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  • 2018 Kia Stinger

    Sport sedan appeals to the car enthusiast in all of us

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Kia Stinger RWD

    Kia has a talent for making the unobtainable obtainable. That’s the idea behind the new Stinger sport sedan that competes against German marques such as the Audi A5 and BMW 5-Series. With pricing starting at $31,900 (excluding destination) for the rear-wheel drive four-cylinder model, it’s an appealing proposition.

    Power comes from a two-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 255-horsepower and eight-speed automatic transmission. Zero-to-sixty acceleration, according-to the manufacturer, is 5.9 seconds. Buyers wanting more horses under the hood can opt for a 365-horsepower 3.3-liter V-6.

    Average fuel economy, according-to EPA estimates is 25 miles-per-gallon. The manufacturer recommends but does not require premium unleaded gasoline.

    Kia’s design genius, Peter Schreyer, penned the exterior based on the Kia GT concept that drew crowds at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 2011. When journalists asked if Kia would actually-build something like that, the answer was: “Why not?”

    2018 Kia Stinger RWD

    In typical Kia fashion, the Stinger comes loaded with comfort and convenience features including leather upholstery, heated front seats, keyless entry and start, UVO infotainment, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, 18-inch rims, heated outside mirrors and LED tail lighting.

    An active safety option package on the test car adds forward collision warning with autonomous braking, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, automatic high beams, drowsy driver warning and rear cross traffic alert. Final MSRP including the $900 destination charge is $34,800. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Kia Sportage SX AWD

    Compact crossover delivers the goods

    By Nina Russin

    Kia Sportage

    Kia Sportage

    Although the Sportage is one of Kia’s oldest nameplates with heritage going back to the early 1990s, the current compact crossover represents a complete departure from the original SUV that completed the Paris-Dakar rally in 1993 and the Baja 1000 two years later. While the early Sportage was ideal for off-road competition, its performance on paved roads was less than perfect, hence the evolution towards the current unibody (passenger car) platform.

    What links the two models more than the name is their focus on value. While it would be difficult to determine whether-or-not the current Sportage is the best compact crossover in the ever-widening sea of options, it’s a solid performer that comes well equipped with convenience and active safety features.

    Pricing for the base front-wheel drive LX starts at $23,750: over $500 below the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V it competes against. The upscale SX all-wheel drive model tested is priced from $34,400 excluding the $990 destination charge. Adding a few options- cargo mat, cross bars, carpeted floor mats, cargo net, cover and cargo tray- final MSRP is $36,125. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Toyota RAV4 Adventure AWD

    The original compact crossover takes the road less traveled

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Toyota RAV4 Adventure

    2018 Toyota RAV4 Adventure

    While many automakers claim to have invented the compact crossover, credit should go to Toyota, which introduced the original Recreational Activity Vehicle in 1994. What distinguished the original RAV4 from other small SUVs at the time was its car-based architecture. Unibody construction gave the RAV4 the road manners of a passenger car while its two-box architecture added practicality for buyers who wanted a taller, more versatile cargo area.

    Over the past quarter century, the RAV4 has grown in proportions and developed a distinct personality. With the recent addition of the C-HR to Toyota’s crossover lineup, the RAV4 is no longer the smallest offering. Styling is more conservative, and the cargo bay in-particular-is considerably roomier.

    This year, Toyota adds the Adventure model, combining convenience features from the mid-grade XLE with the sporty SE’s styling, plus some unique content: more ground clearance, bigger fender flares and tires, and a standard tow prep package that enables the RAV4 Adventure to tow up to 3500 pounds, meeting our ALV minimum towing standards.

    Base price for the all-wheel drive version is $28,400, excluding destination. Options on the test car include a cold-weather package that adds a heated steering wheel and heated front seats, power driver’s seat and windshield wiper de-icer, mudguards, unique exterior paint and a tonneau cover for the cargo area, bringing the final MSRP to $30,880. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium

    Compact crossover is young at heart

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Toyota C-HR

    2018 Toyota C-HR

    The all-new Toyota C-HR is perhaps the most dramatic manifestation of the automaker’s new direction in styling and performance. Originally intended for the Scion brand when it debuted at the 2014 Paris Motor Show, the C-HR combines edgy, youthful styling with peppy performance at an affordable price. There are two available trim levels: XLE and XLE Premium. Pricing for the base XLE starts at $22,500. The XLE Premium model tested is priced from $24,350 excluding destination.

    Options on the test car are minimal and affordably priced, including carpeted floor mats and cargo mat, mudguards, first aid kit, TRD oil cap and rear bumper protector, bringing the final MSRP to $25,958.

    All models are front-wheel drive and come with a 144-horsepower two-liter engine and continuously variable automatic transmission. Sadly, there’s no manual transmission option. My guess is that chief engineer, Hiro Koba, would have opted to include the option had it been viable, since he is a racing enthusiast. Unfortunately, the uptake on manual gearboxes is so low these days that offering one this type of vehicle simply isn’t cost-effective.

    All models come well-equipped with standard safety and convenience features, including Toyota Safety Sense with Pedestrian Detection: a suite of technologies including pre-collision with auto-brake, dynamic radar cruise control, lane keeping assist and automatic high beams. The XLE Premium adds blind spot monitoring: something I found quite useful since the car’s thick D-pillars create large blind spots in the rear corners.

    Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-trimmed tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and shift knob, fog lamps, brake hold, power side mirrors and a four-inch thin-film-transistor information display. All models run on 18-inch alloy wheels and come with LED daytime running lamps. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Toyota Corolla XSE

    Compact sedan combines value with style

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Toyota Corolla

    2018 Toyota Corolla

    The Corolla is Toyota’s most enduring nameplate, with over fifty years on American roads. While many things have changed over the past five decades, the compact sedan’s mission- combining style, value and reliability- remains the same. At a time when commodities trend towards overcomplicated and overpriced, it’s a refreshing formula.

    The 2018 model is essentially carryover from the previous year, with the addition of Toyota Safety Sense with pedestrian detection and a rearview camera as standard equipment on all models. Pricing for the upscale XSE starts at $22,730 excluding the $895 destination charge.

    Standard equipment includes LED headlamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth interface, keyless entry and start, USB and iPod connectivity, automatic climate control, six-way power driver’s seat, thin-film transistor information display, Entune audio with Scout GPS link, 60/40 split folding rear seats and heated front seats. A standard power moonroof brings more ambient light into the interior.

    Options on the test car add a TRD performance exhaust, air filter and rear sway bar, premium audio system with navigation, seven-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming audio, a first aid kit, mudguards and tablet holder. Final MSRP is $25,881. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross SE S-AWC

    New compact crossover focused on value

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

    2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

    Mitsubishi is leveraging the name of one of its most popular passenger cars to create a buzz about its newest compact crossover, the Eclipse Cross. As the pool of CUVs widens, competition among well-known players including Honda and Toyota makes gaining market share more challenging.

    Mitsubishi has struggled as of late to regain consumer confidence. Disregarding the issue of resale value, the automaker is offering buyers some very solid vehicles with improved fit and finish. While the Eclipse Cross isn’t a perfect car, it’s hard to find anything offering as much standard content with a starting price of $23,295.

    The all-wheel drive model tested starts at $26,395 excluding the $995 destination charge. Options include special white pearl exterior paint, carpeted floor mats, and tonneau cover. Final MSRP is $27,915. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 GMC Terrain SLT

    Compact crossover has the versatility for active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    2018 GMC Terrain

    2018 GMC Terrain

    GMC is one of two automakers that focuses exclusively on building trucks and understanding what its buyers want in terms of functionality: hence the term, ‘professional grade.’

    In the ever-increasing pool of compact crossovers, the new second-generation Terrain stands out as a very good package at an affordable price. Features such as a fold-flat front passenger seat and available hands-free liftgate make it a lot easier to load large items such as bikes and kayaks inside.

    At the same time, GMC includes important active safety technology such as forward collision warning with autonomous braking, blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, intelligent headlamps and blind spot monitoring, as well as infotainment features such as a 4G LTE Wi Fi hotspot.

    Base price for the upscale SLT grade is $31,320 excluding the $995 destination charge. Options on the test car include panoramic sunroof, power hands-free liftgate, driver’s seat memory and power front passenger seat, an infotainment system including an 8-inch color touchscreen, OnStar and navigation, Bose audio system, red exterior paint and the active safety features listed above. Final MSRP is $38,070. Read the rest of this entry »

  • First Drive: 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

    Subcompact aimed towards driving enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

    2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

    This summer an all-new hatchback replaces the Corolla iM: a car developed for Europe and initially sold in the US under the Scion nameplate. The new hatchback reflects a serious commitment stateside to a segment currently dominated by Honda and Mazda, delivering a product that goes head-to-head against the Civic and Mazda3.

    “Our competition, especially the Civic, has a unique family story. We’re doing the same thing,” explained Jordan Pauly, vehicle marketing for Toyota.

    “In this diverse segment, we are looking at buyers aged 18-35, multicultural, half male and half female. Not one vehicle fits all. The group is interested in utility but does not want the size or higher price of a SUV,” he continued.

    Toyota hopes buyers will see the new hatch as an affordable, fun-to-drive alternative, and is developing aftermarket parts under the TRD brand to encourage customizing. The automaker is campaigning a Formula Drift car based on the production car built by Stephan Papadakis and driven by Fredric Aasbo, to whet the appetite of driving enthusiasts. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SE with Technology

    Three-row crossover geared towards active families

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    The midsize Atlas three-row crossover that debuted last year shares the same basic underpinnings as the Golf hatchback. Both are built on the automaker’s MQB modular platform, enabling engineers to share technology such as laser clamp welding that contributes to a more rigid body structure between various models.

    Buyers can choose between a turbocharged four-cylinder block or V-6 engine and front or all-wheel drive. The test car is the front-wheel drive V-6 SE with Technology starting from $35,940 excluding the $925 destination charge.

    Standard comfort and convenience features include keyless entry and start, leatherette seating, three-zone climate controls, heated side mirrors, roof rails, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlamps, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, power liftgate, an eight-speaker sound system with high definition and Sirius XM radio and eight-inch touchscreen display. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Volkswagen Golf TSI

    Compact hatchback is big from the inside out

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Volkswagen Golf

    2018 Volkswagen Golf

    The Volkswagen Golf isn’t a very big car, with a wheelbase measuring 104-inches: about 8-1/2 feet. Don’t let its compact dimensions fool you; the front-wheel drive Golf has an amazing amount of space inside.

    Fold the second-row seats flat and it can hold skis, snowboards, and camping gear. With pricing for the base S automatic model starting at $22,010 sans destination, it might leave something in the bank for that new eTAP bicycle you’ve been thinking about, or at least some component upgrades.

    Mechanically 2018 models are carryover, but with a refreshed exterior that includes LED daytime running lamps, LED tail lamps and some chrome accents. Standard convenience features on the base S tested include alloy wheels, keyless entry, eight-speaker sound system, rearview camera, cruise control, automatic windshield wipers and Bluetooth interface. The S grade comes with cloth upholstery and manual seat adjustments that include lumbar support. Destination is $850. Read the rest of this entry »