the power to the rear.

At just 3,494 lbs. the Mercedes feels light and nimble.

Braking is excellent with big drilled rotors up front, a part of the AMG line package that adds $2,240 to the price tag. If you are into performance this may be worth it. It also adds an AMG diamond block grille and some AMG styling touches to the body for spiffiness purposes.

From a looks standpoint the AMG black multi-spoke 20-inch wheels certainly looked great too on the white tester. Note only black and white paint are standard, all other shades add $720. The fancy wheels are $1,050, but again, if style matters as much as performance, a reasonable add-on.

The tested GLA250 also added a Night package to make the grille trim a high-gloss black, and likewise the outside mirror covers and window trim. Cost is $400.

Inside the small Mercedes was sharply styled with five round satin chrome air vents spread across the lean dash. Seating was a titanium gray leather with similar black to gray dash and door trim. Natural grain black linden wood trim spiffed the dash and doors too, a $325 addition. Trim is mostly satin chrome and gloss black around the 20-inch wide instrument panel and info screen, looking much like a giant cell phone. I like the look, but that leather is a $1,450 option.

Those bigger screens cost extra too. A 7-incher is standard for the touchscreen, but the Premium package boosts that to 10.25-inch info and instrument cluster screens, merged as one unit. The $1,750 package also includes a Keyless-Go package, auto-dimming rearview and driver-side mirrors that will fold flat against the doors.

Dash buttons and the screens are simple enough to use as there generally are two or three ways to engage the radio, navigation system, etc. A touchpad on the console replaces the former clumsy knob there. The pad is slightly easier to use, but not while driving. Many buttons are on the steering wheel hub to access these functions too, but that and its leather covering cost $360 extra.

There’s a big 10.5-inch screen above those three air vents and climate toggles.

An Alexa-like system that the driver must address as Hey Mercedes, will answer your time and temperature questions, among others, just like Alexa. I stumped her as often as not, or had to rephrase my questions. Still, it can be fun to play with this on a long drive. On the electronics front, an SOS emergency system is mounted overhead.

Seating is firm (one friend called it hard), but well-shaped for hip and lower back support, and I like that Mercedes puts the seat adjustments on the door. Very easy to reach! The power lumbar button is still on the driver’s seat side, and the seats feature a lower-cushion extension for long-legged driver. That extension’s control knob beneath the cushion sticks out a bit far though. Seats here were heated too, a $500 option. As our climate warms it would make sense to have cooled seats, especially with leather surfaces.

The GLA250 has a sharp-looking cockpit with a flat-bottom wheel.

Other goodies on the tested GLA250 included a panoramic sunroof ($1,500), Sirius XM radio ($460), a laudable Burmester surround sound system ($850), wireless phone charging ($200) and a cool 64-color interior ambient lighting system ($310) that is adjusted through the info screen. I liked the indigo lighting for the dash trim and air vents, very relaxing and classy!

The new GLA’s interior is roomy too, easily carrying four adults. The redesign for 2021 lengthened the wheelbase by an inch, boosted rear seat legroom by 4.5 inches and raised the roofline by 3.5 inches to maximize front seat headroom. Tall drivers fit well.

Likewise there’s more cargo room under the power hatch. With seats in place it’s 15.4 cubic feet and with the rear seats folded flat it grows to 50.5 cubic feet. The seats also include a fold-down pass-through for folks carrying skis or other long thin items.

Here’s as good a spot as any to mention that the power hatch did not always latch properly. It seemed to, but once the vehicle was started a tiny red light flashes for the hatch area and the rear-view camera will not engage. So, climb out and manually re-latch the hatch. Might be a problem only on the tester, but still.

A few other glitches or things I question, include an odd feature where a front-view camera engages at intersections. It only seemed to turn on if there were other cars coming at you from the opposite direction. Since a driver can clearly see out the front window I’m not sure of its purpose as the screen is obviously smaller than the real view out the windshield. The screen  also makes the vehicles coming at you appear much further away.

I also found the lane departure assist system quite abrupt. If I let the GLA fade to the center or road’s shoulder lines the crossover would brake and groan much harder than any other vehicle I’ve tested. Most tug at the wheel to re-center the vehicle in its lane and do not brake or groan.

Snazzy looking taillights here!

And this is just a heads up, but the slim transmission shift lever extends from the right of the steering column. That’s an unusual location as of the past 25 years or so. This is where one usually finds the wiper lever. So if you purchase, just be aware you’ll need to retrain yourself as to the shifter’s location.

Speaking of safety, the majority of safety features here were included in option packages. I won’t repeat them all as they are in the stat box below, but everything from blind-spot assist to adaptive high-beams and the navigation system are in packages totaling $3,895.

Which brings us to gas mileage, something of concern as $3 a gallon gas is pretty much the norm now. I managed an excellent 28.2 mpg in about a 50-50 mix of city and highway driving with up to four aboard, and I didn’t go easy on the throttle a lot either. High octane fuel is preferred and the EPA rates the GLA250 at 24 mpg city and 33 highway.

Spiffy black wheels with Mercedes logos!

If 221 horses aren’t enough there are two other GLA models with more oomph. The GLA350 touts a horsier turbo 2.0 I4 at 302 horses from an AMG-tuned motor and the GLA450 delivers 382 horses. This engine is hand-built by Mercedes AMG performance factory.

Those models start at $47,550 and $54,500, respectively, and reflect mid-level luxury prices. Ironically the tester actually cost more than those horsier trims, once all its options were ladled on to this wundercar!

FAST STATS: 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic

Hits: Good power and sporty looks and handling, plus AWD. Mercedes version of Alexa, panoramic sunroof, heated seats, 5 round dash air vents, wireless charger, stereo upgrade, power hatch, 4 drive modes, 10.25-inch screen, SOS overhead, lower seat extensions and excellent braking.

Is it just me or does this remind you of a Star Wars stormtrooper?

Misses: Firm ride, power hatch doesn’t always latch properly, knob to release lower seat extension sticks out too far, odd front-view camera engages at intersections, console touchpad for screen adjustment, abrupt lane departure correction with braking, shift lever on right of steering column an unusual location.

Made in: Rastatt, Germany

Engine: 2.0-liter turbo I4, 221 hp

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 3,494 lbs.

Wheelbase: 107.4 in.

Length: 173.6 in.

Cargo: 15.2-50.5 cu.ft.

MPG: 24/33

MPG: 28.2 (tested)

Base Price: $39,280 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Options:

Titanium gray/black leather interior, $1,450

Natural grain black linden wood trim, $325

Multi-function leather steering wheel, $360

20-inch black AMG multi-spoke wheels, $1,050

Panoramic sunroof, $1,500

Suspension w/adaptable damping, $990

Sirius XM radio, $460

Burmester surround sound system, $850

Heated front seats, $500

64-color interior ambient lighting, $310

Wireless charging, $200

USB-C adapter cable, $25

Driver assistance package (active brake assist w/cross-traffic function, distance assist, steering assist, blind-spot assist, lane-keeping assist, lane assist, speed limit assist, emergency stop assist, evasive steering assist, Pre-Safe Plus, route-based speed adaptation, extended restart in Stop-Go traffic), $1,700

Exterior lighting package (active LED headlights, adaptive high-beam assist), $900

Multi-media package (navigation and nav services, MBUX augmented reality nav, speed limit assist), $1,295

Night package (high-gloss black grille trim, exterior mirror covers, window trim), $400

AMG line (AMG body styling, perforated front discs, MB lettering, AMG diamond block grille), $2,240

Premium package (10.25-inch info screen, 10.25-digital instrument cluster, Keyless-Go package, auto-dimming rearview and driver-side mirrors, power fold mirrors), $1,750

Test vehicle: $55,585

Sources: Mercedes-Benz, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo, Premium Plus, AWD

Already a winner, new turbo elevates CX-30 to top tier …

Earlier this year I named Mazda’s slick new small crossover, the CX-30, as my Zoomie 2021 Car of the Year. Little did I know then that it was gonna get better.

The original was sporty looking, featured responsive handling, a quiet near luxury interior and had good power. Now the power is outstanding.

Mazda, as it did with its sporty Mazda3 recently, has added a kicky turbo to its already solid 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G 4-cylinder. The result is a hoot a power rating between 227 and 250 horsepower. That’s up from 168 horses in the original CX-30.

Why, you ask, is there such a range of horsepower for this spiffy turbo?

Because if you’re cheap like me you can fill up with 87-octane fuel and still feel pretty peppy with the turbo delivering 227 horses, or spend a little more for 91 octane (or higher) premium gas and the horsepower jumps to 250. All this in a 3,472-lb. crossover on a short 104.5-inch wheelbase.

Yowza!

Acceleration is crazy quick with the CX-30 easily pressing triple digits down a highway entry ramp. Car and Driver magazine says the petite crossover will snap off 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and top speed is said to be 128 mph. Coupled with the all-wheel-drive system that’s standard on all turbo-equipped CX-30s and you’ve got the grip to use that power to your advantage, even if the road is a tad wet.

See Mark’s video review: https://youtu.be/daMiHWGAp6w

Note too there’s a Sport drive mode toggle on the console that will give the CX-30 more oomph as needed. It was much appreciated as I zipped away from bulky traffic jams at stoplights. Click it and leap away from the heavy metal beasts with bigger engines, then click it off and cruise. Sport mode helps Mazda’s six-speed automatic that’s designed for fuel economy to put the emphasis on low-end power for as long as you need it.

Likewise the Mazda handles well, not exactly sports car nimble, but quite responsive and easy to zip through tight corners and whip into cramped parking spaces in the city. No body lean or sway even on super windy days, which were plentiful during this drive.

Ride is much more sophisticated in the CX-30 than other short-wheelbase crossovers. Firm? Yes, the ride is, but so well controlled that you’ll feel you’re in a longer-wheelbase crossover costing much more. Sound deadening is awesome too, a quiet interior here insinuates luxury not found in the price tag.

This interior also helps Mazda establish itself as the maker of finer, near luxury, machines, not just another mainstream car maker trying to only compete with the Toyotas,  Hondas, and Nissans of the world.

Like the previous CX-30 I’d tested, this one had a gorgeous leather interior, creamy white seats and brown over black dash with soft brown door armrests and insert trim. That brown on the dash wraps into the door trim creating an especially snazzy look. Trim on the dash and door handles is satin chrome and Mazda includes a leather wrapped gear shift knob and steering wheel. Just wish the wheel was a racier flat-bottomed number.

High-quality interior puts this Mazda well above its competitors.

Those seats are well shaped and the surface feels soft and smooth, again more of a luxury feel than you’ll find in most mid-range crossovers. For the record, the entry level has cloth seats, the next level up gets leatherette and the Premium and Premium plus real leather.

Front seats are powered and have two memory settings for the driver’s seat and a power lumbar too. Front seats also have three-level heat and the steering wheel is heated in the tested Premium Plus model.

Head and legroom are good up front and moderate in back. If a driver or front seat passenger is tall then the foot and legroom becomes tight in back. Cargo room is generous behind the split fold-down rear seats and the hatch is powered.

Dash layout is clean and attractive with an 8.8-inch infotainment screen that’s tucked into an indent atop the dash’s center. I like it being high, but some riders said they’d prefer a lower position. Personal choice I’m sure!

Standard are dual climate controls, a sunroof and a handy 360-degree backup camera.

Safety systems are all standard too, including front and rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert and braking, blind-spot warning, lane departure and smart cruise control. The beeping from the blind-spot warning can be a bit startling the first couple times it goes off, but less so after you know what it’s warning you about.

Other goodies include a fine 12-speaker Bose stereo system, plus Android Auto and Apple Car Play. No wireless charger though. That’s still a $275 option. Outside mirrors also are heated, the wipers are rain-sensing, and front lights are adaptive.

I’d like to call this a perfect vehicle, but that’s not possible, ever. The automatic parking brake is irritating as it sets itself every time the ignition is turned off. No other tested vehicle does this. So each time you start to back up that brake engages to hold you back. You can either press the console’s button, or accelerate harder (not sure that’s wise) and it’ll overpower the brake and it will disengage.

Then there’s the central control knob on the console to adjust the info screen’s radio and navigation systems, etc. Once you play with it a while (several days) you’ll figure out how to get to the station list and change channels, but it’s not easy to do while driving. Saving favorites? The same. I beg Mazda to copy one of the easier systems found in most vehicles now.

But there’s so much else to love here. Sorry Subaru!

CX-30’s styling is leading edge, it’s noteworthy, it’s spectacular. The beak of the hood gives this crossover a nose to remember. Reminds me of the racy beak on 1960s and 1970s Eagle Indycar racers. The slits for headlights are equally appealing and the taillights also make a styling statement.

But all that aside, the Soul Red Metallic paint job is so stunning that it alone could sell someone on the CX-30. Soul Red is absolutely the best current paint color on any car on the market. Everyone commented on it. People asked about it at the gas station and in the driveway. It’ll cost you $595 extra, but is absolutely worth it.

Gas mileage dips a bit on the turbo, and I admit to abusing the Power mode button and having more fun than I likely am entitled. I still got 26.6 mpg as opposed to 31.7, which was amazing, on the original CX-30 with its more moderate power. The EPA estimates this model will get 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.

Best of all you won’t be paying a fortune for fun. The base turbo model starts at $30,050 and remember that includes AWD. A Premium model that would satisfy most of us goes for $32,450 and the tested Premium Plus lists at $35,000 including delivery. Non-turbo models with front-wheel-drive start at about $23,000, with AWD adding $1,400 to the price.

With its awesome red paint job and a few minor options the test crossover was $35,995, a bit less than the average price of a new car these days. Bravo!

CX-30 is a no-brainer if you’re in the small crossover market. It’s beautiful while also being a high-value hoot of a drive. Could it be the car of the year for two years in a row?

FAST STATS: 2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo, Premium Plus, AWD

Hits: Excellent turbo power, responsive handling, plus AWD. Sporty looks, leatherette interior feels luxurious, big screen, sunroof, heated steering wheel and front seats, 360-camera, smart cruise and safety systems, Bose stereo, comfy supportive front seats, power hatch. High value, fun drive.

Sexy beak and eyes!

Misses: Not a fan of the console-controlled info screen, and ride is firm, but well-controlled. The park brake sets itself every time the ignition is turned off, so annoying to disengage each time you drive the car. Wireless charging (optional) and flat-bottom steering wheel would be nice.

Made in: Salamanca, Mexico

Engine: 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G I4, turbo, 227-250 hp

Transmission: SkyActiv-drive 6-speed, automatic w/Sport mode

Weight: 3,472 lbs.

Wheelbase: 104.5 in.

Length: 173 in.

Cargo: 20.2 cu.ft.

MPG: 22/30

MPG: 26.6 (tested)

Base Price: $35,000 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Options:

Soul Red Crystal paint, $595

Cargo cover, $150

All-weather floor mats, $125

Rear bumper guards, stainless, $125

Test vehicle: $35,995

Sources: Mazda, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2020 Mazda CX-30 Premium

Mazda’s sporty new CX-30 crossover a top choice …

If I were to vote on my car of the year today, it would be the Mazda CX-30, a new larger subcompact crossover, up a step from Mazda’s current CX-3.

This new crossover in the fastest growing part of that market is easily the most stylish, most luxuriously finished and most fun to drive to date. It’s a thing of beauty and performance. Continue reading 2020 Mazda CX-30 Premium

2020 Honda CR-V Touring

New CR-V worth the wait …

Seven years had passed since my last test of Honda’s hot-selling CR-V, its small sport-ute, but the wait was worth it.

I felt the 2013 model had fallen a bit behind the curve in the small ute market, but be assured Honda is back atop its game with the 2020 model. Mine was an Aegean blue metallic Touring model with all-wheel drive. That’s the top-level CR-V and it was fully equipped, so much so that there were no options. Continue reading 2020 Honda CR-V Touring

2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4GT AWC

New Outlander Sport a simple, effective, high-value crossover …

            Mitsubishi’s new Outlander Sport crossover is simple, yet effective.

By that I mean it’s nothing fancy, but it’s a solid family hauler with four-wheel-drive, enough safety equipment to satisfy most folks and a sporty new nose to refresh its looks so it doesn’t look like the styling fairy has passed it by. Continue reading 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4GT AWC

2019 Kia Niro EV EX Premium

Kia’s electric crossover looks good, drives well …

Our electric car future receives another jolt of energy with the arrival of Kia’s Niro EV.

If you believe electrics are a fad or experiment and that internal combustion is the only way to go, well you’re in for a shock, ultimately. Because all the carmakers are rushing to get full electric cars and crossovers onto the highways as quickly as they can. Short-term the hybrids and plug-in hybrids are the way to go, but with mainstream cars like the Niro being electrified, it’s only a matter of time until one is in your driveway. Continue reading 2019 Kia Niro EV EX Premium

2019 Volvo XC40 AWD R-Design

Volvo XC40 a fun, sporty crossover … 2019 Volvo XC40 AWD R=Design

Volvo, the Chinese-owned luxury car maker that builds its cars in Sweden and Belgium, has been on a roll now for a couple years. Its lineup of crossovers, like its wagons of the past, are well designed, utilitarian, but with enough luxury to easily take on its luxury ute competitors from Europe and North America.

Now comes the Volvo XC40, its first small crossover. I drove a bright metallic white ($595 extra) model with black roof to accent the handsome crossover. The combo adds a little more flair and a sporty look, aided by this being the T5 R-Design model. Continue reading 2019 Volvo XC40 AWD R-Design

2015 Jeep Renegade Limited 4×4

Jeep’s new baby still can crawl off road

renegade4A lot of folks are calling the Renegade the Baby Jeep, and there’s some truth to that because it’s the smallest Jeep and solidly puts the brand into the growing small crossover/sport-ute segment.

Renegade rides on a short 101.2-inch wheelbase and shares a platform with parent company Fiat’s 500X, its new all-wheel-drive version of the tiny 500. This Jeep is made in Melfi, Italy, along with Fiats.

But make no mistake, you still get the full square-on Jeep look with flat bars in the grille and an ability to go off road. So it’s as Jeepy as other Jeeps and even offers a Trailhawk model that upgrades its off-roading capabilities. For instance, the tested Limited 4×4 has 7.9 inches of ground clearance whereas the Trailhawk has 8.7 inches of clearance.

renegade2Yet mostly this is a small Jeep for folks who like the look, but prefer decent gas mileage, a lower price tag and the utility of a small sport-utility or crossover. There’s some step-up when crawling in, but this isn’t a major stretch as in some utes. This is more car than truck.

Like the Fiat 500, the Renegade offers a variety of engine choices and transmissions and in essence fills the price gap from $20 grand to $30 grand. The silver test Renegade pushed the upper limits at $31,120 due to the addition of optional equipment.

Continue reading 2015 Jeep Renegade Limited 4×4