By on March 17, 2020

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid

I’m not, generally speaking, a crossover fan. That said, I’m not a full-on hater, either — I understand that sometimes people need the utility offered by crossovers. And some of the compact five-seat crossovers, the small ones that aren’t rolling barges, seem to be decent tools for automotive multitasking, at least to my eye.

Take Toyota’s RAV4. Always a hit with the public, if not with enthusiasts, and the newest version is quite good.

And just like the Accord/Camry battles that have been fought since before I could legally drive, the CR-V and RAV4 are fighters in opposite corners, duking it out for buyer’s bucks. Including those buyers who want to go green.

There are many reasons one buys a hybrid — the fuel-economy gains, the green cred, or the “green” posturing/posing — but no matter what the why is, there are buyers out there who want that badge.

(Read More…)

By on February 17, 2020

2021 Kia Seltos

We all know what happens to you and me when we assume, and a lot of folks will assume the 2021 Kia Seltos shares its bones with the also-new Hyundai Venue.

I know I did, and when I questioned Hyundai to fact-check myself, I didn’t get a clear answer (as the two companies tend to silo their information from one another).

The assumption that the Seltos is just a re-boxed Venue is wrong. The Seltos, despite playing in the same class as the Venue and being similar in size, is actually based on a different Hyundai – the Kona.

Yes, the Kona that I mostly like (in top-trim form) and Bark ripped (in lower trim) to shreds. The same Kona that Chris also dinged for pricing problems.

Not that you’d know it from looking at it. The Seltos has a busier, more futuristic look than the Kona, although it doesn’t have the latter’s odd headlight placement. Like the Venue, it offers two-tone styling, and at first glance it looks more like the boxy Venue than the wedge-shaped Kona.

Hence, the assumptions.

(Read More…)

By on January 21, 2020

2020 Hyundai Venue

At some point in the past few years, the word “basic” began being used as a pejorative, aimed at young men and women whose personal style and interests were “exceedingly ordinary,” in the words of the great Urban Dictionary.

You know the stereotype: pumpkin spice lattes and Ugg boots for women; untucked button-down shirts, Axe body spray, and dingy baseball hats for men.

Basic doesn’t have to mean bad, boring, or ordinary, though. It can also mean simple. And the 2020 Hyundai Venue is just that: Simple. And that’s not meant as a pejorative.

Which isn’t to the say the Venue is without flaws. But it’s meant for basic – there’s that word again – transport, and not much else, and it’s poised to do that job well.

(Read More…)

By on December 16, 2019

2020 Nissan Sentra

I was focusing on the road while piloting the 2020 Nissan Sentra down the canyon roads just outside Los Angeles, yet somehow I didn’t notice the previous-generation Sentra headed in the opposite direction that my drive partner pointed out.

In fact, I had a hard time even picturing in my head what the outgoing Sentra looks like. That’s because, like the cheaper Versa, the old Sentra had become quite forgettable.

And just like the newest Versa, the newest Sentra is actually memorable again.

(Read More…)

By on December 10, 2019

2020 Hyundai Sonata N Line

We all have that one friend who puts Tabasco sauce on everything. Even foods that aren’t meant to be spicy are doused – this person has to give their food a kick.

Hyundai’s 2020 Sonata N Line is sort of the midsize sedan equivalent of that.

I flew to Arizona to test the redesigned 2020 Hyundai Sonata, and while there I got a surprise – I’d be driving an N Line prototype part of the way back to the hotel from lunch.

(Read More…)

By on December 9, 2019

2020 Hyundai Sonata

Near the start of this decade, I thought the Hyundai Sonata was perhaps the most attractive mid-size sedan on the market.

I also thought it drove like crap.

The steering was disconnected from the road, it felt slower than its rivals, et cetera.

Hyundai’s next Sonata was better in terms of driving dynamics and on-road behavior, but its styling was conservative to the point of boring. It felt like Hyundai was flailing about, unsure how to build a car that both drove well and looked good, while its rivals were having no problem doing the same. Even its corporate sibling, Kia, was offering up an engaging and handsome Optima.

Enter the 2020 Sonata. It looks good (better from certain angles and with certain colors), but does it drive well? Can it walk and chew gum at the same time?

(Read More…)

By on October 14, 2019

2020 Dodge Charger Widebody

No one has a need for a large family sedan that produces over 700 horsepower.

But I’m glad one exists.

Dodge is now offering a wider Charger Hellcat and Scat Pack in a bid to keep reminding us enthusiasts that the Charger’s aging platform may still have plenty of life left in it. Somehow, this trick continues to work.

(Read More…)

By on September 19, 2019

2020 Ford Escape Hybrid

The 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid faces the same problem as its gas-engined sibling: Styling.

That’s the bad news for Ford. The good news is that this particular hybrid doesn’t sacrifice too much of the gas Escape’s fun-to-drive factor in the search for better fuel economy.

(Read More…)

By on September 18, 2019

2020 Ford Escape

Ford says it is eventually going to phase out most of its cars – save the Mustang – but the brand isn’t above basing a compact crossover on a car platform.

Yeah, it may be called a crossover, especially by people who draw paychecks from the Blue Oval, but the 2020 Ford Escape is based on the company’s European Focus platform.

Perhaps it’s a bit of a cynical approach, especially with a more rugged “baby Bronco” on the way. But if ride and handling are something you care about, even when shopping crossovers, the results may be pleasing to you.

Possibly more pleasing than the Escape’s styling, anyway.

(Read More…)

By on June 26, 2019

In case you haven’t noticed, America’s truck wars are in full swing. Now, more than ever, the Detroit Three are gleefully beating each other over the head with a proverbial chair printed with towing and torque figures. Prodigious power? Sure. Enormous cabins? Yewbetcha. Grilles to the moon? They got ya covered, buddy.

Hot on the heels of a half-ton rethink, the crew at Chevrolet turned their attention to the Heavy Duty series of pickups. In a perpetual race with their competition, and the introduction of new engines and no fewer than fifteen camera views, you know this thing is going to haul trailers like a large poutine from Frank’s Diner turns your author’s bloodstream into artery putty.

(Read More…)

By on April 2, 2019

2019 Volkswagen Jetta

Volkswagen’s latest iteration of the Jetta is a well-rounded commuter car, but a tad boring. VW had an easy fix for that in mind – just implant the heart of the GTI hot hatch along with some Golf R bits. Boom, instant sports sedan.

There’s been a GLI version of the Jetta since 1984, and every previous one I’ve driven has been a fun little hoot to drive; a way to put a little spice in the otherwise sorta bland Jetta recipe. This one, though, ups the ante. Instead of a nice little sprinkle of seasoning, someone in the kitchen doused it with cayenne pepper.

What you get here is not just a Jetta that’s more fun to drive, but a proper affordable sport sedan. (Read More…)

By on April 1, 2019

2020 Jeep Gladiator

Jeep engineers and PR folks wasted no time in telling media, assembled in Sacramento to drive the all-new 2020 Jeep Gladiator mid-size pickup, that this truck is more than just a Wrangler with a pickup bed slapped on the back.

Technically speaking, it’s true — there are key mechanical and structural differences. So no one who uttered this assertion was lying.

But while those mechanical differences are important, they don’t change the fact that the Gladiator still feels just like a Wrangler with a bed. No matter what anyone from Jeep tells you, the Gladiator is, in a way, a Wrangler with a bed.

And that will be a good thing for many, if not most, potential buyers.

(Read More…)

By on December 18, 2018

2019 Ford Ranger

If you’ve paid attention to any of Ford’s marketing lately, you’ll know the company has been making vehicles for 115 years. When it comes to F-Series, the best-selling pickup truck line in the country, they’ve been ahead of the pack for 41 years. It should shock nobody that the company knows how to build a pickup truck.

There’s more to the success of the 2019 Ford Ranger than just whether or not the company can build a good pickup truck. The Ranger is a good truck. But will it be able to draw new customers to the growing midsize truck segment, and will it be able to attract people from Colorado and Tacoma?

(Read More…)

By on December 14, 2018

While an inarguable success for Toyota, the Prius lost considerable clout through some odd styling decisions, a market trending toward crossovers, and smug owners who put a sour taste in everyone else’s mouth. I was never really a fan of the model, but I appreciated what it offered — outstanding economy, sufficient utility, and rather good comfort (especially in the current generation) for a reasonable price.

Hoping to reach new customers living in the snowbelt and restore some of its lost groove, Toyota has updated the Prius and will begin offering the model with all-wheel drive. Well, I say “all-wheel drive,” but things are a little more complicated than that.

The 2019 Prius AWD-e utilizes a small, magnetless motor to drive the rear wheels, while keeping the aft axle completely independent from the existing 1.8-liter hybrid system and its own pair of motor/generators. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to explore the new system in the wintry wilds of Wisconsin to see if it’s any good.

(Read More…)

By on December 10, 2018

Hyundai’s hydrogen-powered Nexo is so ludicrously specialized that it’s utterly impossible to make a case for it outside of California. In fact, even that might be overstating its usefulness — allow me to try again. The Nexo Fuel Cell works near Los Angeles or San Francisco and absolutely nowhere else in North America. And, while that’s primarily due to its dependency on hydrogen fueling stations, which exist almost exclusively in two relatively small corners of the Golden State, it’s not the only reason.

You need to be a certain type of person to want to drive the Nexo. Someone who likes making a statement, is interested in green tech, and possesses absolutely zero interest in spirited bouts of driving. It’s slow, appliance-like, and offers nothing to the typical enthusiast crowd, save for some interesting styling. However, if you want something eye-catching that runs on alternative energy and routinely spend a large portion of your day in horrible LA traffic, it could be the right tool for the job.  (Read More…)

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