2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GT 5-Door Review

Tuesday June 20th, 2017 at 10:66 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GT 5-Door

By David Colman

Hypes: Easy To Park, Cheap To Buy and Run
Gripes: Shaky 3 Banger, Cosmetic Defects

Cute got a new face for 2017. Mitsubishi has grafted new front and rear fascias to their eminently affordable beginner car, the Mirage GT. Up front, new HID Bi-Xenon headlights contain a light tube for signature recognition. These slanted light pods are high enough in the fenders to mimic crinkled smiling eyes. Top them off with a dainty pucker of a grill. Then underline the happy face with a pair of broadly outlined fog lights and you’ve got the formula for the New Cute at Mitsubishi. Likewise, a new roof spoiler plus winking LED tail lights spice up the butt of the freshened 2017 Mirage.

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GT 5-Door

Even cuter is the base price of this revamped, built in Thailand, 5 passenger hatchback: $17,330 out the door. There’s little else on the market to compete with the GT’s bottom line. In fact, you’ll have a hard time finding a decent sports touring motorcycle for that kind of money. What exactly do you get in this starter car from Mitsubishi? Under the short front hood lies a very rare automotive item these days – a 3 cylinder inline, 1.2 liter DOHC, 12 valve engine mounted transversely. Only the Smart from Mercedes uses a similar powerplant. Mirage output has been bumped by 4hp for 2017 – to a whopping 78hp. Torque comes in at 74lb.-ft.

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GT 5-Door

These output numbers fall well short of most 500cc motorcycles on the market today. But bear in mind that the Mirage is a real lightweight in comparison to today’s normal two ton vehicles. It weighs just over one ton (2,085 lbs.), giving it a power-to-weight ratio of 26.7lbs/hp. Back in 1970, the original Porsche 914 weighed the same as this Mirage and offered only 85hp. Given that perspective, the Mirage’s hp/weight ratio looks decidedly better. If it was good enough for Porsche’s definitive sports car, it will work for you today.

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GT 5-Door

So accept that modest acceleration is the ruling order here. Around town this comparative lethargy is annoying but tolerable. On back roads, you can forget about passing slower traffic. You are the slower traffic. But once you get the GT up to cruising speed on the interstate, it acquits itself with honor. In the 60-75mph range, performance is plenty adequate, especially if you use long downhills to counteract long up-hills. Drive judiciously, and the Mirage will pay off like a loose Vegas slot: 37 MPG around town and 43 MPG on the freeway.

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GT 5-Door

For the modest money, it’s amazing how many features Mitsubishi tosses into the GT pot to sweeten the deal. New this year are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto display modes. And how many bottom line, entry level offerings come with heated seats? How about push button start and remote door lock? An intermittent rear wiper? How about a tire pressure monitoring system, and three point seat belts for all 5 positions? This little cruiser is loaded with extras, and Mitsubishi doesn’t charge extra for any of them. I am particularly gratified to see that the GT scores highly in the Government 5-Star safety Ratings category, posting 4-Star results in the Frontal Crash for both driver and passenger, as well as 4-Stars for Rollover protection. So don’t automatically dismiss the Mirage’s safety cell on the basis of its small size (149 inch length, 97 inch wheelbase).

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GT 5-Door

If the Mirage suffers from anything, its lack of attention to details. The 3 cylinder engine tends to buzz and shake at idle. An internal balance shaft or better motor mount isolation would take care of the problem. Inside the cabin, the doors shut with a tinny snap rather than a reassuring thunk. More sound deadener inside the panels would cure the issue. Finally, the front passenger side airbag cover matches neither the color nor texture of the rest of the dashboard. Certainly, this obvious disparity could be easily cured. I wanted to Armorall the offending patch to help it match the rest of the dash’s sheen.

These offenses should not cause you to eliminate the Mirage GT from consideration as a possible purchase. For the prospective owner who hopes to own a brand new vehicle for $17,330 – complete with 5 year/60,000 mile warranty – a few rough edges shouldn’t skew the deal. Mirage’s inherent value is a rarity indeed in today’s expensive marketplace.

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GT 5-Door

  • Engine: 1.2 liter inline 3, DOHC, 12 Valves
  • Horsepower: 78hp
  • Torque: 74lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 37MPG City/43MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $17,330
  • Star Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring Review

Monday June 19th, 2017 at 3:66 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring

By David Colman

Hypes: Efficient, Practical, Well Constructed
Gripes: Gear Selector Confusion, Poor Front Quarter Sight Lines

The big news for CR-V fans this year is the 190hp turbo motor which is connected to a CVT transmission. This four cylinder engine is above all fuel efficient, producing an overall EPA rating of 29 MPG (27 MPG City/33 MPG Highway). How does Honda manage to make such a small displacement unit propel a fairly substantial vehicle (3,530 lbs.) so economically? They massage every aspect of the fuel combustion process, with double overhead camshafts operating 16 valves, and high pressure direct fuel injection metering precise amounts of gasoline into all four turbocharged cylinders. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) is one of the best on the market, with high and low ranges seamlessly administering “Real Time” thrust to all four wheels. The only downside of the turbo 4/CVT combo is the engine’s maximum output of 190hp. That number comes up a little short in the outright performance department since each horsepower is allocated 18 pounds to motivate. The latest CR-V isn’t slow once it gets rolling, but initial acceleration off the stoplight is uninspiring.

2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring

The Touring (TRG) version we tested is Honda’s top-line entry, with an all-inclusive price of $33,695. You can opt for a substantially cheaper $27,635 EX Front-Wheel Drive (FWD) version which will save you about $6,000 in outlay. But really, the Touring AWD version is well worth the extra investment if you do any long distance touring, or inclement weather driving. An eye-catching set of 7 inch x 18 inch flat-faced alloys make the CR-V look like its spinning its wheels even while standing still. Those rims are shod with Hankook Kinergy GT tires measuring 235/60 R 18. The 60 Series sidewalls of these radials impart a comfortable ride quality to the CR-V’s luxurious cabin. Their friction coefficient is also high, endowing this crossover with neutral cornering and decent grip on twisty roads.

2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring

But you won’t be selecting a CR-V on the basis of acceleration or handling. Rather, this Honda sells itself to you with its comfort, practicality and legendary build quality. Though both the engine and transmission are constructed in the USA, the CR-V is assembled at Honda’s plant in Alliston, Ontario Canada. The Canadians do a workmanlike job of screwing the CR-V together with care and precision. We detected not one squeak or rattle from the complex structure, nor did we see a loose end here or a protruding screw head there. The interior of the CR-V looks more luxurious than you would expect from a vehicle in this price range. The heated front seats in particular are nicely done, with perforated, pleated leather offering lots of support and grip. The driver’s seat features a 2 slot memory recall, 4 step electric lumbar, and 12 modes of power adjustment.

2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring

Although the CR-V has grown in size over the years, it still retains trim and athletic proportions, with an overall length of 179 inches and a compact wheelbase of just 109 inches. Until you flop the rear seats forward and remove the retracting luggage area screen, you don’t appreciate just how much interior space the CR-V affords you. With the seats stowed and the screen removed from its perch, you can slide a full size mountain bike over the low-threshold rear gate. The Touring’s “Hands Free Access Power Tailgate” hastens insertion and removal of such large loads. In fact, the CR-V will handle 36 cubic feet of cargo when properly configured. As a people mover, this SUV will carry 4 adults in comfort, five in a slight squeeze.

2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring

Of course, the top line CR-V is equipped with a full bevy of “Honda Sensing” safety measures at no extra cost. These include Adaptive Cruise Control, which is quite easy to operate from the steering wheel’s right spoke, and offers a particularly useful feature called “Low Speed Follow” which will ease your worry in stop-and-go traffic. Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist and Road Departure Mitigation are all present and ready to help out in an emergency.

2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring

Only a couple of ergonomic misses mar the CR-V’s cabin. One is the floor-mounted stick shift’s lack of an illuminated adjacent display panel to reveal the gear range you have selected. You have to avert your eyes from the stick to find the appropriate display on the instrument panel. The steering wheel’s short range of vertical adjustment limits you to a bus-like driving position. Finally, it’s difficult to see the front corners of the CR-V from the driver’s seat. That short list of misses hardly detracts from this exceptionally useful, all climate family utility wagon.

2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring

  • Engine: 1.5 liter inline 4, DOHC, 16 Valves, Direct Injection, Turbocharged
  • Horsepower: 190hp
  • Torque: 181lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 27 MPG City/33 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $34,595
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Genesis G90 RWD 3.3T Premium Review

Friday June 2nd, 2017 at 12:66 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Genesis G90 RWD 3.3T Premium

By David Colman

Hypes: Beautifully Crafted Interior, Regal Back Seat
Gripes: Turbo Lag, Poor Rear Vision

It’s time to rewrite the book on luxury sedans from Hyundai. In 2016, the Korean company offered two posh rides, one large (Genesis) and another even larger (Equus).

This year, Hyundai created a whole new luxury division called Genesis which is dedicated to the sale and maintenance of their line topping sedans. This new brand sells two models for 2017, the sizeable G80 and the limousine-like G90. Two flavors of G90 are available: the 3.3 liter twin turbo V6 which makes 365hp, and the 5.0 liter V8 good for 420hp. Our test hop took place in the twin turbo V6, which retails for $68,100. While that may seem like a lot of money for a Hyundai product, the G90′s price is exceptionally reasonable when measured against the car’s the car’s rightful competition. BMW’s 7 Series and Mercedes Benz’ S Class sedans cost more than twice as much as the Genesis G90 3.3T.

2017 Genesis G90 RWD 3.3T Premium

While some sedans aspire to limousine status by providing back seat amenities like spacious legroom and separate HVAC controls, the G90 far exceeds those minimal specifications for comfort with its armada of exclusive features. Start with the windows. Each side window and rear quarter pane comes with its own electrically operated privacy screen. A fifth screen covers the back window. All are operable only from the rear seat. The center rear armrest contains a sizeable storage bin, plus a dashboard for the infotainment system. Four separate air vents cater to the back seat HVAC system, and both rear seats are heated. All controls are located on the drop down center console. Even the position and inclination of the right front seat can be controlled from the rear seat panel.

2017 Genesis G90 RWD 3.3T Premium

You might assume that this plush lounge car is something of a slug to drive. You would be wrong. The 3655hp motor couples to an 8-speed Shiftronic gearbox equipped with paddle shifts at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions. Once the twin turbos spool up, the G90 surges ahead with enough momentum to obviate the need for a paddle controlled downshift. However, given this sedan’s 5,335 lb. curb weight, and the turbochargers’ propensity for lag, there’s a full second delay between throttle application and actual propulsion. If I were buying a G90, I would bypass this V6 in favor of the sweet 420hp V8 which proved completely lag-free in the G80 I recently tested.

2017 Genesis G90 RWD 3.3T Premium

Of course, most obliging chauffeurs would disdain such full throttle frivolity in favor of a more sedately measured ride. However, if your inclination is to toe heavily into the throttle, you will be stunned by the pace this limousine is capable of generating. But first you must select the “Sport” setting from the available four “Drive Mode” choices (Eco, Smart, Normal). Sport gathers the ammo for a backroad assault by adjusting steering effort and changing transmission and engine control logic to favor more feedback, higher rpm engine ranges, and delayed upshifts. If you choose the Sport setting, the G90 remains locked into that choice for the duration of your drive. However, it will defer to “Smart” the next time you restart the car. The Smart setting evaluates the way you drive, and recalibrates itself depending on whether your method is mild, normal or aggressive. A green readout of the word “Smart” on the instrument panel means Mild, a white version means Normal, and a yellow illumination corresponds to Sport. In any of these 3 settings, you can rely on this sizeable sedan to corner without undue fuss. Its Continental tires (ContiProContact) are sizeable enough (275/40R19) to leave a lasting impression on the pavement.

2017 Genesis G90 RWD 3.3T Premium

If you aspire to learn all the operational secrets of this Genesis, you better prepare yourself for some serious reading. Fully two-thirds of the very large glove box are occupied by publications ranging in size from 206 pages (Navigation Owner’s Manual) to a thick encyclopedia of an Owner’s Manual that must weigh more than 2 pounds. But just poking around in the electric self-opening and closing trunk will reveal that Genesis has equipped the G90 with an enormous rear mounted battery, a Hankook emergency spare tire (good for just 80 KPH), and an abbreviated tool kit including jack, screwdriver and lug wrench. Of course, if you’re being transported in the G90′s back seat, these are items with which you’ll never need concern yourself. Because even if your G90 doesn’t come with a chauffeur, it does come with 3 years of “Complimentary Enhanced Roadside Assistance.”

2017 Genesis G90 RWD 3.3T Premium

  • Engine: 3.3 liter Twin Turbo V6
  • Horsepower: 365hp
  • Torque: 376lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 17 MPG City/24 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $69,050
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata GT Review

Wednesday May 31st, 2017 at 11:55 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata GT

By David Colman

Hypes: The Only Formula Racecar with a Trunk
Gripes: Relocate Infotainment Dial

25 years ago, here’s what I had to say about the 1992 Mazda MX-5 Miata in my Edmund’s book 20 Best 1992 Cars: “Miata makes blissfully few concessions to practicality because it is designed to do one thing better than anything else. That one thing is to give you a thrill a mile when you drive it.” Over the intervening quarter century, the MX-5 has changed substantively. With its current SKYACTIV 4 cylinder engine, horsepower has climbed from 116 to 155hp. Weight has also climbed by 10 percent from 2,189lbs. to 2,335lbs. Despite the gain in girth, the horsepower-to-weight ratio of the original Miata (18.87lb/hp) is significantly better in the current version (15.06lb/hp) That improvement insures that the basic tenet of Miata motoring hasn’t changed one iota from 1992. The smile per mile quota is better than ever.

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata GT

Mazda has introduced a swath of new colors for 2017, including three whiter shades of pale called Ceramic Metallic, Crystal White Pearl and Arctic White. Our test Miata sported an intriguing off white finish (Ceramic Metallic) that brought to mind the Hot Wheels “Color Changers” which respond to different light levels by changing color. In the case of this Mazda, Ceramic Metallic morphed from silver through gray to bright white depending on the light and time of day.

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata GT

The big news in Miata Land for 2017 is the introduction of the retractable fastback (RF) model. This disappearing hardtop makes the Miata look like an Italian show car from the 1950s when the top is up. With top retracted, its looks mirror the conventional MX-5 roadster we drove. Frankly, I can’t see why you’d want to saddle the lightweight MX-5 with a complex, electrically operated top mechanism when the fabric top of the standard Miata is such a pleasure to operate. While seated in the driver’s seat, you can detach the top from the header in one second, flip the top back in another second and slam it home into its storage well in a third second. The Miata even facilitates the process by dropping both side windows half way. Top erection is the reverse of this sequence, featuring an easy catch header latch of brilliant design.

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata GT

The placement of the Miata’s dial control for the infotainment system – just aft of the stick shift on the transmission tunnel – is not quite so brilliant. This dial, which among other chores selects radio stations, constantly fell afoul of my right elbow as I changed gears. I lost count of the number of times I inadvertently swapped bands from XM Satellite to FM or AM. But that concludes my very short complaint list, because the MX-5 is otherwise just as perfect as can be. Its handling, for example, is beyond reproach. Twitch the stubby steering wheel and the Miata instantly twitches in the same direction. No other car responds with the immediacy of the Miata. This immediacy is due largely to the ultra responsive tire patches provided by Bridgestone. The S001 radials (205/45R17) provide enough lateral grip for track duty.
Standard front and rear stabilizer bars, stiff spring rates and well snubbed shock absorbers all conspire to provide a resiliently precise ride that will have you carving apexes with glee. Simply put, this Mazda outdoes a legion of much more expensive offerings from Porsche and Corvette, all the way up to Ferrari, and Lamborghini. None of them can match the MX-5 for unalloyed driving pleasure.

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata GT

An important part of the Mazda magic formula derives from unimpeded sightlines from the cockpit. Although Miata now offers Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and a Lane Departure Warning System, you don’t really need them in a car where you can see everything all the time from the driver’s seat.

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata GT

Over the past quarter century, the Miata has matured into a comfortable little grand tourer. Our sample boasted a wonderful sound system with 9 Bose speakers spread through the cockpit, including inside each headrest. Despite its diminutive 5 cubic foot size, the Miata’s trunk will swallow an amazing amount of stuff so long as you keep the contents in soft shell bags. You would be hard pressed to find a better sports car today – at any price – than this $31,000 steal of a deal.

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata GT

  • Engine: 2.0 liter SKYACTIC in-line 4
  • Horsepower: 155hp
  • Torque: 148lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 27MPG City/36 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $31,325
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Kia Cadenza Limited Review

Friday May 19th, 2017 at 3:55 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Kia Cadenza Limited

By David Colman

Hypes: Elegant Interior, Strong Motor, Satiny Gearbox
Gripes: Name Sounds Like Piece of Furniture

In the early Nineties, a trip to Las Vegas prompted me to rent a car for the scenic drive out to Hoover dam. The sub compact 2-door to which I was given the keys was a Kia, an unfamiliar brand new to me at the time. I was so impressed with that petite and sporty Kia that returning it to Hertz was painful. Later, I learned that Kia had abandoned the American market altogether, a move that seemed inexplicable based on my acquaintance with the make in Nevada. Well, guess what? Long-term, that Las Vegas preview proved correct. Today, Kia is back in North America, firmly established with a full model line that runs the gamut from the microcar Rio to the ultra-luxe K900 limousine, with a complete line of SUVs to boot. And right in the middle of the sedan range stands the all new Cadenza, a surprisingly luxurious four-door with legitimate sporting pretensions.

2017 Kia Cadenza Limited

Our sample Cadenza Limited, at $44,390, tops the model line which starts at $33,000. All 3,365lb. Cadenzas utilize a 3.3 liter 290hp V6, normally aspirated with direct injection. Kia couples this responsive engine to an 8-speed automatic transmission with manual gate and paddle shifters. A standard set of dark satin 19-inch alloys plant 245/40R19 Michelin Green X, all-season tires close enough to the pavement to produce a sporting but stiff ride. A standard tire pressure monitoring system keeps you appraised of air pressure in each tire.

2017 Kia Cadenza Limited

The new Cadenza sits low and looks sleek. It stands just 58 inches tall, with a stealth silhouette that belies its spacious interior. Contributing to the stealth look is a black glass roof panel that extends the length of the cabin. This panel contains an enormous sliding sunroof which bathes the front and rear seats in light when you slide the suede cover panel back. The front half of this skylight can be fully retracted as well. You can easily accommodate 5 passengers inside, with 16 cubic feet of trunk space for their belongings. The back seat of the Cadenza is especially strong on leg room, with enough slouch space to make long journeys tolerable for all occupants. The outboard back seats, like the fronts, include multi-stage heaters. The rear windows retract completely into the door frames for unimpeded fresh air intake. Privacy screens are fitted to all rear windows.

2017 Kia Cadenza Limited

Kia does an exceptional job on interior design. Our Limited featured white Nappa leather seat trim which contributed an unexpected note of elegance and comfort to all seating positions. This material is exceptionally soft, and looks quite elegant with its diamond-pleated side bolsters. The instrument panel features real double stitched detailing. Piano black trim harmonizes well with muted driftwood inserts to make the Cadenza interior an exceptionally restful environment. The fat and resilient steering wheel rim is cut with thumb grip recesses. Kia’s cruise control array, fitted to the right spoke, is intuitively designed and easily operated. The cruise system never surges or hesitates after you set your speed. It will brake you if necessary, and you can set your following distance with confidence, even if you select the shortest setting of 1.5 car lengths. New for 2017 are the Cadenza’s suite of safety programs, including Forward Collision Warning System, Smart Blind Spot Detection, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. I have to admit that the Blind Spot Detection provided me with useful information which my rear-view mirror failed to reveal.

2017 Kia Cadenza Limited

The latest Cadenza is emblematic of the kind of value you can expect to derive from a Kia purchase. In addition to the solid virtues of intelligent packaging, responsive performance and handling, the icing on the cake comes from the generous 5 year/60,000-mile warranty backed up by a similar term for roadside assistance. If $44,290 looks like a lot for a mid-size Kia sedan, just compare it to the competition and you will recognize a bargain here rather than an extravagance.

2017 Kia Cadenza Limited

  • Engine: 3.3 liter V6 Direct Injection
  • Horsepower: 290hp
  • Torque: N/A
  • Fuel Consumption: 20 MPG City/ 28 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $45,290
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco Review

Wednesday May 17th, 2017 at 4:55 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco

By David Colman

Hypes: Boxes Above Its Weight Class
Gripes: Navigation Would Be Nice

Are you six times better than you were in 1990? The Hyundai Elantra is. Over the intervening 27 years, Hyundai has introduced six new generations of this model, with the most recent coming just last year. The original Elantra of 1990 was somewhat crude, and rather underpowered, but irresistibly cheap. The mid line Eco version of the 2017 Elantra is still a bit underpowered at 128hp, but far from crude. In fact it is one of the most sophisticated and fully equipped compact sedans on the market today. And like its distant forebear, the latest Elantra still makes a significant value-per-dollar statement with a base price of $20,650.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco

Hyundai offers three different versions of the Elantra, with the entry level SE being the least expensive at $17,150, and the Limited being the most expensive at $22,350. But just about the only amenity missing from the mid-level Eco we tested was an on board navigation system which is not optionally available. Everything else you could want or need is standard, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. With those two systems already in place, there’s no reason why you couldn’t use your smartphone for navigation duty. And really, when you buy a new car are you buying a new trip computer? Or are you buying a mobility machine where over-the-road performance comes first? If the latter is true, you will be highly impressed by the capabilities of this diminutive, 2,865lb. four-door, four person compact.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco

Whereas other variants of the Elantra utilize a 2.0 liter in-line 4 making 147hp – or 200hp in the new 2018 Elantra Sport – the Eco, true to its name, makes do with less displacement reduced output and stellar mileage. Although its 1.4 liter turbo produces just 128hp, the Eco motor does make 156lb.-ft. of torque. That easily perceptible torque rush is harnessed by an unexpected ally in this low cost family mover – a new 7 speed dual-clutch gearbox Hyundai builds, along with the engine, in Korea. Final assembly of the Eco is done at Hyundai’s Montgomery, Alabama facility. The sporting dual-clutch transmission maximizes the thrust of the Eco’s turbo. If you simply leave the floor-mounted stick shift in Drive range, the transmission reacts quickly to your power demands by dropping down a gear ratio or two when you floor the throttle. Both downshifts and upshifts take place with satisfying immediacy. You can exercise even more specific control by slotting the Shiftronic transmission into its separate manual gate.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco

Hyundai has upgraded the interior of the Eco with soft touch surfaces at virtually all human interaction points. The standard heated front seats proved particularly welcome on blustery spring days when we especially appreciated the fact that both the horizontal and vertical cushions of the seat were wired for heat. Unlike some European sedan makers, who charge extra for proximity key operation and push button start, Hyundai includes these unexpected niceties for free on the Eco. You’ll also enjoy the visual clarity of the Eco’s standard 7 inch touchscreen, which offers logical and easy programming for the comprehensive infotainment system. Supplementing the theatrics of the main screen is a smaller 3.5 inch TFT display panel, located between the tachometer and speedometer, which can be configured by steering wheel control to show a variety of travel-pertinent information.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco

At first, i was somewhat dismayed to see that the Eco rides on rather narrow and tall 195/65R15 Nexen Priz AH8 tires, mounted on retro-looking five spoke grey ribbed alloy rims. It’s been a long time since any test car has arrived with 15 inch rims, but after spending a week herding the Eco through a wide variety of curves and freeway ramps, these Nexen tires always managed to get the job done without audible protest or loss of grip. The best benefit of 65 Series sidewalls like these is extra cushioning over potholes. With California roads in total disarray this spring, the taller your sidewall, the better your ride. We spent a full day toting four adults up to wine country in the Elantra. We didn’t hear a peep of protest from the back seat, and you already know that the front seat occupants were well looked after.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco

For comparatively minimal outlay, the Eco Elantra makes sound sense if you’re looking for a new set of wheels that will keep you humming to the tune of 35MPG in overall use. The Elantra has indeed come a very long way from that tractor-like sub compact Hyundai first shipped to our shores nearly three decades ago.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco

  • Engine: 1.4 liter DOHC inline 4, turbocharged, direct injection (GDI)
  • Horsepower: 128hp
  • Torque: 156lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 32MPG City/40 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $21,610
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Genesis G80 RWD 5.0 Ultimate Review

Wednesday May 17th, 2017 at 2:55 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Genesis G80 RWD 5.0 Ultimate

By David Colman

Hypes: Faultless Construction, Lap ‘o Luxury
Gripes: Lots of Dash Reflection in Windshield

Genesis. A name of Biblical derivation, generally used to denote birth. In this case, a new model line of cars has been born. Hyundai has appropriated the name Genesis – previously used on a single model of Hyundai – to designate their new line of premium passenger cars. They also appropriated a winged trademark insignia for the brand that is highly reminiscent of Aston Martin’s logo. Currently, two Genesis models are available – the large and plush limousine-size G90 and the slightly smaller G80. Although no limo, the G80 is plenty spacious, with a stretched wheelbase of 119 inches, a length of 197 inches, and a width of 74 inches. Those numbers translate into a passenger compartment capable of escorting 5 adults to any destination in spacious luxury.

2017 Genesis G80 RWD 5.0 Ultimate

The keynote here is fit and finish. The moment you climb into the G80, you feel better than you did. Thanks to buttery leather seating surfaces, subdued swaths of matte finished real wood, and lustrous true aluminum, you feel like you’ve stepped into an exclusive first class travel experience. While you might expect such cosseting in the front row, Genesis has gone to exceptional lengths to make the back seat comfortable. The key here is the sling-like posture of the outboard back seats that encourages you to slide your torso forward and down until maximum comfort is achieved. The key to making this hammock work is the abundant legroom afforded by that 119 inch wheelbase.

2017 Genesis G80 RWD 5.0 Ultimate

While the G80 never lets you forget that it’s big and heavy (4,530lbs.), Hyundai has endowed it with an all-aluminum 5.0 liter V8 with direct injection and variable valve timing, potent enough (420hp) to give the big sedan some real sporting punch. That’s because the power-to-weight ratio of 10.7lb/hp is good for 13 second quarter mile runs and 0-60mph sprints in the 5 second range. You can also order the G80 with a twin turbocharged V6 producing 311hp, but if you opt for this combo, the power-to-weight factor jumps the wrong way almost 50 percent – to 14.5lb/hp. Since the V8 returns a surprising 23MPG on the highway, there’s really little economic incentive to replace it with the turbo V6.

2017 Genesis G80 RWD 5.0 Ultimate

Part of the reason that this powerful and torquey (383lb.-ft.) V8 can record such acceptable fuel mileage is the Hyundai designed and built 8-speed automatic transmission with manual override (Shiftronic) and nifty aluminum paddle shifters. The transmission works so smoothly through the gears that the G80 produces a seamless stream of jet thrust. If you do decide to harness the output specifically in a particular rpm range, the Shiftronic allows you to hold any gear in force without fear of an unwonted upshift to a higher cog. To complement this do-it-yourself shifting you can toggle the G80′s “Intelligent Drive Mode” (IDM) from “Normal” to “Sport” configuration with a simple switch flip that stiffens the steering and heightens suspension response. “Eco” and “Snow modes are also on offer from IDM. This kind of manual oversight is both surprising and welcome from a car that looks more like a limo than a sports sedan.

2017 Genesis G80 RWD 5.0 Ultimate

Equally ingratiating is the finely tuned array of suspension components, wheel size, and tire contact patch. In “Sport” mode, the big sedan corners flat and hard, with lots of grip generated by its sizeable Continental Pro Contact radials (245/40R19 front/265/35R19 rear) mounted on 8.5 x 19 inch alloy rims, These gun metal rims not only complement the Patagonia Blue Metallic paint of our test G80, but spread a wide and dependable footprint through each and every bend. While I wouldn’t say the G80 merits full sports sedan accolades, it will nonetheless surprise you with it athleticism.

If i were commissioned to redo the G80, the first thing on my list would be to eliminate the split-lid storage box between the front seats and equip it with a one-piece top. Next, I would provide privacy screens for the rear seat windows as well as the back light. I would convert the rear seat’s large central arm rest into a storage bin, since it’s size is wasted on just 2 cup holders. Finally, flip down tray tables for the back seat would increase the limo utility of this plush area.

2017 Genesis G80 RWD 5.0 Ultimate

The transition from Hyundai to Genesis recalls the leap Lexus made from Toyota back in 1990. The G80 is a fully realized luxury sedan with welcome sporting aspirations. At its current list price of $54,550, it is worthy of any prospective BMW or Audi buyer’s immediate attention.

2017 Genesis G80 RWD 5.0 Ultimate

  • Engine: All Aluminum 5.0 Liter V8, DOHC, GDI Dual CVVT
  • Horsepower: 420hp
  • Torque: 383lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 15MPG City/23 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $55,660
  • Star Rating: 9.5 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Mazda CX-9 GT FWD Review

Tuesday May 16th, 2017 at 2:55 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Mazda CX-9 GT FWD

By David Colman

Hypes: Japanese Balance of Utility and Beauty
Gripes: Redo the HVAC Controls

Introduced in 2016 as a completely new model, Mazda’s CX-9 moves into its second year of production in Hiroshima, Japan virtually unchanged. In the multinational automotive world, it has become increasingly difficult to detect where your vehicle is produced. But those who value traditional Japanese craftsmanship can rest assured that the body, engine and transmission of the CX-9 are all constructed in Japan. This heritage shows in the vehicle’s neat overall design, attention to interior surface detail, and lively turbocharged engine. Although the CX-9 weighs in at more than two tons (4,280lbs.), Mazda’s first ever use of a turbo on their Skyactive engine line boosts output of the 2.5 liter straight four to a gratifying new level: 250hp and 310lb.-ft. of torque. Couple this punch to a 6-speed automatic capable of manual gear selection and you’ve got yourself a potent straight-line performance package.

2017 Mazda CX-9 GT FWD

Nor does Mazda drop the ball when it comes to suspension layout. Fully independent design front and rear endows the CX-9 with the ability to soak up bumps and road imperfections with aplomb. Ride comfort is uniformly excellent. Standard front and rear sway bars inhibit lean in corners. Generous 20 inch alloy rims plant grippy Falken Ziex C750 radials (225/50R20) at each corner. The Tread Wear 300 rating of these tires prioritizes handling, so it’s fair to say that Mazda infuses even this 7 passenger bus of an SUV with the sports car responsiveness of the company’s milestone MX-5 Miata.

The CX-9 includes three rows of seating for 7 passengers. Front row occupants enjoy exceptionally comfortable and well tailored lounge chairs complete with 3-stage heaters. Mazda has fitted the driver’s seat with a 2 position memory setting. The second row consists of a 40/60 split bench good for 2 or 3 passengers, while the knee-room restricted tail bench is best suited to small fry. Both back rows can be instantly converted to semi flat floor configuration good for 34 cubic feet of storage.

2017 Mazda CX-9 GT FWD

I found that dropping the third row bench flat, along with just one of the second row chairs, created enough room to stow an adult bike inside the CX-9. However, the upper cab taper of this SUV makes the handlebars a tight fit through the electrically activated tailgate. While rearranging the interior seats, I discovered a large flat storage bin thoughtfully hidden behind the third row seats. Under that bin lies a deep well housing a temporary spare tire (bonus points to Mazda) and the tools to deal with it. However, the spare wheel houses a huge Bose subwoofer which is bolted in place. You might want to rehearse the drill of removing the subwoofer before you need to do so on some dark and stormy night.

2017 Mazda CX-9 GT FWD

If the CX-9 has a shortcoming, it lies in the layout of the controls for the HVAC system, and to a lesser extent, the infotainment logic of the “Mazda Connect” interface. The HVAC controls (Mazda calls them “Automatic Climate Controls”) are inconveniently situated on a small panel located out of your line of sight, just above the center console. Commands for fan speed and air flow position are scattered along the bottom of this panel, with pictographs so minute that their operation diverts your attention from driving. Likewise, the system used to install “favorite” channels from SiriusXM is unnecessarily complicated. Each time you are prepared to install a favorite channel, the system presents you with a dialogue box inquiring whether you want to relocate the existing channel to another position. We finally gave up on this nonsense after about 10 minutes and stuck with just one channel (’50s on 5′) for our whole week with the CX-9.

2017 Mazda CX-9 GT FWD

This Mazda is well suited to towing moderate (3,500lbs.) trailer loads. Most importantly, it has the engine strength to get the job done, even over the Sierras. Mazda has provided standard trailer stability assist, plus an 8 inch full color dash top display for the view out the back. This will ease your anxiety when backing the CX-9′s optional hitch onto a tiny trailer ball. In fact, this spacious and comfortable Mazda is just about perfect for towing your ski boat, sail boat, formula race car or tiny camper. It provides all the comfort and convenience features you could possibly desire, and does so with an efficiency rating of 24MPG (overall) that rivals much smaller but less useful sedans.

2017 Mazda CX-9 GT FWD

  • Engine: 2.5 liter inline 4, turbocharged
  • Horsepower: 250hp
  • Torque: 310lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 22MPG City/28 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $41,810
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate AWD Review

Saturday April 22nd, 2017 at 9:44 AM
Posted by: Judy Colman

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate AWD

By Judy Colman

Hypes: Numerous standard features for the price, sophisticated interior design
Gripes: Small cargo area if you need all available seats

Jeff Foxworthy once noted “You might be a redneck if directions to your house include ‘turn off the paved road’”. That’s exactly what I was dealing with on my recent trip to visit family in Wyoming. Actually, the pavement ends a few miles before the driveway. I tested the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe, my ride for the week, in Wyoming’s winter snow, mud, cold, and wind.

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate AWD

Driving in eastern Wyoming is like dying and going to No-Traffic Heaven. Yes, I had the adaptive cruise control on, but there was virtually no traffic to test it adequately. Likewise with the blind spot warning system with rear traffic alert. However, I expected the lane departure warning to go off often when I saw the signs for ‘Tip Over risk. Expect wind gusts of 50-60 mph”. It didn’t happen. The wind howled but the Santa Fe stuck like glue in my chosen lane. Fortunately, I had no opportunity to test the emergency braking provided by the forward collision mitigation system.

Shod with Kumho P235/55 R19 tires, the Santa Fe handled admirably in the ice, snow and the slush that covered the town streets had to offer when I first arrived. When the snow melted and gave way to mud, the all wheel drive felt equally confident and secure.

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate AWD

The 3.3 liter, direct injection V6 engine, paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, performed better than expected. Due to the altitude in Colorado and Wyoming, I anticipated a little hesitation or sluggishness from the six cylinders but found none. Every one of the 290 horses (at 6400 rpm) and 252 lb-ft of torque (at 5200 pm) was ready and available. Fuel mileage has increased slightly over the prior model to 19 mpg combined city/highway. All Santa Fe models can be ordered with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. All wheel drive adds $1,750 to the price tag.

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate AWD

The six- or seven-passenger Santa Fe offers many creature comforts in its three row configuration. Leather seating, heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, and a multitude of seat adjustability options combine to make road trips more enjoyable. Even the second row passengers benefit from heated seats. In the San Francisco Bay Area a heated steering wheel is a nice feature. When you look at the exterior thermometer in Wyoming and see 18 degrees, heated everything is good. The panoramic sunroof allows enough light in to keep the third row dwellers from feeling claustrophobic.

With the second and third row seats folded, the cargo space measures about 80 cubic feet. That gives you plenty of room for the trip to the home improvement or feed store. Available space shrinks to 41 cubic feet with only the third row seats down. 13.5 cubic feet is all that is left with all three rows of seating up. And it’s best to relegate the kids or very small adults to the third row seats as room for people in that area is quite limited. You can send the kids back there with their devices and they’ll be happy campers as the third row seats come with a handy USB port.

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate AWD

Finding climate and audio controls on the dash as well as on the 8-inch touch screen
makes perfect sense. Trying to turn the fan speed up or the temperature down using only a touch screen is akin to distracted driving in my estimation. The gauges and controls are laid out in a straightforward manner and are easy to read and engage. Bluetooth connectivity, AM/FM/HD radio with SiriusXM radio, QuantumLogic surround sound, and Android Auto smart phone integration keep the tunes coming and the techies engaged.

Base price for this model is $41,150. The only optional package available is the Ultimate Tech package ($2,100) which adds Smart Cruise Control, Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, High Intensity Discharge headlights, Electronic Parking Brake with Auto Hold, and Dynamic Bending Light to the standard options.

Hyundai might not be your first thought for a six- or seven-passenger crossover vehicle, but you would do yourself a favor to consider the 2017 Santa Fe. With numerous options in this market segment, the Hyundai offers a competitive product packed full of standard features.

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate AWD

  • Engine: 3.3 liter Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) V6
  • Horsepower: 290 hp
  • Torque: 252 lb-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 17 city, 22 highway, 19 combined
  • Price as Tested: $44,295
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

Posted in Expert Reviews, Feature Articles, Hyundai |Tags:, , || No Comments »


2017 Kia Niro FE Review

Wednesday April 19th, 2017 at 10:44 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Kia Niro FE

By David Colman

Hypes: Wins Stylistic Hybrid Trophy
Gripes: FE Feels Cheap to Touch

With introduction of the new for 2017 Niro Hybrid, Kia is targeting an underserved market segment. Until now, if you wanted a sub compact Hybrid capable of delivering 50MPG, you were limited to choosing some form of sedan – like a Toyota Prius or Chevy Volt. Although the Prius model line has been expanding exponentially of late, there’s still no crossover/station wagon/SUV variant available. Yes – you can make a hatchback Prius Prime do the crossover job, but are you willing to live with its tin toy/outer space styling?

No such worries with the new Niro. Kia stylists, who have proven extremely competent in their upper market range endeavors (like the K900), bring that same panache to the layout and design of the Niro. This is a good looking crossover, with enough SUV touches to please the nascent off-roader, enough practicality to humor the station wagon crowd, and enough efficiency (50MPG overall!) to convince the potential Prius/Volt customer that there is now an attractive crossover choice.

2017 Kia Niro FE

The Niro’s green cachet has already been celebrated by a hilarious spot (starring Melissa McCarthy) which was shown during the last Super Bowl. You’re probably going, “Oh, so that’s what that ad was about.” Right. Kia is investing major effort in this car’s launch. And after a week behind the wheel, I would have to concur that the money has been well spent. Even though the output of the Niro’s combined electric/gas propulsion system is only 139hp, this Kia is light enough to bump past slower traffic with a little advance planning on the driver’s part. That’s because the Hybrid produces an unexpected wallop of torque (195lb.-ft.) that harmonizes perfectly with the 6-speed dual clutch transmission. Even in the base model FE we tested, Kia refused to cut corners by selecting a groaning CVT.

2017 Kia Niro FE

The 1.56 kWh lithium ion polymer battery pack stores under the rear seat, low in the chassis. This location lowers the Niro’s center of gravity, which in turn promotes better handling. It also allows the rear seats to be folded flat, though they do stand a bit tall due to the battery storage location. Nonetheless, i was able to slide my mountain bike into the available 26 cubic foot cargo hold by simply flipping the front wheel around to decrease bike length. And speaking of length, the Niro’s generous 106 inch wheelbase offers plenty of rear passenger legroom. This crossover is bigger inside than it looks outside.

2017 Kia Niro FE

It also comports itself with surprising agility on twisting two lane back roads. While you won’t be chasing down any BMW sedans, you won’t need to make excuses about the Niro’s canyon performance either. The FE, as the base model in the Niro line, comes with rather puny 16 inch alloy rims which are inexplicably shod with wheel covers. These rims mount Michelin Energy radials measuring just 205 in section width (205/60R16). Despite the choice of such MPG-oriented tires, the Niro FE hangs on with surprising grip when you press it hard through tight turns. Responsible for this neutral behavior is a refined chassis featuring fully independent design front and rear. This layout produces such minimal understeer that you’d be hard pressed to know that the Niro is a front-wheel-drive design.

2017 Kia Niro FE

Although our FE version stands as Kia’s price leader at just $22,890, you must be willing to overlook its bargain basement ambiance. The interior looks like it was molded from the same shiny black plastic used to make Glad Bags. The steering wheel, with its pebbled surface for extra grip, will never be confused with anything crafted in Germany. Likewise, the levers and paddles that control seat position and rake feel chintzy and insubstantial. On the other hand, the instrument pod contains a very nifty gauge pack consisting of an eco monitor on the left and a 140mph (in your dreams) speedometer on the right. This duo is bridged by a center information panel that is driver-configurable. While you won’t find heated seats or steering wheel in the FE, Kia surprises base model buyers with a number of unexpected amenities: dual zone automatic climate control, AM/FM/MP3 with 7 inch touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple Car Play Smartphone integration, and Remote Keyless Entry.

2017 Kia Niro FE

This little Kia has a lot going for it. It looks way better than a Prius or Volt, matches them both for energy husbandry, and allows you to carry four adults or lots of cargo in surprisingly spacious comfort. If I were shopping for a new Niro, i would opt for the Touring version. Although it costs about $4,000 more, its fit and finish convert the interior from tolerable to luxurious – plus you get real 18 inch ally rims and tires for even better handling.

2017 Kia Niro FE

2017 Kia Niro FE

  • Engine: 1.6 liter 1.6 liter GDI 4 cylinder plus electric motor
  • Horsepower: 139hp (Combined)
  • Torque: 195lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 52MPG City/49 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $23,785
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

Posted in Expert Reviews, Feature Articles, hybrid, Kia |Tags:, , , || No Comments »


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