Rogue feels refined, oozes value, and now it’s orange …
Barely a year had passed since I tested Nissan’s revamped Rogue, one of the best-selling small crossovers on the market, and particularly popular in the Milwaukee area.
This is Nissan’s No. 1 seller and it’s obvious why. It looks refined, drives fine and is economical. As I said previously, what Rogue doesn’t do is stand out in any major way. However, the test vehicle was a bright Monarch Orange, a metallic burnt orange that did stand out, at least in the parking lot’s sea of gray, white and black vehicles. Continue reading 2019 Nissan Rogue SV AWD→
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→
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→
Mitsubishi doesn’t sell many models in the United States, so when it re-launches one, as with the new 2016 Outlander, it had better be good.
The Outlander is good, but it sets no new bar for small sport-utilities, or crossovers. Yet it does raise the bar considerably for Mitsubishi products. Fit and finish are good and there are more bells and whistles on the Outlander than in previous versions.
Part of the reason for that is my test was of the 3.0 GT S-AWC model, the top-of-the-line. My ute was Labrador black pearl, a shiny black that looked handsome, especially with the bits of chrome trim it featured around the lower window edges and back of the rear window, plus some along the rocker panels and headlights and lower nose fascia.
Inside, Outlander is fairly quiet and is well finished and pleasantly styled.
Let’s start with performance.
Outlander’s 3.0-liter, MIVEC V6 provides good acceleration at 224 horsepower and 215 ft.lbs. of torque. Not overly powerful, but strong enough to get on the highway with authority and the 6-speed automatic transmission shifts well too. Outlander provides four drive modes and an Eco button to save fuel. The modes are Normal, Eco-AWC, Snow and Lock for full-time 4-wheeling. Normal was fine for city driving and I used it the most. Continue reading 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander 3.0 GT S-AWC→
I’ve found my new favorite small crossover vehicle, the Hyundai Tucson.
I’ll admit to being surprised, but I’m not sure why. Hyundai and sister company Kia have become the styling leaders among Asian car makes and their performance is on par, or better than most of their competitors too. Hyundai designers in particular seems to have mastered the simple, elegant interior with logical controls and a high-quality look and feel.
This new Tucson has that, plus a smooth pleasantly rounded exterior that is simply eye pleasing.
I drove a “winter white” top-of-the-line Limited AWD model, so granted, I had the best Tucson that Hyundai has to offer. Even at that the Tucson started at $31,300 and only added the bare minimum of options, a cargo cover and carpeted floor mats. Total, including delivery fee, was $32,510. That’s just below the average price of a new vehicle sale these days.
But the Tucson feels and looks much more upscale, starting with this one’s brown over tan leather interior with gloss black trim on the center stack’s face and pewter-look trim around the video screen and air vents. Doors featured flat black trim on the armrest surfaces that house power window and other buttons. It felt and looked ritzy, but not ostentatious. Continue reading 2015 Hyundai Tucson Ltd. AWD→
Rogue grows to happy medium in SUV/crossover market
Nissan restyled its entry-level crossover, the Rogue, last year to give it a less trucky appearance and smooth its ride along with its appearance.
It works and offers a little more interior room and overall length than most small SUVs, like Toyota’s RAV4 and Ford’s Escape. Rogue feels a little bigger, hitting a happy medium between small and compact crossovers.
The test unit was a metallic red SV, the mid-level Rogue, with AWD. Base price is a reasonable $25,840, so with an $860 delivery fee comes in at $26,700, well below the median price of a new vehicle, now $31 grand plus. The tester added a premium package for $1,590 and a few smaller options to set the bar at $28,660, a high value crossover to be sure.
Handling was good with a fairly substantial feel to the wheel, but quick steering for a crossover. And the Rogue stays well planted even in tight turns and on damp pavement thanks to its AWD system.
The Nissan’s ride is compliant too, not as truck-like or sharp on bumps as some smaller utes and crossovers. Potholes and railroad tracks are minor annoyances, not major events. Continue reading 2015 Nissan Rogue SV AWD→
Fiat goes long with 500L (get it?) to connect with more buyers
Credit Fiat for quickly deducing that its cute, but diminutive, 500 runabout simply won’t do for many U.S. families. The Italian automaker that owns Chrysler needed something that would cast a wider net when trying to land more customers on our shores.
Voila! The 500L!
This is a small crossover or wagon much along the lines of MINI’s Clubman. That’s to say it’s boxy and big enough to hold four adults and some groceries under the hatch. It remains cute, like the MINI is cute, but no one will mistake it for the much smaller Fiat 500 that its name implies it descends from.
But this is a different beast in that at 167.1 inches the 500L is nearly two feet longer, plus a little wider and taller, than the tiny 500. The 500L rides on a much larger 102.8-inch wheelbase, a little shorter than a Subaru Forester, for example, and nearly a foot longer than Fiat’s 500. The L is no featherweight either, at 3,203 lbs. it’s about 900 lbs. heavier than its smaller sibling.
I parked the 500L next to a standard MINI in a fast food parking lot and was amazed at how much larger the Fiat looked.
What all this size means is that the 500L rides well, but remains a good handler, like its smaller model, the 500. The suspension does a surprisingly good job of soaking up our roads’ numerous imperfections. Some larger crossovers and small utes don’t feel this well controlled. As with the 500 model, this one’s ride quality surprises. Continue reading 2014 Fiat 500L Lounge→