New Tucson has an edge


Cargazing
By Derek Price

No car company is hotter than Hyundai over the past five years. They just can’t seem to make a dud.
Now this Korean brand is continuing its unlikely string of home runs by hitting another one out of the park: a redesigned Tucson crossover for 2016 that’s one of the most refined and sporty-looking vehicles in its segment.
In fact, if Hyundai were a baseball player, opponents would be screaming for it to take a random drug test. It doesn’t seem right for one company to be so strong so consistently.
Yet here I sit in a $31,110 crossover that feels in many ways like a $40,000 entry-level luxury ride. It’s obviously designed to be a good value at that price, with features like a touchscreen navigation system, blind spot detection and sensors that warn you of oncoming traffic when you’re backing out of a parking spot. Those are all upmarket features at a downmarket price.
But the crazy thing is this isn’t a vehicle you’d buy because it’s a great value. You’d buy it because it’s great, period.

With raked-back headlights and a sleek roofline, the Hyundai Tucson looks sportier than ever after a complete redesign for 2016.

With raked-back headlights and a sleek roofline, the Hyundai Tucson looks sportier than ever after a complete redesign for 2016.

None of the Japanese brands that once seemed untouchable can match the quality of the interior in my Tucson Limited tester. The best come close, but they always leave me feeling like, “I wish they would have replaced the hard plastic right there.” I didn’t have those little gripes in the Tucson, which seemed to put soft-touch materials in all the right spots and was screwed together tight enough to withstand a nuclear blast or, even worse, children.
The version I tested also came with something pioneered on $100,000 Porsches: a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. That’s unheard of in the world of small crossovers, particularly those with a starting price of $22,700.
You have to pay $24,150 for the Eco model with that fancier, faster-shifting, more fuel-efficient transmission. Still, that’s a steal for a technology that not too long ago was only the stuff of supercar dreams.

A digital touchscreen mounted high on the dash, a prominent shifter and easy-to-access controls make the Tucson’s cabin feel modern, athletic and simple to use.

A digital touchscreen mounted high on the dash, a prominent shifter and easy-to-access controls make the Tucson’s cabin feel modern, athletic and simple to use.

My lone complaint about the new Tucson is that the driving feel doesn’t match the sporty body. It’s one of the sleekest, sexiest crossovers on the road — which isn’t saying much considering how boring most of its cookie-cutter competitors look — but even with the dual-clutch transmission and turbocharged engine, it lacks a certain oomph that would make it more fun.
If you’re a driving purist like me, take a look at the Mazda CX-5. It’s the only crossover that I think is really, truly fun to drive. Otherwise, the Tucson offers enough sensory engagement to feel lively for most drivers. And — let’s face it — most people buy crossovers because they’re great for hauling a family from place to place, not for carving corners on switchback mountain roads.
Despite my irrational wishes for more spirited performance, I spent most of my week driving the Tucson with my jaw dropped. It gets so many things right, from the highway comfort to the body styling and practical, easy-to-configure cabin layout, that it just doesn’t seem fair for the competition.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited FWD ($29,900). Options: Carpeted floor mats ($125), cargo cover ($190). Price as tested (including $895 destination charge): $31,110
Wheelbase: 105.1 in.
Length: 176.2 in.
Width: 72.8 in.
Height: 64.8 in.
Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged inline four cylinder (175 hp, 195 lb.-ft.)
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Mileage: 25 city, 30 highway

RATINGS
Style: 10
Performance: 8
Price: 10
Handling: 7
Ride: 7
Comfort: 8
Quality: 9
Overall: 9

Video Review:
2016 Hyundai Tucson
bit.ly/16tucson

Why buy it?
An all-new design for 2016 makes it more refined than before. It’s one of the quietest, best-riding vehicles in its class and feels like a more expensive car in many ways.

Posted in Hyundai

Outlander gets an upgrade


Cargazing
By Derek Price

The Mitsubishi Outlander is trying hard to stay competitive with a long list of updates for 2016, including a much improved sense of style and a quieter cabin.
To be clear, it had a long way to go after being outclassed last year. The updates are needed and overdue for a vehicle that was too thirsty, too noisy and too dull before.
I think Mitsubishi recognized these drawbacks, which is why they made more than 100 improvements to the Outlander in a major refresh for 2016. And it starts with the way it looks.
The Outlander has a more sculpted body now that Mitsubishi has applied what it calls the “Dynamic Shield” design to the front end. It’s an interesting mixture, combining the rugged looking bumpers inspired by the old Montero SUV with a sleeker, sexier, more car-like shape overall.

The Mitsubishi Outlander gets a long list of small changes for 2016 that add up to a big difference. It feels more refined and offers a better value on some trim levels this year.

The Mitsubishi Outlander gets a long list of small changes for 2016 that add up to a big difference. It feels more refined and offers a better value on some trim levels this year.

Personally, I think it works perfectly. It’s a nice improvement.
Even more than the fresh styling, though, the Outlander was screaming for refinements to its ride and handling last year. For the most part, the changes deliver a nicely composed, surprisingly quiet ride.
A new suspension design and electric power steering make it feel lighter and more controlled. Thicker glass on the rear doors, better weather stripping and more sound insulation help to keep out the road, engine and wind noise. The overall impression is a vehicle that feels more up-to-date and sophisticated than before.
The interior gets a thorough refresh, including a new steering wheel, better seating materials and accent trim, and a standard digital display for its audio system.
Until it gets a new-generation design, though, it’s still got some drawbacks of the older model: tight rear seat space, only so-so gas mileage (25 city, 31 highway) and acceleration that feels hampered by its heft.
The base engine is a 2.4-liter four cylinder that makes 166 horsepower, barely enough for a 3,300-pound vehicle, but it also offers a rare V6 treat for a compact crossover. The 3.0-liter V6 offers a much more comfortable 224 horses, but it does so at the expense of gas mileage, dropping it down to 20 mpg in city driving with all-wheel drive.

New seating and trim materials, plus a standard digital display on the audio system, are noticeable improvements on the Outlander.

New seating and trim materials, plus a standard digital display on the audio system, are noticeable improvements on the Outlander.

Overall, the Outlander is aiming to offer a good value in the crossover market. It comes standard with automatic climate control, remote keyless entry and LED markers and taillights that make it look more upscale at night.
It’s also offering a lower price for its high-end safety features like forward collision mitigation, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control.
As a whole, the small changes add up to a big difference for the Outlander. It’s almost like a completely different vehicle now, with drastically improved road manners and refinements that keep it competitive in the hotly contested crossover market.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 SEL 2WD ($24,995). Options: SEL Touring Package ($5,250). Price as tested (including $850 destination charge): $31,095
Wheelbase: 105.1 in.
Length: 184.8 in.
Width: 71.3 in.
Height: 66.1 in.
Engine: 2.4-liter inline four cylinder (166 hp, 162 lb.-ft.)
Transmission: Continuously variable transmission
Mileage: 25 city, 31 highway

RATINGS
Style: 6
Performance: 6
Price: 7
Handling: 6
Ride: 6
Comfort: 7
Quality: 6
Overall: 6

Video Review:
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander
bit.ly/16outlander

Why buy it?
It offers a noticeably quieter, more supple ride than before. Other improvements make it feel more refined both inside and out.

Posted in Mitsubishi

Fitting more inside


Cargazing
By Derek Price

The most surprising thing about driving the Honda Fit is just how easy it is to live with.
It’s lumped into the most diminutive class of cars, the subcompacts, and is priced accordingly with a $15,890 entry price. It’s designed so brilliantly on the inside, though, that it acts more like a mid-size car in everyday use.
The seats are reasonably spacious, both front and back. The cargo area is actually usable, with a warehouse-like 52.7 cubic feet of space when the seats are folded down. And the driving manners are engaging enough to let you wring some fun out of its 130-horsepower engine.
All of that is more than you can say about some of its lackluster competitors.
A lot of the Fit’s functionality boils down to one thing: the appropriately named Magic Seat that gives you lots of options for how you configure the second row.
Not only can it be easily folded flat for loading big items through the hatchback door, but it also can flip up to allow for more space on the floorboard. That means it can hold the tall, upright cargo that other subcompacts — and bigger cars, for that matter — simply can’t squeeze in.
Aside from that, the Fit delivers the predictable mixture of solidity and spunkiness that small Hondas have long been known for.

After a total redesign for 2015, the Honda Fit got a sportier look and feel, including a more athletically sculpted body and sleeker roofline. It’s essentially unchanged for 2016.

After a total redesign for 2015, the Honda Fit got a sportier look and feel, including a more athletically sculpted body and sleeker roofline. It’s essentially unchanged for 2016.

Its suspension feels firmer than the average subcompact but not so harsh that it’s jarring or uncomfortable. Steering is tight and responsive, adding to the car’s nimble, brisk feel. And the brakes, while not the strongest in this category, have good feedback to give you confidence.
Most people will choose Honda’s continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), but fortunately, there’s still a six-speed manual available for misers and driving purists.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, my one complaint about the Fit is its entertainment system. With tiny buttons and a touchscreen interface that’s frustratingly confusing at times, it’s a drawback shared with several other recent Hondas — although, admittedly, not a deal-breaker for most buyers.
Fuel economy is most impressive on the LX model, which gets a 41-mpg highway rating with the CVT. That drops down to 38 on EX and EX-L models, or 37 with the manual. Not bad, all in all.

The Honda Fit has a class-leading 52.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats folded down, a tremendous amount for a subcompact car.

The Honda Fit has a class-leading 52.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats folded down, a tremendous amount for a subcompact car.

Even its styling is impressively eye-catching for this cost-conscious class. Sharp creases on the sides, a tapered roofline and slimmer headlights were all part of a total redesign for 2015 that made the Fit a bit sportier overall, both in its look and its driving sensations.
For drivers who want a snazzier, more luxurious interior, the new-generation Fit added an EX-L line last year, which is the version Honda sent me to test. Its 7-inch navigation screen, heated leather seats, moonroof and push-button start were all upscale touches for a car that still rang up under $22 grand in total.

At a Glance
What was tested?
2016 Honda Fit EX-L with Navigation ($21,065). Options: None. Price as tested (including $820 destination charge): $21,885
Wheelbase: 99.6 in.
Length: 160 in.
Width: 67 in.
Height: 60 in.
Engine: 1.5-liter four cylinder (130 hp, 114 lb.-ft.)
Transmission: CVT with sport mode
Mileage: 32 city, 38 highwayRATINGS
Style: 8
Performance: 7
Price: 8
Handling: 6
Ride: 6
Comfort: 7
Quality: 7
Overall: 7Video Review:
2016 Honda Fit
bit.ly/2016hondafit

Why buy it?
It’s the most thoughtfully designed subcompact car for sale today. It offers roomy seating and flexible cargo space for a reasonable price, all with Honda’s reputation for quality.

Posted in Honda

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