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William Maley

2014 Review Wrap-Up: Subcompacts and Compacts

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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


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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.

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

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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. 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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. 

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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......

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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.

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    • By William Maley
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      Exterior
      Mazda’s design team believed evolution would be the right approach for the second-generation CX-5’s design and we have to agree. Taking the first-generation model, designers added more curves to the body, widened the front grille, and angled the front LED headlights. In what is becoming a very crowded class, the CX-5 stands tall, especially when wearing the optional Soul Red paint.
      Like the Atlas, the Volkswagen Tiguan’s shape can be explained as  “looking like a bit of a square, but a posh square.” Little details such as the three-bar grille, LED daytime-running lights, and slightly bulging fenders help give the Tiguan a touch of class. The optional Habanero Orange Metallic paint color on my test vehicle does show Volkswagen is willing to step outside of its comfort zone. In terms of dimensions, the Tiguan is six inches longer in overall length and rides on a wheelbase that is 3.6-inches longer than the CX-5. 
      Interior
      The Tiguan’s interior follows Volkswagen’s ethos of keeping it functional in terms of the design. It features simple dash and design touches such as a silver finish for various trim pieces. Volkswagen does make up for the boring design with an excellent layout of controls. For example, the climate control system is slightly angled upward to not only make it easier to reach, but also make it less of a hassle to look down and see the current settings. Material quality is average for this type of vehicle with a mix of hard and soft plastics.
      The front seats in the Tiguan SE offer a power recline and manual adjustments for fore/aft and height. I really liked the seats in the Tiguan as they provided excellent comfort and firmness for any trip distance. But the Tiguan really surprises in the back seat with head and legroom similar to what you’ll find on a full-size SUV. Passengers sitting back here can also move the seats back and forth, and recline to make themselves more comfortable. The long length of the Tiguan allows for a third-row seat. The seat is standard on front-wheel drive models and optional for all-wheel drive variants. The third-row should only be used for small kids as there is a minuscule amount of legroom. Another downside to the third-row is cargo space. The third-row causes a significant reduction in cargo space. With the third-row folded, it offers 4.6 cubic feet less than the two-row variant (33 vs. 37.6). Fold the second-row and the reduction becomes larger - 7.8 cubic feet. I would recommend skipping the third-row option if you opt for an AWD Tiguan.
      Like the exterior, the CX-5’s interior stands out. The dash shows Mazda’s effort on trying to make their interiors feel more like a luxury vehicle with sculpted contours, brushed aluminum, soft-touch plastics with a grain texture, and stitching on certain trim pieces. Compared to the Tiguan, the CX-5’s control layout is more spread out, making it somewhat difficult to find and reach certain controls. 
      The Grand Touring tester featured power adjustments for both front seats. The seats will feel a bit too firm for some passengers, but I found them to be just right. It would have been awesome if Mazda provided ventilation for the front seats to bolster their premium ambitions. The CX-5’s back seat offers a decent amount of headroom for those under six-feet. Legroom is somewhat lacking when put against the competition. I found that my knees were almost touching the back side of the front seat. Cargo space is right in the middle with 30.9 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 59.6 when folded.
      Infotainment
      A seven-inch touchscreen featuring the Mazda Connect infotainment system and a rotary knob controller is standard on all CX-5s. Grand Touring models get navigation as standard, while the Touring gets it as an option. Mazda Connect is a mixed bag. The interface is beginning to look somewhat old due to the use of dark colors and a dull screen. Also, trying to figure out which parts of the system are touch-enabled becomes quite tedious as there is no way to tell except through trial and error. There is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility, but I’m hoping the 2019 model will get it.
      For the Tiguan, Volkswagen offers three different infotainment systems ranging from 6.5 to 8-inches. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility come standard. The current Volkswagen infotainment system is one of the best thanks in part to snappy performance and a simple interface. You can do various smartphone gestures such as swiping to move around the system. One disappointment is the lack of any sort of haptic feedback when touching any of the shortcut buttons sitting on either side of the screen. We would also recommend keeping a cloth in the Tiguan as the glass surface for the infotainment system becomes littered with fingerprints.
      Like in the Atlas I reviewed a few weeks ago, the Tiguan experienced an issue with Apple CarPlay. Applications such as Google Music or Spotify running in CarPlay would freeze up. I could exit out to the CarPlay interface, but was unable to unfreeze the applications unless I restarted the vehicle. Resetting my iPhone solved this issue.
      Powertrain
      Under the CX-5’s hood is a 2.5L four-cylinder producing 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet (up one from the 2017 model). Mazda has added cylinder deactivation for the 2018 model that allows the engine to run on just two cylinders to improve fuel efficiency. This is paired with a six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. For the Tiguan, Volkswagen has dropped in a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine producing 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive complete the package.
      With a higher torque figure and being available between 1,600 to 4,300 rpm, the Tiguan should leave the CX-5 in the dust. But at the stoplight drag race, the CX-5 bests the Tiguan thanks to a sharper throttle response and a steady stream of power. The Tiguan’s turbo-four gets hit with a double-whammy of turbo-lag and a somewhat confused eight-speed automatic transmission, making it feel anything but eager to get off the line. As speeds climb, the story changes. The Tiguan’s engine feels more willing to get moving whenever you need to make a pass or merge onto a freeway. The CX-5’s engine runs out of steam and you’ll need to really work it to get up to speed at a decent rate.
      Fuel Economy
      The EPA says the 2018 Mazda CX-5 AWD will return 24 City/30 Highway/26 Combined, while the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan AWD returns 21 City/27 Highway/23 Combined. Both models returned high fuel economy averages; the CX-5 return 28.5 while the Tiguan got 27.3 mpg during my week-long test. Both models were driven on mix of 60 percent city and 40 percent highway.
      Ride & Handling
      When I reviewed the 2017 Mazda CX-5, I said that it carried on the mantle of being a fun-to-drive crossover set by the first-generation. Driving on some of the back roads around Detroit, the CX-5 felt very agile and showed little body roll. The steering provides sharp responses and excellent weighting. The sporting edge does mean a firm ride, allowing some road imperfections to come inside. Not much road or wind noise comes inside.
      Volkswagen took a different approach with the Tiguan’s ride and handling characteristics. On rough roads, the Tiguan provides a very cushioned ride on some of the roughest payment. This soft ride does hurt the Tiguan when cornering as there is slightly more body roll. But that doesn’t make the Tiguan a bad driving crossover. The chassis feels very willing when pushed and the steering provides a direct feel.
      Value
      The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SE AWD begins at $30,230. This particular tester came to $31,575 with the optional Habanero Orange Metallic and fog lights. But the 2018 Mazda CX-5 Touring comes with more equipment such as radar cruise control, lane departure warning, 19-inch wheels, LED headlights, and power adjustments for the driver for only $2,175 less than the Tiguan SE’s base price. You can add navigation, Bose audio system, and sunroof as part of $1,200 Preferred Equipment package. When it comes to the midlevel, it is no contest as the CX-5 walks away.
      The script flips however when you put the 2018 CX-5 Grand Touring under the microscope. The AWD version begins at $30,945 and with a few options such as the Soul Red paint and Premium package, the vehicle seen here comes to $34,685. But you can get into the Tiguan SEL AWD that adds adaptive cruise control, power liftgate, and navigation for only $2,295 less than our as-tested CX-5. While the CX-5 does offer more of a premium interior, the larger interior and slightly better infotainment system give the Tiguan a slight edge.
      Verdict
      It feels weird to describe the verdict between the two compact crossovers as a decision to satisfy your desires or needs. The 2018 Mazda CX-5 falls into the former as it boasts a handsome look that very few models can match, luxurious interior, and handling characteristics that make you feel like you’re driving a sports car. As for the Tiguan, it falls in the latter camp by offering a spacious interior, smooth ride, and a better infotainment system. I consider these two to be the best-in-class. But deciding which one is better will ultimately come down to deciding whether to give into your wants or needs.
      Disclaimer: Mazda and Volkswagen Provided the vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Mazda
      Model: CX-5
      Trim: Grand Touring AWD
      Engine: 2.5L DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 187 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 186 @4,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 24/30/26
      Curb Weight: N/A
      Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
      Base Price: $30,945
      As Tested Price: $34,685 (Includes $975.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Premium Package - $1,395.00
      Soul Red Crystal Paint - $595.00
      Illuminated Door Sill Plates - $400.00
      Retractable Cover Cover - $250.00
      Rear Bumper Guard - $125.00
      Year: 2018
      Make: Volkswagen
      Model: Tiguan
      Trim: SE 4Motion
      Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged 16-Valve DOHC TSI Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 184 @ 4,400
      Torque @ RPM: 221 @ 1,600
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/27/23
      Curb Weight: 3,858 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Puebla, Mexico
      Base Price: $30,230
      As Tested Price: $31,575 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Habanero Orange Metallic - $295.00
      Front Fog Lights - $150.00
    • By William Maley
      Many automotive journalists have been flummoxed by the popularity of the Toyota Camry. The model trails the pack in a number of key areas such as design, handling, and performance. But I know the reason why the Camry is beloved by many; it is a no hassle midsize sedan that will go the distance. 
      But there is a change that endangers many midsize sedans. Buyers who previously brought sedans are now trending towards crossovers and SUVs as they offer a number of traits such as a higher ride height and a large area for people and stuff. Automakers find themselves in a difficult spot as to whether they should drop their sedans to focus on utility vehicles, or put more effort into making them more appealing. Toyota has chosen the latter option with the 2018 Camry. Let’s see if they made the right call.
      Previous Camrys have tended to play it safe with their exterior designs. The new model drops the safe attitude and goes for something very extroverted. For the XSE, this includes a different front end with a smaller lower grille and large cutouts in the bumper. The side profile shows off a pronounced character line and a set of 19-inch machined-finish alloy wheels. Move the back to find a faux diffuser and a set of quad tailpipes. I actually prefer the look of the XSE to the other Camry models as it loses out on the gaping maw that is the lower grille.
      Compared to the jumbled-together look of the previous Camry’s interior, the new model features a flowing and modern design. The unique shape of the center stack and contrasting trim pieces for the passenger really help the model stand out. Controls are laid out in a very logical fashion and have easy-to-read text. Material quality is very impressive with exposed stitching, metal trim, and a lot of soft-touch plastic. 
      The XSE features leather seats with eight-way power adjustments for driver and passenger. I found the seats to be on the firm side and provide decent support on short trips. But on longer trips, my lower back started to ache. I couldn’t tell if I design of the seat just didn’t work with my back or if I had too much lumbar. On paper, the Camry has the smallest amount of rear legroom. But in reality, I found that I had more than enough to feel comfortable. Taller passengers will need to duck as headroom is quite tight due to the optional sunroof.
      Toyota has installed the latest version of their Entune infotainment system in the 2018 Camry. The new version comes with an updated look that retains the ease of use that we have liked on the older systems. Performance is about average for the class as it takes only a few milliseconds to get to the various functions. I do like the array of physical buttons that provide an easy way to move around the system. There is still no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. But considering the 2019 Avalon does have Apple CarPlay, we hope the Camry will get it as well.
      XSE models get a heads-up display as standard. However, I found the display to be more of a hindrance as the image was blurry. I think this is a problem with Toyota as I experienced the same issue in the LC 500 coupe I drove late last year.
      For its polarizing character, you might be expecting the Camry XSE to have either a turbo-four or V6 under the hood. While a 3.5L V6 is available, this XSE featured the standard 2.5L four-cylinder engine producing 206 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. It was a bit disappointing to find this engine under the hood considering the vehicle’s character. Around town, the Camry doesn’t feel as fast as the Hyundai Sonata due to most of the power being available only at higher rpms. On the highway or needing to make a pass, the four-cylinder comes alive with enough shove to get you moving at a decent clip. Disappointingly, Toyota forgot to quiet down the engine during acceleration as there is a fair amount of buzz coming inside the cabin. But the engine quiets down to a murmur when cruising. The new eight-speed transmission pairs well with the engine, delivering unobtrusive and quick shifts.
      Fuel economy figures for the 2.5 are 28 City/39 Highway/32 Combined. My average for the week landed around 32.6 mpg in mixed driving.
      The Camry is the latest Toyota model to move on to the TGNA modular platform and it makes the model somewhat fun to pilot. On a curvy stretch of road, the XSE feels well-mannered as there isn’t excessive body motion and the steering proving a direct and well-weighted feel. Despite its sporting nature, the XSE’s ride is well-controlled with only a few bumps making their way inside. One disappointment is the large amount road and wind noise that comes inside when driving on the freeway. 
      The Camry XSE sits as the flagship trim with a starting price of $29,150 for the four-cylinder and $35,100 for the V6. With a number of options, the as-tested price of this XSE comes to $35,333. That is quite the poor value considering for a few hundred dollars more, you can get into a loaded an Accord Touring complete with a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder producing 252 horsepower. For a couple thousand dollars less, the Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T and Kia Optima SX offer similar driving dynamics and more luxury touches.
      Toyota knew it had to take a big gamble with the new Camry considering the growing demand for crossovers. In certain respects, Toyota has done it. The Camry is not a wallflower in terms of its looks and handling. Additionally, the interior blends a distinctive design with ease of use. But there are some problems that put the Camry in a tough spot. The four-cylinder engine needs a bit more low-end punch for around-town driving. Some more sound deadening would go a long way in making the Camry a good long-distance cruiser. The biggest issue is the value argument as other sedans offer much more equipment for similar or less money than the Camry. Toyota is likely banking on the name equity of model to justify the higher price. This would be ok if we weren’t in a time where more and more buyers are moving to crossovers and utility vehicles. The 2018 Toyota Camry is a much better car from the one it replaces, but the high price tag may be its downfall.
      Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Camry, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Toyota
      Model: Camry
      Trim: XSE
      Engine: 2.5L Twin-Cam, 16-Valve Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 206 @ 6,600
      Torque @ RPM: 186 @ 5,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/39/32
      Curb Weight: 3,395 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Georgetown, KY
      Base Price: $29,000
      As Tested Price: $35,355 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Audio Package - $1,800.00
      Driver Assist Package - $1,675.00
      Panoramic Sunroof - $1,045.00
      Special Color - $395.00
      Illuminated Door Sill Enhancements - $299.00
      Carpet/Trunk Mat Set - $224.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      Many automotive journalists have been flummoxed by the popularity of the Toyota Camry. The model trails the pack in a number of key areas such as design, handling, and performance. But I know the reason why the Camry is beloved by many; it is a no hassle midsize sedan that will go the distance. 
      But there is a change that endangers many midsize sedans. Buyers who previously brought sedans are now trending towards crossovers and SUVs as they offer a number of traits such as a higher ride height and a large area for people and stuff. Automakers find themselves in a difficult spot as to whether they should drop their sedans to focus on utility vehicles, or put more effort into making them more appealing. Toyota has chosen the latter option with the 2018 Camry. Let’s see if they made the right call.
      Previous Camrys have tended to play it safe with their exterior designs. The new model drops the safe attitude and goes for something very extroverted. For the XSE, this includes a different front end with a smaller lower grille and large cutouts in the bumper. The side profile shows off a pronounced character line and a set of 19-inch machined-finish alloy wheels. Move the back to find a faux diffuser and a set of quad tailpipes. I actually prefer the look of the XSE to the other Camry models as it loses out on the gaping maw that is the lower grille.
      Compared to the jumbled-together look of the previous Camry’s interior, the new model features a flowing and modern design. The unique shape of the center stack and contrasting trim pieces for the passenger really help the model stand out. Controls are laid out in a very logical fashion and have easy-to-read text. Material quality is very impressive with exposed stitching, metal trim, and a lot of soft-touch plastic. 
      The XSE features leather seats with eight-way power adjustments for driver and passenger. I found the seats to be on the firm side and provide decent support on short trips. But on longer trips, my lower back started to ache. I couldn’t tell if I design of the seat just didn’t work with my back or if I had too much lumbar. On paper, the Camry has the smallest amount of rear legroom. But in reality, I found that I had more than enough to feel comfortable. Taller passengers will need to duck as headroom is quite tight due to the optional sunroof.
      Toyota has installed the latest version of their Entune infotainment system in the 2018 Camry. The new version comes with an updated look that retains the ease of use that we have liked on the older systems. Performance is about average for the class as it takes only a few milliseconds to get to the various functions. I do like the array of physical buttons that provide an easy way to move around the system. There is still no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. But considering the 2019 Avalon does have Apple CarPlay, we hope the Camry will get it as well.
      XSE models get a heads-up display as standard. However, I found the display to be more of a hindrance as the image was blurry. I think this is a problem with Toyota as I experienced the same issue in the LC 500 coupe I drove late last year.
      For its polarizing character, you might be expecting the Camry XSE to have either a turbo-four or V6 under the hood. While a 3.5L V6 is available, this XSE featured the standard 2.5L four-cylinder engine producing 206 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. It was a bit disappointing to find this engine under the hood considering the vehicle’s character. Around town, the Camry doesn’t feel as fast as the Hyundai Sonata due to most of the power being available only at higher rpms. On the highway or needing to make a pass, the four-cylinder comes alive with enough shove to get you moving at a decent clip. Disappointingly, Toyota forgot to quiet down the engine during acceleration as there is a fair amount of buzz coming inside the cabin. But the engine quiets down to a murmur when cruising. The new eight-speed transmission pairs well with the engine, delivering unobtrusive and quick shifts.
      Fuel economy figures for the 2.5 are 28 City/39 Highway/32 Combined. My average for the week landed around 32.6 mpg in mixed driving.
      The Camry is the latest Toyota model to move on to the TGNA modular platform and it makes the model somewhat fun to pilot. On a curvy stretch of road, the XSE feels well-mannered as there isn’t excessive body motion and the steering proving a direct and well-weighted feel. Despite its sporting nature, the XSE’s ride is well-controlled with only a few bumps making their way inside. One disappointment is the large amount road and wind noise that comes inside when driving on the freeway. 
      The Camry XSE sits as the flagship trim with a starting price of $29,150 for the four-cylinder and $35,100 for the V6. With a number of options, the as-tested price of this XSE comes to $35,333. That is quite the poor value considering for a few hundred dollars more, you can get into a loaded an Accord Touring complete with a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder producing 252 horsepower. For a couple thousand dollars less, the Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T and Kia Optima SX offer similar driving dynamics and more luxury touches.
      Toyota knew it had to take a big gamble with the new Camry considering the growing demand for crossovers. In certain respects, Toyota has done it. The Camry is not a wallflower in terms of its looks and handling. Additionally, the interior blends a distinctive design with ease of use. But there are some problems that put the Camry in a tough spot. The four-cylinder engine needs a bit more low-end punch for around-town driving. Some more sound deadening would go a long way in making the Camry a good long-distance cruiser. The biggest issue is the value argument as other sedans offer much more equipment for similar or less money than the Camry. Toyota is likely banking on the name equity of model to justify the higher price. This would be ok if we weren’t in a time where more and more buyers are moving to crossovers and utility vehicles. The 2018 Toyota Camry is a much better car from the one it replaces, but the high price tag may be its downfall.
      Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Camry, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Toyota
      Model: Camry
      Trim: XSE
      Engine: 2.5L Twin-Cam, 16-Valve Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 206 @ 6,600
      Torque @ RPM: 186 @ 5,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/39/32
      Curb Weight: 3,395 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Georgetown, KY
      Base Price: $29,000
      As Tested Price: $35,355 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Audio Package - $1,800.00
      Driver Assist Package - $1,675.00
      Panoramic Sunroof - $1,045.00
      Special Color - $395.00
      Illuminated Door Sill Enhancements - $299.00
      Carpet/Trunk Mat Set - $224.00
    • By William Maley
      “Despite the positives, the Ioniq finds itself between a rock and hard place.”
      That was how I closed my review of the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq SEL earlier this year. Despite me finding a lot to like about this hybrid, I found myself struggling as determining whether it was better or worse than the Toyota Prius. A few weeks ago, another Ioniq arrived in my driveway for a weeklong evaluation. This particular variant is the base Blue model, which is positioned as the mileage champ in the Ioniq lineup. Maybe this model could sway me in one direction or the other.
      EPA figures stand at 57 City/59 Highway/58 Combined, up 2/5/3 when compared to the Ioniq SEL I drove last year. My average for the week was an impressive 62 mpg - a huge increase over the 45 mpg in the last Ioniq I drove. Why the massive difference in average fuel economy? It comes down to the weather. The Blue was driven in a week where the average temperature was around 80 degrees, whereas the SEL was driven in conditions where it was below freezing. The warmer temps allowed the vehicle to rely more on electric power only. I would estimate that 30 to 40 percent of the miles driven in the Ioniq was just on electric only. The powertrain is unchanged in the Blue. There’s a 1.6L Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder engine, a 32 kW electric motor, and a Lithium-ion Polymer battery that produces a total output of 139 horsepower. This is paired with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. I had no issues with keeping up with traffic as the powertrain delivered decent acceleration. The dual-clutch delivered smooth and quick shifts. Handling is a strong point to the Ioniq as it delivers little body roll and responds quickly to steering inputs. Ride quality could be better as the Ioniq does let in more jolts than the Kia Niro or Toyota Prius. Another area the Ioniq doesn’t fare so well in us noise isolation. There is a fair amount of tire roar that comes inside at speeds above 50 mph.  Telling the Ioniq Blue apart from the other models is quite easy. The front end has a plain black grille and vents in the bumper where the LED foglights would reside. 15-inch wheels with aero wheel covers come standard. Aside from some missing features such as power adjustments for the driver’s seat, the interior of the Ioniq Blue is the same as the SEL. That means a simple and clean dash design, a set of front seats that become a bit uncomfortable during long trips, and a tight back seat for tall passengers. For being a base model, the Blue comes well equipped. There is a proximity key, push-button start, 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility; Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, and automatic headlights. How much? The Blue begins at $22,220, and my tester came to an as-tested price of $23,210 with destination and optional floor mats. As my week with the Ioniq Blue came to a close, I came to the realization that I liked it slightly more than the Prius. A lot of it comes down to the Ioniq offering better performance while returning just as impressive fuel economy figures as the Prius I drove back in 2016. The high amount of features for a low price also favors the Ioniq. I still do think the Ioniq is in a bit of tough spot due to the large appetite for crossovers. This is evident when you compare the sales of the Ioniq to its sister model, the Kia Niro. Through the end of July, the Niro outsold the Ioniq by 6,716 units. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Ioniq, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Ioniq
      Trim: Blue
      Engine: 1.6L GDI Atkinson-Cycle Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor, Lithium-ion Polymer Battery Pack
      Driveline: Six-Speed Dual-Clutch Transmission, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 104 @ 5,700 (Gas); 43 @ 0 (Electric); 139 (Total)
      Torque @ RPM: 109 @ 4,000 (Gas); 125 @ 0 (Electric)
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 57/59/58
      Curb Weight: 2,996 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, South Korea
      Base Price: $22,200
      As Tested Price: $23,210 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00
       

      View full article
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