Jump to content
  • Greetings Guest!

    CheersandGears.com was founded in 2001 and is one of the oldest continuously operating automotive forums out there.  Come see why we have users who visit nearly every day for the past 16+ years. Signup is fast and free, or you can opt for a premium subscription to view the site ad-free.

William Maley

2014 Review Wrap-Up: Subcompacts and Compacts

Recommended Posts


With 2014 coming to a close and your's truly still having a number of vehicles that need to have reviews written up, I thought it would be a good idea to finish up the year with the remaining vehicles from the 2014 model year. Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting a number of quick reviews. This will be leading up to my favorite vehicles I drove in the past year.

Let's begin with the smallest vehicles that I reviewed: subcompacts and compacts.

First Up: 2015 Honda Fit EX

If there was one model that defined the current subcompact class, it would have to be the Honda Fit. When it was first introduced back in 2006, the Fit featured a clever back seat to increase the practicality of the vehicle; impressive driving dynamics, and sipping fuel like no other. Now the subcompact field has grown in terms of quantity and quality of vehicles. Honda has responded by introducing the third-generation Fit this year. How does the new Fit stand up to the new crowd?

The Fit retains the shape it has for the past two-generations, but it gets a bit more aggressive and sleeker. The front looks like Honda’s designers watched a bit too much of Iron Man with the solid one piece grille. Other items of note on the front include larger air ducts and slimmer headlights. The side profile boasts two character lines to help give it an identity. Around back are a set of tall taillights and a set of faux vents in the bumper.

2015 Honda Fit EX 10

Stepping inside the Fit, Honda has reworked the dashboard layout with controls for the radio and climate control system angled towards the driver. Material quality has seen a noticeable improvement with soft-touch materials and faux aluminum trim used throughout. The touchscreen radio is easy to use and quick to respond. The big downside is Honda deciding use capacitive-touch buttons for volume and home. There were times when I had to hit the volume button more than once to get it to respond. Honda, please go back to normal buttons and knobs.

Even though the new Fit is about 1.6 inches shorter than the previous model, Honda was able to increase passenger space by 4.9 cubic feet. This is due to a longer wheelbase and a thinner, center-mounted gas tank. Sitting in the back. I found more than enough head and legroom. Now the increase in passenger space means cargo space has dropped by about 4 cubic feet. Still, the Fit cargo’s space is impressive with 17 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 53 cubic feet with the seats down.

The back seat is also one of the most versatile I have ever come across in a vehicle. The Fit’s ‘Magic’ seat can be set up in four different ways to provide added functionality. Those include:

  • Folding the rear seats down to create more space
  • Folding one part of rear seats (60/40 split) to make room for cargo, while retaining some seat space for a passenger
  • Folding the seat bottoms up to carry tall items
  • Folding the front seats back to create a sudo-bed

2015 Honda Fit EX 4

Power comes from a 1.5L EarthDreams four-cylinder with 130 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. In my tester, the engine was paired up to a CVT. The engine has to be worked to get up to speed which is normal for this type of car. What I’m not so happy with is the amount of buzzy-ness that is coming from the engine. Honda has said they have worked on trying to improve NVH levels in the Fit, though I find that hard to believe due to the amount of engine noise in the cabin. Thankfully, the powertrain does quiet down when you settle into speed. The CVT does behave nicely and doesn’t have the whine that most transmissions of this type are known for till you get higher in the revs. Fuel economy wise, the Fit with the CVT is rated by the EPA at 33 City/41 Highway/36 Combined. My week saw an overall average of 38 MPG. I should note that I did see 40 MPG when I took the Fit on a trip to Northern Michigan.

The Fit earned a reputation for being a fun to drive subcompact, and for the most part that still holds true. It feels playful when going through the curvy bits and the chassis keeps the car grounded. The steering is a bit too light, and it doesn’t have quite the feel that the last generation model was known for. But what surprised me is how Fit did on a long drive. Being a subcompact, I thought the Fit would be uncomfortable due to its short wheelbase. But Honda has made some improvements to the suspension to make it more comfortable for long trips. This means the Fit was able to deal with bumps and imperfections without having any of the passengers feeling it. After doing a drive to Northern Michigan, I had no aches or pain when I got out of the Fit.

The Honda Fit still stands tall in the subcompact class with its impressive versatility, fuel economy, and driving dynamics. Hopefully Honda has plans in the works for improving the NVH levels in the engine. Otherwise, the Fit is worth a look if you’re shopping for a new subcompact.

Disclaimer: Honda Provided the Fit EX, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

Year: 2015

Make: Honda

Model: Fit

Trim: EX

Engine: 1.5L 16-Valve DOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder

Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT

Horsepower @ RPM: 130 @ 6600

Torque @ RPM: 114 @ 4600

Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 33/41/36

Curb Weight: 2,630 lbs

Location of Manufacture: Yorii, Japan

Base Price: $17,560

As Tested Price: $19,180 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge)

Options:

N/A

Next Page: 2014 Kia Soul ! (Exclaim)


The automotive marketplace is known sometimes for being the arbiters of fads. Consider such models as Mazda Miata and the clones that followed soon after; or the Chrysler PT Cruiser. The most recent fad that we went through were the box cars, started by the likes of the Nissan Cube and Scion xB. These two models enjoyed some success in sales. Kia would become the third entrant in the box class, with the Soul. Like the Cube and xB, the should would become a decent seller. But in recent years, sales began to wane on the Cube and xB, while Soul continued to rise in sales. So what is it about the Soul that makes it a shining star, while its competitors dim out?

The Soul’s overall design hasn’t gone through a major transformation. The reason for that is Kia moving 112,000 Souls last year and the thought of a dramatic change could spell doom for sales. But that doesn’t mean Kia hasn’t made any changes. The front end now features a new lower fascia with a trapezoidal grille and a set of fog lights sitting on either side. The back takes some ideas from the 2012 Soul Trackster concept with a new rear tailgate design and large, wrap-around taillights. Those sharp looking eighteen-inch wheels come as part of the Exclaim (!) model.

2014 Kia Soul Exclaim 12

Moving inside, the Soul underwent a massive change. The interior looks and feels more mature with improved materials and layout. My top-of-line tester came equipped with a number features such as heated and cooled seats, panoramic sunroof, a color LCD in the instrument cluster, automatic climate control, and the latest version of Kia’s UVO infotainment system which uses Google’s Android operating system. Getting myself situated in the Soul was easy enough thanks to the power adjustments on the seat and tilt-telescoping wheel. Back seat passengers might find legroom being a little bit tight, but headroom is very much in abundance thanks to the boxy shape.

Power comes in the form of two engines. The base is a 1.6L four-cylinder, while my tester featured the 2.0L GDI four-cylinder. The 2.0L produces 164 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic is the sole transmission choice. The 2.0L engine can be classified as being adequate as it seems to produce the same amount power as it does in noise. Stay on flat surfaces and around town duties and the engine does a fine job. But if you need to merge or tackle a steep hill, you’ll need to put the pedal to the floor and enjoy the noises coming from the engine. To be fair, the six-speed automatic does a decent job of keeping the engine right in the sweet spot of power. As fuel economy, the EPA rates the Soul Exclaim at 23 City/31 Highway/26 Combined. I got 27.3 MPG during my week of testing.

2014 Kia Soul Exclaim 7

On the ride and handling front, the Soul did pretty well over some of Michigan’s ‘fantastic’ roads. Bumps and imperfections were mostly ironed over. As for the curves, the Soul’s suspension mostly keeps the vehicle planted. However, the tall shape does mean some body lean appears. The Exclaim model came equipped with the flex-steer system which varies the steering weight. I really don’t like this system as the comfort and sport settings are on the extreme ends (one is really light, while the other is too heavy). I left in normal which provided a nice balance.

Much like Kia, I can’t fully explain why the Soul is doing so well. But I have a good guess. Kia has a really impressive package in the Soul with an improved interior, good ride quality, and a funky look that makes it stand out. Whatever the reason is, Kia is doing something right with the Soul.

Disclaimer: Kia Provided the Soul !, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

Year: 2014

Make: Kia

Model: Soul

Trim: ! (Exclaim)

Engine: 2.0L GDI Four-Cylinder

Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic

Horsepower @ RPM: 164 @ 6,200

Torque @ RPM: 151 @ 4,000

Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/31/26

Curb Weight: 2,837 lbs

Location of Manufacture: Gwangju, South Korea

Base Price: $20,300

As Tested Price: $26,195 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge)

Options:

Sun & Sound Package - $2,600

The Whole Shabang Package - $2,500

Next Page: 2014 Mazda3 Grand Touring Hatchback


Its hard to believe that only a couple of years ago, Mazda was beginning to roll out its Skyacitv technologies in the last-generation Mazda3. In my review of the 3, I praised the Skyactiv powertrain for being a clever way of increasing fuel economy without resorting hybrid technologies. I also wondered how the 3 would be once it received the full suite of Skyactiv technologies. Well I had my chance when a 2014 Mazda 3s Grand Touring hatchback arrived for a week-long evaluation.

Mazda has been producing some of most distinctive vehicles on the road and the 3 is no different. Armed with the Kodo design language and lovely Soul Red color, the 3 stands out in the compact car crowd. Up front is a tall grille with a slim chrome bar running from underneath the emblem into the front headlights. The side profile reveals stylish curves for the fenders and roofline. Inside, the 3 has really stepped up in terms of design and quality. Materials are top notch, even though Mazda is sticking with the blackout theme. Some contrasting colors would be nice Mazda. Despite an increase an overall size, interior space is still small. Sitting in the back, I found myself wishing for bit more leg and headroom.

2014 Mazda3 S Grand Touring Hatchback 11

One big change for the 3 deals with technology. Previous Mazdas featured one of most infuriating infotainment systems I have ever come across with dated graphics, slow response times, not being able to connect phones with Bluetooth, and number of other problems. The 3 now features a new infotainment system with a seven-inch screen mounted on the dash and iDrive-like controller. This new system is easier to use and quick to respond when selecting a function. Also, it quickly connected to my phone. One other technology change deals with heads-up display. Mazda uses a screen that rises from the top of the instrument cluster and projects key information onto it. The trick is that screen is right in line of sight of the windshield which makes you think the information is being projected onto the windshield. Very clever.

The Mazda3 comes with two different powertrains. i models get the 2.0L Skyactiv-G four-cylinder while s models come with the larger 2.5L. My 3 was equipped the latter which packed 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. This is paired up to a six-speed automatic, but you’ll be able to get a six-speed manual. The 2.5 packs quite the punch and gets the 3 moving at a quick pace. Also, Mazda deserves credit for building a four-cylinder that’s refined and smooth. The six-speed automatic is quick on shifts and provides a good pairing for the 2.5. EPA rates the Mazda 3s Grand Touring at 28 City/38 Highway/32 Combined. I saw an average of 31 MPG.

2014 Mazda3 S Grand Touring Hatchback 6

The Mazda’3s handling is amazing. Along a curvy stretch of road, the 3’s chassis keeps the model flat. Meanwhile, the steering has good heft and provides a sporting driver the details of the road. It may not be a sports car, but 3 sure acts like one. Now the sports car aspirations do mean the 3 is a little bit more bouncy when dealing with potholes and bumps. Road and wind noise are kept at decent levels.

There is one concern I do have with the Mazda3. As tested, my 3s Grand Touring cost $30,415. The price includes $2,500 tech package which includes blind spot monitoring and radar cruise control. It made me wonder if Mazda was asking a bit too much for the new 3. It has value to justify it, but I wonder if someone is willing to drop that much for a Mazda3.

So the new Mazda3 is very much improved with the full suite Skyactiv technologies that it could be considered as best in class. The price however does give me pause from fully recommend it.

Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the 3 S Grand Touring, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

Year: 2014

Make: Mazda

Model: 3 Hatchback

Trim: s Grand Touring

Engine: 2.5L DOHC Skyactiv-G Four-Cylinder

Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic

Horsepower @ RPM: 184 @ 5700

Torque @ RPM: 185 @ 3250

Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/38/32

Curb Weight: 3,002 lbs

Location of Manufacture: Hofu, Japan

Base Price: $26,495

As Tested Price: $30,415 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge)

Options:

5GT Technology Package - $2,500

Soul Red Paint - $300


View full article

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the Mazda in particular would make a nice commuting car and would be fine (and easier on the wallet!) with the smaller engine option.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like the Mazda as well.  Mazdas with Skyactive tend to do really well on their highway MPG...  better than EPA rating.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A Mazda 3s Touring with the newly available 6spd manual is pretty appealing, though it's priced about the same as the 6 Touring. You do get slightly more luxuries in the 3, but I'd have a hard time picking it over the bigger, sexier 6. Once the '16 model is available with its gorgeous new interior (and assuming the 6 Touring keeps its 6spd manual option), it'll be even tougher. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The only one of the cars I can see myself in is the Mazda 3. Mazda is slowly but surely becoming a quiet giant in standard performance for smaller cars. The Mazda 3 also has good size, and handles like a champ. Go Mazda!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A Mazda 3s Touring with the newly available 6spd manual is pretty appealing, though it's priced about the same as the 6 Touring. You do get slightly more luxuries in the 3, but I'd have a hard time picking it over the bigger, sexier 6. Once the '16 model is available with its gorgeous new interior (and assuming the 6 Touring keeps its 6spd manual option), it'll be even tougher. 

 

Yes, if you are comparing the 3 sedan vs. 6, it would be the 6. But the utility of the 3 hatch out-triumphs the bigger sibling.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great reviews.  Your assessments are pretty much spot on.  I was looking at all three of these vehicles, but I went in another direction and recently purchased something used and cheap instead.  I'll post something about it soon.

 

As for the Fit, I find the exterior design more bland than the last generation, but the interior room is amazing, and Honda infused the car with many more features.  The Soul has a commanding driving position and is much cheaper than crossovers.  It doesn't drive like a penalty box.  The new model is much nicer than the old one.  Mazda3s get very pricey, especially with a loaded Grand Touring model like yours.  But these are also a class above competitors such as the Civic, Elantra, Cruze, and Focus.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

despite the age and all that, I'd still look at a cruze first and a focus second when it comes to smaller cars.  

 

I think the Mazda3 lost some of its look at me thing. Its a styling dud now.  The Fit is great but still looks like a minivan and they could put more snort under the hood.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

despite the age and all that, I'd still look at a cruze first and a focus second when it comes to smaller cars.

I think the Mazda3 lost some of its look at me thing. Its a styling dud now. The Fit is great but still looks like a minivan and they could put more snort under the hood.

Really, we must be styling polar opposite. I think the 3 is easily the best looker in the group. I like the Cruze too, but not for its looks

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest kita

I have to say I like the Kia Soul the most even though the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine do not seem to be particularly impressive. I just adore the sophisticated interior design and

spacious cargo space. With added luxury features like the heated seats, rearview camera, sunroof and Infinity audio system, this baby is sure to be on my Christmas wish list this year.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

A Mazda 3s Touring with the newly available 6spd manual is pretty appealing, though it's priced about the same as the 6 Touring. You do get slightly more luxuries in the 3, but I'd have a hard time picking it over the bigger, sexier 6. Once the '16 model is available with its gorgeous new interior (and assuming the 6 Touring keeps its 6spd manual option), it'll be even tougher. 

 

Yes, if you are comparing the 3 sedan vs. 6, it would be the 6. But the utility of the 3 hatch out-triumphs the bigger sibling.

 

 

That may be true, but if you want fun and real utility, you'd probably go with the grand-daddy of hatchbacks, the Golf. It's a full 8" shorter yet has more room for rear passengers and a nearly 3 cubic feet more cargo room. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have to agree with the price issue on the 3...that might hold some back. But otherwise my fave.....new Soul looks angry up front. Fit just looks bloated......

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not usually a huge fan of Mazda, but for this Mazda 3 I am sold, at least comparing to this Honda and Kia. Great design, got the fit just right.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Your content will need to be approved by a moderator

Guest
You are commenting as a guest. If you have an account, please sign in.
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.




  • Similar Content

    • By William Maley
      Trying to review an Alfa Romeo vehicle is difficult as I found out with the Giulia Quadrifoglio. There were parts of model that I found to be quite amazing and worthy of putting it on my year-end favorites list. But other traits and details left a very sour taste in my mouth. I ended my review with this line,
      “To some, that is the charm of an Alfa Romeo. Within all of those flaws is a brilliant automobile. For others, it is something that should be avoided at all costs.”
      Now I find myself in the same difficult position with another Alfa Romeo, the Stelvio. My fingers were crossed that the Stelvio would avoid some of the pitfalls from the Giulia.
      If you were to ask me to describe the Stelvio’s design, I would say it is a tall riding Giulia hatchback. The shared DNA is made quite clear in the front as there is a three-leaf design for the grille, narrow headlights set at a slight angle, and there are deep cuts in the hood. More of the Giulia can be seen in the side profile with flowing curves and noticeable fender bulges. One design trait that sets the Stelvio apart from other luxury crossovers is the sharply raked d-pillar that gives it a sporty edge.
      The Stelvio’s interior mirrors the Giulia with the same modern design and mixture of high-quality and very cheap materials. I also had an odd build quality issue where the button for the driver’s heated seat would get stuck. I would have to press the button a few times to dislodge it. This is a bit worrying for a brand with a very questionable reliability history.
      A set of leather sport seats that are part of an optional sport package came equipped. With increased side bolstering, the seats do an excellent job of holding you in during an enthusiastic drive. It is a shame that the seats aren’t comfortable for long trips. After an hour or so, I found that my thighs were becoming sore. A little bit more seat padding would do some wonders. In the back, there is adequate head and legroom for an average sized adult. Taller passengers will notice headroom is very much at a premium due to the sloping roofline. Cargo space slightly trails competitors with 18.5 cubic feet of space with the seats up and 56.5 when folded.
      For infotainment, the base Stelvio comes with a 6.5-inch screen. The Ti makes do with a larger 8.8-inch screen. Both systems use a controller knob on the center console and voice commands to move around the system. If you read our Giulia Quadrifoglio review, then you know I had a number of problems with the infotainment system: Odd design choices, issues with USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and a number of crashes to name a few. I was hoping the Stelvio’s system would have ironed some of the issues. But sadly, the Stelvio experienced the same issues as the Giulia.
      Alfa Romeo should have just used the UConnect infotainment system like Maserati does. Just put a different coat of paint and call something different.
      Under the hood of the Stelvio lies a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder producing 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. There is also the high-performance Quadrifoglio with a 505 horsepower, twin-turbo V6 engine. 
      Some turbo lag makes an appearance when the vehicle begins to accelerate. But once the turbocharger spools up, the Stelvio moves at a surprising rate. This comes down to a broad and flat torque curve. The eight-speed automatic mirrors what I found in the Giulia Quadrifoglio I drove earlier in the year - stumbles with gear changes at lower speeds, but becomes smoother as speed increases.
      Handling is where the Stelvio really pulls ahead of the competition. On a winding road, the crossover exhibits excellent control of body motions. Steering provides decent weight and feel needed for an enthusiastic drive. I had to remind myself this isn’t a Giulia sedan, this is a compact crossover. But there is one item that will make you think twice about driving the Stelvio with gusto and that is brakes. The pedal feel was very inconsistent - lightly press on the pedal and the vehicle didn’t feel like it was slowing down, press a little bit further and it felt like the vehicle was going into a panic stop. The issue deals with the brake-by-wire system which uses sensors to measure the amount of force and speed applied to the pedal. This information is then transmitted to a controller which applies the appropriate amount of braking force. This is a problem a few other reviews have noted and one Alfa Romeo needs to address.
      The ride is compliant with a fair number of bumps making their way inside. If you’re looking for a somewhat smoother ride, dropping to the smaller 18-inch wheels is recommended. Road and wind noise are kept to average levels for the class. But engine noise is very noticeable inside, sounding like an old diesel truck. Be prepared to keep the volume for the audio system up.
      Like the Giulia Quadrifoglio, the Stelvio has me torn. The crossover has a lot going for it such as the sharp exterior, a very punchy turbo-four, and impressive handling. But then I look at the list of issues such as the problematic infotainment system, confused transmission, and a braking system that is very inconsistent. This isn’t including the dark cloud of Alfa Romeo’s reliability. During my week, I had a ‘Service Alarm’ light that would pop up when I started the vehicle. I wasn’t sure what that meant until I accidentally pressed the panic button and the alarm went off for five minutes. I was about ready to break out the wrenches and remove the battery to shut up the alarm, but then it stopped. It needs to be noted that FCA has issued four recalls on the Stelvio at the time of this writing.
      If you really have your heart set on a Stelvio, be aware of what you’re getting yourself into. There are moments of brilliance mixed in with the perils. Everyone else should look at the competition.
      Disclaimer: Alfa Romeo Provided the Stelvio, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Alfa Romeo
      Model: Stelvio
      Trim: Ti
      Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L MultiAir2 SOHC Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 280 @ 5,200
      Torque @ RPM: 306 @ 2,000 - 4,800
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/28/24
      Curb Weight: 4,044 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Cassino, Italy
      Base Price: $43,995
      As Tested Price: $54,090 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Ti Sport Package 22S - $2,500
      Driver Assist Dynamic Plus Package - $1,500
      Dual-Pane Sunroof - $1,350
      8.8-inch AM/FM Bluetooth Radio with 3D Navigation - $950.00
      Harman Kardon Premium Audio - $900.00
      Driver Assistance Static Package - $650.00
      Vesuvio Grey Metallic - $600.00
      Compact Spare Tire - $450.00
      Convenience Package - $200.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      Trying to review an Alfa Romeo vehicle is difficult as I found out with the Giulia Quadrifoglio. There were parts of model that I found to be quite amazing and worthy of putting it on my year-end favorites list. But other traits and details left a very sour taste in my mouth. I ended my review with this line,
      “To some, that is the charm of an Alfa Romeo. Within all of those flaws is a brilliant automobile. For others, it is something that should be avoided at all costs.”
      Now I find myself in the same difficult position with another Alfa Romeo, the Stelvio. My fingers were crossed that the Stelvio would avoid some of the pitfalls from the Giulia.
      If you were to ask me to describe the Stelvio’s design, I would say it is a tall riding Giulia hatchback. The shared DNA is made quite clear in the front as there is a three-leaf design for the grille, narrow headlights set at a slight angle, and there are deep cuts in the hood. More of the Giulia can be seen in the side profile with flowing curves and noticeable fender bulges. One design trait that sets the Stelvio apart from other luxury crossovers is the sharply raked d-pillar that gives it a sporty edge.
      The Stelvio’s interior mirrors the Giulia with the same modern design and mixture of high-quality and very cheap materials. I also had an odd build quality issue where the button for the driver’s heated seat would get stuck. I would have to press the button a few times to dislodge it. This is a bit worrying for a brand with a very questionable reliability history.
      A set of leather sport seats that are part of an optional sport package came equipped. With increased side bolstering, the seats do an excellent job of holding you in during an enthusiastic drive. It is a shame that the seats aren’t comfortable for long trips. After an hour or so, I found that my thighs were becoming sore. A little bit more seat padding would do some wonders. In the back, there is adequate head and legroom for an average sized adult. Taller passengers will notice headroom is very much at a premium due to the sloping roofline. Cargo space slightly trails competitors with 18.5 cubic feet of space with the seats up and 56.5 when folded.
      For infotainment, the base Stelvio comes with a 6.5-inch screen. The Ti makes do with a larger 8.8-inch screen. Both systems use a controller knob on the center console and voice commands to move around the system. If you read our Giulia Quadrifoglio review, then you know I had a number of problems with the infotainment system: Odd design choices, issues with USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and a number of crashes to name a few. I was hoping the Stelvio’s system would have ironed some of the issues. But sadly, the Stelvio experienced the same issues as the Giulia.
      Alfa Romeo should have just used the UConnect infotainment system like Maserati does. Just put a different coat of paint and call something different.
      Under the hood of the Stelvio lies a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder producing 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. There is also the high-performance Quadrifoglio with a 505 horsepower, twin-turbo V6 engine. 
      Some turbo lag makes an appearance when the vehicle begins to accelerate. But once the turbocharger spools up, the Stelvio moves at a surprising rate. This comes down to a broad and flat torque curve. The eight-speed automatic mirrors what I found in the Giulia Quadrifoglio I drove earlier in the year - stumbles with gear changes at lower speeds, but becomes smoother as speed increases.
      Handling is where the Stelvio really pulls ahead of the competition. On a winding road, the crossover exhibits excellent control of body motions. Steering provides decent weight and feel needed for an enthusiastic drive. I had to remind myself this isn’t a Giulia sedan, this is a compact crossover. But there is one item that will make you think twice about driving the Stelvio with gusto and that is brakes. The pedal feel was very inconsistent - lightly press on the pedal and the vehicle didn’t feel like it was slowing down, press a little bit further and it felt like the vehicle was going into a panic stop. The issue deals with the brake-by-wire system which uses sensors to measure the amount of force and speed applied to the pedal. This information is then transmitted to a controller which applies the appropriate amount of braking force. This is a problem a few other reviews have noted and one Alfa Romeo needs to address.
      The ride is compliant with a fair number of bumps making their way inside. If you’re looking for a somewhat smoother ride, dropping to the smaller 18-inch wheels is recommended. Road and wind noise are kept to average levels for the class. But engine noise is very noticeable inside, sounding like an old diesel truck. Be prepared to keep the volume for the audio system up.
      Like the Giulia Quadrifoglio, the Stelvio has me torn. The crossover has a lot going for it such as the sharp exterior, a very punchy turbo-four, and impressive handling. But then I look at the list of issues such as the problematic infotainment system, confused transmission, and a braking system that is very inconsistent. This isn’t including the dark cloud of Alfa Romeo’s reliability. During my week, I had a ‘Service Alarm’ light that would pop up when I started the vehicle. I wasn’t sure what that meant until I accidentally pressed the panic button and the alarm went off for five minutes. I was about ready to break out the wrenches and remove the battery to shut up the alarm, but then it stopped. It needs to be noted that FCA has issued four recalls on the Stelvio at the time of this writing.
      If you really have your heart set on a Stelvio, be aware of what you’re getting yourself into. There are moments of brilliance mixed in with the perils. Everyone else should look at the competition.
      Disclaimer: Alfa Romeo Provided the Stelvio, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Alfa Romeo
      Model: Stelvio
      Trim: Ti
      Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L MultiAir2 SOHC Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 280 @ 5,200
      Torque @ RPM: 306 @ 2,000 - 4,800
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/28/24
      Curb Weight: 4,044 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Cassino, Italy
      Base Price: $43,995
      As Tested Price: $54,090 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Ti Sport Package 22S - $2,500
      Driver Assist Dynamic Plus Package - $1,500
      Dual-Pane Sunroof - $1,350
      8.8-inch AM/FM Bluetooth Radio with 3D Navigation - $950.00
      Harman Kardon Premium Audio - $900.00
      Driver Assistance Static Package - $650.00
      Vesuvio Grey Metallic - $600.00
      Compact Spare Tire - $450.00
      Convenience Package - $200.00
    • By William Maley
      (Author’s Note: Before you ask, no this isn’t a typo. I really did drive a 2017 Tacoma in 2018. Due to some circumstances, the Tacoma took the place of another vehicle at the last minute. I didn’t realize it was a 2017 model until I saw the sticker. I’ll make note of the changes for 2018 towards the end of the piece.)
      I’ll likely make some people annoyed with this line: The Toyota Tacoma is the Jeep Wrangler of the pickup world. Before you start getting banging on your keyboard, telling me how I am wrong, allow me to make my case. The two models have a number of similarities; off-road pedigree, not changing much in terms of design or mechanicals; and somewhat uncomfortable when driven on the road.
      Since our last review of the Tacoma, not much has changed with the exterior. The TRD Off-Road package does make the Tacoma look somewhat mean with a new grille, 16-inch wheels wrapped meaty off-road tires, and a khaki paint color that looks like it came from an army base.  The Tacoma’s interior is very user-friendly with a comprehensive and simple dash layout. Most controls are where you expect to find them and in easy reach. But some controls are placed in some odd locations. A key example is the hill descent control which is next to the dome lights on the ceiling. Comfort is still almost nonexistent in the Tacoma. The front seats are quite firm and provide decent support. No height adjustment means a fair number of people will need to make comprises in comfort to find the right seating position. The back seat can fit adults, provided you don’t have anyone tall sitting in the front. Otherwise, legroom becomes very scarce. Under the hood is a 3.5L V6 producing 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic and four-wheel drive. At low speeds, the engine pulls quite strongly and smoothly. It is very different when traveling on the highway as the engine really needs to be worked to get up to speed at a somewhat decent rate. Part of this comes down to the automatic which likes to quickly upshift to maximize fuel economy. There is a ‘sport’ mode on the transmission that locks out fifth and sixth gear, but only improves performance marginally. Fuel economy is towards the bottom with EPA figures of 18 City/23 Highway/20 Combined. My average for the week landed around 19.5 mpg. TRD Off-Road brings forth a retuned suspension setup featuring a set of Bilstein shocks. Usually, this makes the ride is somewhat softer. But in the Tacoma, the ride is quite choppy on any surface that isn’t smooth. Steering is very slow and heavy, making tight maneuvers a bit difficult. A fair amount of wind and road noise is apparent. Any changes to be aware of for the 2018 Tacoma? The only change of note is the addition of Toyota Safety Sense-P. This suite of active safety features includes automatic emergency braking, automatic high-beams, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning. The TRD Off-Road will set you back $35,515 for the Double Cab with the Long Bed - the 2018 model is about $1,410 more. With a few options, our as-tested price came to $40,617. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Tacoma, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Toyota
      Model: Tacoma Double Cab with Long Bed
      Trim: TRD Off-Road
      Engine: 3.5L D-4S V6 with Dual VVT-i 
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 278 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 265 @ 4,600 
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/23/20
      Curb Weight: 4,480 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: San Antonio, TX
      Base Price: $35,515
      As Tested Price: $40,617 (Includes $960.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Premium & Technology Package - $3,035.00
      Tonneau Cover - $650.00
      Carpet Floor Mats w/Door Sill Protector - $208.00
      Mudguards - $129.00
      Bed Mat - $120.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      (Author’s Note: Before you ask, no this isn’t a typo. I really did drive a 2017 Tacoma in 2018. Due to some circumstances, the Tacoma took the place of another vehicle at the last minute. I didn’t realize it was a 2017 model until I saw the sticker. I’ll make note of the changes for 2018 towards the end of the piece.)
      I’ll likely make some people annoyed with this line: The Toyota Tacoma is the Jeep Wrangler of the pickup world. Before you start getting banging on your keyboard, telling me how I am wrong, allow me to make my case. The two models have a number of similarities; off-road pedigree, not changing much in terms of design or mechanicals; and somewhat uncomfortable when driven on the road.
      Since our last review of the Tacoma, not much has changed with the exterior. The TRD Off-Road package does make the Tacoma look somewhat mean with a new grille, 16-inch wheels wrapped meaty off-road tires, and a khaki paint color that looks like it came from an army base.  The Tacoma’s interior is very user-friendly with a comprehensive and simple dash layout. Most controls are where you expect to find them and in easy reach. But some controls are placed in some odd locations. A key example is the hill descent control which is next to the dome lights on the ceiling. Comfort is still almost nonexistent in the Tacoma. The front seats are quite firm and provide decent support. No height adjustment means a fair number of people will need to make comprises in comfort to find the right seating position. The back seat can fit adults, provided you don’t have anyone tall sitting in the front. Otherwise, legroom becomes very scarce. Under the hood is a 3.5L V6 producing 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic and four-wheel drive. At low speeds, the engine pulls quite strongly and smoothly. It is very different when traveling on the highway as the engine really needs to be worked to get up to speed at a somewhat decent rate. Part of this comes down to the automatic which likes to quickly upshift to maximize fuel economy. There is a ‘sport’ mode on the transmission that locks out fifth and sixth gear, but only improves performance marginally. Fuel economy is towards the bottom with EPA figures of 18 City/23 Highway/20 Combined. My average for the week landed around 19.5 mpg. TRD Off-Road brings forth a retuned suspension setup featuring a set of Bilstein shocks. Usually, this makes the ride is somewhat softer. But in the Tacoma, the ride is quite choppy on any surface that isn’t smooth. Steering is very slow and heavy, making tight maneuvers a bit difficult. A fair amount of wind and road noise is apparent. Any changes to be aware of for the 2018 Tacoma? The only change of note is the addition of Toyota Safety Sense-P. This suite of active safety features includes automatic emergency braking, automatic high-beams, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning. The TRD Off-Road will set you back $35,515 for the Double Cab with the Long Bed - the 2018 model is about $1,410 more. With a few options, our as-tested price came to $40,617. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Tacoma, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Toyota
      Model: Tacoma Double Cab with Long Bed
      Trim: TRD Off-Road
      Engine: 3.5L D-4S V6 with Dual VVT-i 
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 278 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 265 @ 4,600 
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/23/20
      Curb Weight: 4,480 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: San Antonio, TX
      Base Price: $35,515
      As Tested Price: $40,617 (Includes $960.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Premium & Technology Package - $3,035.00
      Tonneau Cover - $650.00
      Carpet Floor Mats w/Door Sill Protector - $208.00
      Mudguards - $129.00
      Bed Mat - $120.00
    • By William Maley
      (Author's Note: As was pointed out to me on Facebook, the diesel engine is nowhere to be seen on the consumer site or the configurator. Yet, it appears in FCA's media materials. In an email sent this afternoon, Ram Trucks spokesman Nick Cappa said the option has been dropped for 2018. This review has been updated with this new information. -WM)
      I’ll admit that I was a bit crazy requesting a 2018 Ram ProMaster van for review. Ever since it was introduced, I have been interested in this rebadged version of the Fiat Ducato van sold elsewhere. Unlike most vans that use a rear-wheel drive layout, the ProMaster uses a front-wheel drive one. I wanted to know if this works for a vehicle designed for work. But I also have an odd curiosity to cargo vans in general as I wondered what it would be like to drive one for a week as my daily driver. This is what I found out.
      Function over form best describes the design brief for the Ram ProMaster. The overall profile reminds us of an oversized dustbuster with a steeply raked and short front end and tall sides. Awkward is the kindest word to use on the ProMaster’s front end with the grille placed very low, acres of gray plastic, headlights positioned near the windshield, and a large glass area. The rest of the ProMaster’s design fits in line with other cargo vans with clean sides, split-opening rear doors, and a set of optional wheels. 
      The ProMaster offers a wide variety of configurations. With three weight classes, three body styles, and various roof height and length options, you’ll be able to find a van that fit your needs. Our particular tester is one of the popular configurations; a 2500 with the 159-inch wheelbase and high roof option.
      Getting inside the ProMaster isn’t tough thanks to wide opening front doors and steps to help you climb up. Once in, you’ll notice one of the key benefits to the ProMaster’s exterior. The large glass area not only makes the interior feel airy, it provides excellent outward visibility. This helps make maneuvering in tight spaces easier.
      The design is very utilitarian with a plain look and controls within easy reach of the driver and passenger. There are some clever touches such as the integrated clipboard latch on the top of the dash to hold paperwork and numerous storage spaces. Many surfaces are covered in hard plastics which will hold up to the various work demands being put upon by owners.
      One area that will be a major issue for drivers is the seating position. Instead of you sitting in front of the steering wheel, Ram has the wheel set up similar to a school bus or semi-truck where you sit over it. Not helping is the placement of the pedals where you step down instead of push forward. The end result is a driver being in a hunched over position. This could be somewhat alleviated if there was a tilt adjustment for the steering wheel. But Ram only offers a telescoping adjustment. The only way to get a sudo-tilt adjustment is to adjust the angle of the seat.
      The seats themselves are perfect for a long workday with excellent support and firm cushioning. It needs to be noted that the ProMaster only offers the bare minimum when it comes to seat adjustments such as angle and position. If you want lumbar adjustments, you need to tick that box on the option list.
      All ProMasters come with a 5.3-inch touchscreen with FCA’s UConnect infotainment system. Our test van came with the optional TomTom navigation system. The small screen makes it slightly difficult to look at quickly or use while on the move. We would skip the TomTom navigation system as the graphics are quite dated and it takes some time to process before providing directions. At least the base UConnect system has many of the qualities we like on the larger systems such as a simple user interface and snappy performance.
      Step behind the cockpit to enter the massive cargo space. Our particular ProMaster configuration boasted 420 cubic feet of space and max payload of 4,020 pounds. One of the reasons I had requested the van was to get a number of items at my parent’s house to be donated. The van was up to the task by swallowing up everything including a dining room set. The low step-in height, rear-doors that open up 260-degrees, and numerous tie-down points to keep cargo in its place were appreciated.
      There are two engines on offer for the ProMaster. We had the base 3.6L V6 producing 280 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic. There is an optional a 3.0L turbodiesel inline-four with a six-speed automated manual. (No more diesel for 2018 according to FCA). The V6 engine moves the van with no issue even with a large amount of cargo. As for the automatic, it delivers smooth shifts. However, the transmission showed some slowness to change gears. We’re assuming this is due to van only having 350 miles when we took delivery. For those who need a specific setup in the cargo area such as plumbers or painters, Ram offers various uplift packages that include such items as shelving, integrated tool boxes, and dividers.
      The low mileage might also explain the fuel economy figure of 15.7 mpg in mostly city driving. No EPA numbers are available due to the van’s gross vehicle weight being above 8,500 pounds.
      It is evident that Ram’s prime consideration for the suspension was tuned to deal with heavy loads and not comfort. With the van empty, the ride quality is quite harsh with many bumps making their way inside. Fill up the van and the ride begins to smooth out somewhat. Steering takes a lot of effort as it's very slow and requires a driver to make a number of rotations to do simple turns. There is a fair amount of road and wind noise coming inside the passenger compartment.
      If I was to judge the ProMaster like I would with a normal passenger car or SUV, it would be towards the bottom. There is a long list of problems such as the odd driving position, the number of comfort features that are optional, slow steering, and harsh ride. But I need to look at the ProMaster in a different light since it isn’t built for people like me. It is built for people who need a vehicle that can handle holding a lot of cargo or tools, along with being on some sort of worksite for periods at a time. Then the ProMaster begins to show some bright spots. The massive cargo area with the low step-in and tie-down point make it great for deliveries or moving. Using a front-wheel drive setup doesn’t hurt the ProMaster’s capability in terms of payload, and will help the van when the weather becomes terrible like a snowstorm. Finally, the V6 engine is plenty powerful for any situation the ProMaster is in.
      While I found the ProMaster to be a bit much to be used a daily driver for me, I can very much see the appeal for those in the commercial market. Just be sure to try the seating position as that will be the item that will influence your decision the most.
      Disclaimer: Ram Trucks Provided the ProMaster 2500, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Ram Trucks
      Model: ProMaster Cargo
      Trim: 2500 159" Wheelbase - High Roof
      Engine: 3.6L DOHC 24-Valve V6
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 280 @ 6,400
      Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 4,400
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - N/A
      Curb Weight: 4.483 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: N/A
      Base Price: $35,095
      As Tested Price: $43,460 (Includes $1,395 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Sliding Driver-Side Door without Glass - $595.00
      Trailer Tow Group - $585.00
      UConnect 3 Navigation with 5-inch Display - $495.00
      16-inch x 6.0-inch Aluminum Wheels - $445.00
      Wood Composite Floor - $445.00
      Premium Appearance Group - $395.00
      Interior Convenience Group - $345.00
      ParkSense Rear Park-Assist System - $295.00
      Rear Hinged Doors with Deep Tinted Glass - $295.00
      Speed Control - $295.00
      Upper and Lower Side Wall Paneling Group - $295.00
      LED Cargo Areas Light Bars - $285.00
      225/75R16C BSW All-Season Tires - $250.00
      Driver/Passenger 6-Way Adjustable Lumbar Seats - $245.00
      Power Folding/Heated Mirrors - $245.00
      Security Alarm - $245.00
      DOT Certified Roadside Safety Kit - $195.00
      Heated Driver Seat - $195.00
      Leather-Wrapped Steering Wheel - $195.00
      SiriusXM Sat Radio w/1-Year Subscription - $195.00
      Rear Assist Handles - $150.00
      Heated Passenger Seat - $145.00
      Instrument Panel Bright Bezels - $95.00
      12-Volt Rear Auxiliary Power Outlet - $45.00

      View full article
  • My Clubs

  • Recently Browsing

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Reader Rides

About us

CheersandGears.com - Founded 2001

We ♥ Cars

Get in touch

Follow us

Recent tweets

facebook

×

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.