Tag Archives: Toyota RAV4

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid EX AWD

New hybrid is larger, more efficient, family-priced SUV …

Kia’s Sportage just keeps getting bigger and better, and now with a hybrid power system it’s more efficient and still can boast of family-friendly pricing.

That’s a lot!

But Kia and its twin cousin Hyundai have always been about value, generous feature content, top-notch warranties, and more recently about styling. The tested Sportage Hybrid EX AWD checks all of those boxes.

First, it was lengthened by 7.1 inches and its wheelbase stretched by 3.4 inches for this 2023 model. That translates into a better ride and oodles more passenger room in the rear seat and bonkers crazy large cargo space under the power hatch.

EX is the mid-level trim and probably the best deal for pricing and features. It’s loaded, including such goodies as heated outside mirrors, heated front seats and steering wheel, roof rails, a wireless charger and rear USB ports, a navigation system and twin 12.3-inch screen, plus all the safety equipment one now takes for granted, and a touch more.

Outside its profile is ubiquitous SUV, but its nose sets it apart with radical, yet stylish, arrow-shaped wild child headlight surrounds and a bold nose that some may consider a bit much, but when you see all the luxury makes packing garish monster grilles and logos the Kia seems to be whistling the same tune.

Yet it’s the solid performance and excellent fuel economy netted by the hybrid system that make Sportage a must-compare small to mid-size SUV. Worthy competitors are Hyundai’s Tucson, Honda’s CR-V, Mazda’s CX-5, Ford’s Escape, and Toyota’s RAV4.

Kia goes with a tiny 1.6-liter turbo I4 coupled with a hybrid system for power. That nets 227 horsepower that’s smoothly delivered via a 6-speed automatic transmission. No CVT here to slow up acceleration, instead the 6-speed gets right to it and gives the Sportage good low-end power for quick getaways.

Naturally there are several drive modes, including Snow, which locks the center differential and could come in handy in Wisconsin. Of course AWD is standard on this and the SX-Prestige trims of Sportage while the entry-level LX is front-drive, but offers AWD for about $1,800 more.

The hybrid system uses regenerative braking and coasting to repower the batteries to help give the car more oomph from a start and boost gas mileage. The AWD Sportage is rated 38 mpg city and highway because of that system and I got 32.2 mpg in about 60% highway and 40% city driving. Weather was cold and sloppy wet snow for a couple days.

Note a plug-in hybrid model also is available and delivers 34 miles of electric range on a charge. Power is also greater with 261 horsepower on tap.

Ride in this standard hybrid is pleasantly controlled and the lengthened wheelbase certainly plays a roll. Handling is easy too with moderate feedback from the steering, yet the Sportage is easy to control on the highway and I plowed through some blizzard conditions with this one and it never got squirrelly in the fresh snow. There’s slight body lean in tight turns at speed, like most utes.

My only concern kicked in between 45 and about 50 mph when there was a buzz or high-pitched hum that stirred in the cabin. Not sure of its origin, but did not seem to be road noise or wind-related.

Inside, the handsome dark metallic Vesta Blue Sportage looked more upscale than its price tag would insinuate. The dash and door panel tops were soft dark blue material with a cream colored lower section and the synthetic leather seats were also cream. Door armrests and the center armrest/storage box were that Navy blue to give this a sporty two-tone look.

A gray trim spread across the dash and doors too and Sportage’s center console was gloss black and included a wireless charger at its front. Satin chrome door releases and air vents  perked up the interior, giving it a bit of a jeweled look.

The driver’s instrument panel is a 12.3-inch digital number that blends into the 12.3-inch touchscreen that includes navigation and most of the other info screens and radio. It’s all easy to use, but the climate and radio buttons that basically toggle back and forth below the screen are touch-sensitive and mostly wouldn’t engage when I was wearing gloves. Not sure if all carmakers now design their interiors in SoCal, but here in the upper Midwest we wear gloves for 3-4 months every winter. It would be nice to not to have to remove them to adjust the heat and radio.

This is surprising too because Kia and Hyundai usually are better at interior controls than this.

Note too that when the Sportage starts it does not default the info screen to a home page so you can select from the 10 or so screen choices. It goes to one saying which driver (1 or 2) is driving so you know whose settings are installed. Odd!

One more thing. On a snowy day with the wipers and defrosters needing to do their thing the windows kept fogging with the climate controls on automatic. We had three people aboard and I kept switching back to the A/C mode to take the moisture from the air. Odd that the automatic climate didn’t do that for me. First world problem, but still!

Happily the interior is comfy with powered seats up front along with heated seats and a heated steering wheel too. While some Kia seats have been harder than I like these were fine and well-shaped. One minor complaint, while the heated seats and wheel buttons wisely were located on the console, they default to off, so each time you start the car you must remember to re-engage them. Many vehicles now remember such settings and pick up where they left off once the car is restarted.

Certainly the lengthened Sportage is extremely roomy inside, so it’s comfy for four adults and a fifth could fit in back, especially if none are too wide, or are young kids. And cargo room is phenomenal for this size SUV at nearly 40 cubic feet behind the second row. Fold those split seats down and it grows to nearly 74 cu.ft. Wow!

Overhead is a panoramic sunroof, but that’s part of the $1,500 EX Premium package that also includes LED lights inside, the power hatch and twin illuminated vanity mirrors. That later item is mostly standard now throughout the car world.

Add in the $155 floor mats and this EX that started at $32,285 with delivery grew to just $33,860. That’s a bargain for family transport this comfy and efficient. A base front-drive LX starts at $28,505, but the $30,385 AWD model will likely be a better choice in Wisconsin.

Move to the SX-Prestige and you’re looking at $37,485 for a loaded model. Then there’s that 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty and the same for its batteries. Remember too that the average new car price is now $45 grand, so these are value-oriented models to be sure.

Consider too that the Sportage EX comes with forward collision avoidance assist with pedestrian recognition, lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist, a driver attention warning, auto high beams, lead vehicle in motion alert, and reverse parking sensors along with cross-traffic alert, blind-spot assist and safe exit warning.

One bell and whistle it could do without is the annoying “Check Rear Seat” chime that sounds to warn you may be leaving a child in the rear seat. Really!

I suppose we’ll have to live with the bells and chimes until the cars all drive themselves completely. Then there may be an alarm to warn us when it’s time to exit the vehicle and if it’s safe to do so. Futurama is here!

FAST STATS: 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid EX AWD

Hits: Interesting looks, good acceleration that seems less like a hybrid, good ride and handling plus AWD standard. Lengthened model offers good passenger and cargo room, includes heated front seats and steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, big info screen, four drive modes, wireless charger, power hatch, and solid safety equipment.

Misses: Climate/radio touch buttons below screen don’t work when wearing gloves, auto climate didn’t do well defrosting windows with three people in car, “Check Rear Seat” chime annoying, info screen doesn’t default to Home and heated seats and wheel default to off. Annoying buzz between 45-50 mph.

Made in: Gwangju, So. Korea

Cool light styling and nose trim too!

Engine: 1.6-liter turbo I4 hybrid, 227 hp

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Weight: 3,896 lbs.

Wheelbase: 108.5 in.

Length: 183.5in.

Cargo: 39.5-73.7 cu.ft.

Tow: 2,000 lbs.

MPG: 38/38

MPG (tested): 32.2

Base Price: $32,285 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $31,666

Major Options:

Carpeted floor mats, $155

EX Premium pkg. (panoramic sunroof, LED interior lights, hands-free hatch, dual illuminated vanity mirrors), $1,500

Test vehicle: $33,860

Sources: Kia, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Kia

2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness

Wilderness trim moves Forester further off road …

I’m not sure it’s ever totally fair to test a vehicle in Wisconsin in January, but then we all DO have to drive here in winter and Subaru designs its cars for our climate with full-time AWD.

So I guess I shouldn’t feel too sorry for the new Forester Wilderness that I hustled around mucky streets for a week during one of our patented January cold spells, several nights plunging below zero. To be honest, the Forester mostly coped fine with the big chill, but the weather put a chill on its gas mileage.

First, let’s focus on the Wilderness trim level, a new moniker for Forester and the Wilderness name is creeping across the outdoorsy-inspired Subaru lineup. Its point, not surprisingly, is to make said Subaru more off-road worthy, while also spiffing up the interior and exterior to lure young buyers to the brand, in case all the dog-loving and national parks-loving promos aren’t enough.

The Wilderness logo easily distinguishes this model.

I get it, and this white test crossover was spiffy looking. First, Subaru has restyled the Forester’s nose so it looks more muscular to fit into the increasingly macho compact crossover market. Second, it offers a full half-inch more ground clearance than other Foresters at 9.2 inches, making it a better trail-slogging vehicle.

There’s plenty more, which we’ll discuss, but visually it’s the Wilderness badges on the front doors, tail, and floor mats plus the cool anodized copper trim that is gonna tickle your iris. There’s a little copper everywhere, inside and out, just enough to please, not overwhelm. The exterior features copper accents on the now stronger black roof rail supports and the Forester name is emblazoned in copper on the black rocker panels. Plenty of black trim along with cladding over the wheel wells and bumpers, and an anti-glare matte black hood decal too.

A lot of black cladding on the Wilderness nose, plus a matte insert atop the hood.

Inside, the steering wheel hub’s lower spoke is copper as is the gear shift knob and X-Mode dial. Subaru also trims its durable StarTex water-resistant seats, along with the dash and doors in copper stitching. Wilderness logos grace the front seat backs too. All cool!

That’s just for looks. Wilderness is pretty much a loaded Forester. On the performance side that includes R17 Yokohama Geolander all-terrain tires for better grip in off-road slop, plus a beefed up X-Mode function with two settings for Snow and Dirt, or Mud and Deep Snow. Again, traction and trail performance step to the fore.

Copper trim on the wheel and shifter and X-Mode knob accent the interior.

Other goodies standard on Forester Wilderness include a 180-degree front view monitor, power tailgate, snazzy Harman Kardon stereo and 8-inch touchscreen that seems just the right size here while many screens have grown to overpower their interiors.

EyeSight, Subaru’s driver safety system with adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping, blind-spot warning and such is standard too, and Wilderness adds lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert and reverse automatic braking. Nothing more need be added to all that.

Performance remains solid, which is why Forester is so popular among compact crossovers as it leans a little more heavily on its SUVness.

In addition to the dual-function X-Mode of course there’s full-time AWD that shifts power to the wheels currently with the most grip, no matter if on slippery side streets or mucky trails. It’s a comfort in winter driving as the car corners with more sure-footedness than many other crossovers, and mostly at a lower price.

Handling is light and nimble, making Forester a fun drive in town and parking lots, while also being easy to handle if off-roading. Ride is improved over earlier versions, but still a bit firm as are other small crossovers.

Power, while improving with each iteration, is still Forester’s weak spot. The 2.5-liter Boxer 4 cylinder delivers 182 horses with a torque rating of 176. That’s fine for cruising and low-speed off-roading. But accelerating to highway speeds, or when it’s colder than an iceberg in the Arctic, is labored and noisy. That’s a combo of the engine and an 8-speed CVT.

Braking is fine, but know that if you upgrade to the Premium or higher trim levels the front disc brakes are larger than in other models.

Inside, Forester is comfy with supportive seats, a fine dash layout and Wilderness gets snazzy brushed aluminum pedals.

Brushed aluminum pedals here, and another logo!

Standard here are two-level heated seats, that fine stereo and touchscreen, which are easy to understand and use, and a big sunroof, a win for outdoors-loving folks who want to let in extra sunlight.

The test Forester’s black seats and dash look good too with the copper trim and I liked the feel and durability of the fake leather seats.

What I missed was a heated steering wheel, which would have been nice on the sub-zero mornings and should be standard on a Wilderness. I also found it hard to adjust the climate control’s fan speed while wearing gloves.

But Forester’s interior is roomy with plenty of head and legroom front and rear, easy rear-seat access and good storage space under that power hatch. Interesting too that Forester now has a 51.3-inch cargo opening in back, the biggest in the segment, so wonderful for loading wide loads. Oh, and now there’s one-touch rear seat lowering from inside the hatch too.

Gas mileage normally has been good with Forester. I last got 25.9 mpg in a drive 3 years ago. But with the cold weather and the car groaning to gain power in the cold this time I managed just 19.6 mpg. Disappointing to be sure, especially since the EPA rates this at 25 mpg city and 28 highway.

I’m also disappointed that Subaru still doesn’t offer a hybrid model, which most competitors do. That would help mpg considerably, not to mention buoy Subaru’s mantra of helping and protecting the environment. Subaru is way late to the hybrid game, and I should note that I’ve owned two Subies, including a Forester and an Outback.

Pricing remains a Forester strong point though, with the base model starting at $26,320 with delivery, and remember that includes AWD. There are six trim levels with Touring being the top dog at $35,295. This Wilderness started at $33,945, with delivery, and only added an aluminum engine under guard for $220 to settle at $34,165. That’s well below the average new crossover price.

Forester is a nimble drive and better off-road than many compact crossovers, but it also butts heads with the likes of Toyota’s RAV4 and Honda’s CR-V, big sellers. Wilderness trim gives it an edge for snazzy looks though.

FAST STATS: 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness

Hits: Sporty looking inside and out in Wilderness trim, light and nimble handling, AWD, 2 off-road settings, comfy 2-level heated seats, good radio/info screen, nice stereo, big sunroof, EyeSight system standard, and power hatch.

Misses: Noisy acceleration, modest power, no heated steering wheel, no hybrid available, and poor mpg (mostly weather related).

Here’s a closer look at the copper gear shift lever and ring on the X-Mode knob on Forester’s console.

Made in: Japan

Engine: 2.5-liter Boxer 4, 182 hp/176 torque

Transmission: Lineartronic CVT 8-speed automatic

Weight: 3,620 lbs.

Length: 182.7 in.

Wheelbase: 104.9 in.

Cargo: 28.9 cu. ft. (74.2 cu.ft., rear seats down)

MPG: 25/28

MPG: 19.6 (tested)

Base Price: $33,945 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $31,863

Major Options:

Aluminum engine under guard, $220

Test vehicle: $34,165

Sources: Subaru, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

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

2020 Lexus NX 300 AWD F Sport

Lexus NX 300 a small ute with style . . .

2020 Lexus NX 300 F Sport

Small SUVs and crossovers are nearly as thick these days as political pundits, so it takes some effort to separate one from the mob of little tall wagons.

Lexus tries, with some success, with its NX 300, based on the previous generation Toyota RAV4 platform. As in much earlier times, Toyota tries with styling. The big deal here is its giant spindle grille and fancy 3-dimensional taillights outside, and its multicolored interior, even though the colors are black and white, and some folks will argue that black is the lack of color. Continue reading 2020 Lexus NX 300 AWD F Sport

2015 Nissan Rogue SV AWD

Rogue grows to happy medium in SUV/crossover marketrogue

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

2013 Toyota RAV4 Limited AWD

Lackluster new RAV4 underwhelmingrav4a

Underwhelmed, that was how the new Toyota RAV4 left me.

Oh it looks fine, pretty much like every other compact ute out these days, and with all the features and electronic options and doodads you’d want. But given Toyota’s history, I was surprised by how lackluster it felt and it had fit and finish issues.

First, there was a small hole in the console. Was a button missing? And what would it have been for?

Second, there was an obvious and annoying squeak in the dash and it squeaked no matter what speed you were going, or how rough the road. The ute had only about 2,800 miles on it when I received it. I’d expect that squeak on my wife’s 12-year-old Camry because it has 100,000+ miles on the odometer. Actually, I think her car’s interior is quieter, which leads me to point three. The RAV4 interior is noisy, very echoey sounding.

Fourth, well, the 2.5-liter, I4 engine simply feels down on power. Maybe it’s the gearing, but acceleration is flat and dull. The engine is rated at 176 horsepower, but acceleration is lackluster. There’s an ECO button to give it better gas mileage and even less oomph, or a Sport button to give it more torque. That helps, but you still must mash the gas pedal to get that power, and at that point the power train whines and moans like it’s being tortured. Continue reading 2013 Toyota RAV4 Limited AWD

2014 Jeep Patriot Latitude 4×4

Inexpensive new Patriot fills roll as soft-roader

jeep-patriot-latitudeI 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