Santa Fe Adds More Sport

By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

Hyundai is trying extra hard this year to make the Santa Fe Sport live up to its name.
A revised suspension and steering system make the shorter, more nimble version of the Santa Fe feel sportier for 2015. The new electric steering setup uses a microprocessor that lets the driver pick between two modes depending on how sensitive you want the steering to feel.
The suspension is also revised to add more lateral stiffness this year, but it’s a subtle difference. It’s still more comfortable in the highway-cruiser role than the sports-sedan role, and that’s just how I like it.
Still, I wonder whether Hyundai has enough room in its lineup for so many sliced-and-diced crossover vehicles — and whether buyers can tell them all apart.
There’s the Santa Fe that can seat seven people; the closely related Santa Fe Sport, which is what I’m driving, that can seat five; and there’s also the Tucson five-seater.

With spacious seating for five, the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is more nimble and efficient than the longer, seven-seater Santa Fe.

With spacious seating for five, the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is more nimble and efficient than the longer, seven-seater Santa Fe.

With all this overlap, I could see buyers getting confused, but choices are always a good thing. Each Hyundai crossover has a different look and feel from the driver’s seat, so a back-to-back test drive would be worthwhile.
Hyundai typically tries to provide a good value with its vehicles, and that focus continues with some new standard equipment on the Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport. Every model gets daytime running lights and one-touch power windows up front this year, and high-end models get a new option that I love.
Hyundai’s Hands-Free Smart Liftgate with Auto Open is a long way of saying “magic door.” If your hands are full, you can simply stand behind the cargo area for a few seconds and the back door will automatically open by itself. You don’t even have to say “open sesame.”
The Santa Fe Sport gives you a choice of two four-cylinder engines: the base 190-horsepower 2.4-liter and a turbocharged 2.0-liter that provides 75 more horses to play with. The bigger Santa Fe gets a 3.3-liter V6 that makes 290 horsepower.

The Santa Fe Sport’s cabin has the same tight, high-quality feeling of all modern Hyundais. One-touch up/down power window switches are a new standard feature this year for the front seats.

The Santa Fe Sport’s cabin has the same tight, high-quality feeling of all modern Hyundais. One-touch up/down power window switches are a new standard feature this year for the front seats.

My tester drove exceptionally well, with quick acceleration from the turbo engine and good feedback from the brakes, steering and suspension. Then again, that doesn’t mean much because there’s not a bad driving crossover on the market today. It’s insanely competitive at every brand.
The interior is similarly nice but hardly stands out in this ridiculous marketplace, where a flimsy, cheap-feeling cabin would mean sudden death for any crossover stupid enough to try it. The trim has the same precise, solid, well-built feeling of all modern Hyundais.
Pricing starts at $24,950 for the Santa Fe Sport and $30,150 for the full-size Santa Fe.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport FWD 2.0T ($31,250). Options: Ultimate package ($4,350), carpeted floor mats ($125). Price as tested (including $875 destination charge): $36,600
Wheelbase: 106.3 in.
Length: 184.6 in.
Width: 74 in.
Height: 66.1 in.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 (265 hp, 249 lbs.-ft. torque)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: 19 city, 26 highway

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

Video Review:
2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
bit.ly/2015santafe

Why buy it?
It’s a safe, solid, nice-driving family car. It has a good combination of roomy seating and generous cargo space.

Posted in Hyundai

Mazda6 grabs attention

By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

Mazda just reported its best April in 20 years by selling more than 24,000 vehicles — a huge number for this Japanese brand.
Why the record sales? It’s largely because of near-perfect cars like the one I just drove, the new Mazda6.
I’ve been a Mazda fan for longer than I care to admit, ever since I bought my first Miata sports car in the 1990s. But today, more people than ever before are jumping on the Mazda bandwagon, including some big-name magazines.
I’m not surprised in the slightest that the Mazda6 has been named a “10 Best” by Car and Driver, along with “Car of the Year” by Popular Mechanics.
To stand out from the pack as an affordable four-door family car — this one starts at $21,495 — you have to go farther than perfecting the basics. In fact, there’s not a single bad car for sale in this class, from Fords and Chevys to Toyotas and Hondas.

Even in a segment of the car industry that’s packed with quality contenders, the Mazda6 is standing out and winning awards for its sporty handling and handsome looks.

Even in a segment of the car industry that’s packed with quality contenders, the Mazda6 is standing out and winning awards for its sporty handling and handsome looks.

To get attention, a sedan has to look different. It has to perform better. And it has to get the intangible things right, exuding a lively spirit rather than just doing a job.
And the Mazda6 checks all those boxes.
In the notoriously bland world of four-door sedans, its body adds just the right amount of spice with big, dramatic front wheel arches and a gorgeously sloped rear roofline.
Its sprightly handling should be no surprise, since that’s always what Mazda does best, but its fuel economy is an absolute shocker. The Mazda6 drives like a quick, sporty car — not a muscle car, mind you, but certainly far from slow — yet it still manages to eke out a 40-mpg highway rating.
No other car for sale today offers the Mazda’s sense of speed with that kind of gas mileage. It stands alone.
That gas mileage comes not only courtesy of the 2.5-liter, 184-horsepower engine and six-speed automatic transmission, but also because Mazda designed this car to trim weight from top to bottom. As a result, it feels faster from the driver’s seat than one would expect from a 184-horse car.

The Mazda6’s interior is among the best in its highly competitive class. It does a good job integrating technology in a way that is intuitive and simple for drivers to use.

The Mazda6’s interior is among the best in its highly competitive class. It does a good job integrating technology in a way that is intuitive and simple for drivers to use.

Its cabin feels expensive for its class, too, with a tightness and precision that are usually the mark of pricier vehicles.
But it’s the intangible, spiritual things that make me love this car more than anything else. It has a personality to it, from its puppy-dog eagerness to zip through corners to its playful looks and rewarding sounds burbling from the tailpipe.
In addition to the base Sport model, Mazda sells the better equipped Touring for $23,945 and luxury-oriented Grand Touring for $30,195.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Mazda i Grand Touring ($30,195). Options: Cargo mat ($75), door sill trim plates ($125), GT technology package ($2,180). Price as tested (including $820 destination charge): $33,395
Wheelbase: 111.4 in.
Length: 191.5 in.
Width: 72.4 in.
Height: 57.1 in.
Engine: 2.5L DOHC 4-cylinder (184 hp, 185 lbs.-ft. torque)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: 28 city, 40 highway

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

Video Review:
2015 Mazda6
bit.ly/2015mazda6

Why buy it?
It offers sports-sedan handling with a good looking body to match. It has a stellar reputation for quality and is a good value starting at $21,495.

Posted in Mazda

Hot-selling CR-V improved

By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

Honda’s CR-V won the sales crown for crossover vehicles last year, turning out to be the hottest car in the hottest category of them all.
Honda easily could have taken a break for a victory lap after that, but no. It’s giving its popular CR-V a thorough makeover for 2015, which is a risky — and potentially rewarding — move for the Japanese brand.
After a week-long drive in the new version, it’s clear to me that Honda followed the cardinal rule when modifying a fast-selling car: “Don’t screw it up.” The new CR-V builds on the strengths of the old one without seeming too drastic a change.

Updated body styling is among the many changes to the Honda CR-V for 2015. It also gets a different engine, transmission, suspension tuning, brakes and interior materials.

Updated body styling is among the many changes to the Honda CR-V for 2015. It also gets a different engine, transmission, suspension tuning, brakes and interior materials.

Its new body looks slightly trendier with more creases and a revised face; its cabin has more soft-touch materials and better sound insulation; its braking and handling have been improved, if only marginally.
The biggest difference, though, comes under the hood. Honda has fitted the Accord’s 2.4-liter direct-injected engine into the CR-V and coupled it with a continuously variable transmission, and it seems like a great fit in this car. After all, the CR-V has always been more about practicality and fuel efficiency than gobs of horsepower.
It hits the efficiency mark for sure, earning a rating of 27 mpg in the city and 34 on the highway. For a vehicle that offers a lot of utility — including a generous cargo area and reasonable second-row knee room — that’s some impressive gas mileage.
Still, I wish there was an option for folks who want a bit more power. The 185 horses it generates are enough for most drivers, but a V6 would be better for us power-hungry crazy people.
The only other thing on my wish list is bigger buttons on the sound system. Honda’s user interface designers rarely make mistakes, but they’ve gotten this one thing very wrong in recent years. The buttons next to the touchscreen sound system seem like they’re designed for kid-size fingers and can be hard to read and operate when driving.
Fortunately, many of the stereo features can be controlled via easier-to-use buttons on the steering wheel.
The rest of the cabin gets the stereotypically brilliant Honda design, with a tightness to the trim and a lack of squeaks and rattles that gives you peace of mind.

The CR-V’s cabin has a smart, logical layout with a roomy cargo area and self-folding rear seats.

The CR-V’s cabin has a smart, logical layout with a roomy cargo area and self-folding rear seats.

My test vehicle was the new Touring trim level that shows off several of the high-end options you can get on the new CR-V. Adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist were two features that made it feel more expensive than its $33,600 price.
I also love the LaneWatch feature in available in most new Hondas. It uses a video camera near the passenger-side mirror to give you a clear view of your blind spot, something I wish every car offered for changing lanes in fast-moving city traffic.
Pricing starts at $23,320 for the LX and ranges up to $31,520 for the plush Touring model. You can add all-wheel drive to every version for an extra $1,250.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Honda CR-V AWD Touring ($32,770). Options: None. Price as tested (including $830 destination charge): $33,600
Wheelbase: 103.1 in.
Length: 179.4 in.
Width: 71.6 in.
Height: 64.7 in.
Engine: 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder (185 hp, 181 lbs.-ft. torque)
Transmission: Continuously variable transmission
Estimated Mileage: 27 city, 34 highway

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

Video Review:
2015 Honda CR-V
bit.ly/15CRV

Why buy it?
It’s the most popular compact crossover vehicle for a good reason. It gets lots of things right and very little wrong, and its new engine and transmission make it impressively fuel efficient.

 

Posted in Honda

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