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2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Driving the 2020 Kia Telluride along one of the most scenic roads in America, the thought occurs that vehicle manufacturers have achieved a level of perfection not dreamed of in the history of the automobile.

2020 Telluride

It has gotten to the point that reviewers are reduced to criticizing mainly at the margins, and the margins keep getting narrower. The new Kia Telluride achieves the narrowest of margins.

This is an all-new midsize crossover sport utility vehicle with three rows of seats in either an eight-passenger layout with a second-row bench seat or seven-passenger with second-row captain’s chairs.

It also comes with mid-pack pricing, ranging from $32,735 for the base LX trim level with front-wheel drive to the top-line SX with all-wheel drive at $44,535. There are four versions, each with front-drive or all-wheel drive. With options, the SX tested for this review topped out at $46,860.

2020 Telluride

Yet the tester drove as well as some luxury midsize competitors costing tens of thousands of dollars more. It is powered by a silky 291-hp V6 engine that delivers 262 lb-ft of torque. Though many manufacturers have moved to four-cylinder turbocharged engines, it’s hard to beat the effortless power delivery of a V6. Of course, there is some cost in fuel economy.

The tested Telluride gets the power to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission that shifts so unobtrusively it could be mistaken for a continuously variable automatic (CVT) that has no shift points. It is rated at 21 mpg overall.

2020 Telluride

Kia chose to introduce its biggest new model on a drive between Gateway, in western Colorado, southeast to its namesake Telluride, the famed ski resort. The 206-mile round trip meanders through canyons surrounded by astonishing mountains, mesas and crumbling rock outcroppings likely more than a billion years old.

Best of all, highways 141 and 146 were bereft of traffic, offering challenging twists and curves as well as straightaways relaxing enough to enjoy the stunning scenery while driving.

2020 Telluride

The Kia Telluride, of South Korea, is built in a plant in West Point, Georgia, southwest of Atlanta. It settled into and easily handled the Colorado highways, tracked steadily on the straights, handled curves with aplomb, and its supple suspension absorbed the many road irregularities. Wind and road noise were noticeable mainly by their absence.

Kia boasts that the Telluride has more standard driver-assist safety technologies than any of its competitors, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane-centering and lane-keeping assist, blind-spot detection with collision avoidance and rear cross-traffic alert.

Other innovative safety equipment included Kia’s safe-exit assist, which alerts left-side passengers before stepping into the road when the system detects a vehicle approaching from the rear, and rear occupant alert, which sends a message to a smart phone and blows the horn if a passenger or pet are unintentionally left behind when the driver leaves.

2020 Telluride

Besides that, the top-line SX model, with the optional premium package, was about as well-equipped as anything you would find cruising the nation’s highways, including a quiet mode, which mutes second- and third-row audio speakers to allow the front-seat passengers to listen to music without disturbing rear-seat passengers.

Also: A comprehensive head-up display, premium leather upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control, front and rear sunroof, memory driver’s seat, Harman-Kardon surround-sound audio, memory driver’s seat, navigation system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and SXM satellite radio.

2020 Telluride

The tester’s second-row captain’s chairs were as supportive and comfortable as the front buckets. They had enough fore-and-aft adjustment to allow knee room for adult third-row passengers, who had better be starvation-skinny to accommodate three back there.

Gateway, the unincorporated community that was the starting point for the Telluride introduction, has a permanent population of about 140. But its jewel is a luxury destination resort called Gateway Canyons, which includes a spanking new automobile museum housing the collection of John Hendricks, the founder and former chairman of the TV Discovery channel.

2020 Telluride

The museum focuses on the history of American automobiles, with 52 examples dating from the early 1900s and including the one-of-a-kind 1954 concept Oldsmobile F-88. Every car is as pristine as a china plate at the White House, though unfortunately many are unidentified.

But placing the Kia Telluride in close proximity demonstrates how stunningly far automobiles have come. None have anything near what the Telluride offers and prompts unavoidable thoughts of where personal transportation will become in the future.

2020 Telluride

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.8-liter V6; 291 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 7 inches.
  • Height :5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 167/21 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,482 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 5,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/24/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $44,535.
  • Price as tested: $46,860.

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

Telluride Cadet Leader

Photos (c) Kia

 

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2020 Kia Soul: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Not that anyone could have predicted it a decade ago, but the Kia Soul not only survived, it thrived. Competitors fell by the wayside. Now, as a new 2020 model, it is poised for a growth spurt.

There is nothing quite like the Soul. It is basically a box with streamlining and styling cues, something like a small cargo van with comfort, performance and handling—not to mention a funky personality.

2020 Soul X-Line

When it was introduced as a 2009 model, competitors included the Scion xB and the Nissan Cube. The Cube, with a sideways-opening rear hatch, never caught on and faded away. The xB, from Toyota’s youth-oriented brand, grew into a larger station wagon, then disappeared as well, and later even the Scion name was axed. But the Soul soldiered on and in 2018 U.S. sales totaled 104,707.

Now in its third generation, the Soul presents a new face — actually, three new faces — to a broad range of customers from across different age and income spectrums. There are seven gasoline-engine trim levels from the base LX, at $18,485, to the top-line GT-Line trim, which starts at $28,485. An all-electric model will be introduced separately.

2020 Soul GT-Line

The GT-Line is unique in the lineup. Compared to all of the other trim levels, it presents a different front-end treatment and headlight positioning, a more powerful turbocharged engine and a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission. The electric model has a unique fascia as well.

At the national introduction, Kia showed the GT-Line and the $22,485 X-line. The latter, along with all the other gasoline Soul versions except the GT-Line, is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque through a continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT). City/highway/combined fuel economy is rated at 27/33/30 mpg.

2020 Soul X-Line

However, Kia calls its transmission an IVT, for intelligent-variable automatic. CVTs use a system of belts and pulleys to seamlessly multiply engine torque on its way to the wheels. They typically have no shift points. Some are criticized for a sound and feel as if they are slipping, though some manufacturers use computer software to mimic set shift points.

The Kia IVT has different innards, including a chain drive that results in what might be called a more natural feel — that is, one that is more familiar to motorists used to traditional torque-converter automatics with smooth or sometimes jerky shift points.

Whatever. The X-Line’s IVT shifts unobtrusively and presents no annoyance to customers used to their previous 1959 Oldsmobile Rocket 88. On the GT-Line, however, the transmission is a dual-clutch automatic, which essentially works like a manual gearbox except with two clutches that are poised to anticipate the driver’s next up or down shift.

2020 Soul X-Line

That happens when the manual mode is selected and the driver uses the shift lever or paddles on the steering wheel. The transmission uncannily knows what the driver plans, so the twin clutches engage and disengage in milliseconds for rapid shifts.

Unfortunately, for true enthusiasts — they probably would be opting for a Mazda MX-5 Miata or Volkswagen GTI in any case —t he only manual gearbox available on the new Soul is on the base LX model. Kia makes an excellent six-speed manual gearbox available on models like the exciting Forte5, which would be welcome on the GT-Line Soul as well.

Soul GT-Line

Whatever. In its position in the marketplace, with all prices well below the $36,000 average price of a new car these days, the 2020 Soul delivers a range of satisfactory penny-pinching as well as enticing performance models.

Kia thinks that practical-minded customers, usually older, will opt for the X-Line for everyday practicality and even bumming around in moderately-challenging boondocks, even though no Soul can be ordered with all-wheel drive.

The GT-Line exists for those who want the torque of a turbo for stoplight sprints and a bit of excitement on those twisting mountain roads, although as mentioned the six-speed manual would be the choice if it were available.

Soul GT-Line

So, bottom line: The 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line, with its $28,485 price tag, delivers a good handling, nice riding, tidy package — just an inch shy of 14 feet long — that has midsize sedan passenger space, with full-size car luggage space, and rewarding throttle response and long-distance cruising on supportive and comfortable front bucket seats.

If you get your juices flowing only from $200,000-plus Italian exotics, the Soul is not for your soul. But if your orientation is toward a not-as-attractive complete package for not a lot of bucks, take a look.

2020 Soul GT-Line

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line four-door hatchback.
  • Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 201 hp, 195 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
  • Overall length: 13 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 101/24 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,036 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 27/32/29 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $28,485.
  • Price as tested: $28,485.

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

2020 Soul GT-Line

Photos (c) Kia

2019 Genesis G70 AWD 3.3T: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Differences between the suave all-new 2019 Genesis G70 and its cousin the rambunctious Kia Stinger are relatively modest. Either could easily satisfy a dedicated motoring enthusiast or anyone who simply appreciates sophisticated high performance.

As with other vehicles from South Korea’s Hyundai, which owns about 34% of Kia, the G70 shares its engines and transmission with the Stinger, introduced for the 2018 model year. It was the runner-up for the North American Car of the Year award, won by the Honda Accord. This year, the G70 also is a candidate for the award.

1096-GenesisG70Aimed at competing with compact sports sedans like the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the G70 is the third vehicle from Genesis, which was spun off from Hyundai as a separate luxury brand. Others are the midsize G80 and full-size luxury G90.

Both the G70 and the Stinger have the same drive trains: Rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive with a 252-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine or a 365-hp V6 engine with twin turbochargers.

Both use an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually. Surprisingly, the G70 with the four-cylinder can be equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox while the more sport-oriented Stinger does not offer the stick shift.

1092-GenesisG70The other major difference is that the G70, along with its Genesis garage mates, is a conventional sedan with a trunk while the Stinger is a modern fastback with a hatch. It is six inches longer than the G70 and has 23 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat compared to the 11 cubic feet in the G70’s trunk. Prices are similar and passenger space is identical in both cars at 94 cubic feet. Because of the overall difference, the government classifies the G70 as a compact and the Stinger as midsize.

Base price of the G70 rear-drive turbo four-cylinder is $35,895. Driven for this review was an all-wheel drive version with the 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine and two options packages: Prestige and Elite. The base price, including the destination charge, was $45,750 and the as-tested price came to $50,995.

1252-2019G70That’s not cheap but it’s a lot of car for the money, especially on the performance front. With all four tires clawing at the pavement, the G70 accelerates to 60 mph in less than five seconds with an advertised top speed of 140. To haul it back to something more reasonable, the G70 comes with Brembo high-performance racing brakes.

The handling and ride would not disappoint owners of the better European sports sedans, and the power steering delivers tactile feedback around curves while tracking truly in straight-line freeway driving.

There are five selectable driving modes: Smart, Eco and Comfort enhance efficiency and ease, Custom can be adjusted for driver preferences, and Sport is the setup for maximum performance, holding transmission shifts to higher rpms and tightening up the steering and adaptable suspension system.

1256-2019G70For enthusiasts, the audio system can be set up to pipe engine sounds into the passenger area, or shut off for silent running. Front seats have prominent bolsters that tighten and hug the torso in the Sport mode for aggressive driving on twisting mountain roads.

The G70 Prestige — its official designation — comes with advanced modern safety equipment, including forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, heads-up display, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic and blind-spot alert, lane-keeping assist, a surround-view camera and parking distance warning.

Other equipment on the test car included a one-touch motorized glass sunroof with an opaque sunshade, power adjustable steering wheel, wireless smart phone charging, automatic climate control, Nappa leather upholstery, heated and ventilated power front seats, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, SXM satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity and hands-free trunk opening.

1255-2019G70Though access to the back seat takes some ducking and twisting, the outboard rear seat passengers sit low in nicely coved and comfortable seats. However, middle seat passengers suffer on a hard cushion with intrusion of the center console and a high floor hump.

The small trunk is shallow but usable and the C-hinges are isolated from luggage. A temporary spare wheel and tire nestles under the trunk floor.

Likely the only drawback to the current Genesis lineup is the fact that it markets only four-door sedans at a time when crossover SUVs are overwhelming the market. Eventually Genesis will have to join the stampede. The suggestion here is to start with and upgrade the superb 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe.

Call it the Genesis XG70.

1091-GenesisG70Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Genesis G70 AWD 3.3T 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 all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 94/11 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,840 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/25/20 mpg. Premium fuel recommended.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $45,750.
  • Price as tested: $50,995.

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

1087-GenesisG70Photos (c) Genesis

2019 Kia Forte EX: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The Forte was not suffering. But Kia nevertheless injected it with juice from the Stinger — though not the venom.

That’s the opening loud note signaling the 2019 Kia Forte, which competes in the compact sedan class against such stalwarts as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Cruze, Nissan Sentra, Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus and Volkswagen Jetta.

Since its introduction nearly a decade ago, the Forte has been a success story for South Korea’s Kia. Steady annual sales peaked in 2017 at 117,596, making it the brand’s top seller. They continued strong in 2018.

2019 Forte

Not content to simply cruise, the company redesigned the Forte to resemble the Stinger, its critically acclaimed high-performance midsize fastback. They reimagined the styling, giving the new Forte a long hood, short rear deck and other design cues of the Stinger.

However, the Stinger is equipped with a practical hatchback, popular in Europe and other places, while the new Forte, at least initially, comes only as a four-door sedan with a traditional trunk, albeit of a size, 15.3 cubic feet, that would do justice to a midsize car.

The Forte itself, though marketed as a compact, perches on the cusp between compact and midsize, As defined by the federal government, size classes are determined by interior volume—a combination of passenger and cargo space.

2019 Forte

With a motorized sunroof, the new Forte has an interior of slightly less than 109 cubic feet, classified as a compact. Without the sunroof, the space is a bit over 111 cubic feet, which gives it a midsize designation. The dividing line is 110 cubic feet.

It also has an economy car orientation, although in the Korean tradition it comes well equipped even in the lower trim levels. There are four: FE, which starts at $18,585, followed by the LXS, S and EX. Only the base FE comes with a choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or Kia’s new continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). All others get the automatic.

The transmission, which Kia calls an IVT, for Intelligent Variable Transmission, varies the power with a belt and pulleys so there are no shift points. It is the company’s first of its type built in-house and it was engineered to subdue common complaints about CVTs — that they are noisy and feel as if the transmission is slipping.

2019 Forte

Kia’s IVT uses a chain-type belt and special sound deadening materials around the transmission housing. It also can be switched to a different mode that mimics the shift points of a conventional automatic transmission.

But the IVT goes about its business so unobtrusively, getting the power to the front wheels efficiently, a driver is unlikely to give it a second thought. The Forte is powered by a 147-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 132 lb-ft of torque.

The combination is more than adequate for most driving conditions in urban settings or on freeways. But as noted earlier it does not have much venom. On long upgrades, it feels as if it is straining to maintain speed.

It is likely that Kia will eventually offer more powerful versions of the Forte, perhaps similar to the current 2018 Forte5, a four-door hatchback of conventional design that comes with a 201-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with either a six-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual gearbox.

2019 Forte

Even with the modest power on the 2019 sedans, the Forte presents itself as a well-executed value package that could easily satisfy many younger families.

At the introduction, most of the test cars were the top-line EX equipped with a $3,210 Launch Edition package of options that included forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, rear cross-traffic collision warning, adaptive cruise control, UVO infotainment with voice-activated navigation, 17-inch alloy wheels, motorized sunroof, LED headlights and interior lights, and a premium Harman-Kardon audio system.

The EX is priced at $22,885. With the Launch Edition package, the sticker comes to $26,095, which means that a customer could buy two Forte EX Launch Editions for about the same price as the top-line Kia Stinger GT with all-wheel drive. With the family resemblance, you could maybe tack on a Stinger badge and fool your friends.

Even better from a savings standpoint would be to order the S trim level with the $1,200 Premium package, which includes the sunroof and LED projection headlights with high-beam assist. It does not include navigation or pushbutton starting but it has quality cloth upholstery instead of the Sofino leather-like trim of the EX. The price is $22,285.

2019 Forte

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Kia Forte EX four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 147 hp, 132 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 94/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,903 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 30/40/34 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $22,885.
  • Price as tested (Launch Edition): $26,095.

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

2019 Forte

Photos (c) Kia

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Playing hardball with its exceptional 2019 Santa Fe, Hyundai is on the verge of realizing its full competitive lineup of crossover sport utility vehicles.

It’s an important milestone, given the phenomenon of crossover sales that lately have been overpowering traditional sedans and coupes. In the 2017 model year, the South Korean company offered just two nameplates: the compact Tucson and the Santa Fe, a midsize offered with either two or three rows of seats. An earlier Veracruz model had been dropped in 2011.

Large-34014-2019SantaFeEarly in 2018, the brash new Kona arrived as smaller sibling of the Tucson. Now comes the two-row, midsize Santa Fe, formerly called the Santa Fe Sport, which will be followed by an all-new, as yet unnamed, large three-row, eight-passenger crossover. That will complete the lineup unless Hyundai decides to squeeze in another something someplace.

The existing three-row Santa Fe continues unchanged for about a year, after which it will be consigned to that great crossover retirement community in the sky. It will be sold as the Santa Fe XL until its replacement arrives.

The Santa Fe comes in five trim levels — SE, SEL, SEL Plus, Limited and Ultimate — with a starting price of $26,485, including the destination charge. All come with front-wheel drive standard. Hyundai’s HTRAC all-wheel drive costs an additional $1,700.

As some other manufacturers have done, the Santa Fe eschews stand-alone options in favor of escalating lists of features for each trim level. The tested top-of-the-line Ultimate, at $39,905, had only one minor option of $125 for carpeted floor maps.

Large-34019-2019SantaFeThere are two powertrains: 185-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 178 lb-ft of torque on the S, SEL and SEL Plus trims, and a 235-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with 260 lb-ft of torque on the Limited and Ultimate models. All versions come with eight-speed automatic transmissions and idle stop-start.

Most notable from a peace of mind standpoint are two safety innovations. Rear Occupant Alert monitors the back seats with an ultrasonic sensor that detects movement of children or pets. As with some other vehicles, the system alerts drivers to check the rear seats after stopping and before exiting.

But the Santa Fe takes it to another important level. If for some reason a distracted driver forgets or ignores the warning, leaves the vehicle and locks the doors, the system honks the horn and sends an alert to the driver’s smart phone via Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car system. The innovation could prevent some of the 37 deaths that occur annually in the U.S., on average, of children left in hot cars.

Large-34023-2019SantaFeThe other system mimics blind-spot warning. If a rear-seat passenger tries to open a door and an oncoming car is detected, both visual and audio warnings are triggered. Also, it will prevent the driver from deactivating the electronic child safety lock until the oncoming car has passed.

Besides those safety features, the Santa Fe also comes with Hyundai Safety Sense, which includes forward collision avoidance, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot and lane-departure warning.

On the road, the tested all-wheel drive Santa Fe Ultimate delivered strong acceleration, a resilient ride and responsive handling. Tactile steering feedback felt more like a capable sedan than a tall crossover. Partly responsible was the all-wheel drive torque vectoring that apportioned the power to the rear wheels depending on road conditions, abetted by relocation of the rear shock absorbers.

Large-34029-2019SantaFeThere are three drive modes that adjust steering feel, ride motions and transmission shift points. Normal is the main setting for daily driving. Smart enhances fuel economy and Sport tightens everything up for improved performance, especially in challenging conditions like twisting mountain roads.

The eight-speed automatic transmission shifted unobtrusively and can be manually shifted. However, shifting must be done with the console-mounted lever; there are no steering-wheel mounted paddles.

On smooth roads, the Santa Fe Ultimate was almost eerily quiet with only vague road and mechanical noises. There was no detectable wind noise. Comfort was first-cabin with the headliner and pillars upholstered in a soft cloth that would do justice to a living-room divan.

Contributing to the comfort were “variable density” front seats with power extensions to provide extra thigh support, as well as acoustic glass and a rigid body structure that makes extensive use of high-strength steel and strong structural adhesives.

Summing up, the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate competes handily and almost lazily against other midsize crossover contenders.

Large-34046-2019SantaFeSpecifications

  • Model: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0T AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 235 hp, 260 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 8 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 111/36 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,960 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/24/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $39,780.
  • Price as tested: $39,905.

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

Large-34008-2019SantaFePhotos (c) Hyundai

2019 Kia Sorento SXL AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Sometimes, as with the 2019 Kia Sorento SXL, it’s good to resist too much change. It remains essentially as it was in 2016: a midsize crossover sport utility vehicle that is handsome, quiet, safe, comfortable and competent.

The few additions and modifications, though they make all versions more expensive than their predecessors, mostly enhance the South Korean’s appeal. A third row of seats now is standard across the lineup and the tested SXL with all-wheel drive comes with driver alertness monitoring, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, blind-spot alert and rear cross-traffic collision warning.

2019 Sorento

Overall, the top-of-the-line SXL comes equipped as well as some luxury cars and crossovers. Features included a navigation system, dual-zone automatic climate control, premium Nappa leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, power driver’s seat with memory, Harman Kardon surround-sound audio, Android Auto and Apple Car Play, SXM satellite radio, 19-inch polished alloy wheels and a surround-view rear camera.

A large panoramic sunroof opens wide at the front and features one-touch controls for the motorized section and the opaque sun shade.

The tested SXL AWD had a starting sticker price of $47,480. With a few options, it topped out at $48,020, right up there with competitors that include the somewhat larger Subaru Ascent, Volkswagen Atlas, Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Traverse.

2019 Sorento

Like the Mazda CX-9 and the downsized GMC Acadia, the Sorento is a bit of a tight fit for a three-row crossover. Its third-row seat can accommodate, with their knees at belly-button level, a couple of average-sized adults as long as the second-row passengers move their seats forward to provide knee room. Crawling back there takes athletic ability more common to teen agers than empty nesters.

The plush front seats are supportive and comfortable with modest bolstering. Outboard back seats are nearly as cozy. However, though there’s enough head and knee room for the center-rear passenger, the poor soul must perch on a hard cushion.

Mechanically, the new Sorento carries over two engines but drops the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder from the lineup. Lower trim levels are powered by a 185-horsepower, 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. The tested SXL AWD came with the carryover 292-hp, 3.3-liter V6 engine that develops 252 lb-ft of torque.

2019 Sorento

There are six trim levels, starting with the $26,980 front-drive L version. It and the LX use the 2.4-liter engine with a six-speed automatic transmission. Upper trim levels — LX V6, EX, SX and the tested SXL — are powered by the 3.3-liter V6 and an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually with the shift lever, though there are no paddles on the steering wheel.

The base L  model comes only with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is optional at $1,800 on all of the other models. But the Sorento obviously is not intended for serious off-road adventures; the all-wheel drive delivers increased driver confidence in snow and other foul weather conditions.

The tested Sorento had four driving modes that adjust transmission shift points and other vehicle parameters: Comfort, Eco, Smart and Sport. They can be selected manually or will automatically adjust to the driver’s style and habits.

2019 Sorento

In any drive mode, the Sorento is as silent runner as can be found in its class. Plenty of insulation and acoustic glass in the windshield and front windows contribute to a hushed environment. Muted sounds make their way into the cabin, but they mostly come from the pockmarked urban streets that have become the default U.S. standard. Road noise, as well as mechanical and wind sounds, are practically nonexistent on smooth asphalt.

The Sorento’s V6 engine and eight-speed transmission deliver plenty of power for freeway merging, two-lane highway passing and fatigue-free all-day Interstate cruising. Handling is secure on curves without excess body lean and few steering corrections are needed in straight-line driving. City/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated by the EPA at 19/24/21 miles per each gallon of regular-grade gasoline.

2019 Sorento

American made in West Point, GA, the Sorento sports handsome crossover styling with Kia’s trademark “tiger nose” grille. The company’s design chief, Peter Schreyer, who formerly worked for BMW and Audi, has said he believes it has the same staying  power as BMW’s dual-kidney grille design.

On the sales charts, the Sorento has been the best-selling Kia crossover SUV. In 2017, sales totaled 99,684 and in 2018 it has been on a pace to escalate into six figures.

2019 Sorento

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Kia Sorento SXL AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.3-liter V6, 290 hp, 252 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 9 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 143/11 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,622 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 5,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/24/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,480.
  • Price as tested: $48,020.

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

2019 Sorento

Photos (c) Kia

2019 Hyundai Veloster: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If you’ve ever seen a three-legged cat, you have some idea of the 2019 Hyundai Veloster, except that this all-new Veloster is not handicapped in any way.

There’s nothing like it in the market today — a compact hatchback with a tailgate and three passenger doors. The third door is at the right-rear and opens conventionally. Except for earlier Velosters, the concept has not been seen since the 2001 Saturn SC, which had a rear-opening third door on the driver’s side.

VELOSTER TURBO-6571The Veloster shares its power trains with a trio of other sport compacts from South Korea: the Hyundai Elantra Sport sedan; Kia Forte5 hatchback; and Hyundai Elantra GT Sport hatchback. They compete against performance hatchbacks that include the Volkswagen GTI, Mazda3 and Ford Fiesta ST.

Tested for this review was the top-of-the-line Veloster, the Turbo Ultimate, which comes equipped with all available options except carpeted floor mats for $29,035. It is powered by a 201-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 195 lb-ft of torque. It gets its power to the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode.

Zero to 60 mph ticks off in the mid-six second range, with a top speed of 135 mph. Moreover, you can enjoy the ride as raucous as you like it. Taking a cue from expensive performance sports cars like Porsche and Jaguar, Veloster turbo models, including the Ultimate, have different drive modes and can customize exhaust and engine sounds.

VELOSTER TURBO-6581Drive modes, controlled by a button on the console, are Sport, Normal and Smart. Sport is the most aggressive, holding shift points to higher engine revolutions and tightening up the steering. Normal is, well, normal and Smart moves the Veloster into economy leisure.

Go to the big center touch screen and you can choose how much exhaust noise reverberates through the cabin. The choices are Off, Minimized, Normal and Advanced, with the last the noisiest, especially under hard acceleration combined with the Sport drive mode.

It’s entertaining to switch among the choices when underway.

The Turbo Ultimate is the best equipped of five Veloster trim levels. Two entry-level versions, the 2.0 and 2.0 Premium, use a two-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that makes 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque.

VELOSTER TURBO-8848At $19,385, including the destination charge, the 2.0 comes with a six-speed manual gearbox. A six-speed automatic is a $1,000 option. The $23,635 2.0 Premium comes only with the  six-speed automatic transmission.

Equipment on the tested Turbo Ultimate included the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, although it also can be ordered with the six-speed manual. Other features included adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, forward collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot warning, navigation system, head-up display, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, motorized sunroof, SXM satellite radio, wireless smart phone charging, LED headlights and taillights — in short, almost everything any car buyer wants.

It also had a power lumbar adjustment for the driver’s seat, although the seat itself came with manual adjustments.

The Veloster’s 2019 styling is striking, with defined fender lines and an aggressive grille that attract immediate attention. Even given its hatchback design, it has a streamlined look that implies motion when it’s standing still.

VELOSTER-8950Unlike other hatchbacks, however, it makes no pretense of accommodating up to five passengers. There are seatbelts for four, with a small divider between the two back seats. They can be accessed from either side, though the easiest is through the right-rear door. Anyone getting in back from the other side must squeeze past the driver’s seatback.

Once inside, however, there is ample — though not generous — knee and headroom. The small hatch at the back provides access to a cargo area with 20 cubic feet of volume, which expands to 45 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded.

For all of the Turbo Ultimate’s virtues, however, the choice here — from an enthusiast’s and price perspective — should be the Veloster R-Spec version. It comes with the turbo engine but only the six-speed manual gearbox, which has such a slick linkage that it’s satisfying and joyful.

The R-Spec has cloth upholstery but no sunroof, heated seats, head-up display or charging pad. It does have18-inch alloy wheels, premium audio, SXM radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Like other turbo Velosters, it also has the customized exhaust sounds.

All that comes with a $23,785 price tag, a bargain for an exhilarating, sweet handling sports car disguised as a hatchback.

VELOSTER TURBO-8572Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Ultimate three-door hatchback.
  • Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 201 hp, 195 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual-shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 13 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 90/20 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,987 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 28/34/30 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $29,035.
  • Price as tested: $29,160.

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

VELOSTER TURBO-6609Photos (c) Hyundai

 

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Any cook who uses all-purpose flour will understand the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT, which stands out as an all-purpose automobile.

It is a compact four-door hatchback sedan which seats four adults comfortably — five in a pinch — and has ample cargo space — 25 cubic feet, or about double that in the trunk of a typical compact notchback sedan.

On a day trip with another couple? Open the hatch and toss all your bags, purses, sweaters, ponchos and umbrellas inside. There’s room left over for shopping spree items. Also, at 14 feet 3 inches long, the Elantra GT parks easily almost anywhere.

2018 Elantra GT

Want to cruise your state and visit historical sites? Load your valises and makeup cases into the cargo hold and forget them until you check in for the night. Any overflow can go on the back seat or you can fold the split rear seatback.

Need to help the kid move into the college dorm? Drop both rear seatbacks, load the stuff up to the headliner and hope there are a few square inches for a view to the rear. Adjust your outside mirrors to minimize blind spots.

Of course, there’s nothing unique about the utility of a compact four-door hatchback, which maximizes interior space. With a total of 122 cubic feet of area inside — 97 for passengers — the Elantra GT actually qualifies as a large car according to the government’s size classifications.

Large-30103-2018ElantraGTSportMoreover, there are plenty of choices out there. What distinguishes the Elantra GT is how well it integrates all of those practical touches into a pleasant, quality conveyance that lightens a chore, eases a commute, and delivers fuel economy, comfort, power and handling on multiple all-day drives.

The GT is one of half a dozen Elantra models. Four are sedans, including the tantalizing and inexpensive Elantra Sport. The others are the GT hatchback, tested here, and its more powerful sibling, the GT Sport. Sport models feature a 201-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 195 lb-ft of torque and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The non-Sport GT model, though less powerful, has plenty of punch for its all-purpose duties: a 161-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 150 lb-ft of torque. It accelerates to 60 mph in about eight seconds, which is modest by modern standards. The $4,000 upgrade to the GT Sport’s power train gets you a zero-to-60 time of about 6.5 seconds.

2018 Elantra GT

Either engine is available with a slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox. The GT tested here had a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode, which costs $1,000 more than the manual.

With dazzling white paint that reflected sunlight and helped the air conditioning cope with Florida temperatures, the South Korean-made GT displayed handsome, European-oriented styling. It came with a starting price of $21,235 that included a solid list of features: basic safety equipment, the six-speed automatic, 17-inch alloy wheels, Android Auto and Apple Car Play infotainment, an eight-inch center screen, Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and locks, and a rear-view camera.

But the tester also was equipped with two options packages that elevated the features and price but fell short on safety equipment. The $1,800 Style package added blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert along with dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity key with pushbutton starting, heated front seats and a power driver’s seat with lumbar support.

2018 Elantra GT

An additional $4,300 for the Tech package brought a panoramic sunroof, full LED headlights and taillights, navigation system, electronic parking brake, Hyundai’s Bluelink telematics services, premium Infinity audio system, leather upholstery, auto-dimming rearview mirror and a smart-phone charging pad.

All of that brought the GT’s tested price to $27,460, not overly expensive in an era when the average price of a new car is more than $34,000.

2018 Elantra GT

Although the GT uses a relatively simple torsion beam rear suspension system (the GT Sport has a more sophisticated independent multilink rear suspension), the handling is fuss free and the GT tracks cleanly on the freeway and cruises easily at speeds of more than 75 mph.

On smooth paved surfaces, the Elantra GT is quiet and fatigue-free over long distances. However, rougher pavement transmits noises that make their annoying way through the tires and suspension system into the cabin.

A major shortcoming is that some modern safety measures are available only on the more expensive GT Sport with its Tech package, which includes such desirable equipment as forward collision warning, emergency braking and lane-departure warning.

2018 Elantra GT
2018 Elantra GT

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT four-door hatchback sedan.
  • Engine: 0-liter four-cylinder, 161 hp, 150 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 3 inches
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 97/25 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,925 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/32/27 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $21,235.
  • Price as tested: $27,460.

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

2018 Elantra GT

Photos (c) Hyundai.

2018 Kia Stinger GT AWD: A DriveWays Review

by Frank A. Aukofer

It is rare, but occasionally something like the 2018 Kia Stinger appears and rides through a process of imprinting itself on the public consciousness — first with insiders and enthusiasts, and eventually with everyone else.

Think Chevrolet Corvette in 1954. Ford Mustang in 1964. BMW 1600 in 1967. Volkswagen Beetle and British Mini in mid-20th century. Honda Accord in 1976.  Mazda MX-5 Miata in 1990. And now the upstart Kia Stinger.

The examples will prompt arguments. You could add the Tucker Torpedo of 1948, but it died in infancy. Or even the Acura Legend in 1986. But we’re talking here mostly about affordable cars that became highly prized and survived for a long time.

2018 Kia Stinger GT2 RWD & 2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD

Usually it starts with surprise, morphs into appreciation and desire, and settles into a long-term relationship analogous to the St. Patrick’s Day stereotype, when everybody is either Irish or wants to be.

The word is not yet widespread about the Kia Stinger, and most observers are surprised that it was conceived by the South Korean company, originally known for sometimes shoddy economy cars. But it will achieve status because the company has finessed its way to the top on quality, styling, durability and performance with a full line of cars, crossover sport utility vehicles and even a minivan. There’s not a bad apple in the barrel.

The Stinger shines as a multi-purpose car: High performance across seven versions with style and luxury-car features, two engine choices, family practicality and prices that are doable for middle-income Americans.

Full disclosure: The Stinger is a hatchback. But it is nowhere near what U.S. buyers rejected for many years and now are tentatively embracing. No, it is more accurate to compare it to German high-performance luxury cars, and particularly the new Audi A7 and Audi A5 Sportbacks, both stunners with hatchbacks, high content and price tags to match.        The first impression is that the Stinger mimics the A7: low-down and sexy. But depending on the model, it matches up against both the nearly $70,000 A7 and the $52,000 A5.

2018 Stinger GT2 RWD
2018 Stinger GT2 RWD

Closest to the A7 — here we’re comparing to the 2017 model, not the recently announced 2018 — is the most exalted Stinger, the GT2, which carried a $52,300 sticker as tested for this review. The tester had the optional all-wheel drive (available for $2,200 on all Stingers), while the A7 comes with Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive.

Side by side, the A7 is seven inches longer than the Stinger, yet they have similar interior space: passenger/cargo volume of 94/25 cubic feet in the A7; 94/23 in the Stinger. The Audi, at 4,234 pounds, is lighter than the Stinger’s 4,515 pounds, but the Stinger has more power: 365-horsepower, turbocharged 3.3-liter V6 with 376 pound-feet of torque versus the A7’s 340-horsepower, supercharged V6 with 325 pound feet of torque.

The Stinger GT2’s extra power is canceled out by the A7’s lighter weight so the acceleration of each car to 60 miles an hour is rated by its manufacturer at 4.7 seconds. Both cars have eight-speed automatic transmissions with manual-shift modes.

At the other end of the comparison is the $32,800 rear-wheel drive Stinger 2.0T, which contains a 255-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine with 260 pound-feet of torque. It matches up with the new $52,100 Audi A5 Quattro, which is four inches shorter and smaller inside by four cubic feet. Its 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine delivers 252-horspower and 273 pound-feet of torque.

2018 Kia Stinger Blue - GT2 AWD

The Stinger 2.0T uses an eight-speed automatic transmission while the A5 is equipped with a snappy seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. It is about 100 pounds heavier than the 3,650-pound Stinger but has a slight edge in acceleration: 5.3 seconds against 5.9 for the Stinger.

The numbers are important, of course, though the proof is in the driving experience. Truth is, any of these four cars — Audi A7 and A5, and Stinger GT2 and 2.0T — would stir the soul of any driving enthusiast. They deliver exciting, right-now acceleration, fuss-free flat cornering and handling at speed, outstanding braking, comfortable and supportive seats, room for four adults (five in an emergency), and generous cargo space that can be expanded by folding the rear seatbacks.

The big difference is the Kia’s more tolerable prices and one of the best warranties anywhere. For some, the Audi’s reputation and prestige trump every other consideration. But it’s worth noting that Consumer Reports now ranks Kia No. 3 in reliability, based on owner reports. Audi is No. 4.

2018 Stinger GT2 RWD

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Kia Stinger GT2 four-door hatchback sedan.
  • Engine: 3.3-liter V6, twin turbochargers, 365 hp, 376 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 94/23 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,032 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/25/21. Premium fuel recommended.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $50,100.
  • Price as tested: $52,300.

Disclaimer: This test drive was based on a loan of the vehicle from the manufacturer. It was driven by the author in circumstances similar to everyday driving by consumers.

2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD
2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD

Photos (c) Kia Motors America.

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