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Frank A. Aukofer

2022 Ford Bronco 2-Door Black Diamond: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer     

Ford’s fondness for free-spirited, even feisty, names for its vehicles comes to fruition with the 2021/22 Bronco revival, especially the two-door Black Diamond model with four-wheel drive and a seven-speed manual gearbox.

It joins the Raptor trucks; Mustang models, including those with electric power or brutish gasoline engines, and the all-new Maverick, now no longer an economy sedan but a small pickup truck with a hybrid powertrain.

There’s some minor confusion because the Bronco name attaches to two completely different vehicles—the Bronco Sport, a pleasant compact crossover sport utility vehicle based on the Ford Escape, and the off-road oriented Bronco tested here. 

The Bronco comes in six versions, starting with the Base trim level and its price tag of $31,490, and climbing up to the top-line First Edition, which nudges $60,000 with options. There are two engine and transmission choices, along with available four-wheel drive.

Driven for this review was the 4X4 Black Diamond version, up two notches from the Base model and down four from the First Edition. It is powered by a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. It arrived with a starting price of $38,340 and, with a modest list of options, topped out at $40,025, reasonable given its off-road capabilities, 

On the tester, the turbo four-banger was mated to a seven-speed manual gearbox, with second through seventh of those speeds set up for overall driving. First gear has an ultra-low crawl ratio for turtle traveling  in rugged terrain. 

The other drivetrain combination pairs a 10-speed automatic transmission with a twin-turbocharged V6 engine that delivers 330 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels or all four wheels. The V6 is not available with the seven-speed stick shift.

At first blush, this Bronco comes across as a lean, mean machine that would be amenable to an owner who relaxes in sack cloth and ashes. Though it’s as well equipped as most vehicles are these days, it makes do with manual climate control and without adaptive cruise control.

As with its main competitor, the Jeep Wrangler, you can remove the roof and doors for adventuring in the elements, where it is most comfortable in its steel skin. This is a vehicle for challenging the boondocks; it is not suited to long-distance cruising. 

There’s plenty of power from the turbo four-banger, and the seven-speed manual gearbox shifts smoothly, though with long throws. (You don’t use the crawl ratio in normal on-road driving). Zero to 60 miles an hour acceleration is in the seven second range and the EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption rating is 17/19/18 miles to the gallon.

At highway speeds, the cavernous interior functions like an echo chamber, amplifying sounds from tires, road, engine and wind. At lower speeds on smooth surfaces, it quiets down some but the racket at speed, combined with a stiff, choppy ride, can make for driver fatigue.

The Bronco handles well enough in everyday traffic, though the steering is slow at 3.5 turns lock to lock. But the saving grace is its short wheelbase — the distance between the front and rear axles — of just 8 feet 4 inches, which results in a tight turning circle for maneuvering on and off-road.

There’s plenty of utility to go with the sport qualities. It is strictly a four-passenger vehicle with bucket seats in front and back. The back seats only partially fold, limiting the cargo carrying capability of 22 cubic feet with the seats up and 52 cubic feet folded. Loading is through a big sideways opening third door. Unfortunately, it is hinged at the right side, which means that the person doing the loading has to stand in the street.

Embarking passengers, especially into the back seats, presents a challenge. The step-in height is more than knee high and, as in any two-door, you have to clamber past the front seatback. Children and tall gymnasts won’t have much of a problem but it’s nearly impossible for older adults to crawl back there. The lesson here is if you’re going to regularly accommodate passengers, wait for the four-door Bronco.

The Ford Bronco® brand just opened its all-new Bronco build-and-price configurator, enabling customers for the first time the opportunity to visualize the color and material choices that reinforce the rugged nature of the Built Wild™ brand.

The Ford Bronco dates back to 1966 and the version most similar to the 2021/22 model was the last of the first-generation Broncos in 1977. It was about the same size and had a V8 engine but with just 135 hp.

Specifications

  • Model: 2021/22 Ford Bronco 2-Door Advanced 4X4 Black Diamond sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.3-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 300 hp, 325 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed manual with low off-road crawl gear and four-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 6 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 1 inch.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 97/22 cubic feet. (52)
  • Weight: 4,630 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 3,500 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,170 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/19/18 mpg.
  • Base price (2021), including destination charge: $38,340.
  • Price as tested: $40,025.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Frank drives the two-door 2022 Ford Bronco.

Photos (c) Ford

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning XLT: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

You could call Ford’s new 100% electric F-150 Lightning the Renaissance Man of pickup trucks. This tantalizing cookie does it all:

  • Quiet and comfortable long-distance highway cruising, hands-free if you wish, for up to five passengers.
  • A front trunk, or “frunk” of 14 cubic feet to carry their luggage and a 53 cubic feet cargo box out back with unlimited air above to carry whatever else.
  • Rapid acceleration. How’s zero to 60 miles an hour in 4.5 seconds?
  • Confident handling on twisting mountain curves.
  • Outstanding towing and load carrying capabilities.
  • Off-road competence that rivals a Jeep or Land Rover.
  • Fully charged, a range of up to 320 miles.

Oh, and should you have a power failure at home, it can supply electricity to your house for three to ten days, depending on how judiciously you use it.

The F-150 Lightning is Ford’s tour de force for the upcoming electric age of motor vehicles. With gasoline prices and consumer interest soaring, electrics are poised to steadily increase in sales. It won’t happen overnight but one analysis estimates that half of the new vehicles sold in 2050 will be electric.

It’s almost certain that the Lightning will be prominent among them. For more than 45 years, the Ford F-Series gasoline and diesel fueled trucks have been the best-selling vehicle brand in the United States. Of course, that includes heavier duty versions. But the F-150 has the distinction of being the most popular motor vehicle of all time. 

Always consult the Owner’s Manual before off-road driving, know your terrain and trail difficulty, and use appropriate safety gear.

Despite its more muscular gasoline brethren, the F-150 Lightning is no lightweight. Standing empty, it weighs 6,171 pounds and, depending on equipment and battery size, can carry loads of 1,952 to 2,235 pounds. It also can tow trailers weighing 5,000 pounds to 10,000 pounds. 

Moreover, it does so with relaxed aplomb. At the recent press introduction in the Texas hill country near San Antonio, the Lightning XLT model driven for this review hauled a 5,000-pound trailer carrying a tractor. It was effortless. From behind the wheel, it did not feel much different from driving empty and without a trailer. The surprise was to look in the rear-view mirror and see a driverless tractor bearing down on the rear bumper.

On the curving hill country roads, the Lightning calmly responded accurately to steering inputs. The handling was enhanced by a new coil spring independent rear suspension system and a superb chassis design that delivered a low center of gravity. The electric motors are installed low down, level with the encased lithium-ion battery pack beneath the passenger cabin.

All-wheel drive is standard, with one surprisingly small electric motor driving the front wheels and the other between the rear wheels. Together they punch out 580 horsepower and 775 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. 

Because electric motors deliver instant torque as soon as they are switched on, off-roading with the tested XLT was almost like a ride in the park. There was no need for a low-range transfer case, and a locking differential helped power through tougher stages.

The super cool benefit of the Lightning comes with the Ford Charge Station Pro, included on some higher trim levels and an option on less expensive versions. The home-installed system can swap power, functioning as a charger for the truck and a generator for the house during a power outage. 

With this high-tech stuff, including Ford’s hands-off driving mode with adaptive cruise control, the Lightning doesn’t come cheap. The tested XLT had a base price of $54,669, including the destination charge, and a tested price of $75,814. Other trim levels are the base Pro, at $41,669; Lariat at $60,169, and the luxurious Platinum model at $92,569. 

Anticipation for this exciting new truck has been widespread, with reports that more than 200,000 potential buyers have ordered the Lightning even without knowing much about it. Unfortunately, there have been reports of dealers jacking up the prices to customers before deliveries started. Ford is working to squelch that.

Once the word gets out, it would be no surprise to witness a classic stampede of buyers for their new rides. 

Lightning strikes.

Specifications

  • Model: 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning XLT four-door pickup truck.
  • Motors: Dual, front and rear electrics with extended-range battery; 580 hp, 775 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Single speed direct-drive automatic.
  • Overall length: 19 feet 5 inches.
  • Cab height: 6 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/front trunk volume: 136/14 cubic feet.
  • Cargo box volume: 53 cubic feet.
  • Empty weight: 6,171 pounds.
  • Payload: 2,235 pounds with standard battery; 1,952 pounds with extended range battery.
  • Towing capability: 5,000 pounds standard battery, 7,000 pounds extended range battery; 7,700 to 10,000 pounds with max trailer towing package.
  • Ground clearance: 8.4 inches.
  • EPA combined/city/highway equivalent fuel consumption: 70/78/63 MPGe.
  • Range: 230 miles standard battery; 320 miles extended-range. 
  • Base price, including destination charge: $54,669.
  • Price as tested: $75,814.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Photos (c) Ford

2022 MINI Cooper S Hardtop 2 Door: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2022 MINI Cooper S Hardtop 2 Door represents the culmination of more than 60 years of thinking — and designing — outside the box, inspiring a level of affection, and fame few automobiles have ever achieved.

The first Mini was conceived in Great Britain as a tiny, inexpensive, fuel-efficient two-door hatchback. Introduced in 1959, it could fit in a box measuring 4x4x10 feet and still carry four people. To do it, engineer Sir Alec Issigonis designed it with features outside the existing box.

Issigonis worked for the British Motor Corp., which initially sold the Mini as the Austin Seven and Morris Mini Minor. His concept was a small hatchback with caster-like 10-inch wheels out on the corners and equipped with a crosswise-mounted front engine and front-wheel drive to maximize passenger space.

The result was a little boomer with a 34-horsepower four-cylinder engine of less than one-liter displacement with a broad stance and low center of gravity that optimized handling. It soon won racing and rally victories, especially after racer John Cooper tuned it, while at the same time functioning as economical transportation for millions of the hoi polloi. 

It became so mesmerizing to people everywhere it was sold that, by the turn of the millennium from the 20th to 21st centuries, Mini sales were over five million, and a panel of 130 international automotive journalists had selected it “European Car of the Century.” It also was voted the second-most influential car of the 20th century, behind the Ford Model T but ahead of the Volkswagen Beetle. 

However, new anti-pollution regulations in 1968 kept the Mini pandemic from the United States — that is, until Germany’s BMW (Bavarian Motor Works) acquired the Mini name and some assets and introduced the modern MINI in 2002 to American buyers. 

MINI still assembles its cars in the United Kingdom (in Oxford), but the hot hatch is essentially a German car with British heritage. Almost a third of its parts, 32%, come from Germany, compared to 19% from the U.K. 

So, it’s okay to think of the 2022 MINI Cooper S Hardtop tested for this review as a British BMW, or maybe a German MINI. It exhibits characteristics of the automobiles of both countries, including some British eccentricities and German solidity.

But it’s no longer a minuscule mule for the masses. It still has its charms of small size for competent handling, shooting holes in traffic, ease of parking, and decent fuel economy. Although it has no direct competitors, it is relatively expensive — more like a Volkswagen GTI than a Nissan Versa or Sentra. 

The tester came with a starting price of $27,750, including the destination charge. With options that included a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, touchscreen navigation, Apple CarPlay, and custom upholstery, the suggested delivered price came to $34,850. Automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning are standard.

But it no longer can fit in the original Mini’s box. It is 12 feet 8 inches long, 4 feet 8 inches tall, and 5 feet 8 inches wide. That’s still small by U.S. standards, which classify it as a subcompact based on its interior volume, totaling 80 cubic feet for passengers with a scant 9 cubic feet for cargo.

With the injection of German technology, this new MINI S is more of a high-performance hatchback like the VW GTI, Hyundai Veloster, or Subaru WRX. MINI power emanates from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with twin turbochargers that pumps out 189 hp and 207 pound-feet of torque. The grunt makes its way to the front wheels by way of a six-speed manual gearbox. An automatic transmission is optional.

Many enthusiasts, including this one, prefer the manual. But the six-speed, though it works well enough once you get used to it, is a bit of a disappointment. The shift linkage is stiff and somewhat bumpy shifting up and down through the gears. No snick-snick here. There’s also a steep learning curve to master the infotainment system housed in the big circle in the dash.

On the road, the tested MINI Cooper 2 Door delivered what its predecessors always have: driving entertainment. Punch the throttle, shift quickly, and you can hit 60 mph from rest in about six seconds, accompanied by engine roar as the revs build. Cruising, it all quiets down to a smooth surge of power with “go-kart handling” on curves.

Specifications

  • Model: 2022 MINI Cooper S Hardtop 2 Door subcompact hatchback. 
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, twin turbochargers; 189 hp, 207 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 12 feet 8 inches.
  • Height: 4 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 80/9 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,813 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/33/27 mpg. Premium fuel recommended.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $27,750.
  • Price as tested: $34,850.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) MINI

2022 North American Car, Truck, and Utility of the Year Awards: A DriveWays Report…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Detroit, Michigan — The Ford Motor Co. won two of the three major 2022 United States and Canada vehicle awards Tuesday, Jan. 11, with all-new entries: the Ford Maverick pickup truck crowned North American Truck of the Year and the Ford Bronco winning the Utility of the Year award.

Car of the Year went to the re-designed 2022 Honda Civic, the 11th generation of a perennial favorite that has held its own against the increasing popularity of crossover sport utility vehicles. 

The awards, which date back 28 years, are sponsored by the North American Car of the Year organization, composed of 50 automotive journalists from the United States and Canada. NACTOY bills itself as the longest-running independent vehicle competition — and the only one unaffiliated with any media outlet.

Journalist members of NACTOY (including this writer) must drive and evaluate all of the nominees for three rounds of voting. This year started with 36 nominated vehicles, which resulted in nine finalists—three in each category. The votes, tallied by Deloitte, an international financial services firm, are kept secret until the final announcement.

Winners were announced at the Huntington Place convention center in downtown Detroit, formerly named “TCF Center” and, before that, “Cobo Hall.” The event was co-sponsored by NACTOY and the Automotive Press Association, an organization of automotive journalists based in Detroit.

The 2022 Honda Civic is available as a four-door hatchback and a four-door sedan. Honda will introduce high-performance Si and Type R models later this year. In 2021, Honda Civic U.S. sales totaled 263,787, good for second place after the Toyota Corolla.

Other finalists for Car of the Year were the Lucid Air, an all-new, stunning and expensive 100% electric luxury sedan built in an Arizona factory by a new company based in California, and the Volkswagen GTI and R, high-performance versions of the VW Golf.

The Truck of the Year Ford Maverick is an all-new, entry-level small pickup truck slotting in below the Ford Ranger. It has a starting price of $21,490 with a hybrid power train, a 4.5-foot cargo bed, a payload of 1,500 pounds, and carries four passengers.

Other finalists for Truck of the Year were the Hyundai Santa Cruz, a stylish small pickup truck built like a crossover sport utility vehicle, but with a near $40,000 price tag fully equipped. The other is the Rivian R1T, an innovative full-size all-wheel drive electric pickup truck with four motors and 800 horsepower but a price tag that can easily exceed $70,000.

The Ford Bronco Utility of the Year is a resurrection of an earlier SUV and a challenge to off-road capable vehicles in the Jeep Wrangler and the Land Rover Defender category. It’s a big, brawny SUV that, in addition to a four-door version, comes in a utilitarian two-door with a seven-speed manual transmission.

The award likely does not apply to the Bronco Sport, a completely different compact crossover SUV with underpinnings similar to the award-winning Ford Maverick pickup truck.

Also-rans for Utility of the Year were the slick luxury Genesis GV70 crossover SUV and the futuristic electric Hyundai Ioniq 5, one of a cache of new fast-charging electrics from South Korea’s Hyundai and Kia. Genesis is Hyundai’s luxury brand.

Car of the Year: Honda Civic

Matt Almond of Honda accepts the award for the 2022 Civic. Photo: Honda.

Runners-up: Lucid Air sedan; Volkswagen GTI and R

Truck of the Year: Ford Maverick

The all-new 2022 Ford Maverick received the 2022 North American Truck of the Year award. Photo: Ford.

Runners-up: Hyundai Santa Cruz; Rivian R1T

Utility of the Year: Ford Bronco

The all-new 2022 Ford Bronco has taken home the 2022 North American Utility of the Year award. Photo: Ford.

Runners-up: Genesis GV70; Hyundai Ioniq 5

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz and 2022 Nissan Frontier: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Dedicated automotive publications often do comparison tests of vehicles that compete in the same category. But two of the newest midsize pickup trucks are so individual in themselves there’s no comparison between the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz and the 2022 Nissan Frontier.

The Santa Cruz is Hyundai’s first foray into this distinctively American vehicle innovation, though the company doesn’t even call it a pickup, preferring the term “adventure vehicle.” But hardly anybody will think or speak of it that way. It’s a pickup.

Meanwhile, there’s no mistaking the athletic Frontier for anything else. It also is all-new, after the previous generation continued primarily unchanged since the 2006 model. It’s a traditional design, with the body mounted on a frame, where the Santa Cruz is built more like a modern crossover, with a unit body like a car.

Both pickups are innovative enough to be nominated for Truck of the Year by the North American Car of the Year organization, an independent jury of 50 automotive journalists in the United States and Canada, including this reviewer. Three rounds of voting are scheduled before the winner is announced next January. 

The success of these new trucks will depend on customers’ mindset—whether they prefer a traditional-looking, hard-working pickup like the Frontier or a more stylish and entertaining driving machine like the Santa Cruz. 

A look at the specifications accompanying this review demonstrates the differences. Next to the Santa Cruz, the hunky Frontier is more powerful, weighs more, can tow heavier loads, is longer and taller, and has a larger cargo box. But the Santa Cruz has more space inside for passengers, delivers better fuel economy, and its rated payload is just one pound less than the Frontier’s. 

The Frontier’s open cargo box has a capacity of 40 cubic feet and plenty of lights and tie-downs for whatever anyone might want to haul. 

Though the Santa Cruz’s cargo box is smaller at 27 cubic feet, it has a built-in cover that works like a tracked window shade to lock away contents and protect them from the weather. There’s also a drainable storage tub under the floor that can hold ice and beverages.

The tested Frontier was a pre-production SV model with high and low range four-wheel drive and a base price of $36,290, including the destination charge. Options packages brought the bottom-line cost to $42,205. Pre-production vehicles have slight differences in equipment, fit, finish, and assembly from the final production version.

The Hyundai Santa Cruz was a production top-line Limited model with all-wheel drive. Fully equipped, its only option was $195 for carpeted floor mats, which brought its delivered price up to $41,100.

Differences between the two pickups emerge in driving. The Frontier is a work truck with heavy, slow steering and a choppy ride when empty. Power comes from its 3.8-liter V6 engine, which delivers 310 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque through a nine-speed automatic transmission the driver can shift manually.

Highway cruising is mostly serene, with some engine and tire noise intrusion, depending on the road surface. Seats, with Nissan’s zero-gravity design, are comfortable and supportive. The driver’s seat has power adjustments, but the passenger gets manual controls. Outboard back seats are spacious, though a bit shy on knee room.

Infotainment is controlled by large center screen, and there are big rotary knobs for radio and climate controls. Equipment includes Apple Car Play and Android Auto, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, rear automatic emergency braking, a trailer hitch, a spray-in cargo bed liner and heated front seats.

Drive the Santa Cruz and the experience mimics being cosseted in a luxurious, high-tech cabin. The jarring note is there are no knobs; only touch buttons. It can be distracting to, say, change the radio volume while underway.

The 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 281 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels through an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. It’s enough to nail 60 miles an hour in the seven second range.

Like its garage mate and sibling, the 2022 Hyundai Tucson, the Santa Cruz has a sporting feel with responsive steering and tight cornering in the twisties, along with a supple and quiet ride that easily eats up the miles.

You pays your money and takes your choice.      

Santa Cruz Specifications

  • Model: 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited AWD four-door, five-passenger crossover pickup truck.
  • Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged: 281 hp, 311 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 104/27 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,123 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,609 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 5,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/27/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $40,905.
  • Price as tested: $41,100.

Frontier Specifications

  • Model: 2022 Nissan Frontier SV Crew Cab four-door, five-passenger pickup truck.
  • Engine: 3.8-liter V6; 310 hp, 281 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual shift mode and four-wheel drive with low and high ranges.
  • Overall length: 17 feet 6 inches.
  • Height: Six feet.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 99/40 cubic feet
  • Weight: 4,664 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,610 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 6,330 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/22/19 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $36,290.
  • Price as tested: $42,205.

Disclaimer: The manufacturers provided the vehicles used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Hyundai, Nissan

2022 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2022 Honda Civic marks the modern maturity of a tiny economy car that made its U.S. debut nearly half a century ago. Since then, the Civic has garnered worldwide sales of over 18 million, more than half of them in the United States.

In July 1972, it started out as a sedan and hatchback, each with two doors, front-wheel drive and a 1.2-liter two-cylinder engine. Later it morphed into the Civic’s famed 1200 four-cylinder CVCC engine, which delivered 50 hp and 68 lb-ft of torque through a four-speed manual gearbox.

The CVCC was a marvel, meeting U.S. emissions requirements without add-ons and tuned to run on leaded or unleaded gasoline while delivering fuel economy of over 40 mpg. It became sought after in the shortages of gasoline during the Arab oil embargo of 1973-‘74.

The Civic was 11 feet 8 inches long and weighed 1,450 pounds. Its base price was a dollar a pound, or $1,450, though you could spend up to $3,300 in 1974 dollars. In 2021, the equivalent dollar amounts would be $8,182 and $18,622.         

For 2022, the Touring model tested here delivers 180 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque from a state-of-the-art turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Power makes its way to the front wheels via a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with a step-shift feature making it feel something like a conventional automatic, though the faux shifts are very subtle. It also has a manual shift mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel to mimic a seven-speed transmission.

The CVT is the only transmission available on the new sedans. Enthusiasts who prefer to shift for themselves will await the introductions of the 2022 hatchback, Si and Type R, which will offer Honda’s six-speed manual gearbox, one of the best sticks for front drivers.

The Civic Touring’s EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption is  31/38/34 mpg. Fully equipped, the tester came with a sticker price of $29,295, well below the current average price of about $40,000 for an automobile in the U.S. 

Honda Sensing, the manufacturer’s suite of safety equipment, came standard on the test car. It included automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assist with road departure mitigation. Other safety features included blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic monitor, low-speed braking control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, knee air bags for the driver and front-seat passenger, electronic brake force distribution, and tire-pressure monitoring.

With its all-new styling, the Civic has it both ways: Though more generic, the fastback treatment makes it resemble other streamlined compact/midsize sedans, including its bigger sibling Accord and even some luxury machines like the Audi A5. 

Inside, the tested Touring featured perforated leather-trimmed upholstery, enhanced by wide front seats with prominent bolstering to keep the torso secure in fast corners. Comprehensive instruments, including a digital speedometer, are displayed white-on-black on an LCD screen, while a nine-inch center color touch screen handles navigation, SXM satellite radio, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

In back, the outboard seating positions deliver more than adequate head and knee room, and the doors open wide for ease of entry and exit. The center seating position, as usual, is inferior but in this application has a comfortable cushion, though feet must still be splayed on both sides of a large floor hump.

The trunk, which contains a temporary spare and the tools needed for a roadside tire change, is roomy and nicely finished, though the unprotected C-hinges could damage some contents.

On the road, the Civic Touring delivered adequate though not stirring performance, along with competent handling manners and a comfortable long-distance ride. Punch the throttle and it will accelerate to 60 miles an hour in the seven-second range, more than adequate for freeway ramps and passing on two-lane roads. 

There are three drive modes — Eco, Normal, and Sport — easily selectable without taking eyes off the road. Sport mainly affects shift mapping but you can drive in Eco and still grab better performance by simply flooring the throttle.

The only somewhat jarring note was that a good deal of road noise on rougher surfaces made its way into the cabin. On newer asphalt highways, the experience was more serene.

Given its affordable price, this new Civic stands out. From a bitty economy car five decades ago, it has grown into a fully realized sedan that can hold its own on performance, comfort, reliability and desirability in almost any company.

Specifications     

  • Model: 2022 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 1.5-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 180 hp, 177 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with manual shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 96/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,038 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 31/38/34 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $29,295.
  • Price as tested: $29,295.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Honda

2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige MPV: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With apologies to the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who never experienced the 2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Just don’t call me a minivan.

That pejorative never passes the lips of Kia’s advertising people or resides anywhere in the brand’s press releases. Nope. The new Carnival is an MPV, for multi-purpose vehicle. 

Obviously, that’s because the powers at South Korea’s Kia likely are convinced that a minivan description amounts to the kiss of low sales, if not death, for their new creation. Never mind that any objective assessment, reiterated here, enshrines minivans as the most useful passenger vehicles on the planet.

But Kia would like to convince everyone that the Carnival is an extension of their own Telluride, which now is the hottest crossover sport utility vehicle on the market. In fact, it is designed to resemble that crossover, though few people will be fooled.

Crossover SUVs threaten to overwhelm the vehicle market in the United States, if not the world. An example is Lincoln, Ford’s luxury brand, which has abandoned traditional sedans in favor of its four crossovers: Corsair, Nautilus, Aviator and Navigator. Other manufacturers are in the queue.

Over in the minivan corral, the numbers are few: Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Chrysler Pacifica and Voyager — all worthy competitors. You also can count smaller passenger vans like the Ford Transit Connect, Mercedes-Benz Metris, Ram Pro-Master City and Nissan NV200. In 2020, minivans accounted for less than 2% of vehicle sales in the United States.

Kia entered the minivan skirmish in 2002 with the Sedona, which was called the “Carnival” in other world markets. It lasted into 2021 and now has been replaced in the U.S. by the all-new 2022 Carnival.

In the top-line version tested for this review, the Carnival is a fully rendered MPV with such amenities as second-row recliner seats and built-in entertainment screens. It has reasonably comfortable (especially for smaller humans) third-row seats that flip-fold both forward and backward into the floor to increase cargo space.

It’s a big vehicle, with 168 cubic feet of space for passengers and 40 cubic feet for cargo behind the third row, which expands to 87 cubic feet with the third row folded. At 16 feet 11 inches long, it’s only four inches longer than the Telluride. But it looks and feels much bigger, with 208 cubic feet of total interior volume compared to the Telluride’s 188. The Carnival also is 278 pounds heavier.

But it’s anything but porky. Its suspension system and tires deliver a smooth and quiet ride, and the handling is crisp and balanced with responsive steering. Of course, you don’t want to fling it around curves as if it were a Mazda MX-5 Miata or Audi RS-3. 

The Carnival is powered by a 290-hp V6 engine with gasoline direct injection that makes 262 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. Power is delivered to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is not yet available.

Even with a curb weight of 4,760 pounds, the Carnival can be punched to 60 mph in about seven seconds, according to independent tests. It also can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

The EPA rates the Carnival’s city/highway/combined fuel consumption at 19/26/22 mpg. There are no hybrid versions yet, which would enhance fuel economy. All of the new Toyota Sienna versions feature hybrid power trains, and the Chrysler Pacifica offers a plug-in hybrid.

There are five versions, or trim levels, of the Carnival: the LX, with a starting price of $33,275, including the destination charge; LXS, $35,275; EX, $38,775; SX, $42,275, and the tested SX Prestige, $47,275. 

2022 Carnival

The SX Prestige was so luxurious and well equipped, including a panoramic sunroof with dual front and rear openings, that it listed only one option: Astra Blue Paint at $495, which brought the as-tested price to  $47,770. Standard equipment covered a full suite of safety and driver assist technology. One notable: Safe Exit Assist, which sounds a warning and locks a rear door after a stop if the system detects a vehicle approaching from the rear.

The Carnival also features blind spot cameras that switch on with the directional signals and replace the speedometer and tachometer; forward collision avoidance; blind-spot collision avoidance; rear cross-traffic collision avoidance; lane-keeping and lane-following assist, and adaptive cruise control with stop and go.

Specifications

  • Model: 2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige four-door multi-purpose vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6, gasoline direct injection; 290 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 11 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/ cargo volume: 168/40 cubic feet (87).
  • Weight: 4,760 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 3,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/26/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,275.
  • Price as tested: $47,770.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Kia

2022 Genesis G70 RWD 3.3T Sport Prestige: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

It’s becoming a truism that the South Koreans build great automobiles like the 2022 Genesis G70. But the impression in the U.S. is  based on only three closely associated brands.

They are Kia, partly owned by Hyundai, and Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury brand. Together, they deliver 29 different models, including sedans, hatchbacks, crossover sport utility vehicles and even a pickup truck, with a broad range of performance characteristics and prices from economy to luxury.

The newest brand is Genesis. It started out as a high-end trim level for Hyundai but became a separate brand in 2015. The 2022 lineup consists of the G70, G80 and G90 sedans, and the GV70 and GV80 crossovers.

Of those, the G70 has received the most plaudits from reviewers. It is a compact performance/luxury sedan — actually a bit smaller than the economy-oriented Hyundai Elantra. But the G70 competes directly, at lower prices, with the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A5 Sportback. It also rivals the Kia Stinger, with which it shares some components. 

There are six G70 versions, all with turbocharged engines. The two four-cylinder base models, 2.0T Standard and 2.0T Prestige, have 252 horsepower and carry price tags of $38,570 and $42,570, respectively. Both have eight-speed automatic transmissions and rear-wheel drive.

The other four, including the Sport Prestige model tested for this review, are powered by 3.3-liter V6 twin-turbo engines that make 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque. They also have eight-speed automatic transmissions with manual shift modes and rear-wheel drive. Add about $2,000 for all-wheel drive on all models.

The tested Sport Prestige had a base price of $43,125 and, with options, a tested price of  $51,945. Other 3.3 versions: Standard, $43,145; Sport Advanced, $47,445, and Launch Edition, $51,445.

Visuals are important, and the G70 grabs attention with sleek, fastback lines and new front and rear styling. Like an Olympic sharpshooter, this Genesis has competitors locked in its sights. 

The stylish look carries over to the interior, which features quality materials, design, and workmanship. Seats on the tester were upholstered in quilted and perforated Nappa leather. Front seats have good bolstering for spirited driving on curving roads and deliver support and comfort for long distance driving. The tester came with a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and  large glass sunroof with an opaque motorized sunshade. 

In back, there’s room and comfort for two smaller adults in the outboard seats, though getting in and out takes some agility because feet catch between the door frame and the seat. The center seat position is impossible because of a large floor hump, hard cushion, and intrusion of the center console. In fairness, this is not uncommon in many smaller sedans.

Where the tested G70 shines is in overall performance. The twin-turbo V6 engine and quick-shifting eight-speed automatic combine to hustle this beauty to 60 mph in the four-second range.

There are five easily dialed drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport, Custom, and Sport Plus. The last is a track mode and turns off the traction control. On twisting roads, the G70 stays planted with tactile steering feedback.

The Sport modes keep the engine on the boil for rapid response, though if you get your foot deep into the throttle it’s almost as if the other modes switch instantly to Sport, so you can putter around town in Eco knowing that the power is poised to respond quickly.

With the G70’s bias toward sporting performance and handling, the ride can get a bit choppy on pockmarked roads, though the adaptive shock absorbers do a decent job of canceling some of the rougher stuff. The different drive modes don’t seem to have much of an effect on the ride.

Genesis G70 Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

Equipment on he tested Sport Prestige includes premium Brembo brakes, forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, rear occupant warning, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go technology, head-up display and a 360-degree view exterior camera. There’s also dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing windshield wipers and 19-inch custom alloy wheels.

A 10.3-center screen displays infotainment functions, including navigation, SXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In short, the G70 comes with nearly everything expected in a performance/luxury sedan. Though it doesn’t have the cachet of a BMW or Mercedes, it performs as well or better than other compact luxury/sport sedans at lower prices.

Specifications

  • Model: 2022 Genesis G70 RWD 3.3T Sport Prestige four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 3.3-liter V6, twin turbochargers; 365 hp, 376 lb-ft torque. 
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and rear-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 94/10 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,880 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/27/21 mpg. Premium fuel recommended.  
  • Base price, including destination charge: $43,125.
  • Price as tested: $51,945.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Genesis

2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited Hybrid: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Hyundai jumped the gun in the race for buyers of compact crossover sport utility vehicles with its fully redesigned 2022 Tucson, which features eye-catching body sculpting and creative lighting, among many new features.

Moreover, this new contender comes in 10 different versions, called trim levels in the industry, including three hybrids and price tags ranging from $26,135 for the base SE model to $38,704 for the top-line Limited Hybrid version with all-wheel drive tested for this review. Hybrids come with all-wheel drive and other models also are available with front-wheel drive. Prices include the destination charge.

Even with its 38 grand as-tested price, the Tucson Limited Hybrid sells for less than the average price of a new car in the United States — now more than $40,000 — and presents itself more as a small luxury crossover than an economical utility vehicle, which it also can claim.

A crossover is a sport utility vehicle (SUV) built like a car, with unit body construction. An SUV is built with the body mounted on a frame, like a pickup truck. The Tucson is an example of the former; the Chevrolet Tahoe or Jeep Wrangler are traditional rugged SUVs.

Coming or going, the Tucson is a grabber. Its grille is highlighted by 10 (count ’em) LED daytime running lights. Hyundai says the idea was to craft a recognizable work of art. On the road, if a Tucson overtakes your vehicle, you will witness a tail gate that sports a full-width light bar and angular bright brake lights.

For all of its luxury and technological highlights, this Tucson will not disappoint at the gasoline pumps. It delivers a 37/36/37 mpg city/highway/combined EPA fuel economy rating, which some new owners already have exceeded.

The power train consists of a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a 90-hp electric motor. Together, they deliver 261 hp and 224 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission, meaning this Tucson will never be embarrassed in the stoplight sprints or freeway wrangling. 

For peace of mind, every Tucson comes with modern safety equipment, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist. The tested Limited Hybrid also was equipped with adaptive cruise control and lane-following assist, blind-spot warning, driver attention detection and warning, rear occupant alert, rear cross-traffic avoidance alert, and front and rear parking assist warning.

Inside, driver and passengers of the Limited Hybrid are treated to quality materials, well-designed equipment and accents, including perforated leather upholstery, and topped off by a panoramic sunroof. A large center screen handles infotainment functions. However, all controls are either touchscreen or pushbutton. You have to look at the screen to select functions, which could be distracting. A few knobs would be welcome for things like radio volume.

Outboard back seats are big and comfortable with plenty of head room and knee room. However, as usual in too many vehicles, the forlorn center rear passenger gets treated to a hard, high cushion and a big floor hump. 

With the rear seatbacks in place, the tested Tucson had 39 cubic feet of space for cargo, more than any conventional sedan on the market. To nearly double that, simply fold the seatbacks almost flat. There’s no spare wheel under the cargo floor — just a “tire mobility kit.” So, figure on calling for emergency service.

The Tucson Hybrid’s forte is serene distance cruising, with the gasoline engine and electric motor quietly working in concert. But it also is no slouch on twisting roads, though it would be a mistake to assume it handles like a sports sedan. However, with a supple suspension system mated to compatible tires, it is capable and secure with a comfortable ride.

Hyundai also offers a Tucson plug-in hybrid, which can deliver up to 32 miles of purely electric operation. An onboard charger can top up the battery in about two hours with a level two 240-volt connection. But once the electric juice dries up it simply switches to regular hybrid operation, so the current better choice is a standard hybrid like the tester, which doesn’t need to be plugged in.

The new Tucson competes in tough company against the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-30, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and the Kia Sportage from Hyundai’s sister division. It should prove to be a formidable foe.

Specifications     

  • Model: 2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited Hybrid four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine/motor: 1.6-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 180 hp, 195 lb-ft torque; 90 hp electric motor. Total system: 261 hp, 224 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 2 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 106/39 cubic feet.
  • Height: 5 feet 6 inches.
  • Weight: 3,695 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 37/36/37 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $38,535.
  • Price as tested: $38,704.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Hyundai

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