By on June 8, 2021

2018 Toyota C-HR front quarter

Believe it or not, there was once a time before every automaker had something resembling an SUV on their lot. Of course, that time faded with the Carter administration. Today, every mainstream brand boasts a variety of lifted wagons to grab at every possible sliver of the segment.

Arguably, Toyota was there at the beginning of the modern crossover with the 1995 RAV4 – pedants of course will bring up the beloved AMC Eagle, but that didn’t exactly light up the sales charts. The combo of wagon-like interior space with perceived capability has proven irresistible for a quarter century.

Toyota has gone back to the well once more with the Corolla Cross, which would be the eighth distinct crossover/SUV in the lineup. Keen observers will note the dimensional similarity to the oddly-styled C-HR. Do both need to be on the floorplan at the same time?

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By on May 28, 2021

Today’s review is brought to you by water: Water! It’s moist. The other day when I handed over the keys to the Golf Sportwagen, my dealer’s service department loaned me this base model 2021 Tiguan S 4Motion. There’s no glass on the roof so it’s almost certain not to leak water, but what about its other characteristics?

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By on April 6, 2021

 

Remember recess kickball? Invariably, a pair of jocks and/or popular kids would square off, choosing, in turn, their sides for the battle over the red rubber ball. The draft lines would dwindle to a few undesirables – the uncoordinated, small kids certain to be a drag on the lineup but required to be there via a teacher-enforced fairness doctrine.

Mitsubishi, I’m sad to say, has been that little kid at the end of the bench for many years. Their offerings haven’t been the first choice in any of the limited segments in which they compete. Rather, they’ve become the default choice of those who’ve defaulted before, owing to their reliance on subprime buyers.

Maybe not for long, however. With an entirely new platform shared with one of the bestsellers in the class, the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander has a new look and a compelling list of features that could move this three-row crossover into the starting lineup.

(Read More…)

By on September 29, 2020

Volkswagen Taos teaser. Image: VW

We speculated before that the Volkswagen Taos would get an existing VW engine, likely the 1.4-liter turbo-four from the Jetta.

We were close.

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By on September 15, 2020

2022 Hyundai Tucson

Car Twitter is a weird “place” (as much as an ephemeral part of social media can be a “place”). There are all kinds of arguments about all sorts of things on that part of the Twitterverse, including new and upcoming products, and the next Hyundai Tucson was as divisive as anything I’ve seen in recent weeks.

Some journalists loved it. Some hated it. Others were in between. And that’s just in reference to the exterior styling.

Love it, like it, hate it, or indifferent, you can’t deny that Hyundai took some chances.

(Read More…)

By on September 8, 2020

VW teaser

Hey kids! What time is it? That’s right, it’s teaser time!

Add Volkswagen to the list of brands looking to fill every possible niche in the SUV/CUV lineup, from subcompact to Canyonero sized.

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By on September 2, 2020

Hyundai showcased a number of updates for its subcompact Kona on Tuesday without minimizing the funkiness it’s already famous for. In fact, the Korean crossover might even have a little more personality than it did before.

While the grille has been reduced in size and some of the hard edges rounded off, it remains impressive how many interesting little details Hyundai managed to tack onto the front of this thing without turning it into an eyesore.

Still too busy for you? That’s understandable. But know that Hyundai is offering an N Line variant that ditches the contrasting plastic cladding for color matching body panels that make the 2020 model almost look like a regular hatchback. As an added benefit, it also offers enhanced performance via the all-new 1.6-liter T-GDI Smartstream engine making a claimed 197 horsepower. (Read More…)

By on April 22, 2020

Volkswagen may be a mainstream brand, but it’s difficult to criticize when it comes to the polish of its products. Regardless of how long their individual components actually last under sustained usage, climbing into a VW model frequently gives the impression that you’ve found yourself inside a quality item. If that’s all it took to make a great car, VW would be king of the scrap heap every year. Yet people tend to demand a lot from their vehicle, including performance, and that’s an area where the automaker often falters.

Going up in trim on a Volkswagen rarely includes a burlier powertrain. The brand is all about rightsizing the basics in the U.S., leaving the options list for technological enhancements and all-wheel drive. There’s also an expansive R-Line trim, but its upgrades are mostly cosmetic, offering the style of a performance trim with nothing to back it up. If you want real thrills from the manufacturer, you’d best select a Golf model with the GTI or R suffix.

What if you don’t want a modestly sized hatchback, though? It’s not like there will ever be a compact crossover equivalent, as VW promised the GTI name would remain exclusive to small, peppy economy cars back in 2017. Could an automaker go back on its word? Provided there’s sufficient time between promises made, of course it can.  (Read More…)

By on March 30, 2020

Considering the insanity our consumer markets have seen over the past few weeks, I’m kicking myself for having let my warehouse club membership lapse a year or so ago. I reasoned that there was absolutely no need for me to buy staple foods (or paper products) in bulk quantities. There would be no circumstance short of the apocalypse where my regular supermarket could not adequately fill the needs of my family.

Yeah, I’m kicking myself.

Anyhow, that got me thinking about other things that one could buy in larger packages than normal. Looking at the photos of the 2020 Mini Cooper S Countryman I drove a few weeks ago, it clicked – this is the bulk package Mini Cooper. A fair bit more Mini than the standard three-door hatchback, the Countryman is the Mini for families.

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By on September 12, 2019

I don’t understand what Ford is doing anymore. While the company is branding itself as this tech-savvy mobility firm, bent on delivery cutting-edge electrics that will save the planet, it has also removed its most-economical models from the U.S. market — leaving us with the EcoSport, some plug-ins, and the soon-to-be-gone Fiesta. Meanwhile, an ocean away, Europe is getting more small cars that it knows what to do with.

Considering utilities, crossovers and trucks pay the bills, that’s not a problem in itself. But it muddles Ford’s corporate identity to a point where I just have to shrug my shoulders. I had another opportunity to raise those bad boys up to my freaking ears this week when Blue Oval debuted the brand-new Puma in its top-tier Titanium X trim — a product the manufacturer has already said it doesn’t plan on bringing to North America. (Read More…)

By on May 20, 2019

Lincoln Motor Company brass aren’t afraid to tout the brand’s concerted push to redefine the idea of what an upscale American vehicle should be — in the process, hopefully ridding itself of a longstanding stigma born of lackluster past offerings. The latest entry in Lincoln’s renewed lineup is the 2020 Corsair, bound for dealers late this year.

A replacement for the compact MKC, the Corsair lists the Mercedes-Benz GLC, BMW X3, Audi Q3, and especially the new Cadillac XT4 as its main rivals. As Lincoln has now bestowed pricing upon the Corsair, we’re able to contrast those two domestic challengers. (Read More…)

By on April 19, 2019

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature front quarter

Does a crossover really need to be good to drive, or is mere competence good enough to win buyers? Most carmakers settle for “good enough,” and yet they keep selling.

Mazda, of course, doesn’t settle. Performance is baked into everything it offers. I’m certain that if Mazda offered a panel van, some fool out there would start racing a Mazda Los Pollos Hermanos truck.

Thus, I had high hopes when a turbocharged crossover was announced. Already the best-driving crossover available, the 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature adds power and class to family hauling perfection.

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By on February 7, 2019

At the 2017 North American International Auto Show, Nissan revealed its plans to slot the North American version of its Qashqai crossover between the Juke and Rogue. While the company ultimately decided to call the model the “Rogue Sport” in the United States, replacing the Juke with the Kicks shortly thereafter, the rest of the plan went off without a hitch.

There was just one itty-bitty problem — the North American crossover was based on a model that debuted globally in 2013.

At the 2019 Chicago Auto Show, Nissan has once again decided to give North America the rest of the world’s leftovers. The Qashqai received a mid-life facelift in 2017 and now so will the Rogue Sport. Fortunately, both versions of the crossover should remain worthy of reasonable praise, as the changes help bring the model visually closer to the rest of Nissan’s fleet and further away from looking like a utility version of the 2004 Pontiac Sunfire.  (Read More…)

By on September 13, 2018

mazda cx-5

America knows what it wants, and the rest of the world — even those hard-to-reach places — is beginning to follow. Each week brings us news from far-flung locales pointing to increased demand for affordable crossover vehicles, if not the wholesale abandonment of certain car segments by certain automakers. Basically, the global auto industry in 2018 boils down to this: build a crossover, or become (or remain) a struggling niche company.

It’s hardly a new situation, but it’s hammered home with each passing month — as cars continue trickling out of every parking lot you pass and trunks begin appear on “Missing” posters at the post office.

Given that the compact crossover is arguably the most ubiquitous vehicle on the roads today, your author decided to look at just how prevalent their sales really are. Tossing aside premium or luxury offerings (a category we’ve tossed Buick into), this data dive focuses solely on the mainstream. The results? It’s grim stuff if you’re not the family type, so brace yourself. (Read More…)

By on September 7, 2018

BMW has chucked a new M Performance variant into its X2 range, as no vehicle in the automaker’s lineup should ever have to go without the thirteenth letter of the alphabet. Fortunately, the brand’s decision to install a range-topping X2 also involves installing the most powerful four-cylinder engine in BMW’s history. (Read More…)

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