2017 Mazda MX-5 RF Review

Tuesday August 15th, 2017 at 2:88 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

Hypes: Best Manual Stick Shift on the Market
Gripes: Impeded Sightlines

The new Mazda RF’s folding hardtop does Zero-to-Closed in just 13 seconds. The MX-5 itself takes somewhat less time than that to complete the Zero-to-60 MPH run in just 7 seconds. No matter what performance parameter you examine with this Mazda, the operative word is quick. It transitions through corners with a quickness that would make any Porsche envious. And it does so at a stellar bargain base price of $32,620. That’s less than the options alone cost on many new Porsches.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

The RF designation refers to the fact that this new model offers more than just a disappearing hardtop. RF stands for “Retractable Fastback” and the look of the car with the top up will leave no doubt about the “Fastback” part of the name. From the side windows forward, the RF looks virtually identical to the standard convertible version of the MX-5. However, on the RF, Mazda designers have appended a pair of flying buttresses to the sides of the cockpit which fare gracefully into the tops of the rear fenders.

This substantial modification lends an unexpectedly exciting visual twist to the Miata’s well known profile. In RF form, designers have exchanged cuteness for sleekness. From both side profile and rear view the RF looks substantially better than any previous Miata. In fact, first time viewers often fail to realize they are even looking at a revision of the world’s most popular roadster. I know that was my reaction when I saw an RF for the first time. To me, it recalls the caliber of design you once saw from Italian masters like Pininfarina, Bertone and Zagato. This Mazda looks so good it will transport you back to the classical Italian design period of the 1960s.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

The folding top not only improves the looks of the MX-5, it also adds a note of improved civility to your time in this car’s confined cockpit. With the top erect, the level of noise inside the cabin is less than you would experience in a top-up roadster. The RF allows you to enjoy all of the MX-5′s precision reflexes, pin point handling, and driving joy while affording you better protection from the elements. Even with the top down, those fastback wings and rear window remain in place, affording you an extra measure of wind-free quiet.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

But there is a one substantial price to pay for those protective buttresses. They inhibit side and rear sight lines. No longer do you enjoy the unmitigated 360 degree field of vision provided by the top-down MX-5 convertible. In fact, that immoveable structure next to your head prevents you from seeing what’s right next to you when you want to make a simple lane change.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

In terms of added security, the erect hardtop is infinitely preferable to the protection of a cloth roof. No one is going to break into the RF without a power tool. In terms of handling dynamics, the added weight of the roof and its motor raising apparatus have had no appreciable effect. RF exhibits exactly the same breed of lightning reflexes that have long made the convertible Miata the benchmark sports car for handling. Our test RF’s 17 inch smoked pewter alloys came with top drawer Bridgestone S001 radials (205/45R17) that never so much as chirped during hard cornering. This Mazda is without question one of the best handling cars available from any manufacturer today. Mazda like to use a Japanese phrase in reference to the MX-5 that translates into English as “The rider and the horse are one.” The fact that our test sample was finished in Soul Red Metallic paint added to this mystique, since Mazda has chosen that same shade for its #55 IMSA Prototype racer which recently scored a podium finish at the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

For those of you who have grown tired of the Miata’s long standing proportions and appearance, the RF offers a fresh take on this sports car icon. I acquainted myself with the exceptional subtleties of the new design by slowly washing my test MX-5. It provided a great opportunity to appreciate the subtle beauty of the car’s carefully integrated design. Mazda calls this design dynamic “Kodo” or the “Soul of Motion.” That explains why you will never see an unnecessary scoop, louver or crease appended to any Mazda. Consequently, the appearance of their vehicles always matches the purity of their design creed.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

  • Engine: Skyactive 2.0 liter inline 4, DOHC
  • Horsepower: 155hp
  • Torque: 148lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 26MPG City/33 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $33,885
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport Review

Wednesday August 2nd, 2017 at 11:88 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

Hypes: Gives Real Meaning to “Sport”
Gripes: Puny Horn, No Dead Pedal, Poor Rear 3/4 Vision

Sport has to be the most misused term in the automotive realm. Manufacturers of the most prosaic products have managed to append the descriptor “Sport” to vehicles eminently unworthy of the appellation. On top of that, almost every two ton SUV these days comes with a magic button on the dash labeled “Sport” to convince you that a push of said button will somehow transform an elephant into a gazelle. Just like there’s no free lunch, there’s no free “Sport.” If you want to label your product “Sport” you better be prepared to back up that claim with some hard design and engineering work.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

Honda’s newest Civic, is the product of just such hard work. It truly deserves the name Sport – a legitimate title earned through suspension excellence, engine performance, shifting precision, and overall driving feel. This is a front-wheel-drive, five door, family transport hatchback with the following features that define the concept “Sport” – 180hp engine, 6-speed manual transmission, multi-link independent rear suspension, 18″x8″ alloy rims with 235/40R18 Continental ContiProContact rubber, electric power assisted rack and pinion steering.

Honda has assembled these essential sporting ingredients into a rather spacey looking package that harks back to the company’s best Civics from the mid 1980s – the CRX and the Civic Si. Although updated in every way – especially from the safety standpoint -the 2017 Civic Sport responds to the driver with the same alacrity those early Civics did. I should know because I once owned a 1988 Civic Si.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

Recently, Honda has been unable to reproduce the lightness and responsiveness of those early Civics. This time, though, they have turned the trick in spades, and done so for a very modest buy-in price of $21,300. Unlike decidedly tinny Civics from decades back, the latest compact Honda scores an impressive 5 star rating in all 5 aspects of the Government Safety Rating analysis. Honda’s “ACE body structure” and the inclusion of dual stage front airbags, side airbags, and side curtain airbags with rollover sensor all contribute to the 5 Star rating.

But the Civic Sport scores heavily as well in accident avoidance thanks to excellent acceleration, superb braking, and responsive handling. That 1.5 liter gem of an engine lying under the “Earth Dreams” valve cover shroud makes 180hp and 177lb.-ft. of torque fed through a 6-speed manual gearbox. This manually operated shift mechanism is increasingly rare in today’s automotive spectrum. The light touch required to move from gate to gate is a joy to experience. Clutch pedal take-up, however, occurs rather high in the pedal’s arc of operation, so coordinating your shifts can sometimes be a challenge.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

The engine itself is gratifyingly responsive, providing you with a VTEC-like boost when the turbo motor climbs on the boost at 6000rpm and snaps straight to 6500rpm. Car & Driver (April, 21017)tested the Civic Sport and recorded a sterling 0-60mph run of 7.0 seconds, and a quarter mile time of 15.2 seconds @ 94mph. Incidentally, the Civic Sport won C&D’s comparison test handily versus the Mazda 3, VW Golf and Chevy Cruze.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

At one stoplight, we were accosted by a curious woman driving a Lincoln Navigator who inquired what kind of car we were driving. Seems she just loved its looks. The latest styling effort from Honda is rather polarizing. Either you love it like that lady in the Navigator, or you shake your head in dismay. But either way, once you hunkered down in the Sport’s deeply contoured buckets, grabbing its fat rimmed leather wheel, and snapping real upshifts and downshifts with one of the last available stick shifts, it doesn’t much matter what the new Civic looks like to others. Because inside that cabin, the Hatch Sport provides driving nirvana anyway you look at it.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

  • Engine: 1.5 liter DOHC 16 Valve, Direct Injection, Turbocharged
  • Horsepower: 180hp
  • Torque: 177lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 30 MPG City/39 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $22,135
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD Review

Tuesday August 1st, 2017 at 8:88 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

Hypes: Deftly Sculpted Shape, Refined Interior, Superb Handling
Gripes: Turbo Motor Would Be Nice

Unlike its flamboyant Japanese counterparts, Toyota and Honda, Mazda refrains from boisterous design in crafting their vehicles. They call their subdued style language “Kodo” which translates into “Soul of Motion.” Without getting too Zen about the concept, suffice it to say that Kodo style understatement infuses every aspect of the CX-5, from its sweeping and fluid side profile to its clean-lined dash and stark instrument binnacle. This integrity of design permeates the CX-5 crossover utility vehicle (CUV). The array of pleasing curves, lustrous finish and sublime comfort all go to define Kodo as the art of Speed Design.

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

Mazda has repeatedly shown the ability to build high quality, fun-to-drive vehicles at price points that defy logic. The CX-5 GT is no exception to that welcome tradition. With a base price of $29,395 and a delivered price of $32,785, the CX-5 provides substantial bang for the buck. Our test sample, finished in handsome, $300 optional Machine Gray Metallic – Mazda’s version of the Car in the Gray Flannel Suit – benefitted from a “1GT” Premium Package that added $1,830 to the base price. Included in this 1GT grouping are 2 position memory settings for the driver’s seat, 6-way adjustable front passenger seat, heated rear seats and steering wheel, active driving display, and wiper de-icer.

The Parchment leather trimmed interior seating surfaces, perforated to breathe, convey a richness beyond expectation in this price range. In fact, your initial positive assessment of quality never dissipates. The closer you look at the MX-5, the better constructed it appears to be. Consumer Reports (CR) corroborates this impression of sturdiness by conferring their coveted “Recommended” check mark on the CX-5. CR predicts this Mazda’s reliability will fare “Better Than Average.”

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

Since its founding as a cork maker in 1920, Mazda has always striven to ascend the next rung of the success ladder. Corks led to machine tool production, and finally to the design and fabrication of the company’s first motorized vehicle, the 3-wheel Mazda-Go in 1931. Since its inception, Mazda has been determined to make less do more than any other automotive concern. For example, they currently field a team of exceptionally fast prototype racers in the IMSA road racing championship that rely on small 4 cylinder power while the competition invariably resorts to large displacement V8 engines. At last year’s IMSA race – at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway no less – the company’s less is more prototype took pole position. That kind of put-up-or-shut-up performance inspires confidence in Mazda’s mantra that “Every Detail Matters. Because Driving Matters.”

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

While the CX-5 will never be an MX-5 Miata, there are enough uncanny similarities between the crossover and the company’s hallmark sports car to make you wonder just how they managed to infuse so much racy feel in a five-door, 3,435 pound station wagon on stilts. Start with steering feel. Most crossover manufacturers favor the kind of nebulous feedback that would have felt about right in a Buick Roadmaster from 1956. Mazda takes a different approach. The front wheels respond to the most incremental commands you issue through the electric power assisted steering. This precision control system defines your most basic interface with the CX-5.

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

The reason steering response is so positive reaches far beyond the unit’s ratio or the number of turns from lock-to-lock. Rather, precision steering control depends on the fully integrated, top shelf components with which Mazda chooses to equip the CX-5: independent front and rear suspension, front and rear stabilizer bars, 19 inch alloy rims with 225/35R19 Toyo A36 mud & snow radials. These are not inexpensive components. A lot of manufacturers feel that a crossover utility doesn’t need an independent rear suspension system or a front and rear stabilizer bar because of the extra cost. Mazda refuses to stint on such components because they know that only such an ensemble of the right stuff will satisfy customers who believe that driving does, indeed, matter.

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

  • Engine: Skyactive 2.5 liter inline 4
  • Horsepower: 187hp
  • Torque: 185lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 24 MPG City/31 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $32,785
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Mazda6 Review

Friday July 14th, 2017 at 10:77 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Mazda6

Hypes: Faster Than It Looks
Gripes: Heavy Hood Needs Hydraulic Struts

The adage that you can’t tell a book by its cover also applies to cars. One glance at the Mazda6 will not leave you breathless in anticipation of driving it. The 6 is neither beguiling particularly looking nor palpitation inducing. Rather, it is handsome in a refined way, with pleasing proportions, sleek aero refinements, and a noble stance enhanced by 19 inch alloy rims. But this Mazda, which remains unchanged this year (after an interior facelift in 2016) is a top candidate for best midsize sedan honors. Everything about the 6, from value, to build quality to performance is top notch. If you can live without the adrenalin spike of a heart throb exterior, than the 6 will fill the bill in every other way.

2017 Mazda6

On the value front, the base price here is just $30,695. That buy-in gets you all the basics, including a big displacement 4 cylinder engine producing 184hp and 185 lb.-ft. of torque administered through either a 6 speed manual or 6-speed automatic gearbox. While the Skyactive four banger’s output is not exactly earth shattering, you must factor in the 6′s comparatively light curb weight of 3,185 lbs to evaluate the car properly. Doing so reveals a lively power-to-weight ratio of 17.3 pounds/hp. When you flatten the go pedal here, the Mazda6 gathers speed with satisfying alacrity.

Our test car was equipped with the “Skyactive Drive 6-Speed Sport Mode” automatic, which utilizes a fat knobbed, floor mounted stick for control, plus a pair of paddles attached behind the rim of the steering wheel. You can manually control this transmission with either the floor stick positioned in the manual (left side) gate or simply bang your shifts via the twin paddles. In either case, the Mazda responds instantly to command inputs, making this sedan fun to operate with close supervision. The Sport Mode switch is found on the center console and when activated, transforms throttle response from average to instantaneous.

2017 Mazda6

It should come as no surprise that Mazda has honed the responsive suspension of the 6 to a sharp edge. The beauty of Mazda engineering’s “Driving Matters” motto is that this company favors handling over any other automotive attribute. This dictum is as evident in the Mazda6 as it is in the company’s iconic sports car, the MX-5 Miata. The underpinning goodies start with standard front and rear stabilizer bars for a flat platform in the turns. Suspension geometry is close to ideal thanks to independent design architecture front and rear. Mazda finishes off the package with standard 19 inch alloy rims, unexpected on a sedan in this price range. Those rims carry Dunlop SP Sport 5000 radials (225/45R19) well suited to carrying speed through apexes on twisty back roads. As a sports sedan, the unheralded Mazda6 is the real deal.

2017 Mazda6

But if you opt for the $2,500 GT Premium Package (Code ZPP), you can move the 6 into the near luxury class as well. In particular, the Nappa leather-trimmed upholstery upgrade converts the seats from utilitarian to plush. Our Machine Grey Metallic 6 ($300 extra color) looked particularly handsome with its Premium Package “Parchment Nappa Leather” seats. Both front and rear get the full treatment, with perforated seating and back support surfaces, set off by prominent side bolsters seamed in a contrasting shade of putty. The Premium Package also includes “Bright Finish Interior Trim” which is tastefully done alloy sheathing on the steering wheel spokes, door pulls, window button bezels, air vent surrounds and instrument rims. Also included in the optional package are a dark, soft texture headliner, plus a heater for the steering wheel and rear seats. Heated front seats are already standard.

2017 Mazda6

Mazda thoughtfully provides a 125/70/17 Kenda spare time inflated to 60psi along with the basic tools you’ll need to perform an emergency roadside flat tire change. The enormous rear trunk (15 cubic feet) is covered with a useful, optional $75 cargo mat that is ribbed for package retention and waterproof as well. In the trunk you will also discover a pair of pull releases that allow you to flatten the rear 40/60 split seats for an even larger storage platform. In sum, the latest Mazda6 is not only entertaining to drive, but eminently practical and economical at 30 MPG in overall use.

2017 Mazda6

  • Engine: 2.5 liter DOHC inline 4
  • Horsepower: 184hp
  • Torque: 185lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 27 MPG City/35 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $34,530
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Review

Wednesday July 12th, 2017 at 2:77 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

Hypes: Double Hydraulic Hood Struts, Sweet Manual Gearbox, Sweeter Turbo Motor
Gripes: Poor 3/4 Rear Vision

Hyundai originally introduced the 3-door Veloster sports coupe with a rather anemic 132hp four cylinder engine that peaked at just 120 lb.-ft. of torque. Even with that handicap, the original version was a lot of fun to drive because of the car’s sporty design and ingenious packaging. Its pin point steering accuracy, racy seating position, and responsive manual transmission all coalesced into a spry and energetic combination that cried out for more horsepower. Unlike Toyota/Subaru – who have refused to turbocharge their sluggish 86/BRZ – Hyundai responded to the Veloster’s crying need by introducing a twin scroll Turbo version. This stunningly quick 201 hp upgrade of the base motor is also good for 195 lb.-ft. of torque. Coupled to a slick shifting 6-speed manual gearbox, the Turbo transforms the Veloster into a genuine sports car. Its excellent acceleration and handling will match cars costing twice as much.

2017 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

Hyundai’s racy intentions are evident the second you lay eyes on its curvaceous lines. At the front, company stylists have borrowed heavily from Audi design language with an elliptical six sided grill opening that makes the Veloster look predatory. Muscular bulging flares front and rear endow the lightweight (2,765 lb.) coupe with a muscular stance that will instantly attract fans of the Fast and Furious. Under those flares lie diamond faced multi spoke alloy rims that offer intriguing design complexity. Each wheel plants a mildly sticky low profile Kumho Solus radial tire (225/40R18) on the pavement. With its low slung stance, stiff springs, and excellent torque vectoring control system, the Veloster is capable of exceeding the grip of its Kumho tires, which issue audible chirps as they reach their adhesion limit.

2017 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

Inside the cockpit, you’ll think you’ve been transported to the flight deck of a fighter jet. Our Veloster sported a stunning exterior shade called Vitamin C, an opalescent orange that is carried right through to the interior. When climbing aboard, the first item you notice are oversized, door mounted grab handles, painted to match the exterior finish. But instead of using gloss paint like the exterior, these handles are done in a grippy matte paint that makes them easy to grasp. This little touch reflects Hyundai’s exacting attention to detail.

2017 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

Once seated, you appreciate that the deeply bucketed front sport seats feature side panels upholstered in Vitamin C to match the exterior. Finally, you notice the prominent “Turbo” notation embroidered in black on the driver’s outer orange seat bolster. The net effect here is entrancing, like a show car that somehow escaped its rotating display pavilion and actually ended up for sale. And how much outlay is required for this show winning display piece? If the Veloster had a German nameplate attached, it would easily retail for $40-60,000. Because it’s made in Ulsan, Korea, however, the base price of the Veloster Turbo is $22,600. Our test car, with its optional $2,700 Tech Package (Panoramic Sunroof, Navigation System with 7″ Touchscreen) checked out at $26,260. Call it the deal of the 21st century.

2017 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

But there’s more on offer here than visual cortex stimulation. More than the excitement of charging through the gears and peaking the turbo at 6800 rpm with each upshift. Because the Turbo Veloster is in many ways a remarkably practical package. Start with that ever-so-useful third door, which is so inconspicuously incorporated on the passenger side that you wouldn’t know it existed by looking at the flush exterior surface. But it makes packing the kids in back ever so easy. You can even shepherd a couple of adults through this portal for short hops. And when you do some shopping, tossing the goods into the backseat is thankfully simplified by the expedient of this third door. Then too there’s the fuel saving penchant of the Veloster’s efficient Turbo motor, which returns 25 MPG around town and 33 MPG on the highway, and 28 MPG overall. The base model, non-turbo Veloster only exceeds those numbers by 2 MPG. That’s hardly a savings worthy of foregoing the thrust of this affordable and enjoyable Veloster Turbo.

2017 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

  • Engine: 1.6 liter inline 4, twin scroll turbo , direct injection
  • Horsepower: 201hp
  • Torque: 195lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 25 MPG City/33 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $26,260
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Kia Soul Review

Friday June 30th, 2017 at 8:66 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Kia Soul

By David Colman

Hypes: Idiosyncratic Appearance, Premium Drivetrain
Gripes: Slight Turbo Lag

Kia’s distinctive looking Soul is currently the only survivor from the flying brick school of automotive design. The popular Scion XB, which had developed a cult-like following, disappeared when Toyota folded Scion’s tent several years ago. Nissan’s even more idiosyncratic looking Cube has also disappeared from that maker’s current model range. So, if you’re into the fun and practicality of a petite delivery van, you’ve got but one choice left. Fortunately, that choice – the Kia Soul – is a very good one. Just ask any dancing hamster.

2017 Kia Soul

The Soul we drove is base priced at $22,650. For that modest outlay, Kia provides this 3,065lb. minivan with a satisfying new-for-2017 drivetrain combination: 1.6 liter inline 4, turbocharged and direct injected to produce 178 hp and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. The new motor feeds its power fed through a new 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. That’s a whooping lot of sophisticated technology for a vehicle in this bargain price range. Kia could have easily eliminated the turbo or the direct injection for cost savings benefits. Instead of that dual clutch gearbox, they could have supplied the Soul with a droning, boring CVT automatic that has unfortunately become the industry standard. But instead, they crafted an unimpeachable driveline combo that makes the Soul ever so lively and responsive. They even fitted the hood with a pair of hydraulic opener struts, a nicety virtually unheard of in an economy priced vehicle.

2017 Kia Soul

About the only item missing from the driving control standpoint is fitment of paddle shifters at the steering wheel. But they’re hardly missed because you can easily slap the floor mounted stick into its manual override gate to shift up and down as needed. The steering wheel itself is such a work of art it looks like it belongs in a BMW M Series sports sedan. This eminently gripping piece features Bluetooth, Audio and Cruise controls embedded in its spokes. With a race-style flat bottom, and thumb cutouts at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions, it’s always fun to grip the thick black leather rim which is decorated with red stitching. The entire black interior is similarly enlivened with contrasting red stitching which matches the Soul’s exterior shade of “Inferno Red.”

So how did an affordable $22,000 Soul become a $27,620 Soul!? By inclusion of a $3,000 Technology Package that elevates your driving experience markedly. For that outlay, Kia supplies you with a navigation System (8” Display), Harman Kardon premium audio, projector low beam headlights, and LED fog, tail and vertical rear “Positioning” lights. Also included are power folding exterior mirrors that look like they’re curling up for a nap when you hit the lock button on the provided key fob remote. The Tech Package also heats two front and two rear seats plus the rim of the steering wheel. Other additions include power lumbar support for the driver, and Blind Spot Detection – which is especially useful given the roof’s sizeable C pillars.

2017 Kia Soul

Our test Soul also included a supersize “Panoramic” sunroof that peeled the top back like the key roller on a sardine can. This $1,000 addition is well worth its price because it transforms the cabin into a virtual convertible. Helping further the open-air illusion are tall side windows that fold all the way down into the doors for an unimpeded fresh air motoring experience. The Soul is rather stiffly sprung, so pavement imperfections tend to find their way into the cabin. While you won’t be winning any autocrosses with this boxy conveyance, it still acquits itself respectably when the road turns twisty. In part that’s due to generously sized (235/45R18), mud and snow rated Nexen CP671 tires mounted on distinctive 10-spoke, 18” alloy rims.

2017 Kia Soul

Thanks to its generous cargo capacity of 24.5 cubic feet (with rear seats folded), the Soul doubles as a utilitarian cross between a minivan, an SUV and a sedan. Soul transforms itself into each of these guises with such compelling ease that it merits a “Recommended” check mark from the tough testers at Consumer Reports. When you pack it with five riders and a trunk full of goods, you too will marvel at this little dynamo’s unflagging ability to carry out any travel mission with grace, pace and space. Long live Soul! – the sole extant example of the flying brick.

2017 Kia Soul

2017 Kia Soul

  • Engine: 1.6 liter inline 4, turbocharged, direct injection
  • Horsepower: 178hp
  • Torque: 195lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 26 MPG
  • Price as Tested: $27,620
  • Star Rating: 9.5 out of 10 Stars

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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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