By on April 5, 2018

Earlier this week, I found myself behind the wheel of a Hyundai Kona SE, doing some test driving on behalf of a dear friend of mine who recently acquired her license and had yet to acquire the accompanying insurance.

“This car feels like despair,” I said to her as we rumbled harshly over some bumps in the urban streets of Miami. Everywhere I looked, I found reasons to be depressed. The steering wheel was of the most severe and slippery plastic material. When I pressed the accelerator, there was a ghastly noise accompanied by a complete lack of actual forward motion. The stereo was of such poor quality that I just turned it off. “No me gusta.”

The salesperson in the backseat was not pleased with my reaction to the car. “Well, you know, this is the base model. I could show you an Ultimate model if you want some more features. It has the better motor, a nicer steering wheel, more speakers. Of course, we only have one of those in stock.”

And therein lies the problem with most modern car reviews, including ones that I’ve personally written. The cars the OEMs have the automotive press reviewing are not the cars the dealers are stocking, and they definitely are not the cars people are buying.

I’m not just talking minor trim level variances, either. In the case of the Kona, which our own Managing Editor generally found satisfactory in his time on the Big Island, the difference between the trim level that dealers actually stock and sell versus the only trim that Hyundai made readily available for the event is so large that it’s hard to even call them the same car.

The Ultimate comes with larger wheels, an 8-speaker premium stereo, heads-up display, BlueLink connected services, leather seating surfaces and trim, all of which is to be expected in a higher trim levels versus base models. But there are a couple of significant differences that aren’t just about creature comforts.

The Kona SE features a six-speed automatic transmission. The Kona Ultimate has an “EcoShift 7-speed dual clutch transmission.” The SE has a four-cylinder, naturally aspirated 2.0-liter motor that generates 147 horsepower. The Ultimate? A 1.6-liter turbo capable of 175 horsepower, which represents about a 20 percent bump over the SE. The combination of a different powerplant, different transmission, and different interior represents, for all intents and purposes, a different vehicle. 

But don’t let that stop the reviewers from telling you that the Kona is quite the bargain at the low, low price of $20,450.

SlashGear’s Vincent Nguyen says:

The all-new 2018 Hyundai Kona is the new kid on the block with plenty to offer first-time new car buyers on a budget. Mind you, don’t let my use of the word budget and a starting price of $20,450 imply a lack of style, creature comforts, safety, or even that it’s cheaply built. Those opting to fully spec out the Kona – as was the case for our test car, fittingly, on the Island of Kona, Hawaii – will be nothing short of delighted, just as long as their expectations are in check.

How do “fully spec out” and “starting price of $20,450” have anything to do with each other? Of course, they don’t. According to some writers at the event, including Mr. Nguyen, Hyundai only made the SEL trim available to writers “on request,” and our own Tim Healey says he doesn’t recall any such offer being made to him when he attended his wave. Hyundai only wants writers to talk about the additional content available at outrageous prices, not the dreary base accoutrements of the price-competitive SE and SEL trims.

Even MSN Autos says, “The SEL is likely to be the most popular version of the Kona.” Cars.com current available new Kona inventory, as of this post, supports this hypothesis. Of the 3848 Konas listed for sale on the site, only 267 are Ultimate trim, while 1940 are SEL and 576 are SE. So if only 6 percent of the inventory you plan to send to dealers is Ultimate, then why only have the Ultimate trim available on test drives?

Because if they didn’t, then what would the “journalists” have to write about? The depressing interiors? The terrible sound systems? The cloth seats? Better to give them all the goodies and “content” to write about.

This isn’t a Hyundai-specific issue, either. I thought back to all of the press trips I’ve been on and all of the loaners I’ve been given in my life. Only once did an automaker go out of their way to offer me time with a less than top of the line model — Volkswagen gave me the “S” model of its Golf Alltrack, which I actually found to be a outstanding value in comparison to the brand’s higher-priced models. Every other press car I’ve ever tested was the “Premium” or “Ultimate” or “Platinum” trim. As such, you’ll often see a vast difference between the “starting at” price and the “as tested” price when reading reviews online or in the buff books.

This, of course, is not the real world. Higher trim levels often represent not only the most features available on a given car, but also some of the worst resale values. The open market rarely rewards the used car seller for having paid top dollar for bells and whistles — my Focus RS with its RS2 trim level (nav, heated seats, heated steering wheel), forged wheels, and sunroof doesn’t have proportionally more value at the auction than an RS1 with none of the above.

A dear friend took a little jab at me last month on a certain parody site, essentially saying that I’m not a real autowriter because, instead of taking all of the press trip invites I get offered to go on, I review a lot of rental cars I have access to during the course of my day gig. Well, so be it. I’d rather drive and review the mid-level trims that actually end up in driveways and report back to you on those than be blinded by the 6-percent trim level that exists nowhere except press events.

Come on, automakers. Let writers review the cars people actually buy, and then maybe consumers won’t be so disappointed when they find out that what they can afford doesn’t match the car they read about.

[Images: Hyundai]

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143 Comments on “Bark’s Bites: New Car Reviews Are Only for the Six Percent...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Ding ding.

    My “favorite” is when an automaker sells a stripped down no frills version of something that is the complete antithesis of their supposed mission.

    Cloth seat no heated anything Chrysler 300. Why? Point that person in the direction of a Charger.

    Cloth seat no heated anything 4 speaker stereo Buick. Why? Remember when you had a slogan that said “The Class of World Class.”?

    Kia/Hyundai – if you want people to completely forget those crappy little $hit-boxes you built in the 80s-90s then stop building crappy little $hit-boxes.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      Dan,
      Some of us, OK maybe only me, prefer good cloth seats to the “pleather” being passed off as leather these days. As for heated seats, they make me sweat after a few minutes. No thanks. Trouble is that to get a few features beyond base that I want requires me to pay for a bunch of options that I don’t want. This was a large part of the reason I choose my last car.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        OK – then buy a Chevy or a Dodge.

        My point is more about brands trying to compete in areas or price points that they shouldn’t be worrying about. I understand why I can get a fairly stripped down Impala, but why is there a stripped Lacrosse? Why do I have to go up TWO trim levels from base to get heated seats in a Buick?

        • 0 avatar
          stingray65

          Its all bait and switch. Lacrosse from $29,999 sounds more enticing than Lacrosse for $36,999 (well equipped), even though it is the expensive one that is in keeping with brand image and closer to what most will end up buying/leasing because the leather, heated seats, and nice sound system only add another $83 per month.

      • 0 avatar
        Drew8MR

        This right here. Without fail what I want is the biggest motor,3 pedals, the good suspension and brakes, steel wheels. Well, and radio/nav/any kind of video screen delete. After that.. I just don’t care.

    • 0 avatar
      FerrariLaFerrariFace

      Chrysler wanted to make sure they had a product available for wannabe rappers of all talent/income levels.
      Not every Jay-Z can afford a Beyonc-A. Some have to settle for a Beyonc-B or even a Beyonc-C.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      EVERY automaker builds to a certain price-point for buyers of its BASE models/trims.

      Motor Trend recently picked the Accord Touring 2.0T over the Audi A4 “Ultra Premium” (an ironic name for the trim) for being the better family luxury sedan – for numerous reasons, including decontenting of the interior such as the use of faux leather (seats are made of leather, but as MT pointed out, it’s the coarser stuff and on the thin side) at touch points and the copious amounts of hard plastic.

  • avatar
    NoID

    Introducing the all new, first ever Hyundai CX-3.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’d like to add some new holes via nailgun to the liar who came up with “first ever” in the recent corporate propaganda messages.

      Coming soon, the first ever boot up your rear end.

      • 0 avatar
        DweezilSFV

        “First ever Pontiac G6”.

        Been around awhile and it wasn’t good the first time.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          I always thought of it as:

          “First ever G6, last ever Pontiac.”

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            G8 came out after it for MY08, but I think the dubious honor of the last new Pontiac model goes to the G3.

            That’s right, the Kiss of Daewoo.

            “The Pontiac G3 rebadged variant was offered for model year 2009 year in the US and sold 6,223 units.[citation needed]”

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Aveo_(T200)

      • 0 avatar
        MLS

        Worse than “first ever,” a Subaru television ad a few years back boasted that the brand was “still the first” to offer standard AWD across its lineup. Well, unless someone figures out time travel, Subaru, you will always be the first.

        • 0 avatar
          bullnuke

          Yep, we know that Jensen was first using the Ferguson Formula all-wheel-drive system in ’66…nope, not on the full line of Jensen’s. Maybe Dodge on Military trucks even years earlier..nope, autos not included. How about Jeep? Okay, that “full line” brand did in the ’40s – present …oops, not Jeep either. There were two-wheel drives offered also in various trucks and wagons during the period. @MLS – who do believe was ““still the first” to offer standard AWD across its lineup.”?

          • 0 avatar
            MLS

            I didn’t even care whether Subaru’s claim to being first was true or not. I really just bristled at the idiotic “still the first” language.

  • avatar
    arach

    I find the alternative true too often.

    Can you find a base BMW or Cadillac? My goodness. “I don’t want any options”, “Sorry all we have is the one thats $120,000 more than the base”.

    When I bought my camaro, we had SO MUCH TROUBLE finding a base LS, that I called places and told them “call me the minute one shows up on the lot”. They all stocked the high features.

    I guess thats probably different with Kia, Hyundai, and similar, but I wish this was the case more often! I don’t need the $20,000 headlight package on my Porsche…

    • 0 avatar
      Turbo Is Black Magic

      At least in New Jersey it seems like all BMW stocks is base models. Probably 90% of their stock is 320 lease specials for the lemmings that want the badge.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        The base 320 actually ain’t bad at all, as BMWs go these days. It has a no-frills, no BS feel to it.

        If you pick one off CPO, off lease, it goes for the same money as a compact car. A car guy could do a lot worse.

        • 0 avatar
          jkross22

          Mike, Go drive a 320i, then immediately go drive an Accord.

          I think your advice would change. The 320i that I had for a day wasn’t a BMW – it was a badge, a noisy, unfast motor, some crappy fake leather and the smell of a new car. All for the mid upper 30’sk.

          Bleh. For much less, the Accord is an honest 25-26k car.

          BMW is peddling crap under 50k.

          • 0 avatar
            tnk479

            I picked up an Accord Sport 2.0T for $26,991 + delivery + sales tax. It’s not perfect but it’s a solid car for the money.

            My gripes so far: panel gaps aren’t too impressive, the passenger seat should be powered, and it flashes a large orange warning message at me in the course of regular driving. I have news for Honda: that’s just how we drive up here in Northern VA/DC/MD.

            What I like: the dampening in sport mode is perfect. It corners flat. The sound isn’t as good as an A4 or 330i but in sport mode it’s okay. It’s as quick as my 2015 328i and handles better. It’s hard to imagine how the 330i is worth 45-50k given that the Honda is 85% of that car for half the price.

      • 0 avatar
        The Ghost of Buckshot Jones

        The majority of BMW’s sales/leases are BTO, just like all luxury brands. You go in, spec what you want with the salesman, and order it, picking it up 6 weeks later. The clientele that wants the car now now now isn’t sitting down and dropping $12k on options, so what little they keep on the lot is going to be base trim stuff.

  • avatar
    tallguy130

    This is dead on and why I love the rental reviews. Can I suggest a new segment called “Base model beaters” where craptastic base models are lampooned for having no relation to their top trim sisters?

    First nomination: the new Camery. The top trim is darn near Lexus level of nice and the bottom is like an Afghan taxi cab.

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    Yep.

    Reviews always go something like this:

    The car’s base MSRP is $X, but the car we tested is $2X and has every available option known to mankind. And we loved the car!! And you know, for $X this a great deal.

  • avatar
    arach

    I also wonder if they intentionally make the base ones crappy to MAKE you spend $35k.

    I have a hyundai sonata. Its the fully loaded ultimate sport 2.0t. I LOVE the engine, interior is wonderful, steering wheel is wonderful, stereo is wonderful, nav is wonderful… Never been so happy with a car and I’ve owned exotics, Cadillac, BMW, Porsche, etc.

    (Of course I like other cars for more reasons, like performance, but for it being “what I wanted it to be, this car is perfect)

    But the only reason I’d buy a $37,000 hyundai sonata over a $20,000 hyundai sonata is the base stereo is AWFUL, the cloth seats SUCK, the base stereo sounds about as good as my cell phone on speaker.

    If the base car were better, then I would have spent way less on my car…

    which therefore, isn’t the the point? to get you to spend more? Therefore aren’t they incentivized to make the base versions EXTRA crappy to get you into the more profitable ones? Many dealers make literally less than $200 on base model vehicle sales.

    And lastly, isn’t that why we have things like TTAC to point out the “Ace of Base”? thats why I like “Ace of Base”, although I fear sometimes its checking off the spec sheet and not actually getting in one…

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Yes.

      GM used to be the king of this. They would even go as far as making anything less than mid/full size a POS just to make you buy a “real” car.

      Why was the first generation Colorado/Canyon such a tin can janky-hooptie even brand new? To make you buy a REAL TRUCK LOOSER!

      Chevette? What’s a matter? Can’t afford a real car like a Malibu?

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        At least that Canyorado eventually offered a V8…

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          But again, only in the tip top crew cab trim to further validate his point.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            My father-in-law owned a standard cab 4 cyl 2008 Colorado for commuting. I honestly thought I should be able to wad it up like a beer can, that’s how substantial it felt riding around in it.

            It was wrecked and he replaced it with a SLE (almost lowest trim) current generation Terrain. The quality difference is night and day. It doesn’t feel like he’s being punished for not buying a Yukon.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            You actually could get the V8 in a mid-level extended cab.

            tinyurl.com/y76efyg8

            However, even with the acceptable engine, Dan is correct that they were not well-built vehicles.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @ajla

            Didn’t know that, looks like maybe for the last two MYs it was an option. Previously it was CC LTZ. I also love 19,9 for an eight year old truck built on a crappy platform. Whomever puts out an actual midsize truck such as this with decent fit/finish and a great drivetrain will be bazillionaires. Mahindra, Geely et al, put up.

      • 0 avatar
        stuntmonkey

        > They would even go as far as making anything less than mid/full size a POS just to make you buy a “real” car.

        Amazingly, I’ve also had the reverse. When we were looking for my first new car in the 90’s, I had a look at the Neon. The salesperson kept on trying to down sell me in to the Colt. I never went back to that dealership ever again, and ended up with a Civic like everyone else did.

      • 0 avatar

        Somehow soundproofing was only possible for the expensive car. A small car does not have to be noisy. I’m still amazed how quiet my TDi was, and how loud by comparison my Base Jetta is….and they are pretty much the same car this way and the diesel was a lot harder to shut up.

        Listen to the base radio in any Acura product…your ears will bleed and not in a good way. Bass is “thump”. There is one “thump” and I refuse to believe it was negligence. Tech system is tolerable but not painful and you pay extra.

        • 0 avatar
          jack4x

          @speedlaw,

          I used to work at a place that made soundproofing materials for cars. The cost difference between “base” materials and “premium” materials was on the order of a few dollars at most. Saving the quieter stuff for the more expensive trims is a pure money grab.

        • 0 avatar
          bullnuke

          I once did audio system replacements on two different models of the same vehicle of the same year. The differences I saw that made a pretty remarkable reduction in sound level on the more upscale vehicle were strategically placed small 3″x4″ strips/pieces of aluminum-backed 3/8″ thick adhesive foam, maybe eight or nine total, in areas behind the dash around the head unit. Probably the same stuff was used throughout the vehicle in “strategic places”. Total foam used in the vehicle probably amounted to a half of a 4’x4′ sheet of the stuff stuck in various nooks and crannies. Price difference between models was around $4k to $5k depending on options.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Most manufacturers are pretty good at making the base model pretty terrible so they can advertise a price leader. Bonus if it’s actually unattractive enough that people can’t stand to look at the unpainted bumpers and hubcaps thus forcing them to spend the $3,000 jump into a non-fugly appearance package.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @danio3834 – I agree and I every time I’ve wanted a base model truck the salesman goes into the, “for an extra 50 bucks a month you can get” sales pitch. Even the “build your own” pages on the company websites tend to play that game.

    • 0 avatar
      ACCvsBig10

      weird i found the dimension audio system in base sonata way better than my old ltz malibu

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    That’s true. I was looking at the 2017 CR-V when it first came out. I couldn’t find one review that wasn’t of a loaded Touring AWD, when what I was looking at was an EX or EX-L. Granted, all but the base-model cars have the 1.5-liter turbo, so the drive wouldn’t have been that different, but base-model cars would have been a whole different experience.

    • 0 avatar
      pmirp1

      It depends why you are trying to buy a Honda in the first place.

      I guarantee vast majority of CRV buyers are buying it for its reliability. Not for creature comforts.

      If reliability is the measuring stick (which is the case for Honda and Toyotas), base trim and high end are only different in non-essentials. The inherent goodness of the cars don’t change with trims.

      But you bought an MKS and a VW, so I don’t think you get the Honda/Toyota customer mentality.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Well, the jury is still out on the 1.5T and 2.0T engines, reliability wise. They’re new, and they’re Honda’s first truly mass-market turbocharged units. They did have a 2.3-liter turbo in the first-gen RDX, but that was a niche car.

        That said, what appeals to me on the new Hondas is what I consider to be nice styling, plenty of bang-for-your-buck, and excellent space utilization. Toyota’s styling is a little more hit-or-miss for me, but I do especially like the ’19 RAV4, ’19 Corolla Hatch, and ’19 Avalon, in addition to the 4Runner and Tacoma.

        You’d be surprised. I like different cars for different reasons. My taste is all over the map, but I do tend to gravitate toward nicely-equipped examples of whatever I’m looking at. But, with stuff like leather/leatherette and the nicer infotainment system on a lot of mid-grade models, I’m reluctant to step up to the top trim, just for LED headlights, hands-free liftgates, and extra chrome.

        • 0 avatar
          pmirp1

          The reliability of Hondas comes from a history of making reliable vehicles. They have their misses (like some of their automatics in Acuras and Accords). But their history is one of brilliant engineering and reliability.

          That history is what people go by. Honda was not out with their new turbo until sometime after others were pushing them. So far, there are zero reports of problems with their turbos.

          Bottom line those characters are what make it such that people buy Hondas and they are all the same, regardless of trim.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Consumer Reports most recent auto posting put Honda brand reliability equal to Hyundai and Acura’s reliability equal to *Jeep*.

            consumerreports.org/car-reliability-owner-satisfaction/car-brands-reliability-how-they-stack-up/

            Toyota is still at the top of the heap, but the Big H isn’t so big anymore.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            … and people still want to believe in CR’s “impartial reporting”?

          • 0 avatar
            jalop1991

            “The reliability of Hondas comes from a history of making reliable vehicles. They have their misses (like some of their automatics in Acuras and Accords). But their history is one of brilliant engineering and reliability.

            That history is what people go by.”

            And that’s EXACTLY why you should avoid Honda. Their history–their recent history, meaning 20 years–is absolute junk.

            Honda knows how to make lightweight naturally aspirated 4 cylinder cars with manual transmissions. The farther they go beyond that, the worse off they–and their products–are.

            Witness the 1998 V6 Accord/1999 Odyssey and the “all-new” 4 speed transmission. In an effort to save licensing costs. they went their own, untested route–and those things were made of glass.

            In 2002 they introduced the “all new” 5 speed trans hooked to their V6 vehicles, and those were no better. Pure glass. Heavy weight plus more power? They didn’t know what to do.

            They still don’t know what to do. In an effort to try to get another mile per gallon out of their V6 vehicles, they introduced their Variable Cylinder Management. All that did was, quite literally, destroy the engines. It continues to this day.

            No, Honda’s halcyon days of the 80s and early 90s–when they built their reputation on reliability–are long, LONG gone. You couldn’t pay me or even put a gun to my head enough to make me beta test one of their new turbo 4/CVT cars.

            And you’re a fool if you think otherwise.

            Honda was scared to death of Hyundai and Kia; they have become what they thought Hyundai and Kia were back in the day.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            Honda’s reliability has been slipping (even more so for Acura) as Honda/Acura has been having issues with its newer powertrain components (particularly transmissions) and other new tech.

            It’s not CR, but JD Power.

            Honda is 12th (just above the industry average; Kia is 5th) and Acura is 20th and below average (in btwn VW and Jag).

            Same applies to overseas reliability rankings.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          ….and, the “top” trim, as often as not, comes equipped almost entirely devoid of any tire sidewall at all..

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Reliability isn’t a feature, it’s a virtue. Many people choose a brand with reliability virtues if that’s improtant to them. Then, they shop for the content within that brand that pleases them with the peace of mind that it will be a good car, and one with the features they desire.

        The majority of customers want a reliable car at a good price which draws them to the dealer. They might look at a price leader base model, but then get “walked” to a uplevel model where they find looks and features that they “must have” and get bumped to a higher price and payment vehicle. This is how the entire retail auto industry works for the most part.

        • 0 avatar
          pmirp1

          danio3834, you miss the point. A review of a high end CRV, tells you what you know about the real important components of any CRV.

          Whether that is EX, EX leather, LX, DX, Touring. They all have the 1.5 Turbo. They all have the same transmission. That review of EX is meaningful even for a person wanting to only buy LX.

          Reliability in that review is consistent across the line. That makes the review meaningful, regardless of trim

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            “A review of a high end CRV, tells you what you know about the real important components of any CRV.”

            That is assuming there isn’t a big difference in drivetrain and suspension tuning between a low end or high end model.
            As an example:
            Pickup truck tests tend to pizz me off because all one sees are the largest capacity engines which are usually paired with the high end trims. I don’t want to read a test with Chevy’s 6.2 because that engine is hard to find. Just like I don’t want to read a test where very truck is on 20 or 22 inch wheels.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        LOL

        “Its okay that the base Camry is terrible, it won’t break down 5 times a week like every other car.”

        Right, and you can eat anything you want and not get fat, so long as it’s with a Diet Coke.

      • 0 avatar
        xtoyota

        Unfortunately not that great CRV …… problems with gas in oil

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          @xt: I had a far worse problem than gas in oil; it was oil in water– about one quart per ten miles. But then, that was a Chevy, not a Kia or a Toyota.

          • 0 avatar
            pmirp1

            While Toyota became number 1 car company in America, GM declared bankruptcy. Ford was there too, only saved by luck because of getting loans before great recession. People don’t buy their cars because they make mostly junk. Ford trucks and F150 and GM big SUVs are good.

            Otherwise they, Germans, Koreans, make junk.

            Toyota and Honda in every trim are good. Buy them if you can only afford one car.

            The rest is cheap talk while the world made king Toyota king of the world

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            While in general, pmirp, you are not wrong, in detail I have to disagree.

            • Ford: Popular brand in many ways but their durability is lacking. Most Ford owners I know start having quality issues within their first year of ownership. Never quite enough to force an early trade but typically enough that they trade out sooner than most other brands. This, by the way, seems to include their trucks, too.
            • GM: Durability seems better but when problems do occur they tend to be more major.
            • FCA: Somewhat in-between Ford and GM. Problems, when you have them, tend to be small–at least in my experience. They’re not as ubiquitous as Ford’s and are easily repairable but they’re not as severe as GM’s.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            @pmirp1

            Seems to me that it is Honda/Acura “sucking” right now in the reliability dept.

            Consumer Reports:
            Kia #3
            Honda #9
            Acura #19 (well below avg.)

            JD Power:
            Kia #5
            Honda #12 (just above avg.)
            Acura #20 (well below avg.)

            JD Power UK:
            Kia #1
            Honda #17 (below avg.)

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    This POS is 28,3 + dest + ttl? Are you sh!tting me?

    I get the point of Mark’s switch car argument (and I agree) but I’m truly in sticker shock at this thing being able to be put out for 30 large. So, can’t do anything [check], is about the size of Civrolla [check], has Hyundai/KIA resale issues [check], no front bumper [check], but on the plus has AWD included [check].

    For anywhere close to that figure it had better be the Ultimate Concours Cartier D’Elegance Bill Blass Trofeo Brougham Signature Series Caliente Touring Sedan edition with the MeLoveYouLongTime package and standard blow job machine built into the steering column.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Yeah I’d say aside from whatever trim-package differences there might be, paying mid $20k for this hateful little thing sounds insane. And the Ultimate gives you the privilege of Hyundai/Kia’s problematic 7-DCT, horray!

      Not that this is fair (comparing new to used, and totally different classes of vehicle), but just because I’ve been window shopping them and have this approximate price point on the mind:

      Just $4k more than the “Ultimate” hateful Kona ($32k) gets you a 20k mile ’17 Nissan Armada with a 390hp V8 that will rip the magnificent velour-trimmed beast to 60 in 6.3 seconds, while making glorious sounds, isolating you from crumbling infrastructure, and taking you much farther off the beaten path than this “tough” black plastic trim-ensconced Kona. It’s hard to even wrap my mind around this.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’m never too keen on Nissan, but Armada has to be better than this for the money, right?

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          I’ve been digging into this “Y62” Patrol chassis which our ’17+ Armada is basically a decontented+fat bumpered version of, and I’m liking what I’m seeing. This is entirely different than the old Titan-based NA-only product.

          Ours gets tuned for better handling with fat rollbars that totally kill what is otherwise impressive articulation (for any SUV, let alone
          an IRS/IFS rig), and misses out on some other offroad tech. But the basics are the same, and we get them at an absolutely cut-rate price once discounts/depreciation are accounted for. I’m a yota guy at heart and believe the 200 series landcruiser is superior overall in terms of cabability/durability/quality, but I love a bargain and these Armadas are definitely that.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            I keep an eye on the Armada too from the standpoint of “Geeze Toyota won’t sell me a decontented less than $80K Land Cruiser but Nissan will sell me a $45K Patrol with different badges.”

            It’s the closest we can get to one piece of “forbidden fruit” that the rest of the world receives.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            LC trumps Nissan’s entire lineup, IMO, but Armada may have a place for those of us who are too poor for it (soooo 99.1%?)

      • 0 avatar
        3XC

        The Kona is a sorority taxi. Saying they can “step up” to an Armada is pointless, since no one cross shops cute-utes and V8 powered luxo-trucks.

        May as well say that 32k gets them a 2001 Z06 with an aftermarket blower that runs 11s. Its irrelevant.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          “Its irrelevant.” True, but at least I’m comparing new/fairly newish vehicles that a “regular” person or family might consider for one reason or another. The sheer amount of physical size, space, comfort, capability you get in one vs the other is incomprehensible to the point of the comparison indeed becoming irrelevant.

          More to the point, almost any other compact CUV option is a vastly superior value to this Kona in terms of performance, comfort, utility, and I’m going to guess retained value.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I would be curious to see data from sorority girls on this. On one hand, Kona is new vs used, “cute”, and “practical” despite them having no need for practicality. However, Armada is “big”, “tough”, “powerful” and “strong”. How does the estrogen warping shake out here? If big/tough/strong etc. did not matter to them, we wouldn’t have 5’2 childless trophy wives driving Escalades and Suburbans would we?

          Oh and MY01 anything for $32K save Ferrari/Lambo et al? Please rethink your life.

          The MY18 ZO6 LZ3 msrps for $89,5. Wholesale on an MY01 Z06 is $11,8 and its a fools errand unless you have the documented history.

          3/27/18$11,500 100,657- -8G/ABlackRegularSoutheastPalm Beach
          2/28/18$7,500 171,4863.38G/6SilverRegularWest CoastCalifornia
          2/28/18$10,100 134,782- -8G/- -SilverRegularWest CoastSan Francisco Bay
          1/31/18$15,500 56,6623.98G/6SilverRegularSouthwestDallas
          12/21/17$13,500 55,4423.08G/6BlackRegularWest CoastPhoenix
          12/20/17$13,700 62,7312.88G/6SilverRegularWest CoastCalifornia

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I’m pretty prejudiced against subcompact crossovers, as it is. The only one I could *maybe* see myself buying is the Volvo XC40, partially because I really like the design and partially because it comes very well-equipped.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      You’re right, 28, but this Hyundai. They’re going to sticker it for way too much, then discount it all to hell so the buyer thinks he’s getting a superfantastic deal. That $28,000 Kona is not going out the door for anywhere near that money. Figure twenty five for now, and less than that when the newness of the model fades.

      I’d still balk at that money for any subcompact CUV – far as I’m concerned, they’re all ridiculously overpriced.

  • avatar
    Add Lightness

    I have no respect for reviewers that continually choke on flowers in their reviews.
    Reviewers with cred are the ones which several manufacturers will no long give them cars to test.

  • avatar
    nlinesk8s

    Mark, you’ve put your finger very well on the reason I got rid of my Car & Driver subscription. At some point I got tired of reading reviews of cars I could never afford, or cars I couldn’t get. The mags suffer from “Realtor” syndrome (where the realtor can’t seem to understand the young newly-marrieds can’t afford a $300k house.

    The rental reviews are real; don’t stop.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      But sir and madam, every house is $300K and the new ones start at $500 and anything less is crazy talk. Why, we’d have to only allow citizens to own real estate like most of the rest of the world.

      • 0 avatar

        Actually, they don’t. Most of Europe is 99 year leases. The own your own plot as a peasant is very much a new world idea.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Not to pick nits, but we don’t “own” anything here either. Local gov is happy to steal your property if you don’t pay them regular tribute. I can’t speak for this leasing and property taxes, I suppose you lose it there too if you do not pay tax?

    • 0 avatar
      I_like_stuff

      “The mags suffer from “Realtor” syndrome (where the realtor can’t seem to understand the young newly-marrieds can’t afford a $300k house.”

      It’s more like the corollary to that where realtors/mortgage brokers that can’t fathom why you only want a $300K house when you can qualify for a $600K house. The default position now is buy as much as the banks will lend you, regardless of what you actually need. So even though a $20K car would be perfectly fine and meet one’s needs, the bank will lend $40K, so what the hell, let’s get the $40K car.

      And that $300k/600k example is from personal experience. I wanted a $300K house, everyone was perplexed and shocked that I wanted to slum it in a $300K home when I could easily swing a $600K home.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Good points, very similar to cars its “buy the payment” not the transaction. The margin on these new homes is not 10% and even at full margin (I’d estimate 75%) I doubt the best materials are being used.

        For myself, I tried to find the $100K old-people-never-updated-and-died-in-it “beater” ranch. Starting in 2016 though, $150K is the new $100K (Thanks Mr. Yellen). In the end I had to spend way way more than I wanted, but got value for it. Stuff half the size of this is selling around $200K and its all 1950s and 60s construction (this house is mid 70s 4BR 2000sqft 2CR garage/beat up driveway).

    • 0 avatar
      Moparmann

      @Nlinesk8s: You have stated the EXACT SAME reason that I too, got rid of C&D, and Motor Trend as well. I had been a suscriber since the seventies! :-)

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Same here, I remember reading a comparison of family sedans, the “bread and butter” cars of the average Joe. Except every one was loaded to the gills with the optional engines you rarely see. So, “this car has awesome power and is luxuriously equipped” means absolutely nothing when you go test drive the base engine/cloth interior special that most people bought.

        I did not renew my subscription after that, and when I’ve been bored to tears enough in a doctor’s office waiting room and pick up one of the rags, nothing has changed. Its 99% fluff, with several pages (in a row) of nothing but ads in between. I once ripped out every page that was an ad on both sides, and the magazine felt so light, it was funny. I paid for the bastard, why do I need 56 pages of ads.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      IMO – car review rags like the news these days are considered news or information entertainment I suspect and have no real interest in base models or plebian transport or whatever since it wont bring in the sales numbers they are looking for (at the other end of the spectrum I can remember an editor during the 80’s point blank telling a buddy of mine at a carshow if he wanted to get into the magazine it needed to be a 1969 Camaro pro-street car with a monochromatic paint scheme overlayed with the funky hot pastel colors that were all the rage back then)

      At the same time I cant imgaine a vehicle manufacturer willing to send over a base model car slathered in hard plastic and aksing to get villified by some auto journo incensed by the fact that the car didn’t arrive loaded to the gills with a fully stocked portable minibar in the trunk. Doubly so when you have two vehicle manufacturers invovled in some sort of shoot out.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    But are you apples and apples here? Yes, the cars that auto reviewers are reviewing are top of the line, and the cars most people are buying are bottom of the line, but are the people reading the reviews buying bottom of the line or tip of the line cars? Most people reading about cars are enthusiasts, and enthusiast buying habits don’t necessarily apply to the great unwashed. And we aren’t even consistent; we might buy a loaded Accord over a stripped 320i, but a stripped M3 over a loaded M3 because purism or something.

    I also like the odd car review that tells me what equipment is and isn’t worth it, and to know that they need to at least drive the higher spec car (but preferably both specs). Matt Farah is good at this with his one takes, telling us which fancy $$$$ performance packs are worth it on a 911 (rear steer) and which are a big ole waste of cash (PCCBs).

    • 0 avatar
      stuntmonkey

      > Most people reading about cars are enthusiasts

      Actually, I find that most consumers are affected by “premium-itis”… the notion that it’s top trim or nothing. There are a million phones for sale on the market, abut all anybody pays attention to are the S9 and the IPhone X… until they actually have to pony up money. See the same in my field (cameras), people lust after full frame cameras, but the majority will never own one.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I bought this because those suck:

        https://www.amazon.com/Samsung-SM-G1600-3-8-Inch-Unlocked-Smartphone/dp/B072MQBFY9

        No I did not pay $800… $275 on Ebay.

        Dual sim flip android 6 smartphone originally sold in Hong Kong. I’m one of a handful on this continent with one. Bespoke me up! Hahahahaha.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          I just don’t get the whole “spend a bundle on a phone” thing. I have Virgin Mobile. Fifty bucks for the handset, $35 a month, unlimited everything. It does everything I need it to, and I could give a s**t less about the stuff it won’t do. The extra money goes into my highfalutin’ lifestyle.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I think you’re selling me on Virgin Mobile. I was thinking of a prepaid number for the other sim.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I can recommend them pretty wholeheartedly – my oldest daughter has them too.

            Only issue I had was spotty data coverage in Middle Of Nowhere, Kansas during my road trip last year.

            But would that have been worth another $50 a month for something like Verizon? Nope.

          • 0 avatar
            zamoti

            I gave the 2nd tier budget carriers a try. A few years ago, I was down on my luck and needed a phone, a pal gave me her ancient Boost mobile phone. I was happy to get it, activated it and used it for a while. What I found is that with the Boost/Virgins of the world is that the trade off for the low price is a cut-down coverage experience. If I went out of town, coverage was weak or nonexistent. No big deal if you can’t make a call or something, but when I broke down it was a major headache trying to flag down someone to let me use their phone. I mean, nobody stops anymore–because we all have phones!
            Now I use t-mobile after a number of years of AT&T. The experience is mostly the same; while T-mobile shares tech with AT&T, they don’t share coverage. Even on major freeways, I lose signal for large stretches of road. When I drive through the WV mountains on 77 south, my T-mobile is dead, but my work iFone on Verizon has a signal the entire time.
            It may depend on lifestyle, but I think I’ll be headed back to overpriced AT&T as I’m sick of losing service on the road, at the dr office and even in my own basement!
            And for the record, I’m fine with top-trim auto reviews as that’s all I ever buy. I save my money by buying used so I don’t ever feel bad about buying the fully loaded version of anything. I don’t want to ride around in some stripped out $hitburger with a lame stereo, cloth seats and block out panels everywhere. Why make the money if you can’t enjoy spending it?
            6% represent!

        • 0 avatar
          Cactuar

          Flip phone owners unite! I use an LG F4NR. Paid 100 CAD for it, costs 18 CAD a month for a basic plan.

          I’m on the PC/internet at least 10 hours a day and certainly don’t need to carry a screen with me.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            LOL, my girlfriend had a flip phone with AT&T until last year, when they informed her they weren’t for the flip phone life anymore.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Cactaur

            Yes we can!

            I also agree, when you work in IT one screen is enough.

            @Freed

            AT&T uses GSM, a compatible phone can be found and the sim switched

  • avatar
    pmirp1

    I think this is a huge reason why Toyota wins in the marketplace.

    The manufacturers, all of the them, play this game.

    But there are some virtues that are inherent to a make, that you don’t need different trims to know and trust about.

    A Corolla, A Camry, A Tacoma, A Tundra, The Avalon, 4 runner, Land Cruiser, RAV-4, Prius, any Lexus, the list goes on and on, are ALL RELIABLE. The reliability is a virtue consistent for all. It is not like a Ford Focus SEL or lower with the worst transmission in the world (dry dual clutch) vs. your Focus RS (which is pretty much a different car and still has mechanical issues).

    The reliability of Toyota, and to a lower degree Honda is why those cars sell.

    As for Hyundai and Kia, outside the Genesis brand, you best stay away from.

    Toyota is KING because it is consistent no matter what. The others, you have to be selective, and the reviews as you state, are mostly of high ends and meaningless.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @pmirp1; be careful regarding making blanket statements. Remember the Toyota engine sludge problems? Or the Honda glass transmissions? People who experienced those would refute your ‘reliability’ claims.

      And what of ‘unintended’ acceleration, reported chip issues with the Vibe and the failure prone clutches also in the Vibe?

      And evidence is that Hyundai and Kia both make fairly reliable cars. At least mid-pack among mass manufacturers.

      Some models are better, some are worse. But this applies to all manufacturers.

      • 0 avatar
        pmirp1

        Arthur Bailey, don’t cherry pick. Any manufacturer has issues, it is the history of reliability that matters. If you deny that about Toyota you are being DISHONEST.

        All those Toyotas I gave you examples of, are all about reliability. It is why they are kings in their segments. It is why they rule consumer reports.

        So for fan boys like you, you can cherry pick an Acura or Honda transmission issue, but miss the larger story of legacy of Accords that for 40 plus years America believes in. Same for Camry. Same for all those Toyotas regardless of trim. I had to laugh about unintended acceleration. Surely the fact that people buy Camrys and Tacoma and Prius should be proof enough.

        When you walk into a Toyota dealership, regardless of trim and model, you know you are getting reliability and the review of low end trim is as meaningful as high end.

        Not so with Caddy. For example, ATS(their luxury vehicle) came with economy car engine (2.5 liter), rough 2.0 turbo, 3.6 V6 or ATS. Each was different and each had different issues and reliability problems. Camry four cylinder or six or LE or XLE or SE are all money well spend, and a review of high end still gives you good info even for the low end.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          @ pmirp1: I believe that your posting defines ‘fanboy’. Dismissing known issues, cherry picking and making blanket statements. All in one posting.

          Toyota/Lexus does indeed make many reliable products. However just because a product has their badge does not by definition confer some magical superiority in reliability to all the other products of competing brands, except perhaps in the minds of dedicated ‘fanboys’.

          And sales figures are obviously not and have rarely been evidence of reliability.

          • 0 avatar
            TwoBelugas

            I had a 2005 Camry and the unintended acceleration was partially real. Many times I sat at stoplights with my foot firmly on the brake pedal, and the engine would surge and the car would try to move forward. This was witnessed by family and friends.

            Eventually we made such a stink with the dealers that they took the car and fixed it, took about a week. Afterwards they refused to tell us what was the cause. We suspected it was the early DBW system that wasn’t QA’ed thoroughly, and faulty connections was causing the engine to think the throttle was being applied.

            Toyotas in general are reliable but that experience left a huge sour taste in our mouth, because we saw first hand how its perceived quality makes the dealers extremely arrogant and the corporate was just as uppity about Toyota-can-do-no-wrong.

            Interestingly we have been buying Fords and Chryslers ever since and every of one has been just as reliable as the Camry. So there is that. My 12 year old Ford is running like new, I bought it new and just maintain it regularly the way I always treat cars.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        The sludge issue in the Toyota V6 was caused by a combination of owners not changing oil regularly and Toyota having to alter the intended design emissions because of ManBearPig. Honda’s transmission issues stemmed from Honda was being penny wise and pound foolish by not licensing an existing trans-axle and instead designing its own. I’ll take the Yota over most else.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Not to mention that Toyota/Lexus reliability in large part relies on keeping the same (outdated) powertrains around (which is why Lexus has been losing the performance battle not only against the Germans, but Cadillac as well).

        And Honda/Acura’s reliability has (not surprisingly) dropped as they have made updates to their powertrains.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Completely separate concepts. Toyota still very much does “the walk” with their models with similar results.

      If someone chooses Toyota the brand because of perceived reliability virtue, they’ve made the choice. They’re still gonna get product walked when they see how poor the base models feel content wise compared to better equipped models.

      • 0 avatar
        pmirp1

        danio3834 you miss the point of article. Reliability matters because the basic goodness of a Toyota RAV4 in LE, SE, XLE is the same. A review of XLE gives the customer the same information that matters as the LE. I think even a child would understand that the high end XLE may get leather and sunroof, while the LE doesn’t. But the solidity of body, engine, transmission, how the door shutting sounds, the fact that it will be bulletproof is part of that driving experience that is shared whether it is base RAV4 LE or fully loaded XLE. Same for Tacoma. Same for every other Toyota

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @pmirp1 – averaged out, Toyota does rate well in the reliability arena. My 2010 F150 has had less issues and zero recalls when compared to my ex’s 2010 Sienna.

          • 0 avatar
            Kek

            Did someone say Honda 1.5T issues? You can check CRV forums. In China, Honda has stopped selling 1.5T due to fuel dilution problem. Owners can smell fuel vapors in their cars. It is seen in Civics / CRVs in colder climates with small driving distances. Just google CRV forums and 1.5T issues – onwers in USA are also seeing this. Now a big problem with Honda is they are unwilling to admit a failure and fix the issues soon because their brand is 90% reliability. Same is applicable to Toyota as well – again google 2015 Camry and 14 Corolla touch screen issues. If you cant figure out touch screen in 2014 – well that is poor stuff.
            In the thread you will find perfect fanboy defending Honda. His premise is fuel quality is awful in China. Yeah like Honda cannot research this bit and had to rely on some random Joe who has been to China twice. Lol.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    “…the difference between the trim level that dealers actually stock and sell versus the only trim that Hyundai made readily available for the event is so large that it’s hard to even call them the same car.”

    This goes back to recent article on different models (Caprice/Impala/Bel Air/Biscayne) versus trim levels. If they’re going to strip so much equipment off of it, why not just call it something else?

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    To a good extent, Bark, I agree; OEMs tend to offer high-end models for publicity (commercial reviewers). Where I disagree is that the dealerships tend to order upper-middle range trims for cost savings while using one or two “loss leaders” to tempt people into the store. Why? Because the vast majority of people buying cars tend to settle for what’s available rather than what they really want. I prefer to order (and wish I could order a-la Carte) to get the packages and options I want while leaving out things I don’t want (when I can.) I did this for my ’02 Saturn Vue (14 years effective life in my family before selling it) and my ’08 JKU Wrangler. It sounds to me like you were test driving one of those loss leaders for your friend.

    That said, a lot of people simply don’t know what they want or even that there’s a notable difference between brands and even models within those brands; they buy on looks alone with no concept of what would meet their needs better or offer better reliability or give them a better ride (hey–I include many people’s opinions of cars they refuse to consider as well, such as the Fiat 500 series.) I was one of these people myself for the longest time, letting others influence my decisions as to which car would serve my needs better. It took me nearly 30 years of buying and driving cars before I realized they had no idea of how _I_ utilize my vehicles. I’m a fox, not a sheep, and my usage does differ.

    Take the bad with the good. Obviously the OEM wants to demonstrate the best they have to offer. I’m betting even the next higher trim on that Kona would have driven and ridden notably better. I don’t know what your friend ended up choosing but I’m half betting she didn’t buy the base model, either.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Preaching to the choir here. As well as most of the B&B, I have been complaining publicly and even on-line about this for years (and years).

    Reviews of fully loaded Caravans. How many of those are actually sold?

    Reviews of Civics, etc so loaded that for the price you could get an adequately equipped Accord.

    And of course decades ago, Caprices or Parisiennes (yes the Canadian model) with de Ville type accoutrements.

    Personally my preference is generally for the ‘base’ model. I don not want (and would probably not purchase a vehicle with) an on-board navigation system, sun/moonroof, push button start, leather upholstery, alloy wheels or power seats. I would prefer not to have power windows or a CVT.
    Do not need AWD/4wd. And am still undecided regarding turbo charging, preferring displacement.

    Yet, how many reviewers, particularly in the ‘heritage media’, actually are based on driving the base or lower end models?

  • avatar

    This.

    When I was researching the second gen CTS, I realized that every car reviewed, was the same setup…the FE3 suspension, sport package, and summer tires. The percentage of these I was able to find in the field ? Zero. I eventually took an FE2 car and changed out the suspension to hit FE3, but kept the 18 inch wheels. Few folks not here will believe that I can hang with any sports sedan out there now….but 99% of the CTS out there are owned by retirees with stuff animals on the backlight.

    Researching the 3 series, or the C class. No one ever complains about the sound system or the headlights. Go to Forums, and the chorus for both cars is “get the uprated parts”. No one ever tests a base model.

    Sadly, your choices are limited from top to bottom by what the Sales Manager orders for the lot. It is pretty much a guarantee that whatever you “build” on the website won’t be on a lot, but it will be there with two options you don’t want.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      “It is pretty much a guarantee that whatever you “build” on the website won’t be on a lot, but it will be there with two options you don’t want.”

      This a million times this.

      I have never built a vehicle on a manufacturer website and found even ONE 100% match within 500 miles of the zip code I put in. And the manufacturers are too stupid to design a system that will: 1. Show me a matching vehicle in OPTIONS minus color combo (at least I’d consider buying it) 2. Show me where there might be a 100% match SOMEWHERE in the USA. 3. Come up with a – “Let’s talk about ordering one.”

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Pretty much why I typically end up ordering it.

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        +1000

        The manufacturer sites are so bad, I’m forced to resort to clicking through pages of listings on cars.com/autotrader trying to find what I want. Then since their filters are so limited, I usually end up on each dealer’s site clicking on window stickers. Something as fundamentally simple as a long bed truck is impossible to search for accurately on any site I know of.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I don’t feel like this is a new phenomenon, or a valid indictment of the press or even the dealers. Good cars are good in every trim, not just the top ones. The issue here is that the Kona sucks. But why wouldn’t it? It’s a cynical cash grab. An Accent CUV with a focus on profit over value. Hardly unique to Hyundai either; this is pretty much the story for all subcompact crossovers. One would do much better to just pony up to a base Tuscon.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “Good cars are good in every trim”

      To people who care about materials, features and other content, this just isn’t true. (The Majority)

      For people who only care that a car has an engine and chassis of reasonable quality, then it could be true in a very one dimensional way. (The Minority)

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Agreed, as long as the higher-line models are mechanically identical to the base models.

      In this case, though, that’s not true – the higher-line Konas have significant performance upgrades.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Obviously everyone has their individual needs… for example I got the “S” trim of my car because I wanted an LSD and the biggest brakes possible. But even a G25 is a good car, though it’s a bit underpowered for me. There are plenty of cars that meet my criteria. Pretty much any base Honda is a good car. A base S-Class or 911… also good cars. Not perfect, but then what car is?

      The other question is the target market. Bark M is not the Kona’s target market. There are growing numbers of people buying Dodge Journeys so there are definitely people who will buy this. The more I read this article the more clickbaity it feels.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Bark’s right, but ask yourself: if you were a manufacturer, and you were bringing out a brand new model that’s critical to your company’s future, would you a) give the reviewers the poverty-spec version that sucks, or b) the loaded one?

    And if you were a car magazine, would you a) take the free, loaded up press cars the manufacturer doles out, or b) spend money to rent one from Enterprise?

    The only real answers to these questions are b) and a).

    That’s why I read this site, folks…who else really does real-world reader reviews?

  • avatar
    fenwayy

    Hyundai is kind enough to spread their uncomfortable seats throughout the line up. I rented a Sante Fe in Hawaii 2 years ago. I drove it half way around the block and had to get out to see if there was a lumbar adjuster.
    There wasn’t.
    It felt like someone in the back was using my seatback for a leg press…
    I drove the rest of the way around the block, back to Enterprise, where I exchanged it for a Volvo.
    Much better..

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    This is actually why some people pay attention to Consumer Reports for car reviews. They’re not driving the usual top-spec presser trim, they’re buying something off of the lot and reviewing that. Any publication willing to do that rather than just take what the press fleets feeds them deserves some credit.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I can totally understand why automakers would stuff the press-fleet and “First Drives” chock-full of top-of-the-line examples of the Latest and Greatest.

    But there’s little excuse for automotive “journalists” continually falling for it hook, line, and sinker, other than a desire to get invited for more free trips and receive more free fancy cars in their driveway.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Because ‘automotive journalist’ was and primarily still is an oxymoron.

      All expense paid trips to exotic locales. High end hotels/resorts, parties and access to top of the line vehicles. Plus swag.

      And bad mouthing the vehicle or manufacturer could (will?) result in your no longer receiving these invitations.

      Plus if you do bad mouth a vehicle or manufacturer, there is a (large?) chance that manufacturer will reduce or cease their purchased ad space in your publication/site.

      Few have the cojones, market size, cash or reputation (Clarkson being the primary exception) to bite the hand that feeds them.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “Fall for it” is an apt description, but the alternative is for them to go out and procure their own vehicles to test, and that doesn’t lend itself to that silly for-profit thing.

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    This is another reason why I buy used – I can’t justify spending the extra thousands that the manufacturer wants for the desirable options, but I am happy to take one with the options off the original owner’s hands, at not much of a premium over a lesser optioned car.

  • avatar
    TW5

    It’s just basic goldilocks pricing. Build false value proposition by creating (usually) three options, in this case SE, SEL, and Ultimate. Make the SE trim appear ruthlessly austere. Make the Ultimate trim seem obscenely optioned and expensive. People will naturally filter into the middle.

    Journalists exist, as far as the manufacturers are concerned, to do nothing other than harp on the obscene impracticalities and frivolous luxuries of various vehicles. After looking at a few poverty spec base models, buyers will overwhelmingly choose an upper optioned version of the mid-grade trim.

    The same phenomenon exists across models. Look at the subcompact and subpar C-HR. Very inadequate. Barely gets better economy than the bigger CUVs. Now look at the Sequoia. Wow, total overkill. Gas guzzler, too. Now look at the Highlander and Rav4. Just right, don’t you agree? Those are the cars you want.

    This is just the way people work. It’s also why they don’t buy hybrids. I mean, are they going to save the world all by themselves? That’s a bit aggressive and weird. They’ll just have the 4-banger rather than the V6. If manufacturers were to foil hybrids against convention ICE “sport” models and eco plug-in hybrids, people would probably buy a lot more hybrids.

    This is just how the average person works. They are terrified of taking an outlying position on anything, thus, they are easily controlled with comparative economics or moral relativism or anything really.

  • avatar
    Ultraviolet Thunder

    This poster whose “story” is featured is one of the kind of folk you just wish would shut his pie hole and just be miserable to himself.

    Did this poster ever ask to look at the different models and then actually shop the price of the vehicle?

    What absurd person puts a new driver behind the wheel of a new vehicle anyway (other than the rich)? This is the kind of driver which won’t care for the car and will wreck it before it is a year old.

    Spend $4k on a beat up Honduh if you want reliability and let her wreck it and you are out only so much money.

    This poster is a blithering idiot. He deserves no time on this website since the premise is flawed and his position is based on laziness and stupidity.

    • 0 avatar

      Well allow me to retort!

      This particular “kind of driver” is a 30-year-old woman who has worked her entire life to be able to afford her first car, so I think she’ll appreciate it more than most—perhaps even you, sir.

      What does “look at the different models and then actually shop the price of the vehicle” even mean?

      Lastly, which department of Hyundai do you work in?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      You forgot to tell him his mother was a hamster and his father smelt of elderberries.

  • avatar
    AndyYS

    The bottom line is don’t believe reviews. Try out the cars yourself and test drive the trim you’re interested in.

    When I look for my new car (probably in 2019) I expect to test drive at least a dozen cars.

    • 0 avatar
      nvinen

      If I had believed the reviews when shopping for my car I would have bought its GM competitor. My dad bought that same car last year (nicer than the one I would have gotten since it’s a special edition) and I’ve driven it a few times.

      It’s a fine car in and of itself but it’s nowhere near as good as the one I ended up getting, despite his costing substantially more. I’m glad I ended up making my purchasing decision on specs rather than reviews. (My car was so in demand I couldn’t get a test drive so I couldn’t drive both before making the decision. And I had to pay over MSRP…)

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Besides the obvious general points you make about press versus dealer vehicles, one thing both you and Healey agree on (and he had the Ultimate) is that the Kona’s ride is bloody awful.

    So across the line up, all Konas have poor suspension, besides looking like a little lost puppy dawg. That’ll save me the bother of trying out yet another Hyundai piece of uselessness at the dealer. I mean, does this company actually make something better than its competitors yet in any class? They’ve had 30 years practice now and twenty since the motoring press started their now familiar refrain “Hyundais almost match mainstream manufacturers.” Right. But still not yet – they seem to miss the finer points of a decent drive, and just don’t get it.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    This gets even more fun with used cars. When 3% of the cars are the Ultimate with all the options, it can get really hard to find one on the used market. But if you can find one it’s usually a deal compared to the base model.

    I ended up going 800 miles to pick up one car and then deliberately overpaid a bit for the next one, in both cases because they had the equipment I wanted.

  • avatar
    SuperCarEnthusiast

    It is all about promoting your new model! You don’t want a crappy review of a brand new model that 90% will be buying; so you just provide the top of the line fully load model. It all smoke and mirrors! Everyone is trying to get you into the showroom and sign the paper!

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    I’m in the car market myself, for a new sedan.

    75 mile radius:

    Kia SX Turbo 2.0T – 1 in stock
    Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T – 5
    Toyota Camery XSE – 2 in stock
    Toyota Camery XSE with v6 – 1 in stock
    Accord Sport 2.0t – 2 in stock
    Accord EX 2.0t – 2 in stock
    Regal Sportback Prefered II – 1

    And don’t get me started about the Stinger. All the hype about the introductory price on this thing and yada yada….Not one in stock less than 40K in a 150 mile radius. If I’m spending over 40K on car, there are better options than the stinger.

    Oh, and then all the hype over the 1.6T in the Optima and Sonata? Not ONE in a 75 mile radius, yet every reviewer of these two cars with this engine praised it.

    The models mentioned are just ones I’m interested in. Getting Blind Spot Detection AND Android auto in a lower trim package is difficult.

  • avatar
    Carzzi

    This de-contenting has also hit the beloved Mustang GT. For 2015 – 2017, you could get cloth Recaros on the base trim for ~$1600. Negotiation and rebates could put you in a Base GT, Recaro + perf pack <$32K. A great bargain for decent seats; leather Recs could be had on the premium.

    For 2019, to get cloth Recaros on a base GT, you must add the pricey "Level 2" perf pack, which comes with $$$$ Pilot Cup tires. Spend on the premium trim to get leather Recaros.

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