By on February 28, 2019

While the Kia Niro has its faults, most are forgivable. The vehicle’s imperfect highway manners and lackadaisical acceleration are easily offset by its competence in an urban or backroad environment. We’ve collectively praised just about every version of the Niro offered within North America over the last two years simply because it does the livability thing so damn well. But there’s a chink in its armor — its styling is about as memorable as the last place you left your house keys after a night of heavy drinking.

Again, our panties remained untwisted. Not every car needs to be visually bombastic to be good (cough, Volkswagen Golf) and sometimes it’s nice just to blend in with traffic. But the Niro was also one of the few entry-level models offering hybrid powertrains that didn’t get goofy styling touches to help distinguish themselves from an internal-combustion counterpart.

We say was because, for the 2019 model year, both the Kia Niro Hybrid and PHEV adopt the more radical styling of the Niro EV.  (Read More…)

By on November 7, 2018

Hyundai is bestowing upon the Elantra Sport the same visual refresh that will modernize its less-aggressive twin. Like the standard Elantra sedan, the Sport will receive a new hood, triangular headlamps, fascias, and updated taillights for 2019.

In fact, the only apparent visual difference between the two is that the Sport has unique exhaust tips and a honeycomb mesh grille while the plain-jane sedan uses chromed slats. That could change, however, as what we’re actually seeing is the Korean equivalent of the car — the Avante. But there’s little reason for Hyundai to make any major alterations for the U.S. market; the Elantra Sport might even keep that bedazzled bar running between the headlights and will assuredly have a set of unique wheels to further differentiate itself.  (Read More…)

By on October 24, 2018

As supercars go, Audi’s R8 is one of the more endearing examples. Unlike the stereotypical Lamborghini Huracán driver, you don’t normally see someone exiting an R8 wrapped in a gaudy, overpriced t-shirt from Ed Hardy, their hair slicked up into a pompadour that clears the car’s roof by less than a millimeter. No, the Audi driver looks like someone who probably has to work for a living to afford such baubles and isn’t all that interested in flaunting it. They’re someone who probably dreamed of owning a Porsche 911 as a child, made a lot of smart financial decisions as an adult, and ultimately found themselves with more money than they needed.

Whether or not this portrayal is accurate is largely irrelevant. The assumption is that someone who bought an R8 is focused on the fundamentals  — fitting, considering that’s very much what the automobile is about. Refreshed for 2019, Audi is keeping the R8 true to form. Visual enhancements are subtle and minor mechanical improvements have been made everywhere else to help build a better car.  (Read More…)

By on May 23, 2018

While it seems a little early for Kia’s Sportage to gain a visual refresh, the manufacturer apparently didn’t feel its new engine option should arrive unaccompanied. The automaker is launching a 48-volt diesel mild hybrid system in Europe for 2019, and chucked in a handful of aesthetic enhancements for good measure.

The jury’s still out on the motor’s availability in North America. While the diesel decline in Europe is palpable, they still sell a lot more passenger cars equipped with them than we do. However, since it does fall into that weird hybrid category, there’s a chance it could crop up in extremely limited numbers. We’d bank on seeing a mild hybrid system from Kia make its way to the U.S. and Canada soon, only coupled to a gasoline motor. But expect to see some upgraded bodywork and interior touches for the coming model year.  (Read More…)

By on March 29, 2018

Automotive trade shows typically provide little more than early access to vehicles you’ve already read about for months. But every so often details emerge that are so incredibly hot, you can’t even begin to fathom why God chose to trust you with them.

At this week’s 2018 New York International Auto Show, Kia Motors America unveiled a refreshed 2019 Sedona minivan, which — get a load of this — has totally new fog lamps. These babies aren’t even remotely the same shape as the outgoing version’s bulbs. Those old round heaps are over and done with; we’re entering an entirely new era of illumination, folks.

To be accurate, the new Sedona actually has entirely new front and rear fascias but, after staring at the 2019 model for several minutes, the only standout upgrade seems to be the fog lights. Which is strange because, when compared with the older model, it becomes immediately apparent that the refresh worked some legitimate magic on the family wagon. Don’t believe us? Well, here is a visual sample of the 2018 Kia Sedona: (Read More…)

By on July 17, 2017

2018 Honda Fit EX

The current-generation Honda’s Fit is considerably less adorable than previous incarnations, but still a vehicle that’s easy to recommend to those with a specific price point and varied needs — especially if they also do all their driving in the city. However, it wasn’t perfect and rationalizing its purchase became difficult as upmarket models offered more car for less money.

For 2018, Honda has updated the subcompact Fit with driver-assist features, new looks, and some mild performance accoutrements for a not-unreasonable amount of cash. It doesn’t necessarily make it a better buy than the Civic you’ve been considering, but it should be enough to make the Fit deserving of a second look.  (Read More…)

By on February 4, 2017

2018 Subaru Legacy Exterior, Image: Subaru

Subaru has refreshed its Legacy for 2018 and the updated sedan will make its debut at the 2017 Chicago Auto Show.

It’s tough to spot all the 2018 Subaru Legacy’s updates, but the Japanese automaker assures us they exist. Subaru has revised the Legacy’s sheetmetal, front and rear, for a sportier appearance, while upgrading the interior with more premium materials. Subaru’s engineers have also focused on making the Legacy’s ride smoother and quieter.

(Read More…)

By on November 19, 2015

2017 Mirage GT

Seriously, they did! Look at it! Instead of being some anonymous South Asian egg, the Mitsubishi Mirage now looks like an anonymous European egg.

Okay, okay. It isn’t going to set your heart alight with desire, but Mitsubishi has done a stellar job upgrading the Mirage with the few resources it has at its disposal. This little subcompact hatchback will be the first Mitsubishi ever to offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Its 1.2-liter MIVEC three-cylinder engine gets an ever-so slight bump to 78 horsepower (+4 over the current Mirage). The Japanese automaker even gave the exterior and interior a fairly thorough re-work considering this is a mid-cycle refresh. And considering this is Mitsubishi we’re talking about here.

Those of you who were totally sold on the Rockford Fosgate special edition, fear not! You can still get that in the new Mirage, too, though minus the badging that tells thieves which car to hit in the Kroger parking lot.

(Read More…)

By on October 21, 2015

2016 Volkswagen Passat (2 of 14)

“What brings you to Vermont?” asked the young woman I was sitting beside on my flight to Burlington to drive the newly refreshed Passat.

“Volkswagen,” I replied simply.

After a pause, and with an eyebrow raised, she came back with the question: “Diesel?”

This is how every conversation about Volkswagen will start for years to come. And, to be fair, it’s also how we’ve talked about Volkswagen for the last 20 years — minus the eyebrow. Volkswagen is as intrinsically connected with diesel as Vermont is to small-town values that border on being Canadianesque.

Except now, conversations about Volkswagen diesels are punctuated with that eyebrow — and for all the wrong reasons.

(Read More…)

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