Santa Fe Reaches New Level

By Derek Price

It only takes a short time driving the new-for-2019 Hyundai Santa Fe to realize one thing: this vehicle isn’t satisfied to be known as a “value leader” any more.
Hyundai has long packed its cars and crossovers with an overabundance of content to woo buyers at every price point, a strategy that — along with higher quality products — has helped lift this Korean brand out of the economy-car doldrums and into mainstream prosperity.
Something about the next-generation Santa Fe, though, feels like it’s reached an entirely new level.
This is no longer a vehicle you’d buy simply because it’s a good deal, although Hyundai still stuffs it full of features-per-dollar as aggressively as ever.
To me, after driving it on the winding country roads north of Hyundai’s factory in Montgomery, Ala., the Santa Fe feels like it’s targeting premium buyers like never before.
It’s evident in the quiet, smooth and refreshingly taut ride that shows meticulous attention to detail, particularly on the top-end Ultimate trim with its extra sound insulation and acoustic laminated glass. Few vehicles outside luxury-brand showrooms drive with this silence and poise.
It’s also obvious in the technology Hyundai developed for the Santa Fe, including a couple of features I’ve never experienced in any car before.

Hyundai gives its all-new Santa Fe a dramatically updated body for 2019, including sleek LED lights near the hood and a more upright, SUV-like shape.

One, Rear Occupant Alert, uses a motion detector to sense movement in the back seat when the car is parked. If it detects movement from a pet or a child when the doors are closed, it will honk the horn and send a message to the owner’s smartphone.
The other, Safe Exit Assist, uses the vehicle’s radar sensors to detect cars that are passing nearby while you’re parked on the street. It gives a visual and audible alert if a passenger opens the door when a vehicle is approaching.
It also takes things an ingenious step further. If the sensors detect an approaching car, it will not allow the child safety lock to be disengaged until the approaching car has passed. This could potentially keep children from opening the door and stepping out into oncoming traffic.
The Santa Fe’s fresh body seems to have split personalities, and I think the overall look works well. It’s attractive without being ostentatious.
On one side, it’s definitely sportier looking with sleek, squinty LED lights up front that could have been stolen straight from a pricey European sports sedan.
On the flip side, the overall shape is boxier and more SUV-like than before. In fact, Hyundai never uses the term “crossover” to describe the Santa Fe. They call it an SUV, despite its car-based underpinnings.
It has a hint of SUV capability with available all-wheel drive and the capacity to tow up to 3,500 pounds when properly equipped.
Really, though, the new Santa Fe seems designed more for refined on-road excursions than wild adventures.

Eight-way power seats with quilted leather are among the many upscale features available in the newly designed 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe.

The cabin has more storage space and better visibility than before. It’s also possible to outfit it much like a luxury car, if you choose, with heated and cooled leather seats, a heads-up display, and one of the better designed touch-screen interfaces on the market.
All trim levels, including the base SE model, come with a suite of active safety features designed to stop collisions and make driving easier, including smart cruise control that can bring the vehicle to a complete stop and then restart in city traffic.
It also comes standard with lane-keeping assist, blind-spot sensors and other safety features.
Pricing starts at $25,500 for the two-wheel-drive SE with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine and tops out at $38,800 for the all-wheel-drive Ultimate with a more powerful turbocharged engine and amenity-filled cabin.

At A Glance

What was tested?
2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0T AWD ($38,800). Options: Carpeted floor mats ($125). Price as tested (including $980 destination charge): $39,905
Wheelbase: 108.9 in.
Length: 187.8 in.
Width: 74.4 in.
Height: 67.1 in.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder (235 hp, 260 ft. lbs.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 19 city, 24 highway


Style: 7
Performance: 7
Price: 8
Handling: 8
Ride: 9
Comfort: 9
Quality: 8
Overall: 8

Why buy it?

With an all-new design, the 2019 Santa Fe has sharper looks, more refinement and fresh technology. It delivers a more upscale look and feel than ever before.


Posted in Hyundai, Uncategorized

‘Eclipse’ Name Is Back

By Derek Price

Mitsubishi is selling a new crossover vehicle this year, and it’s whipped up a name that’s either brilliant or sacrilegious: Eclipse Cross.
Named after one of the most beloved and best-selling Mitsubishi cars of all time — the sporty and stunning Eclipse — the new Eclipse Cross is trying to evoke some of the same emotions that made people fall in love with its sleek, spaceship-styled sports coupe in the 1990s.
In some ways, it works.
The Eclipse Cross is much better looking than most of its competitors, with a wedge-shaped body, aggressive nose and feathered tail that make it seem fast and edgy. Compared to most of the lookalike, derivative vehicles in this class of two-row crossovers, it definitely stands out.
Interior packaging seems smartly designed, with a usable cargo area and reasonably roomy back seat. I was pleasantly surprised at the head space in back given its sloping roofline.
What about the driving dynamics, though?
With the Eclipse label and killer good looks, I was expecting something sporty and exhilarating from the driver’s seat. Turns out my first impression was just the opposite: silky smoothness.

The Eclipse Cross resurrects a legendary name from Mitsubishi’s past for a sharp-looking new crossover vehicle.

This is one of the softest riding crossovers I’ve tested, making it extremely comfortable for driving around town and sopping up potholes. The ride is luxuriously mellow, a sharp contrast to its exterior styling. Its numb steering and noticeable body roll in turns make it seem tuned more for serenity than excitement, surprisingly.
The exception is its engine, a 1.5-liter turbocharged unit that responds instantly and aggressively to throttle input. It makes 152 horsepower and, more importantly, 184 pound-feet of torque, enough to move the 3,307-pound vehicle with authority.
Fuel economy ratings are 26 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway. That’s not bad given its quickness at stoplights, but it’s also not the best for this class.
The Eclipse Cross is capable of doing light towing — up to 1,500 pounds with a tongue weight of 150 pounds.
Ground clearance of 8.5 inches on all-wheel-drive models adds to its utility. I didn’t test it off-road but imagine it would be a hoot on trails given Mitsubishi’s history of four-wheel traction prowess.
Its all-wheel-drive system, called S-AWC for Super All-Wheel Control, is designed to make it more stable in straight lines and in corners by controlling how torque is routed to each of the four wheels. It also has driver-selectable traction settings for snow and gravel to help in the right conditions.

The interior of the Eclipse Cross is some of Mitsubishi’s best work in years. This is a compact crossover with a sloping roofline, but its back seat still feels roomy thanks to a smart space layout.

The Eclipse Cross is available with the slew of active safety features that today’s cars like to tout, including blind spot and lane change sensors, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control and cameras mounted on the front, rear and sides to give you a 360-degree view when parking.
It’s also available with what I consider the most useful features of the smartphone era: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. My iPhone paired perfectly with the vehicle’s screen for easy voice control and Apple Maps navigation.
Another major selling point is Mitsubishi’s warranty. The powertrain is covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles, and the new vehicle warranty lasts for five years or 60,000 miles. It comes with roadside assistance for the first five years, too.
Pricing starts at $23,295 for the base ES trim and ranges up to $30,395 for the SEL Touring grade with all-wheel drive.

At A Glance

What was tested?
2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross SE 1.5T S-AWC ($26,395). Options: Red diamond paint ($595), tonneau cover ($190), carpeted floor mats ($135). Price as tested (including $995 destination charge): $28,310
Wheelbase: 105.1 in.
Length: 173.4 in.
Width: 71.1 in.
Height: 66.3 in.
Engine: 1.5-liter turbocharged four cylinder (152 hp, 184 ft. lbs.)
Transmission: Continuously variable
Fuel economy: 26 city, 29 highway

Style: 9
Performance: 6
Price: 7
Handling: 8
Ride: 6
Comfort: 6
Quality: 6
Overall: 7

Why buy it?
It’s one of the sharpest looking crossovers on the market today. Its responsive engine, good interior packaging and long warranty are strong points.

Posted in Mitsubishi

Kona Dives Into Market

By Derek Price

Subcompact crossover vehicles didn’t exist until a few years ago, but these days they’re rapidly replacing tiny sedans and hatchbacks as the most popular entry-level vehicles in America.
Now Hyundai is jumping into the fray with the Kona, a small vehicle that looks like an SUV, is priced like an economy car and slots below the Tucson on the showroom floor.
For the most part, the Kona follows the same formula as the Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR, Chevrolet Trax and their kin: start with a short-wheelbase car, raise the ride height, add a lift gate and fold-down seats in back for cargo, toss in a dash of beefy SUV styling, and voila! Your brand’s sales get a boost because that’s what today’s buyers want.
The Kona takes things a step further by offering a few things its competitors don’t always make available. It comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, offers a choice of two different engines, and, above all else, has spunky styling that doesn’t blend in like road-going camouflage.
I’m glad Hyundai offers a choice of engines, something many competitors don’t. While most vehicles in this class give you a lone four-cylinder, usually underpowered engine as your only choice, the Kona has two available.

Aggressive styling makes the Hyundai Kona, an all-new model for 2018, stand out among an increasingly packed crowd of competitors.

Base models come with a 2.0-liter, naturally aspirated engine that makes 147 horsepower, while the high-content Limited and Ultimate trims get a turbocharged, 1.6-liter, 175-horsepower engine.
Even more notable is the turbo engine’s 195 pound-feet of torque at just 1,500 RPM, something that makes it feel dramatically quicker and more responsive.
Its handling also is among the best, rivaling the Mazda CX-3 for driving enjoyment. It stays relatively flat in corners and offers communicative steering and brake feedback. That sportiness comes at the expense of highway smoothness, though, where it feels a bit rougher than others in this class.
With one notable exception, it follows the typical Hyundai playbook of offering enticing features at every price level. You can even get it with unusual content like a heads-up display that most of its competitors don’t offer.
The exception is adaptive cruise control. I was surprised to see that useful and increasingly common feature isn’t available at any price level on the Kona.
On the outside, this is one of the most aggressively styled vehicles in its class. Big, contrasting-color wheel arches, a sleek hood, swept-back headlights and dramatic rear styling make it catch your eye from every angle.

The Kona’s cabin has a comfortable, easy-to-use layout. Higher end models can add lime-green color accents to make it more visually interesting.

Inside, it’s not quite as adventurous. The base models feel mundane inside, at least compared to the striking body that surrounds them. Higher-end trims can get lime green accents that pop visually, something I think makes them much more appealing.
The cabin feels well designed and comfortable for front-seat passengers, especially the driver. Controls are all easy to operate, intuitive and natural feeling, a testament to Hyundai’s ergonomic experts who are outdoing the Japanese at their old game.
The back seat is better for children than adults, though, something true of every vehicle in this class. Rear cargo space is also limited when the seats are up.
Pricing starts at $19,500 for the SE trim with front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is available on all trim levels, topping out with Kona Ultimate at $29,680 with all-wheel drive and a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission.

At A Glance

What was tested?
2018 Hyundai Kona SEL FWD ($21,300). Options: Carpeted floor mats ($125). Price as tested (including $950 destination charge): $22,375
Wheelbase: 102.4 in.
Length: 164 in.
Width: 70.9 in.
Height: 61 in.
Engine: 2.0-liter four cylinder (147 hp, 132 ft. lbs.)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 27 city, 33 highway

Style: 7
Performance: 7
Price: 8
Handling: 7
Ride: 6
Comfort: 5
Quality: 7
Overall: 7

Why buy it?
The Kona combines eye-catching looks, an SUV-like layout and economy-car pricing. Its optional turbocharged engine is the best in this class.

Posted in Hyundai